Suggestion: Give Hearts an effect outside events

At the moment, there are five primary captain statistics:

  • Iron: Used in event challenges and increases the damage of your ship’s attacks.[/li][li]Pages: Used in event challenges and improves your fragment-to-secret conversion rate.[/li][li]Mirrors: Used in event challenges and reduces the time to get a firing solution.[/li][li]Veils: Used in event challenges and decreases the range at which your enemies spot you.[/li][li]Hearts: Used in event challenges and… that’s it.

As you see, one of these things is not like the others and could use a passive effect.

Possible options include, but are not limited to:

  • Slowing down the Terror gain from zailing in darkness.[/li][li]Reducing the penalties for having too few crewmembers.[/li][li]Improving Terror reduction for defeating enemies.[/li][li]Increasing the effectiveness of your crew in boarding fights (if those ever get implemented).

I’ve actually suggested previously if hearts should count as a stat that opposes iron, in effect acting as a defensive stat where iron acts as offense. When I originally started playing Sunless Sea back in its earlier phases, I read the description of the Hearts stat as dealing with healing and defense, so naturally I assumed that while iron could cause damage, a high Hearts stat would reduce damage, respectfully. I’d be thrilled to see hearts have such an effect here, though I’m not sure if it would be easy to balance.

  Likewise, most of your suggestions are the same way -- I like the idea of the Hearts stat reducing terror while traveling at sea, but I don't know if it would be easily balanced.  In other words, it's possible the game would either be too hard in the beginning or too easy in the end, though I'm hoping the Roguelike elements would fix that. 

  Either way, it's a clever observation and I would like to see more done to balance the usefulness of stats.  Currently, having a high hearts means being able to go &quotFull Power' more often without fear of casualties, but the hull still takes damage, and it's better just to get an auxiliary item that negates it altogether.

edited by SouthSea Rutherby on 3/10/2015

First, I like that someone else is using my methods, as this is pretty much how I’m arguing for pages training via surgeons.

2nd, I agree.

While I like the idea of Hearts increasing defense like Sir Rutherby suggests, that leads to a couple questions:

Would this counteract a player’s Iron value? As in, if I have 25 Hearts and 25 Iron, will the bonuses effectively cancel each other out if say, Iron raises damage done, but also raises damage taken, while Hearts could decrease both? Because if you just have Hearts raise Damage Reduction and Iron raise damage done, then the game starts to get REALLY unbalanced when you look at the amount of Hull points later ships have compared to the amount of damage most enemies do. If hearts were to decrease damage recieved, a total revaluing of the hulls on most of the ships would need to take place or it would become REALLY over powered. Primarily by weakening most of the later vessels hull values.

Another idea is less of the focus on defense, and more on healing. So that hearts will increase the amount of hull repaired when you use supplies to fix your ship. A 50 in hearts might give you 10 hull per supplies used when repairing as opposed to 5 at 25 (so obviously the rate is 5 Hearts for +1 repair, and 100 Hearts would mean you repair for 20 Hull per supplies used in this manner).

Chance of resisting crew damage?

[color=#009900]I like asymmetries, in games and in life, especially when they suggest intention. I like some stats to be less useful than others - like Hearts - so that choosing them becomes an eccentric or challenging option. I like some stats to be a little harder to raise than others. This goes double when there’s an aesthetic inference to be drawn - if you want to be a softie at sea, you may find the game harder (Hearts); recondite knowledge is harder to come by (Pages). So I like the imbalance in Hearts and in Pages, although I know that lots of gamers enjoy symmetry. SS is an untidy game. I don’t have very strong feelings on this, and it might change, but I’m not in a hurry to change it for the sake of symmetry.[/color]
[/color][color=#009900]There’s another more important point that I want to make here in relevance to other threads - especially because I know some of the posters here are aspiring game devs/designers. That point is: adding features to a system often doesn’t improve it. St Exupery famously said that perfection is achieved in design, not when there is nothing more to be added but nothing more to be taken away; Meier said, slightly less famously, that there are games where the player is having fun, games where the designer is having fun, and games where the system is having fun.[/color]
[/color][color=#009900]Games where there are too many fiddly features skew towards ‘the system is having fun’. Honestly, SS skews a bit far this way already, partly because I like untidy games and partly because I’m still very much only a journeyman designer. Every feature in a game can add sparkle or angles, but also burdens the interface, clogs the player’s experience, complicates the underlying code, makes decisions mushier. Often it’s like adding salt to a dish - ooh cool idea mm needs a bit more needs a bit more needs a bit AGH I FEEL SICK. Every feature also costs time to add and debug - all new code has a risk of introducing bugs now or later - and time is always finite. Even when it’s plentiful, it’s finite! so every feature needs to justify its existence better than all the other features you could add in that time, and in terms of the amount of the equally finite player’s attention and design space it will occupy. This goes, uh, not even double, I guess quintuple, for when any kind of UI change or elaboration is involved. [/color]
[/color][color=#009900]As it happens, Hearts did originally have a systemic passive effect, back around the beta in early 2014 - it auto-healed any dead crewman a % of the time after a battle. But it was confusing and it threw up edge cases and it didn’t really bring in any new decisions. We even saw it reported as a bug, because it was easy to overlook the end of battle notification (‘so make it more obvious!’ sure, but the player’s visual attention is finite too.)[/color]
[/color][color=#009900]This doesn’t mean we will never add any more features or system wrinkles (although it’s much less likely now we’re out of Early Access - until we get started on Zubmariner). But I thought it might give a bit of inside-baseball interesting context.[/color]
[color=#009900][edit: para breaks][/color]
edited by Alexis on 3/11/2015

There’s a similar idea in the tech land of “focus on your core competencies” and don’t develop things that are not part of your core offering, especially if you can use an otherwise available (off the shelf, software as a service) solution. This means that if you have a product that stores data, you may be tempted to make that data searchable and indexible, and then weight them - no, search is not a core competency, just use Lucene.

Back to Sunless Sea, you can think of the core of the game, and “provide symmetry and balance for gamey players” are not necessarily part of the core experience (or minimum viable product, to use another possibly familiar term). In fact, providing asymmetry to players to keep them uneasy may be more in line with the core experience than the reverse.

In the same way that Sunless Sea may not benefit from adding a full fledged fishing minigame, even though they could, there are some things that fall into “nice-to-have” and not “core support systems”.

The one main counter point I have regards “interesting decisions.” Defining interesting is difficult, but it could be argued that choosing to not be a Poet is an interesting decision, although if the very next decision (if not Poet, then what) is not very interesting, this is likely fairly flat. The history of the alpha class is a bit fraught. The most immediate that comes to mind (which may severely color my contextual value) is Jedi in Star Wars Galaxies. A large number of players had no interest in playing a Jedi, and a similarly large number of players saw the choice of playing anything else as foolish.

A suggestion that did come to mind as I played was to have a player’s Hearts effectively lengthen the ticker that causes Supplies to be consumed; when morale is high, rationing is less of a problem, and a skilled surgeon and chef would both reduce the need to work through supplies as quickly (ensuring fitness of the crew and making do with what is available).

It’s still greatly appreciated just as an FYI, and I’m sure a lot players are happy with the information presented here. Also, thanks for homage to Terry Pratchett today in Fallen London. The Claymen often remind me of his golems, and I was crushed when I learned of his passing.
edited by SouthSea Rutherby on 3/12/2015

[color=#009900]Thanks. It was a sombre afternoon at Failbetter: he has been a piece of the landscape for all of all our lives, and our work, though very different, was done in the lee of that landscape. We imagine that anyone who appreciates good genre writing will be letting out a slow sad breath.[/color]

Thanks for the input, Alexis. While the game stands on its own, I have to admit that the community around the game, and the personal investment from the design team, is certainly a selling point (I mean that both figuratively and literally)

Of all the potential side-benefits of hearts mentioned, I like the idea that it’s a modifier for certain in-port events like hull repair or terror-reduction when visiting taverns, something fairly small but common.

I think there are enough event-checks against hearts to make it worth keeping high, especially when it comes to high-terror situations with crew… But yeah I love stats and status effects :D

Points taken regarding code and debugging, and finite amounts of time, though. If it were between more time being spent on content, and adding a fairly trivial stat interaction, I’d take more stories.

I thought that hearts reduces the rate at which you accumulate terror.