Connecting islands in to larger world narratives

[color=#ffffff]To the Developers of Sunless Sea,

Your game is phenomenally intriguing, and I just wanted to briefly discuss what makes a similar game, Star Control 2, so successful. It’s possible this is already part of your vision, or that your vision is incompatible with this, but nevertheless…

As you fill your world with locations and quests, consider putting particular focus on the actions of the player as they can affect inter-island relations, larger world events, etc.

If each quest location is isolated from other islands and their own goings on then there is limited larger plot potential. But with interconnectivity a player can seek out ways to solve a puzzle/quest connected to a certain island by finding a way to perform the right actions on other islands.

Your game can in this way allow for induction in its puzzles and quests.

The ultimate example is Star Control 2, now released for free under the name ‘The Ur-quan Masters.’ Take a day or two and play that game – it has a whole lot in common with Sunless Sea, particularly in the requirement that the player go out and FIND THE QUESTIONS that he then has to find the answers to.

SC2 is one of the best regarded games of all time, and its similarity to Sunless Sea cannot be ignored.

But what that game did is connect the different goings on amongst the different alien races. There was no quest log, rather the player went out and found out what to do to affect the status of the different races. Each race was connected to the others in ways that were not entirely obvious.

In the end the player ended up playing diplomatic and political games behind the scenes, manipulating galactic events in ways that the different alien races were not entirely aware of.


tl;dr – just as you write quests and events that affect the player as a ping pong ball in a machine, also consider writing quests that allow the player to change the world. Perhaps write quests that are larger in scope and allow the player to seek out solutions that involve multi-island interaction and tie the larger world together.

And maybe write quests that never go in a log book, but rather require the player to figure out that there is a quest to be pursued.


It would mean islands with different atmosphere, content, available quests, stories, and responses to the player depending on the actions he has theretofore taken. It would also mean quests and content that carries a lot of prerequisites and reveals itself in many stages.

It would also mean some implicit quests rather than only explicit ones.[/color]
edited by MrChapeau on 7/12/2014

That does happen you on some scale, and if it will be like Fallen London then we’ll see a lot of that. But at the same time I don’t think letting the player decide the fate of the ‘racess’ as it were would fit the narrative that much. I always liked the fact that you’re placed in a position that while you can affect many things you’re still just a pawn in a much larger game, no ‘chosen one’ mechanic at all. Still i’ts just my opinion and I could very well be wrong.

I second Zee-Bat, to often games take this “chosen one” approach. Realistically a sea captain, while making changes in his own story, would have very little impact in the greater narrative of the world. It really makes sense to me that while we make small changes, we don’t make any drastic variations upon the Undersea.

I like the OPs idea personally, it will simply add depth and immersion. I also however agree with Zee-bat in that its cool you’re just a guy, not some “unlikely chosen hero” of the world. I believe there is a middle ground where your actions could play a small part in a larger plot without being the deciding factor in the outcome.

You could be the guy that delivers the declaration of war instead of declaring it.

You could be the guy hired to bring back a traitor or enlist a hero long forgotten to London but needed once more. These events could have a skill check where you simply fail or pass and THAT is what makes the difference in the story outcome. Not your character personally crafting the fate of the Zee.

People can influence the world around them easily without being a “chosen one.”

I think FB is going that way, just on a quite smaller scale, with Pigmote Island. You may be a pawn to the Masters, the Khanat and the Admiral but to those little buggers you are, the &quotchosen one&quot or at least a tide turning secret weapon. Maybe we’ll be able to influence the development of the island by advicing the victorious faction.

Plus everything the Funkslayer said, I totally want to sing up as a privateer against the Khanat.

I actually agree that it’s good not to be the savior, or for the world to revolve around the player.

I meant more like changing the goings on on an island, and how that island relates to other islands.

EX. In Star Control 2 you can trick a race in to attacking another race who is not really their enemy. You can also influence the morale of another race with your actions, drawing them in to the battle. And there’s a situation in which you put the last remaining males and females of a nearly extinct race together, saving their species in short order as they breed very quickly. All of these require actions and investigations in other parts of the world involving other races, as well as cultural insight in to the race to be affected.

The savior of the world plot isn’t what’s interesting, it’s all the inter-relational puzzles that the player has to figure out for himself and which contribute to the larger whole.

Nevertheless these sort of puzzles/quests allow an evolving world that responds to the players efforts at inductive problem solving and going out and finding the solutions.
edited by MrChapeau on 7/13/2014
edited by MrChapeau on 7/13/2014

I think I’m getting a clearer idea of what you’re saying now. But again I still those effects are still too far reaching for Sunless Sea. After all not everything is complete yet but from the hints I see in the game your character does have influence in th fate of the Zee but it’s more like he’s the unwitting cog that is the final piece in events and plans already who knows how many years in the making. Or like pawns to much larger forces.

The focus is more on the Captain writing their own story and not the story of the Underzee though obviously said captain might affect something here and there. Still I don’t think those are the focus of the game.

Still I might be wrong.

I think it’s more the difference between:

  1. Quest: deliver such and such number of slaves to port x during this and such difficult circumstances, and

  2. Hmm, I need this island to decide to do this, but currently they don’t want to. How do I get them to do it? Or this island is posing a serious problem to my ability to do X, and it’s because of something going on between them and another island. How do I get this situation to change?

They can be subtle changes, but the idea is that they connect to the unterzee beyond just one island, that they respond to the player’s actions in a real way, and that they involve higher-order problem solving.

The islands are connected in a way but not how I think you’re suggesting. Another thing is that none of the islands are completely unified wholes, there are all sorts of struggles and internal conflicts that having them each act like a unified whole messes with the setting.

It could just as easily apply to interests or persons on one island and their connection to interests or persons on another island.

Yeah that would be pretty awesome to see more of. Like the Deviless, the Sisters, and the like. ^^

They have to be very careful about what they change in Sunless Sea. The world of Sunless Sea is the same as that of Fallen London, so any major changes (there has already been at least one, which most of us likely know of by now but which I will refrain from spoiling all the same) will need to be accounted for in time. An accounting, as they say, is not to be postponed indefinitely.
That might make the kind of changes you’re suggesting nearly impossible.

For Sunless Sea it seems like these little changes amongst islands would mostly require quests and stories that require the player to have done or not done particular actions. Art assets, aside from one or two that are essential to the changes taking place on a particular island, would largely be unaffected.

Imagine a separated family. That doesn’t take a lot of art to allow for the player to reconcile them on one island, changing the kind of stories that this newly happy prominent family can talk to the player about.

Or imagine an island needs coal from another island and their power is nearly out except for absolute essentials, but the providing island can’t ship anymore because an oddly dense shroud/cloud has settled around their island which their ships lights cannot penetrate. Quests requiring the player to either a) seek out a penetrative light source or b) get rid of the shroud don’t necessarily require art assets that couldn’t be used for other purposes outside of the quest – characters and item art that shows up again elsewhere.

Mostly this shipping island, and any island that has its electricity turned back on, would be in an entirely different state, with newly active characters, concerns, and stories.

It seems like that might possibly not be impossible to implement amongst many of the islands at this point.
edited by MrChapeau on 7/13/2014
edited by MrChapeau on 7/13/2014
edited by MrChapeau on 7/13/2014

[color=#009900]We do have some of this planned and some even implemented; we won’t, I’m afraid, be taking it as far as SC2 for many of the reasons that folk in this thread have suggested.[/color]
[color=#009900]You might, for instance, wish to look closely at what happens to the Hunter’s Keep island graphic after certain dramatic events…[/color]

Thanks Alex, appreciated!