No One Has To Die

No One Has To Die does not start with a title screen.  There are no credits, or even a mention of the author (Stuart Madafiglio).  Instead, this is the first screen the player sees:


1st screen of the game. No title screen.

Two things can be surmised by looking at this screen.  First, there will be decisions to make, and those decisions will have consequences – there are a finite amount of boxes.  Second, it appears that the game’s creator does not want you to think this is a game.  A title screen would prepare the player for the game that will come up.  In fact, the very presence of a title or credits would indicate that the player is playing a game.  By immediately going into the first screen, the creator is trying to catch the player off guard.


Chat layout

When the player clicks on the top of the decision tree, s/he is brought to a chat.  The player is the “Visitor,” an anonymous individual bringing a delivery to the Fenix Corporation.  When a fire suddenly breaks out in the building, the Visitor logs onto the Fenix Corporation, looking for survivors and possible sources of help.  The question is, why doesn’t the Visitor leave the building and call the fire department, or the police?
I have a possible answer: It’s detrimental to the storyline.  Like a horror movie, calling the cops or another outside source for help would remove the main character from the situation too quickly.  However, there’s another possible reason why Madafiglio chose to have the characters interact via a chat instead of on the phone, or face-to-face.  Had the Visitor met the other characters face-to-face or on the phone, the corporation workers s/he met would be polite in the presence of a stranger.  However, on a company chat application, the coworkers are not at their best.  Some of them initially ignore the Visitor’s anonymous presence, bickering amongst themselves or revealing unnerving aspects of their personalities.  It’s only until they realize the Visitor is listening in that they try to calm down.  It’s also important that the Visitor only sees a picture of each coworker’s face.  Like a picture on Facebook, photoshopped and selectively chosen so everyone looks good, the coworkers’ appearances can be misleading.  By entering the chat, the Visitor enters an uncomfortable situation.  Everyone desperately wants some people to live (and some people to die), appearances are deceptive, and everyone’s true emotions are slowly becoming visible under their archetypical exteriors.

The decision

The decision

Then the Visitor must make a decision – s/he must decide which of these people, who s/he has just met, will live and who will die.  S/he is the only person in the building who has access to the water system in the building.  The Visitor can manipulate the people in the building to move to different locations, and turn the water system on and off.  Of course, in almost every situation, one person (or two people, or none) will done.


Containing the Fire

While any other author would use the deaths of the characters as ways to cause emotional pain to the Player, there is another disadvantage to the characters’ deaths. Each of them knows a reason why the fire started.  The Fenix Corporation is not a normal corporation, and their scientific experiments (and questionable ethics) has caused the current situation.

An ending?

The ending?

Once the Player gets to an ending, s/he will return to the beginning of the game.  Ordinarily, this could be seen as an exception to Madafiglio’s attempts to not portray his game as a “game” (since the Player returns to the game’s beginning with all of the characters alive).  However, if the Player completes all of the endings, s/he will learn that Madafiglio used this “New Game” mechanic as part of the plot.  There is a reason why all of the characters remain alive, but I don’t want to spoil it for new players.  Instead, play No One Has to Die, and discover the mystery for yourself.

What do you think of Madafiglio’s subversion of the “New Game” mechanic?  Are there any other parts where he subverts/goes along with common game mechanics?


  3 comments for “No One Has To Die

  1. nbemis
    March 24, 2014 at 7:52 pm

    I thought that the use of a chat log as a way to convey messages between characters was an interesting and effective way to make the characters believable without having to give them actual audible voices provided by hired actors. I really enjoyed how this game played with me and my emotions. When I had failed to rescue everyone initially, I felt that I had messed up somehow, not realizing that at that point, saving everyone was indeed impossible.

  2. star
    March 25, 2014 at 11:18 am

    In my after books course we discussed the term avatar versus character player. Character player is a term used when the player is going along with the character and experiencing events with the character while avatar is when the player is “god like” and is looking into the game rather than interacting on an equal plane with the game. I would argue that although this is a character player the fact that you have to choose who will live and die creates a “God like” encounter. For that difficult moment the player is an avatar.

  3. bosco1213
    March 31, 2014 at 12:31 am

    This was really interesting. I didn’t stop till I completed the whole story and it reminded me of a few other games that did something similar. Getting one ending and then having the player restart if they want the “true ending” gives a game the ability to have a lot of replay value. I find that to be common in many story driven games in this generation. For some that maybe tedious, but others may love it. Especially, how this game follows through with it by making not as tedious as it could have been. It was not too long or too short and it gave the player the ability to skip the dialogue that they already have read.

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