What was your biggest challenge making Cultist Simulator, and how did you overcome it?
I wanted to create an experience that felt like learning magic, if magic really existed – a nest of mysteries and a series of ‘aha!’ moments when you understand the secret laws of the world. Those ‘aha!’ moments are most exciting when the game has seemed opaque and the player has felt confused. But confused players lose patience very quickly. If the game had been more straightforward, it would have been much less interesting, but early versions were so opaque as to be almost unplayable.
So, I left trails of breadcrumbs. Some of them were in the narrative and the flavor text – different patterns and motifs start making sense at a poetic or a mythological level. Some are in the mechanics – players sense patterns and start trying similar things instinctively. But what really made the difference was the UI. I added many more hints when people had part of a solution, to nudge them towards the full solution, so that interaction with the game felt more like a conversation between the game and the player. That’s when it came alive.
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