The last 2 weeks have been an intense period of knuckling-down on the combat part of the game. Exploring the House, you are sure to meet other travellers, and some of them are not friendly. Better to flee, perhaps, or give them money to leave you in peace – a fight is always a dangerous proposition. The strangeness of the House already eats at your crew’s sanity. Stress and blood will only make that worse.
The version of combat which released with the demo was very basic. I’ve spent time working on it, both debugging and introducing new features. I think that these features are finally ‘clicking’ – they’re working together in a fairly satisfying way, and producing nice organic results. This was my goal from the start and I’m glad to see it finally coming together, even if a few bugs remain.
So what’s been added? Well, over the next few weeks I’m going to fill you in on the new details of combat and how it works.
To be honest I could tell you everything right now, as the code is feature-complete, but I’d prefer not to – it would make for an interminably long update, and besides, I’m going to be entering a period of heavy focus on narrative over November and December, much of which I don’t want to spoil, and combat is far easier to talk about without ruining player experience.
So forgive me for feeding you tasty morsels, rather than a banquet. Banquets are overrated anyway, and tend to end in massacre or nausea.
This week’s Exciting New Combat Feature is….
The House’s laws of reality are tenuous. Dreams and thoughts can have minds of their own. And figments are not always entirely of the imagination.
This makes madness both dangerous and contagious, which is expressed mechanically in combat. Various traumas, particularly witnessing the death of a friend, will lower the Sanity of both your own crew and your enemies. This can be turned to your advantage – the enemy crew will tear each other apart in the right circumstances – but can also spiral out of your control.
Those of you who are familiar with Dwarf Fortress might be familiar with the term “tantrum spiral,” where a stressed dwarf will punch the nearest dwarf, making them stressed and causing them to punch a third dwarf, and so on until everyone is murdering everyone else.
This can happen in A House of Many Doors, if you don’t manage combat right – low Sanity can manifest in various ways, one of which is that the affected crewmember goes suddenly berserk. A murderous swabbie might not be too much of a threat, but if your intimidating Guard Captain goes on a rampage, you’re in trouble. Did I mention that inter-crew melee combat is now a thing? I’ll be talking about that in a later update.
How else can a low-Sanity crewmember cause trouble? They can start smashing up your weapons or engine, possibly leaving you stranded or defenceless. Or they can simply become catatonic – which isn’t immediately threatening, but makes them useless for the rest of the battle. Or they can start hallucinating, and their half-real hallucinations can hurt them terribly.
All of these different possibilities can really turn the tide of a battle, and can create neat little self-contained stories. An enemy missile kills an Engineer and the Surgeon who was treating him collapses, weeping and unresponsive. A berserk Gunner rampages through your kinetopede and is finally killed by a reluctant Guard, for the safety of the rest of the crew.
…Look, I didn’t say they were particularly happy little stories.
I hope that was enough to whet your appetite, dear readers. You hunger for more, of course, and hunger, and hunger. Be patient, my darlings. More shall come.
But not until next week. In the meantime here’s another of Catherine’s character sketches.
Meet Genevieve Caul, whose predilections will (for now) remain a mystery. Suffice to say, she does not drink… wine.
Because she’s totally a vampire.