Vendetta Dev Blogs Cont.
Dev Blog #4 (Detailed Opportunitues)
With the splitting of ‘Business Opportunities’ from personal ‘Free Time’ options each week — and the subsequent huge expansion of the New Opportunities system that this redesign enabled — it also opened up the intriguing (and rather varied and ambitious) possibilities of what have come to be called…
Regular Opportunities are so named because, once triggered in the game, they remain available to you each week thereafter until / unless you actually do something to cause them to no longer be available.
This part of the Business Opportunities section is still in its infancy, in that there are at present only a limited number in the game due to the level of detail and varied options (and subsequent coding complexity!) each involves. The first two are fully complete and alpha tested and there are one or two more exciting ideas I’d really like to properly squeeze into this section before the game is actually released, but some of the more ambitious ideas for expansion here will have to wait for a future update (i.e. at some point after the initial publication — if the game proves reasonably successful and worth developing further, that is!).
Regular Opportunities are essentially either unique features requiring regular (i.e. ‘Weekly’) interaction during the course of the game — such as the first one detailed below — or are greatly expanded / more detailed businesses or racket operations also now requiring Weekly interaction / regular active ‘management’, such as the second one detailed below.
SCARPONI LOAN MANAGEMENT
Giulio Scarponi is a ranking member of the powerful local Ginelli Mob and Hell’s Kitchen’s top loanshark, dealing mainly in significant loans to prominent citizens and rising underworld figures, not ‘street level’ petty usury. If someone he knows and trusts is willing to vouch for you, he may be willing to also extend to you his services — on a trial basis, at least. This is possible as early as the first week in the game (i.e. within Chapter One, which is the Public Demo chapter).
Scarponi keeps his finger on the local pulse and knows his business well. Initially your credit limit will be just a few thousand, and at a quite eye-watering rate of weekly interest… In time, as he comes to know and trust you, your available credit limit can rise steeply and / or the interest rate drop significantly, albeit steadily. It is possible to have a credit limit in the tens of thousands and at a very low weekly juice rate — unless you prove inept at managing your finances over a period of time, of course.
Each week, during the Business Opportunities stage, you are responsible for paying the weekly ‘juice’ on the amount currently owed. The ‘Scarponi Loan Management’ section provides this option, among others (such as paying a lesser amount, pleading poverty and perhaps paying nothing that week, or paying the full juice plus some of the principal owed, or paying the juice plus the remaining loan in full). If at any time your available credit is higher than your current loan, you can approach Scarponi to borrow more.
Being part of the actual Business Opportunities stage, the Scarponi Loan Management section allows you to fully review your options each week (including all the other Opportunities available to you that week) before deciding how best to juggle your finances accordingly. For instance, there could that week be a New Opportunity for which you may need to borrow more cash from Scarponi, or perhaps one potentially earning you an immediate cash lump sum which you could instead use to pay off more of the principal owed, so reducing future weekly juice payments.
It’s worth bearing in mind that your total Net Worth (the sum of everything you own or control, from the shirt on your back to the largest bootlegging operation on the Lower East Side, and which is the best true measure of your actual overall success to date) has a direct bearing on your Underworld Respect — by which so many other things are affected — but your Net Worth is itself reduced by the current value of any debts still owed.
It goes without saying (but is still worth mentioning) that Scarponi does not enjoy being made to look the fool.
The second, quite detailed ‘Regular Opportunity’ already fully implemented in the new version of the game enables you to also run your own loansharking operation (albeit ‘street level’ petty usury to begin with), investing your own — and / or another’s — cash on the street to earn weekly ‘juice’ from those unable to obtain legal loans.
It’s now possible to dip your toe in this racket very early in the story (again, as early as Chapter One / the Public Demo) as Your Uncle Luigi – better known as Chuck ‘Bruiser’ O’Keefe — will, under particular circumstances, offer you management of his own local loansharking operation (rather than a lump sum of cash ostensibly towards the cost of Gina’s funeral expenses). Should you take him up on his offer, the racket moves to your direct control and you split the weekly juice with him, and will then be able to expand it using your own cash — from which you keep the full Weekly Take for yourself. If things continue to go well, Chuck may also invest more on the street himself from time to time, under the same 50/50 terms as the original agreement.
Chuck’s man Rocco ‘The Bull’ Bagalia will keep an eye on things for him, but experienced playtesters may recall that Rocco holds our protagonist (that “wet-nosed kid”!) in little regard… Suck it up — Rocco is his most loyal man, and has your uncle’s ear. And, who knows, one day you may even be able to buy out your uncle a piece at a time, and eventually take complete control of this very lucrative racket and its huge expansion potential.
Total control could prove vital in the long term. You can adjust the ‘operational policies’ of this racket — i.e. the way you run the racket, the kind of people you target, the methods you employ in its operation, and the weekly juice rate you charge. However, while Chuck has a stake in it, Rocco calls the shots to some extent, limiting your ability to always do what you may think is best. You will of course be able to expand the operation in size by investing more of your own cash, or even withdrawing some (except for Chuck’s stake) as the need arises.
If it helps, think of running a Loansharking operation as being your own personal, high interest savings account in the Cayman Isles: it’s somewhere to invest your ill-gotten gains away from prying eyes — the majority of which is ‘locked away’ and cannot be withdrawn without notice — but it also earns you much better interest on your ‘savings’ than it would sat in an ordinary instant access account, or stuffed in your pocket… or in our case, your Money Clip.
The downside is that you may also occasionally have to resort to violence to ensure prompt payment of the weekly juice… and not everyone will have the means or ability to repay your loan in full on demand. It’s also possible that some loan defaulters, in fear for their physical well-being, may disappear from the neighborhood entirely, taking some of your cash with them — and especially so if the racket starts to grow too big for you to properly keep your finger on the pulse and anticipate such attempts before they occur.
It can also take a bit of time to get your money out on the street earning weekly juice for you, depending on the amount made available for investment in loans (which you place in the ‘Loan Fund’), appropriate skills, your operational policies for this racket, and the amount of time you are able or willing to devote to actually running the racket.
When running a loansharking operation there is also be a special ‘Free Time’ option available for you to purposely spend extra time managing this particular racket, should you choose. Doing so will significantly enhance your active presence ‘on the street’ and thereby reduce the risk of loan defaulters / loss of capital, increase the racket’s profitability, and most of all significantly improve your ability to get more cash out there faster and earning juice more quickly — or to recover it more quickly if you decide to call in some or all of your loans from the street.
Should you reach the stage where the racket has grown beyond your ability to easily handle alone as a ‘sideline’ thing, you will also have the facility to appoint a specific underling to manage things on your behalf, earning a percentage of the profits for themselves in doing so but freeing more of your own time to devote to other matters while still allowing the racket to be expanded in scale and profitability. The Free Time option will however remain available to you for specific use — such as when wishing to quickly invest a significant chunk of extra cash on the streets and get it earning for you, or to add your own abilities when calling in loans.
Dev Blog #5 (New Modus Operandi)
With all the changes and improvements made to the latest development version of the game, the Modus Operandi (Show Stats) screen has also undergone a complete redesign, with some significant new additions of its own.
Originally one (and potentially fairly long) page, it has now been broken down into several sections for convenience. In addition, for your ease of use, each of the main options is tagged ~new* if that section contains information which has been added or otherwise updated since last viewed. The tag disappears once viewed.
The default display when you go to your M.O. screen, Personal Details shows the Character Name and Background, a summary of your finances (current Money Clip, Weekly Take and Total Net Worth, plus any debts owed), a mention of your personal Weapon(s), and a description of your Appearance. The main actual new bit here is a ‘Mentality’ stat.
Mentality is shown as a bar ranging between ‘Stone Killer’ at one extreme and ‘Good Samaritan’ at the other. This personality rating keeps track of your essential “goodness” (or lack thereof).
Regardless of how other Underworld figures may view you (your Respect rating), or indeed, the wider public in general (your Public Image), this is who you truly are — initially based on the specific Character Background you have chosen to play, but over time increasingly reflecting the actual decisions you make. Or don’t make.
In the longer term, your Mentality may have a direct impact on the type of options available to you in particular circumstances, but mostly it will influence the opinions, feelings and actions of those few people you allow in close enough to get to know the real you — your lovers, close associates, and early (or later, main) gang members.
The first optional section available (so selected by default when viewing Personal Details, ready for instant access) this page shows the current ratings for your nine important Character Attributes, being a combination of skills, abilities and other personality traits — namely Leadership, Intimidation, Persuasion, Awareness, Coglioni / Toughness, Business, Streetwise, Contacts and Firearms.
The only real change here is that, when playing a female character, ‘Coglioni’ is instead referred to as ‘Toughness’.
In this section may be found details of how others perceive you (such as your ‘Underworld Respect’ and ‘Public Image’ ratings & descriptions), and some useful perceptions of your own — such as known or suspected vendettas against you by one or more of your rivals in the underworld.
The main change here is that your ‘Gina Vendetta’ (a progress bar roughly indicating how close you are to discovering who was responsible for your sister’s brutal death) is now also accompanied by a textual description summarizing the latest clues you have uncovered along the way… Although never intended as an actual “murder mystery” story, that aspect does now figure rather more significantly in the main storyline — but is still to quite an extent dependent on your own decision whether or not to actually devote vital ‘Free Time’ to pursuing your family vendetta.
Pursuing this vendetta actively — at least from time to time — can potentially earn you considerably more Respect in the underworld (and especially among those who really matter), but will also gain you more, and more dangerous, enemies.
Should you uncover enough clues along the way, one of the main possible Game Endings for the story is the chance to wreak your revenge… or perhaps fail miserably if your planning or execution is faulty. You will have to rely on your judgment of others as much as — if not more than — your own skills and abilities, but at the end of the day the real question is, who can you really trust?
HEAT & YELLOW SHEET
The overall ‘Suspicion’ bar displayed under this section of your M.O. provides a general idea of just how much ‘heat’ you have been generating overall as a result of your criminal activities. It’s the only bar able to exceed 100% — in which case it would be highly advisable to go “on the lam” for a while!
There are six Law Enforcement agencies represented in Vendetta, each with their own area of jurisdiction. For instance, the Bureau of Investigation (the forerunner of the FBI) are primarily concerned with Interstate Trafficking, be that stolen goods such as jewelry or automobiles, or perhaps being involved in moving persons across state lines for “immoral purposes” (the Mann Act of 1910).
Being sentenced to a prison term is one of the main possible Game Endings in Vendetta. Prior to that happening, however, you will likely have every opportunity to bribe, intimidate or shoot your way out of trouble, or perhaps even to sidestep or halt an investigation which may otherwise result in your arrest. All such events are summarized in this section of your M.O. along the way.
This section of your M.O. is focused on “your gang” — the collection of individuals (usually, but not always, also criminally inclined) who are willing to accept your leadership and work with / for you in some capacity. If a person you are currently dating also comes to work for you, or perhaps shares in a new business partnership, that person will also become a “gang member” and join the displayed list.
New gang members may join you as a result of main story events or specific choices made along the way, as a side-effect of a ‘New Business Opportunity’ being pursued, and also as a direct result of a ‘Free Time’ option devoting your efforts (if successful) to finding a particular type of individual. Both the maximum number of possible gang members (originally twelve) and the variety of characters able to join you have increased substantially.
The listing of current gang members now includes a ‘Brief’ for each (a short reminder of noteworthy appearance or traits) and their ‘Role’ in the organization. The latter, in particular, may change for particular individuals from time to time, such as when promoted and given new responsibilities, or perhaps when assigned to operate and manage a particular business or racket for you in order to free more of your own time as the organization and its operations expand.
In addition to the expanded gang members listing, other new changes in this section include an indication of how well-armed your gang is overall, and how much transportation is available. Both factors can play a significant part in the main story at certain points, and naturally both ultimately come down to how much you are willing (or able) to spend along the way.
BUSINESSES & RACKETS
These two sections are very similar, split only to differentiate between (outwardly) legitimate and hidden criminal operations, respectively — and also to keep each section to a reasonable size, since either or both listings may now grow quite substantially as a result of the ‘New Business Opportunities’ aspect of the game.
The other major new change in this version of Vendetta is that there is considerably more variety and detail involved for many businesses and rackets. In addition to each having a listed ‘Manager’ (usually, but not always, a particular gang member), some can also benefit from filling additional important roles — perhaps a ‘Hostess’ for social meeting places, or a ‘Sales Drummer’ for those businesses or rackets able to expand their activities (and increase your profits) using… a little encouragement.
Similarly, specific businesses and rackets can now gain special bonuses referred to as Income Boosts, either as a result of a main story event or choice, or by pursuing a particular New Business Opportunity. All such bonuses are listed accordingly for each business or racket currently benefiting from such.
WORD ON THE STREET
A brand new addition to your M.O. for this version of Vendetta, ‘The Word on the Street’ section provides additional detail on the background setting of the Vendetta world and many of the characters encountered.
Our story takes place in the 15th Ward (the “Bloody Ould Fifteenth” as its original Irish inhabitants aptly nicknamed it) — a sprawling, crime-ridden slum district on the Lower East Side of Grim Harbor City — and is set chiefly within the densely populated, Italian-dominated area of Hell’s Kitchen within that ward, from where hails our story’s protagonist.
The Word on the Street provides general background details of the Kitchen as well as five surrounding areas within the 15th Ward, and also more-specific details of the known (or at least, rumored) underworld activity and leading figures within each of the six districts.
As you progress through the story and your knowledge of each of these locations grows, so will additional information become available within the Word on the Street section using a system of dynamic menus (in that sub-menus and options will become visible only when you actually gain the more-detailed knowledge each contains) — including a few potentially useful clues and insights…
As with the main sections of the M.O. itself, the game keeps track of which sections of the Word you have recently viewed in order to easily direct you to any new or updated information (using the ~new* tag displayed on menu options, where applicable).
On subsequent replays with a brand new character, all sections will once again be marked as ~new* (being a fresh game start). For your convenience, however, there is a menu option available to “Mark all sections as viewed” and thereby ensure that only genuinely new information learned by this character will be marked as ~new* as you progress.
It’s worth noting that you can also access the detailed Vendetta ‘Game System Information’ (the game’s Manual, for want of a better word!) section at any time via the Word on the Street sub-menu of your M.O. and — as when perusing the Word on the Street section itself — you can simply use the ‘Return to the Game’ button at any point once you have found the specific information you were looking for.
Dev Blog #6 (Story Enhancements)
In this, the final issue for this series of Vendetta Dev Blogs masquerading as ‘News Updates’ (not the intention when I started writing them, it’s just how it turned out!), I would like to talk more about The Story itself, and specifically, how it has grown and evolved as a result of feedback (and, in some ways, perhaps also as a result of my own tentative growth as a writer — if not so much in ability, at least in confidence!).
A good example of this is the decision to finally include a female protagonist option in a story so obviously originally aimed at a somewhat niche audience; one we can for argument’s sake simply call “guys who like gangsters”.
What admittedly took me completely by surprise (but in a nice way) was the sheer number of female players who also quite clearly enjoyed earlier versions of the story. Some of Vendetta’s most ardent fans were women! It was something of an eye-opener, to say the least, and is the main reason why today we have a female protagonist option. So, with hand on heart, thank you, ladies — your support and kindness achieved what the hateful, bile-spewing critics could not. Maybe there’s a moral in there somewhere.
Vendetta was always intended to be “sandboxy” in style, to allow you to play the game, set your own goals, and develop your character in any way you see fit (albeit within the obvious time constraints on my part). This was also the driving force behind all the new stuff I’ve been discussing recently, by which I mean much of it is actually optional and you can ignore or skip it should you choose. While I always intended for “the game behind the story” to be about building and running your own growing criminal organization as you progress, this is by no means the only way to play and need not be your own main aim, or even figure very heavily at all. While having maybe two or three income-earning ventures would certainly help to provide you with the nicer things in life (improving your personal Appearance, and thereby also your Respect on the street), even this isn’t strictly necessary. You can in fact even remain “a lowlife bum” if you wish — just be prepared to generally be treated as such!
One of the things even experienced playtesters may be surprised by (and hopefully, pleasantly so) is Vendetta’s new main story focus on relationships, both with other major characters in general and the various romance options in particular. Frankly, on reflection I was seriously guilty of giving the story’s “gung-ho” side too heavy a prominence, especially early in the game. Very few early scenes did not, almost inevitably, lead to violence of one sort of another. Although Chapter One still has to establish the overall game style without room for any possible misunderstanding (being the Public Demo), we do now tone things down a little the deeper we head into the story — or at least, make it increasingly more optional.
In the current version of the game, while the grim setting and basic nature of the story remain unchanged, there are now more scenes which do not always have to end in bloodshed. It feels considerably more well-rounded to me but, as always, I’ll be relying heavily on feedback to make sure we have the right balance, especially in terms of the now-more-gradual development of romantic relationships… (well, in most cases — certain characters simply know what they want and are not at all shy about saying so, or even taking the initiative if the opportunity presents itself).
That said, do bear in mind that in Vendetta you have to deliberately choose to pursue an ongoing romance using a Weekly ‘Free Time’ option when available, even if just one time to kick-start that particular storyline. This is a deliberate design decision with the main intention of providing a relatively comfortable degree of asexual or aromantic play, where preferred. It also has the added advantage of further expressing your likes and dislikes in a way that the story can adjust and react to in various scenes along the way — such as how faithful (or not) you choose to be, to use one prime example.
Overall, what I’m aiming for is for “the story” to essentially be driven by your relationships with other characters, and for “the game behind the story” to be your ability to head towards building a growing criminal empire — should you choose to do so. Melding the two seamlessly, while still allowing you to focus on either one over the other (should you prefer!), has been by far the greatest challenge. I’ll be relying on you guys 'n gals to let me know if it indeed turned out the way I intended, and if not, where I need to focus greater effort to make it so.
Another way in which the main story is fully intended to take prominence, should you prefer, is the concept of Primary Backgrounds.
The current version of Vendetta splits the eighteen (nine female, nine male) available Character Backgrounds into ‘Primary’ and ‘Secondary’ protagonists, starting with a single Primary of each gender (WWI Veteran Nurse / Veteran Soldier respectively). The intention is with future updates to promote more of the Secondary backgrounds to the Primary list (probably one female and one male each time), as a means of expanding the breadth, depth and replay value of the game.
Although all of the backgrounds have varied starting Attributes and other such important differences — and throughout the game there are specific advantages to each at different times, as well as such as narrative flavor differences where appropriate — the Primary backgrounds concept has the most ambitious potential for future expansion of the Vendetta world.
Vendetta has been designed from the ground up to allow each of the eighteen backgrounds to have its own unique and fully-fleshed-out storyline threaded throughout the main story; its own special scenes, unique plot lines and specific ‘missions’; new characters and romantic interests to engage with; perhaps more new businesses, rackets and weekly Opportunities, Events & Free Time options; and of course its own unique Game Achievements to aim for.
As you can probably imagine, it’s a tremendous amount of extra effort to fully elevate a Secondary background to Primary status (ergo: the others will have to wait until the main game itself is released!) but the Veteran Nurse / Veteran Soldier starting Primary Backgrounds should at least serve to better convey the whole concept and its exciting future potential.
If you managed to actually stay awake during all my reminiscing, pondering, digressing and general rambling along the way, I hope you’ve found some bits in the last few ‘News Updates’ to tweak your particular interest.
While I’m painfully aware that we cannot hope to “please all of the people all of the time”, I hope you agree that with this “reinvented” version of Vendetta: Rise of a Gangster I have at least taken into consideration a very broad range of feedback over the years and have tried to improve on the original concept in many different ways. It may not be the best thing since sliced bread, but hey, that’s okay — I’m more of a crusty loaf kinda guy anyway… I like to slice things my way.