A small bug and also some impressions on the game

Firstly, I noticed that Mutton Island wasn’t counting as having been visited at one point in one of my games, and I would be told of its location every time I released a zeebat near it. I think I visited it before activating the zeebat the first time which might be the trigger of the bug, but either way it kept telling me to go back there no matter how many times I visited the place.

Anyway, I am enjoying the game and its atmosphere but I feel that it currently has one big glaring issue which needs to be addressed: pacing.

What do I mean by pacing? The speed at which the player progresses in all aspects of the game. In this case I feel Sunless Sea has yet to appropriately balance itself, forcing players to grind, which in turn destroys the atmosphere - the same atmosphere which makes the game so enjoyable in the first place. Areas where I feel that the pacing of the game is incorrect (at least in the beginning) are as follows:

[ul][li]Making money[/li][li]Terror/Fuel efficiency (in this case the pacing is too high, preventing exploration)[/li][li]Movement speed (due to forced grinding)[/li][li]The speed at which things go awry (i.e. zero to critical emergency instantly with little chance of saving yourself)
Allow me to provide some examples and clarity around the above points:

Making money is a big one, because without upgrading your ship, crew etc, you are basically unable to progress as a player, forcing you to stay in the small area around your starting zone for as long as it takes to grind up enough echoes to finally move onto another area to grind. This changes the game from being one about exploration, story and lovecraftian horror to a single-player MMORPG where you’re simply &quottoo low level&quot to enjoy the rest of the game. When you combine this with permadeath, you’re basically asking players to waste dozens of hours of their lives each time they fail (which in permadeath games is designed to happen a lot), or to go to save mode, which makes the game feel cheaper and less atmospheric.

A good comparison for this is Sid Meier’s Pirates (one of the inspirations for the game), which also allows you to explore and go from port to port, trading supplies and engaging in various events. However, in Pirates, you actually earn decent money for your cargo haul, and can fight and loot many others along the way, which adds to your riches. Sure, your money doesn’t go up incredibly fast, but it increases at a pace relevant to your story progression. Sunless Sea, however, is so stingy with echoes that you often find yourself barely making enough to pay for your own costs even after a long and arduous journey and fighting several enemies, which makes you wonder why you even left port in the first place. At the very least a captain should come back significantly richer, better equipped or stocked than when they left port so that they can say &quotWell that was a worthwhile journey&quot and plan the next one, rather than &quotI wonder if I can afford the fuel to do that again…&quot

Terror/Fuel efficiency falls into a similar bucket here. Because terror goes up so high so quickly (or rather, won’t go below 50 and forces you to keep going back home to reset it), players can’t even venture far from home when they HAVE managed to upgrade themselves somewhat. This essentially &quotwaterlocks&quot the player, forcing them to &quotmine&quot the nearby islands, settlements, monsters and events for loot, rather than exploring, which this game continually touts as a defining feature. Likewise, fuel burns so fast that it’s hard to keep stocked and tends to cut journeys short even if the terror level is low. This also contributes to the issues with making money, as most of the proceeds of any trading mission go into paying for more fuel so you can grind for another grand profit of 5-50 echoes after 20 minutes of work.

I recognize that the game is meant to keep you in a small area until you upgrade, but this just brings us back to the first point: If you can’t earn enough echoes to upgrade, how can you ever get out of your little circle? And grinding is NEVER the answer, because grinding completely destroys the immersion - the very factor which makes the game stand out and be worthy of praise. I don’t care if I get a shorter game, if the game feels like an amazing experience. Take Portal for example; 2 hours of gameplay, but it didn’t make you wait for it. You progressed fluidly and it allowed you to stay immersed in the story. That’s what I want to see Sunless Sea provide.

Another side of the Terror level is that it makes little sense for Terror to go up when you’re crossing a section of sea that’s not only clearly safe, but has been travelled over by you a hundred times previously (while grinding for cash). What are the crew scared of? Death by bordeom? They’ve clearly survived that exact same passage 30 times before. I would like to see Terror increase more in actually scary places (particularly unknown ones) and decrease when in known safe zones (because currently it massively hampers exploration). At least until that safe zone becomes unsafe again (e.g. monster attacks, random event, etc). That way, Terror is more of a manageable commodity rather than an annoying &quotend of journey&quot bar which maxes out a dozen times too fast for the pacing of the game.

Movement speed is yet another area which COULD be fine if the player wasn’t forced to grind. See, travelling slowly through the inky seas into the unknown is tense and exciting. Travelling slowly through a stretch of ocean which you’ve gone over so many times that you could navigate it blindfolded is simply boring and frustrating. Things I’ve found myself saying that I never want to say while playing a game include:

[ul][li]&quotOh hey look! An enemy that I could kill in one hit without taking damage but am forced to combat over and over again even though I’ve clearly proven dominance over it and should basically get an auto victory over! Let’s go fight that for supplies!&quot[/li][li]&quotJust three more minutes of sailing and I’ll be able to get more cargo to sail another 3 minutes back again to deliver!&quot[/li][li]&quotI’ll just go make a cup of coffee while I wait for this journey to end…&quot
[/li][li]&quotOh, drownies trying to kill me. THANK GOD FOR THAT DISTRACTION!&quot[/li][/ul]The point (clearly) is that you don’t need to combine all of the above problems into one giant clusterbomb of boredom. If you’re gonna make me move slowly, make it worth reaching my destination. I don’t want a Port Report worth a measly 5 echoes and a pat on the back. I want to unload 150 echoes worth of goods (which hopefully did NOT cost 142 echoes to purchase) and to return home richer and capable of actually upgrading something rather than merely refueling and setting off again. Or heck, allow me to resupply (at a reasonable price) and use that destination as a new launching area for futher exploration! But if you’re going to make me grind for my 8 echoes profit each time, at least double my speed so the grind is a little less painful.

The speed at which things go awry is something which I’m normally ok with, but sometimes bad events just pop up and poop all over your progress. Like, for example, attacking a creature which you previously slew flawlessly before only to discover that it had since been working it with Dyrone and secretly became the cousin of the Incredible Hulk, upon which point it obliterates your ship, progress, and chastity in two lightning-fast suplexes, leaving you wondering what the heck just happened, a full moment before the realization that you’re going to have to grind ALL OF THOSE HOURS AGAIN sinks in.

This, again, works into the aforementioned issue of grinding, which is a subset of the core issue of pacing. You want to wreck me in one shot? Ok, I’m cool with that, it’s a learning experience. But don’t make me do 12 hours of carting bat corpses off to the Sisters again just to get back to where I was. Either give me a chance to get OUT of those horrible situations (of which there are many more than the one I just described), or fix the pacing so that if I die, I have something to look forward to on replay that’s not &quotdoing all the same stuff again with absolutely no change except for the complete lack of all of my previous progress&quot

So to summarize, changing even 2 out of those 4 elements would greatly increase the playability and replayability of the game. It’s got absolutely fantastic potential, but right now it’s just making me angry with all the grinding and time wasting, and I’d much rather finish the thing in a few hours and wait for an update than play 40 hours just to earn enough echoes to see part 2 of 8 of the storyline. By that point all of my enthusiasm for the game will have long since departed, and IT at least has plenty of fuel to make the journey.
edited by Sirus on 7/5/2014

This post expresses most of my issues with the game in its current state far more eloquently than I’m capable of.

I think the ship speed is fine for the most part, if you moved any faster all the enemies would have to too, and there would be less time to take in the surroundings. The profits however are far too small, affording even the smaller upgrades without tedious grinding seems impossible, and buying a new ship is completely out of reach.

I would definitely prefer a shorter but content-dense game over a longer game where the content is delayed by (tedious) grinding.

Which brings me to my remaining irritation, the small size of the logbook and its font. If most of the story takes place in the logbook interface, please make it cover more of the screen. I find myself squinting and moving the screen closer to be able to read it properly, because it only covers about 20% of my screen (1680*1050 resolution).

Finally I would (also) like to add that the game has a fantastic setting and it is easy to get immersed in it. The exploration part of the game is very fun and I can see the rest of it shaping up nicely if the economy/trading game was more forgiving.

This sums up quite nicely my issues with the game
I’ve been playing it since the Beta came out and I have to admit the current disposition of the game is a lot less friendly then expected or it used to be,

I’ve spent all weekend playing it and have died about 12 times, the being able to emergency resupply my fuel is good that has cleared up a major issue but right now Echoes and Terror are destroying my immersion in the game. I thought resetting to 50 when returning to London would help but it really doesn’t. Even carefully zig zagging my way through lighted parts of the ocean and sticking close to the shoreline sees my terror slamming through 50 in no time at all and then it is practically game over. You cannot go out and explore before suddenly you’ve tripped through 70 and need to turn around and flee for home. Why should my crew be scared of sailing around the sea between Venderblight and Fallen London, we know this land like the back of our hands and despite the flocks of unending bats we shouldn’t be terrified of it.

Then there is terror reduction, the reducing to 50 is nice and the tattoo parlour is a rather nice touch. It was brilliant and made me cheer! But spending 50 or 100 echoes on some shore leave some place and reducing my terror by 1… or maybe 5… It just doesn’t feel right or balanced at all. If I am paying 100 echoes for some awesome shore leave I want to see my terror slam back down to zero and reset itself because we just had a terror free week of carousing in the shadowed isles of the Neath. If I am paying 20 echoes then maybe 15 - 20 terror not 1… It just ruins it.

Then we come to echoes and the endless grind, I’ll admit I am no good at this grinding thing. I want to go out, explore, see the Neath and have fun! Sure I could sale back and forth between home and Venderbight or the Sisters for 3 hours and maybe earn enough echoes to get by. My current game is the best but I am not going anywhere. I just circumnavigated most of the east and north trying to find the Khanate because the admiral and the bruiser want me to do some stuff there. (Is it even available?) During this trip my terror hit 100, I survived a mutiny and limped home with 4 crew!

Did I have any echoes worth talking about for this amazing adventure? No… by the time I sold my port reports, refuelled, hired a new crew and restocked the supplies I had no echoes left… I had no means to grow, progress or experience. The best i have managed in 6 hours of game play is to upgrade my weapons and buy a telescope… I’ve got no sense of accomplishment, no sight of echoes that could even let me expand my game. I at one point managed to get 500 echoes! Which is when I purchased that new weapon and telescope thinking YES! Upgrades! Head back out, face down some evil, go further out… and I’ve come back with nothing… I just ventured all the way to the farthest reaches of the map and got maybe 150 echoes for my trouble…

It really does feel like there are some huge and major issues still with terror and with echo progression. I want to feel like I am making progress not just barely staying afloat. I have NEVER been able to upgrade my ship or buy a town house or unlock any of this amazing content I can see but just cannot reach because the game doesn’t deliver the means to access it.

Absolutely this. I logged on just to say this same thing.

I love Failbetter (enough to back this on kickstarter and buy content in FL), and I love the content of this game, but the grind is awful. Just plain terrible. I play Fallen London in spite of the grind, not because of it. In a single player game it’s frustrating and exhausting.

Venderbright runs are not fun. Fighting bats for the 800th time is not fun. Dying from terror because I’m desperately looking for a way to actually upgrade at a reasonable pace is not fun.

Permadeath games rely on a steady if random progression of loot and upgrades to be fun. It’s okay to lose everything if you know that the treadmill back up isn’t that steep. The Binding of Isaac, FTL, and Rogue Legacy all have you getting several upgrades in the first ten to fifteen minutes. This takes hours to get the first non-officer upgrade.

If by some lucky chance, someone from failbetter is reading this and thinks that I’m just not getting the gameplay and atmosphere, that’s fine. Keep a pristine gameplay mode, its existence doesn’t hurt anything. Making a super-duper wussy mode doesn’t hurt anything either. I would gladly play a mode called baby mode if it kept permadeath but slowed terror generation by 1/4 and made selling goods ten times more profitable.

Great comments.

The only thing I might add is there seem to be some serious balancing issues with the content. Some items/experiences/cards sell for what seems like an outlandishly overpriced amount (500 echoes) while others are extremely cheap, with seemingly no middle ground. On the other side of the coin, the value of return based on what your payment and invested effort doesn’t seem to match. Make it to a new port, spend 100 echoes on an option, and have the result be a 1 terror reduction?? That shouldn’t be the same payoff as throwing some bats overboard…

Hopefully this will be corrected as playtesting develops. Overall the atmosphere is spot on and the concept is sound.

One other comment… while the approach to combat with illumination is intriguing and appropriate to the setting, in execution it’s a bit lacking. I was hoping for something similar to FTL like gameplay for ship to ship combat… instead it plays more like a trading card game simulation, and it gets old rather quickly.
edited by Melford on 7/6/2014

As an addendum to my original bug post, it seems that it’s not specifically Mutton island which experiences the zeebat bug. In my current game, it’s Hunter Island which now has the bug. Maybe it’s based on which island you visit first, or is random. I don’t really know.

Also, for people like myself who are struggling with the early game, I’ve found something which helps a lot. It’s not EARLY game, but it’s better than nothing and brings back some of the elements of exploration again. The Dark-Spectacled Admiral will offer you additional missions once your favor hits a certain level. I learned this after I managed to convince him of that peculiar report being fact several times, as each time increased my favor with him (which is probably also a bug). In any case, the new missions for gathering &quotStrategic Information&quot each pay 150 echoes on completion, which will more than cover your supplies and fuel costs alone and finally allow you to start making some money on the Port Reports and extras you find while travelling. They also often send you to exotic or unexplored locations, thus increasing the area of the game which you can visit. That said, terror can still screw you over during these times, so expect the occasional mutiny followed by being eaten by sea monsters if you survive.

Nevertheless, it does allow progression and I’ve actually managed to upgrade my ship once or twice by now.

tip; don’t do Venderbight runs unless you’re hella strapped for cash. Once you accumulate a bit of starting capital (not even that much; 105 echoes is all you need) you can start running casks of wine down to Godfall. You can stop off at Mutton Island en route to get the chance at a Judgement Egg.
Godfall runs are way better than Venderbight ones, but they’re only available for some time right at the very start. Once you’ve built up a fair chunk of capital, there are a few other things you can do;

*Zail out to Pigmote Island, south of Gaider’s Mourn. The one-off story there pays out in a big chunk of fuel and also a few hundred Echoes worth of stuff and also a mascot and the possibility of a potent combat tool. The Veils check pays out the best, overall.
– afterwards, consider swinging north to Station III, the port report there is a one-off and pays out an entire 100 echoes.

  • Following the orders of the Admiral and the Cheery Man is a pretty good way to get some cash money, although the Admiral can occasionally send you off to rather distant or hazardous locations (e.g. the Avid Horizon or Khan’s Heart) and the Cheery Man’s requests have a savage urgency to them.

  • Loot the Shattered Citadel for a one-off big reward (the higher your stats are, the better. bring at least 8 or 9 candles, but more will give you a hefty leeway. You can always sell any spares in Venderbight to minimise losses.)

  • Buy a weapon with Harpoons. They’re hella good.

  • Hunt Lifebergs around Whither; they can end you in one attack if you’re unlucky, but they don’t have a lot of health and their rewards can be as much as 1000 echoes. You can run between Whither and Venderbight to get chances at Artefacts, the Bandaged Poissoneer and Soothe & Copper Long-Boxes

  • Gather Scintillack in Port Cecil- this isn’t quite as good as it used to be, but it’s still rather profitable. You’ll get 1-3 Scintillacks that can be sold for 70e each in London. You can run between Demeaux Island and the Port to let Something Awaits You recharge and to hunt Morays and Bound-Sharks, which aren’t difficult. The Hunting Trophies from the Sharks can be used to burn off Terror in Abbey Rock.
    – If you’re really hardcore you can zail between Mt Palmerston and Port Cecil instead; you’re more likely to encounter tougher beasts and your Terror will probably skyrocket, but the Palmerston storyline pays out rather well on completion (and at a few interim points too). You can ferry Devilbone Dice back from Mt Palmerston, although you only make an echo of profit per dice. You can also buy Ambiguous Eoliths; these go for either 1 echo or 70, so they’re a Hell of a gamble.

  • If you’d rather not finish the Palmerston story, you can reach a certain point which allows you to collect Brimstone Buzzings- these go for 150 Echoes to the admiral, so they’re hella great

  • If you’re super hardcore, consider fighting Lorn-Flukes around Port Cecil; their cores are worth 500 Echoes and you occasionally get a glut of Secrets to boot. They have rather a lot of HP and their attacks pretty much constantly whittle away at your Terror and Hull- plus, if they ever get off a Desolation attack, you’re dead

  • If you’re having trouble finding Soothe & Copper Long-Boxes, you can occasionally purchase them in Khan’s Heart for 77 Echoes. The storyline at Station III is well worth it.

  • Don’t do Venderbight runs! Unless you’re trying to complete the Genial Magician’s quest; one of the Venderbight events is the first step on his storyline. The event doesn’t pop up very often, so it’s probably forgivable in that case.

I wrote way more than I meant to there! But the Venderbight grind is honestly mostly a self-imposed one, especially now that it’s nowhere near as profitable what with Pinnances being nerfed and the diminished trade economy there.
edited by Spacemarine9 on 7/6/2014
edited by Spacemarine9 on 7/6/2014

I appreciate the advice, but it’s beyond impractical to assume new players are able to know or do these things.

[quote=Spacemarine9]tip; don’t do Venderbight runs unless you’re hella strapped for cash. Once you accumulate a bit of starting capital (not even that much; 105 echoes is all you need) you can start running casks of wine down to Godfall. You can stop off at Mutton Island en route to get the chance at a Judgement Egg.
Godfall runs are way better than Venderbight ones, but they’re only available for some time right at the very start. Once you’ve built up a fair chunk of capital, there are a few other things you can do;

Godfall is a non-obvious find, surrounded by those rowing ships (clay men raiders?) that kill a new player. If there’s a 10% chance that one of those ships will catch and kill a player then there’s a 50/50 chance that five godsfall runs will kill you. Also, how should players expect to know about a random find on mutton island? If the game wants players to explore Mutton Island repeatedly, there should be a reason to go back to Mutton Island, like trade.

Gaider’s Mourn is full of the khanate pirates which killed my most (not very) upgraded ship after trapping me. Why would a new character want to explore around that area when Gaider’s Mourn provides no obvious benefits and costs a lot of fuel and terror.

You don’t know to avoid Avid Horizon until you’ve been there once, been trapped in the long narrow mouth by a crab creature, and then died of terror on the trip home. Furthermore, is there a way to decline a quest already taken? The game doesn’t show you how.

This involves substantial risk that the game has not suggested is worth taking. Using 8 or 9 candles means that you have half the money for trade runs, and thus your progress is even slower until you build up that cushion again. In fact, the game’s mechanics suggest that paying for anything other than ship upgrades is normally pretty worthless. You pay 60 to 100 echoes to reduce a few seconds worth of terror. You pay a princely sum for a townhouse only to find that it makes the game harder (why do you have to pay to rest in a building you own?).

Getting to the point where you’re upgrading is the problem.

All of this, besides Station III, is content that requires significant risk in fuel, terror, and death with no reasonable expectation for reward. All of these things would be okay if death did not mean the start of an hours long grind (at best) to start finding new content. For instance, you risk a substantial amount of fuel and all your time invest to get to port Cecil, search for scintillak, get one piece because of a random roll at the cost of terror. Then you get back to london and find that it covered the cost of your fuel. Why would you go back? In all of these cases the risk dramatically outpaces the rewards.

I appreciate that you want to help new players, because the game currently doesn’t. A successful run using your tips requires bizarre out of game knowledge, and a couple of venderbright / admirality runs to build up cash anyways. It’s not reasonable to expect players to learn this stuff, when the game punishes trying to learn with unfair costs and a lack of obvious reward. When I go exploring and find an island that doesn’t have anything to trade, doesn’t give anything valuable, and requires a trip through incredibly hostile waters, then why should I be expected to come back? Why should I be expected to face significantly higher risks in the face of little to no reward?

Any reasonable risk analysis would limit you to Godsfall (if you’ve found it) or Venderbright, because the cost of a run anywhere else is prohibitive. It’s a choice between
15 minutes = 65 echoes in travelers, news, and reports + 1/3100 in artifacts + 50.5 * .75 in ship capture) + 2 *(your total cash / 23) - 50 echoes in fuel and
20 minutes = (60:100 in Station Reports + (.15 and this is a generous percentage * 100 in artifacts)) - 70 echoes in fuel - (10 * nightmares) / ( (.5 * the value of everything you own) + .15 chance of dying from terror.
It is beyond unreasonable to expect players to risk so much for so little reward. I say this fearing that failbetter will see this and nerf Venderbright.

Boredom and frustration is not an appropriate motivating factor for exploration. Saves are a stopgap solution in a game that advertises death as a major feature; I want my characters die. I want to be scared when I go exploring. I don’t want to have nothing to show for a half hour’s worth of gameplay.
edited by internet on 7/6/2014
edited by internet on 7/6/2014

It seems like you’re assuming that players should be told up front where stories that pay off are located and how to do them without dying or racking up huge amounts of Terror, and that if they’re not told, they’ll limit themselves to the most safely grindable runs. I don’t think that’s the point of the game; you need to explore to find more interesting options, and if you don’t want to deal with dying repeatedly while you figure them out, that’s what the forums are for – for learning precisely the information that you say is “bizarre out of game knowledge.”

I’m also not sure why you feel the game hasn’t suggested that certain risks – like looting the Shattered Citadel – are “worth taking.” The Shattered Citadel can be done in one run if your stats are high enough, and pays out generously enough to make up for the candles you had to buy plus a considerable sum in profit. And that’s what I expected, given that it requires a substantial investment up front. I found out what the actual rewards were by doing it, non-optimally with one character – I didn’t finish it in one run, was missing an object I needed to finish, and had to go all the way across the map to get it – and then more smoothly with the next character. That’s how I learned. That’s also how I learned which creatures are dangerous and which ports are harder trips than others – by dying. A lot. Which is frustrating, although far less so now that it’s possible to pass Heirlooms along to your heirs. But if you want that learning curve softened, looking for other people’s experiences on this forum is probably the best way.

[quote=penknife]It seems like you’re assuming that players should be told up front where stories that pay off are located and how to do them without dying or racking up huge amounts of Terror, and that if they’re not told, they’ll limit themselves to the most safely grindable runs.

It’s not that at all, it’s that if the mechanics want to encourage players to explore they should regularly offer something besides death. Clear mechanical signposting is not the same thing as the game telling players where every rare treasure is.

Exploration needs to have a push and a pull. There’s a lot of push to explore, but very little pull. You spend a great deal of fuel and face a great deal of danger to get to the island where chess is sacred and jewels are on the beach (I think it’s the same place), but then you get a single jewel worth 70 echoes to take back to London. Once fuel costs are covered, going to that island and back is worth less than going to the tomb colonies, significantly so. The same is true of Gaider’s Mourn or Avid Horizon or any number of places around the game. The mechanics of the game create a situation where exploring is usually less lucrative and far riskier than simple trade routes.

A great counter example is minecraft. In early minecraft death is constant (and you do have to use the wiki more than you should), but it encourages players to explore by regularly spawning more valuable materials in dangerous caves. It’s the same with every other game that features themes of death and exploration.

Forum spoilers are a poor way to ameliorate this rather basic flaw in the game. They mean that only way to make exploration more mechanically meaningful is to kill the suspense and mystery of exploration, thus undermining basic tenets of the game. Death is another poor substitute for motivation. What keeps a player going after death runs? It’s either a sense of progression outside of the individual run or the reasonable expectation of gain from successfully completing the run. But the knowledge of the location of many places is mechanically less valuable than the potential loss incurred from reaching those locations. Why should I care that I now have Avid Horizon on my map even though I died reaching it? There’s no reason for it until much, much later.

An expanded (and more generous) economy would do the trick far better and more convincingly.

Going to Port Cecil just to collect scintillack is a bad idea economically, yes. It’s worth stopping there if you’re making a loop through the northern ports, or if the Blind Bruiser or Admiralty sends you there. It’s also pretty much the only place you can raise Pages, which is its main value right now.

But … yes, ultimately exploring is far riskier and often less lucrative than sticking to established trade routes, although you can get far bigger rewards from pirates and beasts when you venture further out onto the map – nothing you can kill on the London-Venderbight route yields Captivating Treasures. The Failbetter team has said that the not-yet-developed outer regions of the map will provide greater financial rewards. But I suppose ultimately I don’t think players need to be pulled to explore new areas and new stories; the stories are the reward of trying new things. (And there’s the in-game reward of Secrets, which let you upgrade your skills.) Sure, you could consistently and safely make a very small profit sailing back and forth to Venderbight, but what would be the fun in that?

Somewhere it has been said by Alexis and the Failbetter team that if they made the rewards more generous in the early game it will have an affect on how the game develops, as they would need to rebalance and that takes time away from further development. We do need to remember that this is still early access and there is a lot more to come.

I believe there is a pull to explore. A high Admirality’s Favor nets you good repairs that are also the least expensive. Discovery leads to Fragments, which leads to Secrets, which you spend to increase your stats by talking to your officers. Those stats can make a huge difference in battles.

Port reports are still worth money, even after you’ve turned in the initial report, and they’re available whether or not you’ve received a Something Awaits You message.

[quote=Sirus]glaring issue which needs to be addressed: pacing.

[color=#009900]As this thread demonstrates, opinions differ on just how glaring this is. :-) But we’re not where we’d like to be, yet, and it’s a reasonable point that comes up often enough that I’ve now added an answer to the FAQ. tl;dr: It’s an Early Access thing.[/color]

I think the issue with pacing is this: as players we’re wired to be very afraid, and tread very cautiously.

So in the early game, no one feels safe going much farther than Mutton Island, Abbey Rock, Hunters Keep or Venderblight. The echoes in the &quotstarting area&quot simply aren’t enough to make a player feel safe trying to go farther. (When your profit margin in those runs is like ~30 to ~50 echoes, or half the fuel necessary to earn 30 to 50 echoes, no one feels ready to go explore further. So they grind near home instead.)

And yet, that’s where the real money is: out there. Not a stone’s throw from Fallen London. Once you start carrying out the Strategic Information (the first one which lies well outside a starting player’s comfort zone) and the Blind Bruiser (whose mission is way, way outside that comfort zone) requests, you start getting the financial cushion necessary to start exploring and making the real money. There’s only one thing of real worth in that early, initial series of ports, and it’s random and rare so new players won’t know to look for it, or how.

There’s a couple things that could be done to smooth it out. Putting the first missions for the Strategic Information and Blind Bruiser closer to FL would, I think, push players out of the initial starting area faster. They could get a taste of real profit and say to themselves &quot Self, why am I making chump-change running corpses to Venderblight when I could be out there! It’s worth the risk to at least find out!&quot If they made 350 from those two things by going to say, Venderblight the first time, they’d be much more willing to go after the next location outside of the starting area, especially with a pocket full of echoes to buy fuel with. (And those two missions would of course never choose such an easy port of call again.)

I’ve realized: you don’t want to increase the value of things close to Fallen London any more than they already are. That actually inhibits player exploration and expansion, because the player will almost always choose a safe, close, repeatable source of decent income over something out there, in the unknown, with a huge fuel and terror overhead. They just need the right incentives (and they need to know the value of those incentives) to get them zailing for real.

To me the Admirality’s favor isn’t that much of a pull. To the new player, the favors are a finite resource and it’s not actually the cheapest way to repair your ship (the quality you get from the 15 echo repair has yet to penalize me any way that I know of.)

But man, once you start making a real circuit of the zee and partaking of its various sources of income, the cash comes roooooolllling in.
edited by Nenjin on 7/6/2014

I still maintain that the issue isn’t pacing, but balance…

Rewards don’t seem tied to the effort it takes to achieve them. In fact they come off as somewhat random… The only clear direction pushing in the early game are the admiralty missions, and returning to London gives decent payoff, but spending items or echoes at other ports don’t have consistent consequences to the value spent (and are often trifling).

The difference between the two is negligible, as the outcome is the same for both - players have difficulty progressing, experience frustration and boredom, and may be unable to enjoy the full experience due to having no clear way forward. Having correct pacing requires balance, and balancing a game includes the pacing, since correcting the time spent to achieve any given goal is a part of balancing a game.

Edit: Just saw this post:

[quote=Alexis Kennedy][color=#009900]As this thread demonstrates, opinions differ on just how glaring this is. :-) But we’re not where we’d like to be, yet, and it’s a reasonable point that comes up often enough that I’ve now added an answer to the FAQ. tl;dr: It’s an Early Access thing.[/color][color=#009900]

Seeing this reminded me that I forgot to acknowledge that the game is early access, and is expected to change. In fact, the entire reason that I wrote that long post in the first place was because I had hoped it might be read by a developer and perhaps influence their decisions a little in a positive direction. I would have written a review instead, but it felt it was unfair to judge the game too harshly yet, knowing that it’s still somewhat in &quotalpha&quot.

That aside, I don’t really see many people arguing with my post; more generally discussing ways around the issues which I experienced and described. I think the general consensus is &quotYeah, it’s too difficult when you’re just starting out, but there’s a few clever secrets you can learn&quot. Even as I wrote the post, I persevered, and over many hours was able to at least open up access to the majority of the map to myself, though I still feel that echoes earned are lower than they should be at many times and that terror is too inspecific and general in how it goes up, and far too difficult to reduce on longer journeys. I was also blown away by the enormous story at Pigmote Isle compared to the relatively sparse entries everywhere else, but I assume that over time these will seem less incongruous with each other as the game matures.

The bottom line for me though is this: The game is really fun, but as a new player you run the risk of not getting to experience that fun (currently). I feel that this is due to the lack of clarity on how to earn enough echoes to do more than run out of fuel mid-trip or get eaten by zee monsters, and also the fact that due to the early access content, some sections of the Zee are far, far more rewarding than others, though you don’t often get to choose which sections you visit, instead having missions and storylines and requirements which force you to go all over the place. I like being forced to explore all over, but not so much having to do it while knowing full-well that I’ll have to face a mutiny on the way back 3 out of 5 times thanks to nightmares and also possibly not pull in net profit from it at the end of the day.

Either way, I know it’s going to change soon, and nothing would make me happier than to see this post slowly become less and less relevant as the game expands.
edited by Sirus on 7/8/2014

Well, I just got this game 2 days ago and am, indeed loving it (Maybe I’m a masochist). But, I died a lot… a lot a lot. But, tat’s what I was expecting from a rogue-like. The feeling of smashing your head into a wall until you or the other breaks. and, finding taht, after repeated smashings, your skull is starting to gain a resistance to brick. But, I digress. The way I got to getting my business rolling in the beginning was taking a tip from the loading screen of the game, &quotNeed Echoes? Go to the Admiralty!&quot So, my business to sell dedders to the good people at Tomb Island, turned into nothing more than a kickstarter for my swashbuckling days. You gotta fund the Admiralty quests with your dedder runs and use the buoys as waypoints for your route… and then get eatin’ by a grue… I mean, you’ll come out aces!

Edit *Doesn’t know what the date is today
edited by GerbilSchooler on 9/4/2014

One of the biggest issues with terror management right now is the combination of map shuffling and an incomplete map. I don’t mean that the map is hidden until you’ve explored it, I mean that there are sections of the Unterzee that are supposed to have islands that aren’t there yet. The ones that have the note about how there will be content there in a later build. Knowing that you can burn off terror using hunting trophies at Abbey Rock is great, but can be frustrating if you have to go through a bunch of sparse, unfinished sections of map to get to anywhere that isn’t part of Shepherd’s Wash.

60 hours into the game. I find it oddly fascinating. After 25 hours or so I set the game down as too frustrating. When the shuffling was introduced I picked it back up…and almost set it back down again.

But then I got a lucky shuffle. On this map an isle with a 300 echo payout of cargo is within easy steaming distance of London. It can be combined with a tour of the tomb colonies selling mushroom wine for a total of a 400 echo payout w/out generating significant terror.
This level of reward makes it possible to investigate large chunks of the rest of the map and carouse away the terror. If an exploration is unrewarding and I return with few echoes, supplies and fuel then I can always make a couple of these fairly easy runs to get me back on my feet and mostly sane again.

It’s the first game where I’ve seen significant reward for putting to sea. It’s sustainable to the point where larger goals seem possible.