HotM:Cozy Or Stressful?

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Q: Honestly, a thing I kinda love about this game (that makes it feel very different from games like this) is the, well, lack of time pressure? It exists in deterrance, but worse comes to worse you just dismantle the thing making the pressure. It gives you time and space to just, think. Experimentation, while quite possibly blowing up in your face (cough the great military base stealing disaster cough), is safe enough that you can feel comfortable taking risks.

I dunno how much that'll stick around in the future of the game, but its nice this early on.

A: A lot of that is meant to remain indefinitely, but is also down to playstyle.

Project Chains To Titrate

In chapter two, you get to choose your own chains of projects, rather than me lining them up for you linearly like in chapter one. Some of these things will have time-sensitive callbacks. Like if you make a key contact, and they're like "I need help now!" that's out of your control, timing-wise.

If you are playing one project chain at a time (serially) in a timeline, then it's pretty low pressure. Sometimes you may have to drop everything to go help a friend, but other times it's "eh, I never liked them that much anyway" or "I was planning on backstabbing them anyway, I guess this is that moment."

On the other hand, if you work on progressing through two or three project chains at once... it's going to be intense. You'll wind up with too many things competing for your attention, and have to drop some things, etc.

Titrating Over Time

Different players overall want a different experience, and while I have focused primarily on contemplations as the way that difficulty varies... the number of simultaneous project chains is actually a really important metric, too.

The idea is that you can kind of "feel it out" as you go.

  • If you're feeling like things are nice and cozy, and you enjoy experimenting, great -- continue as you are.
  • If you're feeling like you want more challenge, then there's a lot of little extra stuff just sitting there that you could pop open.
    • "I know I'm doing A, but what if I also started dabbling in B while still doing that?"

A lot of games ask you to decide stuff like this way in advance, rather than when you are feeling the feels, and I don't think that is helpful. People then wind up with either way too tame, or way too aggressive, of a situation probably.

My expectation is that, in the main game, players will mostly start out in a more exploratory mode. I expect most people will not go for maximum challenge, because they'll let curiosity dictate, instead.

Maximum Challenge

For those who really hunger for challenge, they will probably open two or three project chains faster than the exploration-minded folks, and they'll see some things go drastically wrong in the project chains they care about less since they can't quite cover all that, and they'll probably find that in itself to be deeply interesting.

From Cozy To Challenging

For the average player, though, who is not inherently challenge-hungry to that extent but is more curious and exploration-focused, I expect they will do a number of runs in a more linear fashion, and treat it more cozy.

And after a certain amount of time, they are on some run and they're like "I know A B C and D already. I'm currently doing E, which is new to me. But from my recollection, if I were to add in some of C, that would be more intense, but I bet I could handle it, and today I feel like I want that."

Everyone's path with be different, and there's no wrong answer, but that's the general spectrum of experiences I expect.

The Rainbow 6 (OG) Inspiration

I haven't played any of the R6 games since the original, but the original is one that I really loved. The interesting thing about that game was that you were an elite squad of soldiers who were about to storm a dangerous situation. But the dangerous situation was static until you got in there.

A classic example was a house full of terrorists. At the start of the mission, there is no clock or timer or anything. You have blueprints, you have notes, and you can creep around outside the house and try to get a look a the enemies wandering around and standing and such. You can freely adjust your equipment.

Then either an enemy spots you, or you decide to intentionally breach. At that point, things happen FAST. If you have not planned well, then hostages are going to die. If you don't execute well, then same.

The duality of having infinite time to plan, and then the intense pressure of after "things get real" is very interesting to me, and I wanted to capture that with the combats in this game.

Probing, Specifically

Another aspect of those Rainbow 6 missions is a lot like the boss fights in Elden Ring, or any other Soulslike: They're complicated, but each time you approach them, you learn more about them. You might choose to make a full-force attempt on a new boss, or you might just go in with minimal things to lose (having spent all your souls or whatnot), and dodge around, learning the enemy attack patterns without the stress of also trying to fight back at that moment. In R6, you might just decide to breach instantly, and see what happens, rather than skulking around outside. Then come back and try the mission for real.

For situations where the enemy movements are complex and change over time, or where the situation is uncertain in general, there's not really a better way to handle that sort of thing. This is the "probing" that the game talks about. There is a very similar analogue in the AI War games, where you go in to a high-mark planet with a few ships and see what the enemy ships do. Then after some thought, send in a full force.