A retelling of the Sumerian creation myth. Serve the gods as mankind was created to do, and earn your right to be named ruler of the first city.
Class: Thesis 1 - 2015
Instructor: Frank Lantz
Welcome to Sumer.
Four Sumerian nobles scramble up and down a ziggurat, racing to assign workers valuable tasks each day. As they vie to become the next ruler of their city, players compete for the favor of ancient Mesopotamian gods by gathering, sacrificing, and bidding. Sumer is a competitive strategy platformer set in the cradle of civilization. The game is divided into harvest and auction phases. During the harvest phase, players use their workers to generate resources like barley and clay which can be sacrificed to gain victory points. Players also collect goats that are used during the auction to bid on valuable items like extra workers, resource production buildings, or statues that grant victory points. Success in Sumer requires a combination of strategic planning, platforming skill, and situational adaptation.
Watch Sumer’s trailer here:
Sumer as a graduate thesis
The goal of this project was to harmonize modern board game design aesthetics with the medium of local multiplayer video games. Every team member is an avid player of both tabletop and digital games, and we wanted to create something with the best aspects of both. We were heavily inspired by Ozark Softscape’s 1983 masterpiece M.U.L.E., which combines a complex economic simulation with real-time interactions between players in a way that has never been recreated. Sumer is intended as its spiritual successor and explores the junction between board games and digital games. We merged the elements that make each of them a great medium – imagine a board game that requires minimal setup, handles all its own calculations, and has fun action gameplay as well as complex systems. The current renaissance of local multiplayer games is fostering a climate in which this unexplored direction can blossom and, hidden at this intersection of physical and digital, Sumer is the first game to re-explore this uncharted territory.
During our year of work, we have found this uncharted design space to be full of promise. The digital medium has allowed us to introduce the uncertainty and potential for mastery of physics-based movement into the normally discrete world of board game systems. Likewise, the elegant mathematics of those systems provides a canvas of unprecedented richness for the generally simplistic genre of action-based multiplayer games. We believe there is an unexplored genre here waiting to be discovered. Since we are living in a golden age of board game design and a time of renewed interest in local multiplayer, we hope Sumer will inspire others to follow the path that M.U.L.E. blazed, but which has lain neglected for so many years.
In those days, in those far-off days,
After heaven had been moved away from earth,
After earth had been separated from heaven,
Anu had caused the Anunnaki to be born.
The Anunnaki knew not the eating of bread,
Knew not the dressing of garments,
Ate plants with their mouth like sheep,
Drank water from the ditch.
Enlil said to the Anunnaki,
“My son, the king Enki, has built a house,
Like a mountain he has raised it up from the earth,
In a good place he has built it.”
Enki said to the men who dwelt in the house,
“I have fashioned you as servants for the gods;
For the sake of the good things, man was given breath.
O my children, rise from thy beds!”
How to Play
Sumer is a 4 player real-time game that draws upon the excitement and immediacy of local multiplayer and the depth and complexity of a euro strategy game. At the intersection of these two media, Sumer is one of the first games to explore the junction between digital and board game design sensibilities: a strategy platformer. Each player competes for favor of the gods by gathering resources, sacrificing them and bidding for upgrades.
Each player has two workers to whom they assign tasks each day (turn of play). Over the course of a few days players instruct the workers to gather resources such as Barley, Clay and Goats. These resources can be upgraded into more valuable ones, Pots and Beer, or sacrificed for Victory Points at ritual positioned in the temple at the top of the Ziggurat.
Once two rituals are completed, the year comes to an end and players compete in an auction to win new buildings, statues and upgrades to their character. Heavily inspired by M.U.L.E., a classic strategy game for the Atari, Sumer features a similar real-time competitive auction system. Players move their player to the right to increase their bid and left to decrease it. When the timer (indicated by the Standard of Ur) fills completely the player furthest to the right wins the bid and is awarded the current item.
The game progresses through these phases until a set number of years have passed, at which point the player with the most Victory Points wins!
For further explanation of the game you can watch our video:
The combination of real-time joystick jockeying and board game-like strategic planning creates a play experience that allows players to pursue a variety of strategies towards victory. At the start of a day do you rush straight to the temple to gain more influence over the rituals being performed, or do you prioritize placing your workers in the most competed for shops? Do you go for quick victory points or do you instead focus on gathering as many goats as possible to barter for a stronger late-game economic engine? The game melds the diversity of strategy of a Euro-style board game with the quick and easy play of a platformer video game.
Sumer was designed by Misha Favorov, Sig Gunnarsson, Josh Raab, and Geoffrey Suthers.
With art by Adam Alexander, music by Neil Quillen, and voice work by Melanie Ehrlich and Devon Talbott, we hope to bring you into a beautiful, vibrant culture and mythology forgotten by all but a handful of specialists.
In those days, in those far-off days…