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How dark do we get?

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    How dark do we get?

    A break from my "expose" style; where most of my stuff is writing/design nittty-gritties that may or may not be of use, this is a discussion that began, but was never quite completed in other threads.

    The TLDR of it is that there has been a significant push for a "darker" story line. Selecta, for one, makes a compelling case that religion lends itself to some very questionable actions, and such things ought to be included for the sake of realism. This has, however, raised some eyebrows; an equally compelling counter-argument is that a lot of the darker content is gonna be something of boner killer. I think both arguments are equally valid. I tend to lean towards darker stuff myself, but i'd still describe my position as "on the fence".

    (a) For one thing, one of my favorite SC experiences remains ML, because it's a non-stop sex-train; there is literally an instance of hot pay-off every odd click. I can see Church of Selecta (CoS - i'm gonna call this that from now on) being that, albeit with more gameplay. For example, you'd have the option of getting dirty, or making every npc get dirty with someone else. However, that would limit the narrative space to a religion with a clear "venusian" flair; i.e. some kind of sex-worshipping fertility goddess cult thing you're trying to spread. It wouldn't have to be explicitly pagan, but even if you were distorting christianity, for example, we would still be walking down the road to "sex-worship" as the defining trait about the game and the religion the PC embraces.

    (b) That being said, I am also a big fan of lovecraftian fiction; this is an often misunderstood genre. Most people see that and assume giant tentacle alien god things. If you read actual lovecraft, most of the fiction (the good ones at least, esp. those written by the founding father himself) involves a lot of NOT giant space monsters. The conceit by lovecraftian fiction is that there is "something" that runs parallel to reality as we perceive it, and occassionally, this bleeds over into our world in the fictional (plot) and narrative sense (the way the story is written). The stories are characterized by a slow, steady, but inexorable descent into madness; while the story may start with very mundane and tangible interactions, towards the end, we are evolving in a world of human sacrifices, unborn cosmic horrors and physics defying madness.
    At this point, i want to stress i'm not saying we should turn CoS into a horror game. Far from it. However, there is no denying that the power of the lovecraftian structure; Ground most of the narrative in the temporal world, slowly approaching and ultimately crossing the line into madness. The deeper and more absolute this "insanity" is, the more compelling the story becomes. An example of this would be going down the "Abrahamic Fundamentalism Route", where you start by murdering the followers of pagan gods. However, you are then confronted by "moderate", "Jesus Saves" Abrahamic believers who start manifesting against the whole-sale massacre. At that point, the PC can relent, or he can go all the way, uttering that infamous line; "Kill them all. God will know his own".

    The reason why i'm the fence about which way to go is because i find both things to be compelling, even though they make for different gameplay experiences.
    If we go down route (a), you'll be looking at a game with a clear religious flair, but also one that presents itself more as a lighthearted parody. Even though they are described in fiction as 'missionaries", your followers will be less of the "I will rain down upon them with a great vengeance", and more, "Have you heard the word of our lord and savior, the male phallus?". That's the game where your "guardian angel" is a half-naked woman who delivers campy lines justifying one sexual excess or the other. Bottom line is, the plot/gameplay/religion will all be clearly excuses to deliver copious amounts of sex with a "religious fetish" quality. Which is fine by me, btw. Not every experience has to be emotionally deep, morally challenging and intellectually thought provoking; sometimes you just want to kick back, and have fun at the expense of the southern pastor's thickly accented southern daughters by replacing weekly mass with weekly orgies in their little book of faith.
    If we go down route (b), however, what we'll be looking at is a game that's "Adult" in every sense of the word. There will be sex, even a lot of it, but it will be there to emphasize the way in which those with religious influence can abuse their flock to fulfill their own, basest needs. Alternatively, it could be the PC using it as a means to an end by, say, condoning prostitution to raise money. Beyond this, there will exist "pay-off" scenes in the game that are explicitly violent in nature, and the explicit aim of which will be disturb the player, rather than arouse him (or her, I'm not judging). This will also change the fiction in various ways; where with (a) the pagan gods will be perverted/naughty at worse, giving women an uncontrollable urge to go on a humping spree, in route (b), when paranormal events occur, they will have a much more sinister flair.

    The bottom line: what do you think CoS should be - A religious parody with a lot of "adult" content? Or do you want to have an Adult Game that offers social commentary on the dangers of unfettered religion?

    For the record, while i'm generally a big fan of combining seemingly irreconcilable concepts, i do think this choice is a mutually exclusive one.
    If you want to go for (a), you can have non-stop sex, and suddenly CANNIBALS, and expect the player to enjoy that moment when they are halfway to a proverbial or literal ejaculation. Conversely, (b) is going to rely so much on realism to sell itself that you will be called to moved away from "cheap/copious" sex to maintain fictional integrity.

    How about having either events or starting setting to make it as light or as dark as you want? Sometimes people are in the mood for different fare.


      As much as we like to choose your own adventure, I think we need to limit ourselves to say, 4 shades of gray? (Ha)

      I'm sure Le_Wang would be happy to push us to 8 colors but we'll have to see

      Avatar: Kloe Kane


      • MaxDS
        MaxDS commented
        Editing a comment
        To clarify for Le_Wang :
        4 shades was a stab at 50 shades of gray, but taking it literally, that we'd only be using 4 levels of darkness (limiting the scope of our writing to 4 degrees of kink, so to speak).

      Originally posted by MaxDS View Post
      As much as we like to choose your own adventure, I think we need to limit ourselves to say, 4 shades of gray? (Ha)

      I'm sure Le_Wang would be happy to push us to 8 colors but we'll have to see
      I have... no idea what you mean. I'm not even even being sarcastic. What does "gray" mean in context? How does this relate to the following comment about 8 colors? For the record, i'm not annoyed either, i just don't understand, so i don't know how to respond.


      How would you propose to make this difference?
      Are we thinking about a "no blood mode" feature that disables all of the bad stuff, or replaces it with the SC equivalent of fluffy bunnies? This approach gets more difficult to implement the more "blood" there is in the game, because there would then be far more stuff to disable/replace. Just disabling it isn't a particularly good quick fix either, because the game will typically be balanced on the assumption that you have access to the "blood content". This is especially true if we're talking about "violent" features with a mechanical component e.g. murdering people; what narrative equivalence do we look for? Retcon it to a "convert" action instead? But in that case, how do we differentiate from a proper convert action?

      Note: neither me, nor SC, for that matter, have argued for violence to be a COMPULSORY part of the game; at no point will you be forced to take a violent/bloody/ritualized murder approach. However, the simple fact that the POSSIBILITY of making these choices exists will make the game darker for it.
      Note2: Given the nature of all SC games, we have a MUCH higher tolerance for "dark" stuff in this community than most; even excluding SoW, every other title deals with blackmail, human trafficking and nc-sex. In fact, that's often the reason why people LIKE SC games in the first place. However, there are certain lines that even people in this community would be uncomfortable crossing. E.g. Mesoamerican religions featured human sacrifice extensively, with cannibalism (drinking blood, eating flesh) and mutilation (flaying the dead) a feature of various rituals (just thinking about this is slightly sickening for me too, btw).

      The better question would be

      Should there be a narrative line that we shouldn't cross in this game? If so, where is it?
      Blood rituals?
      Do we draw the line at mass murder?
      Mass suicide?
      Ritualized mutilation and display of bodies?
      Human sacrifice?
      Re: All of the above, is there a difference if it's implied or a explicit?

      Personally, i'm generally ok with almost everything on that list, but i'd draw the line at cannibalism, explicit and implicit.
      1. How do we get this right?
      How are we representing visually; one person biting another? Bones on the ground? Fleshy human bits?
      How doe represent this implicitly ; there are examples of cannibalism in fiction, but ritualized cannibalism? I mean, if you set your game in an alternate timeline north america, i guess the locals could be have Mesoamerican roots and it could be justified that way but...
      2. Marginal value at disproportionate marginal cost
      My argument would be that it adds realism, but in your game is already doing everything else including human sacrifice, the shock factor of cannibalism is, at that point, marginal at best; however, the 'yuck' factor this adds to the game is immense in comparison.
      3. Resource allocation argument
      Case in point; cannibalism has been a staple of the Fallout franchise, but the feature has been in the franchise long enough that even fans just "know the feature is there but don't see it". You can take that example to argue both ways, but personally, while i'm ok with having a feature most people won't experience, i draw the line at introducing a feature that most people won't experience because they DON'T want to experience it. Note: On its, i'd say this argument isn't enough to justify doing or not doing anything, however, when added to 1 and 2, it becomes more compelling.


        I got the impression early on that it was more option b (one strand would go very free love and orgy but not in a parody way), it was going to show the potential dark side of religion, the way people can fall under it's spell, how it can be manipulated by the wrong person. I think, done right, it would be a very intresting theme.

        I also got the impression that there would be one very dark strand so if made certain choices, it would go down the route of mass suicide and so on. Selectacorp has sometimes gone down very dark routes so as long as there is warning (at start of game and maybe just the option you click goes down a very dark route), I think people should be alright with it becuase of that as it shouldn't be entirely unexpected. In terms of where the line is of the list you made Le_Wang, I would say the line is "can you write it/visualize in the right way?". If you discover you can't land it in a way that feels right, drop it.

        From where I stand I probably would not go down the very dark route in this game as a player. I come into selectacorp games as a very light figure so I'm not the target audience.
        Last edited by mackaie; 03-31-2017, 07:06 PM.


          I must admit I quite like the idea of having it as open ended as possible. Let me use the recent update to Crusader Kings: Monks & Mystics. It introduces holy orders, secret societies and cults. Depending on the choices you make, you can really go quite dark OR quite 'enlightened' or 'saint like' as you like.

          My gameplay is usually consistent-- I always play a game the way I'd make decisions in RL as I'm whitebread boring (it is the way I am). That said, I did dabble and play a satanist and it was devilishly fun-- though I did feel I needed a bath afterwards.

          I too am an old Lovecraft fan and agree in the real appeal (fwiw I'd heartily recommend Laird Barron as a worthy successor to The Gentleman from Providence). I think it also provides a context for a 360 approach in terms of choices. Lovecraft's protagonists must embrace dark knowledge in order to confront it-- though they don't need to adopt it. Perhaps Visions might act the same way. If you select Orientation Z, the discovery of a Vision would allow you to do option C (out of perhaps A, B & C). Would that work?
          Always working behind the scenes


            Perhaps it could be done the way it is in many mainstream games, although not being a programmer I don't know how hard this actually is to do. In many games you start by choosing a race or nation etc. and depending on the choice you make some options are available to you and others aren't. In CoS there could maybe be 3 or 4 different religions to choose from at the beginning ranging from a fairly vanilla one where the options to proselytize and expand would never go beyond the pale of what is already found in other Selecta game to one that is as dark as the makers of the game are inclined to make it. Even in mainstream entertainment they often go darker, I just watched a prime time TV show where an evil entity wanted to destroy the world in favor of a void of pure evil.

            In this case for instance maybe one of the mechanics for expansion would be to convert a village to your faith, but the way to do that could be either method A, B or C each only available to the corresponding religion A, B or C. In this way the balance of the game would be the same for each path with the differences being in the details. This could also have the added benefit of increasing replayability as even those of us who preferred a certain level of darkness would still probably be tempted to replay the game again as a different religion out of curiosity about the different feel and flavor that this would impart to the game.
            Last edited by spartacus; 04-11-2017, 12:39 AM.


            • Selectacorp
              Selectacorp commented
              Editing a comment
              I think your instincts on this are right-- nuances depending on choices to encourage a replay would be ideal