Thursday, July 17, 2014

I'm Tired of Saving the World

Lately I've been playing a lot of Atelier Escha & Logy. It's a JRPG in a long line of Alchemy-focused RPGs. The primary mechanic of the game is that you're an alchemist, so the item system is incredibly complex. You combine items in recipes, but you can substitute ingredients to achieve different effects. For example, maybe a recipe will call for something flammable. Early in the game, you may only have paper scraps. Later on, you might have exotic oils with much more interesting properties. If you've played FFXIV, it's not dissimilar to the crafting system there; just add a few more layers of complexity.

Logy and Escha. Note the 'g' in Logy is soft, so it sounds like "Low-gee"
Of course, as an alchemist, you're doing combat as you explore for ingredients, so it's not all just item creation and talking to your party members. But the interesting thing to me about this game is that it's billed by a lot of people as a slice-of-life game. You're not out there saving the world, you're doing your job as a government official alchemist in an R&D department, which includes exploring ruins to gather ingredients, making new items, and helping townsfolk out with your alchemy.

High/Epic Fantasy, such as Tolkien, Final Fantasy, the Tales series, Mass Effect, and so on are all about country, world, or universe threatening problems. It's easy to create tension in a story using that motif, and the hero's journey is an extremely old yet effective plot outline. Don't get me wrong, I love epic fantasy, but the same tropes do get tiring once in a while.

We have lots of slice-of-life comics, such as Questionable Content, Boy Meets Boy, and Something Positive, and sitcoms are a veritable treasure trove of slice-of-life television shows, but not so many slice-of-life story-based games, despite the popularity of the genre in other mediums.

In the Atelier series, while there are moments at the end where something bad happens and you have to save your town/friends anyhow, the grand majority of the game isn't about that, and I find it frankly refreshing. Now, it does help that I really enjoy the deep alchemy system, and combat is pretty well done too, but I don't really find myself missing that driving need to save all the things.

There are slice-of-life games such as Rune Factory, Harvest Moon, and Tomodachi Life, but for those the story has been rather anemic. The Rune Factory series probably has the strongest story of the ones I've played, but it still leans heavily on the hero's journey and save the town tropes, and if you're talking Animal Crossing, there's no real story being told. It's not like you're peering into the life of a farmer, or a surgeon, or an alchemist. You're in a community simulator, where you can make a story, but it's not really cohesive; it's interesting because you have emergent story, rather than a crafted one allowing you to be in someone else's shoes for a period of time.

Princess Elodie, learning about Military Strategy
Long Live the Queen is a good example of a slice-of-life game, where you play as the Princess Elodie, who's mother just died and you have a year until you ascend the throne. Every week, you decide what courses to take, and pass or fail skill checks along the way, hoping to avoid assassination and ascend the throne. A great little game with a view of what a Princess in a contested kingdom might be like.

So give me more peeks into people's day-to-day lives. What's the day-to-day life of a Wizard like? How about a game where you're a Teacher and you need to ensure your students are on the right track? Tell me in the comments below if you know of any other good slice-of-life games, because I'm tried of saving the world right now.

#GameDesign, #SliceOfLife


  1. That's one of the things I actually really liked about Dragon Age 2 -- it's not a "OMG AN EVIL IS THREATENING THE WORLD AND YOU MUST STOP IT!" It's just stuff that happens with a climax slowly building.

    Also reminds me of the Aielund Saga for NWN -- though it does wind up being fighting against epic stuff to save the world, it builds gradually and starts as "You're just this guy trying to help the local town."

    1. I rather enjoyed DA2 for that reason myself. The city is still threatened at the end, but most of the game is just you and your family surviving in a new and treacherous city.

  2. Hmm, you may want to consider Christine Love's Digital: A Love Story and Analogue: A Hate Story.

    The former simulates the BBS days semi-realistically, and tells a story about a hacker falling in love with someone they met online. The latter involves quite a bit of reading, and is sort of detective work through historical records recreating someone's life on a Korean spaceship and finding out what befell.

    Another possibility is trawling through Interactive Fiction. Text-based, but generally very good at creating a sense of atmosphere and putting you into someone else's shoes.

    Going to the IFcomp webpage ( and trying out the top 3-5 of each year generally shows off the ones with quality, since they were all voted in by actual people playing them.

    1. Oh that's cool. Definitely going to check out ifcomp,org. Thanks for the tip, looks promising already!

  3. I've always told myself, if there is one type of fiction I'd like to write, it would be a mash-up of Southern Gothic and High Fantasy. I'm fascinated by the idea of the everyday lives of the non-heroic figures not trying to go on some great quest in an epic fantasy adventure.

    I think it would translate well to games, too. Imagine playing a farmer's son who has to avoid crazy monsters at night, feed his family, and not fail to satisfy the wants and whims of his Lord. There's real drama in the day-to-day of the little folk that I feel gets missed entirely because anyone who stars in a fantasy story has to be turned into some fated hero figure.

    It's dull. Let's do something different.

    1. Not much to add other than +1. I'd play that game!