Hello, delicious friends.
Can you believe it’s already October?
Fallen London has grown enormously over the past year. In late November or early December, when you are all catching your breath after encountering all the new stories, and we are catching our breath after building them, we will be making a number of significant balance changes to the game.
Many of those changes are things that we’ve talked about at length over the course of 2020; some have been highlighted by the arrival of all the new content. Others are just overdue changes that felt opportune.
We wanted to give you advance warning of those changes; some players may have the way they play impacted by the changes to deck refreshing, and we wanted to explain our reasoning for the changes and collect feedback ahead of making the changes to the live game.
Deck Refresh Changes
When these balance changes go live, you will no longer be able to refresh your deck by entering an infinite-draw zone and then leaving.
When infinite draw was introduced back in 2016, it was a powerful design tool that enabled us to do more with the opportunity deck and with specific decks in certain zones. The issue with it giving players “free” deck refreshes was apparent pretty soon after, but it was never regarded as a high priority to fix; the nature of Flash Lays meant that getting a deck refresh was fairly costly.
Over time, deck refreshing became a primary way in which players generated resources and especially Favours. The “flash grind” became a regular part of gameplay for some players, and heavily optimised. With the introduction of the Laboratory, an infinite-draw zone that was easy for players to enter and exit at the cost of just two actions, opportunity deck grinding became more prevalent and easier to do. The fact that players were now reliant on the deck refresh bug meant that we had to think carefully about what we wanted to do about it.
Ultimately, we decided to fix the bug, as it has several negative knock-on effects:
- Opportunity cards are meant to reward resources at a higher rate than repeatable storylets; the ability to refresh them for free functionally obsoleted a lot of content in the game, as it couldn’t compete with opportunity card grinds. Nowadays this is really only an issue for players in a very specific band of progression; it’s a reason, but not the primary one.
- The “flash grind” is something that we never designed or intended to be in the game, and as a result we don’t really have the knobs to adjust it. The London opportunity deck was just never built with this in mind.
- Because we didn’t design it, it’s not signposted in-game. Players have no way of finding out about this, except by accident or from other players. This disadvantages more casual players who might not be on the Discord or reading the wiki. There’s nothing wrong with players doing the most optimal thing they can find in-game, but we want to make sure that the most optimal thing isn’t obscure to casual players and doesn’t seem like an exploit. We also want to make sure that casual players following in-game cues about what to do are not massively disadvantaged relative to someone reading a guide written by another player.
- Because of this optimisation, players were incentivised to aggressively prune their opportunity card deck to get rid of low-value cards. This leads to things like not wanting to play Cricket, Anyone?, one of our most beloved Exceptional Stories, to avoid gaining an opportunity card that gets added to your deck after the epilogue of that story. This inhibits us from adding new story content to the London opportunity card deck.
- The deck refresh bug just incentivises behavior that isn’t particularly fun for most players, like discarding episodic stories or dream cards to make room for high-value cards, or repeatedly entering and exiting the laboratory to refresh your draws until you draw what you are looking for.
- It has required certain mechanical compromises to keep it from breaking the game entirely — for example, if the bug wasn’t there we would have made entering and exiting the laboratory a free action, and once the bug is fixed, we will do that.
After these changes, we don’t want players to feel pressured to buy deck refreshes in order to make mainline progress. So we want to reduce players’ reliance on the opportunity deck to make progress on things like Making Your Name, Ambitions, or the Railway.
Generally, if drawing a specific opportunity card is necessary to make progress, the card is set to show up frequently; for example, the opportunity card that lets players get involved with a railway for the first time is roughly five times as likely to appear as a typical card. But there are places in the game where progress is tied to Favours, a resource that currently you can (mostly) only obtain through opportunity cards; we will be addressing this, along with some other balance changes to Favours, alongside the deck refresh changes. Read on for more details on that.
Ideally, we want refreshing your deck with Fate to be an option that players have if they want to pursue episodic stories faster or just want to see more of the content in the opportunity card deck, and not something that players are looking to do to accelerate their progression because some resource can only appear in the opportunity card deck. If we miss the mark on that with this patch, we will be looking to make more balance changes in the future to address it.
We realise that this change will be unpopular with some players. Some of you have invested effort and in-game resources into optimising your opportunity deck, or are working towards a goal (like 40 Renown) that currently requires heavy use of opportunity deck refreshing.
We don’t make those changes lightly, but we do them because something about the game’s current design is limiting our design space or our ability to continue growing the game. The issues with deck refreshing make it harder for us to use infinite draw zones in the game, and they make anything that adds more variety and content to the London opportunity card deck undesirable unless it can adhere to very specific guidelines.
We are doing this alongside changes to Favours, since the two are intimately connected, and we particularly didn’t want to take away deck refreshing without giving players more reliable ways to gain Favours.
Favours Balance Changes
Favours have a long history in Fallen London, and the content around them has not always been consistent about what they’re supposed to be worth. When these changes go live, we will be rebalancing various parts of the game to line up the value of different types of Favours.
Notably, Revolutionary and Docks favours are substantially more valuable than other types. Revolutionary favours can be exchanged for Proscribed Material at a rate that increases with Renown, while Docks favours can be exchanged for Forgotten Quarter expedition supplies at a very high rate.
Some variation in how easy different favours are to get, and how valuable they are, is okay and even desirable. But currently there are pretty big discrepancies. This makes it harder to build new content, as there is a lot of uncertainty about the value of favours. Favours are a really useful design tool that we end up not using much because the potential effects of using them can be unclear.
When the winter balance patch goes live, expect to see various opportunity cards and repeatable storylets in the game rebalanced to shorten the gap between different favour types. Keep in mind that trading in favours in the Upper River will continue to be more profitable than doing so in London; one of the nice things about Favours is exactly that they scale to the two tiers of the economy in that way.
Notably, expect trading Revolutionary favours in the Flit to be only as profitable as most other favours. Generating Forgotten Quarter expedition supplies with Docks favours will be rebalanced so that the Favours themselves are less valuable, while the overall value of expeditions will only change slightly.
We will also be adding some new ways to gain certain types of favour. Currently, there are reliable ways to gain some kinds of favours, but not others; you can generate Society favours by graduating Gifted Students at the Laboratory, for example. We don’t want players who need favours for some purpose, or who just want to increase their renown with a given faction, to feel like they have no meaningful way to progress towards those goals. Deck refreshing somewhat mitigated this by giving players ways to try, over and over again, to get the opportunity cards that generate a given type of favour. We did not want to take that away without a replacement for it.
So, when the winter balance patch goes live, expect to see new ways to gain various types of favours. This will mostly come as new or variant rewards on existing content. We don’t want favours to be something you can gain at a too-efficient rate, so expect to see favours as relatively small components of larger rewards. But players who have reached Person of Some Importance status and acquired a ship should have access, or be close to unlocking access, to at least one repeatable way of generating every kind of favour. Yes, even Rubbery Men.
For example, you will be able to gain Hell favours through Heists, or Bohemian favours in Mahogany Hall.
In addition, we are adding Favours to the weekly payment for tier 2 and 3 Professions; it’s long been a little perverse that players are sometimes incentivized not to upgrade their profession because they are building up Renown with a faction or want the Favours for some other purpose. Not all tier 2 or 3 Professions will grant the same favours as lower tiers, but all of the mainline Professions will grant 2 favours every week.
We view the Favours economy and particularly Renown as something that early-game players gradually dip their toes into, but which becomes important to mid-game and endgame players. So we will be removing Favour requirements from some lower-tier item conversions and from Making Your Name storylines. We don’t want Favours to be a roadblock for players who are still playing the early game, and the Favour requirements on low-tier item conversions created content problems where certain storylets had a hidden, implicit Favour cost. No more will anyone need to get lucky with opportunity card draws in order to get a Mourning Candle for something.
Ambition Rewards Rebalance
Another component of the winter balance patch is the ambition rewards rebalance. As we worked our way through finishing the Ambition storylines, we got more generous with rewards as we went on. As a result, some Ambitions got better rewards than others, and we’ve heard the feedback about it.
We want choices made during your Ambition to feel consequential, but we don’t want players to feel pressured to take a mechanically “more optimal” item over another, against their own conception of their character’s story. We also don’t want Ambition capstone rewards to be overshadowed by items that are universally available, even if those items cost Fate.
Keep in mind that this doesn’t mean all Ambition rewards will have similar stats — Rewards in different slots will be balanced against their slot, and some ambition rewards have value outside of stat bonuses.
When the winter balance patch goes live, expect some weaker Ambition rewards to be made more inherently powerful. Players who have completed the Nemesis ambition will be able to obtain new items relating to their Ambition, which will help balance the overall rewards against other Ambitions.
Additional Outfit Slots
Finally, one last thing: As we keep adding more content to the game with more complex requirements for advanced skills and Bizarre/Dreaded/Respectable, we’ve seen increasing demand for outfit slots.
Alongside the rest of these balance changes, we will be adding new ways of gaining outfit slots to the game. Those will not cost Fate, and will increase the total number of outfit slots you can obtain alongside the Exceptional Friends and Fate options.
If you just want the headline facts:
- In late November or early December, during a gap in content releases, we will be launching the winter balance patch, a package of balance and quality-of-life changes to Fallen London.
- Entering and exiting an infinite-draw zone will no longer refresh your deck.
- We will be making other balance changes to support this, including making entering/exiting the Laboratory no longer cost actions.
- Favour rebalance: Many opportunities and stories in London will have their rewards changed, to even out the availability and value of different kinds of favours. Notably:
- Trading in Revolutionary favours at the Flit will grant a fixed amount of items.
- Trading in Docks favours for Forgotten Quarter Expeditions will be less efficient.
- New repeatable sources of Favours will be added to several places in the game, to reduce player dependance on opportunity cards to make progress.
- Ambition rewards rebalance:
- Some Ambition rewards will be more powerful, to bring them in line with other rewards.
- Players who have completed the Nemesis ambition can expect to new items.
- Additional outfit slots will become available for free, in addition to any that you may already have purchased with Fate.