It was supposed to be a short test run – a quick flight to Alpha Centauri and back. But when mankind’s first experimental jump drive goes wrong, a misfit crew finds itself trapped on the wrong side of the universe – alone, injured, lost. The only way back… is through.
The Long Journey Home is a space-exploration RPG from Daedalic Studio West, with a heavy focus on both replayability and personality. Inspired by the likes of Star Control 2, Starflight, Mass Effect, Farscape and Firefly, we set out to combine the best elements of roguelikes – choice, scope, unpredictability – with real characters and stories the player could sink their teeth into and feel at home with. It’s a fun, funny romp, but built on the sense of homesickness we can all identify with, the wonder that newcomers to space always report, and the split between how amazing and terrifying this experience would be.
I was the writer on the project, producing and mechanically scripting over 160,000 words of key text and dialogue (the equivalent of two standard novels!), as well as coming up with most of the alien/character concepts and universe lore – a trickier matter than in most RPGs, given that there’s no way to know what the player will see, or even which of the eight major Empires will be in the game. That produced a lot of writing challenges and figuring out interesting ways for the scripting engine to keep conversations fresh and make the universe feel like a living place.
The best part about this project though was that it was one of those where having a small team allowed for everyone to pitch cool stuff in over the place – I designed many of the base quests, but in implementation the quest designers would come up with something awesome that we could feed back into the writing and art; the aliens were about 50/50 my coming up with a concept and the artists executing it, and them inventing awesome aliens and me coming up with their personality and lore. The Cueddhaest religious group for example were the art team’s visual image, programmer Hannes inventing a clever way of having multiple characters participate in normally one-person conversations, and then my scripting to turn what had originally been a somewhat dull, ponderous faction into a far more lively mix of over-eager missionaries with a feuding old married couple personality. This was the joy of most of the project – ideas flying, the relevant people picking them up, and lots of “What? No. That’s impossible!” quickly turning into “I’ve implemented it and it’s very, very cool…”
(Particular narrative features that I’m very fond of here include that quest-givers typically return in person to deliver their rewards or complain about failing quests, the crew chatters throughout the entire voyage, their personalities and outlook changing as a result of their experiences and the tone of the game being based on who you’ve brought, and a small personal one, that quest briefings are always in the form of “We have been asked to” rather than “You must.”)
Choose four of ten mis-matched adventures. Harness their skills and be part of their on-board adventures as you fight through hostile territory towards Earth.
Deal and learn to understand around fifteen different alien empires, from the cruel Ilitza slavers fighting to buy their way out of Hell, to the Meorcl, self-proclaimed Kings of the Galaxy.
Explore the remnants of several fallen alien cultures, adapting and upgrading your ship with their technologies, or selling them to the highest bidder. Or perhaps, find sparks of life where no-one else has looked.
Every game, enter a new procedurally generated universe with a different spread of aliens, dangers, and secrets of the universe. Why are the stars going out? What is Valcorgrue? What lurks in the corners of space?
Take on quests and assignments, solve moral problems, or earn your own way through trade, piracy, bounty-hunting and salvage. Or slavery, perhaps. Aliens if they’re on board. Your own crew, if you’re desperate.