Social Services of the Doomed -- Beta Discussion!

Please welcome @fade, the author of “Social Services of the Doomed!”

If you have questions about the game, or want to directly ask Fade questions please pose them here!

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Hi @fade

Thank you for joining in on the February Writer’s Support thread. Your post was both informative and relatable…

My question ties into both the topic there you commented on and how it relates to working on an official CoG project.

Q: How do(did) you stay motivated from start to finish on a unique and different narrative such as this?

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Oo, interesting question. There are a few different answers, but I’ll start at the real baseline one: I chose a project that played to my own interests and strengths. I like wry humor and satire, I like kitchen sink urban fantasy, and I like bureaucracy as a plot element; so it really helped that even when I was trying to work out how to completely change a major planned game event (because it suddenly became too uncomfortably real during some world events), I was still enjoying the game premise myself.

I used to try to write serious important fiction that would do something groundbreaking and avoid cliches and impress people and–look, there’s a place for that in the world, but it’s not the sort of thing that I actually enjoy writing. I get so much more done, and it’s higher quality, when I write what I like.

Other things that got me through it? Being under contract, which is a little more pressure than my own interest when things get rough; getting on proper medication; and a supportive community of friends who also do writing, and were willing to help out when I was getting burned out, or procrastinating, or trying to figure out a gender-neutral version of “bro” in the same linguistic register.

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Oh, I forgot to put in a general introduction! So:

Hello! My name’s Fade, and I’m currently a graduate student in Minnesota. (My area of study is the literature of the ancient Mediterranean: I’m writing a dissertation on ancient Roman theater, teaching Latin, and so forth.) I’ve done some game design (a card game and an RPG supplement) some years back, written fiction here and there, and now I’ve finally got my game ready for playtest. I’m really looking forward to seeing what people think.

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Congratulations :slight_smile:

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Hello, @fade ! Ave! Salve! (Sorry, I don’t often get a chance to practice saying hello in Latin.) I’m one of the beta testers for your game, and I’m glad to have a chance to tell you directly how delightful it’s been. The setting is so charming and original, the story is compelling, and I can rarely go more than a few pages without laughing out loud.

As the beta moves forward, is there anything in particular that you want testers to focus on? This could be particular character builds, relationships, plot routes - anything really, general or specific. What can we do to make our feedback as useful to you as possible?

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Good question! I already have a list of small/systemic things I want to tweak, expand, or clarify as I go along. (Explaining why the receptionist doesn’t have a name, double-checking the balance on stats, adding one more pet option if I have the time…) But a big issue I’d like help with is continuity.

See, I wrote the last chapter significantly after the previous one. (Because grad school is a lot, sometimes.) That means that I lost track of a few story details, so that I may have contradicted myself, or forgot to resolve some minor plot points. I need help spotting continuity errors! Whether it’s little stuff (“This character seems to live in a different part of the city than last time it came up?”) or big issues (“I think this character died two chapters ago, but now they’re running an art fair…”).

Beyond that… I’d like to hear, big-picture, what was satisfying/fun/exciting/engaging, and what wasn’t. Especially when it comes to things like failing a stat check: I want failure to be interesting, or at least move you quickly to the next interesting point. Failures should give the game a sense of challenge (and make stats meaningful), not be boring or repetitive.

(I think I’ve fixed the stat issues that had one alpha player get a demotion every single time she played. That’s supposed to be a possibility, not inevitable.)

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for me , the satisfying and engaging part was the plot interaction with Hikaru the Demon , it seems Hikaru hold some mystery on why agents and other demons in hell had been so interested and persisting about her whereabouts , what secret or role she hold in the ongoing crisis… However , towards the end, even though i chose to leave everything and follow her “adventure” , there aren’t revealing answers for these mysteries . Meantime, the selling the soul to hell part was intriguing , although i chose not to sell my soul, but i always wonder what are the consequences and effects in doing so ? Especially if i choose to follow Hikaru for my remaining days, what will be the actual effect in selling my soul? I mean, i am already sort of damned by having a demon lover, is it any different whether i sold my soul or not ? :thinking:

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Thanks to everyone for questions and comments so far! It’s been really helpful. I’ve just sent in some updates with a lot of small tweaks and changes (especially in simple fixes like misdirects or typos), but I have a list of bigger updates I’ll be working on soon.

One major issue I’m seeing across reports is with game balance, especially in the final chapter; it seems like players are failing more often than I intended. (It’s supposed to convey a sense of challenge, not futility!) I’ve done some rebalancing, but I would appreciate more data on what stats people have near the end of the game.

So if anyone is willing to give me a look at their stats in chapter 11 (as a screenshot or just a text grab), I would really appreciate it. That will help me figure out what tests need to be easier (or harder?), and which stats need more chances to move before the final chapter.

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Know? Even though I’m not a beta tester myself, your story synopsis on Steam reminded me of how American Dragon’s urban fantasy lore is organized. :sweat_smile:

I haven’t heard of that; I’ll have to look into it!

Incidentally, I’m working on adding in the achievements now, so if there’s a particular type of achievement people like seeing in games, drop me a note. I always like the ones for reaching slightly unusual or difficult places in the game, but I’ve been wondering if players like using them to track which basic options (like species choice) they have/haven’t already tried.

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Grinding out Achievements isn’t my natural play style, but this game seems, to my thinking, perfectly suited to make the best use of them, in that the amount of branching in all but the shortest chapters practically demands multiple playthroughs. (That’s not to say it requires multiple playthroughs - I understood the story just fine after my first - but it’s absolutely a thing of beauty how the big picture grows clearer and clearer the more times I play.)

I think, in general, that the best Achievements lists include a combination of both “basic options” and “unusual and difficult.” But I think this game is an excellent candidate specifically for Achievements that span multiple playthroughs - things like seeing every major branch of a particular scene, or learning everything there is to know along a particular line of inquiry (all about ley lines, all about vampire/werewolf territorial disputes).

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Does anyone know what’s going on with this beta? It’s a bit weird that it’s gone a month with no updates.

Fade is writing a new mid-game chapter.

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Oh! Well, I’m certainly excited to see that! (And thank you for answering!)