Hadean Lands is a text adventure renowned for being good but tough. It’s been around for a couple years, and it just got a Steam release. Steam, of course, supports DLC. Hadean Lands’ developer decided to take advantage of that feature in an... unusual way.
Hadean Lands itself is only $12, but if you want, you can plunk down another $35 for a certificate. Yes, a certificate. It comes in PDF and JPG flavors. Here’s what it’s about:
“This DLC pack contains a high-quality certificate saying that YOU, the player, solemnly promise to finish Hadean Lands without looking at any hints or walkthroughs on the Steam forums or anywhere else on the Internet.”
“That’s all! You print out the certificate, sign it, and hang it on the wall. This is strictly on the honor system. The DLC does not change the behavior of the game at all.”
Here’s what it looks like:
It’s certainly cheeky, I’ll give developer Andrew Plotkin that much. It’s not like you have to buy it, either, so this isn’t really hurting anyone. I mean, really you can just download the JPG from the store page like I just did, and that’s it. Heist of the century, right there.
I’m guessing this is an attempt to poke fun at modern DLC, a substitute for a donate button (something Hadean Lands has on another store, but that Steam doesn’t allow), or both.
UPDATE: I reached out to Plotkin to ask why he made this whole thing so pricey, and he pointed to the old-school adventures on which his game is based:
“When I was a kid, an Infocom text adventure cost $35 brand new. Today, an indie graphical adventure costs... well, it varies, but The Witness is $40.”
“I would love to say that my text adventure is worth $40. Okay, I don’t think I can swing that in the Steam market. Maybe if there were a separate commercial game platform for hard-core text adventure fans, I’d price the game at $40-ish there and $12-ish on Steam. But there isn’t! Oh well. This way, I can at least hint at how I value Hadean Lands.”
“Another thought: Stephen’s Sausage Roll is unashamedly $30. Plenty of discussion has been chewed out over that, but one comment I’ve seen repeatedly—from people who bought the game and enjoyed it—is that the high price keeps them invested. ‘If this was a $5 game I’d just close the game window, but after paying $30 I want to kick its butt.’ That sort of thing.”
“I wanted a way for players to buy into Hadean Lands at that level of investment. Again, I didn’t think I could *require* it. But as an optional challenge, which a player could opt into? No reward except for a nice certificate and the knowledge that they’d made the choice? Sure. That makes sense.”
“And: It’s funny. I mean, I think it’s funny. I don’t want to kick the joke to death, but people seem generally to take it in good humor.”
“And: I’ve sold at least one certificate so far. Win!”
I can respect that! Old-school text adventures aren’t quite a lost art, but they’re not an easy-to-replicate one, especially when you’re focusing on complex puzzle design. And while I’m a pretty big fan of not spending money, it sucks to see how devalued games have become. I’m glad Plotkin is giving people the option to put their money where their mouth is, even if—let’s face it—not a whole ton of people will take advantage of the option.