Balancing Acts…

I sat down and playtested Cryptic Stitching (that being the name of my game) from start to farthest-point-along yesterday and was rather depressed to find that over a hundred cards = surprisingly little content. I got through it in about two hundred clicks or so, including some time spent grinding. (At forty clicks a day, that’s…err…five days of play, or thereabouts.) Mind you, I knew exactly what I was doing and where to go to do everything, so I can get through it a bit quicker, but…still.

On the other hand, having over a hundred cards would make me one of the larger games in the StoryNexus catalog, assuming it was playable. (I write fast.)

I started a new character in Fallen London, on the other hand, which apparently has over 3000 cards, and was immediately a bit overwhelmed. There were some clear options, but there were also a solid dozen “You can’t unlock this yet!” options with way too much information. I spent a good bit of time boggling….and I’ve played it before. And am a gamer of long and illustrious standing. And have a passing acquaintance with the system from the back end. And I can imagine new players staring at all of the options and then closing the browser and never coming back.

So I need more stuff to do in my game, while not having it all appear in the first ten minutes and knock the player flat. And I’ve got the problem while there’s some fairly lengthy plot-related quests, there’s not nearly enough small incidental stuff, so you wind up getting the same two merchants and minor cards over and over once you’ve cleared out the plot-stuff, which will of course bore our hypothetical player to tears.

The first-ten-minutes problem I can probably fix by setting a “newcomer” marker that turns off some of the content until the player has gotten through a couple of establishing quests. (Now I just have write those establishing quests…!) But the extra-content stuff can only be fixed by…well…writing extra content.

(Stuff I really DID like and had forgotten about Fallen London–the sidebar with flavor text! There isn’t an option like that in the standard Story Nexus engine that I’ve found, alas. And it’s made me think about moving a couple of cards around for ease of player access…)

Part of the problem, I think, is that the developers suggested at least twelve cards in the “draw pile” for any given region, to ensure a good mix in the draw. And even then, I started getting the same cards over and over and over and thought “Oh god, I need at least a half dozen more…”

Oy. I didn’t think I was anywhere close to done with Act I, but I was hoping that I was farther along than I thought…

7 thoughts on “Balancing Acts…

  1. Brigid Keely says:

    I’ve been playing Fallen London for so long that I can’t speak to the current newbie experience, but I remember seeing “you can’t play that yet” cards and being frustrated by them, yes, but it also revealed a bit more of the world and gave me guidance as to what story lines (and thus traits) I needed to focus on.

  2. Hawk says:

    I wonder if aiming for a thousand cards would be overload for you, the writer/artist…?

    As for content – minor stuff – well, I don’t necessarily know what all is entailed, but could you have cards for “you found this nifty thing, save it for later”? I’ve seen this done in many, many RPGs that I’ve played – the “uncommon item that becomes very important to your interests in Act 2, so hang on to it” or the “item that functions as currency but only with this faction.”

    (I’m looking at you, Timbermaw Hold.)

    Anyway, that might be a form of minor content, mightn’t it? I admit to not at all understanding StoryNexus, but just my two cent idea.

  3. Hazel says:

    I’m wondering if the only reason for releasing the StoryNexus platform was to make people appreciate how much work went into FL.

    Good luck! We’ll all be rooting for you.

  4. admin says:

    @Hawk — you know, I didn’t even think in terms of general card numbers! I’ve currently got 180 cards in the game, and I think I’d like to have at least 300 before going live with Act I. But possibly an overall number goal isn’t a bad notion…maybe by region…

  5. RhianimatorLGP says:

    I have discovered that Storynexus has become a yawning pit of “OMG where did my time go?” like TV Tropes and all I’m doing is playing a few games to get a feel for how it works. Now I’ve recruited a household member to help write a game based on my webcomic, and I shall never see the sun again. meh, don’t care.

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