MASSIVE CHALICE: Moderate Impressions

MASSIVE CHALICE (their capitals, not mine) is a Kickstarted strategy-roleplaying game from Psychnoauts, Costume Quest and Broken Age dev Double Fine. (Yes, they do seem to be chucking out a game every other week right now, and not without casualties.) Set in a fantasy kingdom besieged by demonic forces, you must raise and then control a defensive army, ideally sourced from the offspring of your best fighters. I’ve spent some time with the ‘premium backer beta.’

Disclaimer: These impressions are based on an early, beta build of MASSIVE CHALICE. Everything they mention is subject to change by the time of release.

SEXCOM! The joke came true after all! Sure, the sex is implied only by the arrival of babies, and that happens only because of arranged and probably loveless marriages, but still: XCOM-like strategy game with sex in it! Theoretically.

I hadn’t followed Massive Chalice at all, as that period of time was very much Too Many Kickstarters and I’d felt a powerful need to look at things I could actually play instead, and this meant the vague impression I’d had of it was of a sort of heraldic roleplaying game. I took a look at the premium backer builder this week (I’m not a backer, but Double Fine sent over a code) and was initially surprised to find that, well, it’s heraldic XCOM. Maybe a little too XCOM in some ways, and maybe not enough XCOM in others, but there’s definitely something to it.

I don’t know that ‘but does it feel like a Double Fine game?’ is an appropriate question to ask, as tempting as it is to do so. When we say Double Fine game, we’re thinking ‘Psychonauts’ but what we really mean is ‘primarily a comedy.’ Most Double Fine games are comic to varying degrees, but they’ve splintered into many different sorts of projects of late – sadly the majority of which have underwhelmed despite great ambition. It is, however, true to say that this is perhaps the least comedic DF game to date, with the possible exception of the ill-fated Spacebase DF-9. There are a pair of unseen advisors who quip and bicker on occasion, but it’s very low key stuff, and deliberately so.

Other than that, this is straight-laced. There are places where gags could have been inserted, particularly in the genetic traits your soldiers pass down to their offspring, but in that regard it chooses to lean towards statistics rather than go down the Rogue Legacy (i.e very silly inherited traits) route. Massive Chalice is almost solemn most of the time. Perhaps I’d like to see a little more character from my characters – for instance, marriage is just a button on a menu – though I much prefer it this way than to have my turn-based strategising be soundtracked by manic chatter.

Let’s get back to what Massive Chalice is, rather than what it isn’t. It’s turn-based squad battles, interspersed with what’s essentially a base-building mode where time and implied regal nookie are the key resources. New soldiers can be recruited from off the map, as it were, but what you’re primarily up to in base building mode is getting your best units to sprog so that you’ve got an ongoing supply of trusted rookies to replace those who perish out in the field or from old age.

What Massive Chalice is really doing is approaching XCOM from an alternative angle, which entails exploring how to do more with players’ attachment to their units. In XCOM, you can become over-protective of your most-valued soldiers, and by hook or by crook wind up taking them all the way to the endgame without experiencing the crushing horror of seeing them die. In Massive Chalice, there is no escaping death.

As the years (measured in seconds in ‘base’ mode) wear on, so do your squads’ ages. They are going to die. The longer they live, the better they’ll get – unlocking new skills as they level up – but the time in which their improved abilities can be leveraged is winding down, down, down. They may also suffer minor or major performance hits as they approach their twilight hours, so there becomes this lingering question of whether you’re using particular soldiers because you should, because you’re being sentimental, or because there’s no-one else to call up. This is probably what Manchester United fans feel when they watch Wayne Rooney these days – that guy just ain’t gonna be here too much longer. Is there new blood to replace him, or is the team hopelessly dependent?

I’ll end that analogy there, because no-one needs the mental image of Wayne Rooney breeding. In Massive Chalice, offspring are how your best units cheat death. Via a system of arranged marriages (and please forgive that I don’t feel qualified to discuss the politics of that. I will note that none of your units ever express either positive or negative emotions about anything, however. They are ciphers, for better or worse) you hook up your guys and, ideally, they’ll have kids who’ll have at least some of their traits and specialisms.

Fertility comes into play, and that’s affected by both age and random traits, so you’re often choosing between the best match or simply a possible match. I cocked it up pretty badly in the early years and accidentally bred out every class save for Hunters, so I wound up with a couple of dozen crossbow-wielding teens skipping around just a couple of geriatric Alchemists and Caberjacks. Slowly, laboriously I could draft in and breed new ones, but it had made life pretty tough for a while. I guess this is how the British royal family wound up having no practical skills besides shooting, horse-riding and surreptitious political lobbying.

Between fertility, traits, age, level and to some extent equipment, there’s a hell of a lot to keep an eye on as you try to assemble and maintain the best team you can. It’s compelling in its own right, in terms of driving how you choose each unit’s fate (maybe this infertile dunderhead is banished off to do research for the rest of his life, like a clerical version of Westeros’ Night Watch, or maybe you’re mad keen to get these particular two star players to breed). But. Big but. Cannot lie. In my experience so far (n.b. early version, subject to change, yada yada) a whole lot of this stuff just hasn’t mattered too much out in the field. Not on normal difficulty at least, and I don’t have access to the other settings yet.

A steady flow of new units is vital, but I haven’t actually found myself hand-wringing because I’ve sent out someone whose DNA makes them a little less accurate, or whose advanced years mean they can’t travel quite so far each turn. Even when I accidentally bred only Hunters for a couple of generations, it turned out Hunters were pretty good at fighting the demonic thingies that were threatening my kingdom. Battles do become a meat-grinder as the campaign wears on, but it didn’t seem to much matter who I threw into it. That’s really my greatest concern about Massive Chalice – that it’s got all these clever lineage levers to pull and buttons to press, but their effects seem disassociated from what happens on the battlefield. Invariably, my guys had succumbed to old age before they’d reached their full potential anyway.

Early days, of course. Harder difficulty settings may well require far more careful thinking about who I’m breeding with whom, too. I hope future updates can also give the battles a little more zing, because right now they’re on the ponderous side, steeped in repetition and lacking that nebulous Just One More Turn magic. It feels suspiciously like it’s trying to copy XCOM’s fights without directly lifting everything, so changes some stuff almost awkwardly (e.g. no overwatch, three rather than one or two equipment slots) but doesn’t quite find its own beat.

It looks lovely, with its generous colours and stylised, angular characters, and there are some very fine ideas in there despite that niggling Something’s Missing feeling. It’s especially inventive on the enemy side of things – e.g. wraiths that can suck experience points from your units, even to the point that they lose levels, or terrifying slender-men who will age your units permanently if they get too close. It’s there that Massive Chalice’s frontline fighting and homeland snuggling become fully entwined, because you don’t simply risk losing a prize racehorse – you risk taking it home hamstrung. Somehow, that’s worse. Somehow, that forces far more careful strategy.

Massive Chalice does feel like Double Fine going far outside their giggly comfort zone, and all the better for it. This is a game with substance and a heraldic warriors concept it doesn’t treat lightly. It is lacking something in its current, early form – there’s a starkness to it, both in tone and in the limited choices you can make in battle – but at the same time I think this is the most promising horse in the DF stable right now. That studio has been all over the place lately, so I hope the MC team is allowed to knuckle down on this and keep pushing it for a while longer yet, to tease out its themes and personality, rather than have an arbitrary ‘finished!’ stamped on it as was the sad case for Spacebase DF-9. MASSIVE CHALICE should be allowed to earn its capital letters.

106 Comments

  1. LionsPhil says:

    These impressions are based on an early, beta build of MASSIVE CHALICE. Everything they mention is subject to change by the time of release.

    …but probably won’t by the time their ADHD and terrible financial planning cause them to stamp a 1.0 on it and chuck it out the door?

    no-one needs the mental image of Wayne Rooney breeding

    You put that in there just to punish us for the inevitable wisecrack above, didn’t you.

    • LTK says:

      That’s overly harsh. Given that this game was kickstarted, they should have a much better financial plan for completing Massive Chalice, hopefully using the lessons they learned from Broken Age. That’s a different story from a community-voted concept that was ‘released’ at the end of a game jam, as was the case for Spacebase.

      • SurprisedMan says:

        Inaccurate. Spacebase did have a prototype at the end of a 2 week game jam (Amnesia Fortnight) but that wasn’t the version that eventually went on to early access. That version was rewritten from the ground up, and was worked on for a good number of months before it hit Early Access.

        • HothMonster says:

          Right, but the important part for the conversation is the difference in funding. MC got all the money it needed upfront and shouldn’t need more cash to complete it’s development (fingers crossed). Spacebase was planned to receive funding as it went, it needed cash to keep coming in for them to keep working on it. When they were not making enough money they had to wrap it up.

          So, the primary reason that Spacebase ended up with the arbitrary 1.0 stamp is not a major concern for this. Especially since MC came in at about 150% of its goal. Which is hopefully enough to dodge any problems with their initial budget but not big enough that they added too many new plans and features to the original design.

      • Crafter says:

        Also, the current beta, once the big bugs are solved (most notably, the save/load menu text tend to randomly disappear) can be considered as a legitimate v1. AFAIK, All the mechanics are here and work.

      • Cinek says:

        “Given that this game was kickstarted, they should have a much better financial plan” – hahaha, right, cause Kickstarter games are famous of being well managed from the financial point of view.

        “hopefully using the lessons they learned from Broken Age” – I admire your optimism, though so far we’ve only seen proofs to the contrary. They didn’t learn a thing.

        • Reapy says:

          Have they finished up a game in a while? Brutal legend is another one that they basically left off the 3rd act, the game just up and ended abruptly.

          • SurprisedMan says:

            Have they finished up a game in a while?

            Hack ‘n’ Slash. Came out of Early access a month or two ago. Was great. Won the Indiecade Grand Jury Prize.
            Costume Quest 2. Came out a few weeks ago.
            The Cave. Came out early last year.
            Dropchord. Mobile game. Came out last year.

            So… yes, I suppose they have.

      • welverin says:

        I think the key, and most important issue on the budget, is that the head of the company isn’t the lead on the game. Thus there are people who can say no and make it stick, thus avoiding the bloat Broken Age suffered from.

    • Michael Fogg says:

      >>>Everything they mention is subject to change by the time of release.

      ’cause as we all know there’s many a slip twixt the lip and the MASSIVE CHALICE

  2. Granath says:

    I’ll look at it on release and not before. DF’s track record on finishing games lately is pretty poor. Broken Age backers got 1/2 a product. Spacebase buyers got absolutely shafted.

    • Xocrates says:

      Here’s the funny thing, that everyone seems to have forgotten. The Broken Age Kickstarter was made primarily FOR THE DOCUMENTARY, which has been absolutely lovely.

      Also, they’re still working on the game.

      Also also, this is the Massive Chalice backer beta. If they plan on doing early access on it, I certainly have not heard of it.

      • prian says:

        That’s a bit of revisionist history going on. I’m not sure why you’d write that. The original kickstarter for “Double Fine Adventure” (before the rename to Broken Age the half game) was very much for the -game- and the documentary was just a perk for kickstarter supporters.

        Here is a direct quote from the kickstarter page which still exists and anyone with a passing curiosity as to the veracity of your statement can read which is why I find it boggling you’d write that:

        About the Project
        Over a six-to-eight month period, a small team under Tim Schafer’s supervision will develop Double Fine’s next game, a classic point-and-click adventure. Where it goes from there will unfold in real time for all the backers to see.

        Double Fine hasn’t delivered on a good game for quite some time now. There is no reason to believe that MASSIVE CHALICE is going to be any different. As per Double Fine’s track record MASSIVE CHALICE will probably be a game that has roughly a third to a half of what was promised the game would have. Further, it’ll likely be a weird and wonky combination of disjointed gameplay elements that just don’t quite work together.

        I could be wrong. I hope I’m wrong. I’d love to see MASSIVE CHALICE be a good game but at this point with how Double Fine has been going on I strongly doubt that’ll happen.

        • Xocrates says:

          The video pitch explicitly states the goal of showing how games are made and that the project can FAIL, but that backers would be able to follow the whole process.
          You can have a different interpretation than me, but for broken age they delivered more than what they promised.

          Also MASSIVE CHALICE already has every single feature promised in it. You can argue with the result, but not with failure to deliver.

          • Granath says:

            You’re wrong.

            The very first tier reward is “The FINISHED GAME in all of its awesome glory DRM free on PC, Mac, and Linux, or via Steam for PC and Mac, exclusive access to the Beta on Steam, access to the video series, and access the private discussion community.”

            And what did they get? 1/2 of the adventure – 3 hours of a “game”.

          • Xocrates says:

            I’ve received 17 episodes of a documentary (so far), plus multiple bonus videos, accounting for well over 10 hours of content plus the first half of a game with the second still under active development.

            Also, what exactly am I wrong about?

          • Granath says:

            Your assertion that “the Broken Age Kickstarter was made primarily FOR THE DOCUMENTARY”. It wasn’t as clearly specified in the rewards section. Nice try with the revisionist history, but it doesn’t work.

          • Philomelle says:

            “The world of video game design is a mysterious one. What really happens behind the closed doors of a development studio is often unknown, unappreciated, or misunderstood. And the bigger the studio, the more tightly shut its door tends to be. With this project, we’re taking that door off its hinges and inviting you into the world of Double Fine Productions, the first major studio to fully finance their next game with a Kickstarter campaign and develop it in the public eye.”

            “Over a six-to-eight month period, a small team under Tim Schafer’s supervision will develop Double Fine’s next game, a classic point-and-click adventure. Where it goes from there will unfold in real time for all the backers to see.

            2 Player Productions will be documenting the creative process and releasing monthly video updates exclusively to the Kickstarter backers. This documentary series will strive to make the viewer as much a part of the process as possible by showing a game grow from start to finish, with all the passion, humor, and heartbreak that happens along the way. Double Fine is committed to total transparency with this project, ensuring it is one of the most honest depictions of game development ever conceived.

            There will be a private online community set up for the backers to discuss the project with the devs and submit their thoughts and feelings about the game’s content and direction, sometimes even voting on decisions when the dev team can’t decide. Backers will also have access to help test the game once a beta is available. Once the game is finished, backers will receive the completed version in the available format of their choice.”

            For the Kickstarter being about the game, the pitch sure spends more time on talking about documenting the development process than the game.

            So no, nice try accusing someone of historical revisionism, but when your own evidence hinges on omitting every single paragraph that isn’t convenient to you, maybe you should stop before you begin.

          • Geebs says:

            Double Fine Productions, the first major studio to fully finance their next game with a Kickstarter campaign and develop it in the public eye.”

            Fully finance their next game.
            ….finance their next game.
            Finance. Game.

            Sorry philomelle, your weaponised pedantry is unconvincing here.

          • Xocrates says:

            And the only reason the game was even made was because they wanted to make the documentary.

          • Geebs says:

            You’re trying to argue that buying a Happy Meal isn’t technically “purchasing food” because it comes with a toy.

          • Xocrates says:

            No, I’m arguing that without the toys there wouldn’t be a Happy Meal

          • Philomelle says:

            “Double Fine Productions, the first major studio to fully finance their next game with a Kickstarter campaign and develop it in the public eye.”

            My god, it’s right there in the sentence you copy/pasted.

            You do realize that the vast majority of games that go through Kickstarter do not get the public eye treatment, right? I have 125 games backed and while they all provide teasers regarding the current state of their work, Double Fine are the only company who went out of their way to document the entire process. That’s the thing they are showing off, right there.

            Like Xocrates said, Broken Age is a toy that goes with the Happy Meal. The main dish has always been the documentary, as sold by the Kickstarter pitch copy/pasted by me up there. Out of three paragraphs of the pitch, only the last sentence mentions the game. Calling me pedantic because I pay more attention to three paragraphs than one closing sentence is straight-up silly.

          • Geebs says:

            According to your quote, the game is to be “fully financed” by kickstarter, while if you read if carefully it doesn’t actually say how the documentary was to be funded, does it?

            Plus, DF games these days are small and unsatisfying, and hence were obviously the burger in my analogy.

          • Philomelle says:

            I’m pretty sure that nitpicking the wording of a single sentence out of multiple paragraphs quoted from an even longer pitch, then trying to get sassy about a metaphor, is as effective a counter-argument as you think it is. It’s more of a logical fallacy than an argument, if anything, since it boils down to you pretending that the wording of one sentence is more important than the complete picture.

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            Ninja Dodo says:

            As a Broken Age backer I am more than happy with both the game so far and the documentary even more so. In fact, the DFA documentary remains my single favourite Kickstarter reward of everything I’ve crowdfunded thus far. It’s phenomenal.

            People whining about Broken Age not fulfilling promises on behalf of backers: unless you are a backer yourself and therefore have an actual valid opinion of your own, kindly stop whining on other people’s behalf.

          • Geebs says:

            nitpicking the wording of a single sentence

            What, the sentence in their pitch that clearly said that backers would be funding their next game? This is clearly the logical fallacy of Being Right. Next time read your own source properly before you try to browbeat somebody with it.

          • Xocrates says:

            Go back and see what the original point actually was. No-one said you weren’t funding the game, the point was that the game was not the focus or reason of the kickstarter.

          • Philomelle says:

            The purpose of your argument wasn’t to prove that the Kickstarter’s purpose was to fund the game, it was to prove that the focus of the Kickstarter was the game rather than the documentary about its development. Stop shifting your goalposts.

          • skittles says:

            It was primarily about the documentary, you cannot argue any other way if you have actually been following the development.

            Tim said himself in the pitch video it was about the process. The first few documentaries also refocus on this, when Tim discusses how the development shifted. He clearly expresses that he had not planned a complex game with his original KS goal. It was essentially meant to be an indie jam with a small team over a couple of months making a film about the game making process. Exactly what it says in the sections you quoted essentially. They fully expected a ‘game’ to come out at the end, but fully warned if you actually paid attention to the material that it could be a horribly broken trainwreck. Much like Spacebase in that regard.

            Tim obviously had no faith a game could be fully funded by KS, and instead he had a great idea to show people how they are made instead. By making a simple, fairly basic game. However I will agree there were quite a few mixed messages in the original KS, so people could get confused. However if so I do question why said people would not have sat down and read everything before backing. And yes a lot of fault does rest with Tim not being explicitly clear. However I personally don’t fault him on that one.

            The people who are being revisionist of history are the ones that didn’t fully read all the information about the KS before they signed up for their ‘game’.

          • Caiman says:

            Most people who backed Broken Age on Kickstarter don’t seem to have any problem understanding what they backed. It’s mainly those who didn’t who seem to have difficulty with that. Besides, Part 2 of Broken Age appears to be coming along nicely, although it may miss Tim’s hopeful Christmas deadline. At which point, not only will we have seen the entire process, warts and all (which is what we were promised, and certainly what I put money down for) but we’ll also have a two part point-and-click adventure game to play.

          • LegendaryTeeth says:

            The pitch was definitely for a documentary about making a game. They didn’t even have an idea beyond a Tim Schafer style adventure game. The whole point is to see the sausage being made. Sure you get a game at the end, but it may suck. It may not. This was about opening the doors to development, and hopefully also ending with a good adventure game.

            It was only afterwards when everyone started Kickstarting actual games. A lot of people forget this. Or perhaps weren’t paying attention the first time around. But this documentary idea was a crucial concept that helped make the idea of giving money to a game that isn’t even started yet palatable to the masses. This was a lot of people’s first Kickstarter.

            In ten years when someone is writing a history of the modern indy game, there will be a chapter devoted to how DF’s Documentary-and-hopefully-a-good-game Kickstarter approach opened things up.

    • Dynamique says:

      I enjoyed the first half of BrokenAge, and sure enjoyed The Cave – nice and creative adventures. Spacebase was a bit of a disappointment – I bought it rather late expecting more development to go on, but well… There’s a chance with Early Access and a fundamental dilemma when financing shall be attracted by expectations, while people are (reasonably) reluctant to buy it. Cases like Prison Architect don’t occur too often. But I had less fun for more (regarding Spacebase), too, and now I got Hack’n’Slay, too.

    • SurprisedMan says:

      Is it? They’ve release Costume Quest 2 and Hack ‘n’ Slash lately, last year they released The Cave and a couple of mobile games. And of course Part 1 of Broken Age. So that leaves Spacebase (which IS released, whether people like it or not), and Part 2 of Broken Age (on track for a December/January-ish release according to the latest doc), and Massive Chalice, currently in beta.

      That doesn’t seem like a TERRIBLE record of finishing games. They’ve actually shipped quite a lot of games in the last couple of years, and have around a dozen in their lifetime catalogue if you ignore the smaller side projects. They’ve also, at the same time, been releasing a lot of PC/Mac/Linux ports of their old games.

      It seems rather mean to pick the two examples where things haven’t gone quite to plan and extrapolate that into an indictment of the management ability of the studio in general. Especially when Broken Age is still looking ace.

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    distantlurker says:

    I make do with a perfectly moderate chalice, certainly never had any complaints. Size isn’t everything.

  4. DrollRemark says:

    Kind of interesting that they’ve not bothered with any real reasoning for their mechanics. I guess when you’ve essentially got a system of enslavement and forced breeding so explicitly in your game, if’s best just to avoid any silly attempts at why this is the case, and just focus on what that actually enables you to do.

    Makes you wonder why they bothered with human characters in that case though.

    • Xocrates says:

      To be fair, the marriage thing has a “compatibility meter”, which while mechanically it relates to fertility, can be interpreted as being in part how much the couple likes each other.

      But yeah, mechanically there’s no clear distinction, though the advisers do tell you not to marry them purely on stats since love matters too. So at least the game is aware of it.

      • jonahcutter says:

        It would be neat if they included a random love/lust factor and illegitimate child possibility. Sure they live in a world of arranged marriages. But humans notoriously misbehave…

        What if Barb the Caberjack secretly fancies Sam the Alchemist even though you arrange for her to be married to Chet the Hunter. Thus, there is a possibility of Barb and Sam producing a secret love-child instead of your preferred Barb and Chet offspring.

        Or perhaps passion overcomes them and they snog -before- marriage and produce a child, disrupting not only your marriage plans, but your strategic plans as well. That is, Barb will need at least a bit of time away from the battlefield to give birth. And Chet feels his honor is besmirched (aka he’s a big baby) and pouts about the affair with his potential arranged wife, refusing to go fight for a while. Or even challenges Sam to a duel!

        Or what if Barb is married to Chet, but really despises him and secretly begins using birth control, and you never find out until their fertile period together is past.

        Or Chet is the one secretly in love with Sam and is reluctant to have sex with Barb thus lowering the likelihood of any successful procreation at all.

        There’s all kinds of cool random factors they could add in to create life, texture and fun emergent narratives to the system, if they wish to. Give them a few sim emotions. It doesn’t have to be too complicated. Just enough to throw the occasional wrench in the works.

        • Xocrates says:

          Thing is that the time scale does not really fit those events. The time between battles is around 10 years, and even then from the moment the marry they’re removed from your active fighter pool.

          Though there could certainly be some random events themed around this (there might already be, haven’t played enough to tell) and there are kids that don’t inherit from the parents.

          • jonahcutter says:

            Hmm… Well I haven’t played so I shouldn’t opinionize. But I will anyway. I backed at the base level, so I’ve got a small horse in this race.

            It sounds a bit disappointing that they are removed from active duty forever, once they’re married. I’d like the potential randomness of them dying while trying to have a child added into the mix.

            It sounds like Double Fine is making a rather strictly controlled system. It’s not being allowed to produce life-simulation randomness (which would likely be more fun, imo). This might partially explain why it feels a bit empty and mechanical, and the arranged marriage elephant in the room goes unaddressed in-game.

          • Xocrates says:

            Well, while the game IS very mechanical, it does have enough “life simulating randomness” in the various character traits to make an emergent narrative really easy, but it’s mostly down to the player to fill in the gaps.

            I’ve had keeps inherited by 6 year olds, I had battles where I took drunks and asmathics, I had old ladies single handedly win battles, I’ve had regents die at young ages.

            And I had all this in about the two hours I’ve played.

            The game is really really good at emergent narrative and requiring you to make tricky choices, but the game just provides the framework the rest is all you.

          • jonahcutter says:

            Right on. It sounds more engaging than I was imagining then. Thanks.

        • Merlin the tuna says:

          Some of this can happen in the current beta, albeit in a very limited capability. As the timeline moves, you’re confronted with FTL-esque events that demand your response, and some of them involve forbidden babies, family feuds, and divorces. It’s something that could (and might) be pushed more, but there is at least a little bit going on beyond smashing dolls together and saying “And then they kiss.”

    • amateurviking says:

      I was just thinking exactly this.

      If they’d gone a bit abstract with your team members all the potential dissonance kind of disappears.

    • Koozer says:

      I assumed they would go for some medieval era reasoning, when marrying people off for reasons of power and politics was perfectly acceptable.

      I hate to tempt a threadsplosion, but what happened to the same sex marriages thing in this game? It never seemed to make sense for the breeding mechanic.

      • amateurviking says:

        It’s fairly easily explicable simply through nurture rather than nature. Parents pass on skills to their kids through the environment as well as genetically.

      • Malawi Frontier Guard says:

        Same-sex couples can adopt children, but I don’t know what mechanical implications this has.

        …and in the game.

      • Bluestormzion says:

        You’re right, it doesn’t make sense for the breeding mechanic OR for the mentality of a medieval-age-esque society. But it wasn’t intended for any of that, it was added as a cave-in to a group of militant progressives who can’t let creators create what they want, and raise hell and cry for boycotts and gnash their teeth over the clear hatred of people who are just going about their business not expressing hate toward anyone. I’m fine with gays, but any gay who tells me that I’m a homophobe just because I don’t have any gays in MY BOOK that I WROTE that extends from MY BEING that is wholly MINE and not THEIRS can go piss off.

        That said, in one of the screenshots, it seems that two chicks are being married to each other. Or at least a chick and a mad effeminate dude with a chick name. Whatever, man, their game, their world, their rules.

        But none of that matters. Because ever since Brutal Legend showed me 3 awesome looking metal inspired continents and then gave me one awesome looking metal inspired continent and a glorified ROAD that barely touched those two other continents that were nothing but impassible terrain I’ve known that Double Fine wasn’t to be trusted with making a product to completion. I love what Tim Schaffer makes when he actually makes what he wants, but since they’ve never got the funding/time that good products need, I’d rather not risk it. Pretty sure I misspelled his name there. Apology, but I’m out of time and need to get dressed for work.

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          X_kot says:

          Artists are (generally) free to include/exclude whatever they want in their works. However, they are also free to be criticized for those decisions. Militancy is omnispresent, from those who demand wider representation to those who wish to ignore the diversity inherent in society.

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            Harlander says:

            Also, the debate regarding the issue in this game didn’t seem particularly heated (well, as internet forums go, so it’d be a bit of a vigorous row in a realside conversation).

            Someone said “Hey, wouldn’t it be nice if you could have same-sex marriage in this game where marriage is an important thing?” and the devs said “Yeah, alright.”

      • Merlin the tuna says:

        Same sex marriage is in the game, it’s just a sub-par option strategically at the moment. There’s a lot of discussion going on regarding if/how to rejigger it to make it less punitive.

        In short: as you can see in the “Andrew Noritosh” screenshot, units have Traits as well as Personalities. Traits are genetic, but the rulers of a Keep can influence all children in it (age <15) to share their Personality as the kids grow up. So gay couples can adopt children (heteros can as well, but they rarely need to since they produce kids automatically) – rolling the dice on Traits but potentially handing down Personalities – or you might install a same-sex partner if, for example, the Regent's spouse dies after already having had a few kids in order to try for some superior Personalities on them.

        • Cinek says:

          “Same sex marriage is in the game, it’s just a sub-par option strategically at the moment” – Just like in real life. lol

          • Merlin the tuna says:

            Yes, exactly like real life where the core measure of success involves suddenly finding yourself with 12 babies.

            *headscratch*

          • Hex says:

            “Strategically” — in terms of ease-of-life-experience, homosexual people pursuing same-sex marriages typically face greater challenges than heterosexual people who pursue more typical marriage arrangements.

    • Geebs says:

      I dunno about that.
      A) arranged marriage is practised around the world and has been throughout history. Not my sort of thing but who’s to judge?
      B) I sure hope nobody who gets upset about selective breeding appearing in a video game ever plays anything containing, say, a dog in it. Or bread, for that matter.

      • jonahcutter says:

        I’ll judge. It’s bullshit and should be completely consigned to history. No one should be forced to marry anyone not of their own choosing. That it’s a long-established cultural practice is no longer good enough of an excuse.

        But in the game… /evil grin. Or… /grimly determined scowl. We’re at war! We face extermination! We need spiffier troops! Quick, to the fascist human-breeding program!

        This is one of the reasons I love games. We can indulge in morally ambiguous, even outright immoral behaviors, without painful, real-world results.

        • Volcanu says:

          I’m not personally a fan, but arranged marriage and forced marriage are two different things.

          In short, most arranged marriages are not forced. I think it’s easy to overlook that sometimes.

          • jonahcutter says:

            Some wiggle room may be found between “arranged” and “forced”. But some wiggle room can also be found between “slavery” and “indentured servitude”. That doesn’t make giving the latter ethically sound.

        • Geebs says:

          “I’ll judge. It’s bullshit and should be completely consigned to history.”

          Sure, that’s your opinion, but…. why?

          Coming at this from a sociological perspective, societies have come up with a wide variety of family structures which, on examination, often turn out to be well adapted to the circumstances in which they developed. “Marry for love and have 2.4 children” comes from a specific set of circumstances, too.

          So, your argument boils down to, ‘I don’t like people who are different’ more than any real moral superiority.

          • Premium User Badge

            Harlander says:

            Surely it’s “I don’t like practices which are different”, Geebs.

          • jonahcutter says:

            It’s nothing to do with not liking something different. It’s much more to do with to do with refusing to turn a blind eye towards the victims of that practice.

            No doubt there’s some “arranged” marriages that are spectacularly successful. But how many more turn into grossly abusive situations that victimize women who are forced, often physically, into submission. Or arguably worse, essentially female children given to grown men? Yeah, I’ll error on the side of some cultural insensitivity then, and stick with not forcing real women and children into potentially abusive lives.

          • P.Funk says:

            Actually I think that the vast vast majority of human social structure for the duration of recorded history has been coercive and unequal. Coercive social structures do not function like a fascist state necessarily either. People become complicit with their own subjugation and family structures will work to wear people into submission if they show resistance.

            There’s nothing wrong with judging a culture for its practices, so long as your judgment is balanced and thoughtful. I don’t think that many cultures that today practice arranged marriage don’t already have long histories of abusive and coercive practices. Take India. There’s a culture that has used arranged marriage. There is also a culture that frequently has severe issues with treatment of women. Even in Canada men from that background will often murder their wives if they try to leave them. What makes this actually relevant to cultural discussion is that often this murder happens as a matter of collusion amongst family members, even across the two families joined by the marriage. This marriage can go down as apparently consensual, but in the end the choice was never hers and even in a place where the laws are on her side that culture drives people to act in a way which is incompatible with the values in that place. They’re called “honour killings” because the entire act of marriage is about more than 2 people, its about family honour and all that kind of antiquated bullshit that should die. There was a highish profile case in Canada where a family actually arranged to have a woman murdered in India though she lived in Canada. Ironically the Canadian police were more reticent to become involved than the Indian police.

            I might add that while all the western people will get themselves in a knot about not wanting to judge other cultures, people in India right now are outraged at their own culture’s inability to respond to its own attitudes which has lead to a spat of alarming public rapes of women. Honour, arranged marriage, the second class nature of women, its all wrapped up together.

            I don’t believe its that easy to separate the coercive and frankly misogynistic attitudes from these practices. I don’t care what statistics say about happiness. You’re talking about a process that involves a person being divorced from choice. Thats a fundamentally broken attitude next to what I thought were modern values. The subjugation of free will… I thought that was a bad thing.

          • Geebs says:

            1) prove that FGM (my position on that practise is that any body modification of another human without consent is immoral) is caused by, or causes, arranged marriage.
            2) way to double down on being a bigot. Saying that it’s ok for you to criticise people who practise arranged marriage, or presumably anything that doesn’t match your cultural norm, because they must be a wife-beater is both stupendously offensive and illogical.

          • P.Funk says:

            link to ibtimes.com

            Conveniently timed article is convenient.

            lawl that I’m a bigot for criticizing cultural practices and social norms which are consistent with and implicitly formed of rudimentary gender subjugation. Arranged marriage is in its naissance a tool for the control of women. You can’t change that, and apparently immigrating to a nice progressive western democracy can’t either. People are attacked and killed every year by educated and apparently modern people from cultural backgrounds that feature intense honour and shame focused around family norms such as arranged marriage and personal conduct.

            You know there is a difference between criticizing a culture for its practices and attitudes in one regard and being a bigot against an entire people. If I were to be critical of Japanese culture for its soft attitude towards animated pornography depicting sex with minors am I a bigot? There’s a difference between cultural differences and practices which promote clear cut forms of discriminatory and marginalizing attitudes and activities. Am I a bigot for being appalled at the practice of stoning women for being rape victims in some muslim nations? Am I a bigot for being appalled at some of the frightening attitudes felt by men in some African nations towards women? Am I a bigot for believing South Africa’s apartheid was wrong?

            Cultural practices aren’t just little ceremonies and traditions, they are the foundation of value systems and they perpetuate them. If such traditions and attitudes perpetuate even slightly things which ought to be plainly wrong its not bigotry to argue that they should end. In North America the concept of the stay at home mom is not exactly radical compared to some norms, but the image that a woman belonged in her home and not out int he world is just a tamer more eroded version of older more restrictive attitudes.

            This is ludicrous really. I’m a bigot? Most feminists must be bigots then, as would most civil rights activists. Or are you telling me I can only disapprove of social norms if they are “my” culture. What about when my culture is host to other cultures that immigrate into my nation? What if citizens of my nation are experiencing the effects of those cultural attitudes? This isn’t about bashing immigrants, its about examining the extant social practices which are in direct conflict with general GLOBAL norms on human rights and which are in conflict with the values espoused by the place where many of these cultures are moving to in the normal and perfectly acceptable practice of immigration.

            Tell me I’m wrong, tell me that you think you can do arranged marriage without doing honour and shame and the consequent violence, but calling me a bigot is just absurd.

          • Geebs says:

            P.Funk: I apologise, I wasn’t replying to you.

            You are wrong, though, because you’re judging another culture’s practises from the viewpoint of your culture, and using specific, highly publicised, examples to support your point; I mean, I could equally say that Josef Fritzl or Fred West were examples of how terribly wrong a marriage can go when it hasn’t been properly arranged, right?

            People with a Western background kill, assault, abduct and abuse each other within the family unit all of the time. On the other hand, I’ve known plenty of people who had arranged marriages, men and women, and they seem pretty much the same as everybody else.

        • Hex says:

          Wow, you’re kind of an asshole.

          It’s pretty inappropriate to judge another culture based on the precepts developed within your own culture.

          I, for one, also was raised in a culture without arranged marriage. I don’t really see how a society that treats marriage as something people can hop into and hop out of easily is significantly better than a society which approaches marriage as an act of duty, built around guidelines which can enable love to develop over time.

          It’s apples and oranges, and to say one is better than the other is meaningless, in the world of grown-ups.

          Go watch a romantic comedy, you insufferable twit.

          • jonahcutter says:

            Apples and oranges, huh?

            Don’t you then ever dare to pass judgement on systemic genital mutilation practiced by some societies. You have no right to pass judgement on cultural differences. In fact, you should now defend their right to do so. Cultural heritages must be defended (regardless of how archaic and barbaric they may be). Right?

            Before you say arranged marriage isn’t violent and thus somehow benign, you might want to speak with some of its many victims.

            Or ponder this: Sufferers of genital mutilation sometimes report still being able to enjoy sex. Even so, that is no allowance for having cut off their clitoris without their say-so.

          • Hex says:

            Apples to oranges to kumquats.

            Ritual mutilation being compared to arranged marriage is dumb, but even so, you can’t say “My culture is superior to their culture because they glorify mutilation.”

            At any rate, sadly domestic violence is common both within societies with arranged marriages and within societies with more liberal and progressive marriage practices. The issue isn’t with the mores of the society, it’s with those who are abusive within every society.

          • P.Funk says:

            “It’s pretty inappropriate to judge another culture based on the precepts developed within your own culture.”

            What if those precepts were developed as a global agreement on the universal rights of people? As far as I can tell arranged marriage is about the subjugation of individual choice and therefore free will. I don’t believe its easy to find a culture that practices arranged marriage that doesn’t also involve heavy punishment for going against this arrangement. Often death is the punishment. Women are the greatest victims in this case.

            So, sexism, misogyny, coercive marriage. These aren’t things that dozens of nations have ratified as being fundamentally against human rights.

            Now if a culture can manage to arrange marriages without coercing people and punishing them harshly for exhibiting a sense of free will, then its easier to not judge them. However on the whole I don’t think that you can find arranged marriage as being a practice that isn’t fundamentally against the most basic definitions of human rights we’ve come to in the 20th century.

            “At any rate, sadly domestic violence is common both within societies with arranged marriages and within societies with more liberal and progressive marriage practices. The issue isn’t with the mores of the society, it’s with those who are abusive within every society.”
            I think the point is that domestic violence tends to be higher in cultures that have practices and values that are more sexist and misogynistic than liberal societies that have progressed gradually towards more… err, progressive attitudes.

            Its a pretty stupid argument to say that one culture isn’t better than another because everyone has problems. The question is what is causing something and whether or not one culture’s attitudes, values, and practices manage to decrease and minimize the incidence of such a thing over another’s.

            Most traditional social structures surrounding marriage tend to cause greater discrimination against women. More liberal practices tend to lessen this. Outright elimination is not the only metric for determining things.

        • Dorchadas says:

          It’s bullshit and should be completely consigned to history.

          Arranged marriages and couple-chosen marriages have statistically-indistinguishable levels of happiness and satisfaction.

  5. Premium User Badge

    Lars Westergren says:

    Broken Age part 1 was awesome, and I still love Double Fine.

    I have repeatedly wondered why there aren’t more “modern XCOM” inspired games considering how successful it was. This looks like it could be great.

    This is probably what Manchester United fans feel when they watch Wayne Rooney these days – that guy just ain’t gonna be here too much longer. Is there new blood to replace him, or is the team hopelessly dependent?

    So according to this game, the solution is to put him out to stud?

    • Hex says:

      I would play Xcom reskinned as just about anything.

      Especially a Call of Cthulhu detective game.

  6. rustybroomhandle says:

    Well gee, if it’s a game about sex, they should have named it: MASSIVE PHALLUS!

  7. Crafter says:

    I have been playing the backer beta, and so far I have a blast.
    I also messed up my keeps and right now I don’t have access to any CaberJacks. The system might need some explanations. I did not expect that the children of a Regent can only have its class.
    So far, this ‘hero breeding’ mechanic, in the strategic view seems like the hardest thing to get right.
    Since you create your first keeps at the start of the game, 60 years later your regents start dying and you might be in trouble if you did not plan for replacements.

    The battle are an enormous amount of fun though. The alchemists, one of the base class wield explosive flasks and my first casualty come from an alchemist missing its target and hitting one of its allies instead.
    It was hard to see a high level unit die just like that but it did not feel unfair.
    The enemies have interesting abilities as well, some can make your units lose xp (and levels) or even age (and it is possible to die of old age as a result of this ability).

    I feel that an extension or a second opus might be necessary in order to refine the formula but I think that DF has stumbled on a way to make a great XCOM-like.

    • Anski says:

      The first time I fought Wrinklers I lost my best fighter. He was old and I kept meaning to retire him to a keep, but instead he got hit twice by a Wrinkler, gained 10 years, and died of old age right there on the battlefield. :(

  8. gruia says:

    why the fuck did I back this

    • Hex says:

      I’m a bit worried, too. Mostly because of the dude-bro feel I get from the team, and the fact that all of their updates are hour-and-a-half twitch.tv livestreams I can’t be arsed to watch.

      • bonuswavepilot says:

        As someone who has been arsed to watch, I’m really looking forward to this. Also, we must have differing ideas of what constitutes a dudebro – while the team is mostly guys, they mostly just come across as enthusiastic Frisco nerds; haven’t seen much evidence of macho bullshit there really. They remind me a bit of the Idle Thumbs guys (not surprising since one of them worked at DF until recently).

  9. Kemuel says:

    I always found Fire Emblem: Awakening on 3DS a bit creepy because of how you could just pair up almost any of the male and female characters and get their child, but the edge was taken off by the fact that it was a relationship system which required the characters to fight together, and gave cutscenes showing their friendship develop.

    This… doesn’t sound like it’ll be doing that.

    • Crafter says:

      It is more akin to arranged marriages in the nobility.
      It is indeed creepy. So is the character evolution system of XCOM by the way, injecting random mutagens or transforming healthy people into robots is also very creepy.
      The game does not make any attempt to hide this fact, the regent and partner system is introduced as a regrettable necessity in order to fight the Cadence.

  10. agauntpanda says:

    One of the teams in the Firaxis fantasy football league is named SeXCom. It was gratifying to see someone else go there. I hope that Massive Chalice does better than his team is doing, though.

  11. Seafort says:

    I’ll pass. After Broken Age and Spacebase DF-9 I don’t think Double Fine have the skills or management to finish any game they start.

    A shame really.

    • bonuswavepilot says:

      It is already looking pretty feature-complete. Unless they suddenly just drop it now without doing the final polish, (and they would be mad to after the DF9 fiasco), I’d say it will at the very least be a finished game. But eh, wait for the reviews and see what you reckon.

    • falcon2001 says:

      You do kind of have to ignore the games that they did finish in the last few years (Hack n’ Slash, Costume Quest I+II, Stacking, dropchord, etc) to make that statement, although I guess none of those were kickstarters.

  12. Kolbex says:

    Lamarckism: the Game

  13. TonyB says:

    Sorry to disappoint/scare you, but Rooney has already bred. Twice. The mental images of how this occurred are out there for all to enjoy.

  14. WhatAShamefulDisplay says:

    I was really hoping that this would be Crusader Kings But With XCOM Combat, but instead it looks more like XCOM with a smattering of traits and (to my mind) an utterly lifeless and boring art style. Shame. Then again, I haven’t enjoyed Schaeffer’s output since Grim Fandango, so I shouldn’t expect them to suddenly veer off piste to cater to me.

  15. slerbal says:

    I’ll look at this on final release, not before. DF don’t get any free passes any more.

  16. Epicedion says:

    Never buying another DF game. After the inelegant “well thems the breaks kid” treatment of the Spacebase customers, I’ve realized there are enough good games coming out in the future that I never have to give DF money again.

  17. Enkinan says:

    This just makes me want more XCOM now. :(

  18. MadTinkerer says:

    When I think of “what a Double Fine Game Is”, I think of strong character design and a story that fits well with the gameplay and vice-versa. Many of them are also comedies to one degree or another, but it’s the Nintendo-like focus on characters without Nintendo’s habit of trying to turn everything into a franchise that I think most defines a Double Fine game.

  19. chiablo says:

    How to identify if a Double Fine game is complete:
    If the game has Steam Achievements, then it is a complete product.

  20. Birky says:

    Sounds suspiciously like “eugenics: the game” to me.
    (note: I’m still a huge Double Fine fan before you assume I’m just being grumpy about recent events.)

    • Hex says:

      The history of humanity includes a lot of effort being put into eugenics, prior to the concept having a name. What would you call Crusader Kings 2?

      • Birky says:

        Yes I’m sure history does contain a lot of eugenics – named or unnamed, but something being common in history does not mean we should be uncritical. I’d be interested to know if Massive Chalice makes any concession/has any sensitivity to the fact that you’re playing with the genetics of a race of people. (e.g. In the same way some games avoid a gratuitousness to their violence by having you kill monsters rather than people, Double Fine could have avoided a direct link to a human civilization in a similar way – having you breed monsters etc.)

        Also, what would I call Crusader Kings 2? A game I haven’t played and know nothing about, so cannot comment on, Sorry.

  21. Tilaton says:

    I keep reading DF as Dwarf Fortress… Quite confusing.

  22. DanceComm says:

    I have no good reason to trust DF after being burned twice and messing up so bad that Kickstarter had to rewrite it’s policy. Of course Tim’s fans will defend him to the end which is why he knows he can get away with these shenanigans, like I’m suppose to be thankful for half a game. I say bollocks to that good sir.

    • bonuswavepilot says:

      This might well be taken as one of those fans defending Tim, but there’s no reason to have to ‘trust DF’ any more than any other studio – just don’t buy it before its finished, and read some reviewers opinions first. Unless you are boycotting, which is fair enough, but not really about trusting them on this game.

      • falcon2001 says:

        I agree with this whole heartedly. Wait for the release and then check it out, no risk to you.