informa
2 min read
article

Romance in Sunless Sea, Part 1: Loneliness

The first post of three on how we worked to mesh theme, mechanics and narrative for the love and sex in SUNLESS SEA, our narrative-driven maritime exploration game. With cannibalism.

SUNLESS SEA is a narrative-driven maritime exploration game set in the universe of Fallen London. It's coming out of Early Access tomorrow (February 6th 2015). It's picked up a lot of love for its writing, its lore and its stories (RPS gave us a 'Best Words of 2014' award) - we wanted to talk about how we'd fitted the writing to the themes and the mechanics of the game.

Back in the very first video for the Kickstarter, we described SUNLESS SEA as a game of ‘exploration, survival and loneliness’. The first two themes are immediately evident in almost every aspect of the gameplay. The third is subtler, and we’ve spent a lot of the last two years thinking about how we can address it. It’s there in the art, of course, in the geography, in the sound design, in the moods we try to evoke in the writing – but I wanted to foreground it a little more. So I started looking at romance.

At night, and in far places, other people are the warmth between intervals of darkness. Love, and sex, are both ways to generate that warmth, and both come up constantly in stories about seafaring. Odysseus seeks Penelope but tarries with Calypso. Mermaids lure men to their deaths. Folkloric American sailor-spouses watch for their husbands from galleries called “widow’s walks”. We’ve never heard of ‘train-carriage romance’ or ‘roadside romance’ but we have ‘shipboard romances’. Sailors have a girl in every port. Sodomy, along with rum and the lash, was supposedly one of the great naval traditions. And on and on.

Two things about those examples. First, you probably noticed that all of them have a pretty clear gender bias. Well, that’s sea stories for you. In SUNLESS SEA, of course, we stripped back the gender biases and went with our Fallen London approach (described by one friendly soul as ‘tumblrtarded’) of making all roles and characters available to all genders and none.  This caused some problems of its own, which I’ll come back to later.

The second thing is that these examples all fall easily into two categories: romance as the comfort of home, and romance as interlude. Both of those, of course, are responses to loneliness – and loneliness is where we came in.

In the next post, I'll talk about romance as the comfort of home, and how we implemented it in SUNLESS SEA.

Latest Jobs

Studio Pixanoh LLC

Los Angeles, California
05.20.22
Combat Designer

Treyarch

Playa Vista, California or Vancouver, BC
05.20.22
AI Engineer

Question

Remote
05.20.22
Lead Level Designer (South Park)

Remedy Entertainment

Helsinki Metropolitan Area, Finland
05.23.22
Rigging Artist
More Jobs   

CONNECT WITH US

Register for a
Subscribe to
Follow us

Game Developer Account

Game Developer Newsletter

@gamedevdotcom

Register for a

Game Developer Account

Gain full access to resources (events, white paper, webinars, reports, etc)
Single sign-on to all Informa products

Register
Subscribe to

Game Developer Newsletter

Get daily Game Developer top stories every morning straight into your inbox

Subscribe
Follow us

@gamedevdotcom

Follow us @gamedevdotcom to stay up-to-date with the latest news & insider information about events & more