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!
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