Tales of the Rampant Coyote

Adventures in Indie Gaming!

Frayed Knights: Getting Social?

Posted by Rampant Coyote on May 7, 2013

Frayed Knights is not what you’d commonly term a “social game.” It’s not multiplayer, you aren’t forced to recruit friends to pass critical sections of the game, anything like that. It’s a good ol’-fashioned, dungeon-crawling, monster-clobbering RPG that draws inspiration from numerous classic first-person part-based RPGs, dice-and-paper gaming, and my own demented sense of style and sitcom-inspired humor. However, as I’m cranking away on the sequel to the award-winning  game, trying to improve the experience in every way, I’ve started thinking a little bit about the social aspect of gaming. Long before “social networks,” we were talking about our games (tabletop and computer) with friends, sharing ideas, stories, and rumors face-to-face. Gamers like to talk about their games! We always have.

To be fair, I think the social aspects have improved from the day when my friends and I would swap stories about our personal experiences in the Slave Pits of the Undercity.  Today, forums provide an easy medium for people all over the world to get together and chat about a popular game.  Unfortunately, for single-player RPGs, the dicussion is usually related to hints, bugs, or strategies – mechanical aspects. Other kinds of games have a wider range of topics (especially when you are talking about big massively multiplayer online games).

In the early years of D&D, there were a few modules that many players went through. In that respect, it was a shared experience.  We all had different party compositions, different approaches, and of course a different game-master running us through the experience, so there was enough differences to be worth talking about.

Back when I was working at SingleTrac, lunch hours would often include a group game session, often a cooperative mission-based combat sim of some kind. Often our after-game discussions took longer than the game session itself. We loved sharing our different views of what was essentially the same experience. While we’d all played the same game, we all had unique angles on it, and we loved talking about it. If it was a competitive game, of course, it was fun sharing what had happened on the different sides. It was fun to discover that what we thought was an incredibly clever stratagem was actually just dumb luck, or vice-versa.

Sometimes, with a single-player CRPG (especially for a guy like me, who often doesn’t finish a game until a year or more after it’s “current”), it’s a pretty lonely experience. Not that I usually mind – I gravitate towards these kinds of games because there are times I really just want to enjoy an adventure all by myself. Unless I am stumped or stuck and looking for a solution, I tend to ignore any community of players out there.  But other times, I really like to hunt down a forum or something and see what other people are saying about the game, especially if it leads me to better understand the game or the possibilities for enjoyment. That’s something I’d like to foster, but it’s really hard to do in a little indie game. If you assume that only 1% of the players are predisposed to take that kind of initiative and contribute to the discussion, that’s not a lot of people.

It’d be nice if the game itself made it easy. And, to be honest, it’d probably help sales if the game made it easy for players to broadcast to their social networks that they are playing the game and doing exciting stuff. However, I grew pretty disgusted by all the Facebook & Twitter messages from certain games announcing the discovery of a certain flower or rock in a game I don’t give a crap about. That’s “doing it wrong,” in my opinion. Decent idea, poor implementation, maybe. Bombarding friends with stuff like that isn’t a good idea.

I especially don’t want the experience ruined by having out-of-game notifications pop up while playing, inviting you to broadcast something or to visit a website or any crap like that. Then again, these days, certain people seem to enjoy nothing more than posting status updates everywhere they go and with everything that happens to them in the real world, so maybe that’s not so bad. I really don’t know.

From my perspective, I feel like when I’m playing a CRPG, I want to be sucked into the game completely, so that the outside world disappears for a couple of hours. That includes little real-world reminders popping up or out-of-game achievement announcements or any of that crap. That’s my ideal player experience. Maybe not all players are like that. But I think that later, when a player is finished for the night, or has a minute during a lunch break at work, or is waiting to pick up your kids from dance practice, or after the game is completed but for fond memories, the game world can still there, with a network of other players to share it with.

So here are a few of ideas I’ve been mulling over.

Some games have things like being able to post characters to a website, so you can share your stats & gear with other players. That’s a neat idea, and certainly something to consider, but it’s also pretty dry. But since I’ve got quite a few more dynamic items & spells in this game, maybe that’s something people would like to show off.  I dunno.

How you’ve statted up Arianna or what cool headband you’ve acquired is not nearly as interesting as whether or not you decided to let Valeria rot in her cell. At least that’s my thought. But then, that could be a teaser or a spoiler depending upon who hears about it.But maybe, at the close of a session, the game invites you to post an after-action report on your biggest achievements of the session? Defeating a boss?

When you save off a screenshot, rather than just storing it in a directory, the game can include an option to share it on social media?

An even cooler idea (for me, anyway) might be the opportunity to share items or spells via social media. This wouldn’t be a trade, but rather just straight-up sharing, and would be restricted to “normal” level equipment and spells – no special items, unique rewards, or ‘boss’ level items / spells.  Just stuff that could appear as normal, dynamically generated stuff in a shop or in loot.  Maybe you could share a code and other people could then import the item and have it appear in one of the in-game shops.  I like this idea because it gives players a real benefit for participating in the community, yet I don’t think it risks seriously unbalancing the game, as it’s no different than if particular dynamically-generated things appeared in the game through pure chance.

Anyway, I’m not committing to any of this, but these are things I’m thinking about. What would be a “killer” community or social feature for Frayed Knights 2 & 3? If the game encouraged you to share what you were doing through social media, how would you prefer it to happen, and is there some kind of incentive that would make it interesting or cool? Lemme know what you think in the comments, folks!

Filed Under: Frayed Knights - Comments: 16 Comments to Read

  • Felix said,

    If I had to pick just one of your ideas, it would be this one:

    When you save off a screenshot, rather than just storing it in a directory, the game can include an option to share it on social media?

    I can see that being really useful in several ways. It could make a potential player go “wow” much more easily than a plain text tweet; it would make things easier for someone looking to upload a screenshot for a review or forum post.

    Dunno what would actually be a killer feature though…

  • Rampant Coyote said,

    Yeah, I’m thinking it might be pretty handy for *me* to use when we get to late testing for marketing purposes… 😉

  • Lee said,

    And add some wacky stats (only accessible through that mean?):
    number of backstepping per dungeon
    time average between steps (discounting combat)
    drama star usage
    number of people (and rats) pissed-off

  • Maklak said,

    I don’t like where this is going, but then I don’t even have a facebook account.

    Saving screenshots to disk is quite sufficient for people to share them. They can use http://www.img.ie or whatever.

    If you include a script to process the savegame into BBcode or html, that’s fine, but when I exit the game and see a screen popup and say “Would you like to write a report of your experience and share it with others”, I would be pretty weirded out(?).

    A link to rampantgames or the forum in the main menu is fine. So would be uploading the saves here and having them displayed in some standard format, along with a gallery of pictures, but you’d have problems with people uploading trash.

    I’m not a social person, so please keep all this stuff where it doesn’t get in my way. I sign up to those forums I want and in RPGs am more interested in optimised build advice and giving feedback than reading stories of “I saw this and it was so cool”. But then if there is a main menu position “social media” or “share information about this game with friends from social media”, I won’t freak out.

    Speaking of ways for players to share information, maybe get a wikia for FK going. If it takes off, it can help, but if it will be pretty empty, the forum will work better.

    Another thing to consider is that FK is a pretty niche game. Broadcasting it’s existence on facebook probably won’t help it spread much.

    What did it for me was an article on a web page about your game and link to the pilot. After that I’ve been reading the blog for years. Having a demo for FK2 is a must.

    On another subject, you sometimes write about games you like and I recommend “Don’t Starve” – it is about picking things from the ground, kitting monsters and standing by the fire at night.

    I’m not sure, I’m even making much sense. It is late, so forgive me.

  • Rampant Coyote said,

    I’m not sure, I’m even making much sense. It is late, so forgive me.

    Hey, that describes most of my blog posts, so no forgiveness needed…. 🙂

    And yeah, no worries about FK becoming a Facebook app or anything like that. It’s just the fact that it’s kind of a niche title that is making me think of that – helping players (who want to, obviously) get together since I can’t rely on the game’s popularity helping it reach “critical mass” or anything like that.

  • McTeddy said,

    As a person who HATES social features… I am going to regret saying this.

    The screenshot idea isn’t bad at all, but I can see the item sharing breaking the game FAR too easily.

    Soooo… my terrible and awful idea will be a “Tourist Trap” system. Have certain spots throughout the game that have a great view or “Fantastic Sights”. When you approach these… you have the option to “Sent a postcard” to your twitter announcing that you have seen this great site along with a neat picture.

    At this point, reward the player with some sort of a reward. Either XP or rarer materials to motivate the player to visit these sites. If the player hits all of these spots and prays to “The God Of Tourists, Frank” he will give the player a fancy one-of-a-kind weapon.

    Obviously, every picture and twitter will mentioned “FRAYED KNIGHTS 2: Greatest game in history” along with a purchase link.

  • Bad Sector said,

    Heh heh

    From my perspective, I feel like when I’m playing a CRPG, I want to be sucked into the game completely, so that the outside world disappears for a couple of hours. That includes little real-world reminders popping up or out-of-game achievement announcements or any of that crap.

    I was playing Frayed Knights yesterday (yeah, i picked it up again although it took me a while to figure out what i was supposed to be doing – and i thought that i had already started some of the quests, but i might had an earlier savegame in this computer) and at some point the loading screen said something like “for more nice RPG and adventure games visit http://www.rampantgames.com” – that was a bit out of game there :-P.

    (not that i mind, i just didn’t expect non-game related stuff to these loading screens since this is what most other games do)

  • Cuthalion said,

    I actually like the item sharing code idea. Yeah, it’ll make it easier to grab a bunch of items or the occasional broken procedurally-generated spell that gets passed around everywhere, but I think most people who decide to use those would enjoy it, rather than it being an, “Oh, if I don’t do this, I won’t be as good at the game,” sense. The thing that came to mind when I read the idea was Pokémon, although there I believe you actually trade with other players.

  • finbikkifin said,

    Tell me, have you played Dark Souls or Demon’s Souls? You could do some interesting stuff with asynchronous messaging*, or occasionally showing ghosts of other parties dying. They have a cool Miracle that lets you see more messages than you normally would, including developer-written ones.

    (the Souls games also have more interactive multiplayer, but I doubt that’d work for Frayed Sou… Frayed Knights)
    * Messages are constructed mad libs style. This is only really a problem if your game includes an item called Sticky White Stuff, and can lead to certain messages becoming memes in their own right – Try jumping, I can’t take this…, Illusory wall ahead (in areas with a lot of suspicious-looking walls, all of which are perfectly solid). One combination I remember from DeS was “Try running through” in front of an area filled with lava, surrounded by Liar messages. Must suck if the server only shows you the first, but funnily enough if you did it right, you COULD run through and survive, effectively sequence-breaking.

  • finbikkifin said,

    Also, dropped items had a very small chance to show up in another person’s game, or spawn a uniquely weird monster called a Vagrant in someone else’s game. This was rare enough that in the early days, it sounded a lot like a playground rumour – “You guys, I was in the archives and there was this weird monster I’d never seen before! But it was only there once, and I didn’t screenshot it.” “No way, I’ve been there and there’s nothing like that.” “My uncle works at From and he says you have to drop a +5 Crystal Claymore and it shows up and picks up the sword and duels you!”

  • finbikkifin said,

    What I’m getting at by spamming your comments is that this did WONDERS for getting players to discuss the game with their friends, trying to figure out all the secrets and forming a strong community.

  • Xenovore said,

    +1 to McTeddy’s idea! =)

    I also like the idea of shareable stats, (“Number of rats pissed off” is great) as long as they don’t feel like achievements. (Something like what L4D’s end-game screen shows.)

  • Darklord said,

    Ugh just the word Social makes me think bad things. As long as it’s optional, and we don’t suddenly need to be always online, or anything annoying…

    I dunno about others, but surely you’d be better of putting time into features that everyone would enjoy, rather just the social media crowd?

  • Rampant Coyote said,

    Heh – I hear ya, DL – it feels like a bunch of ruthless marketeers have really poisoned anything related to that. Or “Free to Play.” Or “DLC.” Those are all things which – if you strip away the well-deserved negative connotations – are actually pretty cool ideas. But as gamers, we’ve been abused by ’em.

    The main point here is recognizing that my audience is pretty niche. I’ve had to do things for a smaller audience that a larger, “critical mass” community can be relied upon to do for itself. For example… the strategy guide. I suppose I could have just waited around to see if some brave souls put together a walkthrough or online strategy guide of their own. Maybe I should have.

    But that’s something a larger community would provide for itself, but in a much smaller community, it’s not going to happen, so I went ahead and did the heavy lifting on that.

    Unfortunately, while it provided some of the benefits a larger community would ordinarily provide (and helped save me from having to provide the same hint to dozens or hundreds of people who might have gotten stuck at the same point), it also robbed the community of an opportunity to come together to figure out some of this stuff on their own.

    As far as putting time into features for everyone… if I really adopted that philosophy, I probably wouldn’t be making niche hardcore RPGs. 🙂 I’d rather make something really awesome for a few people, than something that’s just “okay” for as many people as possible.

    But you are correct in that there’s only so much I can bite off at a time, and I’m not sure about doing anything along those lines. I am just acutely aware of my need to expand my audience (within reason) and to serve them overall as best I can.

  • Darklord said,

    Heh very true, but I just dunno how many niche RPG players are into Social Media. One way to find out I guess! 🙂

    Either way, I’m very much looking forward FK2!

  • Rampant Coyote said,

    You ‘n me both! 🙂

    I dunno either. It wouldn’t be the first time I had an idea that I thought was super-awesome which ended up falling flat, and it sure won’t be the last. But I’d rather try for the bleachers once in a while and fail than play it too safe and just clone what’s already been done.