A zimple design ideas to remedy grind in game

Hello everyone! (TL;DR section on bottom)

In my opinion {

I love indie games, I’m struggling to develop my own indie, and Sunless Sea is an unquestionable charm, having a unique gameplay based on Fallen London, where I see a great potential for modders, and also enhancing it with great visuals of the zee. This is not everything; the terror attribute is interesting, and so it’s binary mechanic, so contrast to modern designs of small percentage values. Even the fighting system, often criticized on this forum for me seems to have potential, as I enjoyed blocking enemy’s attacks with the rightly times evasions, making him lose time on &quotwarming&quot. With only a few additions and changes the fighting mechanic could become really interesting.

However, the devs don’t successfully leverage the game’s strengths. A lot of people here on forum either criticize game’s slow progress and repetitiveness, ask how to start the game (and from what I’ve seen, the community fail to help here, as it’s not an easy task) or advice some paths to grind - over and over again. Even people defending the game, often admit to use the &quotsave&quot and &quotload&quot spells, and if in iron mode, they take a &quotquit to menu&quot exploit as a normal game routine. This happens probably either because the game is too hard, or it’s pace is too slow.

I understand the game is under development. I understand that more options coming in future will make the game easier (unless devs decide to increase costs or decrease rewards, because it got too easy), and more diversified. However if in future there will be more quests and so more echoes per trip, I don’t see why devs wouldn’t decrease the cost of services and equipment in early access, and linearly increase it as the economy gets richer. I think, and that’s only an assumption, the rewards will stay low, the costs will stay high, and in the end a player will only find a profitable trade route easier, but he will still need to grind up, maybe with an option to change his path when he is really bored. This makes me sad, as it wastes the game’s great potential, and I’d like to humbly propose some changes, together with a justification.

Browser game vs immersion
To be honest, I didn’t like the Fallen London. I tried playing it thanks to the amazing story and interesting mechanics of &quotqualities&quot, but in it’s core it was still a browser game. I couldn’t describe what I mean better, then by asking you to try 10 random Steam games, and then 10 random browser games - there is a difference in the immersion, and it’s not an accident; a browser game in it’s nature is designed for people who have a few spare moments during the day (often at work), and so they don’t want to get immersed too much. Downloadable games are designed for people who want to isolate themselves from the world for a longer moment (or sometimes a whole day if someone’s lucky enough to have so much time).

While repetitiveness of the Fallen London is OK for people playing it 30 minutes a day, it may become boring for a person playing Sunless Sea for hours a day. What I suggest is increasing the rewards/penalties per quests by a factor of 10 or more, so the game experience is more condensed. It will get significantly shorter, but I think the iron mode is supposed to regularly kill players in order to start over. In the current shape of the game a player can spend tens of hours of wearing grind into the game, and I doubt a lot of people would like to repeat it after their death.

The hybrid game
Sunless Sea are basically two games in a price of one. We get the Fallen London with interesting story, and we get a charming zee exploration game, competing with the best pirate games. However, the point of putting two games together should be a synergy between them, while in Sunless Sea these two parts seem to fight each other.

Imagine that you have two bosses. One asks you to paint a wall, and the second wants you drill holes in the ceiling. So you take a brush, dip it in the tin, shake it a little for the excess of paint to fall back and make a first stroke on the wall, but before the brush gets dry, your other boss comes and tells you to get to drilling immediately. So you clean your brush with water, position a ladder, take a drill, put safety glasses on, climb up the ladder, position yourself firmly, drill the first hole and the first boss comes yelling you should paint!

This is what I think happens inside of my brain when I keep changing my activities too often. I have no time to dive fully into one task, and once I become productive in it, I have to switch. Because travels are so short and repetitive in the game, I decided to buy the fastest engine and just rush through the zee. I’d rather like a travel to be an adventure that I do once, then maybe another time, trying to make use of my experience, and maybe even once or twice more, being rewarded for an optimal route and pushed to other parts of the zee by the story, before the path becomes boring. Once I get to a port, I’d like to stay there longer, doing more quests at once.

As for numbers, I would increase the distances between ports by a factor of 2-5, and decrease the speed of ships and monsters by 2-5. I’d love to have more time to decide if I want to switch my lamp off, and I think one of the best things at the sea is that chasing and fleeing can take so much longer there than on the land.

Summary (TL;DR)

  1. Make the game shorter by putting more quests at once in ports, and ten times higher rewards per quest.
  2. Make the travels much longer, to let players feel the dread of the zee.
  3. Since advancement will be much faster thanks to p. 1., increase the risk of death to make players repeat games and try new, safer paths and come up with witty strategies.

Of course this is only a tip of the lifeberg. A larger map would make room for creating multiply paths between two ports, giving a player a choice if he wants to maneuver between lights and gathering there monsters, or take the dark and dreadful route, or maybe move along shores and waste some fuel, much depending on circumstances and which resources are common or easy to obtain at the moment.

} :)
edited by Etherlord on 8/5/2014

Some interesting thoughts, but I think you neglected to bracket them with ‘in my opinion’ a little clearer. Negates the ‘humbly’ somewhat.

Won’t respond to every point - but think you’re failing to observe that not everyone games for the same reason as you.

For example: I am a hard-ish-core-ish Fallen London player precisely because it’s a browser game. I can play it at work - thus in the long term it probably gets more hours than any other game I’ve owned. It’s immersiveness or lack of is largely irrelevant. It brightens a boring or miserable working day. It adds a smile to an already good working day. Evenings, perhaps, I may focus more on text, and be immersed - but the non-requirement for immersiveness is what makes it flexible. A quality which might put others (you) off it.

Similarly - some people enjoy Sunless Sea for the very reasons you don’t.

Thus: the changes you suggest may put more people off than put people on. FailBetter are reasonably experienced, and pretty blooming respected in the gaming world. They’re aware of gaming preferences, and are playing to their strengths. Reviews so far suggest this is working for the majority, even if that doesn’t include you. If they haven’t done the maths as to what gets them adequate income without sacrificing their vision, I’d be somewhat surprised.

Still - they do read feedback, so there’s never any harm in putting it forward, so long as it’s polite. :-)

Edit: And I’d loathe travelling longer. I think I’d dislike every one of your suggested changes - which does show your suggestions are very much ones of taste, rather than actual game improvements. Bear in mind - FB are experienced devs who know they’re working towards a massive and varied audience. They may take your points on board and tweak more in the direction of players like you. They may not. But they’ve almost certainly considered this.
edited by babelfishwars on 8/5/2014

I basically do not agree with anything :P

Increasing the distances between ports by a factor of 2-5, and decrease the speed of ships and monsters by 2-5 is a suicide. It sounds boring even just writing it, cannot imagine playing it!
I don’t get the point of increasing tenfold the rewards (perhaps you like to win easily, or the quality of a game is proportional to the quantity of things in your inventory?) especially if this goes towards a shorter game. Why in the name of the Empress would I like an instant-game of a total gametime of few hours?!
And besides, I find the third point logic-defying: an increasing death-rate (which is not frustrating at all, no no) is acceptable because the game would be shorter? and how this would bring to encourage players to explore new paths (and if the game is shorter, why would I come back to the game once I’ve spent the couple of hours needed to finish it - one and a half of which probably spent travelling the long distances between ports?)

Oh please no.

I only want to point out that increasing the penalty on all quests by a factor of 10 would mean that you could get a terror increase of 200 at port Cecil, while gathering scintillack.

Personally I think Failbetter know what they are doing. Yes things are still changing as they listen to feedback and look at rebalancing but some of your suggestions would be more boring and end up being more of a grind (in my opinion).

Increasing zailing time would be awful to me as that is the most boring part unless you come across something to fight or run away from.
I like the SAY mechanic of getting the random stories in port and think the rewards are fine.

My post was quite long, I always have a lot to say and keep trying not to be boring, often removing whole paragraphs of text. So I avoid using empty phrases like &quotin my opinion&quot. Of course it is only my opinion and I took no position of &quotI know better&quot kind or similar.

I don’t know if it’s not my misinterpretation, that some answers were emotional and defensive. I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings or start a flame war, and I’m sorry for my language being so rough and unsubtle. Maybe with the above throat-clearing I could continue on with even more straight arguments without accusations of being a frustrated, dissatisfied customer, because I’m not.

I am the customer. I bought the game. I think telling me in this moment, that this might be the wrong game for me is controversial. Don’t get me wrong, I’m just trying to defend thousands of customers, that may fall in the same pit. As a customer, I have my right to express my opinion about the game. Of course you may express yours, or simply say &quotI agree&quot or &quot[color=rgb(194, 194, 194)]I basically do not agree with anything&quot. However I noticed a lot of users here are Fallen London players and may have different needs than a typical Steam player. [/color]Even current SS players from Steam is a niche quite different than people who buy games after it’s release. FG don’t need to listen to players, but they do, and as they released the game on Steam, they might be interested what people from outside of the community want in the game. I don’t say my ideas are what Steam users want, and I don’t say what people say they want is what they will like, but I just put it under your consideration.

To break ice a little, I’ll admit I wouldn’t put my ideas into life if I was deciding - but I would test it.

The idea of longer travels isn’t about spending more time at the zee. It’s about replacing 10 short and same travels, with one and long. If ten times longer travel would be boring, is the current travel boring too? From mathematical point of view it would mean, that leaving the port and entering it are so exciting, that they make travel’s length influence travel’s enjoyment - I certainly doesn’t understand Master Polarimini counterargument.

When travelling through the zee, I used to have some patterns:

turn off the light near a lighted shore, alternate lights near a shore/light, try to lure opponents into an area where my terror won’t rise, as you lose velocity after the fight and so on.

However, once I optimized a path, I couldn’t do much about it, and the process of micro-managing my light became repetitive, and so boring. The zee should be scary, but I can easily avoid any enemy, and the scale of the map makes some micro like waiting for lantern’s light not affordable. I think the game’s atmosphere would be better, if every journey was an adventure, and every port a place to repair and replenish resources (not necessarily all at one place).

[quote][color=rgb(194, 194, 194)] [/color][color=rgb(194, 194, 194)]I find the third point logic-defying: an increasing death-rate (which is not frustrating at all, no no) is acceptable because the game would be shorter? and how this would bring to encourage players to explore new paths[/color]
The death would certainly discourage you to take the same paths. Just like in many rogue games.

[color=rgb(194, 194, 194)]Touche :) I think there’s no need to increasing the penalties in most of places, I even refrained to include that in my summary. Getting 10 engines would also be an aburdity, but on other hand, a reward of 1 fragment is like getting no reward at all.[/color]
[color=rgb(194, 194, 194)]
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[color=rgb(194, 194, 194)][quote][/color]
[color=rgb(194, 194, 194)]Increasing zailing time would be awful to me as that is the most boring part unless you come across something to fight or run away from.[/color]
[color=rgb(194, 194, 194)][/quote][/color]
[color=rgb(194, 194, 194)]That’s my point. There must be something happening on the zee, or devs might as well remove it from the game entirely. For me it’s charming, but from comments I see players hate it.[/color]
edited by Etherlord on 8/5/2014

[quote=Etherlord]I don’t know if it’s not my misinterpretation, that some answers were emotional and defensive. ///

I am the customer. I bought the game. I think telling me in this moment, that this might be the wrong game for me is controversial.4[/quote]

I’m skim reading, but I don’t think anyone said that this was the wrong game for you. I think posters have just said that your suggestions would not improve the game for them (as an individual). Which reiterates the point - the devs are balancing a game for a variety of players. People saying they don’t like your suggestions is providing feedback to the devs in the same way you are. (Challenging your post has forced you to make a more interesting one, explaining your thought processes. Little of interest ever comes from immediate agreement.)

None of us gets any say over what the devs do in the end, but they appear to be continually balancing with every update.

I’m sure they are, and I’m sure they listen. No one above has attempted to shut you up - I’d have to step out of poster persona and slap them if they did that. They’ve (and I) have just disagreed. Devs might agree with you over us - but if feedback is important, so is opinions on feedback (so long as polite etc etc).

p.s. ‘in my opinion’ is not an empty phrase if meant sincerely. It acknowledges that your post is not a raising an absolute problem, not is it providing a definitive answer, but is a position, and opens a topic up for discussion. It positions you as an interested party rather than someone trying to claim authority and silence others. Language is subtle and wonderful and it’s fairly easy not to get people’s backs up if you try. ;-)
edited by babelfishwars on 8/5/2014
edited by babelfishwars on 8/5/2014

No criticism intended to you I think that different people like different things and everyone is entitled to their opinion
[color=rgb(194, 194, 194)]
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[color=rgb(194, 194, 194)]
[color=rgb(194, 194, 194)]Quote - The idea of longer travels isn’t about spending more time at the zee. It’s about replacing 10 short and same travels, with one and long. If ten times longer travel would be boring, is the current travel boring too? From mathematical point of view it would mean, that leaving the port and entering it are so exciting, that they make travel’s length influence travel’s enjoyment[/color]

I guess people have different play styles - for me I travel between ports, taking on the beasties and ships that I can beat (even if I might suffer some damage, crew loss or terror); evade the instant kill ones; visit the port do what I can and then move onto the next. If I am lucky I might even make it back to London with a full crew, complete hull and minimal terror, but that normally means that I have not encountered many beasties or pirates. I’ll hand over my port reports and anything the Scholar wants, replenish my supplies and go out again.

So I like visiting lots of different ports on a voyage, some journeys are less exciting than others but I tend not to hang around near the spawning grounds waiting for beasties. No voyage is identical - my route will depend to some extent on where the Admiral and Blind Bruiser send me and what stories I get in the ports and which beasties or ships I encounter also mean that every trip is different.

Well, Etherlord, I must say that I agree to other posters here in not liking too much your changes, even if I see your points, and certainly the game is not perfect right now.

And statements as &quotI’m just trying to defend thousands of customers&quot are pretty much the contrary of being humble. I mean, we all speak for ourselves even if others may have opinions similar to ours.

That said I don’t think you are trying to be rude, and I hope to not come off as too defensive,as people sometimes become when they think something they like is being &quotattacked&quot. I don’t think you are &quotattacking&quot Sunless Sea to be clear, you are just giving feedback, and you found things you didn’t like, I did the same about the combat, and about the slim rewards from Observation.

First I disagree completely about you comment on how the &quottwo games&quot don’t work well with each others. They do, in my opinion, as you travel around, avoiding beasts too powerful for you, fighting enemies at your level, and when you get in port you can execute actions on a random basis, based on port, then you launch yourself again, following a route you found worked for you.
I don’t really get your comment about how you can’t get &quotgood&quot at the two games, just because you pause at a port for some minutes to do you stuff and than you start traveling again.

The travel between locations is not that fast, especially if you optimize your terror increase, searching the fastest, most remunerative and most secure paths, which is a big part of the enjoyment for me.

Another thing you said is do almost all of the stuff you need to do once, and then go back to London.
No, it doesn’t really make sense, not to mention you should have read the updates notes on Emerald: they said that more stories will appear that will guide the player in the initial stages of the game, probably stories that require you to reach other ports, encouraging exploration.

And I can’t see how a 10 times longer travel is better than 10 travels. It’s just worse, because you can’t get to those places again, not only to progress stories, but also to observe the scenery again. I mean you don’t want to get to the Principles of Coral more than twice?
The place is beautiful, beautiful to look at, as are others, it’s not only the journey and the destination or how much echoes you gain but is also about observing those beautiful, scary, impressive places.

I think one of the things that appeal more to me about the game is about how it makes you feel like you are really living a Captain life in the Unterzee. The immersion.

I don’t think that telling you this may not be the right type of game for you is &quotcontroversial&quot, because it might be so. I mean not all people can like all of everything. I made some mistakes in games I bought because I thought I could have liked them, but I didn’t.

Last thing: what you are asking is a lot, all of the game should be changed, all of it would have to be completely rebalanced, and this is already a beta mere months before the finale release. I’m not saying you should not post you feedback, but you should keep you ideas and suggestions realistic.

I’ll finish this here, hope I didn’t discouraged you or insulted you, and I hope the next changes will please you, hopefully you’ll have a good ride.
And don’t hesitate to ask the community, we are pretty nice and will try to help if you have trouble with the game.