Roguelikes, recursive games, and metaqualities

I’ve been thinking about my game, and how I will handle the mechanics of it, specifically death. The tone is going to be much more serious than something like Fallen London, and I want death to be permanent, but also satisfying, in a way. The best way I can think of to do this is a roguelike* game. For instance, if you die heroically holding off the invading army to give your buddies time to escape, your next character (who chose a completely different path) can meet those buddies later because they are still alive (since your last character saved them). In this way, players can be rewarded for dying well without having to fear dying and losing all of their progress (since dying is a form of progress).

I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to implement this with StoryNexus, but I’ve been reading the reference guide (I’m not in the closed beta) and they make mention of metaqualities. Now, it says right in the guide that metaqualities are not going to be handed out by the majority of Nexus worlds, to implement a roguelike in this manner would require at least a dozen anyway, and I’m sure nobody wants that kind of potential clutter across every game because of a single game. But what this tells me is that a system is in place that could, potentially, allow me to create such a roguelike game.

So my question is (to either devs or current world builders), is there a way to give a player a certain quality upon [game_end_effect] that will carry over to their next playthrough?

I suppose if there isn’t, I can always just, upon “death”, strip them of all their qualities but the pseudo-metaqualities I give them, but this would reduce my ability to have actual [game_end_effect]s and would be a nightmare to maintain and update, so I’m hoping for a more elegant solution.

*Roguelikes are games where death is frequent, expected, and permanent. However, depending on how you died in-game, and what goals you achieved before you died, you get bonuses/special abilities/items when you start over.

[GAME_END_EFFECT] is always a permanent end that completely erases your player characters from the database for SN, so you want to avoid using that but it is entirely possible to achieve this. That being said, I feel like the best way for you to achieve this in your game is to create a carousel* design for your content or something very similar. Using that pattern, you will be able to have your characters complete one ark of the story in a certain way, which ends in “killing” their character (per your text), striping them of the qualities you don’t want them to carry over while at the same time giving them the quality/qualities that unlock additional/completely different content. You don’t need a [GAME_END_EFFECT] to effectively make your characters feel like they died, just a well built storylet.

While the NAME your players enter when they first start playing will always be the same (unless they change it, which FBG just added), that does not bar you from writing a storylet that players circle back to, either with you giving them the “a Stranger” quality again or simply by having a single option for the “a Stranger” quality that gives your players a gateway* quality. In this stroylet, players can choose to be either a particular named character, which opens up all kinds of neat things for you like echoing the name back in your storylets (which is mentioned in the reference guide under Quality Naming), or a particular type of character with individual arks for each choice. Now, on to a practical example to help alleviate the more than likely confusion.

First of all, my entire game is built exactly like this with the small difference being that it is my WHOLE game, not smaller sections so you may want to copy the link in my signature. Secondly, an example with your ideas:

A Stranger (starting quality for everyone)–> Azuaron (the name players choose)–> Goes to a tavern–> Meets amazing people → Tavern is attacked by Bandits → Azuaron sacrifices themselves so said amazing people can survive–> Gives Martyr quality and A Stranger–> Jason (A different name players choose)–> Goes to a castle–> Masters Magic–> Runs into amazing people from before (unlocked with Martyr quality)–>Becomes Evil Warlord–> Jason is killed by his son so he can take Jasons’ place–> Gives Revenge quality in addition to Martyr and A Stranger–> Shirley (Yet another name players choose)

And so on and so forth for as long as you want to carry it out. Now, this is quite a feat from a design perspective but anything can be achieved if you set your mind to it and as I said it may be the most helpful to see how my game down below is set up.

*I get these terms from which is a very handy tool indeed
edited by Kitsune on 9/22/2012

Yeah, that’s what I was thinking I could do, but it will reduce my ability to have branching and replayability (you’re basically describing a Grandfather Clock with a Carousel for the minute and a Simple Chain for the hour [I spent this morning reading the ref guide and wiki]). I suppose what I want is more a Carousel with a Carousel in the Grandfather Clock, which is still certainly doable (and sounds like what you’re doing with your game, which I’m about to check out), but my main worry is about maintenance and expansion, though that may be alleviated when I actually start using the tools.

Basically, if there are, say, 12 qualities in the game, I’m going to have to reset all of those qualities for every event where a character dies. But, say, as I add content, I add three more qualities. Then I’ll have to find each death event and add those three qualities to it for removal so players don’t start with Bag of Coins 6 or Getting to Know the Governor 4 after dying.

Although, now that I’m thinking about it more, I should just have death be a two stage process governed by something like a Death quality, i.e., Player heroically fends off bandits and dies, Death set to 1, Heroic Savior set to 1 (pseudo-metaquality), and Death 1 then automatically kicks off the death storylet, and I just have to keep track of all the qualities to remove there.

Now I’ll just have to think of “ultimate” win/lose conditions so that the game legitimately ends (and I can enter my story into World of the Season competitions ;) ).

Yeah any maintenance is going to be a challenge, especially if you have a large game, and even more so if you are alone. If you kick off a death storylet, you could even make it a short arc with certain qualities being erased at each step, if that would make it easier for you. That way if you add more qualities in later, you just have to add an additional step that erases those. Also, from a design perspective, if you add tags to your cards it organizes them on the design page. I have a tag for each day which are the cards that move the story, a certain tag for the quality building opportunities each day, and a tag for the endings, to name a few. So if you create a tag for all the death storylets, you can go back and find them really easily.
edited by Kitsune on 9/23/2012

Azuron, note that you don’t need a mechanical Game_End_Effect to enter WotS, only a suitable end point. Consider putting a temporary ‘This is the end of the demo’ barrier after the first dungeon or first few levels or whatever.

Well, with a good recursion, there isn’t an “end” so much as “I’ve done all the things, so I’ll stop playing now.” I’ll probably have an option at death like, “Rest. Your work here is done. (WARNING: will delete everything).” Then players can choose where their end is.

I’ve been thinking about character death and how it effects the rights and wrongs of payment. Turns out metaqualities could be part of the solution.

In City of Phire perma-death is, while not exactly common, a distinct possibility. I’m strongly considering including semi-permanent handicaps earned if your menaces get too high. Both death and handicap will be clearly sign-posted.

CoP will also have paid content (extra dungeons, storylines etc) and paid escapes from menace states (eg, dying). This throws up the likelihood of a player who’s spent an amount of money on the game losing their character and their progress in what they might consider to be unfair circumstances.

There is not much that can be done about money spent on avoiding menaces, but unlocked content could be recorded with metaqualities.

Does anyone see a flaw in my thinking, or a way that would be abused?

Mightn’t you wind up with a scenario where a player has spent money on extra content, died, and now feels like “What, seriously? I have to PAY MORE or I’ll lose all that content I ALREADY paid for?!”

Think of it like a console game. Imagine if you died and had to buy DLC, or the game deleted your entire save file. Feels sort of extortionist.

Why not just add some kind of penalty quality for coming back from death? Like every time you hit the “return from death” button, your “UGLY ZOMBIE” quality goes up by 1. The higher it gets, the more it makes certain challenges difficult. You can pay it down via in-game feats or items or currency … or, yeah, if you’re lazy, you can pay it down with real-world money as a last resort.

To my mind, failure should never (or not often) result in straight-up punishment. And certainly not a monetary punishment. It should result in either instruction, improvement, or something interesting and unexpected happening.
edited by Brandon Carbaugh on 10/18/2012

@Lily: you might want to check out the updated wording on metaqualities in the reference docs:

It doesn’t seem like metaqualities would work for what you’re trying to do.

My suggestion: mosey over to the Suggestions thread and +1 the post I made about persistent qualities that exist for that world only across characters.

I didn’t make clear: death is always avoidable by taking time and spending actions in states like ‘dying’. You never HAVE to spend real world money to return your character to life, but some players will prefer to expedite that return with Nex.

What I’m suggesting is that, even IF a player chooses to end their character forever, they will not have to pay again for the additional locations and stories they already purchased.

EDIT: Ninja’d by Gordon. Ah. I’d forgotten that. And I will +1 that if I haven’t already.
edited by lily on 10/18/2012

Well, if you do a game_end_effect, it deletes everything from the server database. As was mentioned before somewhere, and the impressions I am getting about Nex-Locked content, they are all designed to be one shot stories that people have to pay to access again. I haven’t payed for anything in FL, and don’t think I will anytime soon, but I think it all really boils down to players paying for a specific quality to be given to them, or taken away from them.

You are able to replay the descent to Flute Street without further nex payments. Quite possibly I misinterpret what you wrote.
As for Game end effects removing these nex-qualities, that’s probably true. You can make something appear like a Game end effect without it being one, though.

Yeah that’s what I do in Syn, to a certain extent. I am carrying over from what I thought I read elsewhere, where Nex-locked stuff charges the player every time in order to go through again.