Words by David C. Obenour
A swirling, never-ending storm is the only reminder of a long-forgotten ending to civilization. Alone in the galaxy, pilgrms roam the planet in makeshift buggies – always searching for partz, always going furtha. Can’t let the tox catch up to you.
Utilizing a story setting comic book, 3D illustrations and hand management gaming, The Dead Eye plunges you into a world of solitary desperation as you scrap and scrape your way through a deserted wasteland. A story deck drives the narrative as Hope and Doom stacks pile up with every flip of a card and in-game decision.
Chapter by chapter, it’s your goal to make it furtha each time.
Off Shelf: Mad Max seems like an obvious inspiration behind The Dead Eye – what about that setting resonates with you?
Robert van Zyl: The inspiration for The Dead Eye was certainly the Australian western, of which Mad Max is the most well known example. Other examples include films such as The Rover and The Proposition. As a South African, we share “antipodean” roots with Australia, and we wanted to make the game a tribute to the sci-fi western from “down under”.
The Dead Eye setting emerged through this exploration of the “down under” (slang for antipodean countries such as South Africa, Australia and New Zealand), “the dead eye” (a western-term for a sharpshooter) and a “low sci-fi” post-apocalypse setting. What if there was a planet where the last human survivors lived on the down under, because the north of the planet was consumed by a massive toxic cyclone from some forgotten apocalyptic event? Seen from deep space, the eye of the black storm, would give the planet its name sake. Welcome to the Dead Eye.
Each game created by Pleasant Company Games is a homage to a genre – Ancient Terrible Things was a tribute to Cthulhu, Pulp, Horror. The Dead Eye is a tribute to Science-fiction, Western, Post-Apocalypse. Each encounter card in the game is a nod to one of these influences – be it Frank Herbert’s Dune, 2000AD comics, The Last American, Mars, Blade Runner, The Hitcher, etc. The themes of our games tend to involve desolate or forgotten places, with very few protagonists. Exploring these forgotten worlds through illustration – be it ancient temples in a jungle, the south pole, or ruins on a desolate planet – is an integral theme in the games.
Another thematic consideration is color, and exploring a particular color palette in each new game – Ancient Terrible Things was jungle green, Snowblind was icey blue and white, The Dead Eye is desert yellow.
OS: Do you think theme and world construction is any more important to a solitary game?
RvZ: A solitary game does not have the feedback of other players to support the narrative, so that conversation must be had with the game itself. So, yes. In a solitary game more focus can be given to world and setting, one that the player can immerse themselves in at their own pace, without the time pressure of other players. Theme and world construction have always been an important part of our games, and it has always been part of the design process to create a unified design vision. With this game having 3D augmentation, it created even more space for immersive theme building.
OS: Beyond the setting, are there other ways that you approach designing a solitary game differently than you would a multiplayer game?
RvZ: The footprint, that is the amount of physical space needed to play the game, and the box size are important considerations for a solo game. Players may want to travel with the game and play it at the airport restaurant while waiting for a flight. A lot of time was spent considering how to reduce table sprawl and keep everything compact.
OS: One of the big talking points about why people have become so interested in board games is that it draws people together around a table. What do you see as the benefits of a solitary board game?
RvZ: Another reason that people have been drawn to board games recently, may be to spend less time in front of devices, be it there phones, TV or PC’s. The solo board game would be another option for individuals who wish to enjoy a simpler activity such as reading a graphic novel. The Dead Eye specifically, there is a 3D augmentation that would not be practical for a multiplayer game.
OS: How do you think the experience of playing a board game alone differs from playing a video game?
RvZ: Because of the analogue nature of a board game, the experience is more akin to reading a graphic novel, but one where you have interesting choices and interact with the pages. Much like the difference between reading a book and watching the movie of the book, the more rudimentary analogue experience leaves room for their imagination to fill in the blanks. The physical nature of a board game means it is a tactile experience – pieces are physically moved, cards are shuffled and flipped, etc. Board games come with a free Haptic Suit!
OS: What inspired you to go with 3D illustrations for The Dead Eye?
RvZ: The idea started with wanting to create a red/blue color shift in the art direction, in keeping with the glitch 1980’s “video cassette” aesthetic we were looking for. During the development, I stumbled upon the world of anaglyphic 3D comic and begun experimenting. The results exceeded expectations, and with the game being a solo experience, and the theme of a electro-static dystopian planet, it felt like a perfect thematic fit and a unique approach.
OS: Did you encounter any problems with implementing the 3-D art in game play?
RvZ: Early versions of the 3D version of the game were plagued with bad color choice issues – before the game was developed into 3D, the main color palette was pink and teal, which created terrible eye discomfort. In fact, people often avoid anaglyphic 3D generally because of eye discomfort. We spent a good deal of time finding the perfect neutral sepia-tone color palette that would be comfortable on the eyes for the duration of the game.