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Impossible

Sci-Fi games about something

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Most sci-fi novels and stories are about a specific concept. In games sci-fi is usually an excess to blow things up with plasma instead of shotguns. What do you think about a game design that''s based on a concept and actually explores and sticks with it.

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Being a certified Arthur C. Clarke fan (the man who gave us gems like "any sufficiently advanced form of technology is indistinguishable from magic", and "given any field of endeavor with a sufficiently elderly and esteemed expert; if he tells you something is possible, it almost certainly is, and if he tells you it''s impossible, it almost certainly isn''t" - Clarke''s second and third laws, respectively), might I point out that science fiction is actually about science. The objective is to make one cardinal assumption - say, the possibility of space travel or the discovery of the "hyperdrive", or the idea that four dimensions can be unfolded into three (Robert Heinlein - "Tesseract". Good story.) - and proceed logically from there. of course, since sci-fi involves humans, human emotions and characteristics must play a part in determining their responses to challenges, dilemas and threats.

Whew! I get more voluble by the day! The works of Isaac Asimov are rich with examples of this type of creative, sci-fi thinking (I actually read the above assertion in a collection of short stories edited by him - "Earth is Room Enough", I believe. Good stuff!) A number of his short stories feature Multivac, a massive, intelligent computer used for a variety of purposes. In one scenario the voting process has been analyzed down to a single individual, supposedly representive of the average opinion of the general populace, being statistically selected. The human aspect is the turmoil of being "the One", due to the two possible outcomes: if "you" elect a good president, the nation will love you. If you elect a bad president, "it''s all your fault" and you may even receive murder threats and attempts on your life.

So find some tenet of science that intrigues you and attempt to draw rational extrapolations from twisting it just so.

Oh yeah... May the force be with you, Luke. (*does Vulcan "V" thingie*).

Mixing my movies, I know...

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Have there been any games that genuinely explorer a sci-fi theme? I guess right now the Mind Forever Voyaging (old Infocom), and Deus Ex, come to mind. There have to be at least a few more though.

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I would like to point out novels are often richer if more than one cardinal assumption is made (I know this is exactly the opposite of what somw respected authors say) , and at least one of the assumptions must be about sociology - your society should be different and alien and shaped by its environment. You can''t just pick up a handful of everyday people and give them fur and antennas and super technology, then expect them to behave just like they did on earth. Examples of books where this is done really well are C. J. Cherryh''s _Cyteen_, Donald Kingsbury''s _Courtship Rite_, and Vernor Vinge''s _A Fire Upon the Deep_ (the tines, not the humans).

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go s&s!

I always create new races by starting with cosmology and planetology. Pick a blue dwarf star with heavy orbiting bodies and noxious atmosphere! Pick the weirdest damn place for life to grow, and then evolve (no creationism dammit) your lifeform logically in your mind from whatever it started as to tool-user. To point out some classic examples:

Vulcans evolved a secondary nictating membrane and extremely strong constitution due to their harsh sun and thin atmosphere.

Minbari (sp?) evolved based on their life-form having discrete ethereal/corporeal entities en symbiote. I don't even know the environmental considerations that caused the evo!

Formics (Buggers from the Ender's Game universe) do not have speech, because they are a telepathic hive-mind.


Xenomorphs... Just TRY to think of whyw these things evolved as they did. Great stuff!


the Xenos reaise another great example.. the dominant life form is not always the most advanced. Xenomorph "culture" is one of super-protectiveness first and breeding second. They breed only as long as there are gestates available. We are meant to think of them as antithesis, but they do no more than Africanized bees would do if they were disturbed.

Some people don't like to build their universes or worlds first, but to create races and then fortify the world to support them. I find this unrealistic as it usually results in alot of pulp-science to tie together loose ends (which we should all agree is a Bad Thing, don't be L. Ron Hubbard).

Once you have a race or races, it is a deliciously simple matter to take an element AWAY from the idyllic world you have created, thereby creating this universal antagonist (or several) and all of the various threads and facets it will trickle out into. I believe this makes a good formula for having "about something"s in your game.

------------------
-WarMage
...Think Globally, Evolve Logically!

Edited by - WarMage on July 18, 2001 3:37:33 PM

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Hey guys, I''d just like to say that I also am aiming for a game like Impossible describes. I''m a very strong beleiver in games with a strong single-player story-driven environ, MMOGs don''t yet give me the ability to do this unfortunatly - that would be cool.

Anyways, after reading Ron L Hubbards Battlefield Earth (do NOT associate this with the movie), I was awe syruck. I had never read such a large book before (it had close to 1000 pages!!) and the plotline was immense!! But it was captivating every step of the way... I could never put it down and even as long as it was I never got bored.

So that''s my goal, to make an epic out of a game through character and storytelling. Of course all games must be interactive, so I also aim to throw in plot twists and branches dependant on character actions and interactions. It''s a big thing to think about and I still haven''t fleshed too much out, but a game like that i think would be awesome

==============================
"Need more eeenput..."
- #5, "Short Circuit"
==============================

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Perfect Dark was a pretty good sci-fi FPS, and I liked Syndicate Wars also for a scifi theme.

"There is humor in everything depending on which prespective you look from."

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My friend Dan Snyder and I developed a world together that is plausible and alien in virtually every way. Our world has a history, climates, seasonal changes, and its very own indigenous flora and fauna. All of our conclusions were based on logical assumptions, which were in turn based on the planet''s geological and solar data.

Then we dumped humans onto the world and tried to figure out how they could survive. It was fun, and we had to muster all of our creativity to do it. Then, after we''d established a 600-year history of mankind''s presence on this planet, we tried to make a story out of it.

So, basically we started from the ground up. We made a world, populated it with aliens, then with humans, and now we''re working on a very intriguing story that involves realistic technology in a future era. I guess that means I agree with what sunandshadow and WarMage said.

I''ve said this before and I''ll say it again until everyone in the world takes the hint: PLAUSIBILITY is the single most important factor in designing a sci-fi universe. I still see ameteurs dusting off ideas from the early 1900''s and trying to make the next Final Fantasy. Make something original, dammit! But also make it believeable.

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Impossible,

Is it enough for you to experience the sci-fi theme through story and environment? If so, then games like System Shock or (I hear) Deus Ex do a great job.

But the MAJOR problem I have is that story and environment are nothing if they're invalidated by gameplay. Sure, Starcraft is set in a science fiction universe, but it's about as far from the heart of what science fiction is as can be. Same for System Shock, though through the character logs and some of the game events it gets a heck of a lot closer. The perversions that are most Star Trek games provide another great set of examples.

Most SF games are closer to the (dumb but fun) Hammer's Slammers or Honor Harrington series, or any number of B-Grade "Vietnam / World War 2 in space" books and movies out there.

For "real" [bias alert! ] science fiction in a game, I think you need to find a way to enact what sunandshadow and Oluseyi talk about in gameplay. Otherwise, you'll likely end up with hack&slash and puzzle solving in science fiction clothes.

I asked about this not too long ago here. Its good feedback, but my major conclusion is this:

A game MUST create a gameplay framework around elements commonly found in sci-fi in order for the whole experience to be of science fiction (rather than, say, hack & slash).


Two good examples: Cyberpunk vs. Splatterpunk

I can take Diablo, swap out the monsters and put in corporate guards, thugs, and mutants. Hacking can be a form of magick that opens doors and such. Guns can replace magick and the bow, martial arts and "monowire whips" the melee weapons. I can swap out the gfx, story, and mission text so that it's all about killing your way in and out of megacorp complexes. Have I created a science fiction game?

NO!

I've made splatterpunk, which is a poor shadow of cyberpunk. If I want real cyberpunk, I've got to wrap sci-fi issues and pressures around gameplay. Core cyberpunk is about the risk of dehumanization by machinery. So gameplay has to support that concept.

This means that I've got to express what's happening inside the character; I've got to show the world around the character changing; I've got to make things like humanity and memory and emotion quantifiable, manipulatable game objects. I've got to come up with what "human gameplay" is, then what "machine gameplay" is, and if I take the SF position that the latter is horrible, I've got to express that through consequences in the game world.

If this isn't done, then I think you (typically) end up with combat or puzzle solving in sci-fi skin.


--------------------
Just waiting for the mothership...


Edited by - Wavinator on July 18, 2001 5:49:36 PM

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