Today I want to share some of the issues I have had to deal with while writing the story for the launch title of our studio (‘our’ meaning me and two others).
The Tutorial Stage
The game begins with a tutorial stage explaining the controls of flying a ship. But here is the problem: the protagonist, French-woman Violeta de Lucia, more commonly known as Violet, is an experience pilot. Having her go through a tutorial session therefore makes no sense in the story.
Fortunately we created a solution to this problem without realizing it. In the early drafts of the character stories and settings we established that Violet works for Dyson Science and Research (DSR)—and yes, it is a nod to Freeman Dyson. This mega-corporation sends people like Violet out on a variety of missions, but not before surgically inserting a device allowing them to remove the pilot’s memories about each mission. In this way they protect themselves from their trade secrets and activities becoming know to their competitors if a pilot decides to quit and take up a job elsewhere.
We were able to leverage that idea to explain the reason for a tutorial. Violet still has all of her innate piloting experience and instincts, but before each mission she needs to be reminded of the controls for each ship since that is knowledge about proprietary technology that DSR always erases from her memory.
The State of Technology
The game takes place in the future but not too far. We have not picked a specific year but it will be less than a century, probably seven decades at most. Our game contains an amount of social commentary about the state of modern business practices and the conflicts they create with the working-class. If we put the game too far in the future that subject would feel less relevant.
Technology is closely related to that subject, and to the entire plot itself. In order to make the setting more believable we are examining various modern-day technologies and attempting to make predictions about how they may be used in the future. For example, we will use Bitcoin as the in-game currency, for a number of reasons. The creation of bitcoins will not stop until the year 2140, which is comfortably farther ahead than the start of the game. Since bitcoins are not controlled by a central authority we believe they would become an attractive choice for these mega-corporations, especially since a lot of them are starting to see themselves as more influential than national governments—another conflict that the game will explore. Anonymous transactions are more-or-less impossible under the Bitcoin system, and projects like Zerocoin attempt to address this. Corporations in our game like DSR will not want a public ledger of their activities floating around the Internet, and so we are investigating this technology and how it may affect the entire landscape of bitcoins in the coming decades.
That is just one of many examples of where we are thinking about existing technologies and attempting to predict their future status. Even though our game has elements of science-fiction we want the technology to be as believable as possible. More than anything that will help plant the premise firmly in reality, and that is an important goal.
During the course of the game humanity learns they are not alone in the universe, and that is all I am going to say about that topic. It forces us to consider how that knowledge affects religions. Pretending that no character in the game is religious would be fake, unrealistic, and a lazy cop-out. At the same time, however, we must be very careful about how we approach the subject. Learning that other intelligent lifeforms exist is a revelation likely to affect religions in a major way.
We have no intent to make religion a prominent factor in the plot but it would be dishonest to pretend it does not exist and that certain revelations throughout the game have no effect on the beliefs of certain people. It is going to be something we must approach character-by-character, carefully considering and planning how their beliefs may change, if at all.
It is a touchy subject and one that could easily make the game sound preachy if not handled with great care. I will have more about this particular issue to write in the future. But for the time being it is perhaps the biggest challenge in crafting our game’s story.