The RPG Scrollbars: The Choices Of A Samurai

You know, I’m not entirely sure that Way of the Samurai 4 [official site] is the most authentic historical game. Not sure what makes me think that. Possibly the British ambassador to Japan being a tiny girl in a Lolita dress. Maybe the stock dialogue option “I’m allowed to kill you if I want to.” At a pinch, maybe the fact that the British Royal Marine Commander’s name is “Melinda Megamelons”. No, no, it’s probably nothing. I’m sure you could use it for homework and walk off with an A.

But as well as being educational, it’s the ideal candidate for an RPG cultural exchange – a pot of great ideas and potential cool things just sitting there for Western games to both play with and pilfer, and a refreshing change from the sprawling norm. If you don’t mind your eyes sometimes rolling so hard that you get a quick peek inside your own skull. Ouch, that gets painful after a bit.

Specifically, I’m thinking of choice and scope. The basic gist of Way of the Samurai is that you show up as one of the aforementioned roving badasses, and pretty much everything after that is up to you. The world is small, a run through the main story doesn’t take too long, but the point is that you’re meant to keep going back to explore different options and try different things. That’s not unique to the series of course. Japanese adventure-style games have a long history of that kind of design, from visual novels where your fate can change drastically based on whether you decided to do the washing up or the laundry (often with little real causal connection), to the likes of Princess Maker, where your decisions and variably pervy tutelage can lead to your adopted daughter becoming anything from a street magician to the King’s concubine to ruling Hell as the Princess of Darkness. Which probably puts your school’s stern warnings about your permanent record into perspective.

For Way of the Samurai 4, a glance at GameFAQs shows 10 different endings, as the result of lots of individual events over a three day period, plus a big stack of minigames and optional bits and pieces that the player may or may not get around to in a particular game, such as running a dojo and learning how to talk to foreigners. There’s also a few things that carry over from game to game, like (and I’m quoting on this one, because I’ve not played it enough to see it in action) responding to a particularly murderous playthrough by adding more guards on the next cycle through.

It’s a style I’d love to see tried by by more RPGs, which are always promising big choices but so rarely manage to make them more than a bullet-point. It’s hard enough to get people to finish some 50 hour epic even once, with the classic response being to finish with usually the good ending and then head to YouTube to see the alternatives. Their scale usually precludes choices having real and lasting differences in the actual game, with the result that what we generally get is responsiveness rather than reactivity – by which I mean things like a character greeting you differently if you’ve already met or possibly refusing to help if you previously worked against them. So too does the fact that people don’t on the whole like major content getting locked off and branching often has unfortunate knock-on effects. The Witcher 2 for instance was interesting in having a split second act, but in practice it meant that those who followed the Roche path missed a lot and it’s kinda notable that The Witcher 3 didn’t offer anything remotely as divergent.

By restricting the action to a small location and a small timeframe however, things get more interesting. There’s much more scope for both a branching story and a more general experience – something along the lines of Baldur’s Gate 2’s second chapter writ large, as Shadowrun: Dragonfall tried. We’ve seen this in other games, such as The Yawhg, as well as in storylet driven stuff like Sunless Sea (disclosure: I write for that one, so I’m not saying anything else about it), but never really as the core of a Western RPG. By design, they’re always sprawling affairs – horizontally, in that you travel around a huge amount of space, or vertically, descending into a particularly fiendish dungeon. Like much of the genre, that leaves a lot of interesting space left to explore, and in this case, some interesting options that wouldn’t work in a larger game.

Time limits for instance don’t work over a long experience where you’re at risk of all your hard work simply going up in flames. In something short, as in Way of the Samurai 4, they can act more as a focusing crystal – the decision that on this run, you’re going to try and do X, be it go for a specific achievement or try and reach a particular ending. This also allows for designers to be more organic about the nature of challenges on offer, from having a tournament that will kick your arse concave the first time you attempt to enter it (unlike literally every other RPG tournament around, where usually the only way to lose is to fall asleep at your computer and walk off mid-fight to have your dinner.)

The progression of time can also be interesting in other ways that often go unexplored. Lords of Midnight 3 for instance made a big deal out of the seasons changing along with your system clock, that being a much better sell than “Play my terrible sequel”. Over in heathen consoleville, Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask featured characters aware and reacting to their soon approaching death. Back in the land of the righteous, I’ve always been fond of occasional events, from World of Warcraft’s Darkmoon Fair cropping up in your neighbourhood to Quest For Glory 2 having visitors crop up to the inn where you’re staying on specific days. One of the best examples, albeit not in an RPG, is still Rockstar’s Bully, or Canis Canem Edit as it ended up being renamed in the UK for reasons that were stupid before it came out and now seem positively impossible. The seasons changed as the terms ticked by, with Halloween getting a special whole celebration full of pranks and costumes.

I’m also still very fond of the original Dead Rising games, the zombie-bashing series with terrible bosses and a weird ignorance of how awesome it would be for them to be set in a Disneyworld type setting, and how time played into both the survival and the opportunities that you had – to mess around, to make cool things, to mark off specific achievements, be they assembling the best gear or joining the other survivors to while away some time playing Strip Poker in the safehouse. Dead State manages to get some of the same feel with its more sandbox approach to RPG, even if the original version (I’ve not played the update) did tend to trip over its ambition a bit too often.

Perhaps the most important thing that a restricted setting can offer though is consequence. Generally games have to handle this with a velvet glove for everyone’s benefit – it’s considered most impolite these days to allow the player to screw themselves over, and not without cause. The kind of hardcore RPG player that genuinely wants the chance of throwing away 30 hours of game on a mistake is tough enough to have their own entry on the Mohs scale. Even so, the chance of locking out content, the chance of screwing up, the chance of missing out on something big is usually sufficient prior restraint to have everyone choose the safest, most boring option at every possible point. Yes, of course I will return your cat. No, you don’t need to pay me. Yes, I am the same guy who broke into your house and stole all your shit. Don’t pretend you’re programmed to notice.

Playing through Way of the Samurai though, I’m reminded of how much fun it is to be able to go crazy and do the options you secretly want to, knowing that it’s not going to matter. Admittedly, sometimes it matters a little less than I’d like, from the way that nobody commented on my newly created hero walking through town with nothing but sweaty underwear on, or seemed to mind him murdering everyone at the British consulate. But still, I appreciate the chance. And I do like it when a game gives me that sense of being able to break the rules and simply try things. Playing Fallout: New Vegas for instance, I was thrilled to find that yes, you absolutely can go and murder Caesar early on like you probably want to. No immortality flag, no instant death response, just a corpse at my feet and a lot of people out in the wasteland going “Holy shit, you just totally did that!” It actually felt transgressive, like killing Lord British back in the day, despite both things openly being by design.

The RPG genre has largely flourished in recent years due to being willing to borrow so much from other genres. I’m certainly not saying they should all borrow this stuff, but it’d be interesting to see more try – for the worlds to be more than wallpaper for monster bashing and linear quests, and instead become playgrounds where content can ebb and flow and decisions ripple out in interesting ways and sometimes attract passing sharks. Or where murdering literally everyone can be an achievement worth hunting, or where it’s no longer possible to become every important official in the entire world yet still have to take shit from random town guards. Elder Scrolls, I’m looking at you. No, not you Elder Scrolls Online. You go back to the naughty corner. Bad game. Bad!

The Way of the Samurai method certainly isn’t the only way to explore this kind of thing, but it’s once again an interesting example of how a different development culture can attempt to solve a problem and in the process come up with ideas worth borrowing – and perhaps worth merging with more common Western design concepts like roguelikes, storylets and D&D. For now though, I’m enjoying my trip to Japan for the sense of discovery that only jumping into an unfamiliar game can provide, and for the experience of wandering around stabbing people with a sword, of looking for fun options rather than simply right ones, and secretly hoping – just a little – that this is a more accurate game than it seemed and there really was a Royal Marine Commander called Melinda Megamelons.

(Checks Wikipedia)

History is such a spoilsport.

46 Comments

  1. unangbangkay says:

    Finally! Someone else that “gets” Way of the Samurai. I’ve felt so alone these years, and it feels gratifying to see that kind of recognition come from a PC gaming perspective (at least by virtue of being here).

    • cpt_freakout says:

      I only played the first WotS on the PS2, and it was amazing. Even learning how to fight was quite a feat, and I think I replayed it like 20 times, trying to master each sword style. When I saw 4 was coming to PC I was thrilled, because there’s really only a few things like it, and most are not even on PC. Here’s to expanding this little gem of a series’ influence!

      • bill says:

        I played the first one on PS2 as well, and remember it being pretty good.
        My memory is very fuzzy, but I remember it being much more historically accurate and less comedy. Is that right?

        • cckerberos says:

          IIRC, the first one had a wacky black guy with a huge afro who wanted to be come a samurai.

          I don’t remember anything particularly comedic in the third one, but I may have just blocked it out.

  2. Haplo says:

    Ah, Way of the Samurai is great fun. A friend and I saw it in a video highlighting its mostly insane nature (and intro), and I saw it in the shops and bought it as a joke gift for him, only to try it out myself. Try it out for 50 hours.

    One of the most curious little things I’ve found in the game is starting a new runthrough as a new character (since more options for customisation tend to open up- at the start for example, you have a very basic setup with 3-4 Japanese models and very basic clothing- by your 6th and 7th playthrough you can end up with a Western gentleman sporting a rifle -and- sword over his dapper coat and tails- and skills carry over too, such as learning English) and finding my old character just wandering around, minding their own business (until you brush up against them, which sends them berserk).

  3. malkav11 says:

    I gotta say, even Witcher 2’s second act isn’t as big of a split as I was sold on. I’m sure the narrative and some of the questing you do in the act depends tremendously on which person you choose to ally with, but you’re still doing it on most of the same map, just staring across at the other side’s encampment, and as far as I can tell your overall goal in the chapter is very similar except accomplishing it involves working with different people.

    • Richard Cobbett says:

      That’s still, uh, quite a lot of difference there :-)

      • malkav11 says:

        Sure, it’s definitely a more distinct (and longrunning) branched narrative than most games are willing to offer, especially of that scope, but people routinely talk about it as getting a completely different Act 2 depending on which way you go, and to me, that bespeaks going to completely different places doing completely different things. Which it isn’t.

        • Cronstintein says:

          Different quests with different characters in a different city hub with different long-term effects… I really don’t know what more you could possibly expect.

  4. gjghost says:

    At a pinch, maybe the fact that the British Royal Marine Commander’s name is “Melinda Megamelons”.
    I had to look up why, it’s because in the Japanese version her name is ‘Melinda De Cameron’ a pun for ‘DeKa meron’ meaning ‘huge melon’. I’m guessing the translators went literal after drawing a blank for an english equivalent.

    • Eight Rooks says:

      Hootie McBoob? :D

      I’ve only played the first two on PS2, way back when, but I liked them quite a bit once I’d got over the… slight disappointment they weren’t, uh, historically accurate (I was very impressed by the branching narratives; I should really play them again some time). Seriously, though, I’m a little let down they’ve pushed the series so far into full-on slapstick/Carry On innuendo – even Yakuza: Kenzan’s sidequests weren’t quite this wacky – but at the same time, I would like to buy this one, too. The budget price point is a nice gesture – looking at you, Koei, with your Dynasty Warriors at $70, $80 or whatever (or Yaiba. Dear God, who the hell bought Yaiba at full price on Steam?).

    • Baines says:

      It still, to me, is a poor translation job.

      Yes, Decameron is a pun. But Decameron is also a name. Megamelons is not a name. It isn’t a pun, nor is it funny (as most puns aren’t funny anyway). It is just stupid.

      Heck, they could have kept Decameron and tried to work it as a more subtle metric system joke. Not that Way of the Samurai 4 apparently goes for subtle.

      • Chorltonwheelie says:

        Melinda Megamelons is funny.

        • Monggerel says:

          Some jokes are funny, others are evil.
          Which is which?
          Well, stick around and I’ll tell you everything you need to know forever.

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          Phasma Felis says:

          It’s basically the difference between a really good Yo’ Momma joke, and going “YOUR MOM IS FAT. GET IT? SHE’S FAT!”

      • Archonsod says:

        If you kill Ms Megamelons, her replacement is literally called New Commander.

      • Koozer says:

        “as most puns aren’t funny anyway”

        You just walked into the wrong neighbourhood.

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      Phasma Felis says:

      I figured it would be something like that. I’m pretty sure international law requires all Japanese-to-English translators to have the part of their brain governing subtlety and nuance removed.

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        Phasma Felis says:

        “Hmm, this character has a realistic European name that also suggests large breasts in Japanese. What a delightful bilingual pun! Oh, but it doesn’t translate into English, does it? Well, we’ll just have to stick with the name they gave her, and exercise our writerly skills by adding similar English wordplay to the rest of the script. LOL JK HER NAME IS NOW JANE HUGETITS. I AM SUCH A GOOD WRITER, YOU GUYS.”

  5. Mycenaeus says:

    So, we want me reactivity in our games. We want our actions to have meaningful repercussions. But we don’t want to miss out on chunks of the game because we made decisions that had reactive and meaningful repercussions.

    And so the solution is to make the games smaller in scope, so that there will be a lot of reactivity and repercussion and quick various endings with no one missing out on any chunks of the game on the first play-through.

    Missing out on chunks of the game is what motivates us to play the game again. The only reason that we DON’T want to replay a 50 hour RPG’s is because we will be visiting all the same places we visited already and talking to all the same people, except they might have a different line of dialogue this time.

    I’m not sure why Witcher 2’s split second act got so much flak. It even got a shout-out as one example of bad game design in a prior RPS article. I thought it was a step in the right direction for making games reactive and re-playable. People only do the YouTube thing because the only reactive part of games these days is the endings.

  6. Richard Cobbett says:

    “Missing out on chunks of the game is what motivates us to play the game again. The only reason that we DON’T want to replay a 50 hour RPG’s is because we will be visiting all the same places we visited already and talking to all the same people, except they might have a different line of dialogue this time.”

    No, it’s because most people won’t finish a 50 hour game and then go back into it. Hell, most people won’t finish it once. A look at any game’s Steam Achievements stats shows that. Conversely, they can easily clock up more time in something like Binding of Isaac because the commitment is smaller and the growing sense of getting better over time offers a growing sense of satisfaction with every tick and every failure – as opposed to most RPGs where the characters get more powerful and so inevitably the entire power curve collapses in on itself by midway through. At least part of the appeal of games like Dota is their ability to encapsulate much of the RPG growth experience on a smaller but repeatable scale.

    “And so the solution is to make the games smaller in scope, so that there will be a lot of reactivity and repercussion and quick various endings with no one missing out on any chunks of the game on the first play-through.”

    No, that’s entirely backwards. You miss out on HUGE chunks on the first playthrough, which gives accessible and interesting goals for future playthroughs, in the same way as games like Binding of Isaac, only still maintaining the narrative elements. It’s the lengthy games that have to be careful about locking out content and having serious repercussions because there’s little chance most players will tolerate that – things like coming down with a disease that kills you after 2 hours, or letting you turn the guards in a city perpetually hostile but still running missions for the Thieves’ Guild, and all kinds of other stuff like that. It’s so much more tolerable in a shorter form game. It also makes more sense to design great sweeping changes like that, because while people won’t see most of what you’ve got on their first run, you’re giving them far more incentive to return and explore the space later on. To give an example of my own, the steal-the-zeppelin quest in Sunless Sea relies on players being willing to burn their bridges in that current game in a way that literally nobody’s going to do 30 hours into a 70 hour game. Except to be boring and reload a save of course, but then that carries no narrative weight whatsoever.

    Not that there’s no space for the traditional epic AS WELL. I love those games. All I’m talking about here is an alternate take on the genre that games like WOTS show has legs, and which conveniently cut straight to the heart of a few problems that a lot of RPGs currently have when it comes to choice and consequence.

    • NathanH says:

      It’s not important that the player plays the game twice, or even finishes it once. The success of a game that offers high reactivity, locking off many paths based on player actions, doesn’t depend on playing the game again in order to choose the other paths. The simple knowledge that reactivity is present and occurring is really all that matters.

      • Richard Cobbett says:

        It’s a benefit, but the success of the roguelike genre in recent years pretty much stabs your ‘not important’ in the face and twists it. The fact that this is all most RPGs can hope and try to aim for doesn’t make it the only thing they can aspire towards or experiment with. That’s incredibly short-sighted thinking, especially when games like this one and Quest For Glory are there to show that replaying to try other paths can be great fun and add a ton to the experience when doing so doesn’t come with all the baggage of a Pillars of Eternity length epic.

        The 50 hour RPG isn’t necessarily the best fit for how much of the audience plays these games, which can be both in terms of the casual player who doesn’t have the time, and the veteran player who has the mechanics down pat by a third of the way in and isn’t likely to face anything that really throws them for the rest of it. Choice can be narrative based. It can be mechanical, like “Watch me kill the unkillable dark god in my underpants”, as Dark Souls players have demonstrated.

        There’s a lot to be said for that kind of design, and RPGs with their wide range of mechanics are the perfect genre to play around with it and see what works out. It may or may not work, but pushing the boundaries of a genre is never a case of ‘doesn’t matter’, any more than when Ultima VII went all-in for world simulation or Baldur’s Gate made D&D feel cool in the 90s.

        • NathanH says:

          You misunderstand. I, being infinitely wise and open-minded, have no problem with short replayable games that offer different paths that lock off others. I also, being still infinitely wise and open-minded, have no problem with extremely long games that do exactly the same thing. If a large sprawling RPG allows me, through a combination of my actions and the world’s simulation, to lock off a large chunk of the game, this isn’t a problem even if I don’t end up playing the game a second time. This is fun and exciting.

          Basically the only plausible restriction that a large RPG has in this area that a small RPG does not is that it probably should avoid allowing the player to completely ruin their game. Dropping, say, a massive Orc invasion that wipes out all the cities, removing all quest-givers and merchants, is probably a bad idea (although in some cases it might be fun!). On the other hand, a massive Orc invasion that completely wipes out three cities and their NPCs, but introduces new ones and new quests, while leaving most quests in the rest of the world still available? Sounds OK to me.

    • suibhne says:

      I look forward to your review of Age of Decadence at release, Richard. ;) (In all seriousness, you just echoed some of the design motivations behind that game, so I dearly hope RPS assigns a reviewer who gets those goals as well as you articulated here.)

    • Mycenaeus says:

      I wanted to say thanks for your response.

      I also want to know what you think about MMO’s like SWTOR. A playthrough to level 50 of SWTOR can be a lengthy experience and yet people often played through the game several times to experience meeting the different NPC’s and going to different places. While there were common areas, the incentive for re-rolling in a game like that was to experience the other content that was locked off depending on some of the decisions you made (mostly, the decision you made in character creation).

      I understand that most players won’t want to jump right back into a 50 hour game immediately after beating it, regardless of whether there was content they never unlocked. But I think the popularity of the Good Old Games platform means that players do revisit and replay these lenghty games.

      I think the crux of our disagreement lies in whether locking off chunks of content in lengthy RPG’s based on player choice is detrimental to the game. I think it’s a good thing. You think it would just make players angry. For what it’s worth, I think most developers would agree with you. Hence, most RPG’s are moving toward open worlds where you can do everything and meet everyone and unlock everything on your first play through. As long as this is the status quo, however, these lengthy RPG’s will be forced to be responsive instead of reactive. And reactive games are what we both seem to agree is better.

  7. ansionnach says:

    “…your fate can change drastically based on whether you decided to do the washing up or the laundry…”

    Laughed at that!

    One of the problems with reactivity is how it affects the inevitable sequel (see Bioware games, including BG2). In an RPG you often start out as a nobody, stuff happens and you become someone. Saving or subjugating your world are probably good basic options to give the player. If the world can be changed so as to be unrecognisable in a sequel it’s probably best to leave it at that and make an entirely different game as a follow-up. A sequel in which the player is thrown through the parallel worlds that were the endings from the first game might work. After that, the third game could ignore it all, have Ewoks and allow you to choose your favourite colour at the end.

    A good way of allowing players to fail is to give them a fairly unlimited world where if you fail a quest and lose face with some group or region you can just do some others. Something like Daggerfall or Darklands.

  8. Orillion says:

    I liked the comparison to Majora’s Mask in the article. The similarity to that game is exactly what has me interested in Way of the Samurai. The idea that you advance with each playthrough, but fundamentally start over each time, and the play time is short enough you can bang out a play in an afternoon easily.

    Something I would really love to see in a game like this is the player characters being “recorded” from playthrough to playthrough and then having the player’s previous characters perform the actions they did in the previous game. Some allowances would have to be made (certainly fewer criminal actions would be allowed) but you could start off with a terrible, doomed world with dozens of terrible things happening (like Majora’s Mask) that slowly gets better as the player plays through and they start helping people, fixing things and generally making the world less shit. Once you’ve played enough times (however many it takes to close every quest) the game essentially just becomes a playable epilogue, where you can see the effects of your efforts as everyone continues to go through their schedules for the duration, but their problems have all been worked out.

    I could be even more interesting if every story had different resolutions, but I feel like that would take something away from the overall experience, as then you would feel that compulsion to play through the entire bunch of playthroughs again to see what you missed.

  9. draglikepull says:

    Not that it’s open-world (or an RPG [or available on PC]) but Heavy Rain is a game with a relatively short run time where your choices can have fairly large effects on the story (all the main characters can die, permanently) and is quite conducive to multiple play-throughs to try playing out scenes differently.

    • malkav11 says:

      Heavy Rain is a game that would like you to believe that your choices can have large effects on the story, but actually almost none of them propagate past the scene you’re in, and from what I can tell, the death of the main characters mostly just skips their future scenes. It does have some impact on the climax, though. Just not as much as you might hope. (Also, I don’t think it’s true that -all- the main characters can die, but discussing that would be spoiler territory.)

  10. Stugle says:

    I had never heard of this and the concept sounds neat, so it’ll go on my wishlist (plus, I NEED short games: I keep buying The Next Epic and not finding the time to play it – like a toothless nonegenarian slurping mushy porridge, I must have my gaming easily digestible).

  11. Crimsoneer says:

    I’ve just finished playing through this, but I’m finding the combat SO disappointing towards the end. The secret to killing the big bosses seems to be “drag it on for ten minutes and eat loads of cake”. The push/pull mechanic seems to be mostly ignored by everybody. Killing people seems to take ages, and I’m finding there isn’t an awful lot of skill to it :(

  12. Muppetizer says:

    “but never really as the core of a Western RPG. By design, they’re always sprawling affairs…”

    I think Dragon Age 2 is worth mentioning here. It’s at least what that game was attempting to do, whether or not it succeeded (at least at this) is another matter entirely. I’m so glad you mentioned Majora’s Mask though! Not only is it my favourite game but everything I’ve heard of Way of the Samurai has me thinking of it. The repeating act structure, use of time, the examination of spiderwebby consequence, the intimate and unique flavour, basically (like you said) the exploration of a space through depth rather than the more traditionally gamey breadth.

    Super looking forward to giving it a go, even more after this piece.

    • Crimsoneer says:

      DA2 is worth mentioning because this is what it *should* have done. A living, breathing Kirkwall that changed over time. Instead, you got the same damn city a decade on. Grumbles.

  13. AyeBraine says:

    Thank you! This article triggered an immense insight for me. It reconciled, inside my mind, “gameyness” and story-heavy narrative in a totally surprising way!

    I am very grateful to the industry for mega-RPGs of late (BioWare style), but I am nagged by their conventions. And I love very literature-heavy narrative in games (meaning when it often describes/shows very unusual, poignant or funny stuff that doesn’t look or feel like a “gamey” occurence, but a life experience or a fantasy), and of course some degree of realism (again, you described how more limited scope can allow for unlimited realism and challenge that not only doesn’t alienate regular players, it liberates and comforts them!).

    So I mean factions in F:NV were a great achievement of superhuman script-wrangling, but their stoppers still clearly showed – game said “OK I understand you still want to explore and move and finish as many quests as possible even though you’ve chosen a side”. But in what you describe, in what can be called “a slice of life” adventure, you really can feel the weight of choice without the weight of boredom and feeling cheated that comes with it!

    Sorry for rambling, trying to process this, thanks again!

    (PS: Thanks for working on Sunless Sea, also. I love it. And BTW I love how separate stories are self-contained – that makes them slice-of-life and try-shit-whatever-the-cost, as discussed above – but also remain as notches and factors in the big meta-story. For example the Empire of Hands monkey/treasure hunt saga – it was like a whole freaking adventure game! and Nuncio was like an indie experimental piece, and so on)

    • Richard Cobbett says:

      “For example the Empire of Hands monkey/treasure hunt saga – it was like a whole freaking adventure game!”

      Glad you enjoyed :-)

      • AyeBraine says:

        You wrote it? It was hilarious! Really kind and cozy stuff in a very grimdark setting =) Thanks! When I got the option to “save” myself with the little girl sidekick showing up, I don’t know what I laughed at more – at the awesome application of cliche, or at the cool emotional resolution of prior choices. Yeah, it was real nice. Lots of cinematographic touches, like “”Shall we work out the details” while carefully eyeing the remaining free hand”. I couldn’t help but play out these dialogues out loud )

        • Richard Cobbett says:

          Yeah, I wrote and designed the Empire of Hands :-) Glad you liked the Delightful Adventuress storyline in the Vault. The whole spark for much of the temple-diving and such came from giggling far too much at coming up with the phrase ‘true tales of feist and spunk’ and then making up a character purely so I could use it.

          That and ripping into the Towers of Hanoi puzzle, natch.

          (Fun fact – the Monkey Foundling’s interactions are a little different if you roll her over to a new Captain. I doubt people do since Mascot stats aren’t great, but the opening sequence has you just order her that there’ll be no tricks on the Captain today and you finish your bath in peace, and she shows up in the Vault to help you out after realising that if there’s a big explosion, you’re probably in trouble, and who better to help?)

          • BooleanBob says:

            You know, I’m sure ‘the towers of fucking Hanoi’ used to be a tag on this site.

          • Richard Cobbett says:

            With fucking cause.

          • AyeBraine says:

            Yeah, I only recently read that sci-fi humorous story about Hanoi tower puzzle (googled it again – “Now Inhale” by Eric Frank Russell). It was very funny to find an actual move counter that you could presumably advance until completion.

            And then when you come out, 1960’s Moscow was stolen next, and you only get 15% of the assayed treasure; the rest is accounted for by OBKhSS (Department for Elimination of Theft of Socialistic Property). You’re given a medal though, and featured on a TV show, “Cinematic Travellers’ Club”.

            Right after a segment about Eater-of-Names: link to youtube.com

          • AyeBraine says:

            Ummm… That was unexpected:
            link to books.google.ru