That Narrow Road, so Thick Beset with Thorns and Briars

Lordy, look at those cobwebs. I’ve let this place languish while the G+ community has been so active in beta-testing. How about some updates?

First up, I’m working at Failbetter Games again on Fallen London and this secret project. Which is fabulous, but means I’m down to a day a week (plus what I can squeeze from evenings) to work on Below. And when the kids get sick or some other calamity strikes, inevitably my Below day is usually the first to go.

But! Not a day goes by that I don’t work on the game, whether it’s fixing bugs and typos or working on new content. Things have slowed, but they grind inexorably onward! The closed beta has 150 people in it and has generated colossal amounts of feedback and improvements. So here’s a summary of the recent (extensive!) updates to the game and my roadmap for release.

Knot2Grey

All the changes described below are available in the closed beta version of the game. If you’d like access just log into the open beta version and drop me a message via the Contact Creator option from the StoryNexus menu at the top of the screen.

New Content

The Sea-King’s Grave: the second dungeon is two-thirds complete and has been menacing a select group of beta testers for the last few months. It includes new lore, new menaces, new regions and quests, and new treasures. Discover the Manticore’s crimes and the truth behind the barrow’s cursed blades. Flee the Crimson. Lose your mind to the Labyrinth’s sorceries.

The Sea-King’s Grave uses randomised elements to vary the challenges you’ll face each adventure. Does the Troll-Wife guard its entrance, or the Lindworm? What peril lies at the heart of the Labyrinth: the Winding Horn or the Bitter Wind? Which members of the Manticore’s household were interred with him?

The Outlaw: a new, highly replayable quest you can undertake in any dungeon and at a variety of difficulties. Each time you choose it, the game randomly selects an Outlaw to pursue, a twist to complicate the chase, and combines them into a new adventure. Perhaps you only have a limited amount of time to catch your quarry, or they’ve littered their trail with traps. Maybe you’re hunting an exiled Sea-King, or a hunter who’s made fell pacts with the powers of the Woadwood.

Massive Above Deck update: the whole deck has been redrafted and rebalanced. Many new options have been added, and every card has beautiful new bespoke art. Most significantly, we also added prestige cards – powerful new Above cards you can buy for your deck using Memories of Home.

Fallen Heroes and Player Relationships: When you meet your end, you can send your remains into a friend’s instance of the game as an important life lesson and, if they can find it, a source of special rewards! In addition: build friendships and rivalries with other players at the Summer Fair in the Above Deck, and use them to refresh your Spirit when times are dire. But beware: relationship are a source of vulnerability as well as strength, and there are powers in the world that feed on the heart’s passions.

Below Deck expansion: the amount of content at the earlier Depths has been doubled to create more variety in the areas you pass through most often.

 

diceyas

Gameplay Updates

All-new advancement system: Accomplish in-game feats to earn Deeds. Advance your Deeds to unlock Reputations that grant powerful new character abilities! Do they call you a Wayfarer? A Road-Forger? A Stone-Speaker? A Gold-Shepherd?

Improved Legacy system: Between adventures, spend your leftover resources to reduce the threat of the Sea-Kings, write your journals, or cure old wounds. And when a character falls or retires, they leave experience to those that come after them, so you aren’t starting at the bottom rung. New chains of legacy items allow the tales of your characters to grow from rumours to tales to legends.

Extensive visual and UI update: Yasmeen has spruced up the game’s banners, added new icons for Conditions and resources (with a unified Below-specific style to make them pop), and added dozens of new icons for items and events. Town and Camp have been streamlined. Pinned cards are easier to use, and include a Status card that tells you about your current conditions and how to remove them. A friendly new tutorial explains the game as you play, and a tips system occasionally pops up clues and handy reminders.

A squillion gameplay tweaks: So much stuff. New effects for conditions, and new consequences if you earn a condition you already have. Use Map-Scraps to navigate to key chambers in the dungeon, or combine them into Fragmentary Maps to earn Clues to Treasure Troves. Use Amulets, Second Winds and Healing Poultices to remove Conditions. Too much to list!

 

hourglass

Roadmap

Here what needs doing before launch and what I have planned for just post-launch.

Tweaks to the Outlaw Quest: there’ll be balance adjustments based on feedback, and there’s two more cards to write for this: an Above card that gives more information about your quarry and the Wolf-Dream card.

Finish the Sea-King’s Grave: this means completing the last region and quest of the dungeon, and giving a polish pass to the earlier content in response to the extensive feedback I’ve received. This is the biggest chunk of work – it’s partway done, but I get silly about making the final content in dungeons different and dramatic.

Strength of Will revamp: I’ve got ideas to make Strength of Will fit better with the other systems and make it more central. This will tie into a balance pass on some of the Reputations: a few of them need a bump or a nerf. It will also mean tweaking some Above cards.

Barefoot Friar Upgrade: now there are fewer Conditions imposed in the early game, the Friar’s initial ability to remove Lost doesn’t feel too useful. He’ll get a new way to use his Sanctity, and the mechanisms by which he gains Sanctity will receive a small behind-the-scenes update to make them more clear

Bellringer’s Tomb balance pass: The game’s earliest content is looking a bit creaky, these days. The Wolf-Lord and the Scarrow could do with a polish to add some lore, some variety, and to make use of recent UI upgrades.

Additional Death content: A few more bargains you can make with the White-Handed Lady to return from death. This is going to be Nex-charging content, in that your first bargain costs no Nex, but later ones will cost a little.

Bug fixes: there’s some key bugs and typos to fix.

Probably come up with a new title for the game: Since indie juggernaut Capy Games realised that Below was the best name for a dungeon-delving game ever. Which obviously it is.

Launch!

(Post-launch) Bond: Your Cousin – a Nex-purchased bond that will add a new chain of core items and some additional options in the Above Deck.

(Post-Launch): the Piebald Man - a free content update adding a mysterious figure to Gallowmoor’s dungeons.

(Post-launch) The Landless Lady –  the first paid-for character will make use of a unique resource she constructs in the Above Deck. She’s also the first Subtlety-focused character.

(Post-launch): Advancement Phase II – another tranche of Deeds and Reputations.

Back to it!

hammer

2 Comments

  1. Frances K R April 11, 2014 6:56 pm  Reply

    Powers that feed on the heart’s passions? This is going to be *so awesome.* Will try and complete the outlaw quest and provide coherent feedback; currently Jostas is being a bit rough.

    (Also, huh. I have never seen anything but the Bitter Wind. Must be a run of bad luck.)

    I will miss the name Below. What are you thinking – something with the name Gallowmoor in it?

  2. Faroguy April 12, 2014 7:29 pm  Reply

    I am probably always going to call this Below and that other thing “The Other Below.”

    Aside from that, I’m very excited to hear that things are still progressing. It’s shaping up to be a tremendous game.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *