Tuesday, February 15, 2011

When game design meets writing.

So it’s no secret I have a degree in game design and have dabbled in the same. For some years now, I have been working off and on to produce a collectable card game. The story and cards would be based on my book series. The game mechanics… have been complicated.

I have completely re-written the mechanics three or four times over the years. I have also written numerous short stories in which characters play the card game, so I have to keep rewriting those as well.

Creating game mechanics is tough, I won’t lie to you. That’s been the hardest part of the project. Games like Magic: the Gathering have teams of mathematicians hiding behind the scenes, carefully tabulating each point. Yugioh and Pokemon get off easy, but they lack particularly complex or interesting mechanics, with both relying almost entirely on who has better cards. Sure, there is enough diversity in the number of available cards to give the appearance of actual mechanics and strategy, but really its just several different groups of the “best” cards that work together in some specific way the creators designed them to.

Magic: the Gathering(MTG) has actual mechanics and strategy. Complex mechanics, combined with tens of thousands of cards, producing a wide range of strategies that can be combined and configured to produce the most bizarre series of decks imaginable. Sure, there are a handful of deck archetypes that have evolved over the years, but with each new format comes new archetypes, with players making cards interact in new and unexpected ways that even the designers of the games did not anticipate.

That is what I want for my game.

Unfortunately, I am about the furthest thing you will find from a team of mathematicians. So I have to focus on a set of core mechanics, and hope I don’t do anything horrifyingly game-breaking.

That having been communicated, I will share this little excerpt from The Road to War:

The Saratoga settled easily into ‘park’ and glided on inertia, assuming a stable, elliptical orbit. The concept of a starship even having a clutch was outlandish, but then the Saratoga was far from a normal ship.
After her triumphant return from the Remus Star Cluster (now the Gailen Star Cluster) the Saratoga possessed more than a few non-standard accoutrements; and despite turning over schematics for every scrap of technology they had obtained, she was still the only ship in the fleet with bladeth armor and a cloaking system.
A few well-executed reconnaissance and research missions later, and the Saratoga was gaining quite a reputation throughout the fleet.
“Just what do you suppose they called us down here for?” Cindy asked as she set the helm controls into a holding pattern and got up to stretch. “Or why they used such top secret codes.”
The bridge was arranged in tiers like a sports stadium, with Cindy’s helm station at the very bottom in ‘the pit’. Rian held the absolute highest ground, and night shifts frequently found the bridge crew playing ‘king of the mountain’.
“I dunno,” Hunter shook his head. “Need to know isn’t often enforced, but I’m guessing it must have something to do with the accident.”
Two days earlier the entire Typin System had been destroyed by some sort of massive explosion, the original cause of which had yet to be determined. Not that it was as big a mystery as all that; ‘some sort’ and ‘explosion’ when used in a sentence with ‘entire solar system’ usually meant ‘supernova’.
Gudersnipe had a large garrison in Typin, over thirty ships and more than ten thousand troops were lost. But more, the system had three heavily populated planets as well as extensive space mining and dozens of orbital habitats.
The death toll was pure speculation, but thirty billion was the number on everyone’s lips.
Information was sketchy at best; a supernova could generally be assumed, but the exact cause would never actually be known. As it stood, subspace radiation and acute gravitational variances made traveling even close to the system extremely dangerous. It would be months, possibly years before they could safely get near the inner solar system.
Not that anything would be left to tell the story.
However, as is the way of the unexplained, people were already questioning the supernova theory. Typin was a main sequence star nowhere near ready to pop, so the reports were subject to question. Main-sequence stars just didn’t explode like that. Theoretically they became red-giants, but Typin was still nowhere near that stage. That meant if it WAS a supernova, it had to have been artificially-induced.
If it wasn’t a supernova, if it was some kind of solar-system devastating explosion that had NOT involved the sun, there was still hope. Solar-explosions consumed everything, other disasters might have left survivors in the outer system. Nova or not, the more hands there to assist in recovery, the better. Since the initial report reached Central Command and Control, every GS starship within ten thousand light years had been called to assist in rescue efforts.
Except the Saratoga.
A coded disk had been hand-delivered by a courier, ordering the Saratoga in the opposite direction, to the top secret command station in the Argolus Cluster.
Tactical command stations were well hidden, their locations known only to a handful. Clearing a ship as far down the chain as the Saratoga meant the station would have to be abandoned and its crew reassigned. Still, it also meant something very big was in the pipes.
Jason and Hunter boarded the Sinker drop ship and immediately surrendered control to the station’s automated piloting system. The view screens went dead as did the flight instruments, and per regulations they retreated to the passenger section of the craft.
After a brief and, albeit quiet ride, they arrived in the hangar and were escorted by black-clad Legions of Terror (GS Elite Guard) to a briefing room.
“Welcome to space station Argo,” Instructor Roland announced as they entered the room. “It’s good to finally meet you, Mr. Jusenkyou.”
“Pleasures all mine, sir,” Hunter grinned back. Instructor Roland wasn’t actually an ‘Instructor’ in the traditional sense; in fact he was one of less than twenty Gudersnipe Foundation field commanders, in charge of both School and Crimson Blade forces. Such commanders answered only to the Foundation’s highest level of leadership, the Blind Counsel’s Choir. The Choir, in turn, was answerable only to the Chorus. 
That basically made Roland third-down from the top of the proverbial totem-pole.
The Gudersnipe Foundation’s command hierarchy was complicated. Such a massive organization could never be left under the control of a single individual, so at the highest ranks authority was divided.
Above the fleet commanders of the various subsidiaries sat the Blind Counsel. Their name derived from the way that all members wore masks and sat in shadowy alcoves when they met. Counsel members referred to each other only by number, not name, and the names were never recorded anywhere. This ensured objectivity, keeping the decisions and rulings of the counsel purely impartial and apersonal.
The Blind Counsel elected from itself a Choir of twenty-seven. These were the day-to-day decision makers who settled major disputes and decided on large-scale campaigns. Any decision that affected a major portion of the Foundation went through the Choir.
Above the Choir sat the Chorus, who numbered five and chose new members from among the Blind Counsel. Their identities were the most closely guarded secret in the Multi-Verse, but they guided the destiny of the entire Gudersnipe Foundation.
“Well Mr. Jusenkyou,” Roland said darkly as he gestured for Hunter and Jason to sit. “I can only hope you live up to everything I’ve heard about you. And I mean everything.”
Hunter wasn’t entirely sure what the man meant by that, but he nodded resolutely. The mood in the room had just changed from mysterious, to dead serious.
“I’ll get right to the point,” Roland announced. “As you know, two days ago the entire Typin System was destroyed by a massive explosion.”
“I think everybody within a few thousand light years knows that,” Hunter replied. “And I’m sure their ears are ringing.”
“Yes well, what you don’t know is what caused the explosion,” Roland told him. “An accident at one of the labs we control in that system triggered the supernova.”
Hunter gulped uncomfortably. Supernovas were nothing to play around with, even he knew that. Silently, he waited for the instructor to continue.
Roland stared him down, waiting for any hint of humor or disbelief to fade into oblivion. It had to be completely clear that what he said next was neither an exaggeration nor a joke. Seconds ticked by, and with careful deliberation he spoke.
“We are going to undo that event.”

Also, for some reason, my post on Back to the Future has become bizarrely popular. Go figure.

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