Solo Dev Diary - The Royal Cartographer

A quick announcement: The Royal Cartographer will launch on kickstarter on February the 8th, with 8 professional cartographers working on the campaign to provide maps to play on! The link is here:

The “multiplayer” version of The Royal Cartographer has a reminder at the very beginning: this is a cooperative game.

As players, you want to have everybody's community represented on the map - yes, you could play it so some are left out, but that’s not going to be a good time for whoever is excluded. The game is about fighting a (metaphorical and mechanical) system against its cartographic impositions. 

So how do you reconcile that in solo play? How do you replicate the negotiating and collaborating? If you, as the solo player, are creating 2+ cultures and then are made to choose them, how do you justify that in a narrative sense? 

The options were two - 

  • either a total free-for-all, in which you both create the communities and choose which landmarks to represent, so the motivation for your choices is entirely internal or:
  • “Removing” the responsibility by one: the choices are made for you, and you can choose to fight them back (or not).

The second one was far better because it doesn’t exclude the first - you can still just ignore that system and play the solo version as a free-for-all! 

The next question was easy: if responsibility had to be removed from the player so the player can fight back, then who makes the choices? 

The Regent, of course.

The Regent

It made perfect sense to cast the player in the role of the Cartographer. It almost plays like a sequel to the multiplayer game; seeing the same game from the Cartographer’s perspective we see that actually, they had no choice either, it was the Regent calling the shots all along.

So the solo game became two phases: first, you create communities, then you play as the Cartographer who is now fighting against the Regent. The first part is worldbuilding, and the second is journaling, as you document why the Regent makes certain choices, and how you fight back against them. 

At that point, because this had become a solo journaling game, there needed to be some narrative prompts.

Thus were born the prompts justifying why the Regent wants certain landmarks over others - and yes, some of them are petty, for example the Regent having a nice childhood memory related to some of them. But there are also “geopolitical” reasons - maps are political tools after all, and so I wanted a good range of personal and “kingdom-wide” prompts, like wanting a particular landmark on the official map to legitimate the claim "that's part of our land". Which also poses the question: which ones does the Cartographer fight against? ARE these landmarks in the Kingdom?

Which maybe, just maybe, makes me think I should create Cartographer profiles…

But that’s for further on in development. I hope you liked reading some of the thoughts behind the solo journaling version of the Royal Cartographer, and please do check out the Kickstarter campaign once it launches!

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