Sunday, October 17, 2010

more on Urban Dead

I mentioned Urban Dead in an earlier post, but I wanted to mention something that happened to me yesterday while playing it.

Imagine a partially text-based zombie survival horror game where you only live once. That's it. Everyone has a 4-week window of time to create a character, but when you're killed, you can't make another one, and there are no second chances.

That game is Urban Dead, in Borehamwood. Players get 50 action points (AP) per day where they can search buildings for items, move one city block, attack, etc. In UD, there are three separate cities, with a 100 x 100 square grid each, making 10,000 clickable buildings (such as banks, hospitals, schools, auto repair shops) and streets: Malton, Monroeville, and Borehamwood. Malton is the only city where death is never permanent (zombies can be revivified back into human players), and is the only one with open registration. Anyone can create a character in Malton, whereas Monroeville and Borehamwood are limited-time only promotional parts of Urban Dead. Borehamwood had open registration for a short time in 2008 and had a total of 11,058 players.

I had a character in Borehamwood. If you idle out and don't log back in within 5 days, your name disappears from the 3 x 3 map until you log back in. My character remained idled for 2 years. I had recently logged back in to find I was still alive, with only 23 survivors (myself included) and 91 zombies still actively playing. Most of the buildings in Borehamwood were ruined i.e. they cannot barricaded and search rates are decimated. Zombies can just walk right in and kill you while you're logged off, so staying in these buildings are not a good option, but the only one I had at the time.

I spent several days trying to gain enough XP from the few zombies left and trying to locate the other survivors. Finally, I had just enough XP to gain a skill that allows you to enter buildings that are extremely heavily barricaded. Today, I came across the first player I had seen in years. He introduced himself and mentioned that there was a group of players in a barricaded building 2 blocks from where I was, and that I was welcome to come. Not 30 minutes later, the barricades were destroyed and I was killed by a single zombie. Extremely unlucky for me.

I guess I am trying to say that I'm pissed. There's a certain psychology behind a game like this. In just about every other game there is, you get more than one life, you get savepoints, and you can just reload any time you die. In Borehamwood though, your life is utterly priceless and now you can never make a new one. Death is absolute. Survival in its truest form. You log back in wondering if your character was murdered in the night while you slept in the real world. With only 23 people left, any person you meet cannot be overlooked; they are part of your group and you are now friends, survivors, working together, and you share a camaraderie found scarcely else. Becoming the last remaining survivor in Borehamwood in UD is a title striven for by thousands.

It seems silly, but the death of my character saddens me. Ah, what could have been.