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Hi friends!

We are on an unstoppable crash course with Early Access in January, and there's so much left to do!

This week I managed to get a ton of the upcoming patch in. The biggest mechanical change is the addition of three patients that Gusztav will be treating at the beginning of the game. I don't want to get into the nitty-gritty of the ratios and things, but on a broad level, these patients could potentially serve as additional bodies for the Beast. In practice, it's at most three extra lives, but you'll have to be both skilled and lucky to capitalize on all three.

The patients mechanic is core to Gusztav's quests lines, and we'll see more improvements as the game charts a course through Early Access. Speaking of Gusztav, a bunch of cutscenes were added for him this week as he reckons with the loss of his son. There are some particularly touching and troubling ones involving Sandor (who can relate, and who may or may not be a religious man by this point in the game) that are worth trying to reach in New Game Plus mode.

A new quest was added for Dani, but it's pretty deep into the game and requires a lot of stars to align to get it. If you do, it's a quest that's made directly easier by being nice to people in town, and the reward is pretty desirable as well.

Little orphan Tomi was a little concerning, particularly standing outside mourning his parents with no chaperone. A caretaker system has been added, so that if Tomi is in the poor house by himself, someone in town will take care of him, make sure has some food, etc. Right now, the caretaker's own lives aren't really changed by this role (they each have some dialogue about it, but that's about it). I'm hoping to change that post-Early Access. I hate to come back to Sandor again, but even he'd admit that taking in Tomi feels like he's doing some weird replacing in his life.

Finally, over the past several patches I've reported on Mushroom Identification, how people in town can tell you what kind of mushroom you've got in your inventory. Now, it finally matters - every mushroom you pick up can have different effects. Some are good, some are terrible. It's a gamble to eat a mushroom you don't recognize, but if you can get someone knowledgeable to help you, then they're a good extra resource to have. Particularly if you no longer need them for a quest.

With both the patient and mushroom mechanics, I'm hoping this eases some of the difficulty in the Dark Cave. By that point, there's a decent chance that some core Dark Cave quests aren't available to you, and so neither are their rewards. The nice thing about the dichotomy I've introduced here is that, if Gusztav is alive, you can turn in the mushroom to activate the patients-as-rewards. If he's not, then you can keep the mushrooms, and use them to give yourself meaningful boosts through the cave.

Some feedback that I'm mulling currently is:

  • It's hard to keep the NPCs straight, particularly on a first play, particularly at the beginning
  • Navigation (both in and out of the cave) is tricky
  • The game is (still) too long to justify quick repeated play

    On the first, I think a journal look-up is in the cards. Also, the upcoming patch introduces SFX for each character, which might help a little bit. On the second, while there is a map, the functionality needs to be improved, and it's not even available until the Water Cave. An earlier quest to give you the map seems prudent.

    The last is the most difficult design question. We have 24 NPCs, and their lives set the entire pacing and balance of the game. Everything is written for these 24 to form a very interdependent, interconnected web - removing just one from the start of the game will throw a lot off. At the same time, if the game is shortened, then the threat of death is less meaningful. There's a lot to think about here, and some possible solutions are:

    • Increase movement speed, which will up the tempo at the margins (it may throw off the balance of some of the Dark Cave puzzles in particular)
    • Shorten the day (this will make the game significantly harder, and from what I've seen, that's not ideal)
    • Cut one room from each biome (this will make the game significantly easier, with 12 rooms to clear instead of 16, but from what I've seen that's the right direction in terms of difficulty; this will also require a reconfiguration of a lot of quests)
    • Condense the town, so there's less time spent walking from building to building (the most difficult to do on short notice, and may throw off the aesthetic)

      I'm working with all of these ideas and more, and will likely implement some kind of combination of all of these. Depending on the scope, it may not happen until after Early Access launch.

      That's kind of how things are going these days, trying to prioritize what needs to be in pre-EA, and what decisions can be made post-EA.

      Catch you next week, when the Bad Trip patch finally launches!

      - Dean

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