If It Pleases the Court - WIP [Heart's Choice]

The year is 1744. Louis XV’s mistress has died mysteriously, and he stands with little influence in the face of the court. In order to reclaim the mantle of his father, the Secret du Roi was founded, placing a cadre of spies and diplomats under his control. As an illegitimate child of Versailles, you are suddenly given the chance to delve into a world of opulence and intrigue when a mysterious woman recruits you into the organization, seeking the perfect operative to change the balance of power once more.

Whether through duels, investigation, or seduction, you must weave a tight web around the court itself, all while guarding your own heart. What happens when a spy falls in love? The choice is up to you.

Welcome to the thread for If It Pleases the Court, a work-in-progress being written for Heart’s Choice. I’m D.C. (they/them) and my editor for this project is @Mary_Duffy (hi!).

You’ll find a link below to play through six chapters and the four character interludes interspersed between them.

  • Cherchez la femme: play as a cis woman, a trans woman, or femme nonbinary character.
  • Flirt your way through court and romance (spoilers ahead!) your spymistress, a double agent, and/or the Queen’s personal attendant.
  • Travel from the city of Paris to the sprawling court of Versailles, and sharpen your spycraft at a private estate in the Forest of Sénart.
  • Whether you choose to wield a quill or a sword, you can excel in the Secret du Roi. Pick a disguise or placate the nobles - whatever it takes to see your mission through.
  • And yes, you most certainly have a Rival.

[Play If It Pleases the Court]

The game is currently 172,000 words in length. More chapters will be added as development progresses. Both questions and feedback are deeply appreciated: Was a thread dropped that you wanted to see more of? Are there other romantic encounters you’d like to see? Any odd bugs popping up? I’m all ears, and will be keeping an eye on this thread for new posts.

Thank you so much for reading and if you choose to—thank you for playing!

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Welcome @SixFeetZen! I’m very excited about this Heart’s Choice game, and I hope the forum will enjoy another official WIP here, which has been so helpful to the development process on other games.

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Already have a bit of a feedback if I may - when the MC was approached by the carriage and the lady within demanded some information, I chose to suggest I wouldn’t give said information so easily. I did this expecting a monetary bribe (or the lack thereof if she refused), not… A different sort of bribery. It actually made me giggle, surprised as I was. xD But perhaps make it clearer what the choice encompasses?

All that aside, I really enjoy your writing, it reads so easily. Even the custom choices - gender, name - fit in seamlessly, which is quite a feat - too often I just suffer through them, they feel like a questionnaire. Not here though! Also the setting seems interesting so far, definitely looking forward to where it’s headed. Thank you for sharing. :slight_smile:

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Always nice to see an official author interacting with the community. I’ll check it out later, but one quick question that I think some would want to know. Can you romance more than one people at a time?

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I have a bit of feedback too, if that’s allowed. With many of the stat checks, it isn’t clear (to me at least), which stat is being checked. I understand failing a few stat checks, because no character can be successful at everything, but I seemed to have failed almost every single one. Maybe adding an option at the beginning to show which stats are checked for which choices could help? It could be a toggleable feature, so people could decide whether they want to or not. I’m only suggesting this because it does hinder my enjoyment of the game when I fail almost every stat check due to not knowing what they are.

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Welcome to the community @SixFeetZen – I’ve been looking forward to this title since I saw its listing.

If there is any thread administrative things we moderators can assist with please let us know. Having another active author in the community will be awesome.

Six –

This would definitely help with both balancing and with the ability to see if expectations of the audience line up with design.

Knowing now if wording and phrasing works means you can switch and change things up; later in the testing process, this might not be as easy to do.

You can always remove the option (indicators) later if you decide to later, once you solidify everything with your editor (@Mary_Duffy?)

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I’M SO EXCITED! I’m kicking my feet! Huzzah! Thanks for sharing the demo D.C.! I can’t wait to play it.

Regarding stat checks: I checked the code and I felt like the checks were rather high. I was playing to my strengths, always picking the choices that would suit one stat (never waffling between two opposing ones) and focused on levelling only one skill. But even that skill wasn’t high enough for many of the checks I got (I stopped somewhere during chapter 4). On top of that, most missions require a mix of skills and stats to be high enough which means you’re bound to fail at least one check. Switching it around, it might not be entirely wrong to say, you’re lucky if you pass even one check.

Personally, I found that a bit frustrating. Is that the intention of the game or does that change later…?

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I don’t know why it happened? I just finished interrogating her then my character started saying this?

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I’m certainly intrigued by the premise, and the characters seem interesting; I think the game has a lot of potential. However, like others, I think a lot of my enjoyment is being hampered by how strict and/or unclear some of the stat checks are.

A (long) breakdown of the problem

In my initial playthrough, I split my focus between dueling and speech—which felt reasonable, considering I often like to play jacks of all trades—and proceeded to fail nearly every single stat check that relied on either of those skills. (The sole exception was the instance where I had to impress Charlotte in the first chapter.)

I had to look through the code to understand why I was failing so much—apparently I’d been selecting options that required skills of 35+, instead of the easier alternatives! The tiered stat checks are actually an interesting idea, and one that I like in theory, but it’s not really clear that this is the approach being taken, so I more often felt confused about what was different about the various approaches, not realizing that they were just different degrees of testing the same skill.

The other issue is that I just feel like the stat checks in general are just too prohibitive. In the first chapter, half of the stat checks—dealing with the letter—require a stat over 20, which means if you haven’t pumped multiple stat bumps into one of the three skills available to choose from, it becomes literally impossible to pass. The other half—trying to impress Charlotte—are comparatively easier because you can pass them with a stat equal to 20; as I said, this was the one and only stat check I passed in the entire game. What a difference an equals sign makes!

In the second chapter (before you have the chance to increase your stats again, mind you), even the lowest tier of checks (16+ in the given stat) require you to have pushed at least one of your two %+20s into the stat in question, which wouldn’t be unreasonable except that again, you only have three options to choose from and they may not be the stats you’ve chosen to invest in. It gets worse if you try to do anything beyond the bare minimum or (like me) didn’t understand how the tiered difficulty worked; succeeding at anything at this point requires you to aggressively minmax, pumping multiple stat boosts into a single skill and hoping that the next major choice will allow to test that particular skill, and not the other ones you’ve been neglecting.

But it gets worse—once you reach Theodore (which I think is the convergence of the previous branches regardless of what you choose, and therefore unavoidable?), the tiered skill checks disappear. You have two options, dueling and writing. If you have anything below a 30 in either of those skills, you fail—but in order to get above a 30, you need to have invested both %+20s into that skill! (A %+20 and %+10 won’t do it, because of the way fairmath works.) If you haven’t done that, there’s no way to succeed at this encounter.

The stat checks that rely on opposed pairs are sometimes even worse. Some of them require you to get as high as 80 in a given stat, which—because of fairmath’s diminishing returns—is incredibly difficult to do unless you select almost every option that increases that stat, and never let it decrease for any reason. And again, there are some instances where you have no choice but to choose between a few particular options that you may not have invested in, which means there’s nothing you can do but fail.

There’s a whole 'nother facet to this issue (regarding the fact that these also double as your personality stats, and therefore have a significant effect on roleplaying as well as mechanical benefit) that I won’t get into right now, but suffice it to say that I didn’t succeed on any of these types of stat checks either, and it often made me feel like I was playing the game “wrong”.

TLDR: stat checks are gated really punishingly and it makes it difficult to pass anything with more than the bare minimum of success—and if you haven’t been allocating your skills “correctly”, it sometimes becomes impossible to succeed at all.

Despite all the criticism, I want to reiterate that narratively speaking, I liked a lot of what I saw, and I think there’s a lot to enjoy about the story—this is definitely where this project shines. But as a game, there’s a lot that I think needs tweaking to make it feel balanced and fair. Hopefully the feedback I provided is helpful in that regard!

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Interesting premise.

I was more than a bit confused as to which Skills matched up to which stat bars in the Stat Screen. For instance, I had no idea what Chaleureuse, Belletrist, Keen Senses, or what Thousand Faces translate into in the narrative and stat checks. Similarly, I had a difficult time translating some of the opposing Personality Stats such as Romantic vs Seductive and Performer vs Subdued.

Maybe an option explanation for all the stats and how they are incorporated in the narrative would be useful in a future update?

Other minor things would include:

  • An “are you sure?” prompt if you type in your name. I accidentally missed a letter and had to restart the game

  • If you chose a more risky background (i.e. thief), is your mother unaware that the MC is a thief, especially if the reader chooses to be a famous thief?

  • And then I noticed this little ‘bug’ in the coding of the stats screen; it says Katharina Romantic “False”

Screenshot

I had already considered tweaking some of the stat numbers (they were very low before, and I seem to have swung too high), so I’m going to look back on that for the early chapters, since they should be pretty easy. Thanks to everyone who let me know!

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I’ll add a voice at “stat checks are pretty punishing”. In fact, after checking, it’s literally impossible to pass some stat checks, even on your forte. For instance, Arrière Pensée ask for 50+ skill checks, when picking every option to raise a single one will only bring you to 42 - as far as I know, that’s the highest you can reach at this point. Even worse, there’s a part where it ask for three of those in a row, each on different stats, so you’re bound to miss all of them. Even the personality checks are extremely hard to get right - that feeling when the game ask for a 80% check and you’re at 79…

That being said, while the mechanical aspects of the game could use some tweaking, the writing is top-notch. The characters are all engaging, the setting is great, and all in all, I’m really enjoying the premise of this game. Probably one of the most promising WiP I’ve seen in quite a while.

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Possible continuity error:

securing an invitation envelope

I chose the option to lie to the old lady but tell the truth to Charlotte… the text after choosing that option had me lying to both.

I’m sure editing will catch all the grammar and spelling things – the only suggestion I would add to the other feedback you’ve received on the stats would be to keep the terms in English or add the English equivalent – the scribe stat is the most jarring … I had to constantly remind myself what that French term meant.

Overall I love the alpha-copy so far and look forward to more adventures as the King’s servant :slight_smile:

I actually really like the on-brandness of using French terms for the stats. Given the confusion it’s causing readers, it’s probably a good idea to include a stat explanation screen (or something similar), but I’d personally be a bit disappointed if they were replaced entirely by English terms.

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Found this. It’s an interesting context and I am looking forward to this😁

First off, I love this! :heart_eyes: I already thought the idea was very promising when I read about it in the “upcoming games” list, and the game does not disappoint.

I’m glad to know that I was not the only one who found herself failing at everything :smile:, and since the stat checks have already been mentioned by people who have a much better idea of how to balance them than I would, I’ll say nothing more about them.

I’ve also gotten the bug where you end up in the “seduction” route with Justine even though you chose another approach. That was fun (I failed again, surprisingly :sweat_smile:).

Some tiny comments (feel free to disregard):

  • When first accepting the job and being asked about what you want in return, I kind of missed an option to ask that my mother were given a better life. Afterwards, I got the impression that it was sort of implied already that she would be cared for (at the very least, I think the MC would be able to send money home), but perhaps that could be made clearer?

  • On arriving at Charlotte’s estate, I was a bit surprised that the MC getting a change of clothes wasn’t mentioned. :stuck_out_tongue: Stupid, I know, but I kept imagining her sitting there in her tattered peasant rags while Charlotte told the servants “Oh, I met Madame Dupont here at the salon last week”.

I’ll leave the last point inside a summary tag, mainly because it’s too long ( :flushed: ) though it might also be more spoilery.

On your relationship with Charlotte

It was a bit uncomfortable to have to sit through Charlotte’s overtures while having a relationship with her that has been more antagonistic than anything (though that seems to be hard too, as at some points the tamest you can go is “I want to be her friend”, rather than “she’s my employer, and that is it.” ).

I appreciate having the option to change your mind about a character, but you do seem to get asked whether you like her an awful lot. This culminates in sitting there at tea, you still reeling over the senseless food waste here while the people of Paris starve, and her being all like "Do you like women?" and oops our hands touched but I’m not going to pull away. And the most you can do is be cordial about it.

I imagine that my character’s thoughts at this point would be less like wow, we both like women, how cool! She’d make a great friend :joy: and more along the lines of wondering why her boss would be interested in knowing her sexual preference, if that was why she picked her out in the first place, whether she was deceived and has now fallen into the clutches of a noble who believes she can use the lowly as she will, just like Father was, and so forth.

I’m not sure if the issue is that Charlotte reacts the same regardless of how low you manage to get her relationship bar (which in my case, was quite a lot :stuck_out_tongue_closed_eyes:), so you can say something that clearly has bothered her and then she treats you like her dearest friend in the next scene. Again, this might be just an impression of mine, but in case it’s not, perhaps adding a line or two where she behaves more curtly towards the player if relationship is low might help? And maybe, when you’re first asked about being interested in her, having an answer option that would forestall further questions on the matter?

That was very rambly but rest assured that I loved this game a lot. :smiling_face_with_three_hearts: I’ve played until chapter 4 and I can’t wait to continue the story.

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is it normal that the game end this way?

@augustus27, @rozane, @CorvusWitchcraft, @Talyrion, @Myrtle:

I’ve gone ahead and changed the numbers on all skill checks through the first four chapters. If you happen to play again, could you tell me if it seems more smooth/fair? If they still seem punishing across the board, I’ll look into bumping up the boost you get from investing in stats and talk to Mary about fine-tuning the math.

@Aronjo and @The_Black_Reaper: the Katharina Romance stat should no longer display as false. Thanks for pointing that out!

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One of the best tools we have for balancing stats (this is more directed at the community than you @SixFeetZen, but it’s neat so I thought I would share here and email you later) is the randomtest line coverage output, which gives you a figure for each line showing how many times it gets “hit” on a totally random set of 10,000 playthroughs. So you can easy see that say 50% of (random!) players can pass a given stat check by looking at the line-coverage figures on the *if and the *else of any given test. We’ll do a balancing run on this game soon.

It’s also a great tool for catching bugs because if a line has ZERO hits, that means something probably went wrong–a boolean wasn’t set, or no player can have a stat score that high or similar.

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