Game design

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This an open forum to discuss game design. These are neither Bugs nor Suggestions (though they may lead to bug reports and game proposals) but rather points to consider for maintaining balance and consistency.

Combat-centric gameplay

Combat appears to be the most efective way to earn XP. I believe that there must be a means to reward non-combatants more than what healing and chopping vegetation provides. --Lint 04:05, 15 March 2006 (GMT)

  • Shouldn't exploring be rewarded? Isn't that why statistics on exploration are kept? --One of many doctors 02:51, 20 March 2006 (GMT)
    • It is, but in a fairly limited manner - chance of getting 1XP for chopping into a d10 jungle block. Of course, what with all the intrepid explorers wandering around, there don't seem to be that many of those right now. --Simon 23:57, 20 March 2006 (GMT)
      • Even worse, the chance of getting the 1XP at all seems terrible. Chopping d10 Jungle is the Book-reading of Shartak. In my humble opinion, chopping max jungle should be closer to 33%-100% chance of 1XP, in order to result in at least as much XP as eating forbidden fruit (farming the poison berry / mango grove; about 4 XP per 12 AP). My XP comes from killing animals ... And a game-wide tally of XP earned would probably show similar overall results. --Tycho44 06:22, 12 April 2006 (BST)
        • (Previous comment was made before the stealth game modification of 1XP chance from chopping jungle - has the chance of gaining XP now been increased to 33%??) --Tycho44 06:40, 15 May 2006 (BST)

And I suppose it's not just an issue of XP, but also recognizing other playing goals. In addition to kills, there should be a log for non-combat-oriented activities like healing, revival, chopping, searching, swimming. This would however require a great deal of variable recording and I'm not familiar with supporting an MMORPG to know what kind of stress that would put on the server. --Lint 20:34, 16 April 2006 (BST)

Slow combat

Base accuracy for a weapon is higher than a fist, which is arguably unrealistic. One assumes that you would be less skilled with a weapon than your own hand. (I recall reading a similar comment to this, but I can't find it at the moment.) --Lint 22:52, 2 March 2006 (GMT)

  • All characters appear to have a 10% chance to deal 1 damage with punching.
  • Knives and Daggers appear to have a 20% chance to deal 1 damage.
maybe it is just the punch only has a ten percent chance to actually doing damage(the text does say missed however), I know if i fought somebody who has a knife(or dagger) in RL they would do more to me than me to them, even if niether of us have any training,ex. Fists are a strange weapon and to actually do any damage with a punch(mainly only at the strongest point in your swing) you have to have some good timing.-- Daylan 02:02, 3 March 2006 (GMT)
I see what you're saying... how about punch 50-70% with a 20-30% chance of inflicting 1 damage after a successful hit, 0 damage otherwise (making it 10-21% but with 3 different messages - miss, hit but don't do damage, hit and do damage). --Simon 10:56, 4 March 2006 (GMT)
Let me point out that this isn't really a problem. It's just something that a die-hard realist would try to press. On one hand, you can have Fists as the most accurate weapon until you get weapon skills (which will make the the first levels incredibly painful). On the other hand, you can have weapons as more accurate than fists (which allow new users to quickly become involved in the game). I don't know if I'd have the patience if it took me 70 AP to kill a parrot. --Lint 16:12, 4 March 2006 (GMT)

Type (faction) balance

Axiom: Outsiders and Natives should not have a complete advantage over the other.
Axiom: Outsiders and Natives should be different, but equal.

Class Population Data

The following are class-by-class breakdowns of active characters:

970 active characters
(15 May 2006)
Outsiders 651 67%
Explorers 85 9%
Soldiers 241 25%
Settlers 37 4%
Scientists 62 6%
Subtotal non-Pirates 425 44%
Pirates 226 23%
Natives 319 33%
Shamans 117 12%
Warriors 121 12%
Villagers 43 4%
Scouts 38 4%
1037 active
(21 Jun 06)
695 67%
71 7%
240 23%
46 4%
65 6%
422 41%
273 26%
342 33%
128 12%
129 12%
39 4%
46 4%
1112 active
(3 Sep 06)
719 65%
87 8%
244 22%
43 4%
67 6%
441 40%
278 25%
393 35%
131 12%
163 15%
46 4%
53 5%
1121 active
(22 Jan 07)
755 67%
91 8%
259 23%
51 5%
52 5%
453 40%
302 27%
366 33%
107 10%
150 13%
61 5%
48 4%
1148 active
(10 Mar 07)
778 68%
96 8%
245 21%
59 5%
55 5%
455 40%
323 28%
370 32%
113 10%
151 13%
59 5%
47 4%

1087 active characters
(19 June 2007)
Outsiders 723 67%
Explorers 80 7%
Soldiers 262 24%
Settlers 59 5%
Scientists 51 5%
Subtotal non-Pirates: 452 42%
Pirates 271 25%
Natives 364 33%
Shamans 119 11%
Warriors 144 13%
Villagers 59 5%
Scouts 42 4%
987 active
(30 Sep 07)
636 64%
77 8%
225 23%
52 5%
52 5%
406 41%
230 23%
351 36%
114 12%
140 14%
63 6%
34 3%
966 active
(13 Dec 07)
614 64%
77 8%
209 22%
56 6%
56 6%
398 41%
216 22%
352 36%
126 13%
123 13%
61 6%
42 4%
900 active
(14 Apr 08)
557 62%
76 8%
204 23%
51 6%
56 6%
387 43%
170 19%
343 38%
119 13%
127 14%
57 6%
40 4%
790 active
(30 Jul 08)
486 62%
68 9%
170 22%
43 5%
51 6%
332 42%
154 19%
304 38%
102 13%
117 15%
52 7%
33 4%

Since the Introduction of Cannibals

1019 active characters
(07 September 2008)
Outsiders 556 55%
Explorers 82 8%
Soldiers 214 21%
Settlers 61 6%
Scientists 50 5%
Subtotal non-Pirates: 407 40%
Pirates 149 15%
Natives 463 45%
Shamans 99 10%
Warriors 121 12%
Villagers 50 5%
Scouts 32 3%
Subtotal non-Cannibals: 302 30%
Cannibals 161 16%
1000 active
(21 Oct 08)
548 55%
70 7%
210 21%
67 7%
43 4%
390 39%
158 16%
452 45%
112 11%
110 11%
51 5%
33 3%
306 30%
146 15%
938 active
(20 Jan 09)
511 54%
71 8%
167 18%
85 9%
39 4%
362 39%
149 16%
427 46%
108 12%
116 12%
41 4%
34 4%
299 32%
128 14%

Class Population Discussion

Natives are currently outnumbered by Outsiders. --04:05, 15 March 2006 (GMT)

  • The introduction of Pirates as an Outsider character class may further tip the population imbalance without a Native counterpart. --Lint 02:49, 20 March 2006 (GMT)

Outsiders continue to greatly outnumber natives, as of September 3 2006 the margin was 65%-35% in favor of outsiders, with 719 active outsiders vs. 393 active natives. This is down from a ratio of 67%-33% several months ago. The population breakdown by town and village is not available (and not significant anyway, since at any time characters from a given town will be all over the island).


  • Outsiders have a huge advantage with 5 HP bottles of water vs 1 HP gourds of water. Fixed.
  • Outsider soldiers have a big advantage over warriors, since the blowpipe is worthless. Fixed.
  • Outsider camps are coastal (easy to find driftwood, hard to get lost). Outsiders have the cool and valuable GPS units, while wiki-less natives get terribly lost in the jungle -- that doesn't make sense. Natives should innately know their way home as an advantage to counterbalance their geographic location and loss of GPS. --Tycho44 07:49, 27 May 2006 (BST) (revised 01:46, 22 June 2006 (UTC))
  • Outsiders have a large advantage over natives by sheer force of numbers, though this is mitigated by pirates being a somewhat separate group from the non-pirate outsiders.
  • On both sides the largest class is the soldier class. On the outsider side this is not out of line with the storyline of the game, as early colonial efforts were often heavily military-based, but it is somewhat out of line with the native side.
  • There is an inordinate number of native shamans and pirates. The pirates can be explained easily enough (a fleet of pirate ships crashed and they saw the chance to loot the island), but why would 37% of natives be shamans?
(I'm not bothered by this, Shartak is so stuffed with wailing spirits that attuned natives make sense. The name of the class cannot and should not define or constrain the role that the player wants to play - there are some shamans who explore, others who trade, some who kill outsiders and some who kill their own tribe. --Tycho44 07:49, 27 May 2006 (BST))
  • Settlers and villagers remain the smallest groups, despite having the great Scavenging skill available to them. If this lack of settlers/villagers is seen as a problem, one thing to do could be to boost their starting inventory and change their description on the sign up page to something more exciting (it currently says "just your average outsider/native")
  • January 2007 update: Population percentages and totals have remained remarkably static over the past 8 months. Native underpopulation remains a problem, and pirate overpopulation remains a problem(?).

Thank you for doing the legwork of gathering this data and presenting it in table form.
However, I must disagree with the basic premise of this suggestion. An assumption has been made here that because there are fewer Natives than Outsiders that Natives are somehow "losing" and Outsiders are somehow "winning". Rather in the actual game Outsiders and Natives rarely interact at all; the majority of interaction is within those two groups, not between them, often involving only characters of the same camp. Factions, alliances, enemies and role playing contacts occur almost exclusively among Outsiders or Natives, rarely crossing that line. There are, admittedly, a few individuals who simply kill any member of the "other" group on sight. But they are shooting blindly, without real knowledge of who they are attacking.
The cause of this imbalance, IMHO, is more about real life biases than anything in game. The vast majority of films, books and other media set in the early colonial era is told from the viewpoint of Europeans entering the New World. Players bring with them that baggage, and may therefore find it difficult to imagine themselves as a Native. No changes within this game are going to change that bias, and anything to bulk up the Natives for that purpose will simply discourage those who want to play Outsiders.
There is another game in which folks have wailed and cried over the low population of Zombies relative to the number of Survivors. The designer and folks on the Suggestions page have taken the tack of buffing Zombies with new skills, abilities and means of earning XP, leading to Zombies who can do everything but play frisbee and dance the polka. This has not changed the proportion of Zombie characters in the game one whit, but has instead led to some very, very dismal times for the Survivor characters. Why has it not worked? Because there was no problem in the first place: players were simply taking and playing the role they wanted to play. Doing so is the whole point of an RPG.
It's not the job of a Suggestion page or a game designer to tell players which role they should want to play. The goal should just be to provide the game mechanic tools and character gen choices necessary to fulfill whatever role the players might envision (as appropriate to the setting), without any significant imbalance among those choices.--Nosimplehiway 15:45, 15 February 2007 (UTC)
It really has nothing to with 'winning' or 'losing' (whatever those terms mean here), it has to do with the problem of relative lack of activity in native settlements, historically in the game and continuing presently, which weakens and limits the game, it seriously stifles the game and its growth and success. Understand that we were/are speaking here out of genuine concern for the game, not as a couple of sore native-players pouting about us only making up 32% of the game population, or some such thing. One major reason people have not chosen to make native "alts" (your argument of why the great majority would make their "main account" an outsider is solid) is the knowledge of many of the very real inferiorities built into the game (unintentionally) against the native faction, which discouraged people from playing as them, or induced them to idle out their native accounts. And lack of any cool advantages to playing natives. Historically there was every reason not to play as a native. The historical inferiorities built into the game for natives has mostly been corrected over the months, but more can be done to balance things, and there should be some more incentive to play a native than there presently is, in my opinion. This will encourage more people, when they are making another account, to consider making it a native. Pirate overpopulation remains a serious problem too (see forum thread linked to above for the 'why'). Arminius 01:30, 10 March 2007 (UTC)

Actions exclusive to character type

Actions that Natives by default can perform, that Outsiders by default cannot:

  • Can determine the difference between "Tasty" and "Poisonous" berries.
  • Can use Blowpipe and poison darts
  • Can use Healing Herbs
  • Can understand other Natives

Actions that Outsiders by default can perform, that Natives by default cannot:

  • Can use a GPS unit
  • Can use Rifles and bullets
  • Can use First Aid Kits
  • Can understand other Outsiders

Class balance

Axiom: No class should have a complete advantage over the other.

Soldiers and warriors

According to the chart, Soldiers have a slight advantage over other classes in regards to skills. Add to that their high HP, gives them even more of an edge. The only disadvantage they face is the process of searching and reloading ammunition. --Lint 22:52, 2 March 2006 (GMT)

Assuming that chart is accurate, the soldier isn't even the most advantageous class among his own group! The scientist has more total skills available then a soldier, and if you give more preference to being able to shoot a gun, then it is important to note how low search rates are, and that ammunition is even more rare. --Jackel 00:27, 3 March 2006 (GMT)
The chart isn't complete. I did make some assumptions in possible skills based on what we know about the skill trees, but I don't think that it was wholly inaccurate to do so. --Lint 00:40, 3 March 2006 (GMT)


Shamans supposedly don't start with any items and have the lowest HP.

  • Counterpoint: Shamans and their outsider counterpart, Scientists, are among some of the highest ranking characters at the moment. Something is obviously working. --Lint 22:52, 2 March 2006 (GMT)
What shamen may lack in starting inventory they more than make up for in overall skill potential (seemingly the most of any class). What good is starting with a banana or a few extra bullets by comparison? --Jackel 00:27, 3 March 2006 (GMT)
Say What now? Which skill is exclusively shaman? I've seen none.--Wifey 14:58, 8 May 2006 (BST)
At the time of writing, the shaman class seemed to have access to skill trees that other classes did not. Those comments are no longer accurate. --Jackel 19:03, 8 May 2006 (BST)
It is possible that Scientist and Shaman have a slightly higher find rate for items -- there is not nearly enough data to know if something like that is the case. --Tycho44 06:45, 15 May 2006 (BST)


According to the statistics, there is a lack of interest in Villagers and Settlers. --Lint 22:52, 2 March 2006 (GMT)

I agree, at this point there doesn't seem to be any overiding appeal for these classes, which logically should be the most abundant, at least with regards to villagers. --Jackel 00:27, 3 March 2006 (GMT)

There are currently two more Villagers than Scouts. Settlers currently remain the lowest. --Lint 01:44, 8 May 2006 (BST)

The introduction of Scavenging makes the Villager and Settler extremely powerful. Currently the Scout and Explorer appear weakest (their higher max AP pool isn't noted on the character class page, and also they might have a lower chance of 'forgetting' without cartography...). --Tycho44 05:48, 8 May 2006 (BST)
That possible cartography-related ability is interesting. Never considered that. --Lint 07:15, 8 May 2006 (BST)

When I first started playing I didn't really know which class to pick. I decided on villager because that class sounded interesting. I played for a little while, got a bit better idea how the game worked, looked up the skills a bit more, and decided that the villager skills sucked, because: 1. So what if I'm less likely to be attacked by an animal? I've been sleeping in the jungle and I don't see animal attacks as much of a threat, and even if they were, *how much* less likely is it going to be? Is the difference enough to spend the XP on? 2. Scavenging *could* be good, but since I know neither the starting search odds nor the odds with that skill or in what places search rates are improved, how do I know it's worth bothering with? 3. I can't tell the difference between sixth sense, psychic recognition, and the villager/shaman skill seance. From the description, I really can't tell what extra bonus I'd get from having that skill. And even then, I don't see how knowing that spirits are around is that useful (unless you're a shaman and can exorcise them/etc.). 4. You can't upgrade your blowpipe hit % like you can with the warrior. Very weak combat-wise, with not enough to compensate.

When I made my character I saw: "I know how to handle animals and can find things that others can't." I thought that meant I could *do* something with animals (cool) and could well, find things that others couldn't (also cool). Guess not. Don't mean to complain, just explaining why I dumped my villager in a hut and started a new character (warrior).

On a different note, as to why I didn't pick shaman, the description "Spirits don't bother me any more, I'll exorcise them!" I thought was lame. I was like, "Huh, what do I care if my character isn't afraid of ghosts? Do spirits even exist in this game?" But, later when I read up on the wiki I learned about how players can be spirits and actually *do* stuff as spirits for awhile, so they actually are kinda important to the game. Then I learned about how shamans can exorcise them and actually *do* other useful things with them, I thought, "That's pretty cool." But I didn't pick shaman for my new character even though it seemed cool because I wanted to do a different playing style.

I think what should happen is that everyone starts as a "general" outsider, "general" native, (or just a pirate), and then can pick which class they want to upgrade to later, like at least wait until you get enough XP to actually buy a skill. Like a "Now that you've earned over 100 XP, you can decide what class you want to specialize in." message pops up, and when you go to "Buy Skills" it gives you a "Available Specialties" button where you can read up on the different specialties, and if/when you're ready you can choose your class. I hadn't even bought any skills yet but I couldn't switch my villager to a different class, it sucked. --Buttercup 12:02, 26 December 2007 (UTC)

Thanks for that. :) – Wulla (talk) 16:39, 26 December 2007 (UTC)


Are there any game mechanics (besides HP, starting inventory, and available skills) that are influenced by your character class? Should there be? --Lint 22:52, 2 March 2006 (GMT)

  • Inventory size
  • Base accuracy
  • Base damage
  • Search odds
  • AP limit
  • I have 3 characters and i have more higher search odds with the scientist (3 heavy swords) than the others .. i don't know if it's only a matter of luck or not..--JonesDye 10:08, 7 March 2006 (GMT)

It has since been revealed that Scouts may possess more AP than the other classes. (See Requests for information for more) --Lint 01:44, 8 May 2006 (BST)

Gameplay balance (XP-gaining paths)

Interactivity Axiom: Generally speaking, player-player interaction improves a game, and should be encouraged.

Diversity Axiom: Generally speaking, having players engaging in a wide range of activities improves a game, and should be encouraged.

Diversity in XP-Gaining Corollary: There should be multiple distinct paths to gaining XP.

Three Fundamental Axioms of Gaining XP:

DANGER AXIOM: Ways of earning XP that are dangerous and risky should be more lucrative than ways that are safe. (Dangerous: chance of death; risky: variable gains, a chance of little gain.)

  • A. Danger is often actualized as loss of AP through death or wounds, and accurate economic analysis must account for these additional costs.
  • B. Variable (risky) returns are not as valuable as a guaranteed return with the same mean value -- compare the stock market to treasury bills.
  • C. Rewarding dangerous playing styles typically increases interactivity and diversity.

COMPLEXITY AXIOM: Ways of earning XP that are complex and challenging should be more lucrative than ways that are simple.

  • A. The richness of complexity and challenge attracts more players to a game.
  • B. A long learning curve keeps players interested.
  • C. Complexity typically increases interactivity and diversity.

COHERENCY AXIOM: Ways of earning XP that are absorbing and realistic should be more lucrative than ways that are irrational. (Realistic: here means plausible and self-coherent – vampires that fear sunlight and crosses are fine, vampires that fear grassland and snakes are not.)

  • A. A game with a rich and engaging atmosphere keeps players more interested than a game that is arbitrary and incomprehensible.

In other words, if we observe paths to XP that are Safe, Simple, and Unrealistic, these paths should provide less XP per AP than other paths that are Dangerous, Complex, and Absorbing.

Broader Applicability of these Axioms: Note that these axioms are stated for earning XP, but they apply equally to earning Gold Coins, appearing on a high score list, or achieving any other victory conditions.