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Can you identify the themes of these games?

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Well, my last team tore itself apart because none of them have any respect for eachother at all. I'll bounce back. In the mean time, I can't refine my concept for the current game any further and I am sick to death of pouring over it. So while I'm taking a break from putting WAY too much detail into my design document I want to consider where I'm going with the series it's meant to be a part of and I hope to present a basic overview of each game. There's a running theme to this series, and each game has its own theme in addition to that. I want to make sure the themes are strong enough other people can recognize them without being told what they are.

 

Wounded Gaia: The first game of the series, the one my last team obliterated itself on and then told me I can't use any assets from (not even concept art) and is forcing me to restart from after six months of development.

 

The year is 2015. Europe is dying, caught in the crossfire of a deadly nuclear war between the USA and the USSR. (Alternate history, yes. Not going into it now.) 2,000 successful nuclear strikes and twenty-five years have left Europa collapsing under the weight of its own decaying carcass. Even after the USSR has collapsed, the US has ripped itself in two and Japan has forced the US and the newly formed SRR (Socialist Republic of Russia) to clean up the mess they made, the remnants of these powers are still squabbling over who gets to pick Europe's bones. The player is a small German child, alone in the Black Forest. Their only goal is to survive in the frigid, irradiated wasteland while war rages around them. This game is a wasteland survival roguelike with a strong horror element. It has no plot and no story, the war is largely a background event as you focus on day to day survival, with the war just coming along periodically to destroy everything you've worked for and send you running for your life, nursing your bleeding wounds.

 

Dying Gaia: The second game of the series, intended to be started within two years of the first game is completed, preferably within one.

 

The year is now 2025. Europe is dead, and the rest of the world is heading its way as its infection spreads. A disease named radpox has spread out from Europe into the rest of the world, killing a small percentage of the world's population but leaving the overwhelming majority infertile to varying degrees and frequently completely sterile. There's not many births happening, to say the least, and the human population that has been slowly declining for decades is now falling like a rock. Worse yet, a new strain that leaves *all* infected adults permanently sterile and turns them into carriers has begun to spread. Humanity doesn't like the idea of extinction, and has created "quarantine domes" to protect the uninfected from the outside world. These are all composed of children, as children cannot carry the disease so only they can be sure they aren't carrying the disease. The player is a child in a quarantine dome in Japan, as it fails due to the Russian navy attacking it. The player character is abducted by the Spetsnaz during the fight along with many other children, but the Japanese navy quickly finds the base, crippling it and allowing the player to escape into the Russian wasteland. This game is also a survival roguelike, but now your goal is to get yourself rescued by the JSDF instead of just living as long as possible, so you need to find a way to get to the waterfront and get the JSDF's attention without getting recaptured or killed. When you finally make it, you find out that the Russian spetsnaz kidnapped you and the other children to try and ransom you to Japan in exchange for information on the construction of the quarantine domes, which Japan would never give them because the RN (the alliance of Japan, the American Republic and Europa) would rather all their enemies be depopulated by their newfound sterility even if keeping the information secret hurt all of humanity, and that Russia was willing to compromise the domes and make the extinction of humanity more likely (including themselves, mind you) just for a chance to save itself.

 

Forgotten Gaia: The third game of the series, intended to be started within two years of the second game being completed, preferably within one.

 

The year is 2030. All the quarantine domes have failed, some to malice and others to incompetence. Humanity has only one hope left, and that's space. They intend to send people into space to colonize new worlds uninfected by the sterilizing plagues of Earth. Obviously, they can only send those uninfected, and that means children as only with children can they be 100% sure they aren't carriers of the disease. You are one such child, one from the American Republic, one of many sent into space on a ship to a nearby solar system. The ship fails its landing due to sabotage by opposing nations and sinks into the ocean upon arriving, and now you and yours have to make a foothold on this rock without the resources onboard. This game places you on a randomly generated island landscape, with the ability to travel between islands fairly early. By the end of the game, you'll definitely be at war with some of the locals, which will actively try to damage your foothold and kill the children, and will have to survive anyway. This game is different from the others in its goal, which is to get a solid enough foothold to make their deaths unlikely, likely involving retrieving equipment from your crashed spaceship. You also, of course, need to keep at least one little boy and one little girl alive and the more little survivors the better.

 

To summarize:

 

Human civilization dooms itself, then stomps all over its own attempts to fix it until the only solution is to let itself die and be reborn on another planet, and even then the nations sabotage their enemies' attempts to save the species, hurting the entire species' chances just to try and keep their enemies from surviving with them, and then goes to war on the new world. Humanity still doesn't go extinct, but not for a lack of trying.

 

Now, I want to know if the themes of each game and the overall themes of the series are evident at this point. If not, I need to work on that.

Edited by JustinS

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Before I comment on the descriptions that you've given, a caveat: I feel that how well a theme is conveyed is heavily dependant on implementation (in the artistic/design sense, not the technical sense). As a result, I'm not convinced that the clarity of your themes in these precis is a good indicator of the clarity of those themes in the games themselves.

 

For example, your first precis spends a lot of time on backstory, and gives only a brief mention of the gameplay; if the actual game spends all of its time on gameplay and leaves that backstory in scattered, hard-to find collectable pages, then the themes may well not be terribly visible.

 

On the other hand, if a theme isn't terribly apparent in one of those precis, it may still come across well in the game if it's either expressed differently, or is supportedby other elements (visuals, gameplay mechanics, etc.).

 

However, all of that said, my guesses as to your themes:

 

Wounded Gaia: War is horrible, and hurts pretty much everyone.

 

Dying Gaia: Civilians being used as playing pieces, as means to their ends, by world leaders.

 

Forgotten Gaia: Fighting for survival; holding onto life against the travails of a hostile world.

 

Overall: Humanity is highly self-destructive--blindly so--but also hard to kill outright.

 

[edit] Come to that, the second part of the theme that I identified for Forgotten Gaia--"holding onto life against the travails of a hostile world"--might also be an overall theme.

Edited by Thaumaturge

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Before I comment on the descriptions that you've given, a caveat: I feel that how well a theme is conveyed is heavily dependant on implementation (in the artistic/design sense, not the technical sense). As a result, I'm not convinced that the clarity of your themes in these precis is a good indicator of the clarity of those themes in the games themselves.
 
For example, your first precis spends a lot of time on backstory, and gives only a brief mention of the gameplay; if the actual game spends all of its time on gameplay and leaves that backstory in scattered, hard-to find collectable pages, then the themes may well not be terribly visible.
 
On the other hand, if a theme isn't terribly apparent in one of those precis, it may still come across well in the game if it's either expressed differently, or is supportedby other elements (visuals, gameplay mechanics, etc.).

However, all of that said, my guesses as to your themes:


Fair enough. The only disagreement I have is that gameplay *can* convey these themes. It's a concept called "Mechanics as Metaphor", and you should look it up. Extra Credits did a fantastic two-part episode on the concept.
 

Wounded Gaia: War is horrible, and hurts pretty much everyone.


The only part missing is: There's nothing you can do to stop it. This is very much a horror game, and war is the monster. It's a constant threat that comes at you frequently, something you keep running from and are powerless to stop. And, as this is a roguelike with no end, either it or something else will kill you eventually.
 

Dying Gaia: Civilians being used as playing pieces, as means to their ends, by world leaders.


Not quite. This game's primary theme is hard to summarise, but it's mostly just making a point with its realistic portrayal of the sides' moral motivations neither side is the "good" one, or the "evil" one. Russia attacked a dome full of children, exposing them to a terrible disease that sterilised all of the older ones, to kidnap hundreds of them and hold them hostage, but they did it to save their country and their people. Japan was attacked, and defended itself, going out to rescue the children and bring them home safely, but they never would have been kidnapped in the first place if Japan hadn't just sat there watching while a disease slowly wiped the Russian people off the map and did nothing to help. The player finds this out late, after they've likely already decided the Russians were the bad guys, and while hinted at here and there in the subtext it's meant to be a shock. It's a point about passing judgement, and trying to understand others' actions.
 

Forgotten Gaia: Fighting for survival; holding onto life against the travails of a hostile world.


Rebirth. The main theme of this is rebirth. Beginning again, starting over. Humanity in this game is a phoenix, it dies and arises again from the ashes. That's even the reason I use children for this series. This series is loaded with symbolism, at least the young being the ones that have to form humanity's future while their stagnant elders wither and die alongside any that remain with them is pretty damned blatant. I'm telling young people to get involved, try and make a difference. That's actually the most actionable moral in this series.
 

Overall: Humanity is highly self-destructive--blindly so--but also hard to kill outright.


It is about humanity being self-destructive, but more specifically how it destroys itself for itself. Humans are selfish, caring only for themselves and those close to them, causing immense harm to others for the gain of themselves and their loved ones. And everyone does it, so everyone suffers for it. Think about what the Russians and Japanese did in Dying Gaia. Japan withheld their technology from Russia, so Russia would die. They wanted to eliminate a perceived threat by doing nothing while it died, not caring about any of the innocents they hurt doing so. Russia wasn't going to let itself die, so it attacked Japan, hurting and possibly killing children, then kidnapping them and holding them hostage, while hurting all of humanity to give their people a chance of survival. There's nothing malicious about it, at its core they just want what's best for themselves and their loved ones, but they do it in a painfully short-sighted, violent manner that leaves everybody worse off, even those they did it to help. And that's a part of human nature that's in everyone and everyone needs to be mindful of.

 

But that's not the only message of the series, though. The three morals combine into the other major message of the series. Put each in succession, then read it back. That's the other message.

 

For the final message, check my signature.

 

 

 

[edit] Come to that, the second part of the theme that I identified for Forgotten Gaia--"holding onto life against the travails of a hostile world"--might also be an overall theme.

 

Goddamned edits! (I am aware of the hypocrisy.) And no, not really. At least not intentionally, though of course all art is up to interpretation.

Edited by JustinS

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Well then, my result was... somewhat middling, it seems: I was close on some, and missed others entirely.

 

However, as you say, different people are likely to take different things from a work (well, unless you bash them over the head with your intended moral, a-la "And Knowing Is Half The Battle"). For example, I could also see someone focussing more on the player character than the surrounding events, and reading a theme related to the human spirit to survive. Ultimately, I suspect that applicability is likely to be found in most works, barring perhaps the most heavy-handed of allegories.

 

 

The only disagreement I have is that gameplay *can* convey these themes.

I didn't mean to imply otherwise--indeed, I think that conveyance through gameplay was one of the methods that I thought of as being missing in written precis.

 

 

Rebirth. The main theme of this is rebirth.

Hmm... I think that the emphasis on all the things that can harass the player might have been what misled me; perhaps if it weren't played as a horror, or at least if the elements of sabotage weren't present, it might tend more towards the hopeful tone of "rebirth". Of course, again, how you portray what you've written above may well change how it comes across.

 

 

I'm telling young people to get involved, try and make a difference.

Hmm... The thing is, you've described a world in which things are pretty thoroughly horrible; I might be a little worried about hopelessness, or at least a falling back on subsistence--just trying to live, let alone makes things better--becoming the perceived tone. The feeling that I kept getting, I think, was "just survive the next five minutes; survive, one step at a time". It seems to me that people are likely to get involved if they think that things are likely to get better for their involvement.

 

Does the last game end on a high note (presuming that the player doesn't reach a loss-state, of course), with the colony established and starting to thrive?

 

 

Humans are selfish, caring only for themselves and those close to them ...

Ah, I doubt that I would have likely spotted that one, simply by virtue of my outlook.

 

All that said... How important is it to you that people necessarily see the theme that you want to place into this, as opposed to the applicability that they take out of it?

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Hmm... I think that the emphasis on all the things that can harass the player might have been what misled me; perhaps if it weren't played as a horror, or at least if the elements of sabotage weren't present, it might tend more towards the hopeful tone of "rebirth". Of course, again, how you portray what you've written above may well change how it comes across.


Only the first game is a horror. And I mean *only* the first game. And it's a war-based horror, at that. You know the type. Blood rack, barbed wire, politician's funeral pyre, innocents raped with napalm fire. (An imaginary cookie to whoever gets that reference.)
 

Hmm... The thing is, you've described a world in which things are pretty thoroughly horrible; I might be a little worried about hopelessness, or at least a falling back on subsistence--just trying to live, let alone makes things better--becoming the perceived tone. The feeling that I kept getting, I think, was "just survive the next five minutes; survive, one step at a time". It seems to me that people are likely to get involved if they think that things are likely to get better for their involvement.


The world is indeed horrible, under control of its current rulers. In the first game, your goal is just to delay your inevitable death as long as possible. But, then, there's a certain liberty in hopelessness, isn't there? Because things can't get 101% fucked. The second game gives you a goal, a way to survive, so at least you have that. In the third game, you finally get a chance to really take action and now you have a chance. By this point of the series the horror elements are basically gone. The second game only had a bit of horror in it, maybe a tenth of the first, but the third has basically no horror left. (Not saying it can't be scary, it can be. Just not that kind of scary.) By that point, now *away* from the corrupt and decaying world of your elders, you have a chance and if I play it right then for a veteren of the first two games this should be the sweetest feeling a video game has ever given them.
 

Does the last game end on a high note (presuming that the player doesn't reach a loss-state, of course), with the colony established and starting to thrive?


Yes. And that's important to the series, to end on a positive note because the player finally got a chance to act.
 

Ah, I doubt that I would have likely spotted that one, simply by virtue of my outlook.


That's okay. Not everyone subscribes to the philosophy of Jean-Jacques Rousseau like I do. (Laconic: "Our will is always for our own good, but we do not always see what that is.")
 

All that said... How important is it to you that people necessarily see the theme that you want to place into this, as opposed to the applicability that they take out of it?


I'd be satisfied if they successfully identified half of them, and thrilled if they actually *learned* from even one of them. Edited by JustinS

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Only the first game is a horror. And I mean *only* the first game.

 

The second game gives you a goal, a way to survive, so at least you have that.

 

... to end on a positive note because the player finally got a chance to act.

Ah, I see--I missed that progression in the original text (I may not have been reading at my best). That makes a lot more sense now. ^_^

 

 

But, then, there's a certain liberty in hopelessness, isn't there?

There may be a certain liberty in being at the worst that things can get, but things are still at their worst. :P

 

More to the point, however, hopelessness isn't just things being at their worst: it's losing the belief that things are likely to get better, without which one is rather more likely to fall to apathetic inaction.

 

 

Not everyone subscribes to the philosophy of Jean-Jacques Rousseau like I do. (Laconic: "Our will is always for our own good, but we do not always see what that is.")

Indeed, I do disagree with that philosophy. (I think that I have seen it stated before--in those words too--however.)

 

That said, I don't think that it's just disagreement that left me to miss it, I think that it's simply a philosophy that's somewhat... aside, I suppose, from the way that I think. For example, I may not agree with sadistic malice, but it's something that will likely occur to me to think of.

 

 

I'd be satisfied if they successfully identified half of them, and thrilled if they actually *learned* from even one of them.

Ah, fair enough.

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Ah, I see--I missed that progression in the original text (I may not have been reading at my best). That makes a lot more sense now. happy.png


I take full responsibility for this failing, I'll figure out why later.

On a side note, I guess it's my turn to ninja edit you. Because I totally did. Sorry, added a line while you weren't looking.
 

There may be a certain liberty in being at the worst that things can get, but things are still at their worst. tongue.png
 
More to the point, however, hopelessness isn't just things being at their worst: it's losing the belief that things are likely to get better, without which one is rather more likely to fall to apathetic inaction.


No, no. It's that disbelief that things can improve that GIVES hopelessness its liberty. No matter what you do, you can't make things worse. So you can do whatever you want and not have to worry about the consequences.
 

Indeed, I do disagree with that philosophy. (I think that I have seen it stated before--in those words too--however.)


That's actually Jean-Jacques Rousseau's words, so yeah, you probably have.
 

That said, I don't think that it's just disagreement that left me to miss it, I think that it's simply a philosophy that's somewhat... aside, I suppose, from the way that I think. For example, I may not agree with sadistic malice, but it's something that will likely occur to me to think of.


Screwy thing is, sadism and masochism still make total sense under Rousseau's understanding. Rousseau says people want the best for them, but don't know what that is. If you begin to associate "other people's misery" with your own success, you begin to seek to inflict pain on others as it makes you think you're more successful. Humans do, after all, learn by association. Same goes for your own pain. If you get the best for you in a way that hurts others enough times, you'll come to think hurting other people is part of helping yourself, and soon that hurting other people means you are helping yourself. Kinda like how we come to think that feeling the burn of alcohol means our mouthwash is working and don't think it's working if we don't feel it burn? Same principle, only more twisted. 

Ah, fair enough.


I want to make other people better people and that's important to me, but any improvement will do. Even if it's just making them think a bit about moral principles, that's still progress and that's enough for me.

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No, no. It's that disbelief that things can improve that GIVES hopelessness its liberty. No matter what you do, you can't make things worse. So you can do whatever you want and not have to worry about the consequences.

Hmm... I see what you're saying, but I suspect that it would be at best a rather unpleasant liberty to experience, and at worst might not actually work out that way: why do anything if nothing will get better and everything's horrible? I think that the lack of consequences would eventually wear thin as a comfort.

 

 

... sadism and masochism still make total sense under Rousseau's understanding. ...

Oh, I do see that--I was just saying that the philosophy itself is, by virtue of its perspective, one that's less likely to occur to me as a theme in a work.

 

 

I want to make other people better people and that's important to me, but any improvement will do. Even if it's just making them think a bit about moral principles, that's still progress and that's enough for me.

I can understand that, I do believe. ^_^

 

 

On a side note, I guess it's my turn to ninja edit you. Because I totally did. Sorry, added a line while you weren't looking.

The bit about "blood rack, and barbed wire", I take it? I don't recognise it offhand; the reference to napalm puts me in mind of the Vietnam War, but my history is sufficiently shaky that I don't know how reliable an association that is, and it doesn't overmuch help me to identify the work of origin. It's a nicely-turned quote though, I do think.

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Hmm... I see what you're saying, but I suspect that it would be at best a rather unpleasant liberty to experience, and at worst might not actually work out that way: why do anything if nothing will get better and everything's horrible? I think that the lack of consequences would eventually wear thin as a comfort.


In some people, sure. In others it leads to a blind, hopeless and everlasting blast of nihilistic hedonism, doing what they want when they want because nothing can possibly impact it and they can have fun at others' expense all they want as none of it will matter in the end.
 

Oh, I do see that--I was just saying that the philosophy itself is, by virtue of its perspective, one that's less likely to occur to me as a theme in a work.


And I get that. We're talking past eachother. Suffice to say, Rousseau's philosophy was used quite a bit writing these stories, and will be present.
 

I can understand that, I do believe. happy.png

 
I should hope so, it's not very complex. I do belive. happy.png
 

The bit about "blood rack, and barbed wire", I take it? I don't recognise it offhand; the reference to napalm puts me in mind of the Vietnam War, but my history is sufficiently shaky that I don't know how reliable an association that is, and it doesn't overmuch help me to identify the work of origin. It's a nicely-turned quote though, I do think.


21st Century Schizoid Man, from King Crimson's album "In the Court of the Crimson King", 1969, track 1. And yeah, it's partially about (and that verse is entirely about) the horrors of the war in Vietnam. The rest is about the contradictory mindset of the American people, the political climate, and the rise of consumerism even makes a brief appearance. It's a very, very good song. Figured somebody might recognize it, guess not. Edited by JustinS

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In others it leads to a blind, hopeless and everlasting blast of nihilistic hedonism, doing what they want when they want because nothing can possibly impact it and they can have fun at others' expense all they want as none of it will matter in the end.

Fair enough, I can indeed see that happening in some cases. (I'm not sure that I'd likely see it as a consolation, but I could see others feeling so.)

 

 

We're talking past eachother.

Ah, I see now--my apologies for my part! ^^;

 

 

21st Century Schizoid Man, from King Crimson's album "In the Court of the Crimson King" ...

... Never heard of it (that I recall), I'm afraid! ^^;

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