Sleep is Death
March 5, 2010 2:44 PM   Subscribe

Sleep is Death is the new two-player game being released by Jason Roher, known for his thought-provoking arthouse games such as Passage.

The way the gameplay works out reminds me of MS Paint Adventures-style storytelling. Need convincing? Check out the cute introductory slideshow.
(Related and Relateder)
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia (26 comments total) 27 users marked this as a favorite
What kind of game is this? I clicked the slide show about 30 times but it still didn't tell me anything.
posted by demiurge at 2:50 PM on March 5, 2010

aw man 2 players? ain't nobody gon' play a game with me. too bad though cos i loved passage and use it to make a point all the time.
posted by jcruelty at 2:51 PM on March 5, 2010

Whoa. Fascinating concept. I can't wait to try this out!
posted by naju at 2:53 PM on March 5, 2010

I like the idea a lot, but it assumes that there's a large base of players who are interested in playing in good faith and not just ruining the game for each other. Speaking as someone who's tried Chatroulette, I'm not so sure.
posted by roll truck roll at 2:57 PM on March 5, 2010 [2 favorites]

Yeah, I'm very curious to try this out. Thanks!
posted by muckster at 3:04 PM on March 5, 2010

Oh, I see, they put the important screenshot at frame 127. Not very convenient.

And now I can see this isn't really a game, it's a whiteboard.
posted by demiurge at 3:04 PM on March 5, 2010

I think the pay-to-play element will weed out a lot of the trolls (kind of like MetaFilter). And it's not random people you're being paired up with, it's a friend. Two people who are real-life roleplayers could find this a lot of fun for the times they can't physically get together. As a big fan of MS Paint Adventures, I think this sounds awesome! (But I'm not sure I'm willing to spring any cash for it, just yet.)
posted by The Winsome Parker Lewis at 3:05 PM on March 5, 2010

The more I think about this, the more it intrigues me. It's really interactive storytelling on its most basic level. It's a little bit like Dungeons and Dragons without the math.

I'm still worried about the shitcock factor.
posted by roll truck roll at 3:06 PM on March 5, 2010 [2 favorites]

Needs more Nas.
posted by Rangeboy at 3:06 PM on March 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

I didn't see your comment before posting, The Winsome Parker Lewis. Good points.

Is it only friends? That seems unfortunate. I think it would be more fun with random pairings, as long as there's a way to ban trolls.
posted by roll truck roll at 3:08 PM on March 5, 2010

I didn't see any indication of how pair matching occurs. Looks like you get two licenses when you buy it: one for you and one for your friend. I would be sad, though, if those two copies were the only ones that could play with each other. Some sort of player community would make it or break it, in my opinion.
posted by The Winsome Parker Lewis at 3:13 PM on March 5, 2010

But I'm not sure I'm willing to spring any cash for it, just yet.

$9 (pre-order) for two copies doesn't seem too bad.
posted by sleevener at 3:15 PM on March 5, 2010

What kind of game is this? I clicked the slide show about 30 times but it still didn't tell me anything.

Here's a long excerpt from an interview with Edge where he explains the concept and his motivation:

This is my response to Façade, Storytron and Far Cry 2; the problem with structured narrative versus interactivity. You want some sort of narrative structure that seems meaningful to people, but it also has to be interactive. Those two things always fight against each other. [Ex-Maxis programmer] Chris Hecker says the problem won’t be solved until we have stronger AI, essentially running the drama manager for us. Until it’s smart enough to recognize that you did something intelligent that we weren’t expecting, and it even fits into the story, and here the story reacts to you. But what if there was a human on the other side pulling all the levers for you? One person is the drama manager running everything for you, the man behind the curtain making everything happen. Whatever the other player does you react.

I knew right away this wouldn’t work in 3D, there are too many variables, too many degrees of freedom. It also has to be turn-based or it’s never going to work. I built this really comprehensive interface for the controller to control every aspect of the world very quickly, searching through stacks of resources. Each person has 30 seconds to move so it's got to be able to react to what that person did. If they punch somebody it's got to be able to edit the sprite quickly and add blood and a bubble that says “Ow”.

Is this a kind of stop-gap approach until AI technology eventually becomes good enough, or do you feel like AI will never really be as good as we want it to be?

The big thing is asking why we want big computers to do these things for us. We have this fantasy about sitting alone with our computers, for some reason. I don’t know why we do, but we have this obsession in game culture.

The insight here is that running a drama manager is just as interesting as playing the resulting drama. You have to be on your toes, you’re thinking about what’s going to happen next, you’re planning everything out, you’ve got this idea in your head about where the story’s going to go, and then the player does something you weren’t expecting and you’ve got to figure out a way to wrap it around them. It’s like this really tense, almost athletic performance.

It’s also a content creation tool. So far I’ve just put some seed content in there for one little story world, which is inside my house in New Mexico with my wife and two kids. There are four characters; all the objects are from our house. The story I’ve been telling with it is about my wife. It’s a true story that happened when we lived in Potsdam, of her having a really bad asthma attack. She got to the point where she realised she was going to stop breathing, her inhalers weren’t working and she was going to need to go to the hospital. This was before our second kid was born. She got a ride from our neighbour to the emergency room. I had to wake our kid up and put him in the sling and then walk him down to the hospital. Of course on the walk to the hospital we had no way to get in touch with my wife. We’re walking in the dark on a cold night and it’s like, she could be dead when we get there.

I was pretty lukewarm on the concept of Rohrer as the savior of games until I read this. But this game shows that he really gets the limits that game designers are butting up against, and he pushing back against them in a really interesting way.
posted by eggplantplacebo at 3:16 PM on March 5, 2010 [7 favorites]

i can't wait to see what /b/ does with it.
posted by empath at 3:50 PM on March 5, 2010

From the system requirements page:
There is no single-player mode. It is easiest to play over a local network. Have a friend over and plug in two laptops, or play over local WiFi. It can be played remotely over the Internet, but one player will probably need to fiddle with his or her router settings. Instructions for remote Internet play are included.
I guess this rules out any built-in pair matching over the web. Somebody will probably set up some unofficial friend-finder on a message board, but it looks like it's intended to be BYOSP (bring your own second player). Talk about retro! It's like playing NetTrek or something...
posted by The Winsome Parker Lewis at 3:56 PM on March 5, 2010

"One person is the drama manager running everything for you, the man behind the curtain making everything happen. Whatever the other player does you react."

Drama Manager. So a DM.
posted by Smedleyman at 4:01 PM on March 5, 2010 [4 favorites]

Well, everyone has already hit the points I came in here to make:

wow, neat, everything that seems cool to me -- a non-player of role playing games -- about role playing games without the dice or dragons (both of which I like just fine), wonder if this will work? what about the assholes? how's this work? oh that's how.

so I just have to ask:

Do you think I'll be able to find non-assholes to play this with via Metafilter?

'Cause I think I'd really like it.

(Disclosure: I consider myself a non-asshole, but I can't promise I won't try to create asshole situations...i.e. you can put out the Christmas tree fire, but only if you use the fish bowl and make a little girl cry)
posted by MCMikeNamara at 4:23 PM on March 5, 2010

This could be entertaining as a change of pace for a pair of RPG geeks.

Apparently users will be able to create and share their own art assets. Great Dungeon in the Sky, discussed previously on the blue, used pixel art assets that were created for an indie gaming competition and were subsequently released under a creative commons license. Maybe these or similar could be imported?

I don't know about you guys, but all the stories I want to tell involve an apprentice mage, a barbarian wielding a two-hander, and the grease spell.
posted by episteborg at 4:31 PM on March 5, 2010

Hmm, this all seems a lot less attractive to me now. Even the way the little walkthrough advertises it relies on a man-behind-the-curtain ethos. It seems that games would be pretty predictable if you know the people you're playing with. You already know what kind of stories they like and what's funny to them. I'd much rather have anonymous opponents with some sort of player-rating system.
posted by roll truck roll at 4:31 PM on March 5, 2010

If the editor is well-executed, this should be cool. It reminds me of those people who play text-based adventure games on omegle.

Hopefully the $9 will weed out some trolls, if paired with a moderation system of some sort (even if only a "block this person from playing with me again" button.)
posted by Solon and Thanks at 4:33 PM on March 5, 2010

It sounds like he's planning on getting intermixing of players, because he talks about sharing content automatically, and that's not a huge draw with just two people.

If I were doing it I'd probably define a simple matchmaking/proxy protocol, set up a sample implementation on something like appspot, and set up a url handler to easily let users run their own servers.
posted by tfinniga at 4:34 PM on March 5, 2010

This really seems like something that should be open source.
posted by Pyry at 9:04 PM on March 5, 2010

It's chatroulette, with MS-Paint graphics!

(sorry--it's probably cool.)
posted by craniac at 9:23 PM on March 5, 2010

There are already lots of online game table simulators that serve this purpose for RPG players. Sleep is Death might provide some extra conveniences for the one-player, one-drama-manager style, I don't know.

It does at least appear that it comes with a reasonably thorough set of tiles, which is more than I can say for Gametable.
posted by LogicalDash at 4:07 PM on March 6, 2010

Good to see the odd game now and then that makes a real effort to be something refreshing.
posted by Tamzin at 4:43 AM on March 7, 2010

I'm really looking forward to this, especially since I've been reading a lot of classic plays and I've got several years experience running completely open ended RPGs. I already have ideas for adapting Ibsen's "A Dollhouse" or "The Wild Duck".
posted by Phalene at 8:04 AM on March 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

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