Have You Played… Sleep Is Death?

Me, responding to Rohrer's other games.

Have You Played? is an endless stream of game retrospectives. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.

Sleep Is Death brought a little of the pen-and-paper experience of collaborative storytelling to the PC.

One player is, effectively, the game master: they build a world using art they’ve drawn themselves or stock assets that came with the game. Maybe there’s a roome, a mattress, and nothing more; maybe there’s a forest and a cast of characters standing around a body.

Whatever the case, they then invite another player into that world. This player is the lead actor in an improvised stage play the two parties are now going to put on together. The actor makes a decision, to speak to someone, hit someone, walk somewhere, or anything else they can imagine and type, and the storyteller then has to react by moving objects, drawing objects, deploying new music, and so on.

The story thus bounces back and forth, spinning in new directions – often completely off the rails – depending on the style and personality of the people playing.

The limits on the time each player has to respond lent itself best to madcap comedy, in which half-formed ideas, half-drawn pictures and mistakes were simply incorporated into the story. It was undoubtedly a thin game, with basic editors and zero structure, but it thrived on good will and, with the right people, was just as entertaining as sitting round a table with a few friends to play something more structured like D&D.

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  1. Kefren says:

    I played it once. This has reminded me of that, so I’ve uploaded the story I took part in.

    Do not expect Dickens.
    link to karldrinkwater.uk

  2. cyrenic says:

    Can’t find the link (appears to be broken on the official site), but there was a collection of highly rated stories from the game you could browse.

    Some of them were pretty good, especially when you realize the “live” nature of the game.

    My favorite had the player as an astronaut, and he had to explore a cave full of freaky alien stuff to find fuel to escape a planet he was on.

  3. djvecchitto says:

    I was really pumped for this game but the user interface for creating stories and visual assets was so confusing that it spoiled the entire experience. This exact game with a really good gui would be amazing!

    • mechavolt says:

      This was pretty much my experience. I tried playing the game with a friend, but neither of us could figure out the interface enough to make a game flow smoothly.

  4. JB says:

    SiDTube is no more, sadly, but it seems someone uploaded the pak files from there to MODDB. link to moddb.com

    Ah, good memories. I made some nice columns for scenery and me and my (at the time, very young) daughter converted the SiD police into soldier sprites too =) It was nice to see the resources getting used back in the day!

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      Harlander says:

      It’s a shame SIDTube didn’t get properly archived anywhere. I was pretty pleased with some of the stuff I did, even though I was never much good at endi

  5. malkav11 says:

    I never understood the point. It doesn’t implement any rules, so you’re basically freeform storytelling. But you could just do that on IM or IRC or Discord or whatever with a lot less hassle and no constraints on your imagination.

    • April March says:

      The constraints were the point, perhaps?

      If you think about it, most role playing games are nothing but stories with constraints. Urban Shadows even describes itself as a conversation in the intro.

      • malkav11 says:

        Well, I meant in the sense that instead of being able to imagine whatever your words conjure, you’re stuck with extremely lo-fi pixel art. I agree that roleplaying games are about the constraints they put on your storytelling, but it seems to me that these need to be intentional and explicit, designed to produce a particular sort of storytelling. Since Sleep is Death has no rules and, if you can do pixel art, doesn’t really explicitly constrain you in narrative context, I don’t see it qualifying.

  6. skyorrichegg says:

    I actually really enjoy Sleep is Death. It was a way my girlfriend, now wife, could play roleplaying games with me easily when we were apart. I have one memory when she was still in college and I was continents away and a mutual friend of ours was coming to visit her and some other friends of ours. My wife was playing this with me and I told her to get on skype and when he came over tell him that she was playing this weird indie game I had sent her that had like a crazy AI that could adapt to your actions but took a bit to figure things out. So yeah with a little help he was using the little text pointer boxes to play it like a point and click adventure and he bought our story for some reason. Anyway I got to freak him out by having the story use stuff I overheard him saying and stuff I knew about him was a ton of fun.