|Update: Legacy Chain|
December 4, 2020
The idea that has been implemented this week has been a long time coming.
This game is supposed to be about a bunch of different things: the deep mystery of a trans-generational civilization (who built all this, and why?), being a small part of something much bigger than yourself, the philosophical concept of the veil of ignorance (where you can't control or predict what situation you are born into), and trying to get as close as possible to what death might actually feel like (saying goodbye forever to the people that you have grown to love).
The initial design of the game tied all of these concepts together nicely. You are born to a randomly-chosen mother somewhere in the world, the next step in a long lineage of other players going back into time immemorial. You pick up where your ancestors left off, making contributions and improvements in the little time you have. You have babies in the form of other players who are themselves randomly assigned to you as their mother. And at the end of your hour-long life, you say goodbye to all of this in a very real way, because if you get born again, it will be to a different mother in a completely different situation.
On paper, it seems like an elegant design in terms of the way it embodies the underlying philosophical concepts, with each part of the structure reinforcing the other parts. And it does work, for the most part, in practice. It gives you the right feelings at the right times.
However, beyond giving you complex feelings and embodying interesting philosophical concepts, games are also meant to be played. And for One Hour One Life to function, it must be played over and over, at least by a substantial portion of its playerbase.
For example, if each player only played the game once, and had a deep and meaningful experience in that one life, we might see the game as fulfilling its purpose, and those players might even feel like they got their $20 worth of art and entertainment. However, given that the game is a multiplayer venture, it would completely fall apart, in very short order, if every paying customer played only once.
And the unfortunate fact is that the game structure, as initially designed, is NOT particularly compelling to play over and over, due to a lack of continuity from hour to hour or any sense of long-term progress.
The question: After an hour spent playing a good and satisfying life, why would you immediately want to play again? You'll be thrown into a completely different situation, unable to continue progressing in whatever project you were working on in the last life. For a large segment of the playerbase, the answer is that they do not immediately feel like playing another life after finishing one.
The game would benefit from some sense of continuity across lives, but to achieve that, something has to give, philosophically. I need to prioritize the philosophical goals, and commit to the primary goals, while letting the secondary goals slide a bit in the name of playability.
Saying goodbye to those you love is a nice aspect of this game, but it's not the most important aspect. Still, I've been holding onto it, trying to keep it, even though being able to reborn back in the same family solves the continuity problem and many other problems with the game. I think that it's time to let this aspect go a bit.
After all, even if you do get reborn in the same family again, the composition of that family will be different. They will have moved on in time. Some of them will have died. And you will never be 100% clear about who's who. Your family will be a mix of reincarnated friends and total strangers. You will still be saying goodbye to some degree, every time you die.
So, this week's update allows you to get reborn to your own descendants, as long as some of them still survive. This will allow you to continue working on whatever projects your family is working on, life after life.
Of course, there's a catch: you have to live until old age in your last life to get reborn in this way. Die young, and your personal connection to your family line will be broken, and you'll be born into a different family.
And it's not limited to the cases where you get reborn immediately after dying. If your descendants are still alive tomorrow, you can be born to them tomorrow. Thus, if you want to play this way, you will be highly motivated to set your offspring up in a good situation to ensure their long-term survival.
You can see how this change also helps to address something that I've been struggling with for a very long time: how to get you to care about the survival of your kids. Genetic score was a kind of artificial and rigid way to make you care. Letting you get reborn to your descendants is a much more natural and organic way.
And one more detail, for those who are interested: for females, descendants are daughters, granddaughters, and so on. For men, descendants are nieces, grand nieces, and so on, and in some cases, much-younger sisters. So it's really not about getting born into the same family again, but instead specifically about recurring in your own direct line.