This is a document about one of the prototypes made in 2017 with Swing Swing Submarine, more specifically with William David, Clément Duquesne, Simon Trousselier and myself Yann van der Cruyssen.
I wrote another postmortem document earlier about another SSS prototype made the same year and called The Great Answer.
This prototype was actually very close to completion. It was made in about six weeks, still needs a lot of polish and a better ending but it's playable enough for a few people who played it at the Gamescom 2017 to think it was a finished game.
I called the page with the working title "boats" because I'm a bit ashamed of the actual project name.
It is a multiplayer narrative game with a lot of randomness.
The closest example we know of such a game is probably The Yawhg.
From 1 to 4 players are controlling respectively 1 to 4 crews in search of a mysterious island.
In order to collaboratively find the island they should gather "jigsaw puzzle pieces" to make the map.
But only one of the player's character will become the king of the new island (non-king characters will have to play a role too) so it's only partially collaborative.
Picking a character
At first the games lets each player choose a character among 4 predefined ones.
The other characters met along the way are all partially generated.
Each character is defined by :
- three main stats : strength, mind, luck
- other stats (sometimes hidden) : age, reputation, motivation, alignment...
- attributes : deaf, robot, sick, cursed, etc...
- a gender (including "robot" which is considered a gender on its own)
- occasionally other things like life goals, quest completion or items.
Some other variables are assigned to an entire crew, such as :
- initiative (who will explore an island first)
- type of ship
1 : Send characters
The first phase of the game looks like a board game where the players discover a generated map and take turns to send their crew to various places on the map.
If the characters from two different crews want to go to the sample place, they will have to fight (based on their stats).
It is possible for a player to know more about a place (they will get a short description of what's happening there) by using a telescope.
Some special cases allow for more funky action such as "bombing" a place (in which case it disappears from the map).
2 : Events
Each place has one granted effect known in advance (represented by a symbol) such as :
- earn money
- improve a stat
- meet another character (that may be recruited in the crew)
- get a chance to find a piece of the puzzle
In addition to the known effect, each place will trigger a text-based event with many possible outcomes.
The outcome of the event depends on character statistics, attributes, player choices and also randomness.
There are a lot of hidden or very hard to get outcomes, some of them can tell a story that "follows" a given character along.
Depending on the outcome, a character might get or lose money, stat points, attributes (i.e. get bitten and become a "vampire") or maybe leave the crew.
3 : Next cycle
Then it's time to leave the island and pay for the travel cost.
Some other events can happen in the ships or during the way to the next island.
The players then discover a new generated island so it's back to step 1 and so on until three pieces of puzzle are gathered and the game continues on the mysterious island.
We have been using unity and ink to make this game.
I was pretty happy about the way we used to work by not planning too much in what way or order things should happen (within the game) but rather testing very frequently to spot buggy situations and turn them into little pieces of story instead.
Also the way the game mainly uses simple text and very basic scripts allowed us to react quickly and add/modify content easily.
There wasn't that much work left on this game so I'd really like to finish and release it for real as but it involves several people and it has become gradually obvious that it's not going to happen.
Writing partially systemic scripts for games like this is something that I like to do though and I'd like to do that more often.
Here is a video of a very early (about ten days of work) prototype.
While everything is obviously placeholder (I drew the pics myself with the mouse) it may show somehow clearly what kind of places can be chosen from when visiting an island (castle, well, desert, market...).
Here is a mysterious trailer about it :
Another gameplay video :
And someone with a hat that we've met at the Gamescom who spoke a little bit about this game (thank you, Sir) :