The Hands of Timefeatured


This is a conversation I had this morning with Martin Nerurkar about information management and pause mechanics in Cultist Simulator. It references this blog post (written almost exactly a year ago today!) which, if you’re putting your brain in this, is worth reading first.

Feedback and discussion in the comments is welcome!


 

ak[9:31]
I still like the desktop approach, but I do get a lot of feedback that ppl are overwhelmed

democritus [9:32 AM]
Hm. My thinking is that this isn’t the desktop approach, it’s the amount of tokens in play. You’d still be overwhelmed if it was a large list of things.

[9:33]
But we may want to think about adding a search or filter functionality to the game

ak[10:05]
It is absolutely the quantity of tokens in play

[10:05]
this is a problem with the kind of games I make, and I always struggle with the info overload

[10:06]
but the desktop metaphor exacerbates it; partly because it’s not in a tabulated format, but mostly because there are several choices simultaneously relevant

[10:07]
generally in other stuff I’ve done whenever the player is presented with a choice, they have just that to worry about, unless they want to back out and do something else

[10:07]
here, there are several ongoing potentially relevant things all the time

[10:07]
which is *deliberate*, and is part of why I like the desktop approach

[10:07]
http://weatherfactory.biz/cultist-simulator-devlog-loose-tight/

[10:07]
but it imposes an extra burden of clarity

[10:08]
so dw, I’m not beating up on the desktop idea;

[10:08]
I am only saying that it now predisposes my answer to any design choice to be ‘whatever presents the least new information’

[10:08]
(which hasn’t always been the case)

democritus[10:10 AM]
Makes sense.

[10:13]
I also think the time-limit adds to the overwhelming feeling of the game.

[10:13]
Radical suggestion: Time doesn’t go manually. But you make it go.

[10:13]
Press a button to advance 10 seconds.

[10:14]
this would change all timers to be more segmented bars (5 more presses and then this thing is done)

[10:14]
than fluid things

[10:14]
but take out all the stress and change the way people interact. Not sure if that’s what you want.

[10:14]
Middle ground would be: To have a pause button and a “skip forward” button

ak [10:14 AM]
I think it would make it a different kind of stress

democritus [10:15 AM]
that’d just run 10 seconds in 1 and pause again.

[10:15]
sort of like the >> 30 debug button

ak [10:15 AM]
Civ stress rather than Starcraft stress

[10:15]
‘have I 100% optimised my board for the next turn’ rather than ‘ahhh what’s happening???’

democritus [10:15 AM]
but the pause already takes out the starcraft stress, if you play with it.

[10:15]
so civ stress is already an option for the player.

[10:16]
it’s just not as explicit

[10:16]
and – hot take / radical notion – would it be bad for the player to find the stress they like and play that way? 🙂

ak [10:16 AM]
yes; so by the same token, we *already* have an optional turn-based system

[10:16]
if someone wants to play that way

democritus [10:16 AM]
including achievements of: never went out of pause and got to the goal X or never paused and got to goal Y

ak [10:17 AM]
I want to push them in the direction of the kind of stress I want as a designer

[10:17]
“and – hot take / radical notion – would it be bad for the player to find the stress they like and play that way?”

[10:17]
yes, it would :slightly_smiling_face:

[10:17]
because that means I have to design for both play styles

democritus [10:17 AM]
fair enough 🙂 But then I could argue that pause is wrong to be there at all?

ak [10:17 AM]
this, on the other hand:

[10:18]
>Middle ground would be: To have a pause button and a “skip forward” button

[10:18]
I don’t want a skip forward button, but I do want a ‘fast forward’ button

[10:18]
(probably ‘fast forward until next timer completes’)

[10:18]
“I could argue that pause is wrong to be there at all?”

[10:19]
I would be happier if pause wasn’t there at all, but I just can’t justify taking it out

[10:19]
players have to be able to pause, because they might be old or have babies or have slow reading speeds, there’s no way round that

[10:19]
damn them, with their squishy biological bodies and fallible human eyes

[10:20]
I am however considering making it impossible to slot cards during pause

[10:20]
I think the better way is to tune the speed and the interactions so it feels satisfying to play at moderate speed

[10:20]
you play Crusader Kings or Stellaris at all?

[10:21]
you can pause whenever you like, you can take all actions when paused, the optimal thing is to do that

[10:21]
sometimes when things are stressful you’ll do exactly that

[10:21]
but I, and I think most people, mostly play on fast speed and pause only in crises

[10:21]
cos it’s just more fun

[10:22]
and the rhythm subtly encourages that

democritus [10:22 AM]
Haven’t played it but I remember the same thing from… uh? was that sim city possibly? or sims?

[10:22]
Something along those lines.

[10:22]
but maybe instead of a pause just different speeds?

[10:22]
that way you can adjust to your current intensity level or personal skill / biological fallibility

[10:23]
a very slow one – but still ticking, always ticking, never stopping.

[10:23]
a regular one

[10:23]
and a fast one for when you just want to get that one timer done

ak [10:25 AM]
now *that* is interesting

[10:26]
we would still need a legit pause, but that could be escape-menu-pause rather than interact-with-the-game pause

[10:26]
I’m adding a note to consider that

democritus [10:26 AM]
yeah.

ak [10:26 AM]
I do like the idea, and it is very testable; I could drop it in an early build and see if people hate it

[10:26]
thank you!

[10:27]
also I am now considering posting this conversation online; do you mind me doing that?

democritus [10:28 AM]
no sure, go right ahead

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