First things first: A new beta update has been uploaded to Steam for MATRON-tier backers! I’m afraid this one utterly breaks save games, but I’m 98% certain that this is the last time I need to do that. From now on, your save games will be safe.
These last few months before release are crucial. They’re the last chance before release to really identify and fix problems with the design of the game. In some ways, that’s more important even than bugfixing – a bug can kill enjoyment for a moment, a design problem can stop someone from enjoying the game entirely.
So far, feedback on HOMD’s gameplay is positive, with one striking exception. Several different beta testers have noted that it’s too difficult to discover the special rooms in the House. Because of the House’s layout, it’s entirely possible to pass within one room of a new location, but still miss it entirely – and end up just going around in circles.
That’s a problem. There are 88 of these narrative hubs in the game, each packed with all the stories and secrets I’ve spent the last year labouring over. They’re essential to the experience, not least because they disrupt the rhythm of exploring the darkness.
Currently, the only system that lets you discover new locations before you reach them is tied to the Navigator. When you have a living Navigator in your crew, they will randomly update your Map with nearby locations as you travel – this happens more often in proportion to your Insight stat.
But it’s become increasingly clear that this system isn’t as versatile as I’d hoped when I designed it way back in the more innocent times of January 2015. It risks limiting enjoyment of the game only to those who pour their hard-earned Apprehensions into their Insight. On the other hand, though, I don’t want Insight to be useless. So what’s the solution here?
Luckily, I think I’ve hit upon something. A solution in two parts.
- Avoiding near-misses. It’s frustrating to know that you were just one room away from somewhere really interesting, but missed it. So I’ve made sure your Navigator will *always* update your Map if you’re just one room away from a location, no matter how low your Insight is. This makes in-universe sense, too – the closer you are to somewhere important, the more likely your Navigator is to recognize that.
- Haggling with other travellers. The House is full of bandits and pirates, of course, but also neutral vehicles just going about their everyday business. I’ve added the ability to speak with them about the surrounding area. For a minor price – a story, a scrap of gossip, a handful of coins – you can compare maps with them, and get a random update about somewhere nearby you have not yet have discovered. This means that Insight is still useful – those with high Insight won’t have to exchange any of their resources for Map updates – but a character with low Insight still has an avenue to pursue when they’re exploring.
With those two alterations, I think I’ve solved HOMD’s problem with finding places.
But I can’t know for sure until I get more testers. If you’re a MATRON-tier backer or above, now’s your time to shine. HOMD is almost bug-free and as close as it’s ever been to being finished, but now I need your help testing the beta. Consider this a polite call to action.