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Criticisms and Suggestions (OOR update)

Protist

New member
It's all in the attached file.
I'm super excited about 1.0 and really hope it turns out well. I realize my criticisms in the essay are attack the foundation of the game, but maybe they can be of some use anyway. I have some fun ideas I jotted down at the end of the essay that might be more useful.
Hope this helps in some way.
 

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AbbeyAdriaan

Abbey Games Developer
Developer
Abbey Games Developer
Wooooaaah That's amazing! Thanks a lot for all the feedback and info, it's really helpful for me!
I haven't read all of it yet, but I'd love to keep the discussion rolling. :) I've read the criticism, so I would like to talk about it a little bit before going into suggestions.

Before anything else - please join the beta! I can react a lot quicker from there, and the more well-thought feedback, the better. :) There are a few pacing mechanics there I would love to hear your thoughts on! (although it's a quite late in the process for the next update).

On Criticism - Fantasy
I think you make some excellent points. First of all, you correctly identified our struggle with the city. It has been a source of major headache for me. I don't just feel it in my bones, I had a legit breakdown over it. :p The city does not exist out of a sense of indirectness however - that is the Sacrament. The city exists because it looks so good and a lot of monks here were enthusiastic about it. We absolutely bit off more then we could chew there, but we're starting to chew it anyway. :p

Second, the core is indeed the Sacrament. You also correctly identified my way of thinking of how religion, sacrament and the loop tie together. I'm very happy you see that! There is one thing I don't fully agree on, and that is the hard distinction between 'capital T' Truth, and myth. The interesting part of religion is how it floats somewhere in between. There are stories, there are people, there are truths and religion is just a messy mash-up of all those things in between. Self-forgiveness can have a positive impact on your life. But is it because of the tales we relate too? Is it because we believe in an order? Is it because Jesus loves me? Or is it all just placebo? And if it is placebo, doesn't it only work because I believe in something?
That's the tight rope Godhood tries to walk. The game acknowledges you as god, but the world does not. Disciples can decide to not believe in you. They can interpret you differently or wrongly. You might be a god, but only if people decide to follow you. Indirectness stems from personal belief and convictions. With that comes the question what godhood even actually is. ;)

Which is exactly where I think Godhood falls short the most in achieving this. We had wild plans for Disciple's action regarding your commandments, and even disciples working against your will to change the religion. (Sometimes you see some remnaints of it, like when they procclaim you dead, or would prefer another commandment). It's complicated, because you need to keep the pace of stories and rituals going, and not have the Disciple's being too annoying. If we will ever achieve this, it will be a light version. Something like the personality of a Disciple having a say on the traditions/myths of your religion if he or she becomes very powerful.

Third, religions are indeed not static. This is however a big tow-tug between gameplay and gameplay and fantasy. Dynamic systems are very hard to create. We're going for a middle way where the religion is evolving instead. You can check it out in the beta! Maybe later we can add something like interpretations? Something a powerful can change on a whim? "Yes, Peace is good and War is bad, but we need to protect the weak! With violence is necessary!"

On Criticism - Gameplay
First, I think you're spot-on when it comes to the Sacrament as a core - but we have a different path forward from it. As I would like Godhood to keep walking that tightrope between culture and truth, I would like to keep a layer of mysticism. Influence in the Sacraments come from "God Powers" where you can inspire your disciples to do actions (at a cost). E.g. a War god might inspire his faithful disciples to commit violent crimes in a Sacrament, while a Lust god might inspire your sexy disciple to make someone fall in love.
In the beta, we also changed some core rules to how a Sacrament works. Initiative is individual, and disciples will target the enemy in front of them. If they have a lot of knowledge, they might go and pick a weaker target instead, adding both some control and AI in the mix. I would like to reward the player for not needing to take action too. If your Disciples are so strong and so faithful they don't need your help, you can save on resources/progression. In the end, Sacraments need more player influence, and it is certainly something we'd like to up. But not too much as it to become a Turn Based RPG. :)

One thing I don't think I agree with, is the removal of the city. Godhood is a roster game for sure, but many roster games have a similar structure. Godhood's structure is underdeveloped above anything else, but I don't think it's fundamentally wrong.

My philosophy forward would be:
The Sacrament is the test. The City is the preperation.

So first some examples I draw from: XCOM, Auto-Chess and Sportsmanagers.
XCOM is a tactical game, with a good preperation layer. You can prepare and advance in your base, while the challenge is on the battle field. You take home your spoils and up you go! Challenges in XCOM are almost always time based with pressure. Your actions are limited by gold and other resources, but also by time.
Auto-Chess is a full-on prep game. Invest in the right team, make gambles, equip items, and see them go. I think this would be the easiest for us, but it is too much of a longshot form the fantasy. You're limited by both time and resources.
Sportsmanagers are remarkably close to our fantasy. You prepare and train your athletes, you make sponsorship deals, renovate the stadium, attract trainers, deal with injuries etc. On the pitch, the effect of the manager is limited, but not zero. Sideline instructions or tactical changes give the player some degree of control. Giving the right theming, I think this is the best example to draw from. You're limited by time mostly (next match is next week!).

So Sacraments have a very clear role. But what should the the City look like? Right now, I'm looking to give the player three options per action:
1. Prepare for the next Sacrament.
2. Invest in the long term.
3. Repair that what has been damaged.

Repair is the easiest of the three to do right. Everything that decades over use can be repaired. For now, I'm mostly going for the Disciple's HP and spirit. Repairing is not extremely interesting, so I don't want to overuse it.
Investment is, on OOR, the only way forward. Just level your disciples and try to go for it. Investment is collecting bonus resources, using the XP gainer, or performing miracles. In the beta, there are a few more options available, but the game is not long enough to really reward it right now.
Prepping is the hard one. Players have a tendency to always pick the long term option, so we need to spice up the difficulty to increase the need for prepping. Think about gaining a shield vs. an element, giving a big boost to an attack type, or having a passive for one mission.

I want the player to experience this:

"Oof, the next challenge is hard! 2 strong dark enemies! Should I train a bit longer, or try to get a relic first? If not, how much do I need to spare on preparation? That shield vs dark looks good, but it's expensive too..."


For that, pressure forward is also needed. (i.e. endless grind is not the solution, but facing a wall where you can't get past is also bad). It's something we tried to tackle in the beta.

Because of this, I think the city does have a deserving place in Godhood, but it's mostly awkwardly balanced because we're just learning about or true pacing tools. Some things will always stay at least a bit akward (like resource gathering in the city.), but all in all I think the structure stands. It's just underdeveloped.

I have a lot more to say on all this (it's my job after all :D), but I wanted to start out with this. Do you have any thoughts on this?
 

Protist

New member
I'd love to help, I don't have much time right now but I should clarify that when I say "myth" in the essay, I am not referring to the definition of "lies" or "false ideas". I mean it more academically in the sense of "functional stories". An example that comes to mind is the myth (functional story) of Manifest Destiny for the U.S. which was neither a lie nor a fairy tale, it was a story they told each other that gave them purpose (to settle North America whatever the cost). In a way, the myth (functional story) of Manifest Destiny was like the programming of the people; it gave them a conceptual framework to act under. This applies to what you said above about self-forgiveness connected to the myth (functional story) of Jesus loving you. The self-forgiveness is the function of that myth, and yes it does depend on your belief. Which is why, as you intuited, the gods in Godhood can die. If belief dies, the functionality of the myth dies as well, thus killing the god. This is why the Sacrament is so important and should be emphasized over the village; by convincing others, the Disciples maintain belief themselves. You recognize this with your current enthusiasm mechanic and the Disciple's faith. However, the game doesn't recognize this because it treats the Disciples and the god as discrete during the Sacrament, which is when the synchronization between the god and the Disciples is most important.
I have a few errands to run, I'll be back in a bit.
 

Protist

New member
I found this and I think I'll let it illustrate my point (https://community.abbeygames.com/threads/inside-godhood-02-your-disciples.61/)
godhood disciple capture (2)_LI.jpg


This is my point: because the idea exists within people, it makes no sense to treat the Disciples and the god as distinct during the Sacrament. If the player is able to control the Disciples directly, it tells them that they (the god) and the Disciples are one thing: an idea that exists within people. If the player is supposed to affect the world through their Disciples, why can't they during the point where the god is fighting for its life? The village is pulling away from this central drama by putting the player's agency in the wrong place.

I want to make some notes on the inspirations you mentioned if that's alright.

XCOM can pressure the player using time because the player has agency on the battlefield. If they aren't fully prepared, there is still a chance of winning through skill. But the player has no agency in the Sacrament (in OOR) so pressuring them through time doesn't make sense.

Auto-Chess games are merge games. Merging heroes is the core that can be (and has been) built into standalone games that remain satisfying. You can separate the merge gameplay from the battlefield and retain a satisfying experience for the merging, but the battlefield stops being fun. The core of the game is something you do, and in Auto-Chess you merge. In your game, the village is what you do, making it the core of the game. You can’t play the Sacrament on its own because the player has no agency in it.

Sports-managers are not city builders. The gameplay of a sports-manager is most similar to the Sacrament, not the village. If you were to make Godhood like a sports-manager, there would be no city, just a clean loop: Sacrament, menu, Sacrament, menu, etc. The Sacrament is the stadium, upgrading the stadium is not the same as building a city. Since the point of the game is to spread the religion, the menu needs to be the map, not the village. All the management and contextualizing strategy should be on the map because that’s the point of the game: to spread. When the map is the interface the player returns to, it sends a clear message that the point of the game is to spread and that the Sacrament is the means to do that. But since the player is sent to the village the game grinds to a halt, which would be fine if you actually wanted the players to be there; to build a city. But you don’t, so you force them out after a few turns.

A great game that is another good example of a roster game is Darkest Dungeons. That game has upgradable village downtime where you prep, similar to yours. The difference is that the focus of Darkest Dungeons is the dungeons themselves because the players have agency there. Whatever satisfaction you get in the village is heavily outweighed by the time spent in the dungeons, making the dungeons the focus. You could separate the dungeon gameplay from the village and still have something to do in the dungeons.
Crucially, Darkest Dungeons never moves. The reason a village segment works is that the gameplay is set in the same place at all times. But in your game, you want to spread all over the world. The village does not reflect this, making it distracting to both you guys and the players.

TL:DR
  • The lack of agency in the Sacrament pushes the player to wanting to build up the village, which is distracting to both the players and you guys.
  • The lack of agency in the Sacrament does not reflect the concept that the god is an idea within people.
  • The time spent in the village does not reflect the goal of spreading the religion.
I liked what you mentioned about a sport-manager game being closest to your vision because I think it makes a lot of sense. You also mentioned upgrading the stadium, and I love the idea of putting monuments and buildings in the background of the Sacrament (which I saw a hint of in your old gameplay trailer btw) based on what you unlocked. Home Sacraments would show what you unlocked, Away Sacraments would show what your opponent unlocked.

Oh, one more small note since I remembered. Religious people in real life are more likely to disagree with other religious people rather than their god. If you want a mechanic that shows Disciples have a mind of their own, you could throw in a late-game mechanic where the religion becomes increasingly prone to schisms the larger it becomes. This was the problem of the massive Catholic church before it split into Eastern Orthodoxy and Western Catholicism. Special Sacraments could pop up the larger the religion gets where you have to contest heretics. If you fail, one of your cities is claimed by a god that is disturbingly similar to yours and you would have to get it back. Such a mechanic could spice up the late-game.

I hope this is helpful in any way. As soon as I figure out how to get into the beta I'll spend some time in it.
 
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AbbeyAdriaan

Abbey Games Developer
Developer
Abbey Games Developer
Thanks again for your answer!

Let me put up first that I agree with you that the marriage between the core of the game and the city is a challenging one. Darkest Dungeons is also a great example on how to do it right. But no matter what we're, tied to the city right now. So I'm trying to find the best possible space for it. There are some strong points we could leverage and weak points we have to avoid.
  • Introducing more city building mechanics is a bad idea, at least until agency over Sacraments is strong enough. (XCOM as example)
  • The city allows for a place to showcase the culture you created.
  • All the games we mention here, have a "menu" to do prepping or investment. Darkest Dungeon has a village. Can we make this work for our city too?
  • Since this is all very experimental, we'll always have a few oddities. That's ok with me, as long as we got some real strong points.
  • Not a gameplay argument, but important for us gamedevs as well; the City looks pretty.
For those reasons, I prefer to look on how to incorporate the City more (or less!) without hurting the core of the game. Prepration is one step for it, but there must be more to find here, although it requires more creativity to fix it.

Most importantly, the increase of agency for the Sacraments is needed foremost. The City can help that loop (for example with prepping options), as well as work against it (for example trying to put too much spatial gameplay in there, cluttering the whole). We're in a tight Venn-diagram spot here, but I believe there is a good relationship to be found here, much like Darkest Dungeon or a Football Manager. ;)
 

Game

New member
How do I get the beta? I found an Alpha application, is that it?
"To access the beta, please go to either Steam or GOG Galaxy, to the 'betas' tab, and use the password 'ImHereToHelp'."
For steam you can find the 'beta' tab under the properties of Godhood. After you enter the password you should press 'check'. Then the beta option should be available from the drop-down menu.
 

Protist

New member
Thanks again for your answer!

Let me put up first that I agree with you that the marriage between the core of the game and the city is a challenging one. Darkest Dungeons is also a great example on how to do it right. But no matter what we're, tied to the city right now. So I'm trying to find the best possible space for it. There are some strong points we could leverage and weak points we have to avoid.
  • Introducing more city building mechanics is a bad idea, at least until agency over Sacraments is strong enough. (XCOM as example)
  • The city allows for a place to showcase the culture you created.
  • All the games we mention here, have a "menu" to do prepping or investment. Darkest Dungeon has a village. Can we make this work for our city too?
  • Since this is all very experimental, we'll always have a few oddities. That's ok with me, as long as we got some real strong points.
  • Not a gameplay argument, but important for us gamedevs as well; the City looks pretty.
For those reasons, I prefer to look on how to incorporate the City more (or less!) without hurting the core of the game. Prepration is one step for it, but there must be more to find here, although it requires more creativity to fix it.

Most importantly, the increase of agency for the Sacraments is needed foremost. The City can help that loop (for example with prepping options), as well as work against it (for example trying to put too much spatial gameplay in there, cluttering the whole). We're in a tight Venn-diagram spot here, but I believe there is a good relationship to be found here, much like Darkest Dungeon or a Football Manager. ;)
The city is really pretty it's true. I'm excited to see what you guys come up with!
 
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