Dissident: Survival Runner

Dissident: Survival Runner (2017) is a project I was part of for a year as a game, narrative, and level designer. It is one of those ambitious projects from which you learn more from its (many) mistakes than its successes.

It is an endless runner (although we tried to popularise the term «survival runner», due to the unintentional extreme difficulty of the game) for mobile devices set in a kind of Mad Max universe and starring a heroine who travels on a hoverboard armed with a pair of guns.

If this premise has caught your attention, we definitely achieved our goal.

The game is controlled with the touch screen, which is used to shoot at enemy targets, and the motion sensor, which is used to move the board horizontally along invisible rails.

Unlike other true endless runners, Dissident: Survival Runner is not procedural. In fact, each scenario is «handmade» and contains a beginning and an end. The aim of the game is to survive each level, destroy as many enemies as possible, and get collectibles to unlock new weapons and outfits for the character. It is a simple and addictive game based on the usual free-to-play model.

Or so we thought.

The result was far from what we had expected. Players highlighted the extreme difficulty of the game, unusual for a mobile game. The sessions were too long and demanding to progress, so it ended up feeling more like a handheld than a mobile phone game (which is logical, given our tastes and influences). The game was generally well received, but did not reach the mass of players needed to recoup the investment. We also failed to capture the indie audience, so we were left in no man’s land and the project was economically and businesswise wrecked. At least we got a good experience on how (not) to launch a new IP on the market.

Here you can read my complete game design document:

Sadly, the game has been removed from Google Play and the App Store, but at least there are still some videos out there:

As you can see, we ended up promoting the difficulty of the game as an added value of the product, trying to challenge players to beat our game… Nice try, but it didn’t work.

Among my game and level design tasks, I also worked on building the game’s lore, which can be seen in the following opening cutscene:

The last time I heard about the project, there were some Chinese investors seriously interested in acquiring the rights to the game (I’m not kidding!). I wonder if they ended up buying it.

Te has perdido