Why the ships in Sunless Sea go so slow

Title Why the ships in Sunless Sea go so slow
Author Tom Chick
Posted in Games
When March 5, 2015

Failbetter's Alexis Kennedy has a great post-mortem of Sunless Sea here..

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How about 10% faster then? I remember goofing around with Pathologic's console making everything 10% faster and I was very satisfied with the result. Haven't gotten around to playing Sunless Sea yet, but I'm sure Pathologic makes it look like WarioWare in comparison.

Are you still playing Fallen London, Tom?

That's a wonderful thing to hear. I can appreciate the desire to make a game snappier but... sometimes you need that negative space or downtime or room to let the game breath.

As much as people moan about sewer systems in games I've always said that they shouldn't be entertaining: they're sewers. They're monotonous in almost every way possible, but I remember in Vampire: Bloodlines coming across the Nosferatu Warrens after what felt like hours of gruelling exploration down there. Without that arduous journey, that discovery wouldn't have felt nearly as exciting or important.

Games need their downs to define their ups. As you said Tom, 'game design doesn’t always have to worship at the altar of “fun”.'

Oh, and I just thought about Evolve and all the people grumbling about the 'longer' games (10-20 minutes) where the monster manages to successfully evade the hunters.

I've heard a lot of players say how boring it is to, presumably, not be chasing and shooting at something, but when this has happened to me the whole game starts to swell with a unique atmosphere: suddenly it feels like a proper hunt -- this monster's playing the sneaky game.

When you're struggling to find the monster you have to stop what you're doing and just look and listen to hopefully get a clue as to where the monster is. Can you hear any wildlife screaming? Can you see any carcasses? Can you see any vegetation that's been destroyed? You start to really appreciate how much care and attention has gone into crafting this wildnerness, rather than it just being a blur as you dash through it. What's more, when you finally do find the monster you're even more committed to not lose it again. No pressure, trapper.

So, yeah, downtime. It's my bag.

Yeah, no. It's still shit design, whether they did it on purpose or not. It's a 5/10 game that stands between you and 9/10 writing.

I'm afraid I haven't been back to Fallen London in a while. Are you playing? How are you finding it?

I've just started recently to get a feeling of what Sunless Sea might be like. Not sure it's my cup of tea, ha ha.

The incalculable amount of doodads you amass and the bars that go up are not the point as much as the text, but the text doesn't quite do it for me. I didn't find that many "storylets", as they call them, to be particularly clever. The mission "Write Epic Poetry about Mushrooms" is obviously an exception. Not quite sure I get the tone either. What kind of game about having sex with devils and eldritch horrors censors the word "damn"? It all feels too safe to be either very funny or shocking, but it's still vastly superior to most video game prose.

Now that I've mentioned Pathologic... Fallen London feels like it was written by respectable Brits trying to write something crazy. Pathologic feels like it was written by a bunch of Russians that are actually crazy (is that a compliment?). That makes the one mildly amusing and the other fascinating. Stamatin's speech on the importance of hiding your orifices, now that's crazy funny.

To bring this back to the speed of the game, if the writing isn't truly engaging in Sunless Sea, the downtime might just feel like busywork. The slow pace might even cheapen the writing, making people expect too much and leaving it to do all the heavy lifting. Haven't tried it yet, though, but I'm still interested, so I'll know soon enough.

I have to agree with this. I'm one of those who edited the config for a 100% boost of speed. The "tension" Kennedy is speaking of is so tedious, and boring that you need a strain of masochism to sit through 5 minutes of your ship slowly plodding through the unterzee.

The reason "damn" is censored is to reflect how those words were handled in actual Victoria newspapers (and some literature). The same way many older stories will censor place names and character names, as if to suggest the scandal of being associated with the story would be simply too much.

I'm completely sunk into Fallen London right now. Loving it. I hit a point when my main characteristics were in the 40-50s and new storylines were a little sparse, but I've been pumping the Opportunity cards for more questlines and been more active in acquiring items to open locked areas..

Anyone wants to add me as a Contact I'm at:


Though I'm not sure what influence does yet.

It's basically FL that's stopped me going back to Sunless Sea. I did mod the speed a lit-a lot, a whole lot... but only toyed around with it. Moving about is just kinda aggravating and even the combat they have now isn't exactly fun. OTOH I never got my head around top-down racers. My brain can't work that way.

I'm getting on in years. My hand cramps after ten minutes using WASD to navigate - it's fine with FPS games for whatever reason but Sunless Sea messes me up.

Mouse to move or controller support would be nice.

Oh, Richard Cobbett, who I'm assuming doesn't have any on-going feuds with Qt3, wrote the recent Fallen London "premium" quest, "The Blemmigan Affair". I enjoy his game writing, but just loved his writing on this quest.

I haven't been back to Sunless Sea in a while, and I feel bad about that, but the fact of the matter is that it's not the pace that bothers me, it's the repetition. I get tired of visiting the sisters over and over again until their mansion burns down because I really need that food. I get tired of arbitrating between the rats and guinea pigs with every captain because I really need a spot to refuel/get food out from port.

It's not good that in a text-based game I'm at the point of impatiently clicking through text because I've seen it dozens of times before.

There are ways that they could have kept the "stately" pace of the game without long stretches of boredom. In Pirates you run into other ships while you're traveling. In Darklands and Sword of the Samurai, the bulk of the game is made up of random encounters that you run into while traveling. Knowing how good the writers of Sunless Sea are, it should have been easy for them to come up with 50-100 events that pop up while you're at sea.

The problem here is not that players are spoiled and have short attention spans and want to "zip" around shooting things. We just don't want to waste our time watching our ship go back and forth over the areas we've already explored in order to get to the island where the actual gameplay happens. Enduring boredom doesn't make me feel artsy or intellectual, it just gives me a lot of time to think about how I should be doing something artsy or intellectual instead of sitting in a chair staring at a damn boat on a screen.

I see a guy who made a great game that was near to being a masterpiece, but instead of learning from criticism, he's digging in and blaming the players for not liking the bad parts. It's his job to make a good game, not our job to like it.