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The global "narrative" of the game

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    The global "narrative" of the game

    My single biggest disappointment with SotU related to the impression of scale that it created on first glance, compared to the game experience it delivered in practice.

    Let me clarify; when you first power up the latest version of SotU, you are treated to... well, a series of events that, by small indie game standards, feels quite epic. You're not just out there to fuck with the premier, but everything, from the opening speech from Neuman, to the warm up live commentary by your selectacorp adviser, to the sheer number of clickables on the screen... everything tells you that you're not just "playing a game" but really trying to take over a small country. The problem is... the board doesn't feel "alive", for want of a better turn. Until you actually get around to interacting with various objects, they simply sit there and wait on your convenience. Failure, when it happens, is a temporary set back at worst. The random attacks by the Premier help relieve that static sense, but it's, for the most part, a one way street.
    I've already proposed how to address that part of the problem, but i think there's something else i want to stress that's part of the equation.

    The Rpg vs. Grand Strategy non-debate.
    While Rpgs often have strategy elements (Tactics Rpgs, for example) and Strategy games rpg elements (Warcraft 3 was a poster child for this), both games are generally expected to inhabit distinct design spaces; Rpgs will generally focus on the plot/immersion/emotional response, while Strategy games will tend to focus on mechanics/realism/intellectual challenge. Conventional wisdom is that if Rpgs are too complex from a mechanical standpoint, this might take away from the game as a narrative experience. Conversely, people argue that a good strategy game doesn't need a plot at all; people often compare such games to Chess; a game with no plot whatsoever, yet one that is immortalized by the depth of the gameplay.
    Neither position really stand up to scrutiny, especially when compared to the titles that are successful in modern times. Take the epoch defining Starcraft/SC:Brood Wars, for example. While many still consider the game and its expansion to be the pinnacle of RTS, but if you were to ask the people who remember the game to name what they like the most... most people would point to the cast and plot of the single player campaign, rather the expertly balanced multiplayer that almost single-handedly created modern e-sports. On the RPG side, the latest final fantasy aside, most top performing RPGs have been back to roots, D&D style Arpgs where character stats are spread across multiple spreadsheets, where the actions of individual characters have to be micromanaged on a moment to moment basis to guarantee success.

    TLDR, what's your point?
    To put it simply, the best strategy games are characterized not just by their gameplay, but by their plot, which means we should try to have a plot as well. You could, at length, make a case that SotU had a plot. As far as the introduction and ending is concerned, I agree. Those were well defined narratively. Everything in between though... you could make the argument that the "narrative" is created by player actions. The issue with that, however, is that you ended with a game that felt inanimate aside from these two points, esp. once the novelty of Neuman randomly fucking up one of your stat numbers every turn wore off. The big way we can fix this, is by giving the game world an actual plot, complete with sub stories.

    Global Plot
    What is a global plot? In game sense, this means that the game board changes with time. And by this, i mean the actual game board, not something your stats up and down arbitrarily. In real practical turns this could mean
    1) Certain areas/characters are locked initially, and eventually become available as time goes by. A scene will play to explain the context of this change, and give narrative weight to it. These events can be one offs or...
    2) ... be part of a chain of events. An idea i really like has to do with this; if you had asked the average American some three years ago who they thought would be president, most people wouldn't have said Trump. However, as time went by, a series of events unfolded in a such a way that this went from being unimaginable to being very likely. That plot chain would represent this; they wouldn't necessarily be interactive (unlike 1), above, but they would serve to flesh out the world.
    To give some examples
    1) Event type 1; Archeologists have discovered a shrine to Hercules in the suburbs; heated national debate ensues on what to do with the relics found therein.
    A good example of a game that does this well, is, imo the Majesty ( franchise, particularly the first game and its expansions. Every mission would have scripted events that, once certain condition were met (usually on specific turns, or when a particular location was discovered), would change the game world, creating new challenges (e.g. a giant dragon appears on turn 50) or opportunities (we've found some strange runes; if you dedicate them to one god by building a temple, this would attract powerful druids to our cause).
    2) Event type 2; Chain summary: Current Premier touting good economic performance > evidence of foulplay involving conglomerates > large industry closes down > youth unemployment soars > government fails to curb assassination of foreign ambassador by extremists>Premier resigns, precipitating constitutional crisis.

    How to we keep the global plot fresh (because the point is to create realism, not a marginally more complex series of compulsory actions)
    a) Randomize the order in which Type 1 events happen (perhaps make it so a limited number of them can happen every game)
    b)W.R.T type 2 Randomize the narrative blurbs tied with the progression. The final event would stay the same, but all the other blurbs will be randomly selected from a pool of a similar degree of "badness" e.g. instead of "large industry closing down", "second largest bank declares bankruptcy owing to subprime investments"
    c) Give players a token choice with small mechanical and narrative implications when either event occurs; E.g. Site is discovered; Players offered choice on what public statement to make 1. "Agree with academic community; it belongs in a museum" (receive a donation from an anonymous donor (the scientific community) and/or favor with Academic community) or 2. "Agree with conservative rival religious faction; it offends the one true god and should be destroyed (receive faith, and/or favor with rival)" or 3. "Declare the discovery to be a sign of divine favor, and the herculean phallus sacred above all things" (receive faith, and/or +% chance to "petition to have phallus granted to the cult" action).

    Individual Plot-lines
    We kind of had this in SotU; specifically, acquiring police officer whatsherface (which required you to unlock the police first), then giving her to mafia; it was an isolated case, but here's a structured way to implement something like this.
    When certain conditions are met, the player is presented with a series of choices at certain intervals, with relevant narratives to characterize the plot; E.g.

    Event Chain Trigger: Gain control a group of extremists
    Choice: 1) Convince them to publicly renounce their extremism (gain a chunk of influence) or 2) put their skills in service of the cause (increased chance to assassinate targets)
    If you choose 2), the follow ups event, after a few turns/assassinations/both, would be...
    "The leader of the extremist group has approached you; the small fry no longer satisfy them"
    Choice: 1) "A blaze of glory..." - Destroy a rival religion/permanently lose the group (i leave the implications of that choice to your fertile imaginations), 2) Temper their bloodthirst (lose charisma, but retain persistent % chance bonus) 3) Assimilate them into your religion, creating a "death cult" splinter (Successful assassination are "ritualized" granting additional faith on success)

    If you went down the peaceful path instead, your choices might instead be...
    "The extremists have come to see their error of their ways. Some want to make amends for past misdeeds, others seek greater purpose"
    Choice: 1) "Encourage a public self-flagellation annual event" (Gain a chunk of influence AND faith) or 2) "Engage in voluntary civic service" (gain a piece of infrastructure for free) or 3) "Their faith runs deep. They can lead and inspire your other followers" (Your followers now have the "devout" quality)
    An example of game that does this really well AND takes it to rather absurd lengths is the excellent Dragon Commander ( Btw, despite being a "mainstream" game, that title boasts some very gnarly player choices both at the global level (use the bones of Elven ancestors as fossil fuel for the A-bomb) and the personal (You can "break" a closet lesbian, turning her into a booze loving, cock hungry party girl. The game doesn't have sex-scenes, but even w/o them, it's very believable.)
    Last edited by Le_Wang; 03-24-2017, 01:28 PM.

    There is that to which you say that puts me in mind of "Torment" and the "Baldur's Gate" series. I begin to feel that I have betrayed my generation by not keeping up with video games or their methods of development. One of my biggest hates/phobias is exposing my own ignorance/stupidity, especially when *I* am the one making me look like a fool. Gotta risk it here, though. Gameplay is always secondary to narrative and plot, just like special effects and tits can’t save a shitty movie. Most narrative authors sit down with a good plot in mind, and write an outline to be fleshed out. Nitpicking can occur later with dialogue, but the story is everything.

    When it comes to video games, I honestly don’t know TECHNICALLY how hard or possible it is to write code for ‘choose your own adventure’ shit, especially when you have to work through a platform not really meant for gaming like Articulate. Thus, I’m just gonna assume that anything we dream up CAN be done, and only limit it when the techies say no-can-do.

    The narrative is everything. Painting it with good mechanics, grammar and dialog is very important, but it don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that narrative. Character development, teasing the plot – all the crap your freshman English lit professor winged about. That has to take precedence over everything. Now, I’ve seen Selecta’s ability to write BDSM, and the Lord sayeth it is good. Let’s hammer out the scaffolding, and concentrate on the narrative bible. The only good thing I know that was written by committee is the Declaration of Independence, but it is possible for a team of writers to come together to work within a well-established canon. Al we have to do in advance is agree to let pet ideas go if needed, accept harsh but fair writer’s criticism, and admit in advance that some deference to the group and the politburo is gonna come up.

    For those of you who get tech possibilities, please let me down gently when I insist that we can cram Halo 3 into a 600mb articulate file. Better to reach high and fail.

    TL;DR - I don't know what the fuck I'm talking about, but I'm gonna try to help.


    • Le_Wang
      Le_Wang commented
      Editing a comment
      On Jefferson writing most of it: this is why he tops the list when it comes to the founding fathers, all the way up there with Washington

      On the congress and the anti-slavery close: the language and rhetoric that he utilized surrounding the issue of slavery planted the seeds that found fertile ground in the generation of Lincoln. When justifying the abolition of slavery, some people looked to christianity, but many, including Lincoln, were more concerned with the legal implications, and looked to the intent of the founding fathers... and not the congress that they put into power.

      On the legacy of Jefferson: The wisdom of Jefferson protects America from itself, even today; it lives on in the confrontational structure of arms government, and in the tools it gave each one to resist dysfunctional leadership, even if it reached the highest office.

    • Jefferson
      Jefferson commented
      Editing a comment
      Loaded with ironies. I'm actually much more the Hamilton fan than Jefferson, but now I can't say so since people think i feel that way over a rap musical, not 'cuz I actually like READ any of his shit or anything.

    • Le_Wang
      Le_Wang commented
      Editing a comment
      I prefer Benjamin Franklin myself; sadly, i can't really say that because most people think it's because i dig the "gansta ben" memes, not because, you know, he was a genius scientist, diplomat, writer, whose contributions extend beyond American independence. After all, it's not like the Electrical research he helped pioneer isn't the foundation of modern human society.
      Last edited by Le_Wang; 03-26-2017, 05:48 PM.

    Jefferson The mea culpa is undeserved; even if you wanted to keep up with video game development, the PC game industry crash of 1990s meant that there either was no industry to follow, or no industry worth following.

    1) Rpgs entered almost a decade of dark ages where Jrpgs filled the gap until Bioware re-ignited the flame with Mass Effect. Even then, and despite critical acclaim, it was a very clumsy attempt when you compare it to the likes of Pillars of Eternity (the last DLC for which was released last year), which ACTUALLY picked up where Baldur's Gate left off (15 year gap right there). If you're thinking Torment, the time gap is EVEN bigger, with the sequel coming out this year (Numenerra)
    2) Strategy games entered a period of slow, but steady decay, with only a handful of flagship titles persisting (Civilization and the ...Craft series). For the most part, the genre was kept on life-support by East-European small devs; i stress LIFE SUPPORT. Many of their titles, even their most ambitious, were very hit or miss; King Arthur wanted to be a mix between an RPG driven grand strategy title with compelling real time combat... in practice, archers killed everything, the overworld AI was dumb as bricks AND the story quickly ran out of steam.
    Even at it's best, these East European titles are not above criticism. Take th cult classic King's Bounty (1990). The franchise was rebooted in 2008 King's Bounty:The Legend. It was compelling, it was fresh, it had a modern AI AND it felt true to the original... but it quickly fell into a spiral of repetitive iteration. The latest title, King's Bounty's: Dark Side, was made on the same engine, and is made up of 60-70% of the assets used in The Legend, despite being a full-priced release launched 6 years (2014) after that game.
    3) The only game style that prospered in the west in the aftermath of that problem was FPS's and in terms of game design, you can make a very compelling case that after being initially touted as the "Saviors" of genre, the likes of Call of Duty:Modern Warfare (post-modern FPS with Colt M4000s, woooooo) and Gears of War (infinite regenarating health Woooooooo2) sent it down the crapper instead; we had to, here again, wait until the mid 2010s to see a return to form with the likes of Serious Sam 3, which paved the way for the Shadow Warrior and Doom remakes.
    Edit: 4) Another, almost unnoticed casualty of that era of gaming was the fact that "adult" games (which the major studios of the time were beginning to invest in) was cut short; While definitely on the comedic side, Leisure Suit Larry was a flourishing franchise that got served the freezer treatment.


    • Selectacorp
      Selectacorp commented
      Editing a comment
      Leather Goddesses of Phobos-- such a tease, no pay off!

    • Le_Wang
      Le_Wang commented
      Editing a comment
      Selectacorp the industry died before we could get a payoff. Names escape me, but there were quite a few games with increasingly risque FMVs made in the 1990s, leading up to the collapse.

    • mackaie
      mackaie commented
      Editing a comment
      Don't feel guilty Jefferson. I play video games and even though I love rpg's, I have major gaps in my knowledge there. I have played Dragon Age Commander (Le-Wang is right, they do really well in creating a sense of factions, advisers+wives and options that have impact, I wasn't much for the strategy but I love the political stuff) but not classics like BG. I barely play shooters or sports games and so on and so on. We will all have gaps and I am fortunate to have had the time to play video games, others don't have that time.

      Your right about the vital need for strong narrative and you provide (even to a selectacorp lay person like myself) so much to these games becuase of your ability with that.

    Another fun tennis volley between our resident Agents Provocateur...

    I'll take on board the SOTU criticisms. I think it goes to an offline discussion I'm having with an old friend (from PA Mag days!) about the legitimate ambitions of these game projects. He was pointing out that you can't really lose these games. My response- true, because that isn't what players really want (in these games). Time again, requests have been made for sandbox/hints/walk-thrus etc. Players want to explore every nook and cranny as their first priority-- thus focus is more on scale, scope and chrome as opposed to raising barriers for players to overcome. This is really what informed SOTU but could it have/be improved with sub plots of the type mentioned.

    That said, I've really tried to speak to this with the 'Select' NPCs in the current project. I see those NPCs as 1.) be limited in number but providing a deeper level of interaction/reward potential, 2.) bridging the strategic and persona and 3.) providing a built in response to the 'why ca't all NPCs be like this?' which is not a practical goal (ie the 'Select' project more astral/spiritual potential than the normie NPCs). Granted, my proposed scenarios are pretty mini-quest basic but I invite any and all to improve and add upon them-- or add new Select characters too.

    As far as the backstory... I've actually been doing a lot of research of all different sources into the cult phenomena. From movie stuff (The Devil Rides Out) to real world horrors like Aum Shinrikyu. What seems to connect them is a charismatic leader in all instances. Any game should allow for that-- so a PC can be a fanatic, a charlatan, a sybarite, delusional, true believer, etc. What connects followers seem to be a desire for 'more'-- more power, more status, more sex, etc. Also followers come from all strata-- so the PC should be allowed to have a strategy based on high level celeb recruitment (Scientology Hollyweird types) or Manson's drifters or Jim Baker's middle class rural evangelicals or any/all. Perhaps this is an area of nuance that could be developed-- if you play as a Holy Man Rasputin type, you'll have a better chance to connect with high society female types than with the lower classes who see through you?

    In terms of an Origin story, I start with this: "When Man ceases to worship God he does not worship nothing but worships everything." GK Chesterton. The backstory should reflect why the country is fertile ground for cult followers and the quote speaks to this-- a post-Christian post-modern society with a decadent elite that no longer pretends to set any kind of example and where traditional faith has been marginalised or co-opted to the point of nullity (sounds familiar). I like the idea of a 'shock event' symbolising all this drift. Hyperinflation in Weimar Germany not only led eventually to the Nazis, it also led to a general disillusion with authority and a huge surge in all kinds of fringe movements. The Black Death lead to the Dancing mania in the Middle ages. What shock event could we use here? Could be a stock standard political/economic/criminal scandal. Could be something tied to technology-- perhaps massive tech failures which force a re-examination on human reliance on technology which is increasingly uncontrollable or antithetical to human desires (ie. robo-automation causes massive unemployment and you have a neo Leveller/Butlerian Jihad of sorts-- 'kill all the robots-- let God sort 'em out!'). Perhaps genetic manipulation/cloning/etc type advancements and a push to normalise them causes a reaction? Dunno-- but I do agree there must be some compelling, realistic societal pressures swirling around the petri dish that would lend itself to the growth of a cult-- and these could all lead to specific paths and endings.
    Always working behind the scenes



      On the Nature of the PC: I've been struggling to express this for a while, but i finally remembered the example i was looking for when it comes why the 'nature' of the PC is not important
      This. I encountered this book while looking up recommended reading on modern religions way back when.It's a classic of Modern Indian Literature... by which i mean, it's one of 10 books written by Indian authors in good english that is actually worth the detour (this is not to say India doesn't produce great literature atm, it's just that most of what they write is in one of a dozen local hindu dialects and languages, and most of them defy translation to english).
      There's a lot to dig from here; the story is generally broken into 3 parts, and the story is told in using a fragmented approach.
      The bottom line is, the main character begins as charlatan taking advantage of the generosity of gullible villages, and eventually BECOMES the mask he wears. That book asks some compelling questions: even if the PC actually IS a Charlatan, if no one BUT the PC knows, and the PC's actions are ALL construed as the work of a holy man... does it matter whether or not he's actually a Charlatan? While it never goes as far as to ask that question explicitly, btw, the book DOES beg the question; what if the founders of our great religions were in fact opportunistic "wise men" who took advantage of a gullible surrounding intent of seeing their every actions as holy, then eventually came to embrace the part?
      Besides this, there's other captivating things about this book; there's the dancing girl, who the main character falls in love/lust with (the line is never clearly drawn). He uses his people skills to turn her into a Marylin Monroe-esque sex idol, an object of quasi-religious adoration from her fans... I wouldn't really recommend reading the whole book, but those are interesting take-aways.

      On the back story: I see your GK Chesterton, and raise you an A. Moore, with this Joker line from the Killing Joke: "If I'm going to have a past, I prefer it to be multiple choice!".
      I think that almost everything you mention are good reasons why this society might be experiencing a crisis of faith. Why not have ALL of them. Instead of having a singular introduction scene, instead, let's have the first scene be a generic "Looks it's normal country where everybody's living happily"... at fixed turn intervals, you will learn more about that society, and find out something, beneath the surface, that makes it vulnerable. This event will be randomly drawn from a pool of events including the ones you mentioned above. While choosing a specific succession of events and writing some compelling story around it might feel cool, i think it's much more compelling to mix and match things and let the players connect the dots.
      Edit: I think we've reached a point where it's kind of hard to progress w/o actually bringing some game hypotheticals
      Example: Say, for example, there was a "finance district" where you normally have very limited access to.
      Normally: You can "undermine" this district by running speaking against personal wealth and what not, and eventually cause it to fall apart, causing allowing to step in and take over the surviving bank/re-purpose the destitute employees. However, this will require you to undertake multiple actions, and have enough influence to gain that level of access to the district.
      One RNG event from the pool: Global Financial crisis occurs, leaving local finance industries on the cusp of complete collapse. Narratively, this is a "world building event" exposing a vulnerability and lending credibility to your takeover. Mechanically, it creates an opportunity for you. While seizing this district is normally an ultra late game luxury, if you get that on an early turn, you can now potentially build your entire game around seizing it early AND leverage it's high wealth income to all ends and purposes.

      Edit: Probably a bit late for this: Now that i think about, the story of the Guide might have been an interesting to execute Max's concept on a smaller scale; you start off as a salesman of somekind (perhaps even a priest) that falls in love/lust with this one girl, that you go on to turn into the prophetess/sex-symbol of a fullblown religion, and move around the countryside seducing/convincing people to join your budding religion while dodging the fuzz.


      • Selectacorp
        Selectacorp commented
        Editing a comment
        I think you could certainly have an 'all in' backdrop. Here's another perspective-- think 3rd century Rome. Christianity, a cult-like import from Judea, is suddenly all the rage in the capital. For whatever reason, all the 'best people' seem entranced with it. Constantine, a weak pretender to the purple, suddenly 'sees the light' and asks for Christian support. The cult becomes the state religion after he takes the throne-- though it is only right before he dies that he is actually baptised. Pretty amazing insofar Rome was still highly secular and generally took on cult religions like hobbies.

        You could have an in-group conflict backdrop-- Islam arguably arose because Mohammed was annoyed by the Jews, who he initially respected.

        I'd agree with your finance example but might frame it to an NPC. You can't attempt to convert a high influence character unless you have sufficiently impressive credentials of some sort. Likewise, high faith types might require a similar level of spiritual commitment or they won't treat with you.


      Originally posted by Selectacorp View Post
      Another fun tennis volley between our resident Agents Provocateur...

      I'll take on board the SOTU criticisms. I think it goes to an offline discussion I'm having with an old friend (from PA Mag days!) about the legitimate ambitions of these game projects. He was pointing out that you can't really lose these games. My response- true, because that isn't what players really want (in these games). Time again, requests have been made for sandbox/hints/walk-thrus etc. Players want to explore every nook and cranny as their first priority-- thus focus is more on scale, scope and chrome as opposed to raising barriers for players to overcome. This is really what informed SOTU but could it have/be improved with sub plots of the type mentioned.
      OTOH, maybe this friend doesn't know what he or she is talking about. A strong possibility!

      Viewed in the light you describe, however, rather than a game (where one wins or loses to one degree or another), at least some of these projects might be better understood as interactive fiction. Using S2S as an example, I've now played through it often enough to know how to achieve the obvious goals and "win" the game. However, the real impetus to replay it comes from trying to reach different outcomes. What if I focus on destroying V's career, but keep her reputation intact and make her fall in love with me? What if I keep her reputation intact, but make her hate me. Things like that. How do I accomplish that? How does it affect the outcome?

      As far as I can tell, achieving these goals only leads to a few different results in the end, though I understand that there will be more outcomes as the game is updated.

      The more interesting question is the manner in which these different outcomes are achieved. From my experience, there are only limited mechanisms in the game which give different options in controlling V to achieve different results. For example, winning a clique will provide different options, which is good. However, without too much effort, I can easily win all of the cliques, so there's really no need to chose. I can have it all!

      IMHO, S2S might be improved by making players chose between different approaches to controlling V. Maybe winning a clique will give more options which are weighted in certain directions, in circumstances where you cannot win them all? By way of example, winning the "Young Turks" might more options for destroying reputation, but not so much for career or relationship? In that way, players could still easily "win" the game, but different approaches will give different types of winning. At the very least, it might make for some interesting choices, as Sid Meier would say. Similarly, why not limit post CEO options and have that affect what you can do with V? I don't know.

      Anyway, my apologies if all of these has been discussed before by those more knowledgeable than myself, as I've just now come to these games. And, of course, none of this is intended to be critical of the games, which I very much enjoy!


      • Selectacorp
        Selectacorp commented
        Editing a comment
        Your point is well made and shared by many here! I think it all helps focus on how to improve the game experience. Do feel free to continue; the more the merrier!

      • mackaie
        mackaie commented
        Editing a comment
        I tend to come to games after they are pretty much finished but I have always found my views on the game are still very much welcomed and constructive posts like yours should never be unwelcome.

        I love sandbox mode giving my time and space to explore everything. However a sandbox mode where still "if I select this group, it will mean I can't do such and such this time" would give the time+replayability as next time, I go for a different route/path.

      So one thing that's been bothering me is that this is potentially turning into a religion simulation which is not really fun.

      The thing that grabbed me about the initial proposal was the cult idea-- the concept of one person creating a movement that had ultimate credibility backing whatever craziness you wanted to justify-- especially sexual craziness. That IS why we are all here and I felt it was slipping away.

      I did like the 'Select' concept but it just sort of extends a type of engagement. It is still, as are all game mechanics, disconnected from the world you're operating in-- and still doesn't provide the PC with a reason to feel plugged in. There's no backstory.

      I'd like to fill that hole. Let's assume everything as it stands with this additional element. Instead of a tabula rasa, you are in a region of a modern country that was once dominated by a local ethnic group not that long ago (think occupying English in Ireland or could be any external 'other' group that unseated an aboriginal group). The PC is the descendant of the aboriginals. Blood calls to blood across the years and even though it all looks multi culti harmonious, there are deep roots of resentment. The PC can rediscover their roots via the study of the cult. On the surface it is mere quaint revisionism but compatible with the 'modern' modus operandi. But the deeper you go, the less this is the case. The 'old ways' lead in very different paths.

      But the only way to truly unlock them requires symbolic/ritual dominating and control of the the original occupiers. This is accomplished on the surface by the existing game mechanics of conversion etc but on a deeper level it requires the spiritual co-opting of the descendants of the original invading clans-- their female descendants. As PC you must complete the circle by locating and co opting the descendants of each family. This allows for two games-- the strategy stuff and the deeper level intimate game where the PC has decisions to make. Most importantly, it provides the PC with a STAKE in the game and a motivation behind them (or at least an excuse that is currently missing). I'd see these NPCs either as the 'Select' or a new category of NPC in addition to the 'Select'-- maybe the 'Daughters of Discord' or somesuch.

      Does this make sense? Any opinions?
      Always working behind the scenes


        I agree. Partly. As in, i think we should have this, but... i don't think we should necessarily have ONLY this. When you think about the people who have beef with "modern religion", there's 3 groups of people

        (a) Those of a "FOR THE DARK GODS" persuasion, with the kind of "blood for the blood god" flair you're proposing
        (b) Those who believe that the fruits of modernity (technology, feminism, tolerance) have emasculated Abrahamic religion beyond recognition, and long for a return to form; god created Adam in his image, and granted upon him dominion of the earth and all its beasts. Eve is a mere extension of his loins, existing only to satisfy his needs and tempt him away from the correct path.
        (c) Atheist extremists, who see organized religion in its traditional form as the root of all evil, and all its institutions (including marriage) as innately flawed; even if it means fighting fire with fire, the old spiritual world must be swept away to make way for the glorious age of pure reason.

        Here's the thing... i don't see any of these free persuasions as inconsistent with the same game world you are proposing.

        Now, I want to stress, there is, unfortunately, nothing hypothetical about the country you describe. In fact, it sounds EERILY like a... get this... MORE TOLERANT version of modern Malaysia. This is a country where the dominant Abrahamic religion was imported to the country, and, over time, took over the country. Unlike Australia, where there are clear racial lines drawn, this is a country where people with the very SIMILAR ethnic roots practice religious discrimination against each other (i.e. mostly native people who have refused conversion or aren't of the ethnic majority) with PARLIAMENTARY SANCTION, which the religious majority controls. But wait, it gets better; while there is resentment against this by the minority, the most aggressive religious elements (we're talking bona fide quasi-terrorism here) aren't part of the minority, but of the MAJORITY, who believe that the faith has been diluted by modernity, and must return to its fundamentalist roots... to the extent of instituting a legal theocracy, and denying women the right to vote. I sincerely wish I was making this up.

        Since this is too real for comfort, let's dial this back to a country with

        a) An imported variant of the Abrahamic faith, which has grown to become the dominant religion, but has "modernized" and "secularized" itself to a significant degree, losing a lot of the fundamentalist bite that led it to forcefully assert power as the dominant national religion
        b) Minorities belonging to native faiths, who still represent a significant part of the population, and have experienced historical repression (which hasn't happened recently), and persistent economical repression (which persists, in the same way that it persists in many modern states, often for organic reasons like rampant regional poverty, etc)
        c) A growing quantity of people who are 'in between', and have grown distant from all things religious.

        In this world, i can very easily see our PC come from anyone of these backgrounds without having to change a lot.
        a) I can see our PC as a 'new prophet', who believes, is believed, or indeed has been (in the fiction) sent by god to return the faithful to the "true" path as he understands it.
        b) I can see our PC instead as a member of one of the repressed minorities, who instead sees group (a) as traitors and thieves to the "old ways", thirsty for not only revenge, but also a re-establishment of the old order.
        c) I can also see our PC as someone who has awakened to the latent hypocrisy of BOTH (a) and (b), and believes that only by turning religion against religion in a violent revolution can the country be saved... after all, what is a Patriot, if not a fanatic who puts his country before everything, including god?

        In terms of implementation, i don't see this as a problem;

        In fact, i think this opens multiple possibilities; one of the issues i had with the free form version of the game was that there was no real way to "ease the player" into any specific part of the game world.
        For the low, low cost of a small text blurb explaining the back story, we can not only give the player a distinct narrative hook to suit most palates (i think that the player merely professing to believe in any of these things can be implied from any path, and, to the extent that the player isn't obligated to follow that narrative route, his actual beliefs will be expressed through his actions anyway), BUT

        We can now have 3 distinct starting locations for the player, and looking at the discussion that's unfolded elsewhere, also justify your "starting kit" as it where.
        a) Would put your initial seat of power in a conservative neighborhood; a mechanically "balanced" starting point
        b) Would put you in a slum, of some description; money resources are scarce, but desperate NPCs are abundant
        c) Would put you in a posh, high flying neighborhood; good luck converting these layabouts, but you're swimming in greenbacks compared to the others.


          Your analysis of Malaysia is spot on, tho their brand of Islam is far more tolerant-- prolly because the Malays effectively won their dominance fair & square with the amicable divorce w/Singapore.

          I think in game the differences don't have to be as dramatic. I was thinking more of a Norman/Saxon type split but after a long enough time that differences have been softened-- but not wholly forgotten. A revanchist revival in the original culture perhaps even inadvertently encouraged by progressives which flames some embers.

          Or simply a revenge tale, with the descendants of one time oppressors being used to power up an emerging cult opposed to the current elite. Think heiress Patty Hearst being kidnapped and brainwashed by the SLA into helping out on bank jobs. The revenge angle is what was missing and I think it starts to frame the narrative up more tightly.

          I see your starting options all working well enough. I just don't want to veer too much into formal politics/revolution too much; the true cultist considers politics a trifle-- a ruse or a rubber stamp.
          Always working behind the scenes


          • Le_Wang
            Le_Wang commented
            Editing a comment
            The scary thing about malaysian tolerance is how fragile it feels. Every election brings another wave of fundamentalist rhetoric as politicians try to outbid each other in an effort to pander to the conservative vote. Granted, elected MPs tend to be far more subdued, but leaving your fate to the mercy of "tolerant islam"... I don't know how the minorities put up with it, but i do know quite a few malaysians that left the country because they couldn't deal with that pressure anymore. Anyway, i digress. See post below
            Last edited by Le_Wang; 03-26-2017, 11:10 AM.

          • Selectacorp
            Selectacorp commented
            Editing a comment
            That sounds a lot more worrisome a situation than I was aware of. Thanks for the clarification. If Malaysia loses the plot, we could be in a tough spot.

          I'm also thinking that in order to ensure replayability that these descendants are randomised amongst the female NPCs at the beginning of each game. You can only 'uncover' them via conversion attempt or perhaps mini quests/relics. So they are out there but you're not sure where. Once discovered, they open up different paths for interaction, perhaps each one representing some use for the cult that is cruelly ironic in context of their ancestor's role. Perhaps this means assuming a role within the cult or being forced to carry out missions on behalf of it or even participate in humiliating and public rituals of submission to the cult
          Always working behind the scenes


          • Le_Wang
            Le_Wang commented
            Editing a comment
            I'd randomize where they are in the game world, but not WHO they are. The issue with randomizing something with that degree of mechanical relevance is that it's hard to make it narratively satisfying as a result. If say, anyone of ten women could be anyone of three different descendants, then you'll need to have 30 unique interactions and potentially art assets to give weight to each one. Just not worth the value it adds relative to the additional depth it adds, i think. That being said...

          • Selectacorp
            Selectacorp commented
            Editing a comment
            Agree completely-- would only randomise location, not interactions

          As someone who self-identifies as an Humanist/Atheist, i can tell you, the atheistic "community" is, for the most part, about as bad as the religious order it supposedly stands against. In my experience, most vocal atheists i've met demonstrate about as much intellectual dishonesty and bigotry towards non-atheists as your average religious preacher has for them. Atheistic fundamentalism exists, and it's a real problem. Even though it hasn't happened yet (to my knowledge), I think it's only a matter of time before a full-blown "destroy all religions" terrorist cell emerges in some part of the world. In fact, a disturbing number of atheists believe that religion should be excised from human society wholesale, and many of them use their atheism to justify many of their more... questionable life choices.
          While it is "revolutionary" in nature, it's not hard to see a dedicated individual/collective whose objective is achieving the aforementioned excision, by whatever means necessary, even if it means tearing the fabric of society apart and precipitating a fragile country's descent into civil war... Furthermore, i think that pure atheism lends itself to a degree of a-morality that would lead to excesses of sex, violence, etc. For example, people these days don't just use the bible to rationalize male dominance, they also part to hard scientific evidence like humans being sexually dimorphic (resulting in males being better equipped to lead weaker females). Given how easy it is for an atheist to justify the same "end-outcome" that say, a Patriachal/conversative christian would want to create...
          I think there's a powerful comment to be made here; in its more extreme forms, Atheism is almost indistinguishable from the religious order it seeks to overturn.

          As such, i think that
          (a) Atheists should be featured in the game
          (b) The PC should be given the option of starting as one
          (c) There should also be NPCs that explicitly identify as atheists; imagine the draw of turning a ball-busting atheist/feminist into a god-fearing cock sucking slut...
          I'd argue that (c) alone should justify having explicitly atheistic npcs in the game

          This in turn sets the stage for the three rival "religious" factions that exist in the game world, I.e. followers of the old faith, the imported religion, and atheists, with most NPCs subscribing to one of those three at the start of the game.

          Regarding your last proposal... I think it's compelling that we tie the NPCs to world's fictional space; however, i'd posit that just like followers of the old faith might have their descendants spread across three camps mentioned above, i think the same could/should apply to other faiths.
          E.g. having a few NPCs from other factions who are "in the closet" about their atheism; e.g. a nun with a deep BDSM fetish who has lost faith, and "comes out" to live out her lifelong fantasy.
          Alternatively, you could have one of the most stringent proponents of the old faith being revealed as being descended from the stolen daughter of the saint/missionary who brought the word of god to the heathens.

          More compelling, (and kind of what you are driving at, i think), is the idea of a "victory quest" of sorts. Currently, the end-game is that society will fall apart when the turn limit elapses, and all the player can do qualify the nature of that collapse, and thereby shape the eventual recovery of the country. What you are proposing is that, for the old faith, for example, it is possible, if the player were to assemble all descendants of say the druidic circle of marblehenge and perform the prophesied centennial orgy, you can spawn a deep religious revival that arrests this slide into anarchy.
          (Edit: I think that as long as it exists only for this purpose, we could "randomize" the NPCs that qualify as "descendants". However, I'd also posit that 1) you shouldn't need all of these descendant NPCs to qualify, and 2) a few of the "bigger" descendants shouldn't be randomized (e.g. that one ultra-conservative housewife and/or that one money-worshipping corporate banker should remain marks that you have to convert each time, which will set a baseline to the challenge of completing this quest).
          While i like this idea, i don't see why we wouldn't have another victory quest with a dark take on the Abrahamic ideal; declare a holy war, destroy all competing faiths AND make man (parliament) concede the ascendance of the divine (declare theocracy)
          Similarly, I also don't see why we wouldn't have yet another victory quest where achieve the Atheistic ideal by exposing, preferably by of scandalous sexual behavior (which you will expose and/or undertake), all other religions to outdated hypocritical relics that need to be removed to make way for a better, sexually liberated world.


          • Selectacorp
            Selectacorp commented
            Editing a comment
            Interesting take on atheism. The public face is the reasonable Dawkins and you're suggesting there's a nasty underbelly. I could see that-- especially amongst the virulently Christian haters out there.

            You're introducing levels into the NPCs that bear working out a bit more. Could you explicate a scenario whereby an NPC might be interacted with in the ways you're suggesting? It would really help!

            I'm thinking of five descendant type NPCs, each tied to one of the Five 'Founder' families and that each has a potential fate that links to their ancestor. More on this as I work them out a bit more. I'm thinking that the state religion needs a name: any objections to the Church of the Holy Word? Denominates a vaguely Christian religion akin to Unitarianism.


          On "levels of NPCs". I'm generally thinking in terms of efficiency.

          We've already discussed the idea of having "super" female NPCs, that would exist as the game's "prizes" granting more narrative possibilities/mechanical rewards than more "generic" NPCs while being harder to get at the same time.
          Personally, I think it kind of makes sense to combine this idea with what we're developing here; the "tarot" NPCs you were mentioning would ALSO have a clear "Faith affiliation"; They would ALSO, as descendant of the founding families, be inherently part of the old faith, before time turned most of them traitor to the old ways. Since we are on that topic, I think there should be a way to "convert" these NPCs to a different faith, or "corrupt" their existing faith in some way. E.g. the Church of the Holy Word super NPC (I like that name, btw), would start off as a revered Nun, but potentially be turned into a priestess for the other "faiths", or be controlled, corrupting them into a pseudo "spanish-inquisition" fanatic with a BDSM flair.
          Going back to the what would the "generic" "descendant" npcs look like by contrast; again, let's be efficient. Imo, it should just be a hidden "keyword" descriptor that's assigned to certain NPCs when the game starts. Mechanically, they won't be different from other npcs in how you interact with them (even though there might be some narrative flair tied to their origin); this descriptor will only add to the "counter" of descendant npcs you currently control. That being said, i don't think it's necessary to go that far if we have converting other Icons (the super NPCs) as a requirement among others (see below)

          Building further on the concept of win conditions:
          I like the idea of the player having a mission thrust upon him; specifically, i like the idea of the player being able to disregard this mission in favor of another, or none at all. Imo, each origin should change your starting point and reveal the win condition to you, but technically, there shouldn't be anything that stops from defaulting to another faith. For those of you who want some insight into how turn by turn strategy does victory quests, have a look at Endless Legend, which features a unique set of loops that every civilization can leap through to win the game, each one complete with it's own narrative. We're not going for anything as complex as this, but...

          1) Old Faith victory: Control the Icon of the Old Faith, Convert 2 other Icons to the Old Faith, Control a fully upgraded Marblehenge Shrine w/ the "Rite of Rebirth scroll" (special relic, details a weird sexual ritual) attached to it. The idea being that you will perform the ritual with the descendants, fulfill the ancient prophecy by doing it, and win the game through the religious revival this causes (or perhaps even semi-magical shit, if you want to go that far)
          2) Church victory: Control the Icon of the Church, destroy all competing faiths, declare holy war, reach 80% control of followers. (essentially, you've achieved the christian patriarchal fundamentalist's wet dream)
          3) Atheist victory: Control the Atheist Icon, convert all other Icons to Atheism, pass the "repression of religion" motion (you've exposed the champions of other faiths as frauds and convinced the state to outlaw re
          The next one is thinking about Endless Legend inspired me to think about; one of the win conditions in most modern Civilization style games is the "Wealth" victory, where you win by being filthy rich.
          4) Wealth victory: Control the Icon of Wealth, Control 80% of shrines and relics, have >3 Wealth tenets (you turn the country into one entirely focused on the accumulation of wealth; shrines, rituals and even religions as a whole, are celebrated not as religious objects, but as objects of mass consumption whose intrinsic value lies in the amount of money they make)

          Which in turn leads me to posit; just like there's a dark side to Atheism, i think that enough has been said on the subject that modern day consumerism can be described as a full blown religion in its own right. The potential for pay-off here is pretty clear too, imo; money is the only god, and as long as you can pay for it, you can have anything you want; whether its sex with a teenager and her mother, or a romp with a nun...

          This in turn would put our number of "affiliated" Icons at 4, and it would make sense for the Fifth Icon to be unaffiliated.

          P/S: It just occurred to me that the "Wealth"-religion could be the "Church of Selectacorp" i.e. it wouldn't be called that, be it would be a financial elite (perhaps even a local splinter of Selectacorp, and use the Eye as their Icon), unbound by social and religious convention, bent on reshaping the world around them in anyway that maximises profit.
          P/S2: It would also unlock "Agent of Selectacorp" as an origin story, which was something that a few people were asking for specifically.
          P/S3: Having 4 major faiths also makes for interesting clarity in map design imo; we could have 4 clear quadrants, each one housing the "seat" of a specific faith, and with a central area, where all faiths are equally represented.
          Slums: Old Faith
          Suburbs: Church
          Financial District: Wealth
          Scholarly/Artistic District: Atheist


          • Selectacorp
            Selectacorp commented
            Editing a comment
            Coming together now-- feels like it is getting tighter all the time.

            As far as your 'keyword; concept, perhaps this could be incorporated into the labels for the NPCs. I have used generic labels instead of proper names (ie 'Defrocked Priest') as they seemed more meaningful. Perhaps a family of names that fall within your keyword family would work. Could you elaborate how the keywords work and if this makes sense?

          • Le_Wang
            Le_Wang commented
            Editing a comment
            On Keywords: See keyword thread update. Clearly, we're thinking different things.