Dread Knowledge is a party management game, with mechanics inspired by board games and theming inspired by the Lovecraftian tradition of psychological and cosmic horror. My partner and I created it entirely within three days as part of the Ludum Dare 49 competition with the theme "Unstable". I served as lead programmer and designer, with my partner contributing additional level design and programming.
Dread Knowledge can be found on Itch.io and its contest entry can be found on Ludum Dare.
"Excellent game! The mechanic of managing health with sanity grew on me over time and it was fun watching the interactions between the party. 3D graphics are quite good, particularly appreciate the party models and their unique states for different sanity levels."
- RustBaron

The player's party is represented by character models on a slowly spinning platform. Their positions are governed by their respective levels of Sanity, a major resource in the game. A depth-of-field camera effect simulates tilt-shift photography and sells the idea that the characters are miniatures on a board.

The party advances toward the objective according to the roll of the die, but may choose to Push On for one extra space at the cost of the party's Health and Sanity. Status changes for characters are signalled by visual cues, audio cues, and text banners, and each character model animates to reflect any Sanity changes that occur. Characters who die are gone for good.

Each character can be assigned to a Role each night, which will either help the party recover or protect the party from an attack that may come at night.

During the review phase of the Ludum Dare 49 event, Dread Knowledge was generally well-liked, and players gave it a rating of 3.512 out of 5 stars overall. In the context of the competition, Dread Knowledge was placed in the 65th percentile overall, and in the 71st percentile for the Mood category.
The game was particularly successful in setting a distinctive, compelling, and tonally consistent mood in a mostly nonverbal way. This was accomplished mainly through visual style with the use of abstract character models, minimalistic animations depicting various emotional states, and depth-of-field camera effects that mimicked tilt-shift photography. All of these made the party look like a group of board game pieces, vulnerable to a grand, hostile environment governed by greater forces. The characters, frozen in time into dynamic postures, expressive of their state in the game, form a tableau of horror.
Where the game needed improvement the most was in the user interface. Some of the gameplay mechanics went underexplained to the player, and some of the gameplay-relevant stats were not shown clearly and explicitly enough. Because of time constraints, we had to lean on text-based instruction panels instead of implementing tooltips, which would have been a more appropriate solution.
Players also seemed to connect with their randomly generated characters and invest in the goal of getting them to the top of the mountain to confront the final challenge. Players generally liked the gameplay and found it compelling, and many expressed a desire to engage the core systems in more depth. I had designed several features that would have added more depth and complexity to these systems, but due to the timeboxed nature of the competition, some of these features did not make it into the game.
In all, my partner and I were satisfied with our work and our ability to submit it in a complete and stable form before the deadline, and we were happy to hear from players who enjoyed the game and could offer constructive criticism.
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