Simulation, Gameplay, Narrative

This is intended as more a general discussion and to talk about aspects of game design and what people like, and stuff.

Simulation, Gameplay and Narrative are often used in discussions or tabletop RPs, where most of my experience comes from, so I see Cata through a lot of these eyes. It ticks all three boxes for me, so to speak.

As a summary of terms
Simulation - how the game simulates a hypothetical event, in this case, a zombie good infected post apocalypse.

I’d say Cata does this excellently, and is part of the appeal. Having to worry about clean water and shelter is fantastic, and I think a lot of the fun for a lot of players comes into this aspect.

Gameplay - How fun the game actually is. The interface I think is the main factor in this, as the general idea of “kill zombies etc” is well established as fun. Somewhat this is the difficulty, and having brutal randomish difficulty with permanent consequences really seems part of this, as well as roguelikes in general.

Cata seems to do this well and is getting better, the interface seems to be changing a lot lately. The size of the map and game window seem to be the main limiters here.

Narrative - How awesome the story is.

Most of the interest of the story is in each of my characters personal stories. Reading the lab notes was pretty interesting and I’d like to see more, but I think the main character is yourself, so overall the most interest a player will have in the story will be their characters personal stories. The horrid deaths by survivors make for excellent stories, so I think the way the game allows you to essentially build your own is gonna be top notch.

tl;dr add more gameplay/interface betteryness then amp up realism based difficulty.

The way I see it, what a sandbox-type game does is simulate a complex event/scenario in a fun way, and allow a narrative to emerge from the player’s interactions. As such a scripted plot for the player to follow is optional.

That having been said, there is also room to put various narratives into the game for the player to discover and interact with. Currently there is only the most rudimentary form of this as missions you receive from NPCs. If someone is interested in embedding more narratives in the game feel free to discuss it with the developers here or in IRC.

I’ve always liked the idea of “discovered narratives”.

Morrowind did this well. Ultimately, the story is about you - but as you explore, you can learn many other people’s stories too. Your story may be different every time, but it gives something to discover, look forward to, and share with others. Lore, I guess you would call it. I think there’s lots of room for Cataclysm to explore it’s Lore, and I look forward to really delving into that when we get the chance, and tell the stories of others and the world itself in an engaging way.

Something I’d love to see towards that end is some kind of ultra-rare “survivors diaries”, that have things other survivors have learned in the waste, that you can find on corpses and in stashes.

But I feel like I should probably bring that over to suggestions.

I like how no matter how strong you are, or how big your fortress is. An enemy can say: “fuck you” and make sensual love to your hindquarters.

Also you can be a superhuman.

I’m perfectly happy to write up lab notes, survivor journals, audio logs, etc - just no real idea how or where to stick them into the game.

I dunno… I feel like the simulation aspect of the game is actually pretty low.

I mean how often does a player actually struggle to meet day-to-day necessities? I know it’s probably an aspect of gameplay that’s still being developed, and that will change a lot when stuff like NPC economies comes in, but for the moment I don’t know if the game’s heading the right way.

As more cool stuff gets added in, the fight for survival seems to get a little diluted.

A good analogy would be the Sims games. If anyone has ever played them, they have a very standard development cycle. They’ll release the main game, and then the first few expansions will be enhancing the core experience, and it’ll slowly reach a critical mass wherein expansions just have to be about completely wacky and off-the-wall ideas just to stay interesting (for the record I love the sims, even if their business model is predicated on actively shafting their players)

Now the thing is, as the expansions get more wacky, the the core gameplay gets less ‘core’. At first it’ll be because there’s now a bunch of new beds you can buy, which let you sleep in 1/2 of the time. Also there’ll be a tree which grows money from the “Corporate Fuckbags” expansion, and a teleporter which negates the need for walking. So the game will not necessarily get easier, but the things which made it challenging will shift - it’ll be more about experiencing new content and making an interesting sim, rather than just scraping money together to afford an extension.

Eventually, though, there’ll be so many super-items and laser-drinks and space-microwaves that your sim may as well just not have the needs which characterised its life in the pre-expansion game. Money ceases to be a concern at all (there’s a new kind of NPC which shits gold on your lawn) and they released a drink which gives you skills instantly, and basically everything that originally defined the game is no longer a challenge.

So how does this relate to cataclysm? Well I think it’s in the second phase at the moment. We have vehicles, and military surplus stores and bullet-crafting and it all leads to a world in which basic survival - although still a concern - is not a priority any more. Any half-decent player has basically found infinite food the moment they stumble across a vehicle with a trunk (just scoot to the next town, load up from the nearest shop to the outskirts and then run back to base).

So yeah. I personally think there needs to be a refocus on survival. It’s not a distraction from the fun stuff, it’s one of the defining characteristics of the game! The need for food, clean water, shelter and not-getting-killed-at-night are the driving mechanics of the game, and the other stuff slots in around that, but shouldn’t supersede it.

I think the simulation aspect is higher than almost all other games out there - there are multiple different types of ammo, the cars have separate engine sizes, etc - but I get what you mean with survival. A water purifier and a bee hive will keep you full of food, and once you have shelter there’s no more drive to survive.

Once rotten meat can’t be cooked, it’ll be harder to create enough food to last the winter, but I don’t think that’ll add much difficulty. By the time you’re stocking up a pantry, food isn’t really a problem. Stocking up is just to save time from hunting, which is fairly easy. One water purifier and 100 batteries goes a long way for water. Looted MREs and canned goods can easily get me to that point. Finding the water purifier is just luck really.

Roaming mobs could make shelter less reliable, especially if they could smash walls, etc. Would be a hard balance to get between too often, too powerful, etc. Currently a moat seems a bit too effective.

Fighting for survival is fun, but it becomes tedious in the end game. The end game of super soldiering yourself and making a death truck is also a fair bit of the appeal to me, and having to go hunting twice a day would just be annoying. What survival elements do you think would bring the most fun in?

Personally, I’d like to somehow see more weather effects beyond having to stay inside or downstairs. If cold became more of a problem ala Unreal World it’d be quite interesting, but I can see it becoming just another random weather occurrence that stops you going outside.

Making winter a time where you’d have to worry about keeping warm on your trips to scavenge and ensuring you have sufficient stocks to outlast the cold season would add an entirely new and awesome recurring stage of survival.

Perhaps you’d freeze to death in a fire-gutted ruin, unprepared for the freeze.

Or perhaps you’d flourish while the bluster brought out fattened wildlife with thick winter coats. Remember those nasty noob-eating bears and bees and plant monsters are probably hibernating and most of the zombies are probably frozen solid until the thaw comes.

As it stands we got scads of nice warm clothes and the skeleton of a temperature and warmth system already in place. I’d love to see our brief winter mean something to us more than what the weather indicator spits out it would add so much immediate depth.

Fighting for survival and skinning wolves for their pelts suddenly takes on a new timbre when it means the difference between living and dying of frostbite.

(edited for formatting)

Weather effects would be a great way to add to the feel of a hostile world.

Making them worse in winter would be a good way of making the long term game harder, and giving the player a reason to stock up.

Cold would be a great way to add in problems from weather that aren’t just death from above like lightning/acid is. It could also make being wet very bad.

Personally, I’d like to see the “getting wet” thing a bit more avoidable than just with a raincoat, a hoodie or leather jacket should help a lot.

OTOH I live in Australia so know basically nothing about cold and wet.

I second that notion as well. Unless it would require some sort of massive overhaul it would be nice if the ‘wet’ status took into account what you were wearing above and beyond a raincoat - a jacket and a hat can count for a lot in the rain.

For the record, my main priority for Cataclysm is making it a survival game, not a survival simulation. If gameplay and simulation come to odds with each other, gameplay is going to win out every time.

That being said, there’s definitely room to increase the challenge of survival, I’m slowly trying to work my way away from the current system of having infinite resources, but before I do that there needs to be a way to replenish them, y’know? Before I make liquor stores spawn with 3 bottles of tequila and nothing else, I need to give the player the option of growing some grain and making their own alcohol.

Another problem is the time of the setting, Cataclysm takes place the day after the apocalypse, there’s no logical reason for all the food to be rotten and all the water to be dried up a-la Fallout, especially considering the format of the apocalypse ingame. If I was going to do anything more hardcore for survival, I’d strongly consider a bit of a genre shift, make the game take place a few hundred years after the apocalypse, or make the military have tried to contain the infection with carpet bombing and nuclear armaments. Something that would let me really tear up the world and give it a reason for supplies to be rare.

I changed rain a while ago, I think anything with a warmth above 3 or so now protects you from rain, so a leather jacket will negate the penalty altogether, or should do.

Although I tend to only work on code in rare bursts, farming is one of the things on my npc improvement todo list so should turn up soonish in a form you can pull.

Without cooling, or another form of preservation, food goes bad fairly fast. And that is before we add acid rain into the mix.

That’s for things that aren’t tinned or sealed. Most of the food in my pantry downstairs for example will be edible for the next 40 years or so if left undamaged.

True, and the average supermarket has a enough stuff in it to last a few dozen survivors for a long time. Then again have you ever tried growing crops, your gonna need a while of food before you can start producing your own.

Anyway this is one of those gameplay > realism things no? scarcity makes a challenge, and challenge is fun.

Although I’d have said hunting needs to be made harder, it’s easy even at low skill levels to get all the meat you need hunting and butchering.

Yeah, so food is going to be artificially scarce, and this will be a wondrous scientific future where crops grow to harvestable quantities in a week. And for hunting, I’ve been mulling over a few things to increase challenge.

Why don’t we just say the zombies ate all the food with their insatiable appetites? And the rats helped!

And this explains why its so much easier to find drugs than food - the undead have no interest in drugs. So a supermarket would be almost bare, but a liquor would still be fully stocked and it would make sense! (I see no reason that every resource needs to be equally scarce, and I’d love to make alcoholism an easy way out that ends up biting you in the ass later)

Also, the Evacuation, which is a concept me and kevingranade have discussed, certainly contributed (expect mentions of that in game soonish).

Giant cockroaches with mandibles that double as can openers, in fact the only thing keeping the cans of food safe from the cockroaches is the zombie infestation!

Food-stealing cockroaches are continuing to climb my list of priorities, thanks for the idea gtaguy.

I think I’m gonna start a suggestion thread for this.

And… done.

Why do we need farming actually?
We already have unlimited food (hunting) and water (rivers etc.).

IMHO it’s just a waste of ressources but I’m just one person and don’t speak for the majority. :slight_smile:

I agree mechanically - I think farming just-for-being farming is pretty much a waste of effort.

However, I was sold on the idea by the possibilities of farming-gone-wrong. The wonderous wonderous possiblities.