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

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Alexis Kennedy
Alexis Kennedy
Posts: 1374

3/4/2015
Hello all. Some of you will probably find this interesting:

http://www.gamasutra.com/view/news/237657/Postmortem_Failbetter_Games_Sunless_Sea.php
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WormApotheote
WormApotheote
Posts: 725

3/4/2015
I appreciated the description of the JSON files as "human-ish-readable". :P

--
No, I don't pull the Eater of Names.
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Jascob
Jascob
Posts: 40

3/4/2015
That's a good assessment.
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Mukuro
Mukuro
Posts: 38

3/4/2015
FWIW, I actually appreciated, in a way, the prickliness of the early game and SS's lack of dependence on genre conventions...sometimes that's how you do something new, and different. I do agree that the middle game seems the most polished, as you have conflicting difficulties in the early game and late game (namely, "Everything-kills-me" and "I-kill-everything")...the mid-game finds a sweet spot and holds it for what turns out to be the greater part of a playthrough.

You didn't speak much about monetary affairs in your article, but I'm hoping that even with a 250k budget, SS has turned out to be a qualified success and that we can expect more from you in the future, even if nobody's retiring rich. smile
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Alexis Kennedy
Alexis Kennedy
Posts: 1374

3/4/2015
Thank you; and yes, it's definitely a success. We'll be blogging about sales numbers, as a pay-it-forward service to other indies, some time after we're back from GDC, but we're in a good place at the moment. Thanks to all of you who purchased a copy or told a friend - it means we can keep on doing more of this stuff, and everyone wins.


I'm also fine with the game not being for everyone, and I like games which are a little bit untidy. But the difficulty curve is more jagged than I'd like, and there are some needless annoyances sometimes, especially around the story CMS. With luck, we'll use the Zubmariner production process to push some changes back into the vanilla game, when we get that far - but that's for another day.
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WireWolf
WireWolf
Posts: 29

3/4/2015
This was a good breakdown of what went wrong and what went right. It'll be interesting to see where the Dev's go from here. I still think the games got a lot of potential to be something grand. Especially if the Dev's work to fix the few mistakes that were made in subsequent DLC and Expansions.
edited by WireWolf on 3/4/2015

--
When Mortals from the path of Honour stray,and strong passions over reason sway,
What are they then but Brutes? ‘Tis vice alone that constitutes. Th’enchanting wand and magic bowl,
The exterior form of Man they wear,But are in fact both Wolf and Bear,The transformation’s in the Soul.
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MisterGone
MisterGone
Posts: 139

3/4/2015
First, that was a great read, and I for one, love your candor and honesty.

With that said - I hope the big one of those "changes that get pushed back into the vanilla game" while Zubmariner receives attention is combat. I see SO much potential for combat to be great, rather than OK. I'd even design a system myself and just give it to you if I weren't putting in way too many hours at Uni right now.

Also, after I read the Fallen London comic and have begun playing more of that game (you'll like me, I have poor impulse control so I buy lots of Nex) . . . please consider another DLC for the Zeppelins after you total the books and realize it will totally be profitable and let you all buy Porches. If only for how you could put in New Newgate prison that way, and have its existence feed into the suspicion system, so a Red Honey smuggler could do time in the joint.

And then you could work with the Prison Architect devs and create a collab with a prison in the sky!
edited by MisterGone on 3/4/2015

--
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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WireWolf
WireWolf
Posts: 29

3/4/2015
Personally other then the obvious stuff for Zub's like better combat (As well as hopefully the Airship Expansion...) I hope the Dev's include more Quests and Stories into the game. Not to mention more Officers and there stories....
edited by WireWolf on 3/4/2015

--
When Mortals from the path of Honour stray,and strong passions over reason sway,
What are they then but Brutes? ‘Tis vice alone that constitutes. Th’enchanting wand and magic bowl,
The exterior form of Man they wear,But are in fact both Wolf and Bear,The transformation’s in the Soul.
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SporksAreGoodForYou
SporksAreGoodForYou
Posts: 291

3/4/2015
Hah. I like this stat:

Budget: 250k GBP
Total words in game: 250,000

£1 / word. Seems like a fair deal. Every word is excellent.

(edit: I know it's not that simple)
edited by SporksAreGoodForYou on 3/4/2015
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Diptych
Diptych
Administrator
Posts: 3427

3/4/2015
SporksAreGoodForYou wrote:
Hah. I like this stat:

Budget: 250k GBP
Total words in game: 250,000

£1 / word. Seems like a fair deal. Every word is excellent.


They say a picture's worth a thousand words, but it turns out that a word is worth 1.53 US dollars, down from 1.67 this time last year.

--
Sir Frederick, the Libertarian Esotericist. Lord Hubris, the Bloody Baron.
Juniper Brown, the Ill-Fated Orphan. Esther Ellis-Hall, the Fashionable Fabian.
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WormApotheote
WormApotheote
Posts: 725

3/5/2015
Sir Frederick Tanah-Chook wrote:
SporksAreGoodForYou wrote:
Hah. I like this stat:

Budget: 250k GBP
Total words in game: 250,000

£1 / word. Seems like a fair deal. Every word is excellent.


They say a picture's worth a thousand words, but it turns out that a word is worth 1.53 US dollars, down from 1.67 this time last year.


Actually if we assume a picture is worth a thousand words, then with 415 illustrations (equivalent to 415,000 words) we have £0.38 per word. :P

Relatedly, that means this post is worth £12.
edited by WormApotheote on 3/5/2015

--
No, I don't pull the Eater of Names.
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Captain G
Captain G
Posts: 3

3/5/2015
Really nice breakdown. It's nice to see that you acknowdlege in wich ways the game could be better, and that the "vision/direction of the game" is fundamental to not go out of scope and waste time & resources.
The next words will be something that probably has been written before, but as a newcomer here I'm obliged: If the difficulty and the combat can be tweaked so its a nice curve (or a little more intuitive, not much, we dont want to be too obvious, its a horror game), you have the next FTL in your hands.
Rant with ideas (and maybe spoilers):
[spoiler]I think the problem around rebalancing combat it's not only the mechanics of it (ai, respawning, dmg, etc) but also that you have to make it feel more connected with the stories difficulties (I didn't play the last release yet), and thats really difficult with the random map. You could possibly make something like "if the island is in this sector, the difficult is increased/decreased in x%". But then, you also have to adjust the rewards somehow. I know, its a lot to ask for.

In my experience I had the
sensation that you can skip a LOT of the items. I went from base deckWeapon to best deckWeapon, then on ships I went base/venderbright yacht/Cruiser/dreadnaught, somewhere between the yacht and the cruiser I equipped the serpentine and then the Impeller, and when I got the dread BAM memento mori and all the zee was my playground. All of this whitout abusing sunlight smuggling. The zee didn't feel dangerous anymore when I got the Cruiser. I know, its only MY experience and I played a lot of games, so I don't expect to be taken super-seriously :P [/spoiler]
Regardless, I love the game, thank you for making it and good luck with the expansion/other proyects!
edited by Captain G on 3/5/2015
edited by Captain G on 3/5/2015
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Kirr
Kirr
Posts: 44

3/5/2015
Thanks a lot for putting that out there. There's actually an odd sense of relief in reading that the early game is hard and grindy and not perfectly balanced. I bounced off it several times and wondered if it was really a very minority opinion. Or just me.

The main thing that surprised me was how few of you were working on the game. I'd pictures more like a dozen people. That's a whole lot of work for 3-6!

Enjoyed a lot about SS, though. Looking forward to your next game. Actually, might go and buy the blemmigan story, as it looks hard to die in.
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MisterGone
MisterGone
Posts: 139

3/5/2015
Captain G wrote:


I think the problem around rebalancing combat it's not only the mechanics of it (ai, respawning, dmg, etc) but also that you have to make it feel more connected with the stories difficulties (I didn't play the last release yet), and thats really difficult with the random map. You could possibly make something like "if the island is in this sector, the difficult is increased/decreased in x%". But then, you also have to adjust the rewards somehow. I know, its a lot to ask for.




When it comes to difficulty (at least with enemies on the sea anyway), I think a solution would be to tie enemy spawns to the time the player's in the world, yeah?

I mean, the game does keep track of how much time the player has spent at sea. You can see it in your journal under the "Time, the healer" section.

Wouldn't it make a lot of sense to start with fewer enemy spawns in certain areas until some time has passed? Or possibly modifers and/or tougher versions of enemies?

For example:

[spoiler] there are Unfinished Pirates that hang out near Polythreme, a mid-range ship enemy. There's also one unfinished revolutionaries - a tougher version of the same enemy, that hangs out near the Iron Republic. If the game despawned the Pirates at say, Day 100, and started spawning in the Revolutionaries instead, you'd see a fairly natural enemy upgrade over time (and it would imply that dissent is growing in Polythreme). For enemies without multiple versions, I don't think it would be terribly hard to include a few more. It's generally a value change on HP, an extra or different name, and possibly some different attacks or stronger weapons. But there ARE a lot of multiple type enemies in the game already - Pirate steamers, Unfinished Ships, Bound Sharks, and Lorn Flukes at the very least - so for all of them it's just a new gating system for how the game would introduce them into the world.
[/spoiler]

Obviously there would be limits and such, and having some of the tougher enemies already on the map is good for making them "SCARY PLACES" and keep players on their toes, but an escalating amount of difficulty is always better in my mind and it sure seems like for at least one area of the game - enemies - there's already a good system in place to allow for escalating difficulty.

After that though . . . making an escalating difficulty seems like there'd have to be a lot of reworking of a lot of other systems and additional ones, so I don't know if much is possible.

--
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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Gregg Johnson
Gregg Johnson
Posts: 263

3/5/2015
I really dislike the idea of levelled enemies and/or timers separate from player action. True, a few of the latter already exist in game but for the most part they are few and far between (I can only think of two, related to Godfall and the Campaigner). If the enemies in a zone change, I would prefer it to happen through a story event rather than a simple timer or even improved stats/overall player wealth/etc. At the moment neither is possible.
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MisterGone
MisterGone
Posts: 139

3/5/2015
Gregg Johnson wrote:
I really dislike the idea of levelled enemies and/or timers separate from player action. True, a few of the latter already exist in game but for the most part they are few and far between (I can only think of two, related to Godfall and the Campaigner). If the enemies in a zone change, I would prefer it to happen through a story event rather than a simple timer or even improved stats/overall player wealth/etc. At the moment neither is possible.


I understand that, but if the use of the day timer is to be so limited, why even have it at all?

They could have had a different quality for tracking the amount of, I dunno, SAYs that you've burned instead of days passed at sea for both the Godfall monks and the Campaigner. Or maybe they could have started a menace for the Campaigner that ticks down or up once she reveals her disease. Instead there's an overall timer to the amount of time the player's captain is in the world.

If the time tracker is there, why not use it?

Enemies are just the easiest way to implement more functionality to it, and it makes the whole "Something has changed in the Neath" less of a flat out lie like it currently is. I mean, it says stuff has changed, but we have no idea what that is, and more often than not . . . I notice no real change.

Plus a lot of people have noticed and commented on (myself included) that the game is basically EVE online like in it's difficulty curve. The player is faced with this steep cliff of difficulty they have to figure out to climb - totally front loaded and really meant for someone in a Corvette than a Steamer with at least 5-10 hours of play to even begin to feel like you have a grasp of things - using the timer to give the starting player (and I mean truly starting, so no captains dead or retired) like, 30 days of breathing room would help new players out a lot more.

Conversely, using the timer (or possibly number of captains dead/retired/ended) as markers to signify a tougher world is VERY well suited as a way to escalate the difficulty progression naturally. It could be used for a number of things as well - fluctuating prices on the various markets to give a sense of a living economy rather than a static one, larger story progress with the major factions so that if you don't do certain things at certain times they trigger different default states in the world, animal mating seasons to create an abundance of zee monsters in the summer rather than the winter (or maybe the opposite in the Neath), changes in weather patterns or trade ship patterns - really all sorts of stuff. But it's not getting used for any of that so far as I can tell.

If the system's in place, why not use it for something beyond two smaller parts of the game? To put in such a system and not use it seems like a waste of the time spent putting in the system.

I mean, part of making a really good living game world is to incorporate the flow of time. Lots of games stumble on this and just keep everything static because it makes things predictable, and that's safer. But if the whole point of SS is that the world is big and scary and dangerous, then why would you want to keep things either predictable OR safe?

--
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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KhzDonut
KhzDonut
Posts: 20

3/19/2015
Finally got around to reading this, and I really enjoyed it.

I appreciate the frank and honest assessments of the game's strengths and weaknesses. I agree that the combat and difficulty arc being the primary weaknesses in the game (though still quite functional, and certainly not enough to dissuade me from dumping every bit of free-time I have into zailing the zeas) but I admire that the dev team can be that brutally honest about it. That makes me feel a lot more enthusiastic about the future expansions and games, because it indicates that the company will address those issues with more finesse the next time.

But really, in regards to finesse, I'm STUNNED at how well the combat system turned out. I was highly skeptical at first, and was not pleased at all with the initial release. As it stands now I hardly think twice about it. It feels natural enough that I rarely think about the fact that it was a major overhaul.

And the difficulty arc, while at times exceedingly aggravating, is also not enough to keep me from playing (though I may take a couple weeks off after a captain death... To grieve... Or something) But there are some benefits to it. A more casual experience would certainly reward those who are after stories rather than powergaming/grinding, but at the same time when I read through the forums as they are, the people who stay are usually the people MOST dedicated to the atmosphere of the game, rather than the powergaming/grinding. I think perhaps the difficulty curve in some sense has helped the community itself. It struck a good balance in that it very quickly discourages plowing through stories haphazardly, because you just won't get anywhere "faster" by doing that. Then once you've spent some time learning the tricks, namely by interacting with the community through forums or wiki's, and getting a few weapon/ship upgrades, you are rewarded by being able to journey through the stories at your (relative) leisure, *almost* in safety.

If there weren't that initial trial by fire I kind of think the community would see the same difference in dynamic between a game like the early days of EverQuest and later days of World of Warcraft (obviously in an MMO there's considerations that aren't in a single-player game, but still)

Early EQ was brutally hard and griefers got weeded out by the difficulty. WoW got so mainstream-accessible that by the time I quit (Cataclysm Expansion) it felt like the only thing that was left was griefers.

Obviously that's a bit of an exaggeration, and it's not like you have to deal with a griefer in Sunless Sea, but I think the overall lack of brutal forum conflict is partly a product of the difficulty of the early-game. I've seen a relatively small number of unpleasant interactions here, as well as the Steam forums, and that's pretty awesome. Only a small number of people who disapprove of the early-game difficulty make more than one or two posts about it.

Maybe it's a sort of jingoist mentality to say that it's an acceptable, or even preferable thing, to weed people out by making a game unnecessarily difficult or esoteric, but at the same time I think it's left the game only really accessible to people that really care about the atmosphere, and care about it enough to put some pretty significant effort into going through it all.

The flip side to that is of course the potential of turning the game into a haven for elitist jerks in ivory towers, but it doesn't really seem like the "untidy" game mechanics really appeal to elitism, because it's not like there's any real achievement you can get in this game to lord over anyone else, beyond "holy crap I actually survived for an extended period of time!"


My apologies for the long winded, and most likely controversial statements...

But to sum up, I like the game, and how it turned out, including combat, and I find the difficulty arc manageable.
I like the transparency and the analytical nature of the dev team.
I like that the community is almost entirely populated by helpful, compassionate, and dedicated individuals who seem to really click with the game and what seems like the point of the game: To be immersed in a world for the sake of being immersed in the world.

Honestly, this and Shadow Of The Colossus are the only games I ever really get the urge to play anymore. They're nothing alike, but they're both games that are of a very specific and atmospheric vision, and I think those are the games that get remembered.

I think Sunless Sea will end up being one of those games, and if not Sunless Sea, then surely its successor.
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Alexis Kennedy
Alexis Kennedy
Posts: 1374

3/19/2015
That's a very encouraging comment - thank you! and your hypothesis about difficulty is very interesting. I've said before that making our first game a giant reading comprehension test has helped give us one of the most thoughtful and courteous user communities on the Internet (that's you, folks) - I can see that something analogous would happen here. But I am still unhappy with the unevenness of the difficulty level - and of course the repetitive nature of the earliest game. That's stuff we'll continue to look at when we come back to it.
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Alexis Kennedy
Alexis Kennedy
Posts: 1374

3/19/2015
And: Sunless Sea is only ankle-height to Shadow of the Colossus, but a lot of Failbetters love that game too - as you might expect - and the aura of vastness, loneliness, sanctuary is, now I come to think of it, a pretty direct inspiration.
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Percenila
Percenila
Posts: 31

3/19/2015
KhzDonut wrote:

Early EQ was brutally hard and griefers got weeded out by the difficulty. WoW got so mainstream-accessible that by the time I quit (Cataclysm Expansion) it felt like the only thing that was left was griefers.

Obviously that's a bit of an exaggeration, and it's not like you have to deal with a griefer in Sunless Sea, but I think the overall lack of brutal forum conflict is partly a product of the difficulty of the early-game. I've seen a relatively small number of unpleasant interactions here, as well as the Steam forums, and that's pretty awesome. Only a small number of people who disapprove of the early-game difficulty make more than one or two posts about it.

Maybe it's a sort of jingoist mentality to say that it's an acceptable, or even preferable thing, to weed people out by making a game unnecessarily difficult or esoteric, but at the same time I think it's left the game only really accessible to people that really care about the atmosphere, and care about it enough to put some pretty significant effort into going through it all.

The flip side to that is of course the potential of turning the game into a haven for elitist jerks in ivory towers, but it doesn't really seem like the "untidy" game mechanics really appeal to elitism, because it's not like there's any real achievement you can get in this game to lord over anyone else, beyond "holy crap I actually survived for an extended period of time!"



Yeah I totally agree too bad I was born with weak hands and so a mainstream griefer
probably should weed myself out

--
Percenila Crypts, an outgoing and resourceful lady
Welcome all social actions, slow responds

(Too poor for the 2015 Feast sorry)
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