Thru-hiker’s Journey | The Appalachian Trail Game

I’m proud to announce the launch of my latest project, Thru-hiker’s Journey!

Thru-hiker's Journey AT Game Screenshot

Based loosely on the concept of the classic Oregon Trail, the player will attempt a thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail. Making the same decisions as real life hikers, the player relentlessly marches northbound, experiencing wonderful adventure and unforeseen pitfalls!

What is it? A resource management game modeled after Oregon Trail. Balance your health, energy, money, and time to make it to Mt. Katahdin before October 15th. 75% of thru-hike attempts fail…can you succeed?

Features:

  • Actual town and shelter names
  • Actual mileages for shelters/towns (kind of)
  • Realistic budget/time restrictions
  • Random events that affect your resources
  • Mobile friendly

I attempted a “soft launch” last Wednesday morning and the game has been very well received. The launch went off without any major hurdles, although there were a few bugs that were pointed out, which I quickly corrected.

The game has been shared extensively on Facebook, making up the vast majority of traffic. However, it has also been shared on many Appalachian Trail forums and blogs. I’m most excited that Zach from Appalachian Trials (I own his book!) did a write-up about the game and the Appalachian Trail Conservancy shared the game on Facebook and Twitter!

Appalachian Conservancy Share

And, if you can believe it, I actually got a message from the co-creator of the original Oregon Trail game, Don Rawitsch. Although I contacted him first to share the link to my game and thank him for the inspiration, it’s still really amazing to get a personal response. Oregon Trail was made 42 years ago, if you can believe that.

Here’s some quick stats for the traffic junkies:

As of this writing, the game has been out for 5 full days.

There has been 17,045 plays by 8,594 unique visitors.

Only 249 people have made it all the way to Katahdin, while the entirety of the remainder have died or given up.

The death stats are the most interest part to me.

– 65.6% of deaths are caused by energy. Average mileage of death is 374.
– 21% of deaths are caused by health. Average mileage of death is 1021.
– 12.4% of deaths are caused by money. Average mileage of death is 1595.
– 0.8% of deaths are caused by date. Average mileage of death is 1898.

I suspect there is a much higher rate of abandonment  for the date category, because it would be quite visible that you won’t make it in most cases, but unfortunately analytics don’t capture final stats from abandoned plays.

Other Random Thoughts

I’m honestly shocked at the reception the game has received. The game was probably 85% finished at the end of October, but I had lost my motivation to continue. Gameplay seemed bland to me and I had some other things going on in life, so I stopped working on it. A few weeks ago, I saw a post of someone who started their thru-hike (irl), and it inspired me to patch up the game and launch it, just to be done with it. I figured a few people would be entertained, but the response is overwhelming.

My lack of motivation was a 2 phase problem. The first stemmed from playtesting. Naturally when making a game, you have to play through all the possible scenarios to verify that the game’s behavior is appropriate. This means I had to kill my player intentionally in a bunch of different ways and setup scenarios where I had to win without any effort. I was no longer able to see the “fun” in the game.

I think the second problem arose from other life issues. I did a one week section hike in the fall that was very difficult, and I lost my inspiration to do a thru-hike in the near term. Then I got a new job, so I focused all my energy on that to get up to speed. I was left with no energy and no inspiration in my free time. I’m so happy I released the game when I see everyone’s reactions to it though!

On Not Thru-hiking

I recall announcing on my blog in the spring that I was going to attempt a thru-hike in 2014. I don’t believe that I formally rescinded that statement on my blog at any time until now, but I will not be making an attempt this year. I did a ton of research and reading to prepare myself mentally and even had started a gear list. However, I really like my new job so I want to stick here for another few years. I’m learning a ton and I think it would be a disservice to my career not to stay on for a little while.

I do still want attempt a thru-hike, but I have a much more accurate perception of the difficulty after my week long section hike this past September. I now understand why so many people quit – it’s difficult on so many levels. It’s physically and emotionally draining, and the trail seems to have a knack for kicking you when you’re down. The southbounders I met (who had already hiked 1000 miles of the trail), all had this almost ridiculous happiness factor, where they could look at anything in a positive light and laugh off the most ridiculous obstacles…while I sat there 6 miles from the nearest food source with a broken trekking pole, baseball sized blisters, cramped legs that wouldn’t move, and a food bag which had been emptied by a coordinated duo of an athletic raccoon and a naughty black bear.

I aspire to aspire to attempt a thru-hike in the coming years, but will just stick with weekends and section hikes until then. Maybe I can work on gaining the blind happiness of thru-hikers before I even start.

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