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Story Assistance for a Sci-Fi Adventure

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Hello Everyone,

I'm currently making the design document for my first game - it'll be an exploration/platformer akin to Metroid (I'm using GameMaker to make it). I'm not looking to do anything groundbreaking, I just want to make something fun that I can be proud of (and something that I can start a portfolio with).

Anyway, I'm working on the story right now and I could use a little feedback and perhaps some ideas for details. Essentially, here's what it boils down to:


Hundreds of years in the future, mankind wants to expand to the stars. All the habitable planets are too far away, though, so they develop these things called SEED ships. They load up people on board and put them in stasis - no consciousness, no aging, they're just in hibernation until the ship reaches its destination. A crew of robots staffs the ship to take care of things while all the humans sleep, and to help the humans get set up once they arrive at their destination in a few hundred years.

The rub is that a saboteur has infected the onboard AI of this particular ship with a virus (for reasons I haven't come up with yet). Fortunately, humans in the future are smart. The AI has no direct control over anything in the ship, she's basically an administrator. Layers of safety nets are in place to prevent her from going nuts and killing everyone. Unfortunately, the saboteur thought of this, and his virus slowly eats away at those safety nets, giving her more and more power over the ship's systems.

Enter the hero, Bit. He's a lovable little robot that can run and jump and be generally nimble. It's his job to stop all this as it happens, and to keep the crew safe.

So, that's the premise as far as I've developed it so far. I'm looking for a few things here:
o I've got a beginning. I'm still a little unclear on the middle and the end. I know I want the AI to become progressively more insane during the course of the story. I'd like the player to be unable to immediately just go confront her. (Maybe security locks that must be overridden before the AI core opens.)
o Backstory? I still have no idea why the saboteur is saboteuring.
o Crazy things the AI could do that would serve as goals for the player. She gets progressively more dangerous as the game goes on, so the entire gamut from "changing the chicken dispensers to dispense turkey" to "pumping poisonous gas into the ship's greenhouse" to "opening the stasis pods and the airlocks simultaneously." It's the player's job to stop all this from happening and endangering the lives of the people on board.

Thoughs/Ideas/Feedback much appreciated.

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Questions about the story:
o How does Bit know what the Ship is trying to do?
o What does Bit do to stop the Ship's plot?

Reasons that the Ship "insane":
a) Saboteur
b) A bug in AI
c) Ship believes that it has found a suitable destination
d) Ship got damaged by accident
e) Ship got damaged when it tried to save itself from some danger
f) Ship discovers that there is no destination to be found and has a new plan
g) Ship got damaged and decided to split itself
h) Ship is trying to make room for some new visitors
i) Ship has 5 copies of the AI, 2 went bad, and the third is starting to become insane also. The remaining 2 that are starting to get out-voted and can't tell whether they or the other AIs are insane. Bit must figure out which computer is still sane.
j) ...

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Brainstorming here:

1. Reason for sabotage: SEED ships are owned and operated by competing corporations, this would provide obvious motive. Perhaps it was an inside job (and part of the storyline includes clues as to the culprit, extra points for solving the mystery!).

Or perhaps an enemy government at (cold?) war with, or a radical religious group. The "sabotage" could also be unintentional (e.g. a "bug" in the system).

2. If you want to compartmentalize the game, you can just have different sections of the ship. For example: Cargo area, Passenger deck, Engineering, Science labs, Crew deck, Security area, etc. Each "level" could be operated by a child process of the AI (or a completely different one - perhaps they are also warring for control of the ship?).

Increasing difficulty can be built into the level design. Perhaps as you destroy each child process, it gives the other AI processes more system resources, allowing them to become "smarter?"

3. Behavior of the AI could be related to the relevant section of the ship she controls, giving each section a theme and unique challenges. Make lists of the type of things you find on each deck of the ship to determine the resources available to the enemy AI.

The security/weapons area sounds dangerous, but perhaps is a good place for weapon upgrades.

The passenger deck may be a simple beat-the-clock to rescue the sleeping passengers run.

Science labs could have interesting (and dangerous!) devices (or genetically engineered lifeforms) laying about...

The cargo hold may contain important clues relating to why the ship was sabotaged - maybe the story could develop here, and the player learns that there were some hidden agendas to the SEED ship other than mere colonization (and in a story twist near the endgame, you learn that the AI you have been fighting all along may not have been the true enemy all along...)

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Thanks for your responses, I'll try and narrow things down a little bit to make it a little clearer what I'm going for.


Questions about the story:
o How does Bit know what the Ship is trying to do?
o What does Bit do to stop the Ship's plot?

Bit is a security daemon aboard the ship - it's his job to make sure when things break, they get fixed. Sometime during the AI's insurrection (her name is DAWNN - Digital Administrative Wireless Neural Network), she gains control of other robots aboard ship. These robots then become enemies the player has to do battle with - sort of (more on that later.) At first, let's call her "sane" DAWNN administrates Bit just like she would the other robots, giving him goals during which time the player becomes accustomed to the game. These would be the simpler goals that may not even be a direct result of the virus. Then, at about the time the other robots start becoming evil, maybe DAWNN tries to turn Bit evil as well, but some plot-point prevents him from having his programming altered, and he knows from that point on that DAWNN is now a danger to the ship (also leaving him as the only one who can stop her.)

Bit can only stop DAWNN from the AI core room, but something prevents him from getting there (think getting to Tourian in Super Metroid - you just can't go there until you beat all the bosses.)

Wai, I like plot points (f) and (i), I'll give that a bit more thought to see if I can incorporate those in to the story.

laztrezort, I like your ideas. I'm definitely going to implement alternate endings, and solving the puzzle of why all of this is happening will constitute major points for the player. I also like your ideas on how to ramp up the difficulty, having multiple aspects to DAWNN might just be the way to go. Compartmentalization should be made easier in that in true Metroid style, getting to some parts of the map will be plain impossible without the aid of an item you get in another part - so that should be pretty easy to implement.

A quick word on game mechanics, as it may influence story concepts: the main game mechanic here is Survivor count. DAWNN's rampaging around the ship is going to take a toll on the number of SEED humans that make it out of this alive. Not just directly (e.g. saving humans from getting spaced), but indirectly as well (e.g. protecting the resources the humans need to colonize the planet successfully.) As a result, the other robotic enemies (which were intended to be used in the colonization), are a resource, and should not be killed. They CAN, however, be killed to replenish Bit's health, so every enemy encounter is a choice between surviving the encounter or saving lives. (Wai, I actually started thinking about this because of a post you made a few days ago about non-violence). That being said, what kind of things could DAWNN do to jeopardize the long-term prosperity of the colony? (read:what kind of situations will the player be placed in to get a perfect Survivor score?)

This is helping a lot, thanks!

[Edited by - AesteroidBlues on December 10, 2010 8:21:26 PM]

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They CAN, however, be killed to replenish Bit's health, so every enemy encounter is a choice between surviving the encounter or saving lives.
It gives the player the feeling of heart-gouging self-restraint.

Categories of what DAWNN could do:

a) Evil and methodical, mastermind quality.
b) Evil but simplistic/naive/childish
c) Totally random things (totally nut)
d) Things it does when it gets bored
e) Things it does when it is halluciated
f) Something simple but blindfolded (without any feedback from sensors)
g) Something good that misses a key component
h) Something good, with all components gathered, but lost remote control
i) A routine that got out of control
j) Something artistic
k) Something artistic in an evil way
l) ...

These are the causes of a Stage. They explain why the objects in a compartment got arranged the way they are. For example, if DAWNN happens to be Evil and Methodical, it would arrange the robots and equipments in a certain specifically to keep Bit out or the find and destroy Bit. If DAWNN happens to be totally nut, it may unpack all the forks and just solder each of them with along the corridor. If DAWNN happens to be good, it might try to setup something to help the Sleepers, but it might lose control without finishing it, so that Bit must see what it is trying to do and finish the job.

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