Tacticular Cancer: We'll have your balls

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Update #2 : The Setting

Discussion in 'Titan Outpost' started by MF, Aug 31, 2017.

  1. MF The Boar Studio Developer

    Dec 8, 2002
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    Hi everyone. This is the second update. Let’s talk about the setting. I purposely went back and edited things to be a little more vague because I don’t want to spoil the plot too much.

    The game takes place in the year 2077 and the player is on Titan to harvest methane. Normally, this premise would be flawed because the cost of mining something that is relatively abundant on earth millions of kilometres away is not cost-efficient, but this is an alternate history setting.

    The 1970s oil crisis wasn’t just a scare in this setting, it had a more profound and lasting impact on the world. In Titan Outpost’s current time, earth has been burning hydrocarbons at an accelerated rate for a hundred years. Earth’s equator slowly became a lifeless desert. Endless fields of solar arrays helped, but collective efforts at temperature regulation only compounded the energy problems. To prevent global warming, excess greenhouse gasses were jettisoned from the atmosphere. This was an efficient and cheap move in the short term, but with the carbon cycle broken, earth’s carbon levels were rapidly and permanently depleted. As of the game’s start date, the reserve of 130 billion tons is mostly gone and so is most of the fissile material. Most nukes have been dismantled because fuel was more important than military superiority.

    Measures were taken, but too little, too late. The colonization of the moon in 2060 and the rise of civilian space travel made matters worse, with an increased demand for fuel.
    Your mission is a last-ditch effort at satiating your species’ ever-growing thirst for fuel. A long-term colonization plan was in place, but economical incentive has pushed the plan forward. Your character is dumped on Titan with enough resources to set up a semi-automated mining operation, but little preparation for long-term stay and no way out.

    Europe, West-Russia, The United States, Japan and most South American countries united to form the International Autonomous Space Association. You work this supranational organisation.

    The rest of the world is split into an oligarchy of Indian companies and the People’s Republic of China. China has annexed Eastern Russia, except for Primorsky Krai, which is still controlled by Moscow. Fun fact: Due to environmental changes, Vladivostok is now a beach resort.

    There are a few autonomous organisations operating in space as well, more an that later.

    There is much more backstory, but that’s beyond the scope of this update. An example would be that OPEC was never formed and the consequences that would have. Some of it is implied through dialogue, some of it is explained in optional exposition in the game, like item descriptions or other flavor content. If you’re into the world building, you can dig in and peruse every piece of information and if you’re not, it won’t be in your face all the time.

    The whole world has migrated towards cryptocoin, with the WCU, an intergovernmentally backed coin, being the most popular. Everyone accepts it as fiat currency except for the Chinese.

    The factions you have to deal with are:

    IASA - Your employer at the start. Nations banded together to form this relatively autonomous institution that has in some ways more power than the nations that started it. IASA has a base in the Titan/Saturn L2 Lagrange point called Kronos Station. When the game starts, you've been recuperating at this station from your long voyage to Saturn and ready to launch your Titan lander.

    Kronos Station and the lander.

    Chinese - They have a solid presence in the Saturnian system with an established base on the moon Enceladus. They have also recently begun operations on Titan, but for different reasons. The Chinese are actively colonizing Mars. You believe they still have a planned economy, but in reality, no one really knows for sure.

    "Uphold science, eradicate superstition"

    Independent Contractors - This covers a variety of non-government parties. These parties will approach you to conduct extracurricular business. IASA will almost invariably disapprove of this business. For example, there is a private shipping company that wants a piece of the action, there is a trade conglomerate that wants to prevent IASA from becoming a hydrocarbon monopolist and there is a tourist company that wants to explore the idea of sightseeing on Titan for the extremely wealthy. You will be contacted by these people as the game progresses, and you can keep in touch with their representatives through the comms system. Ships will arrive at Titan periodically to send and receive supplies.

    Modular Freighter (work in progress)

    This theme of government versus private enterprise is everywhere in the game. It is not a hamfisted poltical allegory and in the end the player controls the outcome, but there is an underlying message. Like Arthur C. Clarke’s ‘The Moon is a Harsh Mistress’, the morality of independence is a central issue.


    Most (almost all) of the game takes place on Titan. In the beginning, you are alone, but throughout the game some people will join you on the surface. Or work against you, depending on your actions. If you head straight for the Chinese base, you will be able to meet people there right away, but that is like going straight to Mariposa in Fallout. It’s possible, even viable, but not exactly the intended way to go about things.

    Communication with people on earth or near earth is mostly done through in-game e-mail with over an hour of delay between messages. The deep space network has been improved and greatly expanded, but there is no magic and waves don’t exceed the speed of light.

    There is a cast of characters in the Saturnian system with whom you can communicate directly. Some of them you can meet face to face, some of them will only talk to you through the communications panel in the Outpost or your Rover. Right now, we’re talking about a cast of roughly twenty NPC’s, as I’m trying to make them all have a level of depth heretofore unseen in RPG’s. I have a few more in my ‘could have’ list, but aside from the extra development time, my primary concern is that they crowd things up. Saturn is a long way from earth, the setting is relatively near-future and it wouldn’t make sense to have a lot of people around.

    The setting is bleak at times, but still mostly hopeful. There is a way for the player to have a 'good' outcome that hits every feelgood beat, but that is relatively hard to do. Odds are, something will get fucked up.

    You can walk the surface for short periods at a time by using a special heating suit. It’s a drysuit within an EVA suit. Neoprene layers to the skin with trapped nitrogen, followed by an aerogel layer, followed by tubes running hot liquids through the suit, especially to the feet. Dealing with the suit is a core element of the gameplay.

    Here is a little bonus screenshot: The death screen for when your suit is out of power and you eventually freeze to death. The most common way to die in the game. Hope you like it.


    Death Screen

    As for Titan itself, I’ve gone to great lengths to determine how it should look, but that is a story for another time.
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  2. HoboForEternity Arcane

    Mar 27, 2016
    over the past few weeks the game become "interesting" to "whoa, this guys are awesome. ireally have to keep this on constant lookout"

    yes, yes, i do agree it is a good decision, no in fact i love it. overcrowding in RPGs NPCs are real. we have dozens and dozens of irrelevant faceless nameless mooks. it depend for what you're gonna achieve. if you go for a grand adventure, then lots of cast, etc are good, but a tight story based games are better with tight and deep cast. so yeah, keep with fairly thin.
    18-22 is ideal.
    another good philosophy, yet from a development perspective, is hard to achieve when writing in videogame. in a combat focused games, all of these will show on the combat/core gameplay itself. games like AoD, underrail and some other, that is pretty brutal and chances are something are gonna get wrong, and you won't get everything, but when you find a way to conquer your enemies with minimal loss or making a successful hybrids, it is a good feeling.

    add a story however, it is another barrier to pass. you really need not only good writing, but good videogame writing and design clumped into one. it cannot be too obvious, or needlessly overcomplicated that the "good" way feel like artificial obstacle created for the sake of being too difficult or need too much meta knowledge. the other side is the choices being too obvious, etc.

    (some of most guilty of these are japanese VNs. like steins;gate you wont get the true ending in your first several playtrough unless you look it up. you really need a specific direct responses in each choices/text message that nobody can predict.)

    p much to make it natural it has to be a balance between predictable and unpredictable. we still dont know much on how the stats and skills will be implemented, but so far it looks fantastic.
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  3. aratuk Savant

    Dec 13, 2013
    Wow, this is an intriguing game!

    I'm drawn to the idea of dispensing with combat. Combat is the easy, proven way of keeping the player in a perpetual existential crisis. The cheapest, surest form of interactive drama. It would take real work and ingenuity to develop gameplay that can test a player's strategic acumen in a similar way. Risky, too, as it might not be as consistently appealing. Adventure games have puzzles & dialogue, but no stats or combat (or perhaps only clickfest combat). You clearly intend for this not to be an adventure game, and you seem to have made a good start at designing character progression to be interesting without combat. Reading your description of attributes and skills, I thought they all sounded appealing and it would be difficult to choose which ones to improve at the expense of the others. I'm looking forward to seeing how this shapes up.

    One thing concerns me, though. I'm unsure how realistic it is for there to be an Earth that can still support some sort of viable biosphere, yet has to look all the way to Titan for a source of methane. It's a fairly rudimentary molecule (CH4) and a common byproduct of organic decomposition or digestion. After all, more than 50% of humans have gut bacteria that produce methane, and the average cow "emits 250 liters per day." So, we have to imagine a world where it is more economical to send a manned mission across the solar system to send back finite quantities of a material, than it is to raise cattle who would produce that material continuously and sustainably. I haven't read much about this, and I'm still wrapping my head around the idea, but it sounds like Vladivostok might have bigger problems than warm sunny weather, in this scenario. How different would Earth really have to be?
    Last edited: Sep 5, 2017
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  4. MF The Boar Studio Developer

    Dec 8, 2002
    Thanks! Means a lot. Hope I can do it justice.
    The 'good' way is not always gated by difficulty, sometimes it depends on your character's moral outlook. Only in cases where an outcome clearly benefits your character is the path considered good in the sense that it has to be earned. The rest is morally grey. For example, you can end the game with a filthy rich character without doing anything good in the moral sense of the word. It will still be a good ending if you're playing a pragmatic character with a healthy dose of greed. The ending will reflect that. Most choices have consequences in the game itself, but some stuff is delegated to end slides like in Fallout. But you're right, getting difficulty and the sense of accomplishment to fit in the narrative can be a bit of a tightrope at times.

    That's a great question, and the short answer is: It's not. But that has never stopped humanity before.

    The long answer is very complicated and I don't want to spoil too much. The obvious ways to control the carbon cycle are weaved into the premise of the setting. That means cows, plankton farms and scrubbers are part of the equation, but with unintended side effects.
    Show Spoiler
    The gist of it is that the earth's biosphere is fucked. The earth's population is on the verge of a catastrophic famine but kept mostly in the dark about it. The mission doesn’t need to be viable, it needs to be sold to the public as viable. Is getting hydrocarbons from Titan to turn them into hydrogen cheaper than extracting it from water in the inner solar system through electrolysis? With the density of space travel in the setting and economy of scale involved... maybe. In our world? Hell no. It’s fiction. But the real question in the game is: Does humanity have another choice? If Earth is well and truly out of balance with essentially all hydrogen that isn’t trapped in H20 removed from the carbon cycle and no way to turn back the tide without an external injection, isn’t Titan the best option?

    As for Vladivostok: Clathrate ice in Siberia has been mined for CH4. Melting so much surface ice has disrupted the Siberian High winds. I’m not well-versed enough in meteorology to know how realistic that is, but I thought it was a cool idea and I’m pleading artistic license on this one. It doesn't play a major role anyway, you learn about it mostly as a background story for a character.
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