On London, Secrets, and Lore

As has been widely reported, there is an &quoteaster egg&quot in the latest Exceptional Story. I’ll save the debate as to whether or not it actually qualifies as one for another time. For now, what I want to talk about is that the storylet that leads into it contains this phrase.

Requests like this in Fallen London are extremely rare. The only other instances I’m aware of are Ambition: Enigma and the end of Seeking Mr. Eaten’s Name. I’ll be blunt. While it’s certainly within Failbetter’s right to make requests like this, I don’t think this request should be here.

The fact that requests like this work at all is a testament to the community. In any other game I would expect a full guide to Ambition: Enigma and a document with all the Seeking endings to appear right at the top of search results and I think that the reason they work is simple. In keeping these secrets we are preserving something for the other members of the community.

You can find all the text buried behind Ambition: Enigma’s wall of secrecy echoed on various mantelpieces throughout the Neath. But you will pry the secrets of how to get there from my cold dead hands. We don’t talk about Ambition: Enigma because all the joy it has to offer comes from finding and solving its puzzles. The wall of secrecy doesn’t protect hidden lore. It preserves the experience of the hunt for others. There’s a reason the item I’m most proud of is that eggshell sitting on my mantelpiece.

The Seeking Mr. Eaten’s Name endings are slightly more complicated. Here, there is hidden lore buried behind the veil of secrecy. But it’s not the lore that’s being protected. Seeking is a spiral of obsession and self-destruction in pursuit of a mystery. The farther you fall the more layers you peel back. I haven’t crossed the threshold yet but I do have a character teetering on the brink; trapped between the pull of the unknown and fear of the finality of the price. I could just turn back here and if I already knew what was behind that veil, or even if I felt I could still learn it from others after turning back, this would be an easy choice to make. Here, preserving the secret means preserving this core Seeking experience for everyone else.

So what is this latest veil of secrecy protecting? What makes this different from the bad choices you make in things like &quotThe Gift&quot or &quotFlint&quot or &quotSecrets Framed in Gold&quot? Why is there more secrecy here than there is for anything else in the story, or any other fate locked story, or things like the Passion destiny? Frankly, I don’t think we’re protecting some special experience for the rest of the community. All we have here is secret lore, and that’s no fun.

Lore collection in Fallen London (at least, at the community level) is a very collaborative experience. Fallen London lore is deep and detailed, but also scattered and mysterious. Hints are dropped everywhere, but there can be a separation of months or years between seeing two related hints. Being able to share what you’ve found with the community and working together to put together the pieces and build a fuller picture is all part of the fun. Lore locked behind a veil of secrecy flies in the face of that. It isolates you and isolation without purpose is just frustrating.

I think the broader point I’m trying to make here is that these requests for secrecy need to be used sparingly and for the right reasons. They’ve worked so far, but if they become common and all they’re protecting is the knowing of things they’ll lose their power. And I don’t want to see that happen because there are some secrets in this game worth preserving.

(Note: Please don’t PM me with request to know what’s being hidden. While I may not agree with this secrecy request, I intend to honor it.)
edited by An Individual on 8/26/2016

I have weird feelings about this too, but in this case I think what was mismanaged was the announcement of the &quoteaster egg&quot and calling it an easter egg to begin with. I stumbled across the secret without knowing there was a secret at all, and the plea for secrecy took me by surprise. I read the following with great interest, puzzlement and not without some confusion as to why this should remain &quotstrictly secret&quot.

But what has divided the community in this way, I think, is the public announcement that there is something to be found, and the private, player-to-player plea to keep the whole thing secret. They appear to advocate different approaches. A public announcement of puzzles to be solved will necessarily start a public effort to solve them (at least in a fabulous community like this one). The secrecy plea asks the opposite, that each individual’s discoveries be kept to themselves, and even in its wording implies that they would prefer the method of obtaining said secret to remain secret too.

I realise that as someone who found it under my own steam, without realising there was anything to be found, I am in an uncommon position, in that by finding something secret I did not know existed, I felt a sense of achievement. Had I known it was there and not found it, I would likely think differently - like I’m missing out. The suggestion of an &quoteaster egg&quot by the FBG Twitter perpetuates this feeling of &quotmissing out&quot for people who play the story as it is meant to be played, by suggesting something extra, fun and perhaps even somewhat meta exists out of their reach. This kind of thing is something that I’m sure most of the community would very much like to see, but this is assuredly not what is hidden in the ES. I expect many people hunting for an &quoteaster egg&quot will be surprised - perhaps even unpleasantly - by what they find, should they find it.

The &quothidden lore&quot aspect is something I haven’t quite formed a stance on. Obviously it is not possible, realistically, for one player to find out all of the deep lore within the game, and this is a positive thing in my eyes. Obviously everyone wants to know as much they can. But in instances where obtaining information requires above-and-beyond thinking or gameplay efforts (not that this is necessarily that much of a puzzle to figure out) I can understand both player and dev reasons for wanting to keep this text secret. In a game that lives and dies by its text, honestly I am fairly surprised that we as a community are allowed to swap, reveal and compare our records as freely as we are.

I personally don’t mind the secrecy plea, I don’t think, but I do think as a whole its existence was mismanaged. And you’re right, the treatment and implementation of these &quotbig secrets&quot does need to be sparing and justified lest either the community become disgruntled at being effectively &quotlocked out&quot from content, or, alternately, lest FBG’s pleas cease to hold any power and all the justifiably hidden secrets come tumbling out.

(This is just my two cents. Apologies for the slightly garbled nature of this post - I was writing as I thought. I hope it makes sense. I’ll come back and edit it if I have the time.)
edited by Barselaar on 8/26/2016

I wouldn’t quote feel like I was missing something if it was just “hey here’s an easter egg.” But the more discussion that comes from this, and the more people connect it to The Lore TM, the more it nags at the back of my mind. Seeking already nags at my mind as is, mostly because there are three endings and I can’t put the work into doing that thrice, but I am fully prepared to and am currently if slowly working towards that. Enigma I am similarly vexed by, but am also working towards and I’m told nearly there. But this, even now having an idea how to accomplish, would require waiting a bit just to pay money to redo this story and likely for little gain. Certainly doesn’t seem worth the extra secrecy so far.

The thing that bothers me the most is – I know I’ve witnessed something with profound lore implications, but I’m not well versed enough to figure out what, exactly, I’ve witnessed. And now I can’t discuss it with anyone.
edited by Televangelist on 8/26/2016

[quote=Robin Alexander][quote=Televangelist]The thing that bothers me the most is – I know I’ve witnessed something with profound lore implications, but I’m not well versed enough to figure out what, exactly, I’ve witnessed. And now I can’t discuss it with anyone.
edited by Televangelist on 8/26/2016[/quote]

Did you echo it?

If it’s in your journal, maybe someone else can read it and then discuss it with you by PM?

I don’t think that’d be breaking rules, as far as I can tell.[/quote]

I generally think that echoing isn’t in the spirit of the request, I certainly wouldn’t echo anything past the gate in SMEN, but we are all on our own honor and interpretation here. That said, I think discussion with other people who’ve seen the content through PM is fair game.

To those worried about missing out I’d generally say don’t worry. The air of mystery around this is far more interesting than the mystery itself.

One other thing that’s just kind of general interest is that we, as a community, seem to have decided not to talk about how to reach the content. But the request as worded only asks that you don’t reveal what happens after you’ve found it. This would suggest that the how is only a secret because we’ve decided it should be a secret.

I would say that the wording of the secrecy request - “as is true of what you have already done here” - suggests a desire to keep the method to the content secret as well, but you’re right, it’s definitely not as forceful and seems to have arisen in large part from the community.

I haven’t found the secret yet (both of my characters are totally frozen because it would tear me apart to move forward risking never finding out the secret) but I definitely think having missable content inside paid content, and not having any way for the community to share how to get it or what it was, is a definite misstep.

If this is interpreted as an abuse of the dev-player relationship (a way to convince people to pay real money to replay the content until they solve the mystery) then I could see it as losing the dev-player trust, and that would be far worse than revealing whatever the mystery might be…

Unless you’re a lore-hound who’s got a strong sense of even the more esoteric aspects of the FL universe, in which case IMHO you really, really don’t want to miss out on it.[/font][/color]
[color=rgb(194, 194, 194)]

Whatever their thought process was, I feel extremely confident it’s not that.
edited by Televangelist on 8/26/2016

I interpreted that differently: &quotwhether you keep it secret is on your conscience, and so is what you’ve already done [in the story].&quot

[quote=Tarantula]So you can echo things past the Gate?[/quote]Yes, at least one player has already done that.

[quote=Ian Hart][…] but I definitely think having missable content inside paid content, and not having any way for the community to share how to get it or what it was, is a definite misstep.[/quote]Totally agree with this. Hidden branches or secret content in ES are definitely not a good idea IMO. The size and importance of the secret doesn’t even matter, those who learn of its existence after playing the story will feel they missed out on something - and the only way to give it another try is to reset the (already paid-for) story by paying further money. No, I definitely don’t like it.

I didn’t know it came with this warning, and now I feel a little bad asking for an echo of it like several other people did.

But then, that sort of illustrates the problem of both announcing an “easter egg” and then asking that it be off-limits for discussion.

Unless you’re a lore-hound who’s got a strong sense of even the more esoteric aspects of the FL universe, in which case IMHO you really, really don’t want to miss out on it.[/font][/color][/quote]

Well I wish someone had told me that before I finished this month’s story. Honestly, if they’re going to discourage us from comparing notes, they need to at least tell us what kind of thing we should be looking for.

I have not yet started this month’s story, and, if someone is willing, could someone sendo me a PM with pointers to how to not miss it?
I mean, if anyone doesn’t think it goes against the secrecy of it all.

I disagree – I love that exceptional stories have secrets. I love that fallen London content in general holds out the possibility of the unknown, of the constant possibility that there is more hidden if only we knew how to find it. It’s the being unable to discuss any of it that I can’t stand.

A few thoughts on the alternate path in this ES, addressing the above:

  1. Making sense of it requires you to have played a specific previous Exceptional Story. I almost wish they’d hard gated the content based on whether you’d played it.

b) Hint for access: early on in the story, you are told that so long as you do a certain thing, all shall be well. If you don’t do that…

c) Simply echoing the content wouldn’t work for properly sharing it.
edited by Televangelist on 8/27/2016

There are hints in the first…5 or 6 pages of the Story’s own thread. For now the secrecy is being kept I believe. Even still, please let us try to keep this thread from becoming merely a place to request pms of it.

I’m a little irritated since I didn’t learn there was an Easter Egg until after playing through most of the story. Not everyone is monitoring the FBG Twitter. This is after playing through the ES very cautiously, performing and journaling every available action to not skip anything. Now I either have to miss out on the lore, pay for the same story again, or bother people on the forum until they share the secret. I think requests for secrecy are all well and good, if used sparingly, but probably not on things you can easily overlook and lock yourself out of.

From now on I’ll have to be more cautious when playing ES and consult the forum first, which is a little bit of a bummer. I’d rather jump into the story, make my own choices and plot my own course, then first consult other players for story enjoyment strategies and metagame to receive all the content.

Requests for secrecy don’t work well IMO in situations like this, where you may only choose one option, but only one is secret. It somewhat forces people who want to know everything into doing the secret option, even if against their character or usual playstyle. It’s especially a problem here where you can’t just do both on two different characters without paying twice.

It seems to me like the proper course here would have been no announcement of an easter egg, and also no prohibition on sharing.

When someone discovered it and mentioned it here, it would have been pretty hype! The pre-announcement of the easter egg, combined with no sharing of its content, simply wasn’t the best way to handle this.

I will say, having now done both with and without Easter Egg, that both are very different stories and you are absolutely “missing” some significant content either way. For those of you who missed it (or those of you who did it), you should at least think of it as a road not taken, rather than an opportunity missed.

Well… that’s incredibly frustrating. When I saw that there was an &quotEaster Egg&quot I assumed it was going to be a Bowie reference or something. I guessed (apparently correctly) how to find it, but didn’t think an &quotEaster Egg&quot would be worth the investment. The term itself means that its a trivial extra.

If it’s something relevant and important then having it 'locked and beyond sharing is infuriating. I don’t want to ask what the text was because, as a rule, I value FBGs boundaries on these things. In this case those boundaries appear misplaced.