Lincoln: The Real Story

by Mitchell Dyer

I played my first real  game of Sleep is Death today. Click that link to read it. I created a scene and some characters for DWF contributor Derrek Lucas, and we went to town. We’ll be discussing it more at a later date, but I’ll fire off some thoughts on our experience now in case you’re interested in buying Jason Rohrer’s positively brilliant indie game.

If you don’t know what it is, here’s the gist: two players connect, one the player, second the controller. The player can add dialogue and action boxes to the environment, as well as move their character around, provided the controller allows it. The player and controller alternate every 30 seconds. The player acts, the controller responds. Responses vary from reactive dialogue, explanations through action boxes, adding or subtracting of characters and… well, you’ll see what we did if you check out our flipbook from our first run, Lincoln: The Real Story.

Anyway, here’s what we thought:

  • First, when you and another player are creating a scene, it is seemingly less funny or cool than it really is. You’ve got 30 seconds to exchange actions, so you don’t get to sink in the subtle awesomeness or genius of your creations.
  • Improvisation it hard when you’re on the clock, especially, as I found, as the dude in control of the entire scene. Derrek had an easier time because he’s limited. It’s a better experience as a player, I think, but if you love the power of being in control you’ll have a hell of a time manipulating the world.
  • If you have multiple people to play with, you can use the same scenario multiple times, and never have the same result. That’s pretty sweet. I tested the Lincoln scenario with Taylor Cocke, the excellent intern at Official Xbox Magazine. Our run was radically different, even though I tried similar things on him.
  • It takes a ton of work to create scenery and alter sprites, but damn is it satisfying. It’s particularly great when you’re able to predict what the person you’re playing with will do. Every object I created was used by Derrek (with a little hint-hint, nudge-nudge, anyway) because I expected him to eventually act as intended.

If anyone else is playing it, I’d love to know what you think of the game.