There aren’t usually “endings” for mulitplayer games—it keeps going until people stop being interested. But the developers behind multiplayer horror game The Flock have different plans. The community has a finite number of lives burn through, and when they’re gone, it’s all over.

Here’s the game’s setup:

Set in the year 3000, an unrecognizable Earth is in ruins. Centuries of devastating pollution have blocked out the sun, blanketing the planet in darkness. No longer able to support human life, a horrifying race of monstrous creatures known as the Flock is the world’s new dominant species. That is, until the emergence of the Carrier. Each player begins as a member of the Flock, when a strange light emitting device known as the Light Artifact will suddenly appear somewhere on the map. The first player who touches the Light Artifact will transform into the Carrier, who then becomes the hunted.

The game just launched a closed alpha, too, and it looks promising:

Like any multiplayer game, you’ll be dying frequently in The Flock, but each death counts for something more than a kill/death ratio. The game’s menus, Steam page, the developer’s website and The Flock’s subreddit will be constantly updated with how many “total” lives are left. You’ll be constantly reminded how your successes and failures are playing into the bigger metagame.

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What happens when the lives are gone? Players will witness a “memorable climax,” whatever that means. Practically, multiplayer turns off. The Flock is not playable offline.

“There is no scenario the game comes online by our hand after the game has ended,” creative director Jeroen Van Hasselt told me this morning. “We set out to build an unconventional and tense experience. Players only being able to partake in this now strengthens these design goals and creates authenticity. As developers, we’re committing to a hands-off experience, which means we fully put the lastingness of the game in the players’ hands; we have no control whatsoever over the time that the game is playable. “

Of course, it’s possible players could spin up their own private servers. Van Hasselt said it would be difficult for people to make that work, but ultimately “there’s no stopping them.”

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“We like thrilling experiences of which we don’t know the outcome,” he said. “The experience players will be having with The Flock reflects that. As soon as the outcome is known, there’s no way of reversing something you already know and go through the same experience again. The Flock’s unadulterated and pure form will only live from release until the end. “

It’s an interesting stunt! How players will respond to it when The Flock is out later this year, however, remains to be seen. I’ll definitely be watching the numbers slowly tick down.

You can reach the author of this post at patrick.klepek@kotaku.com or on Twitter at @patrickklepek.