Frostpunk

Story Events and Game Emotion

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In Fall of Winterhome, we get a new bunch of story driven events that I find quite cool. There is one where the Engineers volunteer to die so that the Dreadnought will get more supplies. That's a nice tearjerker, but it also got me thinking about the role of positive emotion in Frostpunk. The majority of the story on any difficulty that is a challenge to the player is quite a brutal grind. You're trying not to have to sign child labour, or assign people to forced prostitution, or any one of the other twenty decisions that have baggage. Once in a while in the midst of hard choices, it's an unexpected treat when the city rallies behind you, even if it's something small and random. In New Home for example, there is an event where you don't get a discontent hit during the Storm preparations if you fire Emergency Shifts (I was game-endingly short on coal stocks and it was either kill people using E-shifts or bust).

What do you think? Does it make the world more immersive if people sometimes put a little more into the pot? (Fall of Winterhome has a bit more of that than previous scenarios.) Ideally, it would be something that is either random, and/or triggered by a combination of factors that are hard to control, so that it would be hard to deliberately trigger. The bonuses would be very small, but sometimes that's enough to make a difference.

A couple of examples:

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  1. Fall of Winterhome. Dreadnought preparation time is running out, people are worried and starting to panic. The captain (you, the player) gets an event where you can pledge to stay behind like the Engineers. This drops discontent a bit, hope goes up a chunk and you get 5% production boost for say, the last two days. If you successfully launch the Dreadnought, there is a mention in the closing litany about Selfless Leaders.
  2. Ceremonial Burials has a chance to trigger an event specific to the cause of death, negating the lost hope completely. If a mass death occurs, it has an additional chance to give a small bonus towards mitigating the cause of death. (this would also let it compete against the sheer power of Organ Transplants).
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There could also be a game director kind of mechanic where instead of having specific triggers, the game tracks a bunch of different metrics behind the scenes and throws in events when they make narrative sense. If Dreadnought preparation is going well for example, the impact of a Captain's Sacrifice is kind of bland. Whereas if you're struggling to get children aboard the Dreadnought and fed, two more hours of volunteer work at the hothouses or people just eating a bit less that their kids might live is going to have way more weight to it.

It would also be a nice incentive to get people to try the harder difficulties, because you'd get far more events if you're tackling a difficulty that is beyond your ability to manage well and have to be positively struggling to get anything done. Instead of just a litany of the laws you were forced to (or chose to) enact, the closing narrative would be far richer if it changed when these game director events triggered. Don't get me wrong, I like the closing narrative as is, but wouldn't it be even more emotionally charged if 5% coal production for a day reversed a death spiral, and was mentioned in the Founding of New London?

Essentially, Frostpunk's setting is always going to tend towards the grim, but instead of the player being the mastermind that has to manage these short-term thinking people (stop eating the raw food you id*ots! cookhouse is going to make you something better!), perhaps portraying the people of the city less like drones and more like people that are sometimes able to step up to a crisis situation would expand the depth of Frostpunk's emotional component.


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