Kenoma Update 13

I know it may look like I’ve got a ton of stuff going on and can’t possibly be working on Kenoma, but believe it or not I’m doing about as well on raw word count as I was for a while when Kenoma was my primary project and I didn’t have any other games going.

This is despite the fact that I’m trying to push through rules content and that requires a more dedicated approach.

The Minimum Viable Product: Origins

The big push right now is to get each of the Factions and Origins set up for character creation. Right now this process looks like:

  • Determine the Attributes and Specializations that an Origin starts with
  • Come up with the Talents for the Origin
  • Determine Acquisition Modifier and starting gear
  • Write a description and “Playing a [Origin]” guide for players.

The limiting factor now is just going through all of them and making sure that the gear catalog is robust enough to handle the different options. There will be some overlap with characters who use similar weapons.

As I’ve said in the past, I’m not a stickler for balance, I’m a stickler for spotlighting. Some of the characters in Kenoma are more powerful than others. Knight Limited stands out as having few elite people rather than many low-rank people, and that comes through when you play one of their characters.

However, each origin will have one or two things that they’re the best at doing, or do in a slightly unique way. Sometimes this is a product of faction-origin links, and sometimes it’s a product of an origin like the pariah who has very unusual capabilities.

One thing that’s been nice is that since Kenoma has more specific mechanics than Hammercalled (or even Segira, which was a less heavily adapted derivative of Hammercalled), there are more opportunities for characters to do things that are specific to a particular mechanic.

The balancing act here returns to the idea of spotlighting rather than balancing. Some characters are sprinters, achieving dramatic high-end effectiveness. Others are marathon runners, capable of sustained output that puts the sprinters to shame.

One of the advantages of how the system works is that there’s an incentive to running without resource consumption that needs to be counterbalanced by the potential costs of not performing highly.

The contamms fill a niche of fitting between the two, with their faction-specific ability being to refund Flame spent on successful re-rolls and a lot of their abilities being about making endurance play more satisfying.

Compare this to something like a pariah, who is going to be very situationally specialized but also just absolutely penalized in a lot of other areas due to the Tantalites having a weak broad faction bonus and their many penalties.

Other Progress

I’ve been going over the basic setting chapters. I’m not delving into the details like org charts for the factions or small level-details, but the idea is to have a few pages each for the major factions and give some setting fluff sidebars for each as well.

I’ve been finding this quite enjoyable, since it lets me expand on things that just didn’t fit within the Quickstart boundaries for length.

I want people to feel like they can meet the characters from Kenoma. I know that’s a little bit of a weird claim, even though we certainly think of fictional characters like people, but I want to avoid the usual game elements of characters who feel like they’re artificial to fit into stories.

Some of that will be a test of how well I do as a writer, but I think there’s a lesson to be brought in from when I did my MFA.

When you’re making a character, you really need to reduce the urge to explain.

They’re living in a moment. You might be able to walk through every moment of their life with razor-sharp clarity, but that’s actually less real than the abstract.

You need them to fit into the world in a way that they feel it, not think about it.

For instance, there’s a scene in one of the side-bars where an Expedition veteran recalls the Day.

He’s anonymous. You don’t even know that he’s a man, though I do because I wrote the character and he’s modeled after a WWII veteran (not one I personally know, more of the archetype).

But you know what he went through, and how it changed the world.

I’ve been meaning to write up a reflection on how Horizon: Zero Dawn told stories. There’s a little bit of a weird connection between me and that game, because one of the production people who worked on it came to SIXMOREVODKA around the time I was doing contract work for Degenesis, and though I don’t really have any close connection to him or SIXMOREVODKA (I was a freelancer), it brought the game to my attention in a way it wouldn’t have been had I not known someone who worked on it.

And I have to say: Horizon told a story in a way I haven’t seen other games tell stories, and part of it is how real the characters are. By the time I was out of the introductory area, I already had a feel for the tragedy and depth of the world, and that’s something I want to bring into Kenoma.

Wrapping Up

Obviously, Cybrine Dreams is going to be a project that overlaps with a lot of Kenoma’s development, but I would expect to see continued progress on Kenoma more or less equivalent to the old pace.

The question of when Kenoma will be ready for public consumption in early access is still hanging in the air. I feel confident when I say “by the end of March,” but it may be sooner than that. It may be longer. Part of it is down to questions about what to include and how to include it.

For instance, I’m probably not going to have the opportunity to do authentic playtesting on long-range combat. It’s just not something that happens often in Kenoma as a setting, though you might see it out on the shell.

Do I include these and mark them as untested? Do I exclude them and keep them aside until I get a chance to run players through them? Do I not even make a note and wait to see if anyone complains, tweaking it as needed once I get feedback?

There’s no real handbook for this, and while I’m sure people would be happy to give me an answer that doesn’t make them right.

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