In the 5th semester we were tasked with creating a multiplayer game in an engine of our choice. Realizing that I suck at programming and that writing proper net code is one of the hardest things to do I choose Valves Source Engine for my project. This allowed me to modify a very powerful code base, with great multiplayer functionality, while adding my own art assets.
Back then I used to play a lot of Garrys Mod and found one game mode to be very interesting. That mode was called Suicide Barrels and was made by Heyo. Its concept was very simple: a player is either disguised as an oil barrel that can move around and explode or the he plays as a soldier with a gun. The goal was to either survive, or to sneak up on your buddies and explode while laughing manically. Here is a video of the original mod:
I saw a lot of potential in that core concept and so I decided to recreate the core mechanics as a standalone Source Mod without using any art assets from Valve. I had two months time for that.
Since I studied at an art school we were not allowed to use any form of explicit violence in our games. So oil barrels eventually turned into shrubberies, inspired by the famous Monty Python sketch “How not to be seen”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zekiZYSVdeQ Guns turned into handbooks (Gardening for Beginners, by Barbara Bush) as a reference to knowledge is power and the fact that throwing books at plants is a rather silly looking endevour. Due to time constraints I simply re-used my very first 3D-Character model which I created in an earlier semester. Thats why the soldier model turned an slightly overweighted and chain-smoking WW2 pilot / gardener. I’m still a bit embarrassed by the ugliness and the many weight map errors on that model. But I guess it servers its purpose of creating a wacky game.
It was an intentional design choice to make the game a bit silly and cartoony. Specifically because the very nature of suicide attacks isn’t something to make fun of. I further disconnected the game from any real world resemblances by removing such things as blood, death screams and flying body parts. While at the same time adding things like instant respawn, wacky sounds, lots of high contrast colors, goofy looking characters and low-poly 3D models. Early playtests showed that players really enjoyed the art direction combined with the sneaking/surviving.
It’s a bit hard for me to remember a lot about the development process as this was back in November 2008 but heres what I still remember: I spent most of my time working in the huge code base of the source engine. Trying to figure out how to create new weapons and game rules among many other things. I also did a few recordings for the sounds and some sound editing of existing sound effects. Here are some interesting facts:
The squeaky boot sound of the survivors is originally from the movie “Spirited Away”. Its the sound the radish-spirit makes when he walks around. I found the sound very funny and quite fitting for the game.
The “yalalala” scream of the bushes, when they use their speed boost, is actually my own voice. Most people mistakingly thought I stole the sound file from the game Postal.
Since I was going to disguise players as shrubs, the action had to take place in an environment where there is a natural abundance of shrubs. So they would be able to blend in. I did some research on gardening layouts and eventually decided to use one small part of the Gardens of Versailles.
Development was actually pretty straight forward and it all came well together for the first public playtest in our class room.
People had a blast. Shortly after presentation in class I released Suicide Survival 1.0 on the Internet. First on a blog I made for the game and then on ModDB.com. I didn’t do any publicity or press stuff in the beginning. Yet the mod got increasingly popular. Probably due to its uniqueness and because it was hilarious to play. Another thing that certainly helped to increase popularity was that once you told your friend that there is this new game where you are disguised as an exploding bush. You immediately got their attention (and their WTF’s). Version 1.0 got more then 3’000 downloads.
About a month later I released version 1.1 with a few balance fixes and a few new maps made by fans. Until today version 1.1 has been download more then 45’000 times. Which makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. The game also got some pretty nice reviews:
“Suicide Survival is the best argument for user modifications since improving coke with whiskey: more fun, less likely to gain official support than a Care Bear firing range, and not for anyone who cares about professional skills. It’s madder than a Katamari rolling up Alice’s Wonderland and filled with more lunatic genius than Arkham Asylum. - The entire concept is more a testament to insane fun than LSD in an amusement park.” - Lowpings.net
Suicide Survival Is genius, let’s get that out of the way first. As someone who’s hoping to go into a career in games development I can’t help but stand in awe of the concept.” - Gamesradar Community Member Review (7 out of 10)
“They are watching you. At home, at work, at school… you walk by them everyday, completely unaware of your impending doom. They lie in wait, ever vigilant, ever patient, awaiting the perfect time to strike you down. Take care, dear children, for your foes are as numerous as they are terrible. They are terror personified… they are death incarnate… they are… shrubberies.” - Planet Half-Life Review
Unfortunately most of those reviews aren’t online anymore.
Now while this all sounds fine and dandy, Suicide Survival wasn’t without its flaws. The game is quiet entertaining for about an hour. After that the it gets pretty repetitive and boring pretty quickly because there isn’t much else to do. There are no real objectives or goals in any of the maps which dumbs the game down to simply team deathmatch. Also there is only one weapon available for each team which further hinders any kind of dynamic gameplay. This is the main reason player attention has declined a lot after the initial rush. None the less I’m pretty amazed that people still download and play this until today. Essentially its a lot of fun on LAN-parties or with a couple of friends once in a while.
I hope this was informative and not confusing. I’m still not too sure about what exactly I should write on this blog so for now I’ll just keep writing what comes to my mind. If you want to stay updated on the development of Suicide Survival you should follow the main site: www.suicide-survival.com or my Twitter feed. Of course you can always download and play it yourself. See the requirements here.
I’m going to wrap this post with two gameplay videos: