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I Blather More About Games

So, as you all know by now, working on this StoryNexus game. (I’ll shut up about it soon, I swear!)

And I’m having a thought, and would like to bend your ears about it for a minute, so those of you who know something about these things can tell me whether it’s a brilliant idea or a very stupid one.

My goal with this whole thing is to release a nifty but finite game. A game with an end point. I do not want to be like Fallen London where I am on the hook for the rest of my life writing content and there is no ultimate end. (Nor am I particularly interested in handing it over to someone else to write content–I am not a collaborator by nature, and the very, very few people I’m willing to write in tandem with are all very very busy on their own. This is my personal vision. I’d be delighted to see fan art or fan fic, but I’m not wanting to hand off canon, if that makes sense.)

Much like my time with webcomics, I want to do something that ends.

But, also much like webcomics, I am prone to epics, and this is already looking like it will take some time, and I’d kinda hate to be hammering on it for six months with nobody other than playtesters getting a chance to look at it.

Finally, I’m seeing that I want to do two different things—one is “Explore this really neat world I made! Isn’t it cool? Look at the stuff!” and the other is “AAAAGHPLOTATTACK!” and have things get darker and weirder (insomuch as one can get dark and weird when one is a stuffed animal.)

So what seems to me like the best solution is to divide things up into three Acts. You start in Act I, you go around and explore the world, you look at the neat stuff, you have a couple of quest chains, and you decide What You Want To Do With Your Life.

I release that, with a skill cap/content wall at the end of Act I, when you’ve learned the Way of the Whatever You’re Going To Do With Your Life.

Then, while people are poking it and getting bored with it, a few months later (realistically speaking) I release Act II, in which Bad Things Start To Go Down.

And then, of course, some time later, we have the fairly short Act III, in which you face down the end boss and I figure out how to write an endboss using the StoryNexus engine. (Still pondering that.)

It’s worth noting that the game is set up with three distinct Ways, so there would be some difference on replay, and I THINK the system allows the game to set a marker so that if you played through as a Hunter, say, at the end you could unlock something on the next playthrough–probably a different playable race, like Rubber Chicken or something. (I have no idea if there’ll be enough replay value following a different Way to interest anyone at all, mind you.)

The advantage I can see to this is that it lets me achieve both goals with “This is the world! Neat!” and then “Oh no, the world is blowing up and you have to save it!” Establishing normalcy, as it were, then wrecking it. Plus–and this is a big one!—one of the inherent problems in this sort of game is that you’re pulling the same low-level cards over and over and you get very bored with them. Doing this would probably be the most elegant way to punt all those low level cards from play–once you’re high enough level that you’re moving to Act II, it’ll set markers that remove the super low-level and milk-run cards, which will only be in Act I, and start allowing cool and dire random happenings that are pretty high level.

Plus it lets me release the first Act so that I can see if people are actually enjoying the damn thing before I embark too far on the rest!

Possible downsides—it will probably take a lot less time to play through Act I than it takes me to write Act II and I get angry e-mails/people are bored/I am hit by a bus and it’s never finished.

And it’ll be harder to playtest and I’ll have to introduce a dummy skillset that isn’t subject to the level cap, then go back and manually change everything once the balance is right.

But I’m mostly seeing upsides. Does anybody have any thoughts or things I’m likely overlooking? (My apologies, O internet brain-trust, for rambling on about this so much, but I’m excited and wanna do it right!)

Originally published at Tea with the Squash God. You can comment here or there.

Sure sounds good to me.

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Exactly, that's what I'm thinking! The skillset cap is basically to prevent somebody grinding so long out of boredom while waiting that Act II is a complete cakewalk--I'd set a cap (say, 20) and then raise it once the second act was released. Still mulling that over...

On a totally unrelated note, I'm finally getting together with the SofaWolves. Will keep you informed.

Fair warning - I'm fairly certain this is how Kingdom of Loathing started out.

You can make it so that, at the end, you can retire a character, starting a new one, with some sort of scoreboard, and possibly a Shiny Thing from the previous run...

I love the idea of putting it into chapters like that! I do like playing Echo, but one thing that always bugs me about MMO's is that...there is no end point. You just go around doing the same things over and over (WoW dailies, I'm looking at you! YOU KNOW WHAT YOU DID!!!) and it gets boring. Giving it an actual story, of which your character is the lead (since everyone is the hero of their own tale), would be much more satisfying and enjoyable. I would be happy to betatest if you need some feedback on actual playthrough!

^^Everything you said. Hubby's always asking why I refuse to play his MMOs and I'm just like "I like endings, but if I can't get one, then I like to create them myself." So Ursula's idea sounds awesome and a very good balance between "I just want to kill things!" and "I'd really like to explore this world, please."

So long as its clear to players at the start that this is how it will be then I don't see a problem with it. I played KOL to to the end when it was still under much development.

The biggest problem from a player POV is the TIME between each section. I left KOL once I finished it and never went back and now its all too big and confusing.

I play Fallen London but I am not rabid about the story sequences and pieces of the puzzle like many players are, I like to play for the sake of playing, not being an ubergeek about the game. So there are different player types to be considered as well.

I'm all for it

I think that most good ideas start out as not being sure if they are brilliant or insane, and the thing that makes the difference is how passionate people are about them, and given how your writing about it I think this will end up brilliant. I also like the idea of a 3 act game, its like being a hero in your own private stage production. Plus its a game mechanic I have never had a chance to use, so I would play it just for that, the great art would end up being a bonus.

Well, I can't promise too much great art--it's a very text heavy game! But there'd hopefully be....err...amusing sheep icons?

This idea excites me!

I don't have much substantial feedback.. but I did want to toss this nugget out there: Have you considered some sort of kickstarter/crowdfunding option to make it a little more "this is a good idea and I am being compensated for my time"? you could offer nifty perks like.. pay X amount and be able to give the artist a degree of input... stuff like naming an unimportant NPC, or offering a suggestion of appearance to an NPC ("blue fox with long yellow hair, green eyes wearing wristbands"), to offering an idea for enemy/okapi butts, or similar. All, of course, subject to artist approval. After all, even with plush, I'm pretty sure that If I said Include my emo wolf with blue fur and flame print markings and a sharkfin and 14 paws, the answer would be not only be NO but would be a resounding "are you fucking high?" ;)

Other rewards could be special in-game items, or, for really high funding, an actual hand-made plush based on a character of the game...

It sounds as though your proposed structure directly addresses my complaint in this post, so go for it! :)

*laugh* Well, I can't swear that! At least at first, you'd probably still have that specific problem--can't do much about the grind issue, anyhow, I think that's inherent. But hopefully there'd be enough to be worth looking at for awhile.

I'd be very interested to take a look at your world when it goes live, even if it's only an act one to begin with, since I've been playing around with Fallen London and a couple of others and thinking about creating a game myself. I'm leaning towards a "lost in the woods"/"exploring the labyrinth" type theme where there's a definite end goal to be reached but plenty of room to keep expanding the content with new things to encounter/explore along the way.

I like this idea. I am not a gamer, but then I would have said I wasn't much of a graphic novel fan until someone introduced me to Digger. So I'm attracted by the prospect of wandering around to see where your imagination has taken you, without immediately having to take my place in the Plot.

I think that what you are suggesting makes sense and sounds workable. (And look forward to playing it, but that goes without saying, right?)

I think the game idea sounds *great*, and the three-act deal sounds sensible?


"have things get darker and weirder (insomuch as one can get dark and weird when one is a stuffed animal.)"

Are you familiar with the RPG/storytelling game Puppetland? Because, yeah.

End aside.

Put it out as prototype or beta or whatever its called.
And if I had to wait then I want to have several characters, maybe all the possible paths covered, so that the transition to act 2 would be open to being explored on several paths.

Anyway you are famous for dark and weird. We all would like to see more of that.