Christopher’s Build: The Long March
In January, we’ll be releasing Christopher’s Build, the second major free update to Cultist Simulator. (Anyone following on the beta branch will see some of the updates well before January).
Christopher’s Build – named for the urbane, devious, melancholy occultist Christopher Illopoly – is about two things:
(i) Thing the First – making the game a bit shorter
(ii) Thing the Second – ADVANCED LEGACIES AND VICTORIES.
(It should also drop at the same time as our Priest DLC, but I’ll talk about that another time).
This week (when I haven’t been applauding my co-founder at a big event at BAFTA) I’ve been doing more detailed estimation and design on this, and today I’d like to discuss how things will get shorter, but how they’ll get, in the advanced legacies, Long-er.
Making the Game A Bit Shorter: Expeditions
As I’ve confessed elsewhere, the pacing in the late game is a bit draggy. I keep seeing this in reviews – people like the game to start with, then lose patience when they need to slog through all the Expeditions until the right items finally turn up in a random drop.
The most immediate change to Expeditions is this: I want to make the rewards more predictable. There’s a double-randomness effect right now. You draw an Expedition, and then you draw random rewards when you complete it. I did it this way so there was some element of surprise each time you completed an expedition… but the randomness of rewards contributes to that grindy late-game, and often frustrates players.
In the near future, then, you should see Expeditions give thematically consistent rewards, so if you really want a high-end Grail tool, you’re looking for Raven Isle, or wherever. They may retain some randomness; I may add new Expeditions to fill out the range of rewards; I may restrict some spirits or mortals; I might add more choices to some expeditions; and above all, I might add ways to find particular Expeditions more quickly. All TBD.
Making the Game A Bit Shorter: Research
Research was one of the earliest systems in the game, and I’ve never been especially happy with it. It also contributes to some of the make-work – you need to stock up on Erudition and Glimmering, and you need to sit through several cycles waiting on randomness.
I wanted to make it more interesting, and I wanted to make it a bit brisker. I’ve also been leaving this chunk of the system ready to receive the business ends of Reason/Passion skill specialisation (which you’ve seen in Teresa’s Build) and variant HQs (which everyone is asking about).
So the current design thinking is this:
Lore subversions, and low-level lore upgrades, will just happen, bish bosh, easy, quick.
For higher-level lore upgrades, you’ll discover specific obstacles for each bit of lore when you try to upgrade it, each resolved in a different way. So for a lore obstacle which requires a Grim Lesson, you might need to use Dread (which will breed), or a variant HQ with a Pit. For Obsessive Research, you might need a temporary sacrifice of Reason, or a variant HQ with a Library. And so on. Each flavour of Lore tends to need specific obstacles (Winter lore often needs Grim Lessons), and you can come back and deal with the obstacle whenever you’re ready.
If you successfully upgrade, and you have the right specialist skill, you’ll sometimes have the option to try for a double upgrade… but occult research is chancy, and the human mind is fragile. So if you upgrade second-intensity Winter lore and have the Silent Intensity skill (one of the Reason specialisations), you might be able to leapfrog directly to fourth-intensity Winter lore… but there’s a significant chance it’ll go wrong, and you’ll just get a basic Lore upgrade and also suffer a MISAPPREHENSION (for Winter lore, probably a dreadsplosion). But if it goes right, you’ll improve a bit quicker.
So we’re shaving some time off the end of the game… and providing somewhere else to put the time.
Warning: the next section contains giant spoilers. It also probably won’t make much sense unless you’ve played a lot of Cultist.
Advanced Legacies, Advanced Victories
I’ve said different things about different times about how all this will work, and I’ve said some of those things very fast on design streams. So here’s my current thinking. It might change again. I’m an UNSTABLE DESIGN VORTEX and who can predict ow ow Lottie sorry pls not to hit pls don’t use the Producer Frown okay this is very likely how it’ll work.
Complete a Power, Sensation or Enlightenment ascension, and you’ll be able to play one of the three distinct Apostle legacies. Each of these allows you to carry over some hefty starting benefits, because you’re playing a member of a cult whose leader’s just ascended. To be clear, that’s you, and the ascended leader is also you. Your current character is your previous character’s possibly faithful admirer, working to further a mysterious and sinister project which might cause disaster, and might just allow your previous character to ascend even further – from the ranks of the immortals called Long, to the ranks of the Names, the minor divinities of the House of the Sun.
But your old character isn’t the only immortal with an interest. In the Apostle legacies, you’ll be dealing with one of four different Long who each has their reasons for preventing this further ascension. Some of them are rivals for Name-hood. One is just trouble. Either way, they make Detectives and Rivals look like playground bullies, and the only way to the higher reaches of the House lies through them.
All of these adversaries will ultimately be familiar to anyone who’s taken an interest in Cultist Simulator and Noon lore over the last year, and their appearance will resolve some long-standing questions. As anyone who’s followed my work knows, though, there’s often a new question behind an answer.
Anyway, that’s on course for January at the moment, though I should probably put in a bit more contingency for flu in my estimates. All the stuff above will be another free update; find the gateofhorn beta branch on Steam or GOG if you’d like an early look at some of it in the next several weeks.