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A game of survival, trade and exploration in the universe of Fallen London

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lexiconical
lexiconical
Posts: 19

3/2/2015
I think that the sea exploring and the sea opponents are fantastic, but I'm disappointed with high risk low reward searches available on land (in most cases -- the chess storyline and the curator are nifty -- and the empire of hands is great -- and the blemmigan propagation is amusing).
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MisterGone
MisterGone
Posts: 139

3/2/2015
WormApotheote wrote:


Godfall has a background. (It may be new as of Blemmigan but it's definitely there.) Frostfound still doesn't and no idea aout the Wreck of the Nocturne. Going East also has one now. (Don't know about the other directions)
edited by WormApotheote on 3/2/2015


Well, that's good to hear. I did Godfall two updates ago on my current end-game captain, and another update before that on another, so it's been a while. Haven't "Gone East" yet out of fear, but now that I've explored Frostfound and after the last story update, there's a bit more reason to try it. So I'll check it out.

I suppose I guess my number 1 idea is just wanting something that's getting implemented already. So that's nice.

=====================

Red -

First, we both fundamentally agree that the base structure of how the narrative is presented is fine as is, judging from your post. So there's that.

Yet splitting up your response makes it a little tough to respond to your other points, but I'll try to organize this in a way that makes sense.

#1 - The Extra Past-Based Story

My suggestion of one decently sized quest/story per past choice wasn't for something so major that it would make the player feel like they're missing out on anything, and more so that they can only feel like they've gained a little extra flavor with maybe a small incentive to trying out other captains.

Right now, the game is structured so that picking the Poet Background is the most beneficial - and therefore only real choice - mechanically. Without the ability to raise Pages reliably, there's a massive advantage to Poet, especially since higher pages means you can raise other stats faster (though I really want to thoroughly test this to see just how much of an advantage there is on fragment need reduction per secret based on your Pages score, because it does seem very incremental). But if this is an issue, it's really one of balance, not narrative design.

I'm hoping for further encouragements to get the player to vary it up, but not to punish the player if they feel like sticking with one preference. That's a balancing act, to be sure, but I think the specific story proposal I mention would do that quite well.

The primary difference in the past acquaintance would be in the image used for the acquaintance, their name, and the distict you see meet them in in London. The general result of "Catching up" would be the same, though probably with text description differences.

Past that, there would be one unique, but generally fairly simple quest related to this character. Stuff that would always involve carting them across the sea and eventually returning them to London. There would be a different reason given for each, and a slight variation on the specifics - Like one just wants to visit different ports on a Tour, one wants you to kill six sea monsters, one wants to go to a specific place to negotiate a trade deal in person, (and a former college professor might want you to simply bring him a specific set of items) and so on, but for the most part, these are really simple quests that wouldn't be so different that, once completed the player wouldn't feel too much of a need to "Do them all or miss out on content".

They would really be there for extra flavor to make replays a touch more unique. Much like the starting officers are in the current game. None of them have huge benefits (other than the Officer the Natural Philosopher gets, again due to the problem with Pages), and all of them have roughly the same basic quest - "Deliver me to X Port". They don't fundamentally change the game depending on your starting class, but they do add just a bit of flavor to the choice you made.

That's really all I'd like to see here. A bit more of that flavor, but without it becoming say, the "hidden ending of Eternal Darkness" where the differences between the replays were pretty minute and not really worth the three times you had to go through that game. THAT is wasteful variety. I'm hoping for something far less extreme: Delicious Variety.

I'm a fan of the Penny Arcade philosophy of "The Answer is Always More Art, with the corollary; the Answer is Never Less Art". They meant that in a different context entirely, but when it comes to a game like this, I think it fits. I also think FBG would at least in part agree, as their model is one of steady updates that add content over time, to both Fallen London and Sunless Sea. I tend to think they agree that the more art, the better.

#2 - The Recursiveness on Fights

There are already several instances in the game that feature recursive storytelling, and many of them rely on a single type of check.

Playing chess in Port Cecil is a series of escalating checks on your Pages. Exploring Godfall or the Wisp Ways is generally a series of recursive checks on your Mirrors more often than not, with a few variations on other skills, randomly determined (so maybe I just happen to get the mirror checks more often and my experience is that they keep testing that one skill).

That said, recursive stories on fights need not be reliant on the player's Iron score at all. Ideally, it would be a series of three options minimum -

Fight it out - Checks your Iron Score, with a standard risk/reward value for the story event.
Retreat or Yield - Checks luck, to determine how the enemy treats you for giving up.
An Opportunity - Checks various skills by having different options depending on the opportunity that arises, generally with higher risk and higher reward/punishment on failure, though some may be low reward/low risk compared to the Iron Check.
Item/Card Based Enders - If you have this item, you can end the story immediately.

To best express this, a theoretical example:

The situation is getting into an altercation with Khanate authorities. They have a certain number of guards there that, to win the fight, you must diminish to zero. However, if you have a Nephirite Ring, low Khanate Suspicion, and a decent Hearts score, then right at the beginning you can prevent the fight from even occurring.

If, in a round, you choose to fight, then it runs an Iron check boosted by your total amount of crew versus their total numbers and a fixed Iron score modified by their total. Losses on the check reduce your crew, as they're cut down. Rare losses reduce your crew and give you a wound. Wins reduce their total numbers but cause a slight loss of your crew. Rare wins reduce their numbers with no loss to your crew.

Then, every "round" of the fight (or loop of the story), you get a randomly determined opportunity. One might be a feinting move with your crewmen that checks your veils that's higher risk/reward, so on success you diminish more of the enemy than the Iron check, but on failure you lose more crew. Another might be to give some words of encouragement to your crew, with low risk/reward so that on success you diminish a normal allotment of the enemy but with no losses, and on failure it counts as a standard loss as an Iron check normal failure. Another could be a Pages check about how you remember that Khanate armor has a specific weakness, or a Mirrors check that you see them trying to gang up on a trapped ally, and so forth.

My point is that it need not be a series of simple Iron checks repeated over and over. It could be much more interesting than that.

Bolstering this is the fact that these types of events already occur in the game, and in Fallen London. There's a story in FL about being besieged by rats that works similarly. Exploring works similarly in SS. So this isn't exactly a crazy idea that FBG doesn't already use really. I'm just hoping for more instances where this type of story can occur really.

(It should be noted that if they ever put in boarding actions to capture enemy vessels, I'm hoping that this is how they implement it. Though there's the alternate possibility that they can re-work the old turn based system of naval combat so it works for boarding actions too. That might be just as good, but the recursive story is something I know works whereas using the turn-based battle system is something I never played so I'm probably a bit more hesitant about it.)

#3 - Location based/Map Generation Variation

Like I said, I know the idea is a bit radical, however I think (obviously, since I put it out there) that it would have more benefit than detriment. And to allay your concerns:

A) The variations need not be extreme.

Example - There's a new story in Polythreme featuring Mr. Soap, the clay man in this comic. The story is mostly the same no matter where Polythreme spawns. Mr. Soap is captured by the King of a Hundred Hearts and is set to be "Re-Molded" for showing too much individuality, a death sentence for him, in a way. The first part of the story is you talking to him and he requests that you get his partner's help to break him out, so you head to London and speak to his partner, Sophia. You do so, and she comes up with a plan, but it will require just one more item.

This is where the variation occurs. That item is different depending on where Polythreme spawned. Maybe it's 10 Flares, 5 Foxfire Candles and 5 Stygian Ivory to sneak into an old forgotten entrance to the Polythreme prison. Maybe it's 5 Mutersalt and 10 Torpedo parts to make a bomb, or maybe it's 3 Sunlight Filled Mirror-Catch Boxes and 3 Parabola Linen to create a diversion. Maybe she needs you to go to the Tomb Colonies and pick up a Tomb-Colonist who used to be a former thief. The point is, you might have the stuff on you already or you might have to go and collect it, but the overall story wouldn't really change, just the specifics on how you progress it at one point in it, so that the player can never really be sure of what they need to hold on to in advance.

Because one of the downsides of having linear stories in a game designed for replayability is that (and SS certainly is mechanically designed this way, but more on that point in a second), working my way through the stories again on another captain is merely that I can prepare for them well in advance, which diminishes their impact. When encountering a story for the first time, you don't know what you need, so you often have to see what it is, then go get it and come back to it or possibly have the stuff on you and just commence the story right there and then. Having variations on one section of a story that gates your progress through it would ensure that this element remains in play regardless of how many times I play the game, while keeping the linear narrative intact. That's a win-win as far as I see it.

I'm NOT talking about a story that has completely different interpretations depending on where it spawns on the map, because that would involve WAY more writing and way more work, and that WOULD be wasteful for both the developers and the players.

B) The worthiness of replayability versus fixed narrative and what SS currently "is most like".

First, SS is a really difficult game to compare to other games because it takes influence from like, 20 different sources. The Rogue-Like/JRPG example you proffer is in my mind, fairly narrow on the range of influences on this game.

If I had to pick exactly ONE game that SS most resembles - in mechanics, not in theme or aesthetics - it's EV Nova.

Escape Velocity Nova has the player control a single ship (it's in space, so it's a space ship, naturally) in real time that they can upgrade and change the armament on. They can travel through an immense map and encounter both friends and enemies while out in the void. The main way to progress is by going from one fixed location to another and delivering packages or trading in goods. There are also many text based interactions where the player can make decisions on how to progress the story. You can die VERY quickly in the game if you screw up, and it includes a method for an "Iron Man" mode.

Now, it's not a A=A comparison, because there are a TON of differences. EV Nova doesn't have nearly as complex individual story elements, though it does have quite a complex faction-based story system that eventually leads the player down one path where it leads to a definite conclusion for that path and ending, which encourages replaying the game and trying to ally yourself with the different factions, to which any game you start off as neutral to all. Now, EV Nova is essentially another iteration on the concept of ELITE, which is a classic in it's own right and the progenitor to pretty much all of the "Explore a huge area in a single ship while trading and fighting" games.

In battle (and in a few other elements), SS most resembles that semi-recent remake of Sid Meier's Pirates, where the combat is mostly based on maneuver and timing with a little bit of range as a factor. Though in Pirates, the timing mostly determines the power of your attacks instead of whether the attack hits or not, and there is a greater diversity of attacks given to the player at a moments notice versus SS's "plan ahead" design. Also, thankfully, SS doesn't have a bunch of QTE's to determine success.

My point is, I don't think I'd ever have compared SS to JRPGs, which are super linear and for the most part decidedly don't encourage replayability. (Unless we're talking about Chrono Trigger I suppose)

But I do kind of see where you come from on that point. Where you and I would disagree is that I think this is more to the game's detriment than benefit.

Because there are a TON of mechanics in place in SS that encourage Replayability - The different pasts, the legacy system to pass down skills, items and money to subsequent captains, the multiple variations on many of the story outcomes, the randomized nature of many of the "exploration" stories, the randomized Map placement, the multiple ambitions and the several different hidden ambitions for alternate endings and importantly, the defaulting of the player into an iron man mode.

All of these are there to encourage the player to play again, multiple times, and to not get too discouraged if they die because they can pick up after death with boosts to progressing through on the next life much faster.

This focus on mechanical (and partially narrative) encouragement on replayability is at direct odds with the aggressive linearity of most of the stories in the game. Sure you can tackle the stories in any order as you like, but that doesn't change that they're linear in nature. Grand Theft Auto lets the player tackle stories and missions in the order they choose too, but the stories themselves are linear in a very similar manner.

I think the overall feel that this conflict between mechanics and story creates in the player is one of disunity or inconsistency.

Consistency is in my mind, one of the more fundamental aspects of art that people often neglect to highlight the value of. If you're watching a movie, and it's supposed to be a tragedy, but it has many tonal shifts that seem like they're better fit for a comedy or an action movie or a romance, and it does so erratically, it's more likely to be recieved as off-putting and schizophrenic unless it's done just right.

What I'd like to see with the stuff I mentioned, is for a way to make the linear narrative a bit more consistent with the replayability of the mechanics. It would unify the tone a bit more in that way, and make it seem more like the game isn't so much at odds with itself.

It's already most of the way there, to be honest. I think it just needs a little bit more, a little extra touch in that direction, and then you'd get something that's even better than it currently is. A push in this direction would allow Sunless Sea to be one of the all-time classics of the genre, since it allows for more Rogue-Like generation on Narrative as opposed to just mechanics.

But then, you're right, this is most decidedly a matter of taste and opinion.

My opinion, as I said earlier, is that the answer is always more art, never less. What I'm proposing would add more to the game, but I'd never propose removing what's already there and available. That would be terrible.

On the one hand, I'm not worried because FBG's development style is already in agreement with this philosophy to a high degree. But then, this was a thread about how we'd improve a story element in the game, (though I'll admit, I went way beyond the scope of "Land Exploration") and so I put out how I'd improve the story elements of the game.

--
If you'd ever like to enjoy a good round of pugilism or discussing the higher mysteries, Reginald Drownheart may be the dapper gentleman for you!

http://fallenlondon.storynexus.com/Profile/Reginald~Drownheart~
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KatarinaNavane
KatarinaNavane
Posts: 462

3/2/2015
I'd definitely like to see more location specific explore options instead of just the riddle game, the meat vendor, and like two others wherever you are.

--
Storynexus sn Katarina Navane.

My art page (much of which is dark, Victorian, and/or full of tentacles): http://www.facebook.com/demonkittydesigns
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Red-XIII
Red-XIII
Posts: 51

3/2/2015
Got the time. Read it properly. Here goes the adition:

-). I'm probably not in the majority here, but for me there's a difference between this game and your average story-game. This is also why I believe that SS is on the whole new level compared to FL.
Point being - what I enjoy in this game is not the story itself, it's the interaction between the story and the gameplay. If anyone have played "training simulators" like Princess Maker, Long Live the Queen, or any similar game then it would probably be easier to explain to them by saying that SS for me is another such game. The story here isn't comparable to a good book or a good visual novel (no offence) and it's not meant to be. The strongest point of those stories is not in reading them, it's in "making it" to them and through them. This is a quality few games posses, a delicacy that so few provide.

MisterGone wrote:
In general, more situations like that are definitely preferred to the more lackluster "Go Beachcombing" stuff you can find in a lot of ports.

Point is - ""go beachcombing" and friends" are an integral part of that mechanic. Something HAS to be the routine here. You make a story out of that and the next thing we'll need is more routine stories.

1). I personaly don't think this is a good way to improve the game. I'm not going to go against the majority on this though. The way I see it, my disagreement is nothing more than a matter of taste, and I'm not going to try and enforce my taste on the majority. If that's what the majority will want than I'm not arguing against that. If that's not what the majority wants then there will probably be no need for arguing about it in the first place.

2). Father's bones. Sphinxite. Colonist to Venderbight. Something else?
Those thrustrating things are already riling up my OC(P)D and making me strugle between the idea of not seeing content and not having to "promptly skip material and put myself into a state of "already seen it", while trying to gain ground on stories I was unable to see on my previous captains" for four times more than I already have to.

MisterGone wrote:

This is entirely to help with the replayability factor on stories for the overall game.


There's a certain downside to replayability no matter what you do about it. More on this later.

MisterGone wrote:

There are a number of encounters in the game where the player can get into fights while on land or exploring an area, but most of them are immediately resolved on a single skill check.


3). Most of current "fights" are just that - an iron skillcheck. I see no reason to glorify or overcomplicate one skillcheck while leaving the rest of them in the dust. Changing all of them in the same manner would mean a complete re-writing of almost all of the game's content. I'm not against adding some new single-skilled one-action-based stories, but I see no point in RE-writing the routine skill-checks that are already in the game - they serve their purpose well enough, IMHO even better than a short story would.

4). This is the escalation of the whole idea of replayability. And I believe that you are chasing an empty goal. So are a lot of people.
"The real deal" here, the one thing that is undeniably a benefit to the game is the amount of content. "A replayable game" is not a good or bad quality in itself. It's just a property, much like a colour of clothes or a size of a transport. It's only a good quality when it's a well fitting quality.

A quality we're talking about is a type of content distribution. To be worth no less than a sum of it's parts content needs (among other things) to be distributed in a fitting way. "Fitting" here is determined by the game's other qualities.

Let's take a glance at two examples.

  • Rouge-likes. Rougelike is an rpg with one goal in mind - to force the player to make on-the-spot decisions and deal with their consequences. (a concept generaly contradictory to the main concept of RPG, and it's that contradiction that plays out so well...) To that goal the game bends the rules. Among them are the ones that make the player do repeated attempts to beat the game from the start.
  • JRPG. There's a long topic of what makes JRPG a JRPG. A long topic that I'm going to ignore here. But one trend is certain - most of them are "grindy" and "complicated". They often involve elements that require (seemingly) unreasonable amounts of time and effort.

And that's it for example diving. That part of my point should have made itself apparent in any reader's head by now. But, just in case, let me spill it - there are games which are designed to be played over and over from the start, and there are games that are designed to be played and played without being over.

I'm going to be blunt - SS is neither. Raise your head from the table, pick up your jaw from the floor, get your eyes back in orbits and your finger away from the side of your head. Bear with me for a sentence or two longer ok? I'll get to my point.

SS begins like a rougelike but ends like a JRPG.

At first, while you're learning you're loosing captains and it feels like one of these rougelikes - you don't know what to expect around the next corner.
But next thing you know - you've learned all you could or needed to learn on the dangers, the surprises and the nature of the corners. WHAM! this is now a JRPG where you sail around the underzee completing quests, pile up unreasonable stats by eating moths while enjoying the views, and in general just spend your time seeing the sights.

Since most of the content has made it's habitat in the second part, I strongly belive that "replayable" content distribution would only harm the SS as it is now. Before the patient can take that injection and survive it'll have to change the species. Really, without making SS into a complete rougelike that can kill you at any point till the very end in a way that keeps you on your toes, keeps you interested in the survival game, and showers you in unexpectable throughout the process, it'd be a colossal waste of resources to stuff it with "replay-hungry" content.
edited by Red-XIII on 3/2/2015
edited by Red-XIII on 3/2/2015
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