Skip to: main content or site footer.

The Riddle of STEEL

Last month, we announced we'd devote an entire update - STEEL - to improving combat. Improving and polishing, not rebuilding from the ground up. Some mechanical tweaks, some substantial balance improvements, and some of the enhancements we'd always planned (like better story integration) and we'd be on our way.

So we spent a couple of weeks planning and arguing around the whiteboard...


...building paper prototypes...


...and digital prototypes...


We ended up with a promising candidate. It figured in both visibility and a separate audibility mechanic (run silent!), it was much more cat-and-mouse than the current implementation, and it felt like a hunt through the dark.

But nobody on the team - including me - responded with delight. And people have responded with delight, consistently, when they’ve first started playing SUNLESS SEA, when they’ve first seen London in the dark or nosed out into the Archipelago. And we would really like a combat system that provokes delight. The core team sat down together and chewed on how to get to delightfulness.

So, okay, we said, let’s go one more time round the reasons we don’t do ship combat in real time on the map, bearing in mind that it is of course impossible and we shouldn’t do it.

Two hours later, we’d decided that it wasn’t impossible, and we should probably do it.

Two days later, we’d run the numbers, done a bit of prototyping, and we’re going to do it!

Combat in SUNLESS SEA will still be gently paced not frantic, still be pausable, still involve light and darkness. But it’s going to occur right on the main map, with the primary game systems plugged into it, not in a turn-based secondary card game.

It’s really hard, as a designer, throwing away a cherished mechanic. It’s like euthanasing a beloved pet that won’t stop eating children. But when it’s right, it’s right. We - and you - are lucky enough to have some extra time to work on this, so we're going, once again, to do it right. This is a significant, exciting, scary change - we’ll be letting you know more soon!