Friday Dev Update: Improving the Initial Experience

7:49 AM Will Sterling 5 Comments

Since we've started developing Salt we've always tried to maintain the philosophy of minimal hand holding. We try not to bombard the player with tutorials telling them where to go, what to do, and who to be. Instead, we let the player decide for themselves and try to stay as hands off as possible. What we hope this translates into is simply this: freedom.

We want players to feel freedom when they play Salt. Freedom to make mistakes and screw up, but also freedom to create a unique story and adventure that you discovered on your own. This sort of game design isn't as prevalent as it used to be, and I can understand why. When you start out in a game that doesn't tell you what to do, doesn't give you a sense of direction, and just generally lets you go, it can be kind of frustrating. You're kind of left thinking, " what?" But that's the beauty! The "what" is completely up to you.

If you've played Salt then you know we use our philosophy of minimal hand holding. Salt simply drops you on an island in a vast world and you are left to figure it out. While this is a design we plan on keeping, it hasn't come without its problems.

Today I want to talk about some of the issues that this brings and how we plan on improving upon it, while still maintaining a free and hands off experience.

No Direction = No Content

Those of you who have played Salt for a decent amount of time have probably realized that there's more content in the game than meets the eye. As you sail further out into the sea and sink more hours into the game, you start to discover new quests, bosses, rare items, and other things that I won't mention for sake of secrecy. The very beginning of the game, however, isn't very indicative of the mystery and intrigue that comes from spending more time into the game. While this in and of itself can be a good thing, it also gives players the wrong impression of Salt. 

Often times a player will pop on Salt for a couple hours and assume that all there is to the game is island hopping and gathering resources. While, yes that's a large portion of the game, there's a lot more! And we want to make sure players are intrigued and encouraged to go find that content. But since there isn't any direction in the beginning of the game or not much hinting at there being more, how do we clue players in on this while still maintaining minimal hand holding? 

Adding Intrigue and Mystery

The main way we plan on alleviating this problem is to include things in the early portion of the game that will be intriguing and mysterious to the player. This content will give you a sense of "something more" to the world and encourage you to continue exploring. We're still working on figuring out exactly what this content will be and like most other content, it will likely be improved upon and expanded as the game develops. 

Our goal here is to let the player know that there is more to Salt then meets the eye and improve the initial experience of the game. We don't want you to feel like all you can do in Salt is island hop to the same island over and over just to gather the same resources time and time again. If that's something you enjoy doing, then there's plenty of it! But there's a lot more too. This goes along with our playstyle focus philosophy and ensuring that players can experience the game the way they want. 

If you want Salt to be a relaxing experience full of fishing, exploration, and resource gathering, then you most certainly can do that! And we'll be expanding upon that. If you want Salt to be a thrilling adventure full of quests, bosses, curses and secret items, then you can do that too! We don't want to force you into the anything, and that's why we will always remain as hands off as possible. 

All in all we are very excited about adding more mysterious and intriguing content early on in the game and can't wait for you to experience them! As always, we would love to hear your ideas for this content and what kind of things you'd like to see in the world. 

- Will Sterling (Game Audio and Design)


  1. I can't tell you how excited I am to see this game evolve.

    My one Idea I have: Seeing as how there is a Pirate Cartographer, is there a way you could implement a map system, that is sort of "drawn out" as you go and discover? I have no experience developing or anything so I don't know how possible it is. I have some "maps" with notes on my desk as I play,but I think it would be cool to have an in-game system!

  2. I think that on the first island, in the first chest, there could be a book of lore, a crafting journal, and maybe coordinates or hints to a island with an inn or something cool to draw you into the game. The island should be far enough away that the player would need to craft a boat first, and find a compass.

  3. I know exactly what you guys mean. AND I have experienced something that gave me more reason to explore:

    When sailing at night, I sometimes see a faint flicking light far into the distant. I have been tracking that light and will soon find out what it is! :))

    1. Those lights were the first big mystery I encountered. It was fun.

  4. Sea monsters! You can never go wrong with sea monsters! *sagenod*