Under the Hood 1: Companionship

This is the first in a series of short posts about the underlying ideas that drive the design of The Great Whale Road.

Video games can be a fairly solitary pursuit at the best of times. Sometimes they are loneliest when you play online with other human beings - one of twenty four voiceless characters trudging across a virtual landscape. Lasers, rockets and someone calling you a noob or worse in strongly accented English.

I am still trying to find games which can recreate the emotional immersion I felt when I played Baldur's Gate II all these years ago. Deciding to leave a character of my party behind caused me a tiny bit of real heartbreak. Playing Wasteland 2 I just couldn't care less if a character is eaten by a cave rat as they are all oxygen thieves who can't hit the wall they are standing in front of.

Where is everyone?

Where is everyone?

One of our key goals is thus to create game mechanics and characters which allow players to care about their crew. Who to rescue and who to sacrifice will be important in a world where death will be a constant companion, in addition to bad weather and dysentery. Sharp objects, berserkers, high seas and the lack of antibiotics are not doing a lot to increase life expectancy. Building your fighting decks from your crew based on factors like abilities and survivability will be essential, so you don't end up in tears after sacrificing your favourite champion or the ship's dog.

We are still discussing permadeath for the single player game and how to implement it. Most likely we will have a permadeath mode, to give players the option of a more forgiving game experience.

But the game will not only do its best to kill characters the player cares about. People have different motivations, and further down the line we will work on implementing a motivational component into the crew management system to give it additional depth, more than just assigning crew members tasks and waiting for a timer to pass. I would like to see crew behaviour based on the sum of the crew's aspirations and maybe even fears. Ignoring crew cohesion when recruiting and managing the crew should make for more challenging and quarrelsome travelling.

In the end I want to create a game which puts togetherness before solitude - covering the full spectrum of emotions from rowdy road trips with mates to dysfunctional family Christmas dinners.

-Joachim