In the previous post we shared the guidelines for the pitching and writing in-game content. This time, we’re sharing best-practice guidelines for designing for Fallen London. This is an evolving process. We’ve learned a lot in the six years since Fallen London’s inception, and no doubt we’ll continue to adapt and improve these practices in future.
Designing for Fallen London
Quality parsimony means using as few unique qualities as possible while maintaining clarity and stability. Excess qualities complicate the economy, cause bugs, and clutter up the UI for us and the players.
Sometimes an extra quality makes a piece of content much less fragile or much more engaging, but where possible keep new qualities to a minimum. Two qualities tends to be the magic minimum number for any content with an engaging interactive structure – otherwise it’s a simplistic chain or a grind.
Ensure Quality notes are complete, succinct and coherent. Use paragraphs and urls to make make them easier to read and use.
Imagine reading quality notes as if you were coming back to them a year from now after writing tens of thousands of words of other content. Now imagine a total stranger reading them a year from now. Now imagine the stranger has a short temper, an ice pick, and your address.
Rules for which qualities are best to give as rewards are complex and change over time. Use the Economy spreadsheet to calculate rewards and discuss your proposals in the Content channel on Slack so the team can help.
It’s fine (often preferable) to hold off giving rewards for a while, then grant them in a chunk at the end of a content strand.
Remember that people play FL in spurts, and sometimes take leaves of absence. Provide reminders in content so players can reorient themselves. Use QLDs to point them where they need to go next, or reminder branches on a story’s core cards to point them in the right direction. Use [advisory text in square brackets] to provide the player with emphasised, explicit guidance and warnings.
Linked Events are fantastically useful! They can also break the game. Plan for players who use Perhaps Not or another method to back out of a chain of linked events. Make sure they can get back in, or ensure the game will put them back on track.
The same warning applies here. Use Must Events sparingly to ensure a quality, area or setting change happens exactly when you need it to. Use min and max requirements to prevent a player from getting trapped in a Must Event.
Use quality changes to make non-player characters more tangible
When you can see consequence from a character while interacting with them, it immediately makes them more tangible. Menaces are good for this – like Wounds or Scandal. Be cautious – a string of quality changes in a result makes each one less important.
Next: Writing for Fallen London