12 May 2017

The Slow Application Development (SAD) Methodology

Head space!
C'est à un combat sans corps qu'il faut te préparer, tel que tu puisses faire front en tout cas, combat abstrait qui, au contraire des autres, s'apprend par rêverie.

A rant about very little in particular (which is incidentally also how, if ever my exploits as a Roguelike developer are to be mentioned in some footnote of history, they will be described).

I found some notes for an old blog post, and decided why not go ahead and publish this scrambled mess?

I was going to start by mentioning Tobias and the Dark Sceptres, which had just been released for free after 13 years in the making. This was in 2014, so bringing it up now might feel a bit late. In that sense, I guess everything is going according to plan.

This is supposed to be a blogpost about the Slow Application Development (SAD™) Methodology, the professed in-house design philosophy here at Domus Daedali. The rules of the SAD Methology are as numerous as they are fickle…

Thou shalt start in the middle.
Thou shalt code under the influence.
Thou shalt add empty variables with vaguely suggestive names, in case thou needst them later.
When too late, refactor.
Release sometime, release sometimes.
Embellish details.
Thou shalt never monetize thy project!

The guy who released Tobias had been tinkering on and off since he was a kid, and the whole thing was made in klik'n'play or something like that. Now, some of the commentariat were boggling at the fact that he didn't charge any money for the game, and I remember thinking: If you have to ask why someone chooses to give away something they've been working on for thirteen years, you probably won't understand the answer.

As always, I find comfort in the SAD methodology.
If it's not broke, fix it.
Never monetize!
It's one step forwards and two steps back, so the way ahead may be to walk away from your project.
Take out your money and shoot it in the head! 
We have to build cabins.

LoSt's business plan
The SAD methodology is not applicable to professionalism of any kind: From struggling artists to celebrities and mainstream developers, movers and shakers of the mindscape… We bid them farewell, with a thanks for paving the way nonetheless.

The crux of the matter is that having no real stakes in the project means you've less time in the day-to-day, but so much more as the years accumulate.

Though it remains unclear what we are trying to gain freedom from, we are willing to spend every ounce of our patience and monomania to get it.

A tiny shelter.

Developing commercially entails another mindset entirely. Mind to say, it is not one less respectable. On the contrary, it demands an admirable effort and excess of ideas to achieve the degree of polish needed to set something afloat in the vast ocean of cultural products. In fact, one of the things that prompted me to pick this post up again after all this time, was a post about monetizing RL devlopment over at Cogmind's excellent blog. (That's already been four months, so I'm staying true to my tenets, if nothing else.)

In any case: As fascinating as I find that pursuit, and as much as I respect and understand the decision to venture in commercial game design, I am also glad this is not the way that Land of Strangers is going. Even if I were to try to tidy it up, finish and sell it as an "indie open world wild west roguelike", the work/pay ratio would just be weepable, and I might risk the overall vision by making "concessions" to some imagined demands from the paying public. Developing in accordance with the SAD Methodology, I get instead to focus on the work/play ratio.

What I like about making my "little open acid western roguelike" is that I don't have to take all that stuff into account. I can choose to just say no, or whatever, to wholesome values and clever design choices. Proper graphics and overall polish? Yawn. Audio, who needs it? (Or maybe I will, but just slap on a sub-par recording of me mishandling my youngest son's ukulele.)

Never finish.
Work in the crevices.
Start side projects.
(Don't) quit your day job.
Just in case.
Have kids.
Stand in a pedestrian island reciting sutras whilst meditating on the cars coming to rape you.

Psyching up to do some coding
The SAD Methodology depends on a circular definition: The refusal to monetize and the refusal to finalize enable one another, defining a space, like a protective chalk circle where any (in)conceivable project can be allowed to grow. In many cases, it becomes a question of necessity. Lately we're seeing how old giants like ADOM and Caves of Qud are monetizing updated versions of their classic games. One thing these two have in common (and an article could be devoted just to discussing the differences), is that the colossal games which were already in place as the business model started to kick in, had taken many years of hard, unpaid work to achieve. If ADOM and CoQ had started out as commercial projects, they probably would never have seen the light of day.

I suspect this is part of the reason why Mark Johnson  has refrained from any kind of crowd funding scheme for his grand opus Ultima Ratio Regum. It also seems that Krice professes to the SAD Methodology, so what in the world could go wrong? It certainly is the fuel of much vaporware – and honestly, we would be so much worse off without classic never-mades in the vein of Shockfrost's game and World of Rogue.

It might be tempting to say that sites such as Kickstarter have been doing us a disfavor by blurring the lines between professional and amateur development. But the problem doesn't really lie with concepts like crowd funding, even if there is a deep-set problem with how capitalism is carried out these days. Be that as is may, the SAD Methodology isn't mainly about Smashing Capitalism™ (though let's do that as well, while we're @ it).

Rather (with the risk of becoming too pretentious even to the tastes of a reader who made it thus far), I'd say it's akin how a painter or author is never able to step back from the work and say: It is finished. Such a grandiose image can also be applied to humbler endeavors.

Never finish!
Never monetize!
Go and live in the desert!
We're all blessed. 

You know the drill.

We have to build cabins.

As always,

1 "You must prepare for a battle without body, to be able to take a stand no matter what; an abstract battle which, unlike others, is learned through reverie." (Henri Michaux, Poteaux d'angles)

5 May 2017

Released: LoSt #11.1 (Mercury Chewinggum)

This fixes a bug in the Windows executable. The bug didn't affect gameplay, but made it impossible to complete the in-game survey. Linux users and users executing the source code directly should not be affected. Sorry for the inconvenience.

Go to the download page to get your mercury fix.

As always,

4 May 2017

Released: LoSt #11 (Mercury Bubblegum)

Catch of the day
This is an interim release, preceding a hefty rewrite of some of the systems. I wanted to start refactoring from a clean cut, so to speak, so I'm publishing what I have to date.

In other words, LoSt is still in alpha. Compared to #10, this version contains some bug fixes and a bit of content. The most spectacular feature is perhaps that you can now gain followers by choosing the "Populist" shtick.

I'm about to redesign big chunks of the world generation algorithm, in part to fix problems which have become apparent in testing, in part to accomodate plans I have for bounties (quests) and other features. Bounties will also be tied up to a system for the passage of time (including healing and skill advancement), so there may be some exciting prospects on the horizon, even though I as a developer will have to do some untangling to get there.

Comments are always appreciated, on appropriate forum threads, per email, or you can fill out the in-game survey that I added as an experimental feature in this version. It'll be interesting to see whether that garners any response, and if I can use it to guide and motivate further development.

As always,


BUG: Couldn't pick up lead slugs when pockets were full
BUG: Buggy inventory interface if pockets were empty
BUG: Critters turned invisible when spending props
BUG: Could see through walls at certain angles
BUG: (Serious) bug that made game pick invalid kits
BUG: Bug that printed nonexisting plants and obstacles
BUG: Spitting bush had forgot how to spit
BUG: Some instances of NPCs getting stuck repeating one action
BUG: Crashed because game tried to draw outside the screen
GAME: Player can now start with up to two shticks
GAME: Some props can be used directly from inventory (experimental)
GAME: Prompt to abort extended actions when hostiles enter line of sight
GAME: Commandline options to set world seed
GAME: Scrollable menus (needs polish, but should work ;)
GAME: Cleaned up the log area a bit
GAME: Can save multiple characters in the same world
GAME: Default field of vision now set to 11
CONTENT: Renamed "derringer" as "pepperbox gun"
CONTENT: Fleshed out animal species a bit
CONTENT: Weapon prefixes
CONTENT: Added some skills, props, places and critters
CONTENT: Backstory generator now spits out terser texts
AI: Added more bias switches: annoy, please, exalt
AI: Action calculation for fields of battle plants should be quicker
AI: Gain followers (experimental)
AI: Most beings now set to stay at home or roam their native region
AI: Toolwielders now better at choosing their weapon
VAR: Added an in-game survey
VAR: Various tweaks and fixes

8 February 2017

Idea that will never be a 7DRL

Please excuse this quite silly rant about my old idea for a 7 Day Roguelike.
TL;DR: In the end, it's practically randomized, anyway :P

#DogmeRL 7DRL

A Dogme 95-inspired Roguelike, featuring:

No message log!
No keyboard interface!
No random maps!
No permadeath!
No grid-based tactics!
No item identification!
No MacGyvering your way out!
No resource management (consumables, healing, food clock)!
No hack'n'slash!
No rpg system!
No dungeons!
Modular gameplay!
Emphasis on story!
Play as a party!
The full Roguelitelike experience in one package!

Check and mate, suckers!

I've long wanted to make an Anti-RL that "breaks all the rules" for what a RL is. It struck me now that it would be ideal to combine with two other things I've been wanting to do, namely learning a bit of Godot, and making a game for my kids (targeted age around 6-9).

In the end, I would aim to make something that doesn't fit the genre definition by any stretch, while retaining that good ol'e RL feeling.

Tail of Eugor

For the actual game, I figured the basic interface is a touchscreen Roguelite with minimal text and easily graspable (hopefully deep/fun) gameplay.

The scourge of elephants
The setting rips off various sources. Take a silly mangaish/fantasy universe like Mario, Sonic or Lego: Ninjago, throw in some White Wolf's Exalted, mix with Tove Jansson's Moomin (and more obscure references) ... I decided to just go ahead and make the heroes furries :D So you have this magic stone age world inhabited by tribes of biped animals wielding magic just cooling it with gods and spirits who still tread the earth of this young world. In the rivers and wetlands dwell frogs and hippos, striking secretive deals with daemons of the depths; whilst elephants rule the plainlands from their walled cities of byzanthine bureaucracy, but fear the wild mice who roam the woods. You get the general drift.

On the list of anti-features, some almost give themselves, some merit more consideration.

EUGOR: Featuring
Modular Gameplay™
INTERFACE: We're on a touch screen with graphics, so no ascii or keyboard. We don't want turnbased, gridbased tactics, but we do want modular gameplay. So let's make it a bit like a jrpg (bear with me). There is a walk/explore mode where you tap wherever you want to go on the map. NPCs walk around in real time. If you bump into an NPC or feature (or if an NPC bumps into you), you engange that being (bump a person to speak, bump a monster to fight). This engagement can be handled in a separate mode with alternating turns for combat/actions. Put on top: an overworld mode to travel between the different maps, designed like an overworld in a typical Nintendo console game, with each place a node, and paths between those nodes.

NO HACK'N'SLASH: Since it's for kids, I don't want combat to be the main way to solve everything. Sure, some spectacular fighting scenes with earthquake hammers and the like, but it might be better to give the hungry lion a pancake to make it happy. Maybe it will even join you on your quest!

NO IVENTORY HANDLING: Instead of inventory, the player collects "gifts" (objects, skills or characters who join your party). Your gifts determine what you can do, depicted as icons in a menu. You can always try to use any gift in any encounter? If you have Icarus Wings, you can use them to fly over the river or escape from a fight. If you have Persuation as a gift, use it to calm your enemies or get special favors from friendly NPCs, etc. Gifts may sometimes not work (angry bees won't be persuaded, troll immune to sleeping magic), and gifts are not comsumable. The gift Itching Powder would have infinite charges, it's just a thing your toon can do. Throughout any one game, you'll just get a handful of gifts, so there's no looting and no identification subgame. While there is leeway for some "easter egg effects", there should be no "complex interactions" like dipping, throwing or collateral demolition.

Uh … Follow the
dotted brick road?
NO RANDOM CONTENT GENERATION: The biggie. I'm actually planning to cheat on this one :) I would venture to replace random content generation with (drum roll) stochastic content generation! It would be deterministic, but provide replayability akin to randomness, by dynamically generating the world based upon the player's choices :P

First of all, each level/node you visit is prefabricated. If "elemental temple" is a place, you always get the same layout, with the same designated spots for your acolytes and abbess, your braziers and you vortex of elemental doom. Each place should be a small screen, so the "temple" is really just a little shrine that your avatar can cross in less than ten strides..

Second, the overworld map is predetermined, divided into four zones to visit. From the starting zone are borders you can breach to enter Zone A or Zone B, the midgame zones. Here you need to prepare and to find the key to enter the fourth and last zone, where the endgame takes place. It could be structured a bit like one of those exemplary analyses of Zelda levels, with bombs to breach weak walls, branches to make you feel like you're choosing your own way while carefully guiding you past mandatory choke points, etc. The midgame zone you choose to enter first should be set as the main branch, with the remaining midgame zone tagged to remain as an optional bonus branch.

Third, the player gets to choose some parameters at the start of the game. This is where it starts getting stochastic, as we're doing the equivalent of setting a random seed. Consider the following:

«Just send me the money»
"Eugor was a young …
    1) frog 2) mouse 3) elephant 4) fox 5) chicken
… who lived in a …
    1) cabin 2) town 3) shrine 
… by a …
    1) river 2) ravine 3) mountain 4) great wall
… Eugor's neighbor tribe were …
    1) frogs 2) mice 3) elephants 4) foxes."

That gives a little more than 4^4=256, a fine, round number of starting positions. Your choice of species will set a starting gift, like frogs can swim, mice are fast, whatever. Your starting map ("cabin", "town" etc.) has its predetermined follow-ups, so if you choose "cabin" it has paths to "woods" and "town", and if you choose "town", you get "shrine" and "ferryman" as followups. Choosing to start in the town means you won't get the shrine or ferryman later in the game, but are guaranteed to come across the woods and the cabin. A level like "natural source" will play out differently if you're sent there to talk with a guardian, or to steal a treasure, and whether that happens in the early or late game. Also, factors like climate and player race may affect which species inhabits a particular place (facing slow, mighty elephants or quick, crafy mice makes a difference).

Off to see the wizard, biatch!
Visiting the swamp or the desert first might become a strategic choice, since it determines if you'll be facing salamanders and scorpions or spiders and platypuses.

Envisioned on this scale, with 4 zones, I'd probably need around a dozen locations. The game should be scaled to a small proof-of-concept, taking less than an hour to win. Still sounds more like a 7 Month Roguelike to me. It can be done, though. The hard part would be to get the design just right.

I might actually give it a shot (but probably not as a 7drl) if the right conditions arise, as I've really been wanting to check out Godot for mobile games, and I would love to make something silly like that, that my kids (and other random peeps) might enjoy playing.

As always,

11 January 2017

In the works

Pick up smithereens
I'm hoping to get #11 out of the door within (quite) a few weeks. Since the release of #10, I've been trudging along, adding fixes, tweaks and content. I'm currently wrapping my head around two major additions for the next version: A proper starting settlement, and a basic system for bounties ("quests"). Both of these complex tasks imply various changes and additions that need to be done to the system, and they are tangled into each other as well, since the starting settlement will naturally be where you pick up your first bounty. Development is still at an early enough stage that fairly important parts of the engine are missing or incomplete. Once I manage to pump out some interesting settlements, for instance, it should be trivial (system-wise) to add more content and variation to them. Trivial, I say, knowing that the really time-consuming part of development is often designing and balancing content.

I put road generation on halt when
it started throwing swastikas at me.
Regarding settlement generation, I've been trying out different strategies: Settlements as blobs containing houses and points of interest, settlements starting from a single point and spawning outwards, or popping up along random roads, or as climate templates … The results have been unsatisfactory. Given the current map digging routines, really made for wilderness generation, it's been difficult to achieve the kind of division of space that a settlement should have. What's more, the settlements have to be tactically interesting, as they will set the stage for duels, robberies and other events later on. At the moment, I'm considering using prefabricated blueprints to a large extent. It would break my heart to see the same starting settlement again and again, but something quite static might provide a spring board for more testing.

Adding bounties is also a tough nut to crack. I want to get it as right as I can from the outset, to avoid having to come back and make too many major changes afterwards. Thus spake the optimist. Bounties touch upon many other aspects of the game, from map generation to skill advancement. I'm talking about proper story lines here, not just dumping some goon's head at the local tribunal to collect the cash reward (you can already do that in #10). As with settlements, I'll probably add something very simplistic for now, just to sort out the basics, like how the game world should spawn and know about bounty-related places, having villagers disperse rumors about active bounties, getting an interface for rewards/resting/experience, and so forth.

Hunted by kerebears
A detail I'm currently pondering, is simply how to present a bounty to the player. I hope to avoid dialogue trees, and have been envisioning a game with the player as "the silent type", and NPCs shouting out chat lines as appropriate. If that's going to work, it's pertinent to avoid the typical trope of NPCs just throwing random quests at the player upon arrival. It might just be a question of writing the right pieces of dialogue. For instance, a bounty to join a hunters' club could be presented by way of a kid sitting outside, proclaiming how he'd like to be a member, if he could fulfill the membership requirements (bringing in a random named animal, for instance). It's not Ibsen, perhaps, but I guess it would be acceptable in a crpg, as a way to inform the player of a certain possibility space.

Here and now, I may sidestep the issue, slap a Wanted-poster up on the wall of the jailhouse or post office and see where it takes me.

Also in the works is a travelogue mode, that zooms out on the map and gives the player access to various utilities (setting waypoints, logging rumors and bounties, etc). I may not need this for #11, but it's going to be a boon as the game world gets more involved.

As always, Minotauros

16 December 2016

Fragments of principles of prop design in LoSt


Props (and skills) are slightly stylized representations of a characters resources. This stems from back when LoSt (Boot Hill RL, at the time) was a cardgame/RL hybrid. I didn't want the player to become too much like a "paper doll" with assorted inventory. Some learnable skills may assume you to have the necessary tools at hand, as some props assume you possess the necessary skills to use them.

Encumbrance, inventory space

All the dead dudes …
I never much cared for detailed weight systems. Instead, LoSt sets a fixed limit to how many props a critter is allowed to carry. Inventory is capped at six slots, which is just enough to get by. To simulate encumbrance, some items are tagged as "heavy" or "stackable" (light). Heavy items impose a penalty on your initiative, making them practically impossible to carry during combat. Stackable items are consumables and commodities: If you're holding a stick of dynamite, you might as well be holding five. Stackable items only take up one inventory slot (per item type), regardless of how many you are carrying.

I'd rather a sledge-pick.

Wearables, containers, more tools and actions …

… building houses, skinning animals, modifying items and mailing them to your future incarnations, gambling, rail laying, light landscape gardening … Who can tell if and how they will appear?

Lead slugs

Lead (♄) is the most important prop in LoSt, doubling as money and ammo. As a symbol of prosperity, it could even be used as a stat akin to karma. Instead of a food clock, a system where the player spends 1♄to rest each night?

Current list of props in LoSt

Glogious death awaits!
Salt crystals, emeralds, rubies, corpses, heads, lead slugs, spirit stones, dynamite, bricks, barb wire, smoke bombs, adrenaline shots, the beads of poverty, prayer books, ladders, lynchers' marks, dice, loaded dice, sledge picks, bowie knives, kiri knives, swords, whips, chainhooks, cats o' nine tails, javelins, spear throwers, sixshooters, pepperbox guns, pistolknives, triguns, game rifles, sniper guns, periscopes, field glasses, rubble, gravel, smithereens, dust, timber, splinters, shards, cigars.

Wishlist and ideas

Shotguns (fire several buckshot i randomized directions), punt guns (like a shotgun, but ten feet long; perhaps for crowd control or safaris), gatling guns (mounted mayhem), stockmarkers (burnmark cattle and people), tripwire and fuses (detonate dynamite from a safe distance), booze and drugs (it all starts with an innocently puffing cigar; fancy becoming an amphetamine addict or ingesting the poison seeds of holy plants), chloroform, tonics, poisons and antidotes, sandbags (why not?), ropes and lassos (for sure!), badges, books, lanterns, pliers, lead ore, caltrops, instruments, stilts, bear traps, nets, eggs, mummies, letters, mirrors, chain and tackle.

All that stuff.

As always,

6 December 2016

Released: LoSt #10 (Bloodshot Vista)

All hope was not lost!
Development is snailing along. LoSt#10 is the interrim release I had hoped to achieve before summer. It will probably be the last alpha release, before the meat of the game will start appearing. I'm still getting all basic systems in place, but #10 is still a big step forward from #9. NPCs have started to speak, and there are shops dispersed across the land, as well as a very basic bounty system (finding it can be considered a kind of an easter egg at present). There are also world building routines that will place the occational settlement, although these culture centers are still very flimsy, with not much to really see or do.

In any case, please try it out if you are interested. All and any comments are welcome.

Upcoming ...

Some features I hope to work on for the next few releases:

Perform steps in random order
* AI: I need to settle some basic AI needs. Proper pathfinding will be in place, letting people use doors, walk around ponds. They'll also be picking up stuff, objecting to theft, and adhering to other defined causes and states of beings.

* UI: Tidbits of UI are planned, and will become necessary. Scrolling menus is one thing, but also some kind of game log to track your character's progress. Also in the works is a zoomed-out view of the map to allow quick travel in explored areas. If I get inspired, I might start working on a mouse interface, but I think it's better to focus on gameplay at the moment.

* Settlements: The big thing in LoSt #11 will be to breathe some life into the settlements. It ties into several features that need to be finished. First of all, I need to streamline the map generation a bit, and define some good settlement blueprints/templates. Second, there must be places of interest, and the locals should feel a bit more alive. In addition to at least a few plot hooks (available bounties/questlines), there must be some shops and etstablishments (randomly including gunsmiths, pharmacists/medics, oracles, assassins, pawnshops). Also, something like a saloon where you can rest, furnished with a bar and perhaps a self-playing piano (depending on how complex the bias/reputation system becomes, we can whistle for features like emergent bar brawls down the road). The town can be seasoned with interesting places and encounters. There might be a village green with a park or pond, a church/shrine, a post/mining/police office, soldiers in barracks, gardens and animal pens, animal baiters who take bets, maybe even baiting animals against humans, (mad?) scientists/naturalists who want rare specimens, landscape photographers who stray into the wild, some random person has a treasure map, or is a junkie, or secretly wants to kill someone else in town, or has the habit of entering empty houses to burgle them, or loves dogs, or hates children.

* Factions/reputation: The Land in #10 is pretty war-strifed. Goons and settlers skrimish. One task ahead will be to make the map a bit more settled, with settlers mostly staying in their towns, and bandits camping in the wild. It will be possible to interact and gain reputation with any factions. If you gain a positive reputation with mudfaced goons, the settlers and law-kids might want to lynch you, but you can still get trade, healing etc. in scattered bandit camps across the land. Further down the road, more factions will come. Law and crime factions will have more organized structures, in addition to various societies, from scientists to monks to queers to carnies to cults. The current AI supports factions quite well: recognizing which factions another being belongs to, liking/disliking beings which belong to certain factions or act in a certain way. As I add more sophisticated behaviour patterns, I should be able to model some interesting semblances of drama and tidbits of story. Engine-wise, I still have to add a detailed system for fluctuating reputation. More time-consuming will be to write the content, defining and balancing achievements/bounties and other trickeries hidden behind the rosepot.

* Bounties: There must be a few bounties to be had in the starting settlement, and some others spread across The Land. They range from petty (templates "my <puppy> got lost in the <cave>", "100Pb for the head of Luci Borges") to more involved stuff later on (kill the four desert masters to become the undisputed champion of The Land, prevent/perpetrate genocide on a group of humans or animals, discover what really lives beneath the lead mines, act as a mediator/monger between settlers and natives …) I'll have to start with something simpler, basic fetch/bring/escort quests, and all that. Some bounties can be pretty open ended, with many moving parts (randomly mix elements like locations, NPC templates, and other special conditions: "Defeat the mad barber in the abandoned sawmill, who has kidnapped the mayor's uncle"). Others may be more handcrafted, but allowing for story emergence. You may get hired to protect an establishment against an awaited attack, and might solve the task by barricading and waiting out the attack, or sneaking into the enemy camp. Hell, you should even be allowed switch and aid the bandits in the robbery, triggering a favorable (or backstabbing) response, with many interesting adjustments to your reputation. To provide reward/encouragement, I've been thinking about tying up bounties with skill/character advancement, instead of a traditional system with experience points. Different types of quests and quest givers yield different rewards (more "moving part" that can be randomized on each playthrough). A hermit might tell you about herbs, or a banker gift you with a very fine pistol, or a master duelist teach you the art if you just prove your worth first. I have been thinking about modeling this around a time system that I believe to be pretty unusual.

* Time: An important feature in LoSt is that wounds tend to be very deadly, and with no available source of healing. I want to add a system for resting, for which the basic template will be "staying in a saloon". In a way, resting is my idea of something instead of a food clock. To rest, you have to pay a certain amount of cash (or fulfill some other criteria, depending on where you're trying to lodge), and the game world fast forwards several days, at the end of which you start out with all wounds healed. Depending on how grievous your wounds are, and the status of all pending bounties, the game might calculate an effect/event that occurs during the period you spend resting. The event could be just a simple string, and could often just gloss over a period of quiet, or provide the player with options to advance the plot or character. If you come back triumphant with barely a scratch, you might be rewarded with a skill advancement of your choice. But if you come back with 0Pb and a gun wound, you might develop a bad reputation or foible. What's worse, the guy you set out to kill in act I might come back in act II, with a plan for vengeance. Since the player must rest to heal, they'll want to make each rest count. The yardstick pace for a starting character should be to win one bounty, then rest, and then head out for a new adventure. Longer streches of time could also be passed doing seasonal work, training with a master or living in the underground city of fools.

If you think this sounds convoluted, you haven't heard the half of it. The art will be to keep the story suggestive and the system open ended, connected with factions and all the other "moving parts", to achieve a semblance of direction action/plot.

As always,