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Game News Fallen Gods Update #4: The Fallen God

Discussion in 'RPG News & Content' started by Infinitron, Apr 18, 2018.

  1. Infinitron I post news Patron

    Infinitron
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    Codex 2016 - The Age of Grimoire Serpent in the Staglands Dead State Divinity: Original Sin Project: Eternity Torment: Tides of Numenera Wasteland 2 Shadorwun: Hong Kong Divinity: Original Sin 2 A Beautifully Desolate Campaign Pillars of Eternity 2: Deadfire Pathfinder: Kingmaker
    Tags: Fallen Gods; Mark Yohalem; Wormwood Studios

    The fourth development update for Mark Yohalem's Fallen Gods is out, a bit earlier than expected. We were promised details about the game's fallen god protagonist, and the update doesn't disappoint, providing a wealth of information about the god's abilities and other mechanics.

    The titular hero (or anti-hero) of our game may be fallen, but he is still a god. And even when cut off from Orm’s great soul-hoard in Skyhold, a son of the Cloudlands has many gifts that set him apart from mortal men.

    The first is that he is very hard to kill for good. Only a few things are strong enough to make his soul abandon his flesh and bones. Most deaths merely mangle his body, and a few days and a bit of soul-strength are enough to heal even the ghastliest wounds. (Of course, every day is precious to a fallen god who must make it home within three months.)

    Indeed, Ormfolk are very hard to kill at all, for even the most bumbling of them has a strength and skill with the sword that outstrips most hardened earthly fighters. And a god can grow even greater in might and wits by drawing on his soul-strength—“leveling up” in RPG parlance, though here at the cost of the same hard-won “mana” (i.e., soul) pool that feeds his greatest skills.

    For a god, even a fallen god, has skills beyond swordplay. The player’s god has two out of the following five such skills: Soulfire (by which he can kindle souls into a holy blaze that can burn away curses or burn up foes); Healing Hands (by which he can heal wounds and cure sickness in himself and others); Death Lore (by which he can speak to the dead, calling on their wisdom or driving off restless undead draugar); Wild Heart (by which he can bend beasts to his will or cause the woods themselves to hasten him on his way); and Foresight (by which he can see what lies in distant lands or times to come). These too draw on soul-strength.

    And a god has his “fetch,” the fylgja of Norse mythology (or “familiar” in folklore and modern fantasy). As the lore holds, a god’s fetch is female (a bitch wolf, a vixen, a hen raven, or a she eagle); a goddess’s would be male. Each fetch has its own advantages. For instance, the wolf fights beside you in battle, while the eagle can strike foes unaware beforebattle. Fetches also unlock new paths, such as letting your vixen lead starving miners astray to get them out of your way in the “Lost Ones” event.

    Finally, the fallen god starts with a mighty item from the Cloudlands, such as the Lur, a horn that can stir the slumbering heart or clear the muddled head of any mortal man. And he will find more as he goes. Our items (as will be discussed in a later update) are like Lone Wolf’s: each is significant, providing not just a noticeable statistical bonus but also new abilities (like crossing streams with the Fording Stone) and new opportunities in events (such as covering an escape by opening the Fog Pot).

    All of this power depends on soul-strength. When the god stirs the faith of men and women with mighty deeds (a faith born of fear and a faith born of love are equal sources of this strength), they freely yield some or all of their souls to him. He can also take soul-strength in harsher ways, such as killing lingering beings of old that are still swollen with souls from when they were gods themselves. And there are darker tricks still, like the Soultrap, which snares a soul as it leaves a dying body. One way or the other, perhaps one way and all the others, the fallen god must gather enough soul-strength to win his way home.
    In an exegesis of sorts, Mark reflects on the emergent properties of these mechanics. The gameplay in Fallen Gods reinforces a theme of self-interest, unlike most RPGs that are fundamentally oriented around resolving the interests of other characters, often altruistically.

    So what character traits arise from the gameplay constraints in Fallen Gods? Well, the game doesn’t really have “quests” in the way a typical contemporary RPG does (i.e., meet NPC; learn about NPC’s problem; visit other NPCs to learn yet more context; discover various solutions; choose a solution; implement it over multiple steps; return to receive a reward). Our encounters usually resolve quickly, with a single paragraph of text describing the dilemma, a single multiple-choice decision resolving the dilemma, and another single paragraph describing that resolution. In order for those thin dilemmas to have meaning, they need to be about the god’s interests, since there is no pathos-laden dialogue tree to make the NPC’s interests compelling.

    Thus, they typically take the form of, “Someone is between you and something you want: how can you get it most cheaply?” Whether a foe’s barring your path, a friend’s sharing a gift, or a stranger’s offering a reward, the god’s instinct is to give up as little as he can and get as much as he can. The game’s overall narrative needs to establish and reinforce this self-interest, and so the god—who is, after all, trying to escape the world’s sorrows and not lift them—must be a self-interested figure.

    This self-interest is further compelled by constraints on interactions with followers. A mainstay of RPGs since Baldur’s Gate (arguably, since Ultima IV) has been intra-party interactions in which the player character talks to, and usually panders to, his companions. The more the player panders, the more his companion opens up, either as a romantic partner or a troubled friend in need of therapy, or both (as in Bioware games). This entails multi-stage, elaborate dialogue trees (e.g., the Circle of Zerthimon) delving deeply into the rich history and unique psyche of the NPC.

    Fallen Gods has no dialogue trees. And the followers in the warband are not unique characters. Each berserk is like other berserks, each churl like other churls, and so forth. Mostly, they are ciphers like “hirelings” in Neverwinter Nights or Diablo II or soldiers in X-COM. Even when they interject thoughts and participate in events, they do so as fairly generic types, rather than as rich individuals, like a thinner version of the Clan Circle in King of Dragon Pass.

    Thus, the god simply cannot be a thoughtful leader of men like Shepard in Mass Effect or The Nameless One in Planescape: Torment, one who takes the time to learn in excruciating detail the lives of his followers. He, like the player, must view his followers as chess pieces: means to an end rather than Kantian “ends in themselves.” He is again motivated by self-interest: what can they do for me and what must I do for them? That is true whether he’s giving them orders or giving them gifts. The latter is an important, thematic part of a saga-inspired setting: to be a leader is to be a ring-giver. But unlike gifts used in Dragon Age: Origins to foster romance and delve deeper into psychoanalysis, these gifts are given only to strengthen the followers and reinforce the bonds of loyalty tying them to the god. If a churl began to share sob stories from his rough childhood, the god would almost certainly stare him into shamed silence.

    This overriding self-interest will likely create a gap between what the player wishes his avatar would do and the game lets his avatar do. Generally speaking, people want to do good, and that desire is particularly strong in single-player games, where doing good carries no meaningful cost (maybe a little less fictitious money paid to your avatar as a reward for his quest). People call this a “power fantasy.” Fine. But it is emblematic of the noblest aspect of fantasy: its ability to train us to view doing good as the proper exercise of power.

    Fallen Gods has a crueler edge to its fantasy. Although the gods’ foes are mostly wickeder than he is, and although he is certainly capable of doing some good in the world, his motivations are ultimately selfish. He can be bold and open-handed, fearless before fearful odds, clever in outwitting evil minds… but at bottom, he is not on earth to accrue Paragon points, but simply to achieve escape velocity, no matter what gets scorched in his wake or battered down along his runway. Rather than a fantasy in which the player can practice goodness, it is a fantasy that hopefully will leave the player convinced he can do better in this world than the fallen god does in the game’s world, even if the player doesn’t have the same panoply of powers.
    As before, a sample from the soundtrack is included in the update, but there was no room to embed it this time. Coming up next, an update entitled "Witches and Dwergs", which I assume will describe some of the creatures we might come across in the game's encounters.
     
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  2. Blakemoreland Hybrid Boss Magister Patron

    Blakemoreland Hybrid Boss
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    Grab the Codex by the pussy
    :takemyjewgold:
     
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  3. Bohr Erudite

    Bohr
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    This sounds more interesting with every update

    :hypeship:
     
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  4. MRY Prestigious Gentleman Wormwood Studios Developer

    MRY
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    Thanks for the post!
     
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  5. Maxie Magister

    Maxie
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    I wish MRY was less self-deprecating in his posts as the stuff he's producing is clearly incline and he himself seems a kindly fellow
     
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  6. Fenix Cipher Vatnik

    Fenix
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    Interesting.

    Looks like some catch. :smug:
     
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  7. Think big! Smoking Dicks

    Think big!
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    What is this game about again?
     
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  8. ERYFKRAD Barbarian Patron

    ERYFKRAD
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    Fucking up the dudes who stole your spaceship.
     
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  9. Cross Savant

    Cross
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    What happens after three months? I assume it's a failure state of some kind.
     
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  10. Darth Roxor Prestigious Gentleman Wielder of the Huegpenis

    Darth Roxor
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    your subscription for the ferry back home ends

    and since the degenerate yokels dont have stable internet connection you cant renew it
     
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  11. MRY Prestigious Gentleman Wormwood Studios Developer

    MRY
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    Game ends after three months.
     
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  12. vazha Savant

    vazha
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    So there is a time limit? ugh. As much as I'm pumped for this game, time limit is cancer.
     
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  13. ERYFKRAD Barbarian Patron

    ERYFKRAD
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    Serpent in the Staglands Shadorwun: Hong Kong Pillars of Eternity 2: Deadfire
    Works for a game of this scope.
     
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  14. MRY Prestigious Gentleman Wormwood Studios Developer

    MRY
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    We may adjust it, but it would be hard for the game to work without it.
     
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  15. Quantomas Learned

    Quantomas
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    You can have a variable time limit. More like a threshold that gets increasingly difficult to beat, and once you reach the point that you can't make it it's game over. If that threshold depends on the player's actions, it won't feel as arbitrary as a hard time limit.

    If you make that two bars, one for the threshold (the power stacked against you) and one for your own power, it's transparent for the player and helps to build tension.
     
    Last edited: Apr 20, 2018
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  16. MRY Prestigious Gentleman Wormwood Studios Developer

    MRY
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    I did consider it, but arbitrary time limits are somewhat thematic. (See, e.g., Asgard's Walls [to be built in three seasons], Gerd [nine nights], etc. -- it's late, I can't remember all of them off the top of my head.)

    Ultimately, we'll see how it plays and go from there. If I get to the stage where wrangling with a time limit is high on my to-do list, I will be very happy!
     
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  17. aratuk Savant

    aratuk
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    Yes, please.

    :takemymoney:

    This reminds me that I still need to finish Serpent in the Staglands, which has a similar premise.
     
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  18. MRY Prestigious Gentleman Wormwood Studios Developer

    MRY
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    Yes, I was devastated when, not long into FG's development, SitS came on to Kickstarter -- great game made by great people, which made it all the sadder.
     
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  19. agentorange Arcane Patron

    agentorange
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    More games need time limits. They are the best way to create an atmosphere of tension and give each choice a certain gravity that can't be achieved in any other way.
     
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  20. aratuk Savant

    aratuk
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    Are you conscious of any ways that the arrival of SitS may have influenced your thinking about your own project? Did you feel a desire to differentiate your approach from theirs?
     
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  21. MRY Prestigious Gentleman Wormwood Studios Developer

    MRY
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    I don’t think it influenced. I avoided playing it, though I did back it on KSer on the theory that if FG fails, at least there’ll be SitS.

    But who knows? Maybe it had some subconscious effect.
     
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  22. ERYFKRAD Barbarian Patron

    ERYFKRAD
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    Unless you got Transylvannian influences, I ain't seeing it much.
     
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  23. MRY Prestigious Gentleman Wormwood Studios Developer

    MRY
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    SitS is a very striking game — even having not played it — and that can create a big impression on a simple mind like mine. I’ve learned to assume that such stuff does serve as an inspiration even if I can’t place it.
     
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  24. aratuk Savant

    aratuk
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    It’s wise to acknowledge the possibility.

    Perhaps your game should have a fallen god who is unsure whether his actions are influenced by his awareness of previous fallen gods, even though he has avoided hearing their sagas.

    This reminds me that I should really get around to playing Primordia.

    :M
     
    Last edited: Apr 24, 2018
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  25. Quantomas Learned

    Quantomas
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    As they were mortal men once,
    Fallen is a mere return to form.
    And yet having basked
    In the soul's golden glow,
    Memory of being born anew.​
     
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