Part practical joke, part historical recreation, all delivered with a laugh and a wink is "Disunion," an experimental game that puts players under the executioner's blade in revolutionary France. One of its developers tells us more about it.
The Exile Game Jam takes place on the Danish island of Zealand, lodged between the Baltic and North seas. It was during this year's May 1-5 event that two designers created "Disunion."
"Disunion" developer André Berlemont traveled 800 miles from Paris for the Exile Game Jam. "I really love Game Jams because you have the opportunity to meet new people and be challenged in different ways every time: Small teams, no budget, no constraint," he told Relaxnews.
There in the Vallekilde Hojskole, a traditional folk high school, participants hunched over an upturned box or back-to-back chairs to experience the final few moments of life on a revolutionary chopping block.
With a virtual reality headset strapped over their eyes, willing victims are given a few moments to reorient themselves at the heart of a historical revolutionary square.
"The Oculus Rift headset can only track the direction you are looking in. Making a game where you don't have to move around was a plus for immersion," Berlemont explained.
"We wanted players to take in every little detail, right up to the exact moment when they finally realize what's happening. Using a guillotine setup was the most intense way to dramatize that feeling."
Outside the game, Estonian developer Erkki Trummal ghosts into place beside the condemned, ready to deliver a playful chop to the neck.
Meanwhile, Berlemont and Hitman writer Morten Brunbjerg watch with an assembly of onlookers. All are waiting for the moment when the player finally looks up and that blade comes rattling down, met by sounds of laughter and exclamations of relief, exhilarated players recovering from an unexpected near death experience and onlookers enjoying the surprise.
"Yes, some people related to it as some kind of serious historical game. But based on what I saw, I think we stayed on the edge between humor and seriousness -- as long as players enjoyed the experience and felt something different compared to more generic video games, the rest doesn't really matter."
Are they worried that the idea behind "Disunion" will be copied by another developer or professional team? On the contrary. "I hope some people will steal this idea and make it better! I really want to experience something even stronger and radically different."
So if the "Assassin's Creed" series ever makes it to 18th century France, maybe we'll see a hat-tip to "Disunion" tucked away somewhere.
Watch the video "Disunion - The guillotine simulator" - vimeo.com/65510054