“The Day” Released

I just released “The Day” on ArmorGames.com. It’s a game about birthdays, trading cards, and war.

It’s Tia’s birthday, and she’s looking forward to beating all of her friends with the new card her dad gave her! Beat the other kids by choosing the right cards, and earn more cards until you’re the best of them all!

And don’t go into the woods, or the guards will kill you.

The game is an experiment in orthogonal goals.

Play “The Day” at Armor Games.

40 thoughts on ““The Day” Released

  1. It was nice, but the ground tiles were too high in contrast, it created that effect that I don’t know what it’s called when somebody wears a striped shirt on an SD TV whenever I moved about, very nauseating.

  2. Well those goals were definitely orthogonal! What will people do after the world ends? Pokemon.

  3. I just played The Day and got both ending. It was a really interesting experience. I enjoyed the experiment in differing goals. To tell the truth, this little game felt more ‘free’ than a lot of open-world games that are out nowadays.

    I’ll do my best to avoid overt spoilers, because that’s just common courtesy, but I make no guarantees.

    The build up of the revelation was really suspenseful, and those zoom outs were really effective. I was left wondering just what had happened. Why had it happened? Who started it? Are there more like Tia and her community, or are they all that is left? You did a great job in cramming a lot of atmosphere into a small package. I will say that there wasn’t much game to the game, but there didn’t have to be to achieve what I think you were getting at.


  4. There’s a somewhat curious “third way”, where traumatised by the discovery she makes in the room with all the computers, Kia returns to the community to finish the card game and never speak of it again….

    … or perhaps tries to tell the others who ignore what they don’t want to hear and just change the subject to the card game etc.?

    Certainly puts a different spin on the final conversation with dad – a kind of implicit “come inside where its comfortable and try to forget about what you saw”.

  5. So… hmm i really dont know why you created such a…. “WTF-Game”….
    in fact i do not like it that much… but i liked the 2 possible endings :D you as a player have to find out which way you want to go :D the “cake-way” or
    the “truth-way”
    thats all for this game :D
    i also want to say that your “Robot wants…-games” are SO DAMN AWESOME!!!
    PLS more more more!
    thank you for creating awesome games!

    1. This comment made me realize that the game can be seen as a choice between cake or death.

      I liked this game a lot, though I also had the problem with the background flashing red as I moved around.

  6. Great job on the game. I really enjoyed it. I wish there was more to discover about the story but it worked really well for what you wanted to accomplish. On a technical note: I think the winning/losing sound effect was way too loud.

  7. extremely unique, I loved how you setup the gameplay with choices, it grabbed my attention the first time a camera turned

  8. Amazing game. Certainly deserves much more then the rating on AG. I guess it’s just not for everyone.

    I also wanted to say that in midst of games with whole teams working entire years, with amazing artists and awesome gamplay, with music composed by entire symphonies, and with such large budgets, most games can’t even create what you have created here. With pixel art, public domain music, and a card game. I’ve definitely seen games and read stories with the similar twists, but I can’t think of but one or two that has done it better.

  9. I played through the card game first. It was cute, but I ended with “that’s it?” I noticed the cameras, I thought “silo” was a wierd thing to put on a card, but didn’t question it overall. The warnings about the woods were kind of blunt.

    I decided to replay and poke around the woods. More than a little freaky. Definitely going to recommend this to friends.

  10. An excellent game. I very quickly saw where the story was going, but the “truth” ending was no less powerful for that. I also liked the way the two endings aren’t just a variation of the same result; orthogonal goals, as you said.

    Other things I liked:
    – the music, and the contrast between the three tracks
    – the fact that the card game was actually an interesting, enjoyable challenge
    – the way the creepiness of the card game can also be read as a comment on what we makes games about
    – the subtly disturbing cameras

    The developer notes were also a very nice inclusion.

  11. Thanks for this great little game!

    I just discovered you on armor games… I really enjoyed this game.

    I thought you might find interesting a little breakdown of my playing experience:

    The first time I played through it, I did notice the cameras and I wondered about them, and I made a mental note to explore the forest, since I’d been told not to. But first I attended to what I thought was going to be my first task, the card game.

    It was cool, and really, I didn’t think much about what was on the cards themselves. To me, it just seemed like standard game fair: Guns, Soldiers, Tanks, Lazers, whatever. Once I’d beat the card game I went and talked to dad and suddenly The Day was over! At this point I had sort of forgotten about the whole “don’t go into the forest bit” and was just confused as to why your game would end so suddenly.

    At this point I noticed the developer notes menu choice, and 1 of 2 stars being filled in. Once I couldn’t get into the Dev. notes because I hadn’t got “both” endings, I remembered about the forest!

    So I started the game up and went straight for the forest. Once I got the ending… I literally got chills. It was really great. I then got the continuity of the card game.

    I went straight into your Dev. notes and thoroughly enjoyed this game and your objectives with it.

    I’ve since downloaded your most recent podcasts through iTunes and really enjoyed them. Have you managed to get a ROM of Awesome Zone yet?

  12. I definitely enjoyed the somewhat ‘hidden plot’ of the game – namely, the reality of what was happening/had happened outside the village these people were living in.

    However, I was a little bit disappointed in how short the game was, not to mention interested in knowing more of the background behind the decidedly creepy outside world.

    I did have the same problem with the high contrast background, as walking around in the forest made my eyes hurt pretty quickly.

    Apart from those little points, I loved your game!

  13. The bit with the forest was the best part of it. It played very well with the atmospherics. I definitely liked it better than the card game. I liked the bit where you shown the location of the drone or the little details.

    As an experiment, it definitely tells that this way works.

  14. Well, I have to say that I really enjoyed it. It was simple and enjoyable. The moment the characters were talking about how “If you step on the plants, it’s less food”, and the whole forest thing, I kind of figured what the underlying plot was. The card game was entertaining, and did paint an even clearer picture about the plot. Loved the game, and I really hope something like this comes out again.

    Thanks for the game.

  15. I quite liked that. It’s nothing at all compared to the sheer wonder that is Majesty of Colours, but we could blame my Lovecraftian leanings for that.

    From here on, THERE WILL BE SPOILERS, MERRY FOLKS. Play the game before you browse the comments!

    The cyclical limited dialogue was a pity. It might have been nice to have more milestones – each victory of the cardgame giving me new things to talk to the losers and the adults about, as I wandered around looking for the next winnable game.

    The wording of ‘don’t go near the fence’ confused me, as I could see snippets of green fence around the edges and carefully avoided them, simply to enjoy her birthday gaming thinking “I will explore a little more after the festivities..” – but upon exploring the fence, I ended up walking around most of the perimeter of the camp, headbutting the treeline and exposed fence regions thinking “Shoot me, come on you sons of bitches. Hm.” – upon finding the rather indistinct dirt-path and going outside, I found the second fence and thought “.. bugger. I’m sure her father would have explained that distinction.”.

    More details would have been nice in the forest. It felt like a wasted zone. Minimalism without a rewarding sense of purity; rather, it just felt empty. Like playing Zelda: A Link to the Past with no shovel, no bushes, no rocks, no caves. I found the bunker, and I felt a pleasant buzz of sensation; this reminds me of The G-.. But wait. ‘Games I’ve Played’.. You have never played Fallout. Interesting. Your bunker has a powerful feeling of it – endless dead screens, debris, and the occasional retro terminal still glowing years after ‘the end’.

    How can you have made this, and never played Fallout, Gregory?

    .. Well, the end result.. This lacked the sense of mystery and discovery I found in your better works. Minimalistic to the point that it becomes a negative, there was not enough content in the world, enough dialogue, enough visual details to examine. Not enough hints at the world outside, not enough life in the camp, and no sense that the camp had been there a long time.

    An infant concept that feels like a prototype of what could have been.

    Nonetheless, I enjoyed it. I think the highlight of the experience was the developers notes after, and the way they changed the music =)

    – Jack

    1. Update: OH MAN, I GOT KRAID FOR MY AVATAR <3 I love this system. That's even better than your Grim Fandango land of the Living man =P

      Tsk, on that note, you've never played Super Metroid for the SNES either – I think it is without a doubt the finest, most beautiful and most atmospheric title on that console.

      You've played and apparently enjoyed Iji; go back to the inspiration of Iji, a better looking, better playing and altogether better game =)

      1. I’ve played Fallout and Super Metroid, but had left them out; I’ve now added them to the list. And I’m sure that Fallout was a strong subconscious inspiration for the guard post.

        Iji is really more derived from Flashback than from Super Metroid.

        1. I’m glad to hear it – I was worried for a moment ;)

          Iji – Visually, stylistically, aye – but I attribute the fundamental feel of the gameplay to more of a Metroidvania style game than Flashback. Could simply be a difference of opinion rather than a misunderstanding. I have little fondness for Iji, I just found it so painfully slow and mechanical. Appropriate to the subject-matter, perhaps.. but not fun. Not after playing similar games with elegant movement systems and more agile, varied combat.

          Hrmf. I’ll be unhappy if I don’t ask; I take it you’re a busy guy, you seem fairly prolific in your online writing and your game development – but I’d take great pleasure in discussing games and game design, old and modern, with you. Do you take pleasure in debate on the medium, and if so, where and how to you prefer to hold a conversation? =) I’d rather not spam up your comment threads, or waste my time if the chatter isn’t welcome.

          Be well, and once again, thanks for the games.

          1. I think the awkwardness of movement in Iji is what makes it more Flashbacky. The lack of ability to move elegantly and be agile makes it a much more deliberate game. However, the boss battles are definitely more in the Metroid or Castlevania vein, which makes them a bit frustrating.

            Discussion in comments is always welcome. I don’t have any place that I frequent regularly for the discussion of games, although I periodically visit the TIGSource forums.

          2. It’ll be my pleasure. I’ll be watching your site with interest.

            And to conclude that thread, I see your point about the clunky, very solid movement of Iji as compared to Flashback/Another World/Oddworld, but the combative emphasis and simplistic gameplay compared to the very ‘hand-crafted challenges and puzzles’ of those games felt like a flawed set of priorities. The movement system of a deeper game crippling the combat of a simple one.

            Difference in opinion I guess – but I must thank you for leading me to grab a ROM of Flashback to try it out properly, it was a pleasure.

            .. Frustrating, but enjoyable =)

  16. Man, I hate pretentious asses as much as the next guy, but I appreciate what you’re up to and I wish you all the best. You add value to web games and I know your name. Because you consistently deliver unusually good work. Cheers.

  17. just finished the game.
    at first i did the card game until i beat it (i wanted to check out the forest right at the beginning but i didn’t find the entrance so i just did the card game). the ending was in some way boring and left me disappointed so i tried again and found the forest ending which was disturbing but imho also really good. (it may not have worked that great if i had found the endings the other way around (if that’s possible))
    after that i read about the thoughts in the developing and the deeper meaning of the music, graphics etc.
    all in all this game was actually pretty good for having low standard graphics and gameplay.
    i really appreciate the thought you put into the developing of this game. it’s what the internet needs. short entertaining “time killers” with deeper meaning.

    keep up the good work!

    greetings from germany.

  18. I think a lot of things have been said already that I would’ve said myself–I enjoyed the experience, as I do most thoughtful small-production (trying not to use the word “indie”, which as far as i’m concerned is largely bankrupt as a moniker considering how much in bed “indie” games are with blatantly horrible corporations and further and further away from scratchware every day that passes) games. I have long since gotten over any impulse to ignore the atmosphere or the admonitions of the world I’m in when I play a game, so the first time through, I just played the card game and went straight back to dad.

    The second time, of course, I went straight through–and the juxtaposition was pretty spooky; well done. I have to say I did not expect what I found: I noticed the cameras early on and knew something must’ve been up but did not quite know that I’d stumble across…well, you know. I will say that I was a little confused by the ending in that I couldn’t exactly tell what I was looking at until I watched a clip of the ending again on youtube–at which point the different shadings and whatnot made sense to me.

    But my real question is this, and I’m interested that no one has brought it up yet (perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised given the general blindness that the gaming community has to issues of race): what went into the choice to make the cast look the way they did, that is, people of color? Unlike many, many, many, videogames, there do not seem to be any white characters, which makes the otherwise-typical scifi ‘post-apocalyptic’ message even more interesting to me, since there is an added horror of something like a ‘Tuskegee experiment’ zone that these folks were living in (esp. the strange banjo/southern, almost plantation-like atmosphere of the zone)–and who are able to stay alive in a kind of libertine but also twistedly caged Eden while the rest of the world rots. This would hint at, for me, something like the ironic consequence of a postcolonial world gone horribly awry (or at least, in the direction it continues to march towards with full confidence every day); but I also wonder what it does in terms of lending any agency to these characters in that even from beyond the grave white supremacy still would seem to shape and control their lives. It is a classically racist and Orientalist/colonialist narrative to, even in the most “sympathetic” of lights, portray those non-white characters in a story as mere ‘receptors’, either passively accepting of the ‘cards they’ve been dealt’ (pun intended) or ‘delusionally’ believing they are happy.

    It’s tough, of course, but neither option has any liberatory potential to it, which is key because it is not enough to simply present a reconfigured version of the way things already are, when the whole responsibility of aesthetics lies in your chance to reject the supposed coherence and linear causality of the world and create something that might hint at another horizon, or a more beautiful one, anyway. I think in your own way you did this remarkably given the largely uplifting tone of the game, but then, the “real” ending does not necessarily do much other than shock us, and twist the knife in the wound of our unavoidable ignorance (this is the ‘secret’ model) rather than make us feel as though our ignorance is something we must live with and grapple with.

    I don’t take this to be a purely ideological critique, by the way, because I think to take this aspect seriously would mean also expanding this prototype into another kind of aesthetics and another kind of text, wherein the final sense one has after putting it down is not one of fatalism (‘real’ ending) or determinism (you did what you were told and you finished because this is the way things must be for them to be at all), as either ending seems to offer. Don’t get me wrong, I loved the experience, but I think you need to challenge yourself a lot more in this sense. Taking these critiques seriously, I think, would mean having to seriously reflect not just on the ‘content’ of the game (this would be to take my racial critique on contemporary, ‘postracial’ terms, for example, in which the race of the characters is an ornament and not indicative of a positionality or a certain experience of being-in-the-world via history, community, legacies, inheritances, oppression, or power, and which might lead one to think that you would just need to rearrange the plot a little bit in order to solve this problem), but the ludic structure as a whole, or at least in part (since I think you’re on the right track), to walk that fine line of linearity and radical openness that makes any good game.

    For example, if instead of making it an instance of didactic instruction which points you to your goal (‘dont go into the woods!’), it might be spatially organised a bit differently. If, as in the early Mario brothers games, certain obstacles/entities were made to be experienced in such a way as to create an association, then that association could be exploited later on. Such that the cameras could be linked to a certain pattern of play and reactions–and then the player might see a camera which violates this pattern and seek to investigate. Or think of ways to have things intervene in the player’s experience, seizing them from the illusion of their own autonomous agency and wrenching them, forcing them to trust in a more desubjectivising process which doesn’t merely display their horrible fate before them (‘not with a bang, with a whimper’), but leads them to transform as they let that otherness into them (Earthbound, one of the games you mention as an inspiration, does this admirably in a number of instances, most notably when Puu goes to the mountaintop to meditate), to transform and thereby be INVESTED in the experience rather than in their ability to conquer it (which certainly seized a hold of me instinctually when I first played).

    Point is: there needs to be a liberation which undergirds and permeates the experience of the game in the long run, I think, in order for it to be true and honest to its representations, which as of now seem a tad bit irresponsible.

    Anyway I’m rambling at this point and I’m not sure why but you can color me impressed on the whole. You just got me thinking. I’ll keep my eye out for any future work of yours.

    1. I don’t want to talk too much about the personal meaning or interpretation of the story I have as a reader, but I’ll share a few things that I think about the setting. First, in my interpretation, the characters of the story are not passive and accepting. The adults have made some hard choices over the years, and while they’re shielding children from things, they are aware of and active in their own situation. Second, in my interpretation, this was not originally an experiment or a refuge; it was an internment camp. The world of The Day is not our own, but the characters’ race carries narrative weight even in that world.

      From a creator’s perspective, I suppose that the game is a bit “post-racial,” in the sense that I constructed the basic story before assigning a racial identity to the characters. The story adjusted slightly after I’d designed the characters, but I chose not to significantly modify it. “The Day” is a game with very small scope, and while race informs the story, it isn’t what the story is about.

      The characters’ race is a bit undefined; beyond their world not being ours, they also could be one of several ethnicities. Most cues point toward them being black, but they could easily be one of various other non-white identities. But while their situation probably occurred because of their race, their race has lost its relevance to them (but of course, not to us). Tia has never met a person of a different skin color than her own. This definitely sets up ludonarrative dissonance; race matters little to Tia’s own worldview, but necessarily carries weight in the mind of the reader.

      Like I said, “The Day” is a game with a very narrow scope. Were I to expand it, I think that issues of liberation, and what that means in the context of the characters’ situation, would be the first issues I would explore.

    2. In a way, this reminds me of a question/criticism I got about Phenomenon 32 (a post-apocalyptic game I made): “Why are the native/tribal people of Earth not represented in the story? Why is their view of reality not represented?”

      To which the answer is “because they are all dead.” It doesn’t matter what they believed, or how oppressed they were. History is not about justice. When the bombs fell, the bombs fell, and only technology and luck allowed some few people to survive. You might call it “supposed coherence and linear causality,” but as far as I can tell, the world is coherent and determined by linear cause and event. Otherwise there would be no injustice, but also no way of fighting injustice.

      In terms of The Day, I don’t think the characters’ lack of agency can be construed as racist. If, in our world, Europe or the United States decided to drop a nuclear bomb on, say, Somalia, the people there would die. It would be entirely our choice, and they would have no agency in the matter at all. Even if we killed each other first and then an automated system bombed Somalia, it would still not be their choice. Similarily, the characters in The Day find themselves in a situation that is determined by the actions of other people. And sometimes, especially in war, these actions have such tremendous consequences that we are robbed of agency.

      In fact, I would argue that it would be terribly dishonest to tell the story otherwise simply because of the characters’ skin colour. The responsibility of art is to the truth, not to ideology, and the heartbreaking truth is that the consequences of war often rob people of all agency.

      (On a personal note, I did not react to the characters’ skin colour at all, other perhaps than making the association Lis -> Lissa -> Melissa Avery, which is pretty much irrelevant.)

      1. I don’t believe Alex was saying “The Day” was racist; merely that I could have done more to grant the characters agency and refute the racist portrayal of colonialized people as passive and accepting.

        (In this thread: white guys discussing race on the Internet.)

        1. I didn’t mean to say he thought it was racist, but to respond to the logic that tends to equate lack of agency (in art) with racism. I have a problem with the overall approach expressed in his post, which I think in this case ascribes weaknesses to the game that it doesn’t have. (In other words, I find the lack of agency to be realistic and an actively good part of the game. It is appropriate to the story.)

          (See, the very fact that I would be classified as “white” shows how problematic the whole discourse is. I grew up in a country that has known hundreds of years of oppression, and in most of Europe my looks tend to designate me as “filthy foreigner.” My grandparents were freedom fighters. And yet I have had more than one cultural studies person declare me part of a “white” upper class that has “colonialist” fantasies. Note that I’m not saying my ancestry makes me special in any way – it’s just that these oversimplified categorizations create more confusion than they’re worth.)

  19. Your name should be Weird instead of Weir. Great game. Again you did something unusual that forced me to think

  20. I happened on The Day on a random link from another page, and was totally blown away! It’s fascinating how much is packed into such a simple box. I really like the implicit narrative on video game play, e.g., the card game as barely a game typical of so many quest styles, but with a twist: It actually reveals a fair bit about the world, even if you don’t beat that ending. Good stuff.

  21. I played this today and again, you have me gripped with your style of storytelling. I’ve played a number of your games on Kongregate already and they always leave me with a sense of wonder and more often, terror when I try to comprehend what meaning you intended to show. In other words, awesome. :)

    Keep up the good work! We’ll be waiting for your next entry most earnestly.

  22. I find it interesting how some people noticed something weird about the cards and some didn’t.
    I thought the card system, yet simple, conveyed a weird sense of achievement. I could be disturbed by the things depicted on the card, though there was still this pokemon feeling of “gotta catch them all”. I liked winning against children whose cards were too powerful previously.
    The woods part were interesting too because I was kinda afraid of dying. As I passed through the hole in the fence, I thought something was going to jump on me.
    It was a nice experiment, it left me with the same feelings as at the end of the majesty of colors, maybe because the two explore greatly the “different pathways” kind of gameplay.

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