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The Castle Doctrine is a massively-multiplayer game of burglary and home defense. It's 1991, and things are bad. You're a guy with a house and family. Other players are coming to take what's yours. Build security to stop them. Study their houses, buy tools, and break in to take what's theirs. Everything you do is permanent.
Release Date: Jan 29, 2014
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Buy The Castle Doctrine



“A powerful, memorable game.”
Alec Meer --- Rock, Paper, Shotgun

“Merciless and thoughtfully-designed... A brilliant but horrifying depiction of a risk society at war with itself.”
85/100 – Patrick Carlson --- PC Gamer

“The most disturbing game I've ever played.”
Russ Pitts (discussing his 5/10 Polygon review)

About the Game

The Castle Doctrine is a massively-multiplayer game of burglary and home defense. It's 1991, and things are bad. You're a guy with a house and family. Other players are coming to take what's yours. Build security to stop them. Study their houses, buy tools, and break in to take what's theirs. Everything you do is permanent.

I'm Jason Rohrer, and The Castle Doctrine is my 10th game. It's a bit hard to describe, because there's never been anything quite like it before. It's a brutal game in terms of its perma-death and perma-destruction consequences, and it is turn-based, so it's rather Rogue-like. But building such a brutal game in a multiplayer context, with absolutely no cushion between players to stop them from brutalizing each other, is quite strange and new.

Everything is real in this game. When you rob someone, you are actually hurting another player in a permanent way by destroying and stealing their hard work. When someone dies in this game, they lose everything and start over. If you devise perplexing security systems, you can perma-death other players when they come to rob you. Watching those security tapes, where someone gets what's coming to them, is an exhilarating experience. On the other hand, you just killed someone and perhaps caused them to lose days of their hard work. And you've been on the other side too, losing everything because of some thoughtless move you made in someone else's house.

But there is no randomness in this game, so everything is fair. When you die, it is always your fault. When things get dicey, you can always retreat back out the front door to save your own neck. Of course, human folly will get the better of you.

Here's what you get when you buy the game:

  • A lifetime account on the central world server that I'm running.
  • Access to the full game source code (after launching the game on Steam, go here).
  • Everything you need to run your own game server (requires a PHP/MySQL web server, download the source bundle to get started).

PC System Requirements

    • OS: XP or later
    • Processor: 900 MHz
    • Memory: 40 MB RAM
    • Graphics: Onboard Graphics
    • Network: Broadband Internet connection
    • Hard Drive: 10 MB available space
    • Sound Card: Standard Audio

Mac System Requirements

    • OS: 10.5 or later
    • Processor: 900 MHz
    • Memory: 40 MB RAM
    • Graphics: Onboard Graphics
    • Network: Broadband Internet connection
    • Hard Drive: 10 MB available space
    • Sound Card: Standard Audio

Linux System Requirements

    • Processor: 900 MHz
    • Memory: 40 MB RAM
    • Graphics: Onboard Graphics
    • Network: Broadband Internet connection
    • Hard Drive: 10 MB available space
    • Sound Card: Standard Audio
    • Additional Notes: Binary was built on Ubuntu 12.04
Helpful customer reviews
15 of 19 people (79%) found this review helpful
558 products in account
2 reviews
7.0 hrs on record
Stay far away from this. It's really hard for me to call it a game, to be honest. I could write about how broken the progression is, or how buggy it is, how awfully coded and designed it is, and how people are hacking it to pieces essentially destroying the entire purpose of it being an MMO, but I feel those subjects have already been covered enough by plenty of other people.

What I would rather discuss is the price and its relation to what the product is actually worth.

Everything here feels like an experiment, from the "game" itself, to the pricing, to even the developer's lifestyle, and really in the end the customer as well as the health of the community are the ones paying the price. The developer's "anti-sales" stance means the community will only die over time and never flourish. For a "game" that trys to promote itself as an MMO, it means a unsustainable fanbase. Anyone joining at this time will surely find only the super hardcore players and an even smaller window of opporotunity to learn the mechanics and to get better, from an already overly harsh learning curve.

Want to suggest anything at all and provide feedback? Well, apparently unless you've put in hundreds of hours of gametime, the community and the developer want nothing to do with you, and will freely attack you and assume even the tiniest suggestion means you want to turn the entire game inside out. Ask to streamline the learning curve in anyway and you'll be accused by players that you are a terrible gamer and can't handle the (bad) design, or that you're just wanting permadeath removed (Like I was accused of). It doesn't matter that a large majority of games I play and love most are brutally challenging games with permadeath as their prime feature (games like Spelunky, Binding of Isaac, FTL, etc), in their eyes I wanted permadeath removed. I even saw the developer personally tell his players that were hoping for more from it that "the game's not for you", which just seemed rude and completely self-sabotaging.

One could argue that this "game" is okay in the end, just like how you could squint your eyes hard enough to make a whale into a supermodel, its a neat experiment concept in theory but really what brings this down is the price. There are players who do enjoy the game so it is possible that you will also. But it's just a question of whether or not you're willing to put down the $16 to find out whether or not this experiment fits you, which is a big pricetag for a "probably not". The game is nowhere NEAR worth $16, there are $1-2 iPhone/Android games that are almost twice or more what this game offers. I love experiemental games, I love when developers push the boundries of what defines a game, but usually the price is adjusted and recognized for what it's actually worth.

I read the developer first tell new players to "put more time into it before judging it" which is fair, but then I saw him say to another who did put the time into it and still didn't like the game that because he had all those hours that he should consider it being worth the price. I also read a statement from him saying that there are players who put hundreds of hours into his game, and therefore that justifies the pricetag. But I could play with my own rectal filth for a thousand hours, and that wouldn't make it worth anything more then what it actually is.
Posted: March 18th, 2014
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14 of 19 people (74%) found this review helpful
201 products in account
4 reviews
5.2 hrs on record
I'm a fan of difficult, tense games that don't try to hold your hand. Sadly, this isn't so much a difficult game as a discouraging game. Don't get me wrong, I like the premise a lot, and I enjoy the idea of playing this game with friends, trying to guess whose house belongs to who, with all of that kind of fun social dynamic attached when you finally penetrate a house's defenses. Sadly, playing the game as presented on the public server is an exercise in pointlessness.

To begin with, the game has extremely far beyond frustrating game flow that actively discourages experimentation to a degree I can't really explain very well using words. Despite really wanting to like the game, I was done after the second day of ownership. Experimentation of any type, with your own house's design or with exploring those of others, is 'rewarded' by completely losing the house's entire design if you make any mistakes whatsoever anywhere, either in its wiring or in negotiating the house's solution. Despite well-matching the game's design philosophy, the fundamental reality of this situation is that you will spend over 95% of your game time rebuilding nearly identical houses with the almost no money you're forced to start with.

The ease of death is really overstated, it's very easy to avoid dying provided no one with an entire inventory full of guns and saws really wants your money. That said, after rebuilding the same house for the fourth time, I lost pretty much all desire to look at anyone else's houses. And, of course, if you make a mistake wiring your own house and end up in your own trap, well. It's time to start over. Unlike a 'roguelike', instead of being able to pick the game up immediately when you die and try again doing something fun like exploring an unknown cavern and collecting loot or what have you, you're forced to rebuild your entire house once again from literally nothing. If this review is starting to seem repetitive, that's because that's what the game is like.

In conclusion, one gets the feeling that the game was primarily designed for people who are unemployed, don't have kids, and probably can't be bothered to cook for themselves, or generally do any of the other things that people value their time for. Like writing reviews.
Posted: February 28th, 2014
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12 of 16 people (75%) found this review helpful
43 products in account
4 reviews
7.4 hrs on record
If you are interested in this game, don't do the same mistake as I did: Don't buy this!
It is HORRIBLY balanced and screws you over and over, and all the time you invest in this pile of stinky carp will be wasted, without any joy generated. You can't win. The ones who already have ♥♥♥♥tons of money have bases stuffed full of security and are practically impossible to break in. Also most ♥♥♥♥♥♥s just build thousands of doors each with a pitbull behind it and one door which leads to the safe. This game is not making you creative, it is making you a ♥♥♥♥♥♥. Don't buy this, not worth the 10 bucks
Posted: March 9th, 2014
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8 of 12 people (67%) found this review helpful
391 products in account
4 reviews
59.3 hrs on record
In order to enjoy this game you need to accept it's rules:

*There's not going to be any hand-holding, you're supposed to learn how to play the game by trial-and-failure. Some of the best experiences from this game come from experimenting by your own initiative and gradually learning better methods to build and destroy trap systems. Tutorials would only ruin all the fun of learning by dying or getting robbed.

*This is not a puzzle game. Don't come in with any illusions that you are going to be able to simply figure out the solutions to other players houses by using your smarts. Efficient homes are designed in such a way that their solution cannot be seen and if you try to take a guess the odds will be staggeringly against you. In order to defeat a home what you really need is to make the best use of your available tools in order to disable the houseowner's traps.

*There is a big gap between the experienced players and the newcomers, but it's a fair one. There is no 'leveling up' or gaining 'experience' for killing enemies here, the only thing that separates the veterans from the noobs is the very things that The Castle Doctrine is all about; tactics and deception. The players who are up in the top are there solely because they know how to manage their risks and have figured out techniques to build houses that are very hard to penetrate. You won't stand a chance against the home of a top player before you have learned how to scout and hold a sizable wealth of your own.

*This game requires patience. You start with only $2000 and that will not be enough money to build a house that will make you reasonably safe from other players. In order to build a decent house you need use your starting 2k to buy tools and rob richer players, in this process of trying your luck against the rich you will die (a lot), but you need to keep trying because eventually you will succeed. Then, after your success, it's time to stop dying and start seeing other players die in the deathtrap that you have built for them.

*This is a frustrating game and you need to be careful. Due to the permadeath mechanic you can lose everything that you have worked on due to one single wrong step. This rather harsh rule actually makes the game far more interesting and tense, it means that every time you defeat another player you get the knowledge that he has been completely ruined and additionally it means that you become afraid of your own house because every time you make a modification to it you are supposed to go into your own deathtrap and reach your safe in order to prove that what you have created is solvable, during these 'self-tests' you can die. You will feel in your own skin how this machine that you have created to kill other players can be extremely dangerous even to yourself.

*Your family is supposed to be a burden. Just like in real life, eh? In this game you play the role of the father of a stereotypical white american nuclear family in the 90's, you have the duty and responsibility of protecting them. Other players will try to kill your wife and kids because they are a weakness and killing them can make your home more vulnerable.

*The goal is just to stay alive. There are really no overarching goals in this game other than trying to survive and rising above other players in the charts. However, all homes eventually fall. Even if you make a house so good that it kills practically every burglar that enters it you still cannot avoid attracting the attention of the more skilled and well equipped thieves and once those guys set their sights on your home they will take you out... Unless you can take them out first, but for how long can you keep others from emerging?

If you can accept those things and if you refuse to rage quit you're going to realize that The Castle Doctrine might quite be the best multiplayer out there. Also: Visit the official forums, we have a nice community and it's fun to share your gameplay experiences there.
Posted: March 3rd, 2014
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2 of 2 people (100%) found this review helpful
388 products in account
16 reviews
0.9 hrs on record
It's neat, but incredibly frustrating. You build a complex fortress to hide your cash and keep your family safe. But if you die you lose all your progress. So the more time you put into your base the less incentive there is to go and test other people's bases. A cool idea, that could have benefitted from some fleshing out. Simply wasn't what I want in a game.

If you like uber roguelikes, where you put in hours of work and die before you can achieve anything. Then it's for you.
Posted: May 13th, 2014
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462 of 610 people (76%) found this review helpful
831 products in account
1 review
0.1 hrs on record
I've had the alpha of this for a long time, so I've played it much more than my Steam account would suggest. I love the concept of this game. It's really a great idea behind it.

The problem for me is that the game itself has trouble matching up to that actual concept. I don't think this is the developer's fault at all. He clearly has tried to balance the game as much as is possible. It's just that it quickly devolves into a sort of class system. If you've got a ton of money, you can protect your house amazingly well and do some incredibly intricate work. If you don't have a ton of money, you're pretty much screwed, because you can't protect anything well at all. And the problem here is that being able to get more money depends on robbing some other houses of people who do have money... meaning that you're up against near-impossible traps and schemes.

And another issue for me is the family mechanic. Having a family prevents you from doing some things for protection because you need to have a clear path for them to escape. But as soon as someone kills your family, you're actually in many ways BETTER OFF, because it means you can make even crazier traps. The amount of additional income they add just doesn't make up enough for the amount of people who will die trying to rob your house if you're able to make some of the more deadly setups.

Again, I don't think that any of this is the fault of the developer. There have been a bunch of updates since the first alpha that have attempted to improve this situation. Unfortunately, it almost seems like it is a limitation in the concept itself - one that takes all the fun out of it for anyone who is starting out. I really wanted to like this game, but I just haven't been able to despite checking in after many different versions/updates.
Posted: January 29th, 2014
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