Hey, Let’s All Play Unmanned Together

I’ve just had couple of playthroughs of Molleindustria’s Unmanned and my immediate reaction to it was that I wanted other people to play it and talk about it. It’s about the mundanity of one man’s life, despite being a UAD pilot for the military, and the thoughts that flit through his brain during the day. You pick at those threads, creating his inner-monologue while carrying out his actions. I want to know how you went about it, but I don’t want to spoil much before you do here, but there’s more detail below. I’d just rather you didn’t read beyond this paragraph before having at least one game.

It has an odd, split-screen method to the action. Click around and make things happen: some stuff looked like a cut-scene until I used my mouse over it. My first playthrough I went with my instincts. He woke from a nightmare and I wanted to cheer him up, which meant focussing on the cheerier thoughts. I was attempting to make his day better. He had a positive outlook on work while shaving, although driving I managed to swerve off the road thanks to an IM I received (in the real world). At work I steered toward flirting with the boss and chatting on the phone to the wife I aimed to be a protective father. Back home I was the jocular, easy going dad that didn’t pry.

The odd thing was that he was utterly unlike me in real-life, and I’m still wondering why I decided to take the easy route. There are obvious threads that the dialogue will take you down, and I actively avoided anything that felt heavy. There’s something about his demeanor that made me want to avoid walking him through heavier implications. Maybe it felt like prying? Or maybe the choices have a devastating mundanity. People have to make difficult decisions and ask hard questions everyday, and I took a blinkered view. It did feel like I was playing the way he’s gone through life up to this point.

The second playthrough I stayed on the road, and something wonderful happened. You’ll see, and it’ll be stuck in your head all day. I also focused this time on making people happy around me, even if it seemed like I’d have to deal with the consequences. Not that there are. The achievements you earn as you play are slightly mocking.

I’m hoping to crowd-source all the variables, to see what you went through, and why. It’s not huge: there’s about five minutes here, but they’re worthwhile.


  1. engion3 says:

    i blew that infidel sky high

  2. engion3 says:

    I felt satisfaction and made the world a little safer

  3. tumbleworld says:

    So I’ve played it through a couple of times. Mostly, I just feel sorry for him. It seems that more or less whatever his attitude is, whatever he arranges, there’s an underlying guilt and sadness. I managed to get 10 of the medals I think, across the various stabs at it, but I’m really not convinced that’s the point. My guess is that the medals are just gamer-friendly Monkey Food Pellets.

    Interesting little piece.

  4. golem09 says:

    In my first playthrough I also enganged the target, although at first it looked to me like he was taking a leak. When the option for asking if he’s the right person came on, I wasn’t fast enough to click it and the missile was launched. I flirted with the coworker and did not talk about the Ritalin with the son.
    I think I counted 10 sheeps that night.

    On my second run I did not bomb the “terrorist”, didn’t flirt and talked to my son casually about the doctor’s visit while winning the two games. That’s night I counted 13 sheeps.

    I wonder if the sheeps are supposed to be a sign for troubling thought he accumulated over the day.

    • Craig Pearson says:

      I was wondering if the number needed to sleep increased or decreased according to decisions made.

    • Sparkasaurusmex says:

      Are you doing it perfectly? It seems to start over if you miss a jump.

    • El_Emmental says:

      It seems it doesn’t start over if you only fail one or two, you’re just pushed back by 2 or 3 sheeps per failed sheep.

      Sheeps speed is changing though, and it seems that failing to accomplish some rewarding tasks will influence the sheeps speed : when I played the good guy, deep introspection and everything, the sheeps had the same speed (well, I didn’t noticed any difference that time) ; on the other hand, when I played the complete clueless tool, the sheeps were moving at very different speeds (so I missed 2 of them).

  5. engion3 says:

    lol I just asked her on a date and she totally said yes, im in, taking her straight to pound town

    • noggin says:

      I’m assuming Pound Town is like a larger version of Poundland, in which case, good choice for a first date.

      Going back for my 2nd playthrough – I’ll shave more carefully this time

    • RagingLion says:

      Having the cuts stay on your face subsequently was a nice little touch to give you a sense of actions being able to have consequence in other parts of the game or just in theory what your actions could do.

  6. Tams80 says:

    I’m useless at the games. How do you win them? Not that I expect it to make any real difference.

    I went off the road the first time, completed the sing every time and flirted with the boss. I can’t be bothered playing it through yet again though.

  7. Easy says:

    Brilliant, like all of Molleindustria’s work.

    I was flirting with Julia (I think) while at the same time trying to be a good husband. Weird eh how you fall into that mindset. She actually opened with a “call me” which I took up. I loved some of the contemplative moments like dragging on a cigarette. Like driving on a road, a lot of these are kinda mini-gamish.

    Eventually I came hope an played (really, played) two versions of call of duty with my kid. Interesting conversation. All the way through I took this moral stance of not lying too much, but not telling exactly how I felt about my job. And, yeah, the only reason I blew up the presumed “insurgent” is because (a) I think Julia would have wanted me to and (b) I was so bored clicking on that screen the whole time to keep an eye on target that I wanted it over with. Just, think about the implications of that last sentence. Crikey.

    • engion3 says:

      ya i realized you can hold it down to follow on my second playthrough, helped me focus on sealing the deal, naw saying

  8. Commissar64 says:

    Echo this: (I don’t even like that song/band. Still a brilliant moment.)
    “The second playthrough I stayed on the road, and something wonderful happened. You’ll see, and it’ll be stuck in your head all day.”

    I found myself having a similar reaction to Craig. I kept him stable and away from any real engagement with his job. As an anti-war socialist I was surprised how little my personal views inflected the choices I picked. I felt completely uninterested in colouring him as a pro-war caricature or as morally troubled cynic. The only interpretation I could stomach was a life that’s largely agonostic – domestic, casual, consumerist, dull, quiet and suddenly murderous.

    Personally I felt that Molleindustria was pointing more in that direction so perhaps I was just banging out the notes that went with their overall tempo. It’s hard to say though. I haven’t seen all the options yet and the psychology of agency and perspective expressed in dialogue choices (particularly through the conflicting nature of ‘being’ and ‘not-being’ a character) is vertiginously complex at the best of times.

    After playing a huge amount of Mass Effect, Unmanned was an interesting contrast. In similar stead I heavily recommend this link to mission-us.org

    • Apples says:

      Thanks for that link, I enjoyed it. I only wish I could have got my revenge on Miss Sarah…

  9. Chiller says:

    Weird how this game didn’t click with me at all. I could tell that it was a well-designed and well-built piece of entertainment, while at the same time finding it utterly unengaging and wishing it would end already.

    I didn’t really like its slow pace, while at the same time acknowledging it was a deliberate design decision that works quite well. I guess this game just wasn’t for me.

  10. JB says:

    Oh, those naughty Italians! Did you notice that the ribbon on the medal that is awarded for running away is the French tricolore?

  11. Matt says:

    I like how most of the game was about as boring as the activities (UAV reconnaissance) it depicted.

    Also, I totally botched the lyrics.

  12. Initialised says:

    OK, so I can shave and introspect, game and deal with the kid at the same time, drive and think, but I have to chose between the wife and smoking, can’t sing/don’t know the words and pulling the co-pilot while resisting the urge not to shoot my payload into a raghead isn’t working for me. Verdict, good dad, crap lover?

    Games like this can really bring out truths about your personality and abilities. The split screen thing makes it a bit like an advanced Stroop Test or Split Brain/Hemispheric specialisation test. With a bit more work games like this could be turned into useful tools for psychological research or psychometric testing. You’d have to remove the moral messages and leading and culturally sensitive questions first.

    Mental note: Try playing it on a dual screen system set up so only one eye can see each side of the split.

    Anyway, I love the way it simultaneously rips the p15$ out of both BF & CoD while allowing for a bit of introspection and reflection.

    • Sparkasaurusmex says:

      I don’t know what you can evaluate psychologically. It’s hard to play a game like that and act as you would in a situation. I mostly act as if I’m playing a game, experimenting with different things, shooting the payload just to see if it will actually let me, driving off the road to see if I can explore anything…. Then again I suppose that does tell you something about my psychological make up, just not directly from the narrative.

  13. Jasonopolous says:

    Yeah, I was a total dickface the first time around. Practically ripped my face off shaving, thought terrible thoughts, drove okay while thinking darkly, failed hitting on the copilot while being a dick, acted like a dick to the wife, acted like a dick to the copilot again, killed the “insurgent” with no remorse (something a dickish person would do), played games with kid while not fixing his bike while showing general disinterest for him and being brutally honest about everything.

    All of the above = 13 Sheep.

    Next play through was the exact opposite, was just a wonderful flower face and all is good with the world type deal.

    = 10 Sheep.

    Hmmmmmmm. not sure about those results.