I originally posted a part of this on the SL Survival Development Blog. That post has some lengthy examples, but I thought of a more concise way to describe this.
I've been thinking long and hard about the problems that arise in Skyrim games. Of course, we don't have a game that is designed to support any gameplay other than combat, and we aren't in a position to create huge quantities of new content either. People do create amounts of new content for Skyrim, even for LL-style play (whatever that is) but it's not the focus. While Troubles of Heroine and Things in the Dark are examples of new quest content, the majority of LL-style mods are mechanics oriented, or are new animations or graphics.
What I'm convinced of, is that there is a problematic disconnect between sex and BDSM oriented content, and Skyrim's simple brutal gameplay of hash, slash and loot (or burn, freeze and loot if you play a mage).
Devious Followers is a mod that creates punishments for the player if they are poor at the loot part, or when they have mishaps with combat-defeat mods that steal cash. However, the majority of combat-defeats don't integrate well with LL-mods. You might say, "what about Defeat?" or "what about Dragonborn in Distress?" They're full of sex. So how could they not integrate sex with combat? The do integrate it, but not well. With those mods, you have combat, and then defeat, and then sex and punishment, and then ... what? Defeat really just has robbery (or a transition to a slavery mod) and DiD ... basically it is a slavery mod post-defeat.
What we have is a boundary, not an integration. Combat sits on one side of this wall, and some slavery mods sit on the other side. Defeat without slavery mods is incredibly toothless and dull. If you aren't enslaved, it tends to simply kill you in many cases, which really does defeat the point of Defeat. What I find, is that after a while, Defeat stops being any fun at all. The first iteration of DiD rarely every worked. With the second one, it's too soon to judge, but I don't think it's conceptually different to the old one, it's just technically better. DAYMOYL, DCL combat defeat, Defeat, and even DiD are all about inflicting semi-random outcomes on the player and claiming it's better than death+reload. DiD is somewhat different, but I don't want to bog down in discussing it because DiD (and DCL) are monolithic solutions that create a closed silo of functionality - even if they have some interoperation with other mods, it's only on their terms.
How can we make this experience better and more varied, for more mods, at more times?
How can we actually get mods to interoperate efficiently by design rather than by accident, or by herculean effort?
DBF built a mountain of interoperability into SD+, why doesn't anyone use it?
DCL built a pluggable slavery system, why doesn't it even make much use of it itself?
Pet Project has an elaborate high-level scene management system, why isn't it available for use by other mods?
I could answer those individual questions, but I think there is a meta-answer.
That's where my manifesto of what Skyrim combat + sex + combat failure should be like ... to be fun. Combat outcomes shouldn't be so binary. Outcomes should be more fluid. Maybe you can win by means other than the sword?
Let's not talk about the simplistic concept of "combat defeat", let's talk about combat outcomes, generally.
And some other things...
1 ) Combat outcomes MUST integrate with PLAYABLE outcomes.
2 ) Combat outcomes SHOULD allow the player to resist, or to continue to resist at any practical point.
3 ) Rape mods SHOULD integrate with combat outcomes, not just in a "Defeat triggers rape" direction, but in that point (2) should always apply. Rape mods where you cannot resist in a practical way that uses actual Skyrim gameplay are simply random sex, with random outcomes, not gameplay.
4 ) Sex generally (including prostitution) SHOULD integrate with rape mods and defeat seamlessly.
5 ) Defeat outcomes should punish you in terms of progress, but they should NOT be so boring as to be an actual punishment for the player.
6 ) NPCs shouldn't always react first with violence, but should be alert for opportunity to get what they want by easier means.
7 ) Interactions should be streamlined, flowing and immersive where possible, rather than stilted and punctuated by invasive message boxes or unnecessary/redundant dialog.
8 ) There should be alternative ways to solve problems without combat.
9 ) Mods should aim for synergy and interoperability rather then each trying to create a walled garden of controlled features where events only join-up or make sense within the mod's own little silo of mechanics.
What do I mean by "playable outcomes"?
When you lose in Sexlab Defeat, you get robbed or raped, or you button-mash and maybe you don't - it mainly depends how you set up the button-mash difficulty, and how overwhelming the enemies are to start with. Afterwards, nothing much has changed. You lost some stuff ... maybe. You transition to an enslavement mod ... maybe. Apart from the MCM, it's not under player control. You aren't making choices. It gets repetitive because it is repeated over and over without any real game.
That's not playable. You aren't "playing" when you sit back and watch your PC get gang-raped by bandits. You might be doing something, but playing Skyrim is not it. You watch a little movie and the game moves on. Even SLSO throws up its hands and gives up with more than two actors in the scene (though this has improved a little since I first wrote this).
So when I say "playable", I mean the PC is doing Skyrim stuff: they are in dialogs, picking topics or selecting answers, they are managing their inventory, they are fighting, they are managing their loot, ordering their follower, or bouncing about the landscape.
How could that even be possible when you just "lost" to bandits?
The examples in my original post on this topic show that one way.
I'll put it another way...
What if losing is a chance to negotiate surrender?
What if negotiation is more like a game of poker than a game of dice?
What if an initial combat "defeat" is a chance to perform a reversal?
What if escaping the defeat - right now - not two weeks of rapes later - is a possibility?
What if even complete capitulation is not a segue into a series of sexlab animations you've seen a hundred times already, but a chance to keep playing?
What if sex is a combat tool? (And not just succubus life draining sex, all sex).
What if you can use being defeated to achieve your ultimate Skyrim goals of "getting the loot" and "finishing the quest" ?
More to come!