I just finished watching the recently-posted design chat about Massive Chalice. Some of what was said gave me ideas. Now I give them to you, free of charge.
First, to the talk about gender equality: the system described where women or men can equally be the head of a keep/bloodline falls into the trap of thinking that a matriarchy would look like a patriarchy with the genders swapped. It assumes that the surname would pass down to the next successor of the same gender as the bloodline’s progenitor, since you could only marry the other gender into that lineage. Looking at the big picture, though, one problem here is that it wouldn’t really work to have some bloodlines in the land be matrilineal and others be patrilineal, since those lines would never be allowed to intermarry. Further, the whole gender equality assertion assumes that women value the same things men do. A real matriarchal society might not even care about the concept of bloodlines at all, let alone put a high value on battle prowess.
I get that Massive Chalice is starting from the medieval fantasy world premise. But toward the end Brad did mention that it should be an idealized version of that in terms of tolerance and equality. The fact that bloodlines are central to the premise does put a limit on this, though, which is fine. It is what it is. But I wonder how detailed the strategy layer is intended to be. How much resource management will there be, and how important are keeps anyway? At the end they were talking about the initial state of the kingdom at the outset of the campaign, and the implication that all of your heroes already come from noble houses kind of contradicted what was said earlier about wanting it to be sort of a reward for service when you elevate a hero to nobility by assigning them a keep.
The thing is, if having heroes assigned to keeps doesn’t really matter for any aspect of kingdom management, why couldn’t you just abstract out the social organization aspect by letting bloodlines be more organic? Let the player choose which surname to use for each new child, if you want surname to determine the major class. Don’t bother having the player assign housing to couples. You’re an immortal ruler, presumably you also have some superhuman management skills and can take care of the land yourself without a noble class. Citizens might still have some battle expertise if there are monsters or something in the world, even if they don’t feud with each other (which wouldn’t make a whole lot of sense under one immortal ruler anyway).
Also, I was thinking about the pairing up of partners in the game. Should this be something the player actively manages for every heroic couple? You assign this heroine and that hero to each other and they continue to serve the kingdom in the bedroom? If so, each could have a gender preference (same, opposite, or some that could go either way). Or should couples interested in each other come to the player for approval of the pairing? Or maybe they just do it behind the scenes and you only find out when a baby is born? It seems like part of the intent of the premise is to give the player an active hand in this, but letting a hero sit out a few battles for R&R could fill that requirement. It would be funny/interesting if it was a combination of these, and sometimes you would find out about an affair you didn’t arrange when a baby shows up (presumably one of your own powers as immortal ruler is perfect knowledge of lineage).
The way they discussed handling the combinations of classes in the game got me thinking about that topic. The class matrix they mentioned reminds me of fusing Personas, and splicing jobs in Pixel People. That can be cool but I understand why they would want to not go in that direction. I like the idea of special skills or abilities that come from the combination of particular classes, but I wonder why it needs to be class-based at all. It would be really easy to just make a list of attributes (weapon proficiencies, spells, passive abilities, traits, etc.) and have the initial heroes start with random ones (within constraints, like each hero gets at least one weapon type they can use), while their successors inherit some from each parent, with a chance of randomly gaining others. And I think that could be really cool. Any combinations that seem absurd or unbalanced could be filtered out in the game’s generation process if necessary. And “perks and quirks” as they were called in the video would easily be part of the same system.
Thinking about weapon types, though, I’m wondering if equipment beyond relics and demon tech is even something they want to put in the game at all. Maybe the type of weapon a hero uses is one of the inherited traits just for the visuals but you don’t actually actively equip weapons and armor in the game. There’s no real reason that has to be necessary. I also was wondering about leveling up: do heroes gain new skills and abilities as they level up (predetermined by lineage)? And if so, do you know ahead of time what their full potential will be? Is that one of your immortal-ruler powers?
Finally I’m wondering if the 3-5 generations of heroes mentioned as the total for an average play through is really enough to get across the feelings they are talking about. Three seems low to me, while five might be fine. I think 12 hours for a basic play through sounds fine if there is a marathon option to play through more generations in a longer game. If it takes 30 minutes to play through a battle and the strategic stuff you do in between battles, that’s 24 battles for a basic play through. That means in game time if heroes retire from battle entirely at, say, 40, then the game would take place over the course of around 100 years. So battles would average about 4 years apart in game time. Maybe a marathon game would span 300-400 years.
That’s interesting to think about. I’m not sure those are the numbers they really want, but some of my guesses may be wrong. I’m interested in what kinds of things can happen in the strategic section, like the monkey wrenches Brad was talking about. Could you be attacked randomly, or do something similar to the UFO interceptions in XCOM? Could there be a drought, or a food surplus leading to a baby boom?