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Thread: Below: a narrative dungeon-delving card game

  1. #1
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    Below: a narrative dungeon-delving card game

    Hi all,

    On their latest podcast Tom and Jason talked about Failbetter Games and Below, a narrative dungeon-delving digital card game we're kickstarting.

    I'm the lead designer on Below and wanted to try and build more interest in it, so I asked Tom if I could post here, pimp it a bit and offer to answer questions - be they on Below, our other games, writing, or anything else as long as it isn't likely to be used against me in a court of law.

    You can play a prototype of Below here. Here's some stuff I think is cool about it:

    • It's more folklore than high fantasy. It's a bit more strange, a bit more spooky, a bit more personal than fantasy often is in games.
    • As you play, you build up a picture of what sent you into the dungeon. You draw strength from your memories of the world above, but the more you do, the more complicated your reasons for entering the dungeon become.
    • Your relationships are a vital mechanic in play: once you've established you have a sister, she's a part of your story. Maybe she'll be kidnapped by the Sea-Kings. Or maybe she was the one who taught you how to use your staff properly, allowing you to improve its stats.
    • The dungeons are really cool. Here's the tomb of the saint that brought the faith to the land; here are the burning caves of the dragon who may have killed him and may have loved him. Here are lost halls lit by ninety-nine lamps, each of which holds a wish - which one did you come looking for?


    So please try out the prototype, let me know what you think, back the kickstarter if you want to see more and feel free to ask any questions here on Below, writing, our other games (Fallen London, Silver Tree, Machine Cares, Cabinet Noir and The Night Circus), or StoryNexus.

  2. #2
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    On a bus so questions! Is it single player or multi or both?

  3. #3
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    I did mention the Kickstarter in the general thread, but I was a bit surprised you hadn't posted about it yourself. grats, by the way. you have my money.

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    Pledged. Appreciate the heads-up.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Wolff View Post
    On a bus so questions! Is it single player or multi or both?
    It's single-player, but we want to build some fruity social actions into the game. Some examples (these aren't past the "wouldn't it be cool if..." stage yet, but show our initial thinking):
    • Tell tales of your adventures. Pick a friend. The next time they visit the tavern there's a stranger there, telling stories about the world below. They get an advantage from this (and maybe you do to, as your fame grows).
    • You die (it happens). If you decide you want your fate to serve as a warning to others, you pick a friend. That friend gets a new card added to their deck, allowing them to find the mauled, broken, semi-digested, pitiful remains of some poor soul who went before them. Maybe they'll take a little wisdom from the discovery. Or maybe they'll just rifle through your pack for gold. Ingrates.

    That's the sort of thing we'd be going for - fun ways to affect a friend's experience.

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    Quote Originally Posted by malkav11 View Post
    I did mention the Kickstarter in the general thread, but I was a bit surprised you hadn't posted about it yourself.
    I managed to totally miss that! I was probably lusting after the Ars Magica game and was distracted. Much appreciated!
    you have my money.
    I adore you.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Cold Blooded View Post
    Pledged. Appreciate the heads-up.
    Your name will be spoken with awe in the Halls of the Mighty.
    Last edited by Chris Gardiner; 11-15-2012 at 03:58 PM.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Chris Gardiner View Post
    I managed to totally miss that! I was probably lusting after the Ars Magica game and was distracted. Much appreciated!
    I really wish that was going to fund. Oh well.

    What sort of scope is Below intended to have, eventually? Small but layered, like Cabinet Noir? Modest side story, like The Silver Tree? Somewhere in between those and Fallen London? A full on major project like Fallen London?

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    Quote Originally Posted by malkav11 View Post
    What sort of scope is Below intended to have, eventually? Small but layered, like Cabinet Noir? Modest side story, like The Silver Tree? Somewhere in between those and Fallen London? A full on major project like Fallen London?
    The core Below package is about the size of two Cabinet Noirs. However, it's built to be very extensible. Adding new dungeons and characters is really straightforward, and if it's a success we could also explore different areas of the world, introducing new Surface decks, new threats and new settings.

    It'd never get as big as Fallen London, but it's final size depends on how much people like it. And whether he Kickstarter is successful!

  10. #10
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    Chris, this is great. And I love the fact that you are opening StoryNexus to community authors. I've really been enjoying one of them, Annwn Simulation 1985. Best of luck with your projects at Failbetter. You have my Below pledge already.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Brooski View Post
    Chris, this is great. And I love the fact that you are opening StoryNexus to community authors. I've really been enjoying one of them, Annwn Simulation 1985. Best of luck with your projects at Failbetter. You have my Below pledge already.
    Thank you so much! I'm always surprised to hear Below appeals to anyone but me.

    We posted some concept art for the Blacksmith's Daughter on the Kickstarter page - she and the Landless Lady are the two characters I'm most eager to write and design.

    Personally speaking, it has been an eventful week. I'm excited and terrified, and should have Below-related developments to share soon.

  12. #12
    Social Worker Wendelius's Avatar
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    As someone who supported the project, I have to say I'm underwhelmed by the complete lack of updates since the 23rd of November.

    I know it's not the case and that we can already play a prototype, but it makes it look like you don't really care / are not really enthusiastic about the project. It usually makes me consider withdrawing my pledge.

    Are you planning any further communication in the 10 days left?

    Wendelius

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    Hiya. I'm really sorry about this - there's a load of stuff going on behind the scenes, which I'm hoping to talk about today or tomorrow. Believe me, my enthusiasm for the project is not dimmed - just the opposite, as will become clear. As a kickstarter backer you'll be the first to know what's going on.

    Again - apologies to you and all the other backers from Qt3. This isn't how I wanted things to go. Once the next update is posted I'll be happy to answer questions here.

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    Social Worker Wendelius's Avatar
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    Chris,

    Thanks for the reply. I'll be waiting to see what's coming.

    By the way, I live near Lewisham, work in Canary Wharf and am often out and about in Greenwich. I just realised you guys are actually based there. I'll have to buy you a cup of coffee one of these days to thank you for all the times you've helped me forget nightmares or avoid scandalous rumours in Echo Bazaar / Fallen London. :)

    Wendelius

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    So I wake in the morning and I step outside
    And I take deep breath and I get real high
    And I scream from the top of my lungs
    What's goin'on
    And I say hey...
    And I say hey what's goin' on
    And I say hey...
    I said hey what's goin' on
    And I say hey...
    And I say hey what's goin' on
    And I say hey...
    I said hey what's goin' on
    Oooh....

  16. #16
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    I'm hoping that some momentum can be reclaimed. It is theoretically possible to make 66+% of one's goal in the last couple of days, but it's usually better to be significantly closer to the finish line by then.

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    Social Worker ineffablebob's Avatar
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    I went to check this out, but StoryNexus.com just hung my Firefox tab when I tried to register, so I wasn't able to get a look at Below. Wonder how many other potential Kickstarter-donors they've lost on technical glitches?

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    Quote Originally Posted by ineffablebob View Post
    I went to check this out, but StoryNexus.com just hung my Firefox tab when I tried to register, so I wasn't able to get a look at Below. Wonder how many other potential Kickstarter-donors they've lost on technical glitches?
    Hm. It seems to be working ok for me. Were you trying to register with an email address, or one of the social networks? If you want to PM me with some details I'll try and work out what's going on.

  19. #19
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    I know an RPS commenter this weekend reported being dissuaded by technical issues with email registration. (They also didn't want to use their Twitter because it asked for permission to post on their behalf. I explained it wouldn't ever do that on its own, but I don't know if they ever went back.)

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by Chris Gardiner View Post
    Hm. It seems to be working ok for me. Were you trying to register with an email address, or one of the social networks? If you want to PM me with some details I'll try and work out what's going on.
    Neither. Go to StoryNexus.com, click on "Log in or register to begin"...hang. The URL bar says "http://storynexus.com/s/PortalAuth".

    Quote Originally Posted by malkav11 View Post
    I know an RPS commenter this weekend reported being dissuaded by technical issues with email registration. (They also didn't want to use their Twitter because it asked for permission to post on their behalf. I explained it wouldn't ever do that on its own, but I don't know if they ever went back.)
    Back when I had Twitter, I'd do the same thing. I might use Google's ID for cross-authentication occasionally, but never a social network.

  21. #21
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    Weirdly, registering through Firefox seems to be working fine, here. My favourite sort of bug: one I can't reproduce. I'll try to find out what's going on.

  22. #22
    Social Worker ineffablebob's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Chris Gardiner View Post
    Weirdly, registering through Firefox seems to be working fine, here. My favourite sort of bug: one I can't reproduce. I'll try to find out what's going on.
    Could be network. If I remember, I'll try again tonight.

    Anyway, didn't meant to hijack the thread for my tech support. What I originally came in here to say was that I agree with Wendelius...frequent updates are crucial to getting people interested in the Kickstarter.

    Quote Originally Posted by Wendelius View Post
    As someone who supported the project, I have to say I'm underwhelmed by the complete lack of updates since the 23rd of November.
    I know it's not the case and that we can already play a prototype, but it makes it look like you don't really care / are not really enthusiastic about the project. It usually makes me consider withdrawing my pledge.

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    Here we go: Kickstarter page updated with an explanation of what's going on.

    I'm more than happy to answer questions about what's next, or Below, or Kickstarter, or whatever else. I deeply regret that the Kickstarter wasn't a success and wasn't all we could have made it. Believe me it was a matter of resources, not enthusiasm. If I wasn't completely committed to Below, I wouldn't be taking this frankly terrifying step.

  24. #24
    Social Worker Wendelius's Avatar
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    From the KS update:

    With regret, weíre going to cancel this Kickstarter - this means all pledges will be cancelled and no money will be subtracted from backers. Barring a miracle, itís not going to reach its target. However, this isnít the end for Below. This is a passion project for me and Iíve agreed to take it over as a separate venture from my freelance work with Failbetter. For the immediate future, Below will be my day job. A lot of work has already been put into the game, and while the economics of finishing it may not make sense for a whole company, as a (mostly) one-man show itís more viable.
    If you don't mind me asking, what's the chicken and what's the egg in this situation? Did you decide to go solo because the KS wasn't doing well (in which case, the lack of updates is really a pity, though I can understand having resource issues) or was it something you were mulling anyway, which explains less focus on the KS itself?

    It's kind of strange to hear the economics of finishing it don't make sense for the company. But then again, I don't know how many people actually contribute money to the games. I know I've bought stuff for Fallen London, but it might be atypical.

    You clearly want to see the project through, and I'll be looking forward to playing it. Good luck with that.

    Wendelius

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    Quote Originally Posted by Wendelius View Post
    If you don't mind me asking, what's the chicken and what's the egg in this situation? Did you decide to go solo because the KS wasn't doing well (in which case, the lack of updates is really a pity, though I can understand having resource issues) or was it something you were mulling anyway, which explains less focus on the KS itself?
    A bit of both? I'm switching to working freelance (although I worked on most of FBG's games, I was primarily hired to work on Machine Cares, a big project that's now completed). If the Kickstarter had been a big success, FBG would be making Below and I'd probably still be working full-time there, but it was pretty clear early on that wasn't going to be the case (our previous Kickstarter was 100% funded within 8 hours; this one was at 18% after 3 days...)

    It's kind of strange to hear the economics of finishing it don't make sense for the company.
    It's just that a company has costs and overheads that me with my laptop in my kitchen don't. I'm cheap. In many ways.

    If Below only makes... (quick, very rough calculation) about £1,500 over its whole lifetime, it would still have been well worth the time I put into it. But that's not a figure that's worth a company's time.

    You clearly want to see the project through, and I'll be looking forward to playing it. Good luck with that.
    Thanks! I am daunted, nervous and excited.

  26. #26
    Social Worker ineffablebob's Avatar
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    Good luck, Chris! Looking forward to seeing the results.

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    You people are lovely.

  28. #28
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    This is pretty cool. Good luck!

  29. #29
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    Looking forward to it. I didn't hit the kickstarter because I'm "kickstartered" out. I hit my self-imposed limit of how many unfinished projects I'm willing to back until some start coming through. I'd bet many people are in the same situation.

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    Sorry for the slight thread necro. It wasn't really dead, it was just having a lie down.

    I've had a number of people ask why I thought the Below kickstarter failed, so I've posted a frank and rather personal take on it over at the Below site.

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