On January 28th, we will be retiring certain social actions from the game, and releasing new ones.
It will no longer be possible to initiate the following social activities:
If you’re already in one of those social acts, you should be able to complete it.
In their place, we are adding two new social actions to the game: Letter writing and social slights.
Why are we doing this?
Originally, social actions were very straightforward interactions that allowed you to send something over to another character; gifts, short messages. Fallen London was never intended as primarily a social game, but those social features helped promote the game.
Over the years, however, we designed increasingly complex social actions. This culminated with activities like chess and sparring, complex, multi-stage activities that tie together several social actions.
Unfortunately, those activities have long caused problems. The social action system in Fallen London wasn’t really built to handle them, creating persistent problems with players being stuck inside social actions or unable to send or receive invitations. We still periodically receive support requests to “unstick” someone from an ongoing social action. Most existing social actions can’t gracefully handle failure conditions such as one player quitting mid-activity and not logging back on for a while, or ever.
This is a pretty bad state of affairs for us; we’re a small team, and time we spend answering support emails to fix characters being in a broken state because of a social activity is time we don’t spend building new content. We explored putting more development time into making this system more robust, but came to the conclusion that the effort involved would not be justified by the number of players it would help.
So we’re retiring these activities and replacing them with activities we’re more comfortable with having in the game given the feature set of the tools as they are now.
What are we replacing them with?
Social Actions currently have two roles in the game:
- Depending on what else you have access to, they can be the most efficient ways to do certain things – Generate Making Waves, reduce Menaces, and increase attributes being the key ones.
- They allow players to interact with other players through the game, which we know a subset of the playerbase really values, for the social and role-playing aspects that it adds.
We are trying to tease out those two things from one another. We don’t want players who don’t enjoy the social aspect to feel like they have to use social actions to play the game, so we will be looking at the availability of things like Menace reduction in the future.
But we know some players enjoy social actions, and we didn’t want to remove these without providing some kind of replacement. These new social actions are meant to tune the complexity down to avoid the pitfalls that befell the ones that are being retired. We are deliberately avoiding creating any situation where a player can be “in limbo” waiting for a reply or action from another player.
This update will come with two new activities: Letter writing and social slights.
Letter writing is intended as a mechanically relevant social action that players can make heavy use of. From their lodgings, players will be able to compose letters and send them to acquaintances. There are ten kinds of letters that players can compose, which carry different effects for the receiver: Share notes on past cases to raise their Watchful, share gossip to increase their Persuasive, offer spiritual consolation to lower their Nightmares, and several others. The Crooked Cross, Midnighter, and Correspondent professions have access to unique letters.
Letters are designed to be largely asynchronous; you can send them to an acquaintance as long as they are in London and don’t have too much unread mail of a given type. They can open and read the letters they have at their leisure.
Social slights and assassinations
This is a more experimental social activity, aimed at the subset of players who care about social interaction for its own sake.
At several activities in London, players will find opportunities to slight their own acquaintances for gain. Badmouth your friends to Mr Slowcake’s Amanuensis. Publish their indiscretions on your newspaper.
Victims of these slights don’t have to retaliate. But if they choose to do so, London is a great city for hiring assassins. Sending an assassin after another player will insert a card into their London opportunity deck; an encounter with your chosen assassin.
Mechanically, assassinations are not adversarial; like past social actions, they benefit both players. Slighting other players will give you a mechanical benefit, and fending off attempts on your life is dangerous, but more profitable than other opportunity cards. Sending assassins after someone will generate Making Waves, and allow players to become temporarily more Dreaded than they otherwise could.
One last thing: If you have accumulated Sanguine Ribbons or Chess: Mastery of the Game, you will no longer be able to keep gaining those qualities but you will be able to trade them in for new qualities that can be obtained in other ways, including through the new social acts, and used to obtain London’s Sinew and London’s Nerves; so your existing progress will still be there.