Sunless Sea isn’t a trading game. Admittedly, it is very easy think that it is, but it really is not; the game even blatantly says you will be unlikely to make much profit from trading. Sunless Sea is about exploration & stories first and foremost. Improvements on trading is unlikely to even be a tertiary concern for the development team.[/quote]
Here’s the problem with this:
Architect: I am starting on a new project that will take inspiration from dog houses, but won’t be a dog house itself. I repeat: IT’S DEFINITELY NOT GOING TO BE A DOGHOUSE!
*Architect then proceeds to make a building that combines many different styles, but is 3 feet tall and only has an entrance 2 feet tall and a foot and a half wide.
Sunless Sea not only has every basic feature of a trading game - multiple locations with different sets of goods, different prices of these goods so profit margins can exist, and a progressive increase in profit per unit that favors larger cargo holds over time - trading is a solid way to make a profit as long as you stick to it. It’s also slow paced with a de-emphasis on combat, which most trading games are as well.
Sunless Sea is a trading game.
It looks like a trading game. It has all the basic features of a trading game. It’s a trading game.
This is despite the fact that FBG don’t want it to be a trading game, and have done as much as they can to diminish this aspect (hence the way port reports work and the weak profit margins).
So, why is it a trading game despite all the protests?
Because a trading game makes the best sense for the setting and theme.
Think about it. Sunless Sea really just needed a reason to get the player onto the sea, and the base activity didn’t need to be trading. It could have been fishing. It could have been the whaling. It could have been about naval combat in fleets. It could have been about piracy.
Most of these elements are present in SS, but to lesser degrees than the trading. Yeah, you can hunt zee monsters, but until the late game it’s not really worth it economically as early on you’re really only fighting monsters out of self defense, not profit. You’re not going to start as a whaler. Fishing isn’t in the game at all. Naval combat is in, but it doesn’t play like a naval combat game, and far more like a dog-fighting aerial combat game on a 2D plane (the difference being dimensions of combat factors - Air Combat dogfighting is inherently close range and so only has positioning and speed as factors, Naval combat traditionally has positioning, speed, and range as the three major factors). On top of that, there’s no way to join a fleet or participate in large scale battle, and the game is in no way made around that. Pirating is technically in the game, but has been balanced out in the current builds so that it’s near impossible.
Trading is the only real element present in the game that, even though it’s not great (because SS is a terrible Trading Game) is present and identifiable. Trading is also the most thematically appropriate manner to get the player out onto the Zee and checking into different ports. If the game were about any of the other aspects more, then port hopping, and thus, encountering different available stories and characters, would be de-emphasized.
That’s why no, SS is most definitely a trading game. It’s just a trading game that doesn’t want to be what it is. It’s a self-hating trading game.
Personally, while I understand that the point of SS is the story and all, I rather wish FBG didn’t feel the need to gimp one aspect of their game so much in order to create an emphasis on another. Because I feel that’s what’s happened.
They saw that there was a potential that people might play the game as a trading game, and wanted them to play it for ONLY the story. So they made trading terrible, and made the port report system a better economic choice (even though the main thing the Port Report system does - get players to visit different ports - could have been done through a more robust trading system as well). They didn’t want players to think on economic terms when going to new ports, and instead focus on exploration and story possibilities.
But the problem arises in the fact that they’ve also made such high cost ships and upgrades, and heavy maintenance costs for fuel and supplies, that there’s no way players CAN’T think of economic terms first and foremost. It’s really the maintenance costs on fuel and supplies that are the culprit here. In Fallen London, you never actually have to worry about a cost nibbling away at your progress, so you can focus on accumulation and story exclusively. In SS, the constant costs put tons of pressure on securing economic stability that you cannot truly focus on story and accumulation until you figure out how to stay afloat.
And this is fundamental. Because if they had REALLY wanted to make this "not a trading game" then they would have eliminated all the trade goods entirely. I mean, poof! Coffee’s gone. Wine’s gone. Parabola Linen’s gone. You’d also eliminate fuel and supplies and only have terror and hull to worry about. All you’d be doing is going from port to port and entering storylets for the sake of entering storylets. THAT would be a game that couldn’t be considered a trading game.
But then it would feel really weird. It would be like,"Why do I have this big ship? I’m not hauling cargo, I’m not collecting fish, and I’m not pirating or protecting the seas. What point is the ship? Why isn’t this just an expansion to Fallen London?"
So trading HAS to stay in the game. But since the desire is to promote players playing in the manner intended trading was made awful.
To me, this is a huge mistake. It’s choosing to deny one audience because you think that by appealing to them you’re somehow diminishing the audience you have. But that’s silly. SS could have an excellent economic game to it, and it wouldn’t at all affect the story aspects in a negative manner (it would require rebalancing, but pretty much every change to a game requires rebalancing). It wouldn’t be detrimental to be able to find success amongst people who want to play the game as a trading game and those who want to play it for its story, it would just be a bigger audience. Considering people who like trading games tend to like slow paced exploration, honestly, it’s an audience that fits with narrative lovers pretty well anyway.
But c’est la vie, so it goes, and all that jazz.
edited by MisterGone on 3/16/2015