RE: James Recommends - Fast travel

I tend to agree with the sentiments of James in the James’ Recommends video that ExtraCredits recently released. However I don’t feel like fast travel in the traditional sense works in this case (plus fast travel seems like a design cop out). (link to the video)James Recommends - Sunless Sea - Gothic Horror Aboard a Steampunk Victorian Ship - YouTube

I love the game, world, and writing of Sunless Sea to death, I haven’t been immersed in a world this deep and interesting in a very long time. However the major drawback for me is that fact that going from point A to B in the game takes so long. I sincerely enjoy exploring uncharted waters but once I’ve found the lion’s share of cities, the game is a lot of waiting where I feel that urge to alt-tab while I trundle along, breaking my immersion in the game. The added weather/environmental effects add a nice touch, forcing me to avoid winter storms that slow my progress, and innately I derive a lot of enjoyment from finding optimal paths to get from one city to the next, or knowing which port to enter when and for what reason(port report/fuel/items etc). I feel like the speed of the ship is appropriate, after having a 2500 engine power ship and dying going back to the starter engine felt like a snail which is good. The enemy encounters are enjoyable and difficult, getting to choose whether I risk damage for rewards or skirting a big enemy with my light out, is interesting and fun. But there needs to be a bit more intrigue/events in the down time between ports.

I tend to think random open-water encounters might spice up the doldrums of sailing through the blackness. Encountering fellow zee-captains who’ve run out of fuel, do I risk helping them, or is it a trap? Or a siren’s songs, does it lead me to a tempest or to treasure. A light from lighthouse, I don’t remember there being one out here…then a giant angler fish chases you. These kind of simple distractions would add a lot to the traveling process without the need to a cheap, you’ve discovered X island now you can warp there, kind of fast travel. The world is rich but in many ways the sea is a bit empty.
edited by windwalk19 on 3/6/2015

Once you get the fulgent impeller and an avid suppressor the game proceeds at a much more reasonable rate, really.

I don’t particularly think fast travel in the like, Skyrim sense would help the game at all though.

[quote=WormApotheote]Once you get the fulgent impeller and an avid suppressor the game proceeds at a much more reasonable rate, really.

I don’t particularly think fast travel in the like, Skyrim sense would help the game at all though.[/quote]

I don’t think fast travel would help it either, as I said. More or less just voiced my opinion on what I thought was a low side to my game experience and what I thought could help, since the problem isn’t really getting to the destination faster, it is making the journey to the destination a bit more eventful.

While I agree with Worm, I’d say there is a problem in that it takes getting the BEST engine in the game combined with easily the best Aft item to make the travel times bearable.

Getting the Fulgent Impeller is a long, involved process of a great many difficult steps. You’re not getting it easily nor early, and is only a great late-game boon.

The bigger issue brought up by Portnoy in my mind isn’t the lack of Fast Travel - that’s a quick-fix solution that designers insert when they can’t balance out other travel aspects of their games - it’s that upgrading engines doesn’t feel worth it in a sense of speed or progression along the path to the Impeller. The complaint is one I’ve seen a lot - the player wants to move faster as they progress in the game, but investing in &quotbetter&quot engines doesn’t grant them the feel of moving faster, so it doesn’t feel worth their time, effort, or echoes to do so, which is highly frustrating. Hence, &quotwhy not fast travel as an option?&quot as a potential compromise.

Part of the issue is that the base rate of travel is so monumentally slow, that the progressive steps toward higher speeds don’t feel like much of a progression. Yeah, you are going faster, but it’s hardly noticeable to the player in-game unless you go out and actually perform speed tests using repeatable methods. On top of that, the rate of fuel consumption goes up so high on the engines that AREN’T the impeller (since it has that wonderful efficiency bonus) that the slight increase of speed hardly feels worth the massive increase in consumption.

The solution I’ve proposed elsewhere is radical, and pretty untenable for the game in its post-release state, but it would work:

Increase the speed of the engines as you upgrade them (the Serpentine should be moving as fast as the Impeller does now, and the Impeller should be moving at double the rate of the current standard), but in order to preserve game balance, increase the size of the sea itself to compensate.

The problem with merely increasing speed is that it would make the game feel too small too quickly. When you have the Impeller, you can jet around the map really fast, and you can basically stop worrying so much about food or terror, as your voyages complete before they can really build up too much as concerns. This is fine for the Impeller itself, as it’s a grand reward for pursuing a huge, difficult, and costly quest chain. But if an 1800 engine power engine were to move at a similar rate, the effect would be the same, only much earlier, and break the mid-game balance.

The only way to increase speed while preserving balance on food and terror and keep them as concerns for most of the game would be to increase the distance the player must actually travel.

This could be done in a number of ways. The size of the map could be enlarged relative to the size of the ships and monsters. However, this would throw off the scaling on the art in a number of instances (such as seeing the docked ships in most ports, which are generally to scale or near enough to the player’s ships), and make everything look wonky. More over, the size of most of the islands themselves just feels correct in the current game, so it would be aesthetically detrimental to simply increase the scale on everything.

The less obvious, but better solution would be to increase the size of the &quotsectors&quot the game’s tiles are made of, but not to increase the size of the landmasses and islands themselves - effectively increasing the size of the sea (the space between everything) only. This would require some additional art on the coastlines to make up for gaps that would then occur, but other than that, it would be low cost in terms of art requirements.

The other issue of course with this idea is risk of implementation versus reward of implementation - it would take a lot of work to do any of this, and the question is whether or not it would be worth it from a development perspective. After all, if the complaint is really that players don’t feel that buying engines gives enough benefit, wouldn’t it just be easier to either just ignore the complaint, or rebalance the engines to remove the complaint - such as by making them cost less?

I think it would be a worthy application of the developer’s time, for the long term viability of the game at least. A larger world to sail in would feel more epic and vast and scary, and convey more of the intended tone of the game. It would remove this complaint and improve the general flow of the game’s progression, as well as granting more room to maneuver in combat encounters. There are a number of benefits.

However, I’m not working on the game with such a small team, so I probably don’t have a full enough picture to realistically assess the cost of such a measure.

I can’t disagree with anything the OP said. It’s certainly true that long zee journeys can be a bit boring. It’s probably my least favorite thing about the game. However, I also think that &quotfast travel&quot isn’t the solution. Adding more events - more fights, more choices, more interactions, more storylets - would be my preference. I’d love to have wandering neutral merchant ships that you can &quotdock&quot with an exchange goods and zee-stories, plots that start at zee, and as the OP said, opportunities to risk fuel and supplies (or terror and crew) for potential gain. I know why &quotfast travel&quot isn’t likely in this game - because the zee is meant to be a character, not just a location, and the game is structures so that you have to interact with this character. I just want more opportunities to do that in more interesting ways.

Indeed. When at zee in FL itself you encounter other vessels in varying circumstances, so it would makes sense to have them in Sunless Sea too.

You don’t need both the Impeller and the Avid Suppressor, only one or the other. In fact you probably shouldn’t pair them, since Full Power seems to ignore efficiency.
edited by Olorin on 3/6/2015

Everything discussed has some merit, but I’m surprised no one has brought up the suggestion I’ve seen before to simply allow the player to increase the game speed. Maybe hitting a key would speed it up incrementally to 2x or 3x the current rate, and another would reduce it at the same rate.

Granted, this diminishes the atmosphere a little bit. Perhaps you’d require that a percentage of ports be discovered first, or impose some other requirement. But I’m not sure you’d even need to, since the dangers inherent in speeding up time that much without paying close attention, especially in the starter ship, should be sufficient control in my mind.

Since the balance is pretty good as far as consumption rates and combat challenges, etc. are concerned, I see it as inadvisable to muck around with those in the name of reducing boredom. Sure, further random events and such would be a nice way to mitigate the issue (I agree that Fast Travel seems lame), but if the problem is that people alt-tab away for a while and don’t pay attention because it’s boring, why not just let them move time more briskly to have the same effect, but without the interruption?

(I’ll return with some thoughts of my own later on, but for now, I have to pop out!)

I haven’t ever advanced any of the major story arcs more than halfway (!) but I have repeatedly found all of the ports there are to find, and I kinda like this proposal, because I feel like the map is actually too small right now. And I resent the tiles with no ports in them.

If the map were 12x12 instead of 6x6, and there were four times as many tiles as there are now, and all of those tiles had islands with ports and storylines in them, that would be awesome! But that would also mean FB would have to write three more sets of storylines each the size of the existing game ::

I don’t see a need for this personally, I enjoy the traveling as I can play in window mode and watch some shows as I play.

Possibly a toggle down in an options menue, let people optionally overclock the entire game on a slider? (with a warning?)

(I’ll return with some thoughts of my own later on, but for now, I have to pop out!)[/quote]

Fast Travel? If this would be Elite, okay then. Wouldn’t really want to take a week in real-time to get to the next port from the outskirts…

Well, luckily this is not Elite. With the slowest engine it still takes not even half an hour to cross the entire world

Fast Travel? [i]Really…

[Edit: Spaces.]
edited by Reshemin on 3/7/2015

I don’t think speeding up the game or enabling a quick travel is a solution. I think it breaks the atmosphere the game is trying to shoot for. Now I do think they need to rework engines to make them more useful, but this doesn’t overly feel like a solution to me.

What others have suggested in making your time at Zee more meaningful however? That actually does strike me as a way to make your time at Zee fly by quicker. Including actual Neutral Vessels you can dock with and interact with being a thing. Maybe tie some small stories or quests to a few of these ships to make them interesting.

Throw in more random events (That aren’t tied to the terror meter.) Like. Have cutaways where a Drownie asks for something in your hold claiming that in life it was once his. Or maybe you come across a life raft and need to decide if you want to take them on or not? Maybe that NPC Vessel you docked with has it’s crew riddled with the Plague? Leaving you with the option to try and treat it, leave them be or burn them?

Maybe implement the pirating stuff? (Special Equipment for a Flag Slot that gives you a pirate flag and allows you to raid neutral vessels? Hell a Flag Slot that sorta operates like Tattoo’s in FL would be pretty cool. Maybe make them quest items or tie to Supremacy!)

I really think that the best way to make time fly by faster while at Zee is to increase the things you can actually do at Zee.
As it stands the only thing you do right now is Terror related special events that are few and far between and fighting hostile ships and zee monsters as you travel from Port to Port.

I like the idea of many many more random event cards. There are some amazing flavour events with a teeny chance of ever being seen. Many more of those, so that you see one or two per trip, would be great.

[quote=MisterGone]While I agree with Worm, I’d say there is a problem in that it takes getting the BEST engine in the game combined with easily the best Aft item to make the travel times bearable.


You don’t really need both though. That’s mostly hyperbole. The avid suppressor and a slightly upgraded store engine is probably enough.

Really the problem is the attempt to have a slow paced game badly conflicts with the fact that the game more or less encourages you to replay the early game like 200 times.

I’m not seeing the problem with the speed, and going to the Elite problem, having that time dilation effect just means you play the game on fast forwards, you might as well just have it as a text based browser game where you go from one port to the next trading and not bothering with the point of the game, which is the journey, not the arrival…

I’m all for this and I really like the random event cards, but there need to be better triggers on these rather than what is currently in the game, which seems to just be &quotrandom chance on ‘tick’ of the game&quot.

That’s truly random, and I suppose that there’s an element that’s nice about that, but it leads to all sorts of awkward and annoying interruptions, like having to calm your sailors freaking out over a shift in the false stars while in the middle of combat.

Also, while thinking on this, I realized it was also to prevent SAY abuse . . .

Basically, the game would need to measure a different factor than it does now - distance, not time.

If it tracked distance as a trigger, and ideally if it also tracked position from available docking ports, you could have these events occur during lulls in the sea when nothing much is going on and you’re in the midst of travel - which seems to be the primary point of these random event cards. Especially if you put in a safeguard of disallowing their trigger when combat mode is initiated and for a small buffer afterward.

This would just improve the flow of these cards being distributed, and at the same time it could be used to trigger SAY in a way that seems more for suited to the intent of the notion.

SAY is theoretically about showing slight shifts that happen on land while you’re away at sea, and allowing novel experiences to occur while in port. But since it only measures time to replenish, it can be abused by just hanging out in(or near) port and waiting out the timer (which is easy and low effort). If you had to travel a certain distance before SAY filled, and if this only began filling once a certain distance away from any dockable ports, then abusing SAY would be still be possible (because there’s always a way to exploit a system), but involve players moving a bit out from ports and sailing in circles, which would use up fuel and make the player feel like a dolt (ideally encouraging people to just play that game and move around the map as intended).

Oh, and if distance is the trigger for SAY? Then it doesn’t matter how fast your engines are or aren’t. If you head in the same direction, you’ll get a SAY at the same position away from London in the worst or best engine in the game, so no more of the late game &quotI got here too fast for SAY to reset&quot.

But distance and position tracking as triggering mechanisms . . . that’s how you make random event cards shine better. As well as a check on whether or not the player has recently seen the same event (because I’ve run into the dang. the &quotprow light sparks&quot event three times in a row at one point). Of course, more events are always better as well, naturally.
edited by MisterGone on 3/8/2015

With regards to SAY, the only way I see it working to prevent farming is to have each port only refresh it’s SAY after a certain amount spent away from that port specifically, and that amount not to be a short amount of time, so rather than the minute it presently takes (which encourages farming to be fair), say that all ports take twenty minutes to refresh their SAY from the last time you visited there. Having it dependant on getting a certain distance would have people running a route between useful ports to collect SAY in the same way, whereas keeping it time dependant would ensure that they didn’t immediately go back there and unless someone is specifically watching the clock to go back, would make farming far less likely.

The other thing I’d change about SAY is that quest items should never be dependant on it, because that encourages farming as well (I’ve done it outside the Khanate for violant ink), there should always be a way to complete quests without having to resort to grinding.

I can’t imagine fast travel :| … like, yeah most of the interactions are in the island, but the slow, silent travel at the sea actually what immerse us on how small our ship and how lonely and dangerous the sea is >.< …