Game Design Lessons #2: The Importance of Water

13 Jul Game Design Lessons #2: The Importance of Water

When you’re developing a Game or Fictional setting, there are some points to make sure you’ve got right – and one of those is water. I never realized quite how much water people actually need and use. But a burst pipe at home soon brought it home to me. Suddenly…the taps were useless. Our house started to collect countless bottles, dishes were washed in bowls so it didn’t go down the drain, and our toilets and showers became so much wasted space. We had to use our neighbour’s shower, or go without.

Hey, it wasn’t much of a catastrophe, the pipe is (mostly) fixed now. But it gave me a good sense of reality for the importance water plays in any humanoid society. Having pipes and running water makes it too easy to forget just why cities seem to always pop up beside water.

Can you imagine if all the pipes stopped working at once? Millions of people would be hoarding their every last drop. It was like this in Haiti in 2010 when I went there to do disaster relief. They kept huge barrels of water, and hoarded rainwater. Showers were with a bucket, and drinking water was carefully husbanded (I started to have fantasies about bottles of cooled water). Add that to the fact that it’s regularly over 40 degrees Centigrade, and that hundreds of thousands of people were in tents, and you realise how difficult such a situation can be!

Can you imagine how many water bottles you'd collect without the availability of fresh tapwater?

Can you imagine how many water bottles you’d collect without the availability of fresh tapwater?

In developing the setting for Infected!, I wanted the world to be very realistic. I knew it would be more dynamic and interesting if I could work out how a post-apocalyptic society would run, and I mean actual societies, not just ones and twos, or a tiny village. How would a city of 10,000 people survive? Where would they gather? And what would daily life be like? Furthermore, what would people have their attention on? What would their focus be (aside from surviving any Infected, of course)?

I think a huge amount of their focus would be on drinking and cooking water. Bathing water would be for luxuries and rivers. People would gather countless water containers, fighting for space along with valuable petrol and oil containers. But people would use any old thing to gather these supplies in. You’d probably find oil and petrol in 10 litre drinking bottles or even old soft drink bottles, because that’s all that they had to hand.

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Getting new containers would be a necessity. Can you imagine if someone broke your best plastic water-carrier? You might knock out all their teeth! It could mean the difference between life and death.

It starts to shape the society in interesting ways, don’t you think? Plastic bottles everywhere. A

A lack of water, and of rubbish removal, would mean...piles of refuse.

A lack of water, and of rubbish removal, would mean…piles of refuse (just like Haiti).

dirty, messy, yet strangely domestic look for a zombie apocalypse, eh! I’ve got to say, a good part of this came from my own personal experience – in 2010 I volunteered to do disaster relief in Haiti, and it was an eye-opener. The image shown here is typical for their streets and towns – rubbish literally everywhere. It made me realise that the end of “civilisation” or at least, the civilisation that we know, would not be glamorour or glorious… it would be ugly, uncomfortable and downright unpleasant. Throwing a horrendous virus and Infected into the mix just amps up all those points.

I think this sort of thing can help with world development in countless ways. Look around you at all the things you need every day, and try to work out how people would do that in an environment of different technology. All of a sudden, you’ll come up with some interesting twists! Also, all of your experiences can greatly help you get an understanding for how the world works and how civilisations functions. You may find this to be of great benefit!

As always, enjoy your gaming!

~Oliver R. Shead

If you’re interested in checking out our upcoming Infected! Zombie RPG, check out the website here. The Kickstarter is coming on August 16! When the world falls, will you try to save it, or help it burn?

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