Asymmetrical multiplayer horror game The Flock will only be playable for a limited time before it's gone forever.
Developer Vogelsap explained that when The Flock launches this Q3 on Steam the game world will feature an overall population of Flock - the monsters you spend much of your time playing as. Each player death in-game will result in the permanent death of one Flock until the population has dwindled to nothing.
"After the ending, the game will go offline permanently and no longer be playable," the developer grimly stated.
Prior to that, there will be a grand finale for those with the game in their Steam Library. This will be an announced event prior to the game world breathing its last breath.
Vogelsap noted that The Flock's population would be embedded in the game's menus, Steam store page, official site and The Flock's sub-reddit, so there's never any ambiguity about how many lives the community has left.
When asked how many lives the game would begin with, creative director Jeroen van Hasselt told Eurogamer "the population is still being calculated based on the data we're retrieving from the closed beta that is going on right now. We will announce the number before launch. Safe to say, it will be *substantial*. The rest will be in the players' hands."
So why end the game permanently as opposed to starting a second season?
"This game has been designed with a goal to make an immersive, tense/scary and unconventional experience. These things don't last unfortunately. So from all perspectives there's a big theme to it, as the Flock are a tragic race that's doomed to extinction," van Hasselt explained.
"Secondly, we want to tackle a problem with the anticlimactic ending of a multiplayer experience. We want the game to have a climactic finale after which people will fondly remember the game, instead of it to slowly wither away. A restart for a new season will only undermine that. We aspire to write history. Players can be a part of that."
Of course the biggest concern around this model is that Vogelsap is asking folks to spend money on something they know will no longer be playable after a certain point in time. "Aren't you worried you'll lose sales because people won't want to buy a game they know will be gone forever in the future?" I asked.
"Of course we are! But taking risks is part of our corporate culture as we're near-reckless ambitious students," van Hasselt exclaimed. "We want to create an authentic experience, not have the best business deal for ourselves. We're taking a huge risk here, but Vogelsap likes to go on adventures. Adventures are thrilling experiences with an unknown outcome. The Flock reflects that. We're taking the plunge and offering players a one-of-a-kind experience. "
The developer also addressed the concern that players would just troll the game by killing themselves over and over. "We have thought of that and it [the solution] will be revealed in due time," he teased.
The Flock casts players in the role of nimble gargoyle-like monsters scouring the landscape for the Light Artifact, a sort of magical flashlight that transforms them into a humanoid creature called the Carrier. The Carrier's light beam can fry any Flock it shines upon, but if they get pounced upon they'll die and their killer becomes the new Carrier. And so on and so forth.
I took a look at The Flock earlier this year at GDC. "It's well on its way to providing a more accessible counterpoint to Evolve," I wrote in my The Flock preview. "More importantly, it's the rare game where playing with other people actually makes the game scarier."