Why the ships in Sunless Sea go so slow

, | Games

Failbetter’s Alexis Kennedy has a great post-mortem of Sunless Sea here. I particularly appreciate how he explains that some of his design decisions might not have resonated with a wider range of people, because he was staying true to a specific creative focus:

Ship speed is a good example. Sunless Sea is a stately game. You could reasonably call it a slow game. But we’ve resisted speeding up the ship, because it would reduce the tension, the sense of space and distance, and the menace of the dark. I think it’s quite possible that if the ship was 50% faster, the game would be more fun and less grindy – but I also think there’s an invisible line we’d cross, somewhere before that 50%, where the atmosphere was diminished without anyone quite knowing why. If we hadn’t had that iron creative focus from the beginning, I don’t think we’d have held our nerve, and Sunless Sea would have ended up a zippier, slighter experience.

Amen, brother. Some people have edited files to make the ship faster, which would be like fast-forwarding through the slow parts of a Stanley Kubrick movie. Sure, you could do it, but then you’re a philistine. I love how Kennedy tacitly concedes that game design doesn’t always have to worship at the altar of “fun”. If I want to have fun, I’d go outside and play tetherball. If I want a uniquely moving experience of exploring the unknown, I’ll play Sunless Sea.

Read the rest of the post-mortem for Kennedy’s confession that Sunless Sea is confused about it’s identity as a CRPG or a roguelike, how veteran players nearly ruined the early parts of the game, how early access saved us all from a terrible combat system (seriously, their first iteration at combat sounds godawful!), and how many bat skeletons Failbetter keeps in the office.

(You can read my review here.)