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Your home is your castle.
March 13, 2013 7:35 AM   Subscribe

The Castle Doctrine is the new "home invasion MMO" from cult game designer Jason Rohrer (previously: Sleep is Death, Passage, Chain World). It portrays a rather bleak world in which you must place traps to defend your home, family and life savings from an onslaught of burglars. At the same time, you must invade other players' homes to steal their life savings, in order to buy more expensive traps and tools. The more money you gain, the more attractive target your home is, so you better be clever in rigging up those traps. It's fiendish, brilliant, and currently open for public alpha at 50% of the full price. Rock Paper Shotgun has some early impressions: Part 1, Part 2.
posted by naju (101 comments total) 31 users marked this as a favorite

 
Dammit this was my idea! Who cares if I have no knowledge or experience coding and it was never going to actually happen? It was mine!
posted by Navelgazer at 7:37 AM on March 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


I feel like this should also have an in-game legal system that locks you up because your booby traps present a hazard.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 7:41 AM on March 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Heh. It sounds like the guy is totes for reals about this and this is totally "NRA Mindset: The Game" .
posted by Artw at 7:43 AM on March 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


Is this pervasive fear of an all-but-certain home invasion by armed bad guys unique to the US population?
posted by Thorzdad at 7:48 AM on March 13, 2013


I’ve always struggled with killing innocents in videogames.

"How can you kill women? And children?"

"It's easy. You just don't lead them as much."
posted by three blind mice at 7:52 AM on March 13, 2013 [8 favorites]


It would have been so much funnier if he had just called the game "Florida"
posted by srboisvert at 7:53 AM on March 13, 2013 [25 favorites]


The great leveller in the Castle Doctrine, and probably its smartest idea, is that every addition or change to your defences requires that you yourself prove the deadly house-maze can be ‘solved’ without the aid of any tools before it will go live to the server.

It wasn't until I saw that part that I realised what a clever game it is. You can't just fill your house with 10x10 squares of guard dogs, you have to devise a tricky but solvable maze full of technically avoidable traps. Kind of like Saw or The Cube.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 7:54 AM on March 13, 2013 [4 favorites]


Jason Rohrer implies in the interview that it's possible to construct a house that can only be broken into once. So you test it, then the first person who figures it out changes the state of the house so that it is now unsolvable. Then everyone who tries to break in dies, and you get all their money. Which is pretty devious.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 7:58 AM on March 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's a great satisfaction to watch the security footage of someone trying and failing to steal from you. Conversely, it's chilling and traumatic to watch the security footage of someone stepping into your house, shooting your wife and dogs in cold blood and leaving with your meager $340 in life savings. This game evokes some intense and uncomfortable feelings in me.
posted by naju at 7:59 AM on March 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


This is sort of the Charles Manson phase of the Jason Rohrer neo-cyber-hippie New Age games cult thing

(Earlier: ludicrously absurd and credulous Wired story about Rohrer's video game as religion project, Chain World))
posted by Bwithh at 7:59 AM on March 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


Is this pervasive fear of an all-but-certain home invasion by armed bad guys unique to the US population?

It's basically the entirety of Oscar Pistorius's legal defense, so no.
posted by Copronymus at 7:59 AM on March 13, 2013 [11 favorites]


If only I had time for MMOs. I think I've gained respect for Rohrer since Passage, which initially struck me as twee and ever so slightly insufferable. But I get what he was attempting, now.

"NRA Mindset: The Game"

One of the really interesting things about games, and something you never see discussed outside of niche publications, is not the stories they tell but the systems from which those stories emerge. A game like CoD may be objectionable in part for its violence-as-entertainment and jingoism, but there's very little to object to in the underlying system: it's a big ol' game of dress-up and tag, with all sorts of tweaks to make things accessible, fun and slightly mindless. Contrast it with Counter Strike, which has ostensibly the same run-n-gun premise but is actually built on a much more interesting system of mindful, skilled movements, more dire consequences (you don't get to play for a few minutes if you mess up), and the odd bit of dumb luck.

I've only read about Castle Doctrine so far, but the system it sets up seems like it's both well thought through and rich with material to talk about. RPS has their own take on it:
I killed a woman.

For $21.

I killed a woman
...

This is a captivating horror game, with me as both victim and monster.
But what jumps out at me is that this is an excellent example of how game systems, not just game content, present an argument, and that that's where the artistic and ideological payload of a game usually (though not always) lies.

The argument here is not just that everything is zero-sum, but that safe spaces are constantly imperiled by people just like you, and that's the rule of the world. (Contrast, say, WoW, where safe spaces are banking and quest-giving zones, and inviolable.) It's an argument that isn't presented as a theoretical premise, but in a complete yet dynamic conclusion: you can push against it, and it will push back so that it still reaches that intended conclusion. That's even more important, and interesting, than that you can turn some innocent pixels red and get $21, although it sounds like everything he's stacked on top of the foregone conclusion is well-executed and, well, fun.

I'd love to play it at some point.

Also, anything that keeps us moving away from indy platformers is great.
posted by postcommunism at 8:16 AM on March 13, 2013 [19 favorites]


Dammit this was my idea! Who cares if I have no knowledge or experience coding and it was never going to actually happen? It was mine!

Nice to know one of my clients is on Metafilter.
posted by yerfatma at 8:21 AM on March 13, 2013 [5 favorites]


Elementary Penguin: "Jason Rohrer implies in the interview that it's possible to construct a house that can only be broken into once. So you test it, then the first person who figures it out changes the state of the house so that it is now unsolvable. Then everyone who tries to break in dies, and you get all their money. Which is pretty devious."

This is an interesting idea because you can't exit your house (for robbing) until you make it solvable. You can't reap bigger rewards until you level the playing field for your opponents again.

One of the RPS comments says that you can't enter your house (edit it) while it's being robbed:
"the need to get another 200 bucks for another set of steel doors so you go rob another player or two so you can finish your masterpiece only to return with your spoils to be met with `Your house is being robbed. You cannot edit it now.`"
Which is a bit of a surprise, given the game's name is Castle Defense and the real world doctrine says you can shoot intruders.
posted by boo_radley at 8:23 AM on March 13, 2013


I killed a woman for the sake of $21

This sentence really annoys me: it's an instance of the game journalism / game designer trope of pretending that any decision made in a game is equivalent to making the same decision in reality. Killing someone's wife in The Castle Doctrine might present an ethical conundrum, but the amount of money here is deceptive. $21 in the game isn't equal to the $21 real dollars in my pocket - it's significantly more important.

Am I evil?

No, you're not. Or at least, you're not evil in the sense that you killed a person. You're evil in the sense that you're being mean to some other player, and that you are being mean in a setting where the developer has made design decisions to force you to feel awful about that.

I realize that interactive experiences are substantive things, and that people (including me) can put a great deal of stock in animated sprites, but when the people getting overwrought about their killing of a virtual woman are the same people who would fight any politician who claimed that video games increased our real propensity for violence I get annoyed.
posted by Going To Maine at 8:36 AM on March 13, 2013 [10 favorites]


Going To Maine: "No, you're not. Or at least, you're not evil in the sense that you killed a person. You're evil in the sense that you're being mean to some other player, and that you are being mean in a setting where the developer has made design decisions to force you to feel awful about that. "

This was the other thing I was wondering: is there any way to make money in the game without home invasions? GTA3 let you earn money by doing mundane nonsense -- it wasn't all just pedestrian slaughter and illicit hobo races. So, is there a way to "feel good" or "feel ethical" in this game?
posted by boo_radley at 8:40 AM on March 13, 2013


Of course it's not the same as killing a real person for $21. But the ethical implications are still worth exploring - when push comes to shove, my morals might be compromised when I get desperate enough. The Walking Dead games were brilliant at forcing you to make these difficult choices. It makes things clear that in a sufficiently trying environment, you might do things you're not proud of. Implicating and confronting the player with her own actions is one of the most powerful things a game can do. If that's not worth exploring, then what is the point of games or literature that present these kinds of difficult dilemmas?
posted by naju at 8:43 AM on March 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


So the only playable character is male, with Wives and Children equivalent to possessions/obstacles? And you are also required to murder other (non-Men, thus, unimportant) characters to win?

Families, especially the two children every player beings a game with, serve little practical purpose in The Castle Doctrine, but importantly Wives will attempt to flee their house with half its money upon sighting an intruder. This raises the game’s key dilemma: let her go, both so that she might live and so the player will be left with some cash to rebuild with, or hunt her down for the bonus money.

This is fucking disgusting. Maybe I lack the sophistication to appreciate the subtle ironic statement being made about America, or guns, or what have you, but, really, fuck that.
posted by emjaybee at 8:44 AM on March 13, 2013 [24 favorites]


is there a way to "feel good" or "feel ethical" in this game?

I don't think that's the point, but it sounds like if your setup is good enough, you could maybe make some coin from selling the dropped tools of slain intruders. Whether that makes you feel good or ethical is up to you, I guess.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 8:44 AM on March 13, 2013


And you are also required to murder other (non-Men, thus, unimportant) characters to win?

Not required, no.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 8:45 AM on March 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


> This sentence really annoys me

Yeah, there's a trope in certain game reviews in which the reviewer presents their in-game experience as the though they were actively naive or credulous. I think it got started in an attempt to elevate games themselves (the "r they art?!?" thing) and has kept up as a way to add flavor. RPS tries to pick out what's interesting about the experience of a reviewed game, which I appreciate, but their house style slips into cringe-y melodrama a bit too easily.
posted by postcommunism at 8:46 AM on March 13, 2013 [9 favorites]


No murder (of humans or animals) is required to play this game and be successful at it. Killing in this game requires an extra willingness to be nasty for profit or your own safety.
posted by naju at 8:47 AM on March 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Steely-eyed Missile Man: "You could maybe make some coin from selling the dropped tools of slain intruders. Whether that makes you feel good or ethical is up to you, I guess."

You have killed an intruder in your house. Options:
> Sell tools
> Harvest bones for elemental calcium
> Claim his wife as your own
> Sell his children

posted by boo_radley at 8:52 AM on March 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


If that's not worth exploring, then what is the point of games or literature that present these kinds of difficult dilemmas?

My objection is really about the reviewer's writing, not the game itself. Alec Meer is writing in a way that I find disingenuous: it ignores his own understanding of how games work.

That said, this game doesn't seem to present much of a dilemma. All of the incentives are designed to make you be a jerk, and you can't make money by being a good person. (Does setting up traps that kill burglars make you "good"?) Or let's say - you wouldn't purchase this game with the intent of playing as a good person. (It would be a cool protest if a bunch of people did purchase the game to play as pacifists - empty houses, no traps, no robbery- but paying $8 just to not use something would require some serious passion.)
posted by Going To Maine at 8:54 AM on March 13, 2013


"The Castle Doctrine is set in a dystopic reality where everyone is both victim and criminal, locked in a perpetual cycle of robbery and violence"

Detroit?
posted by Smedleyman at 8:59 AM on March 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


Yeah, there's a trope in certain game reviews in which the reviewer presents their in-game experience as the though they were actively naive or credulous. I think it got started in an attempt to elevate games themselves (the "r they art?!?" thing) and has kept up as a way to add flavor. RPS tries to pick out what's interesting about the experience of a reviewed game, which I appreciate, but their house style slips into cringe-y melodrama a bit too easily.

Compare to To make matters worse, the mercenaries were losing, dying in their droves. We figured they were probably Lombardians anyway, so in a way we were winning. Certainly not the moral high ground, but at least no Venetians were dead. Yet. A lot of people tend to die in strategy games.
posted by ersatz at 9:14 AM on March 13, 2013


Is this pervasive fear of an all-but-certain home invasion by armed bad guys unique to the US population?

No, I believe the French Aristocracy also had such feelings, but they were all dead by around 1800 or so.
posted by corb at 9:29 AM on March 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Smedleyman: "Detroit?"

Only if you can strip the copper from disarmed traps.
posted by boo_radley at 9:29 AM on March 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


Jason Rohrer understands more about designing games where your actions have consequence – not just operationally but morally – than any other developer in existence. Complaining about how "Oh, it's sick that this game is built around paranoia, looting, and violence!" is missing what Rohrer's trying to do in a big way. Not that that's surprising for your average gamer, whose general cognition for understanding intent and meaning in the general artistic sense seems to be stuck in "precocious middle schooler" territory – much like everything else about your average Internet denizen.

I am way excited to give this game a go – saving it till I've finished some more work, because otherwise the temptation to play this and keep playing is too much to handle.
posted by Rory Marinich at 9:30 AM on March 13, 2013 [4 favorites]


This game has really really great mechanics which I would love to see elsewhere. However, the mechanics are supporting a number of problematic framing devices (which are even more evident in this interview with rohrer here). I really would like to see someone retheme this game with fantasy creatures of a number of genders, rather than the patriarchal paranoia that is in this one. I don't think I would be wrong in saying that this game was made to support a statement that is larger than the mechanics, but I don't think it is the only statement that the mechanics are making, or could make. Or perhaps I would just like the framing removed so that I could enjoy the mechanics in the abstract without being reminded of what they mean.
posted by jonbro at 9:34 AM on March 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


I actually don't have anything in my house that I would kill a person over. Except RedBud. As far as I can imagine it, burglars are welcome to continue loading their van up with my stuff until the cops arrive. There is a link beween our violent society and these typse of games. I wouldn't go so far as to say the link causes people to be violent. I would say that these games are more emblematic of our inner, pre-verbal notions about how things work. Maybe they just tap the snake-brain for the endorphine release.

Back in the day (in the 80's or so), I liked to play the primitive shootemups of the day: mostly blasting space aliens and so on. I did like that helicopter game in the late 80s, but you could get it only in video parlors: shoot up enemy positions while you fly your Cobra gunship across desert terrain. Then there was duck-hunt. You get the idea. My favorite was called Silent Service. I never topedoed the cargo ships, because I knew that in real life they carried prisoners to Japan. I specialized in ambush, and made up a plotting table to figure out how to get in front of a convoy without getting picked up on sonar. I could surface and fire a spread of torpedoes and then sink again before the destroyers had time to act. Way cool. So anyhow, I'm just saying that I'm flexible about RPGs, just sort of off-put by the newer refinements. Taste, I guess, but it's amusing to see the rationalizations.

I don't know if RPG fans ever think about how they become conditioned to the theory. When I went into the army, I was taught to act like a soldier. It's a clever and effective system of turning the kid on the block into a little green monster, so to speak. So, you learn to shoot at sillouettes and bayonet dummies. Get on line and fire on command, work under pressure. That sort of thing. By the time you step off the helicopter on a hot CA you are actually looking forward to your first kill, sort of as a matter of validation. But long before you pull that trigger in combat, the kid who was acting like a soldier had already become one. It's a subtle, and not completely reversable paradigm shift. I have this intuitive notion that RPGs work in a similar fashion.

For a contrast, how many of you guys who like to kill enemy humans would get behind a game that had you running over cats with your motorcycle. You could have a golf-club as your secondary weapon, and get points for wiping out a mother cat with trailing kittens?

No principle is involved here, at least not for me. Might be that my hindsight is the motivator that informs my taste. These things are disgusting, is the way it looks from here.
posted by mule98J at 9:35 AM on March 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


I actually don't have anything in my house that I would kill a person over. Except RedBud. As far as I can imagine it, burglars are welcome to continue loading their van up with my stuff until the cops arrive.

It's interesting, because I know we come from somewhat similar experiences, but we have really different perspectives on this.

There's nothing in my house that I wouldn't trade for an innocent person's life. But there's not a single thing in my house, not the tiniest thing, that I would give to save the life of someone who came after me and mine.

It is not the same as romping cats.
posted by corb at 9:55 AM on March 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


From that Brindle Brothers interview:

A big moral question in the game isn’t “is it okay to set up a trap which might kill a burglar?”

Just to continue ranting on my same point: If that's the big moral question that Rohrer wants his game to capture, he fails at this unless he presents a world that is less of a dystopia. You can't create a system in which people are only rewarded for being terrible, and then gloat when they act terribly.
posted by Going To Maine at 9:56 AM on March 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


In Persuasive Games, Ian Bogost writes about how videogames present players with complex systems of rules, and that these rules define the possibilities available to players. These systems of rules can be persuasive in that they influence how players think about solving problems. "While we often think that rules always limit behavior, the imposition of constraints also creates expression." The popular adage is that when your only tool is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. Rohrer has created a system of rules in which a player's choices largely involve setting up lethal traps to protect a family (who he describes as "these sort of unique, collectable pets"). The game more or less requires players to rob others to get money to set up even more lethal traps. What does this system of rules say about what Rohrer thinks about the world?

From the Brindle Brothers interview: "A big moral question in the game isn't "is it okay to set up a trap which might kill a burglar?" The fact of the matter is that when someone's breaking into your house and are killed by one of your well-planned traps; the same kind of harm is being done by the self-defence as by the offence, so the game feels so naturally right to be engaged in the defensive behaviour. It doesn’t feel like there’s anything morally questionable about it. So it’s a model which demonstrates how I feel about this situation, one option feels wrong, one doesn’t feel wrong; maybe shine some light on some of the real-world issues that we face."

I haven't played Castle Doctrine, but it sounds like the only winning move is not to play.
posted by oulipian at 9:58 AM on March 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


For what it's worth, most gamers I've seen will quickly stop caring about whatever the sprites or the model is or what the story says is happening in a multiplayer setting. So the wife thing is ultimately going to have as much of an impact on most players as a popup that says "Do you want to take all of this player's money, or leave them with half?" Maybe they'll take it all as a cutthroat strategy, maybe there will be some code among players that you don't totally ruin people to avoid retaliation, but what I can tell you is that nobody except the very new players will act 'in character'.

For example, think of Starcraft. The Zerg are pretty much objectively horrible, but nearly everyone will happily control them to massacre the Terrans or the Protoss, and anyone who won't isn't doing it because of morality, but because they don't like the way the faction plays.
posted by Mitrovarr at 10:01 AM on March 13, 2013 [7 favorites]


Oop! I misread "isn't" for "is". I think my argument still stands, though - it's a dark & horrible world, so people will act dark & horrible. This is fine, let's just not assume that it's ethical.
posted by Going To Maine at 10:01 AM on March 13, 2013


No murder (of humans or animals) is required to play this game and be successful at it. Killing in this game requires an extra willingness to be nasty for profit or your own safety.

Killing in the game still doesn't require murder of humans or animals. It just requires a desire to win at an online game. Calling it "nasty" when the player gets rewarded for doing it is a bit of a push.
posted by Going To Maine at 10:06 AM on March 13, 2013 [5 favorites]


Just to continue ranting on my same point: If that's the big moral question that Rohrer wants his game to capture, he fails at this unless he presents a world that is less of a dystopia. You can't create a system in which people are only rewarded for being terrible, and then gloat when they act terribly.

Monopoly remains popular.
posted by Artw at 10:06 AM on March 13, 2013 [4 favorites]


maybe there will be some code among players that you don't totally ruin people to avoid retaliation

I doubt it. I don't think there will be any retaliation, because unless I've missed something you can't tell who robbed you.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 10:08 AM on March 13, 2013


For example, think of Starcraft. The Zerg are pretty much objectively horrible, but nearly everyone will happily control them to massacre the Terrans or the Protoss, and anyone who won't isn't doing it because of morality, but because they don't like the way the faction plays.

To be fair, I think there's a major difference between playing as ravenous, murderous bug-aliens doing things that are objectionable by human morality and playing as a human committing acts that are objectionable by human morality.

If this were called "You Hive is Your Castle" and was about breaking into the neighboring ant-colony, killing their queen, and stealing their aphids, it wouldn't have quite the same moral connotations...
posted by Zalzidrax at 10:18 AM on March 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


Monopoly remains popular.

Sure? I don't have a beef with Rohrer creating a negative world, much less a fun negative world. I have a beef with him setting up a situation where people will want to kill each other, and then saying "Look! People are killing each other and thus failing an ethical test." It would be like me complaining about how people act like jerks in Monopoly or Risk when the game promotes acting like a jerk. The game displays Rohrer's thoughts; it is a poorer instrument for judging players.
posted by Going To Maine at 10:19 AM on March 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


> If this were called "You Hive is Your Castle" and was about breaking into the neighboring ant-colony, killing their queen, and stealing their aphids, it wouldn't have quite the same moral connotations...

Hush. I learned everything I know from SimAnt.
posted by ego at 10:22 AM on March 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


I am getting so tired of games where the only strategy is to shoot or kill things or generally be inhuman.

Minecraft 1.5 came out today. Do you know what I like about Minecraft? You could play it the exact same way as Castle Doctrine, constructing an elaborate home full of clever lethal traps. And then you could sit in your dimly-lit deathtrap fortress waiting for someone else on the server to try and steal your diamonds or hurt your sheep. And no one will care, because they'll be having too much fun building things, or exploring together, or having conversations. Because Minecraft, like the world we live in, is a system of rules that gives people options besides being an inhuman asshole. And the resulting community of players has become one of the most creative, social and collaborative that has ever developed around a game. The phenomenon of Minecraft says more to me about human nature than any auteur's cunningly-constructed dystopian fantasy.
posted by oulipian at 10:41 AM on March 13, 2013 [15 favorites]


Playing this on my lunch break now. 10 people and counting have failed to navigate my devious setup involving 2 separate switches connected to electric floors which surround my vault. This is way too much fun.
posted by naju at 10:42 AM on March 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Mitrovarr: For example, think of Starcraft. The Zerg are pretty much objectively horrible, but nearly everyone will happily control them to massacre the Terrans or the Protoss, and anyone who won't isn't doing it because of morality, but because they don't like the way the faction plays.

Well, hm. It strikes me that there's a big difference between stepping into a prefabricated bad-guy role and making actual choices to do morally repugnant things. I know that I personally don't have any qualms about playing the Zerg, but I pretty much always choose the good-guy path in games that offer one (like Jedi Knight), even when it's not very objectively different from the bad-guy path.

The question, then, is which of these models The Castle Doctrine fits. You might think that the abstractness and openness makes it more a matter of moral choice, but that ignores the force of the mechanics. I avoided using lethal force when I played Mirror's Edge but eagerly ran over pedestrians in GTA, because in both cases that seemed like right approach, the sort of activity that the game wanted me to pursue. The Castle Doctrine pretty clearly wants its players to try to rob each other. Complying with what the game wants is acting "in character".


ego: I don't have a beef with Rohrer creating a negative world, much less a fun negative world. I have a beef with him setting up a situation where people will want to kill each other, and then saying "Look! People are killing each other and thus failing an ethical test."

Even worse: since playing the game at all is a completely voluntary activity, watching how people play it automatically filters out the people who find the whole premise abhorrent. It's like coming to conclusions about human attitudes towards violence by watching the spectators at a boxing match.
posted by baf at 10:51 AM on March 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


This is fucking disgusting. Maybe I lack the sophistication to appreciate the subtle ironic statement being made about America, or guns, or what have you, but, really, fuck that.
posted by emjaybee at 8:44 AM on March 13 [11 favorites −] Favorite added! [!]


Based on what I've read of what Rohrer says about this game in interviews etc, he says he is emphatically not being ironic and the game is meant to get players thinking about how they need to protect their families in times of crisis seriously.
posted by Bwithh at 10:51 AM on March 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think if he made Minecraft it would look like this.
posted by Artw at 10:54 AM on March 13, 2013


Dammit this was my idea! Who cares if I have no knowledge or experience coding and it was never going to actually happen? It was mine!

Sounds like you are an "idea man" ;)
posted by mrgrimm at 10:56 AM on March 13, 2013


I think if he made Minecraft it would look like this.

Just to be that fact-checkin' guy, I feel obliged to mention that the minecraft experiment, while awesome, was also a hoax. See this thread.

I also have got to point out that when Jason Rohrer made Minecraft, it looked like Chain World, which had its own raft of problems because, while clever, people did not play it how he wanted it played.
posted by Going To Maine at 11:04 AM on March 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


baf, that was Going to Maine, not me.
posted by ego at 11:07 AM on March 13, 2013


Uh, it looked like Chain World because Chain World was a Minecraft hack. Just to be clear.
posted by Going To Maine at 11:09 AM on March 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


I believe the French Aristocracy also had such feelings, but they were all dead by around 1800 or so.

<McLaughlin>WRONG!</McLaughlin>

Not only was the House of Bourbon twice restored to the throne of France following the Revolution, but hereditary titles were restored by decree in 1852 and have never since been abolished by law. In fact, Henri d'Orléans, Count of Paris, is alive today and recognized as a legitimate claimant to the Bourbon throne by French royalists.
posted by octobersurprise at 11:30 AM on March 13, 2013 [8 favorites]


It's weird how a new game can temporarily get people thinking about the horrible premieres and scenarios that they have learned to completely ignore in other video games.

Pretend to be a terrorist in Counter-Strike? Fine, it's just a game.
Mow down pedestrians in GTA? Fine, it's just a game.
Run around murdering people and being murdered over and over again in Doom, Quake, or CoD? Fine, it's just a game.
Instigate a war against a neighboring nation in Total War or Civilization? Fine, it's just a game.
Break into another player's house and steal his stuff in Castle Doctrine? YOU DID WHAT? YOU MONSTER!
posted by straight at 11:31 AM on March 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


I get the impression that Jason Rohrer wants to stay slightly removed from society. His feelings about gun control seem to stem mainly from being worried about the police and military. The phrase "If you make guns illegal, only criminals have guns" always made me shrug, but maybe it's more like "If you make guns illegal, only the police have guns".

The mechanics of this game and the idea designing clever contraptions really interest me, though I don't think the setting will say much to me. Thematically I feel his games are always very much about him as a husband and father.
posted by lucidium at 11:33 AM on March 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Is this pervasive fear of an all-but-certain home invasion by armed bad guys unique to the US population?

>No, I believe the French Aristocracy also had such feelings, but they were all dead by around 1800 or so.

When 97% of the population were 'bad guys', that definition seems dodgy. There were enough aristocrats to populate the restored Bourbon regime 25 years later. On preview: hey, octobersurprise.
posted by ersatz at 11:35 AM on March 13, 2013


Minecraft, like the world we live in, is a system of rules that gives people options besides being an inhuman asshole. And the resulting community of players has become one of the most creative, social and collaborative that has ever developed around a game.

See also Kerbal Space Program.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 11:51 AM on March 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


You could play [Minecraft] the exact same way as Castle Doctrine, constructing an elaborate home full of clever lethal traps. And then you could sit in your dimly-lit deathtrap fortress waiting for someone else on the server to try and steal your diamonds or hurt your sheep. And no one will care, because they'll be having too much fun building things, or exploring together, or having conversations.

The difference of course being that if no one comes to test out your traps, you'll never know how good they are. There is something appealing to the idea of a game that involves creating a puzzle for others to solve (and giving them actual incentives to solve it).

It's lame that you can apparently only play as a dude who is married to a woman who exists to be put in a fridge by your opponents. If they even just allowed for a quick reskin of the main character and/or the spouse that would make it seem a lot more icky. But then again, this is an alpha release, right?

I will probably check it out, regardless, simply because of the puzzle making aspect of it.
posted by sparklemotion at 11:53 AM on March 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


It's lame that you can apparently only play as a dude who is married to a woman who exists to be put in a fridge by your opponents.

Honestly, the whole idea is a bit revolting to me, but I agree that's the worst part. Geez, girls can rob and murder as good as anyone.
posted by mrgrimm at 12:00 PM on March 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's weird how a new game can temporarily get people thinking about the horrible premieres and scenarios that they have learned to completely ignore in other video games.

Pretend to be a terrorist in Counter-Strike? Fine, it's just a game.
Mow down pedestrians in GTA? Fine, it's just a game.
Run around murdering people and being murdered over and over again in Doom, Quake, or CoD? Fine, it's just a game.
Instigate a war against a neighboring nation in Total War or Civilization? Fine, it's just a game.
Break into another player's house and steal his stuff in Castle Doctrine? YOU DID WHAT? YOU MONSTER!
posted by straight at 11:31 AM on March 13 [+] [!]


The shock is not the content of the game, it's the fact that it's coming from an indie game developer whose personal brand has been one of a lovey-dovey back-to-the-land lentil-eating hippie outsider artist-poet-game-developer who lives off the grid and just wants to help people feel lovey-dovey emotions through games and save their souls.
posted by Bwithh at 12:05 PM on March 13, 2013


Personally, I'm happy that Rohrer has apparently made it a goal to challenge and confront the players of his games. Not every indie game can or should be the mystical introspective experience of a Flower or Journey. We occasionally need someone like a Lars Von Trier of gaming to push us out of our comfort zones.

Even if I don't agree with the politics, I'm more than willing to engage with this game, because 1) it doesn't preach at you; any point he's trying to make emerges naturally from the gameplay mechanics and your reflection of your experience, and 2) those gameplay mechanics seem to subvert (or at least add complexities to) some of the messages he's trying to get across, and that makes it fascinating. We all know that Rohrer's beliefs about the 2nd amendment informed the game, but equally important to me are some of my own takeaways: I'm dying from my own traps more than others are dying from them, and more than I'm dying from anyone else's. What does it say about the effectiveness of keeping a gun in your home? Is it possible for my son and daughter to accidentally trigger traps? Fascinating how anti-gun arguments seem to emerge from play as often as pro-gun arguments.
posted by naju at 12:21 PM on March 13, 2013 [4 favorites]


Actually, Bwithh, he comes across as more of a bit of a controlling asshole in that one. More Mosquito Coast than Ecotopia. But I am probably allowing my dislike of this game and of that writer's gratingly twee style to color my impressions, so I will admit that's all they are.

Making games based on moral dilemmas could indeed be interesting. It might even be art. But the way the dilemma in this game is framed is, as others have pointed out, already set up so that there is no way of winning without violence (direct or indirect) in a world where only men are able to act or make decisions. And the only reaction that can elicit is aversion, or a shrug. There is nothing complex to say about that world.

But then I'm also not a dude who likes shoot 'em up games, so maybe this speaks to them in some way, or makes them question their assumptions.
posted by emjaybee at 12:22 PM on March 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


In fact, Henri d'Orléans, Count of Paris, is alive today and recognized as a legitimate claimant to the Bourbon throne by French royalists.

Modern French royalists! You just made my day. Hee!
posted by corb at 12:31 PM on March 13, 2013


This is fucking disgusting. Maybe I lack the sophistication to appreciate the subtle ironic statement being made about America, or guns, or what have you, but, really, fuck that.

Rohrer himself commented in that RPS article about this criticism, saying that the game stems from a real-life experience he had in which his pregnant wife was attacked by a dog.

"Are the heterosexual, non-single men here claiming that, when there’s a bump in the night at home, your female partner is sent to investigate while you stay safe in bed?"

I've been a fan of Rohrer's approach to games' abilities to evoke emotions in the past, but this seems like a mis-step. I admit I haven't played the game and have little inclination to do so, but it seems like its suffering from the common problems of female characters exclusively as objects ( I guess I just expect better from indie developers to not start out alienating half their potential audience), and the disconnect between game mechanics and narrative causing different players to approach from very different directions (which I suppose is part of the point?). Eventually it seems like any player base would whittle itself down to min/maxers who don't have any appreciation for its attempted statements, and just view the game as a collection of rules.

The gameplay itself is interesting, and it seems to be doing a good job of creating discussion. I wonder, does the "wife" make any attempt to protect the "children", or does she only exist to try and save half the money? The unique naming and look of the family members tries to evoke a sense of attachment, but as far as I can tell, the children are just liabilities (strictly speaking from the rules perspective).

I also wonder what his own wife and children think of the game.

And what the option of adding life insurance policies on family members would do to the game.
posted by Durhey at 12:39 PM on March 13, 2013


Actually, Bwithh, he comes across as more of a bit of a controlling asshole in that one. More Mosquito Coast than Ecotopia.

I was deeply skeptical and openly cynical about Jason Rohrer way before it was cool! ( I even loathed Passage (and the "finally! a video game which will make you cry!" press it got) ; yes, and I will cheerfully shout that from the rooftops )

( a Mosquito Coast/Ecotopia/The Beach simulation / roleplaying adventure game is a really awesome idea btw)
posted by Bwithh at 12:46 PM on March 13, 2013


Modern French royalists!

Yeah, they're kind of like modern American Confederates only instead of guns and rebel flags they have castles and titles.
posted by octobersurprise at 12:57 PM on March 13, 2013


My understanding is that French aristocrats are snooty to a degree that makes other aristocrats look like plebs and all in all generally present the case that the revolution was a good thing.
posted by Artw at 1:03 PM on March 13, 2013


octobersurprise: "Modern French royalists!

Yeah, they're kind of like modern American Confederates only instead of guns and rebel flags they have castles and titles.
"

Possibly. Confederates are relatively straightforward in their beliefs, whereas modern French royalists are sneaky and conniving. They come like a fief in the night.
posted by boo_radley at 1:07 PM on March 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


Yeah, they're kind of like modern American Confederates only instead of guns and rebel flags they have castles and titles.

Awww, I was hoping that they were skulking around said castles continuously plotting for hundreds of years to restore the royals to the throne. Except failing in zany ways.
posted by corb at 1:17 PM on March 13, 2013


Are the heterosexual, non-single men here claiming that, when there’s a bump in the night at home, your female partner is sent to investigate while you stay safe in bed?

His explanation makes it even worse. Why the heck wouldn't you both go? Isn't two defenders against an intruder better than one? Or if your wife is to weak to defender herself can't she be a useful witness to your act of self defense?

His point about them just being pixels on a screen is valid, but if he really believes it, why not let us switch them (a la DK:PE)?
posted by sparklemotion at 1:28 PM on March 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


You actually can, and it is quite easy as all the graphics are tga files in the folders. Also the source for this project has been released into the public domain, which is pretty permissive! You can run your own server if you want.
posted by jonbro at 2:31 PM on March 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


jonbro: "You actually can, and it is quite easy as all the graphics are tga files in the folders. Also the source for this project has been released into the public domain, which is pretty permissive! You can run your own server if you want."

gonna fork this so you go out of your house and schedule hugs to widows and widowers.
posted by boo_radley at 2:32 PM on March 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


Isn't this the basic mechanic of every Tower Defense game? This reminds me of John Tynes' Power Kill, which takes a traditional fantasy RPG structure and transplants it into the modern world to make a statement on the assumptions underlying it. I'll never look at Plants vs Zombies the same way again.

I think the Tecmo's Deception games also did this, but your character was explicitly evil.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 2:51 PM on March 13, 2013 [6 favorites]


For a contrast, how many of you guys who like to kill enemy humans would get behind a game that had you running over cats with your motorcycle. You could have a golf-club as your secondary weapon, and get points for wiping out a mother cat with trailing kittens?

I can see this in my head. It has cute sprites somewhere between Jetpack Joyride and Paul Robertson and a really cool combo mechanic where knocking kittens into other kittens causes a cascade of kitten collisions. It would get a million views on Newgrounds and make money off an iOS version.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 2:59 PM on March 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


We will call it Catscade.
posted by boo_radley at 3:31 PM on March 13, 2013 [5 favorites]


Families, especially the two children every player beings a game with, serve little practical purpose in The Castle Doctrine, but importantly Wives will attempt to flee their house with half its money upon sighting an intruder. This raises the game’s key dilemma: let her go, both so that she might live and so the player will be left with some cash to rebuild with, or hunt her down for the bonus money.

So that's what happened. I wondered how someone managed to rob me without even touching the safe.

Not sure I like it so far. I know it's an alpha, but the electronic parts aren't explained. So far it seems like the best tactic is to just place bulldogs everywhere.
posted by ymgve at 4:18 PM on March 13, 2013


corb: ....There's nothing in my house that I wouldn't trade for an innocent person's life. But there's not a single thing in my house, not the tiniest thing, that I would give to save the life of someone who came after me and mine....It is not the same as romping cats.

I can understand that. And I agree about the cat romping. The idea was to put cute little critters in the place of shadowy human enemies and see how it works out as a thought problem. Dehumanizing enemies is what the military does when it wants you to get on board with acts that would be unacceptable in civilian life.

I've been burglarized, and I know for sure that what they got wasn't worth as much to them as it was to me. Layers of emotion: from outrage to sadness to that shakey feeling of vulnerability, then impotence because I know the sheriff's department won't ever get any of my stuff back. I got to play with fleeting (imaginary) scenarios that involved hammers and toes. Then I got over it....well pretty much. It was just stuff.

I guess my feelings about RPGs are the way they are because I believe they trivialize killing, and I am not able to look at it that way. We probably aren't too far apart on the issue of using violence on intruders. If he breaks into the house he has crossed over a line. I wouldn't consider greeting him with a civil response.
posted by mule98J at 6:05 PM on March 13, 2013


Also, anything that keeps us moving away from indy platformers is great.

Oh god yes please.
posted by turgid dahlia 2 at 6:09 PM on March 13, 2013


Yeah, there's a trope in certain game reviews in which the reviewer presents their in-game experience as the though they were actively naive or credulous.

Yeah. RPS is fun and all but something about it always bugged me and that's exactly it. The kind of wide-eyed, disbelieving "I can't believe I am expected to do that but I'm doing it anyway because I'm the videogame-reviewing martyr". It's all in the brief guys, and it ain't worth taking seriously.
posted by turgid dahlia 2 at 6:16 PM on March 13, 2013


Are the heterosexual, non-single men here claiming that, when there’s a bump in the night at home, your female partner is sent to investigate while you stay safe in bed?

Absolutely, if I can sell it. "Good luck, sweetie. I think there's a baseball bat in the basement somewhere ... otherwise, just let them take stuff."

Hell, I do middle-of-the-night kid duty literally 95% of the time, i.e. I get up 19 times for my wife's 1 (I sleep on the side closest the door and I'm better at it anyway). For a bump in the night, yeah, good luck, sweetie.

And what the fuck does sexual orientation have to do with anything?
posted by mrgrimm at 10:32 PM on March 13, 2013 [4 favorites]


I guess my feelings about RPGs are the way they are because I believe they trivialize killing, and I am not able to look at it that way.

I see where you're coming from.

For me, there's a disconnect, because what is happening on the screen bears no resemblance to what happens in reality. Someone gets shot, they fall down and die. There's no "and now your sidekick/that villager is gurgling out blood and shitting themselves." Even the games that aim for "realism" just show a gruesome, but pretty instant, death. If you want to heal, you're giving out healthpacks, not trying to figure out how to use your completely inadequate medical supplies to stabilize them for the medics that won't get there in time. In most games, bodies disappear once they're dead. Even the few that don't don't include the process of rot.

So RPGs don't, for me, dehumanize killing: they dehumanize the death of pixels that were never human in the first place. But I also accept that I am not in the same position re killing as most though.


On a sidenote, re your burglar: if it makes you feel any better, a buddy of mine who'd done two tours got robbed. He asked around and found out who did it. Tried to call the cops, but they wouldn't listen, so him and an Army buddy went over armed and asked for their stuff back. They got most of it, except the stuff the guy had already sold. Not saying this could happen everywhere, but still kind of feel-good all the same.
posted by corb at 7:20 AM on March 14, 2013


Even the few that don't don't include the process of rot.

What shooters have you hanging around in the same place for days?
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 7:29 AM on March 14, 2013


This reminds me of John Tynes' Power Kill, which takes a traditional fantasy RPG structure and transplants it into the modern world to make a statement on the assumptions underlying it.

As befits one of the creators of Delta Green that John Tynes is a very clever, cruel man.
posted by Artw at 8:06 AM on March 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


Just got this in the mail:

Some of you may notice some strange security tapes where someone keeps moving after death and walks through walls. You may also have noticed an impossible house with no path to the vault.

Steven William Goddard, a.k.a., Michael Ronald Downey, has apparently modded their game client to walk through walls and ignore death.

Though this is impossible to PREVENT (even with a closed-source game), it is easy to catch, because everything is recorded. The great thing about security tapes is that they catch people in the act.

In fact, the security tapes were originally in the game just for me to catch cheaters, but I thought that they were so interesting to watch that I made them part of the game.

Anyway, that person has been banned from the game, and is out $8.

That is official policy: if you cheat, you will be banned permanently and lose your account, no refunds.

And, even if you don't mod your client and find some kind of bug that lets you cheat (that could be the case here, because I don't have proof that he modded), it's your responsibility to report the bug to me and NOT exploit it. Whatever way you cheat, even if you simply exploit a bug, you will be banned.


And, the great thing is that I have hundreds of eyes out there watching this for me. If you see a security tape with something suspicious on it, please send me an email report with that character's name. I can quickly pull up those tapes in the admin view and act on them.

For those of you that reported Mr. Goddard to me, thank you, and keep up the good work.

Jason


Interesting that he says that it is impossible to prevent someone walking through walls and ignoring death. That seems more like bad programming than an impossible problem. It also leads me to believe your visibility cones are done clientside, so I expect hacks that shows everything will be made shortly.
posted by ymgve at 8:32 AM on March 14, 2013 [5 favorites]


Heh. Someone is going to get a lesson in human nature as pertains MMOs with open vectors for exploits.
posted by Artw at 9:29 AM on March 14, 2013


It will be irritating if this becomes unplayable due to Jason Rohrer's inability to design a functioning game.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 9:38 AM on March 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


I like the idea of watching security footage of your home being robbed, and seeing a spectral presence walking through walls and floating over pits. Ghost in the machine. Much like Chain World, I wonder if this is something where the author will ultimately lose control of his work in unexpected and interesting ways. But yes - I prefer a properly functioning game because the mechanics he's designed are addictive as hell.
posted by naju at 9:39 AM on March 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


There's a question of scale here - Jason Rohrer makes exciting games, but they are clearly not for everyone. For instance, Diamond Trust of London had about 1000 backers on kickstarter. Assuming that the game has the same level of mainstream success as his other stuff, this shouldn't be a problem. (Of course, maybe that's a big assumption...)
posted by Going To Maine at 9:58 AM on March 14, 2013


mrgrimm: "And what the fuck does sexual orientation have to do with anything?"

A man married to a man can't send his wife out to check anything. (it has nothing to do with anything, I guess)
posted by boo_radley at 11:36 AM on March 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


To continue in the "not really an ethical game vein", here's a Let's Play video. It's a compelling ad for the game, but the guy making clearly has no problem with robbing newbs who haven't erected any security and then killing their wives. (Jump to 12:30.) Rohrer still has some design changes to implement if he wants the act of murder to be horrific.
posted by Going To Maine at 3:56 PM on March 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


As usual, the Idle Thumbs podcast has some insightful comments about this game.

Chris Remo points out that he absolutely supports the right of a game developer to tell a specific story. If Roher wants to make a game about his experience as a man protecting his wife, he should definitely be able to do that.

The problem is when he creates an entire society made up entirely of heterosexual men protecting their helpless wives (and killing their neighbors' helpless wives) that it starts to seem like he's making a broader and more disturbing statement than just reflecting on his personal experience as a husband.
posted by straight at 4:20 PM on March 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


With the 'full source code bundle' that you get when purchasing, couldn't you mod the game to switch gender roles or turn your house into a transgendered commune, or whatever?
posted by Sedition at 6:08 PM on March 14, 2013


It's a compelling ad for the game, but the guy making clearly has no problem with robbing newbs who haven't erected any security and then killing their wives. (Jump to 12:30)

I'm kinda surprised the player didn't squish the little girl too. Maybe he thought it might be a bit too bad for a public youtube movie.
posted by Bwithh at 9:37 PM on March 14, 2013


It costs credits each time you squish a thing. Killing kids is negative value (you are out the cost of the crowbar).
posted by jonbro at 12:51 AM on March 15, 2013


I think he's just futzing around; you see how much money each person has before you bash them.

The video actually makes a better argument against the wife-killing described in the initial RPS article: crowbars cost $20. The wife Alec Meer killed was carrying $21. So if it was a crowbar - just a $1 profit.
posted by Going To Maine at 6:24 AM on March 15, 2013


Still, chances are it's gonna be a profit, even if a small one.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 6:43 AM on March 15, 2013


There was a psychopath who stormed into my house, shot my two kids, left the wife and left the house the way he came. Makes me wonder if 4chan is getting into things.
posted by naju at 8:48 AM on March 15, 2013


It strikes me that while this game is ostensibly about home defense, it lacks a home defense component. For instance, Rohrer talks about how, as the man, it's your job to get out of bed and investigate a bump in the night. Ignoring the sexism, one thing the game deliberately doesn't incorporate is having you get up to investigate bumps in the night.
posted by Going To Maine at 8:54 AM on March 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


That occurred to me as well, Going to Maine. Who's going to come home in the middle of a robbery and say, "Oh, my house is being robbed. Better not go in!" Doesn't make sense with the theming, but as a puzzle game element it's good.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 12:45 PM on March 15, 2013


Who's going to come home in the middle of a robbery and say, "Oh, my house is being robbed. Better not go in!"

Everyone? i know I would. Who says, "Oh, there are robbers in my house. Let's run in and see if they are armed!"
posted by mrgrimm at 1:02 PM on March 15, 2013


I wouldn't go in either, myself. I would be curious about some variant of the game where you wake up when your house might be getting robbed, and you have some options like:

a) Getting your family out with the money they have on them
b) Trying to get to the safe before the robber so that you can make it out with all your money
c) Trying to hunt down the robber and kill him beforehand. (If that incorporated some risk of killing your own family it would be great.)

That doesn't really work with the whole asynchronous nature of the game, but what might be helpful (and could also help personalize your mostly anonymous wife & kids) would be to let you give them a subroutine for what to do if the house is broken into. I mean, imagine the devastation of watching the tape after a break in and finding that your wife died because you poorly routed her through the pitbulls, or because you told her to confront the burglar in a stand-your-ground fashion and she got gunned down.
posted by Going To Maine at 2:30 PM on March 15, 2013


Everyone? i know I would.

If your wife and kids were in there?
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 2:41 PM on March 15, 2013


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