Thanks everyone for your insightful feedback (and for giving Iced Oolong a shot!) I’m glad so many of you seem to have enjoyed it. I’d like to post a few general responses and then get back to each of you specifically.
[ul][li]“Angel and Devil” was indeed mistakenly viewable at the very beginning of the game. The Quality used to control the Opening was “Far, Far From Home,” which disappears after the Opening and is replaced by a controller Quality called “Location.” Originally, “Angel and Devil” was visible as a universal card any time your Paladin and Man in Black Qualities were both 0. That made it visible during the first part of the Opening, which obviously didn’t work. Yesterday I added a third criteria: “Far, Far From Home” must be 0, which my weekend-fuzzed brain intended to mean ‘you must be done with the opening.’ Long story short, it now requires “Location” to be >=1 and <=100, restricting it to all normal Locations but excluding the Opening and special Locations I can’t talk about yet.
[/li][li]I was interested by the feedback about how linear/mechanics-heavy the Opening is. The Opening is intended to do several things: establish the setting, a general picture of the protagonist (more on that in the response to @crownoflaurel at the bottom), and the basic mechanics of the game (your Styles, your Orientation, how the game will progress.) From your feedback, it seems like we did a great job with the setting, a good job with the protagonist (again, see @crownoflaurel), and an iffy job on the mechanics. I expect we’ll reduce the number of Quality-based rolls. We’ll also likely spin out a couple of the odd one-shot branches – specifically the one which leads to the “Seer of Rabbits” Quality – onto their own Opportunity cards, and use that as a chance to introduce the Opportunity deck.
[/li][li]Thanks for catching the typos. It’s a lot of text to keep track of, and there’s no built-in spell- or grammar-check![/li][/ul]
- What do you mean by "First Taking Inventory - Repeats a lot of text between the two options. That feels like an edge that could be smoothed"? Do you mean that you would prefer three separate Storylets instead of one Storylet with hidden branches that emerge (and submerge) as you move forward?[/li][li]“Burrow and Briar: I took the option to look at the Rabbit. Then the content seems to repeat?” The content doesn’t repeat; the option to look at the rabbit is a one-off and becomes unavailable after you’ve tried it. We’ll likely spin this onto its own Opportunity card as per above.[/li][li]"Overall I’d say that there being so much linear content this early on, you’re creating an expectation for me as a player/reader, that this is how the game will be." This is a really interesting comment. It tells me that we might be succeeding too well at one of our design choices – namely, to create a more linear and less “sandboxy” game. I think your feedback comes down to genre expectations. Echo Bazaar does a great job of letting players be anyone and do everything. That’s part of its charm: you get to inhale the full awful vaporous smell of Fallen London. Iced Oolong, on the other hand, is a game about choice. And fundamentally, choices need to have consequences – at the most basic level, doing X means not doing Y. Iced Oolong is much less of a sandbox than Fallen London. It will definitely feel more linear than Fallen London. It will also be much less linear than the Opening, which needs to accomplish a bunch of things in 20 Actions or less. I think your concerns about linearity might be a function of how short the Opening is. If our first content drop were implemented, I think you’d find the game much roomier. But we’ll see! I look forward to hearing back from you once our first content is implemented and you have a chance to play it.
- I’m so glad you enjoyed our game! My father was a big fan of Westerns, so I think I’ve been on a collision course with this story for a long time. I read the Dark Tower series when I was much younger and enjoyed it a lot. It’s certainly one of my inspirations (and, I think, one of my teams’ in general.) You may notice that all of the Styles and Orientations are homages to different Western classics. “Gunslinger” is ubiquitous, of course, but I was thinking of the first Dark Tower book when I named it. Same with one of the Orientations. Stephen King was probably drawing on the same inspirations that we are, though. The Dark Tower is a great send-up of the whole genre, and we’re trying to accomplish a similar thing here (although with different goals and a very different end).[/li][li]Norte isn’t a misspelling. NorteAmerica is the contemporary buzzword for everything up north where the monsters aren’t. Up norte is code for “where those sissy northerners are hiding behind their Wall and not worrying about their kids and livestock getting et.”
- Good catches all! Thanks for the close attention!
“The writing is fantastic.” Thanks. ;)[/li][li]“I don’t like westerns that much, [but] the supernatural elements look promising.” One of the great things about playing with genres is that you can mix and match. On the one hand, Iced Oolong has clear bona fides as a Western. On the other hand, we’re aiming to do something a little more inventive than a straight send-up of Louis L’Amour. Westerns are a great genre if you’re interested in examining what it means – and what it costs – to make a choice. Or to make lots and lots of choices. Especially without perfect information, or without even good information. [/li][li]"However, I’m a bit annoyed by how there are so many stat challenges in the tutorial…" I may change all of the Challenges in the Opening to be 100% to succeed. I want people to have the chance to play with their Qualities, but I think you’re right that it forces players into unrewarding roll-of-the-dice situations.[/li][li]“I don’t actually like karma meters – I feel they’re restrictive, separate morality into black and white, and can arbitrarily moralize actions.” I’m with you. Completely, 100% with you. Morality gauges suck because the world isn’t black and white. That’s a big part of why we included the Orientation scale. Paladin isn’t good and Man in Black isn’t evil. They’re not even nice and mean. Originally, the two sides of the scale were called Rights and Results. We ditched those names because they’re as flavorful as day-old gum, but we kept the ideas. Paladin measures how interested you are in peoples’ rights – put it another way, Paladin measures the degree to which you care about the means to your goal. Man in Black measures how much you’re interested in outcomes at the expense of peoples’ rights – put another way, Man in Black measures how much you don’t care about the means and do care about the ends. I hope that helps clarify things.
- Thanks so much for your feedback! Really helpful, in-depth reactions. A few specific replies:[/li][li]“There’s a lot of text. I don’t mind, but I can see it being a little heavy for some. And I’m not getting the references, so they’re doing nothing for me.” Were there specific references that threw you? As for the amount of text: it will decline a bit as you get out of the Opening. That said, anyone for whom text is not their cup of tea should likely look elsewhere. Not that we aren’t happy to have them! I’m just not sure how much they’ll like Iced Oolong. (We’re hoping lots, but who can say?)[/li][li]I think you’re right that the choice not to follow Warren initially leads to some weaker situations. I hope to expand those a little as we go along.[/li][li]I think you’re also right about “The Rules of the Game” being unnecessary for most gamers. That said, I think that while players like you are our core audience, they (hopefully!) aren’t the whole audience. I think this is one of those situations where a little stumbling-block for advanced players is worth it to encourage the more casual crowd.[/li][li]"Yeah again my charrie’s doing something I wouldn’t have them do; I’m not drinking bad alcohol. Why would I?" I’m not sure what to make of this. It might be bad design work on our end. On the other hand, I think most players will eventually bump up against “I wouldn’t do that!” in StoryNexus games. Did you have this experience in Fallen London, too
I’d also like to take @crownoflaurel’s feedback as a chance to address our protagonist. Specifically, @crownoflaurel wrote: "I’d advise giving the option to be a woman too."
The short answer is no – an understanding, I-see-where-you’re-coming-from no.
The long answer has to do with genre expectations and what Iced Oolong is doing.
Fallen London created a genre or a sub-genre all by itself. One of its best features is your ability to play anything – a man, a woman, a something, a golem – and to do anything. In Fallen London, you can do everything! You can be a master thief and a renowned scholar and a scrappy brawler and a Pawn in a Certain Game and probably a beekeeper and… and… the list goes on seemingly forever. With few exceptions, characters in Fallen London can have it all. Fallen London is a sandbox, and the fun of sandboxes is that you can build anything your heart desires.
Iced Oolong is a different kind of game. You can’t play anyone. Your character is the Protagonist. He comes complete with a past (which he can’t remember) and a name (ditto) and a sex and a gender and a strange intense interest in gunpowder-stained fingertips. You can’t play a woman in Iced Oolong for the same reason you can’t play a Martian astronaut in Fallen London: even sandboxes have rules. Those rules enable the game. In a real sandbox, the rule is that you get a box and a lot of sand and some water and maybe a pail and scoop and have at. You probably don’t get architectural drawings and you certainly don’t get self-replicating self-building super-sand. In Fallen London, the rule is that you can be anyone you want – as long as that person exists in the Fallen London universe and not a Heinlein novel. In Iced Oolong, the rule is that you get to play the Protagonist from the moment the game starts until it ends, and nobody else*.
That’s what I mean about genre expectations: you probably came into Iced Oolong expecting a sandbox, because that’s the genre so far – but what you got was closer to a traditional RPG or a novel.
Iced Oolong is all about choices. And choices need to have structure and consequences. We think the best way to make consequences have meaning is to clearly define their scope. One way we’re defining the scope is by limiting the player to the Protagonist. Think about it like this: is the decision to buy a $1000 cheeseburger more meaningful to you or to Mitt Romney? The odds are really, really good that it’s more meaningful to you, because Mitt Romney can afford a $1000 cheeseburger and you probably can’t. Or shouldn’t. (Although if you can, good on you!)
I hope that helps answer your question. We aren’t restricting your character options because we don’t want to write extra material or because we don’t want to write about women. We’re doing it because we think it will make a much better, more meaningful game.
- Exception: we have a number of side-stories planned that you can unlock with Nex. All of these stories are nonessential; hopefully they’ll also be fun to play and stimulating to read. Many of these side-stories will allow you to play as other characters and experience the events of the main story from other perspectives. Some of those other characters will be women. (If they weren’t, I’m positive the female contingent of our writing staff would thump me, and thump me, and never stop thumping.)