Week 25 Serendipitous Storylets

04 Mar 2020


In play-tests since I added the tutorial, users have definitely learned how to use the tools quicker and most have understood that the world has depth. However, what players built without the tutorial was usually more meaningful. Without the tutorial players build something that looks vaguely home-like; four walls and a door or an underground room with a tunnel leading out. With the tutorial players do the minimum necessary to get through it, so end up with nine randomly placed holes in the ground, a squiggly line of twenty pieces of wall and a free-standing door in the middle of nowhere. Why? The tutorial lacks meaning. There’s an excellent series of videos by Celia Hodent I’ve been watching that have helped me understand this. Celia has also published a book on the subject.

I’ve been watching a lot more GDC videos since I cancelled my NetFlix account. One on tools led me to ‘storylets’ and Max Kreminski, Twitter then recommended Jason Grinblat (well done Twitter) which is why I was playing Caves of Qud for eight hours on Thursday afternoon. After beguiling a series of goats to aid me in my quest for the corpse of a ‘critter’ I decided that “goat-lover” was not going to be my nickname and so charmed “Groubu, the fearsome Snapjaw Bear-baiter.” We found the critters but both got itchy from fungus spores and hoped nothing was growing beneath our skin. To my horror we sprouted flaps from our faces within which wax collects. On the plus side we now have an endless supply of wax, I hope we can make candles.

I’ve been making a horrific grammatical error: “The game aspires to teach players something about themselves…” The game is an inanimate object (OK, it’s a living, breathing blob of software, but) it certainly doesn’t have any aspirations. Yet :-)

Creative Bridges this week was an honest and inspiring talk from Sarah Stenhouse about her startup Oodls. Oodls provides Instagram users a way to monetise their pictures and for companies to use those pictures. If you use Instagram, totally go for it.

I started on an official Dwerg Saga website with a landing page for interested people to sign-up for a monthly development update. I started copying my blog posts to the website and discovered that Patreon image links expire so the older itch.io posts have broken image links.

My Caves of Qud ‘research’ ended on Saturday evening when I brought Groubu to another settlement and someone took exception to his face. We both have so much fungi growing on us that it tends to explode in combat and injure others, both friend and foe. The settlement in question had a way to cure our fungal problem but I expect I will be full mushroom by the time they forgive our transgressions.

I had a Sunday of self-doubt; questioning where the idea of teaching players about themselves came from, feeling like it’s a pile of pretentious horse manure and who the hell am I to teach people about themselves? The official Dwerg Saga website is now live with a landing page for people to sign-up for monthly email updates. So instead of “build it and they will come” I’m now trying to see if anyone actually wants a game that teaches them about themselves. My questionnaire on The Sims has had a bunch of respondents. The good news is that the majority of players have tried to create sims like themselves.

Monday saw me hammer through some business stuff and then venture out for Games, Drink, Edinburgh in Henry’s Cellar Bar. A quality presentation of advice from Chris Scullion, which I will endeavour to follow when Dwerg Saga is press-ready. A good pitch from Proper QA, I found myself nodding along to a lot of what he was saying, in particular about involving QA all the way through the development process. Chris from Moon Mode gave a blazing fast talk on Signed Distance Fields (I think Maths is involved :-) and giving a broad set of examples of how it is used. This is something that I’ve completely missed so will take a closer look at some point. The presentation by Humain was cool; the uncanny valley is getting narrower but deeper. I mean, I find it harder to tell the difference between CG faces and real but when I notice it the unsettling feeling is more pronounced. I bumped into Gavin Inglis again at the event and it turns out he’s written a whole load of ‘storylets’ for Fallen London. Serendipitous.

In the coming week I am going to attempt to address the lack of meaning in the tutorial. Possible ideas so far are:

I will also be play-testing the stockpiles, they work but there’s something not quite right about the interaction with them.

- Jock

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