In today's competitive market, great developments are happening every day at the underground headquarters of Ghost in a Bottle Petroleum. As firm believers in innovation, traditional family values, and the pursuit of gold, Octopus City Blues will be the first of many exciting projects to redefine the stagnant Octopus City Simulation (OCS) genre and bring it to the average consumer. The first step in our master plan is to introduce our product to the masses via Steam. We feel that our presence on a monopolistic marketplace will strengthen our brand, as it echoes our own monopoly in the OCS market. As our dedicated fans and supporters it is therefore your duty to help us achieve our corporate vision and get through the Greenlight process. Usually we tell kids like you to say NO to Octoblood, but today we'll make an exception. Vote YES for Octoblood and help us help you.
To celebrate this momentous occasion, we have put together a new trailer for our simulation. Check it out:
Bonus: The Design of Octopus City Blues
Warning: The following contains many spoilers for the demo. You can download it here if you haven't already.
Hello everyone, this is employee no. 208, one of the many professional Octosim designers working on everyone's favorite fever dream, and today I want to talk about the design of the demo and some of the things you can expect moving forward. One of the main ideas behind Octopus City Blues is to be as implicit and subtle as possible. Unlike some other products, we don't start the simulation by explicitly telling you how "your choices matter" or "Daisy will remember what you said", and we don't expose any of the multitude of hidden variables that shape your experience. Based on that, the very idea of talking about the design of the simulation is at odds with what we set out to do. However, I feel that it's been a while since the demo was released, and we have made a few design mistakes that obscures the true complexity of the demo experience. It's probably a good idea to talk about the demo in the context of the full version, to let you know what to expect and to help you understand why it's taking such a long time.
The diagram above shows the structure of the main scenario in the demo. You can click on it to view a bigger version. The design of OCB is a balancing act between having a lot of (hopefully meaningful) choices while keeping things simple enough and within our budget. There are multiple ways to break into the Professor's mansion for example, but once you're inside the different paths converge. With that said, the entry method you choose can have a big impact on the endings and scenes available later. Your choices matter, but branching is kept to a reasonable limit.
There are two main design problems we perceive with the current demo. The first one is that not all choices are equal. Using tentacle hormone on the sick tentacle outside the mansion is a very obvious and straightforward approach, to the point that most people don't realize there are other ways to get inside. The demo lacks a proper introduction and can be quite confusing for new players. We don't think players should be told what to do or be given too many hints, but in this case many players didn't even realize that gossip could be used like items. Gossip is the most important mechanic in the simulation, and most of the demo endings aren't reachable if you don't utilize it.
The second problem is related to the first one. The impact of your choices should be recognized, and you should feel that picking A over B can change things considerably. Like I said earlier, we wanted to be very implicit. The point isn't to play the demo enough times to get all the endings, but to give each player a somewhat unique experience even if they only tried it once. You shouldn't be told that "this choice will matter later" because it trivializes the other choices and takes you out of the experience, but you should still feel the weight of your choice. Stepping on beetles is certainly fun, but the Professor doesn't appreciate it, and several endings depend on his attitude towards Kaf. I wonder if most people realized the importance of that choice. If they haven't, then we should work harder to warn the player without directly saying "stepping on beetles will change the ending".
Both these problems stem from a difference between our expectations and how players actually behave. We wanted to make a vague and open experience that focuses on exploration and intuition, but we might have gone too far. Instead of demonstrating the complex web of choices and consequences many players only get the easiest ending and may assume that's all there is to it. In the future we will try to do more extensive beta testing and watch players try the simulation. We will also find ways to train the player to recognize alternatives and choices without explicitly stating it in a tutorial.
You can imagine how hard it can be to design branching systems like this, and that's not even accounting for all the dialogue we write for different gossip interactions. But we believe that it's worth it in the end if you could experience all of Octopus City Blues and then talk to a friend about it, only to find out that each of you had a very different experience. The choices made in the demo lead to different endings, but in the full version they will influence future quests and interactions. You can later visit the Professor's beetle fan club if you've convinced him to start one, and see the club growing and becoming more influential. Alternatively, the Professor might be dead and his mansion inaccessible for the rest of the simulation. In another playthrough he lives on and continues his reign of terror.
The moral of this story is to treat your beetles with respect. Suppress your reptilian brain and watch your step, or kill all of them if that's what you really want to do. Will you be a paragon of light or a disruptive renegade? The choice... is yours.