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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

$15.99

Reviews

“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

    Minimum:
    • 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

    Minimum:
    • 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

    Minimum:
    • 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
13 of 16 people (81%) found this review helpful
232 products in account
1 review
19.5 hrs on record
I loved this game for about... an hour or so, because it was new and interesting, but playing it for 15 hours allowed me to see everything.

If you gear up, enter a house and leave through the same door you walked in, you lose all of your tools. Amazingly unrealistic there. A powered door cost $240, while the crowbar to circumvent that powered door costs $2400. Pricing is terrible in this game. Drugged/unconscious pit bulls will kill you if you step over them again.

The most common types of houses are:

Players creating intricate mazes that only they know the path for. Causing you to run through and commit to paths from the very beginning, only to find out after you've committed to several paths, that you actually took the wrong one. So you die, lose your house, and any tools you had go bye-bye.

Houses with multiple-multiple-multiple-multiple choice paths for you to choose. Also forcing you to commit with each turn, once again only to find out that you've gone down the wrong path. You die again, lose your house, and lose your tools.

Combination locks. !@#$ing EVERYWHERE!!! We're going to force you to commit(again) by passing this powered door, pressing this button and the powered door closes behind you. Then have you guess a 6-12 digit combination, ALL of which are sticky pressure plates which are surrounded by concrete and steel walls... everywhere. You're not getting out. You might as well suicide.

Entering a house(which has very little money as far as the list is concerned). The house seems cheap, being mostly wood and all. Force you to commit down a certain path only to find out a few steps later that there's steel and concrete everywhere. Well !@#$. This could be fixed by using smaller houses and the camera staying centered on your character.

When you see the same garbage everywhere, and everyone pretty much does the same thing just because it's 'that' effective... it kind of sucks the fun out of the game for everyone except for those watching the 'security tapes' and laughing their asses off at anyone attempting to rob them and dying.

Lack of the ability to save a layout in the game for a $1000-1500 layout that works until you get a little more money. The inability to sell your current house objects once you've proved your house was 'fair'. The camera does not stay centered on your character and some people take advantage of this.

I'm sure everyone who buys a game expects a certain amount of fun to frustration ratio. This game has been %10 fun to %90 frustration.

The player-base is going to suffer hardcore with or without sales.

Why?

There are going to be players with a ton of money, and no one trying to rob them because you have no new players and you don't make the game fun enough to keep playing. Or simply because everyone is afraid to lose all of their high value stuff by dying. This will cause a stalemate in the game between any of the high value players.
If someone whom has a ton of money tries to rob someone and dies or someone actually manages to rob them, they're going to stop playing because they don't care to take the incredible amount of time and effort to build up their castle like they did previously.


But hey, what do I know. I'm just another guy with an opinion. I want my money back, and I want this game off of my Steam library just as much as Dogfighter.
Posted: February 1st, 2014
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7 of 7 people (100%) found this review helpful
219 products in account
5 reviews
1.2 hrs on record
You use a limited pool of cash to build a death maze for would-be intruders out of a relatively simple collection of switches, tiles, walls and traps. Invading other people's homes successfully will earn you more cash, but if you die you have to start from the beginning once again.
Is it an interesting little experiment? Sure. Is it a fun video game? Nope.
Posted: February 3rd, 2014
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7 of 8 people (88%) found this review helpful
102 products in account
1 review
18.3 hrs on record
This game is really close to being great in my opinion, but as it currently stands, I can't really reccomend it.

The game suffers from a couple major problems in my opinion. The first is that the risk reward ratio of robbing a house generally just isn't worth it. If you really commit to trying to make it through a house, you are far more likely to die than you are to make it through, the survival rates on most the listed houses back this up. The fact that you will fail to rob the house is not the problem however, the problem is how harshly you are punished for failing. You lose everything, your house, your money, Everything, and have to start the game over from scratch. Because of this, nobody ever wants to try to rob anyone else once they have a decent amount of money and a house established. 99% of the people who try to rob you have just started a new character and have not yet invested any time in building their own defenses (you can tell they are brand new because they are only worth $200 bounty if they die to one of your traps). The strategy tends to be to spawn a new character, spend the starting $2000 on robbery gear, and try to rob a house that has around $10k and build your house with the money. After that you don't rob houses anymore and you just sit back and watch people try to rob you.

If the game were to make failure less punishing I think things could be a lot more interesting. I do think having permadeath in the game is probably a good idea because it leads to people building new traps and whatnot, but I don't think permadeath should be the punishment for your first failure.

I think that with each death players should have to pay an increasing sum of money, starting low but working up to large amounts, and if they can't pay then they suffer permanent death of their current character. Perhaps the amount increment would drop over time as well so you never reached a point where the cost was so high a character would never try to rob a house again.

I'm not sure my suggestion is the perfect solution, but I really do feel that the game would be considerably more fun if players other than brand new characters were trying to commit robberies as well.
Posted: February 2nd, 2014
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6 of 7 people (86%) found this review helpful
474 products in account
5 reviews
267.2 hrs on record
This game has an amazing concept that is close to working, with a few problems. Imagine this, a game where you design base defenses and attack other player's defenses, and if you die (either on your own or the other players... yes you need to navigate your own defenses) you start completely over.

It's a really fun game, but the problem is how you get money, by having people attack your base or attacking other people. To be any degree of safe you need to buy items to go attack people, which costs money (that you don't have in the beginning). If your base gets raided you lose half your money and all your items (which consists of most of the money if you are killing people with your defenses). People will also attack you when you are logged off. The amount of items people will bring as well as their commitment to attacking is based on how much money you have, so you need a powerful enough defense to defend against the level of player willing to attack you. This takes constant monitoring because if you don't return to your house every so often, the money value will increase past the level of defenses and people will destroy your house and you will be worse than square one.

So I would only recommend this game if you want to constantly monitor and be wary of your house, as this escalation will continue even when you try to 'log out'. It was fun for a while, but after I realize there was no way to 'turn off' the game to take a break from it, you can't play this game unless you're willing to commit.


Here is an example of what the game plays like----------
This is how I got a really super powerful house, and how I lost it:

I got lucky and broke into several low level houses with a couple low level items, and got enough money to make a fairly powerful house. I sat this house at the ~3k value range (by spending all excess money on improvements) allowing people to continually die and upgrading every 30 minutes. You need to continually upgrade to keep the value lower and prevent people from breaking in with more items.

Once the house was powerful enough I sat it at the ~30k value range - people were now breaking in with a LOT of items, but my house could stand up to them! Well, after several hours of letting people break in and upgrading I logged out - thinking this would make my house inaccessible - and went to sleep. Later that day I logged in and found my house has reached over 300k value (woah), but someone broke in and stole everything, leaving me with half my cash money which was around 3k gold (most the value was in items), and also having to fix all the destruction to my house (which stays when someone is successful). After fixing the problems I had 300 gold left, which does not attract anyone to break in and die.

Since I had no money to invest in items and noone was dying I tried raiding low level houses without items, but most of the ones I ran into were ones similar to mine, obviously a lot of money was sunk into them but they had very little cash reserves likely due to someone raiding them.

I ended up dying by accidentally walking to my own pit in my own house after trying to make my house easier to break into to tempt lower level players... time to start over.

-----

Every time I start to get the ball rolling I hit a random snag here or there: someone finds a way to break traps I didn't think about, I accidentally fall for a trap I think I'm being safe about, I accidentally die in my own house due to having to run my entire defenses every time I make a change, etc.

Each snag does make me a better player, but also makes me have to start over again... and without good luck (or maybe a friend who can go die in your house) getting that ball rolling is difficult.
Posted: February 1st, 2014
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4 of 4 people (100%) found this review helpful
26 products in account
14 reviews
1.9 hrs on record
What a waste of money, would have payed 2$ but not more. The worst thing is not the lack of graphics or content though. The game is very tough for beginners, basically you cannot build any useful defense with the start money. The gap between the noobs and the "pros" is huge, so it ends up being pure luck either you find someone with no house at all (also boring to rob) or someone with 100 pitbulls, the latter being in the majority it seems. It's not even much skill based, you just have to be rich enough to put all those dozens of dogs to sleep or shortcircuit all these electric floors that the rich people spam in their houses (ok, I admit the skill lies in acquiring the money to fill your backpack with enough tools). The weirdest thing is that you are better off with your family dead, so you don't have to leave a completely open path for them to escape...
Posted: February 2nd, 2014
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457 of 605 people (76%) found this review helpful
830 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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