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5 ways we've made Fhtagn’s stories come alive

by Janke van Jaarsveld on 02/13/19 12:14:00 pm

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.

 

A few months ago we released Fhtagn! a choose-your-own-adventure game on Steam, where you can play as one of four cultists intent on releasing an Ancient Horror. In this text-driven game you decide how you will be preparing for the final ritual by visiting various locations in the unsuspecting town of Arkham and navigating iconic Lovecraftian events. Battle investigators, gangs, corrupt cops and horrors from the Depths to bring about the end of the world!

Even though Fhtagn! was created to be a casual, replayable game, there is a lot of content: a total of 93 000 words, played across 113 events with 370 potential story outcomes, 24 roles with 56 role feedback stories and 142 different character endings. With so many stories, we wanted to make sure that the player would experience ludicrous, action-packed and creepy stories through quality and immersive content. Below we look at the 5 things we incorporated in our stories to do just that.

Engaging content

In this party/boardgame-esque game, stories are written to provide the player with multi-optional stories, with continual replay value and various outcomes and results. Each event is written like a mini-saga, allowing the player to fully experience the bizarre world of Fhtagn!, the milieu, actions and consequences, in just a few paragraphs. Instead of experiencing one long and exhaustive story, we wanted players to have the satisfaction of experiencing a bunch of awesome stories in one playthrough while having a singular purpose of summoning an Eldritch Horror and ending the world.   

Balancing horror with dark humour

The Cthulhu mythos, in all its stygian glory, has various dark elements that make for interesting stories, but which can drain the sanity of even the staunchest reader. That is why maintaining balance between horror and humour in our stories is crucial to ensure that the stories do not get too overwhelmingly disturbing and disrupt the immersive qualities of the narrative. Eldritch Horrors, doomsday cults and the occult are finely balanced with humour and the surprisingly bizarre. The dark stories that your character encounter give the game its unique personality.

Life can still be good in a post-apocalyptic world ruled by an Ancient Evil, right?

Fun game mechanics  

Serving an Eldritch Horror never ends well. In Fhtagn! failing is just as fun as winning. To ensure a healthy dosage of both, the stories were not just created to be an interactive novel, but also to balance stat requirements. Choose your options carefully based on the stats you have accrued, but don’t worry, failure still rewards a few stats … we’re not monsters after all. Tired of guessing what stat you need for that option? Use the “Elder Signs” you gain after every playthrough to show you exactly what is needed.  There is a lot of fun to be had with different cults and game modes. You can play alone or with your friends in local co-op or screenshare where you can stab them in the back and make sure it is them on the chopping block and not you.

Choices and content fatigue management

Based on your choices in the final ritual, Fhtagn! has more than 140 different endings. With so many stories and with more that you can download, what stops you from seeing the same old story over and over again? With our content fatigue management system, we ensure that stories and outcomes you have not seen before get a higher chance of appearing, ensuring that you are guaranteed to experience all the stories if you play long enough. Additionally, if you download a new mod or story, these will show up preferentially, till all the stories start to balance out again.

Choices, choices!

Content Creator for players

We are so passionate about the idea of stories that we created an additional application, the Fhtagn! Content Creator, for players to write their own stories for the game and enjoy it with their friends. We expected players to rush through our stories quicker than we could generate them. So, to help with content fatigue, we encourage players to make use of our Steam Workshop feature, to create their own stories and share them with the community, so that we all can enjoy new, fun and silly encounters. All that is needed is a story idea and no programming is required. We provided players with a Quick Start Video Guide, Content Creator Guide and even released all of Fhtagn!'s event stories in a Google Sheet online, to aid in this process.

Bonus: We love surprises!

From secret encounters to hidden achievements, there are some unexpected and concealed elements to the game. Some activities are purposefully more challenging to achieve, to reward the more determined player. For the eagle-eyed reader, we also included numerous ‘Easter eggs’ in our content and these geeky gems promise to elicit a guffaw or two.

These are just some of the highlights that make our stories enjoyable. Fhtagn! is packed with bizarre characters, a fantastical 1930s world and intriguing events, all of which can be experienced with a jazzy/swing soundtrack, snazzy neo-noir visuals and just a hint of betrayal.

We hope you enjoy our stories as much as we enjoyed writing them. We’d love to hear what you think of the stories and the world of Fhtagn! So, what the Fhtagn! are you waiting for? Drop us a comment.


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