Spark Forum

  1. Your game analysis using the game criteria
  2. Your thoughts on what you think make the game special.

Reading the criteria for the Week 2 Game Design Spark Forum activity, filled me with a sudden panic. Which game could I possibly choose, from the many, to analyse? I started to write up different games, changing my mind continuously about which inspired me, this was a process that helped me think realistically about the game I want to make in the next twelve weeks.

Games that have inspired me include, Gorogoa, many Point-and-clicks and more recently Hades. Games that I love playing might fall in a different bracket, not that I didn’t love playing those that inspired me. Playing Civilisation or Endless Space doesn’t spark the “I can create something like this vibe”. So what inspires me, and what are my favourite games and what can I make are all different questions with some of the answers crossing over.

This War of Mine and Don’t Starve are games that fit the theme of survival, which I am leaning towards for the genre of game I make in Game Development. I know at this stage we may change our mind, a survival game isn’t set in stone but considering the possibilities will help me to make some decisions.

This War of Mine is a sobering game, with an important message and it was interesting to compare it to the entertainment of Don’t Starve.

Game Criteria Template

Game Name: This War of Mine

Game Mechanics: Playing as an ordinary citizen struggling to survive in a besieged city, the game mechanics centre around gathering, crafting and avoiding conflict. There are complex moral choices to make, risk yourself to save someone else? Break into someone else’s home, to save yourself and your group from starving? You can gather materials from your house like wood, to burn to keep warm, and craft into beds and other materials to stave off illness. At night you venture outside to gather more resources. These tasks are allotted hours and you have to think about where to focus your time to survive.

There is some skill involved, in sneaking around the environments and timing movement to avoid detection. At one point you can make a run towards a house, avoiding shots from a sniper. You have time your runs between cover.

Genre: Survival.

Player Fantasy: This War of Mine plays on the idea of survival as a game mechanic and fantasy. Toying with prepping fantasists, the game exposes you to a sense of the horrors of war and that surviving is no fantasy.

Platform and Controls: The controls are fairly simple, and mostly point and click.

Spatial Abstraction: 2D Sidescrolling, creates a claustophobic ‘feel’ especially relevant to the game

Avatar: A choice of ordinary citizens with marginal advantages and disadvantages

Camera Perspective: Side on

Goals and Scores: Action choice consequence. The objective is to act as morally as possible. At the end of the game you are given your future, the bleaker your actions in-game the bleaker your future.

Progression and Variety: Both This War of Mine and Don’t Starve get considerably harder as you move on.

Tension and Rest: Some nights are harder than others, you might find some success at raiding the abandoned supermarket or you might run into a group of aggressive looters.

Obstacles and Penalties: Sickness, injuries, exhaustion, starvation, thirst, death of your party, your home can be robbed while you’re out and party injured if you do not leave sufficient weaponry behind

Resources: Food, medicine, equipment, weaponry, people.

Decisions: A morally complex action-consequence game, the decisions are based around what you are willing to do to survive. You can choose from a number of locations to raid, like a hoarding couples house or an abandoned factory. You also have to decide what to build with the resources you have during the day, how far you can push injured and unwell parties to work.

Simulation and Chance: The map and locations are identical in every game and when you arrive at a location there are one of a few events that might occur. After you play the game a few times you can predict what will occur and this gives you a significant advantage in playing through more ethically. For example, I played as a different character but knew the guns were kept at a relative insecure army base, so I could steal them early and leave the house protected. Although sometimes leaving a gun behind would end up with one of your party getting injured from another raiding party – perhaps you should let them take the food and medicine?

Storytelling: You begin with an introduction to your character and party, on a card. This tells you what yourself and your party are good at. At the end of the game you find out what happens to your party and how badly they are effected by the events in betweeen. Story is also told through dialogue between characters.

Art Direction and Style: The environment reflects a bleak, dark world. The colour palette is a dreary dark grey-scale. The way the light filters through debris and contrasts against the black does create a stark and beautiful aesthetic like there are a few rays of hope still shining through the dark.

When Games Get Serious: This War of Mine | Redbrick
Fig 1. This War of Mine wallpaper

Animation and Visual Effects: The characters move slowly in the game, you spend a lot of time crouching, hiding and running and those are the three main animations in the game.

Sound Design: This War of Mine does not include any voice-over’s the dialogue is all text. There are some basic sound effects but what stands out in This War of Mine is the music. The game includes an official soundtrack of the touching and depressing works from composers Musial and Lipka.

Game Criteria Template

Game Name: Don’t Starve

Game Mechanics: Gather resources to try and survive against a harsh fantasy world. You can attack and dodge. There is an element of strategy and working out the most efficient ways to survive.

Genre: Survival.

Player Fantasy: To survive against the odds (or just to die, over and over again and never actually survive).

Platform and Controls: You have an inventory, you can click around to chop wood or pick berries.

Spatial Abstraction: 2D isometric, easy to get lost

Avatar: A choice of unusual and fantastical characters each with special abilities and curses

Camera Perspective: Tilted Top-down

Goals and Scores: The goal is to survive and win, from my many hours of game play I think this is nigh on impossible.

Progression and Variety: The contrast in play between This War of Mine and Don’t Starve is that Don’t Starve gets insanely hard as you go on!

Tension and Rest: Don’t Starve is a deliberately ‘hard’ game, so as soon as you start to do well, there is little ‘rest’.

Obstacles and Penalties: The main penalty is the sanity metre and health bar. Hostile enemies, sanity metre, you can starve, time-constraints, the dark is an enemy, a hostile environment out to kill you. Everything wants to kill you!

Resources: Trees, animals, plants, stone, wool, moustache hair… and so on!

Decisions: You can choose a character with atrributes. There are many sand-box like qualities to Don’t Starve so your choices are limited by your resources. You need to use your time efficently to not starve or be killed during the night!

Simulation and Chance: A randomly generated world, changes the map every time you play, which keeps things interesting.

Storytelling: “Say pal, you don’t look so good. You better find something to eat before night comes!” (Wilson).

Serving as an instruction to survive the game and add depth to the story, there is a machievellian and demented antagonist in Maxwell (William Carter). Unique, unsettling characters.

The narrative in Don’t Starve is extensive and fantastical. It is mainly told through the character design, illustration and random events.

Art Direction and Style: How to describe the art direction and style? Tim Burton-esque, hand-drawn (2D) and procedurally generated maps. The art in Don’t Starve is really unique and that is one of the best things about it. It’s creepy and charming.

Don't Starve Together: Starter Pack 2019 on Steam
Fig 2. Don’t Starve wallpaper

Animation and Visual Effects: The animation is comical and creative. The characters bounce around and the creatures move unnaturally and surrealy. I think in many respects trying to create a realistic animation might be easier. While playing Don’t Starve a few years ago I didn’t appreciate how quirky aspects of the creative side of the game are in games development. I just thought, what a quirky game, not how it is so.

When you get hit, the screen goes red.

When you set a tree on fire the whole forest goes up in cool flame effects.

Sound Design The sound effects for Don’t Starve are again surreal, not realistic and quite creepy adding to the depth and narrative of the game.

Two composers made music for the game, it’s difficult for me to describe because I am not a musician but the music is ominous.

Interestingly there is minimal voice overs, Matt Marteinsson (The sound guy for Don’t Starve) explains he was tired of dialogue.

Matt Marteinsson: The Sounds of Don’t Starve [Full Indie Summit Aug 2014]

Marteinsson also suggest some great middleware which I’ve referenced.

List of Figures

Fig 1. This War of Mine wallpaper

Fig 2. Don’t Starve wallpaper


‘Matt Marteinsson: The Sounds of Don’t Starve [Full Indie Summit Aug 2014] – YouTube’. 2021. [online]. Available at: [accessed 31 Jan 2021].

MONGEAU, Anne-Sophie. 2016. ‘Audio Middleware Comparison – Wwise/FMOD/Fabric/Unity 5’. Game Audio & Digital Art Blog [online]. Available at: [accessed 31 Jan 2021].

‘The Song From This War of Mine’. 2021. [online]. Available at: [accessed 31 Jan 2021].

‘This War Of Mine – Official Soundtrack – YouTube’. 2021. [online]. Available at: [accessed 31 Jan 2021].