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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. Maxie Magister

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    what this gay shit haha nigga
     
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  2. Quantomas Learned

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    That's merely me trying to make sense childishly of the scope of the idea MRY had for FG, which is also present in Serpent in the Staglands, and even stronger in Tides of Numenera. Sometimes, trying poetry, even inferior one, helps.

    And it's a reflection to the recursive aspect from the post before it.
     
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  3. MRY Prestigious Gentleman Wormwood Studios Developer

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    I like the poem! But the fallen god in FG is actually “cloudborn”—so he never lived among mortals until his fall. I’m not sure whether any of the initial cadre who rose with Orm have been cast down; probably not, but I’d have to think about it.
     
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  4. Quantomas Learned

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    You are too kind. I wish more people had experienced the grand prose poetry of the encounter with Inifere in ToN, but then FG may fix that. :)

    I see. This rises more questions though. How much time has passed since Orm recreated the pantheon? If the pantheon increases in number, does the share each member receives from the Soul Hoard diminish? Did Orm recreate the power structure that flows through the Soul Hoard in its entirety, or is it a case where the new competes with the old, possibly with unforeseen consequences? It seems you have invested substantial effort into getting the foundation right. Maybe you can shed some light on it in another update.

    I somehow missed the revelation that there are multiple Fallen ones. It does change the complexion quite a bit, but more likely to the better. You can have a competition like the one in Eador, which worked great as a device to deliver another layer of story. And naturally it can be used to make the gameplay a bit more strategic. If you look for means to adjust the difficulty of the game, the perfect blueprint is MOO2, which simply added additional traits to your opponents. I never encountered a game that did it better, no hard cheats or HP bloat, but a gracefully notched up difficulty. Due to its randomness it made every game different too.
     
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  5. MRY Prestigious Gentleman Wormwood Studios Developer

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    Your hopes for this game are way too high. There are other fallen gods, but they're not autonomous AI players; you just meet them in events and interact with them in that limited context. (There are four such events now.)
     
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  6. Quantomas Learned

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    Thanks. If the writing is sound, and all the samples so far indicate this, it will be perfectly good for me. For me the fun is to figure out how things work, it doesn't matter whether that is in strategic battles or whether I have to piece together the lore from different events. Well constructed is probably the key term here. I am merely feeding you pieces to probe the foundation, in the hope that gives you the opportunity to make the foundation and logic sound. Question it. You could say to challenge it in a constructive way, and to reveal what matters most. It's a proven method from my scientific work, to check a premise against external frames of reference, different minds mostly. Seeing things from different points of view.

    I hope that FG will be a game that lets people experience how much fun it is to figure things out. Isn't that the spirit of King of Dragon Pass? And with your signature writing it potentially can be a grand experience.

    I look forward to your next update.
     
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  7. MRY Prestigious Gentleman Wormwood Studios Developer

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    I do hope that figuring stuff out will be a lot of the fun.

    It's hard to really explain (or even to confidently assert) how event branching works in FG versus in other games. IMO, one of the flaws of KoDP is that the skillchecks and outcomes are sufficiently ambiguous that while you might encounter different events every playthrough, and perhaps take different high-level strategic/cultural approaches, it did not feel to me like the paths were really different. It felt more like a deck of cards was shuffled, I saw different cards every time, but the cards were what they were.

    With FG, our events are quite shallow -- some are no more than two nodes deep (i.e., Problem->Outcome, with the -> being the choice you make), and I don't think any are more than four or maybe five nodes deep. There are extremely few multi-event arcs (in fact, none are currently implemented, though a couple are outlined). So this compares very unfavorably in my opinion to either, say, TTON meres/AOD vignettes (in terms of depth) or KoDP arcs (in terms of number of interlinked events). Further, as a design limitation no event node can offer more than six choices available at any given time (occasionally we have cheated to squeeze in a seventh by having two options exclude each other, even when they would not logically do so), which compares unfavorably to robust branching dialogue.

    Where I think we compare well, though, is that we have tried to make every item, follower, skill, and fetch usable in interesting ways in many events. Since every game your loadout will be somewhat different, that means that even when you encounter the same event, you will almost certainly have a new path through it that you haven't seen before. A player with (1) a witch, the lur, and soul-fire; (2) a skald, a wurmskin cloak, and death lore; or (3) a berserk, the bow of bones, and wild heart will have pretty different experiences.

    In a future update, I'm hoping to give a detailed look at the "Till Death" event, but here's the gist of it. You enter a stronghold, and in addition to the normal options, you can see there's a quest because when you enter you're told that people are muttering about the reckless young jarl and you have an option to visit him. When you visit him, the Till Death event starts.

    There, you learn that this jarl has defied a long-running family tradition under which the jarl (or his heir) is expected to turn his first love over to his dead ancestors as a bride. This process (and troubling inversion of an already unpleasant Norse tradition of the living sending strength to the dead via intercourse with a slave, covered in the event "The Burial") allows the dead men to send their strength to the jarl, ensuring he will be a powerful ruler. This young man, however, had no intention of doing so, and married his first love in secret. Now the dead men are mad and having been trying to take her. He wants you to help.

    As with all of these things, leaving him to his own problems is an option. But beyond that, what you can do depends on your loadout. For instance, if you have a maiden in your party, you can offer her instead to the dead men (who are dense enough not to notice the difference), and then you get their blessing instead of the jarl.

    If you have a witch, you can have trick the dead men:
    If you're a good talker, you can persuade the jarl to just turn over his bride, and if you fail in this, he'll kick you out of his stronghold for good. If you succeed, it resolves the event, though with no reward other than unlocking recruitment (which was theretofore blocked on the theory that all the local fighters were tied up defending the jarl and his bride from the dead).

    You can also wait for the dead men to come (so now we're two nodes deep at a second option). Now if you have death lore, you can use it to send the dead men to their rest (to the jarl's relief and immense gratitude, yielding you not just gold and thanks but an heirloom item). You can of course fight the dead men (always an option in FG). And if you have a priest, you can let him explain to the dead men that whatever the legitimacy of their claim to unwed first loves, they cannot rightfully demand the jarl's bride:
    There are other paths through the event as well, but this should give some flavor of how it can shake out. And, of course, your warband is chiming in with opinions and reactions at each node, and different choices might make them happy or annoyed. In some ways, this event is not a great example because it doesn't have item or fetch options woven in, but you can see how it would feel very different depending on who you brought with you.

    Hopefully once all the events are done at a first-pass level, we'll add even more possible options. The idea is less about events being insoluble or limited if you don't have the right options, and more about your particular loadout allowing you to experience and resolve an event in a different way. Winning the game, of course, will mean figuring out which path maximizes the usefulness of your loadout...
     
    Last edited: Apr 26, 2018
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  8. Quantomas Learned

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    That is certainly an evolution. You have Primordia, which is technically about figuring out the right path through the adventure, then you have TTON's meres, which uses narrative branching like a CYOA, and now you have FG, which has different events that offer player choice and allow for different paths.

    It may seem that FG's events are only loosely connected (the multi-event arcs) but that is misleading.

    If you examine the system at the level of its interactions, the interconnectivity between the interactions is actually what drives the game. The players learn what interactions can occur and how these can be ordered advantageously. Naturally there are different views, the player experiences this as exploration, and you see this possibly as design and narration.

    Technically the first interactions between the player and the game world are choosing the avatar's skills and loadouts. The player does not only interact with the events by making choices, but also interacts with the events in many more nuanced ways by bringing along items, a fetch and a warband. The player also acquires resources and items in events and the avatar's state can change. This is noteworthy because the player learns what to bring along to achieve desired results.

    This is actually very good design, because it focuses gameplay on an engaging mental activity.

    But there is more to it. Cutting edge AI research shows that loosely connected events that adapt to the context are better suited to create systems that assume a natural order than more rigidly interconnected events. In this respect your design has a better chance of creating paths that genuinely feel like a consequence of the player's choices than KoDP.

    Conversely, a bigger effort is required to make the interactions that drive the system do their work.

    It seems you know this intuitively, that the traits, fetches, warbands, items and gold (are there more resources?) play a key role in the events.

    It cannot be stressed enough that getting the foundation in order is paramount. How the world works, how its inhabitants interact with each other and the environment, and how their interactions are circumscribed. If you get this right, you have opened the door to create a convincing world and craft a game that lives in it.

    As a writer you start this process in your imagination and flesh out the world step by step. If you write a book you can define the events and adapt these as your narrative evolves. The same holds for writing an adventure like Primordia. But as you have seen in TTON and now in FG, these require a much more involved type of writing that requires you to imagine different choices and outcomes.

    Games have done that in a limited form before, for example Weird Worlds and FTL, but the design mantra for these games was to keep the events self-contained and only have the outcome impact your stats.

    It appears that you have a bigger goal here, to make the traits, fetches, warbands and items narratively meaningful. This is ambitious and a warning seems in order. I suppose you have heard of the Legend of Paal Paysam, but the principle holds for the design of interactions as well. In essence it means that you can only implement a small fraction of the potential interactions, and the choice of this is what truly limits the potential of your game.

    You have at least traits, fetches, warbands and items. If you draw up a matrix of what interacts with what, you will discover that there is an astonishing amount of interactions. For example, your warband can have skalds, priests, maidens, witches, berserkers and at least three can trigger individual outcomes in the "Till Death" event.

    The straightforward approach, simply to see how much you can manage to write, will work. It's not so much a limit of the events and choice and consequence that you write. It's more of what you don't do, so that people will ask, if I have this fetch, should it not also work in event X and Y? It's the expectations that are raised when players begin to learn and explore the game.

    I have no doubt that FG will be a good game anyway. Eventually people will learn that a game somehow must be limited.

    Still, there are ways to mitigate the limitations and to extend the reach of the game considerably.

    Given that the interactions are ultimately the centerpieces that drive the events, I'd recommend to use two tools and a slight change to the game development process. Maybe you already use these, but there is no harm in mentioning their use.

    The general idea is to define the interactions not directly (i.e. the witch can resolve the "Till Death" event by tricking the dead men) but to associate properties with each trait, fetch, party member, item and resource that define their use. I.e. the witch can trick the dead men, the death lore can send dead to their rest, the maiden can have sex, the priest can invoke the law and so on. Obviously each item can have many uses.

    The first tool would be to associate and manage all these properties that any item in the game can have. This is the easy part.

    The second tool would be to define events first abstractly, what options these will offer and how these correspond to the properties of the items in the game. This will need repeating for each outcome and its associated options as well. Once the events are defined abstractly, the tool will display the entire branching event outcome graph will all possible items that can resolve a problem and what rewards are offered.

    The main use of this tool is to aid your writing that you can view what events are already described and add text interactively if you wish to write an event-specific problem/outcome/reward. But primarily it allows a layered approach to the writing so that each interaction type can have default text. E.g. give gold as an option and the jarl concurs with your request as an outcome. Plus all the intermediate layers, event-specific default text, defaults for groups of events described by their properties and so on.

    Naturally it is possible to manage this all manually. While it is an effort to produce these tools, they will save you a ton of time down the road, particularly once you begin adapting items and interactions and do QA later on.

    That's what I can think of right away without more specific knowledge, but I will ponder a bit whether there are more simple means to improve the process.

    But as already mentioned, the most important thing is that you get the foundation right, that you understand how the game world works. But from what you have described so far, I have no doubt that you are on the right track.
     
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  9. MRY Prestigious Gentleman Wormwood Studios Developer

    MRY
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    Your post reminds me a little of an XKCD comic, more because I've tried and failed many times at the kind of ambitious meta-design approach you describe than because I think there's anything per se wrong with the suggestion:
    Show Spoiler

    [​IMG]
    I think that's the one!


    I suspect that if I had your brilliance and vision, I would be able to come up with a systematic approach that would yield, even within the limited confines of what FG can do, something that felt like a living world. Alas, I don't. The best I can do is push my own hand-plow row by row without any particular grand plan or automated help. I do have basic concepts of "this is how you should be able to use that" and when condition "this.n" arises in an event, I try to remember to allow the player to use the relevant that. It's imperfect, and imbalanced, but it is what it is.

    A defect of FG is that actions consist of choosing options from a list of actions. I struggled and struggled with whether, instead, it should be more like an adventure game, where during an event you would click on a follower, item, skill, fetch, resources, what have you (since they're all up on the UI) and then have the game "interpret" that "use X" command. This would make the discovery of how you can use stuff more exciting. But it would also mean either that most actions would have boring generic fail states or I would never finish the game. So we have the list.

    The nice thing about the list, though, is that it narrows players' expectations. The game doesn't hold itself out as a modeled world in which you can freely experiment, but instead as a CYOA in which you are bound by the limits of the writer's imagination and effort, and by the fiats he arbitrarily imposes. Some players will never accept this bridle. But those that do get used to it, and eventually lose the mustang's ambition of running free across the plains, as it were. For those players, I think FG will seem to offer a lot of options that do a decent job of defining the tools the player has.

    The goal is that interactions be intricately crafted, not that they be numerous. If there were lots of generic options, the player would spend most of his time with generic text. I would rather he spend his time on bespoke text, even if the result is fewer options, a narrower game, because ultimately I think I can give players more with my writing than I can with my design of an open world.
     
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  10. Quantomas Learned

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    If I were still my younger self with lots of free time, I'd offer to implement the tools myself for free. But alas, I knew that comic already and it's spot on for any new untried tech.

    For that reason my suggestion is pretty much down to earth, to give you a tool to track the items in game and to enter the text interactively. Maybe let your programmer decide, whether he thinks that his effort on this part would be worth it.

    And naturally I know that you are capable of tracking different outcomes quite well from TTON's meres. Did you and the other writers do that without tools for InXile?
     
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  11. Quantomas Learned

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    To clarify, my suggestion only covers a few tools to keep track of all the potential interactions between items in FG.

    So that you can keep track of the entire space that is FG. If you then decide that your original plan is best, that's fair enough. But I have a hunch that you may regret skipping this step, that FG is in a danger to become too narrow by limiting the exploration to paths conceived during writing.

    Hero-U by Corey and Lori Cole is a good yardstick. Wrting was always their core focus, but during six years of development and with their Kickstarter backers, they figured out that the game gains much by balancing the different gameplay elements. It added to their writing.
     
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  12. MRY Prestigious Gentleman Wormwood Studios Developer

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    I think we may already be doing what you’re talking about, just with Excel and non-generic text.
     
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  13. Quantomas Learned

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    Sounds to me like you are doing all the hard work in your mind. Man has used tools since the dawn of civilization because it makes work easier.

    It seems my explanation so far was lacking. Here is one last try, I hope it makes the benefit and challenge more clear.

    For each event you need a node with its initial state (describing the event) and each node has child nodes that represent the available options. Each of these child nodes is associated with the items that enable it (skills, artifacts, warband, fetch, resources) and the response which represents the new state of the event. As each child node can have their own children you have a tree structure. To make sense of the entire game you need to view all events and balance these.

    Let's say you have 5 skills, 15 artifacts, 5 different warband members, 3 types of fetch and a couple of resources, that makes 25 options that could potentially interact with each node in each event. If you have 40 events and the branches in the events can be 5 nodes deep, you get something in the order of 30 nodes per event, which makes 1200 nodes in the game that potentially can interact with any item, something in the order of 30000 possible interactions.

    I know you don't see this entire space while you are writing, but that is the space the players will explore, and what they encounter will be their measure of the game.

    You can easily get more structure into the event/narrative design if you categorize events, items and responses by tagging them. Essentially listing what each interacts with. The tags would describe the interaction, e.g. death lore, law, sex, threat of force and so on.

    This will narrow down the interaction space in the game that you have to flesh out, let's say by factor 10. This will still leave 3000 potential interactions.

    In principle all interactions that you write will be in the game eventually. A simple and straightforward tool will allow you to edit all event (node) text interactively and let you navigate between events and the nodes in an event tree by showing you what interactions are available at each node. Traversing the tree is done by selecting an interaction (response). The tool will show you not only the interactions that you have written for a node, but also the potential interactions, i.e. items that match the tags of the event node, that you have not handled so far. Naturally, if you edit the tags of events and items, the system will update automatically to reflect the changes.

    This gives you an editor that lets you edit all of FG's event text interactively, but more importantly gives you a good feeling for how the game balances out, what you tackled so far and an overview of potential interactions not handled yet, to review these and plan ahead. The tool will save your team considerable time, because it becomes redundant to copy text from spreadsheets to game files and to make sure that the versions are up-to-date and that the text goes to the right events and these work as expected. This gets more important if you get to alpha, beta and QA, particularly if you begin to update and tune the game and incorporate user feedback.

    Beyond that I understand your disdain for generic text. However, this is a misnomer, the idea is to give you the means for layered interactivity that you can do with text alone.

    Let's say you have a Banner of the Ormfolk.

    A - town with Jarl
    The jarl pays you 1 gold as a tribute due to the Ormfolk.

    B - towns that are natively allied with the Ormfolk
    "I recognize this banner, my warriors will be eager to aid your cause." (opens recruitment)

    C
    "This banner was crafted by my ancestors, ... (the real event).
     
    Last edited: May 10, 2018
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