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Video Games & Fiction

I had an idea. My first all week, which is a bad sign. I miss, nay, I long for the times when my brain's afire, when I can turn anything into a mind-blowing story. But that can't happen all the time. If it did, I'd have nothing to contrast it with and no reason to take psychedelics on the rare occasions I do. It'd be nice to be there again now, because I've not been visibly productive for a while. Last month, I wrote a grand total of about 3K words. Sure, I worked on my site, but that's still not enough. October, including side projects and things that likely won't see the light of day, I managed over five times that. Not all of them were good words, I'll admit. But a fair chunk were. Hence the blowout week, to jump-start my creativity by forcing me to use it.

So anyway. This idea. It'd be for a mod for the cult classic game Deus Ex. Why? A few reasons. I've been thinking about the game a lot, as well as games in general. It's a good excuse for doing dark conspiracy stuff, after all. But why a fucking video game mod? I'm supposed to be a writer...

Not really. I come up with stories. I encode them into words because that's what I tell myself I'm good at. Sometimes they come out better as RPG setting/mechanics pairs like Mirrorworld, the Modern Fantasy thing or my conversion of Deus Ex.[0] I have a setting and plot for a graphic novel I'm kicking around with a few people on and off. I have The Batshit Insane Mage Game Plot Type Thing. (warning: this last is both a major revelation into the nature of the Mage universe, a critical look at the underpinnings of the real world in which we live, and a rambling pile of wank from reading too much while on an idea kick).

And now I have a video game mod. But specifically, why would it fit? First: It's a close match to the genre of the game. It requires the sort of thing that the base game has and does very, very well. Especially, things like the Cassandra Project (I'm a whore, I know) have already done similar things. And they were fucking good.

The story type thing also hinges on personal decisions at crunch points. It could be structured as an RPG, but those tend to have trends, decisions made over time. This is a finite story with crisis points that player/character synthesis decides at. It's not best suited to the greater degree of freedom inherent in RPG characters.

Metareference is easier to do in a game format. Players who would freak out at trying to RP out meeting their characters in person (as is one of the suggested plots i the excellent Over the Edge would find it more accessible with the extra degree of separation present in a video game. Plus, people get to see the hardsuits loose in New York rather than having them described or having my artwork inflicted upon them.

Why wouldn't it work?
I can't model for toffee. Or rather, I can. If it's a mechanical model. Something that's not meant to have organic flow. I can model mechanics because I can picture it all as a set of related vectors, matricies governing what moves where, and I know how it looks. I have a criminal lack of understanding of the human biological form (fuck, I live online and measure time since September 1993... says it all). I am also patently useless at skinning. Seriously. I can't do art at all, least of all good art for 3D models.

I also have a hard time mapping. This is, strangely, related to my "can't write long fiction for love nor money" problem. Maps are ultimately easy, being aesthetic geometry problems. But I can't force myself to concentrate on something for the time it takes to finish a map. Assume I spend an average amount of time, and already know my way around the editor. I could write 20000 words in that time, and have communicated the idea of the game ten or more times over. I can't do it.

Assume I use game-models and I tweak some of the game-maps. Could I? Probably. I could certainly code it. But... then I hit the last stumbling block. This game was released a long time ago. It's had a (not-as-good) sequel, that had no programming tools released for it. It runs on tech from the late 90s, for fuck's sakes. Nobody is going to either reinstall a whole game or worse go out and hunt down a game that they probably won't find, then pay good money for it, just so they can download something and watch it. That's madness. That's like saying people would pay for a reader for an e-book format that stopped being used five fucking years ago just because I released books in that format. And then expecting them to pay for said books. It doesn't work. It's lunatic economy, and the intersection of people who both read this journal (and thus know of my work) and who already own Deus Ex (the only downloaders I would get) is pitifully small. It'd be wanking off for my own edification, without the chance of critical feedback.

Sod all that, what would the game have been like?
it's an FPS with a skill system (to determine how accurate/stealthy/good at hacking/good at making cakes you are) and augmentations, for the cybernetic superpower stuff. That much doesn't change, because it doesn't need to.

Player is an enhanced black-ops agent. Stereotypical. Working for an organization who are fighting the secret conspiracies. So far, so obvious. Graffiti on the walls, "WhO IS M3rCUrY JOnES?" Some newspapers (readable in game) include an increase in right-wing terrorist activity carried out in Jones' name. Ultimately, it's the Big Subplot. Not anything to do with working for the Agency and killing people that makes up the main plot. That has nothing much to do with Jones (save that you work against him). A few brain-twisters about agents and double agents and triple agents, but really nothing more than any fan of the espionage genre could come up with in an afternoon. That's not really important. It's the set-up for wandering around various urban locales, alternately helping and hurting people. It's developed, you can play through the whole mod without knowing any more... but it's not the *point*

The really fun part is the incidentals. Information leaks out that Mercury Jones is the figurehead for the extremes among the forces of control, someone normal people cower from and give up their rights to their governments for protection from. Optional missions give you the chance to get closer and closer to the truth. Reality gets weirder, but only when you do... the more heavily-armed you go, the more resistance you will find, that sort of thing. Nothing anyone can explain.

In a New York slum, your fellows in the Agency drop a powersuit prototype. They know where Mercury Jones is, and he's got too dangerous. This is the same slum you are in chasing up information. Cue discussion with the nutcase.

"Haven't you figured it out yet? Don't you know what that damn thing is after? You, you idiot! You are Mercury Jones. In the downtime between missions, when your implant aren't online, when nobody's pushing your buttons, you are the fascists' best friend."

Cue stealth operative with relatively minor augmentations going up against a powersuit in order to find out the truth -- or to forget everything. Cue a room with the other character mugshots available at the start (player can pick from about 6 different ones, use all the others), with the words "Mercury Jones - Deceased" underneath each one.

Finding the truth - the player/character's implants contain femtotechnology, machines that work on the scale of quarks and the space between protons. Down near the planck space where ideas make reality. And these implants, these machines, make the characters thoughts. The character is coded to become Mercury Jones whenever he's not "awake" -- being played in the game. It takes more playing to find more of the truth -- that Mercury is an archetypal MeMeplex being bled into the world from the superflow, infecting agents through their implants, a dormant personality graft forced into the heads of enhanced killing machines. Only by removing this graft to the personality complex can the character be free when not being played.

Alternately, the character can go back, can give up -- thus stopping being played -- to be this iconic figurehead/enemy of th New World Order (the reason behind the Agency's existence). One last mission to get the Agency's trust.

Fiction stuff as well. Especially with the Blowout... First drafts are posted here. I don't even fix non-obvious typos. I just write and it hits the journal, behind a cut. If you prefer to see the finished version, wait for it to appear on the site. I'm hoping for a maximum of a week turnaround between the two, though that will be helped by anyone who wants to play editor. Some bits (like the half-finished Double or Nothing series) will need more time as they are bad enough that I want to rewrite them.

I've had this song on loop for the last 24 hours. It's as addictive as Bandages was this time last year. it's the theme song for the last weird dream.

No, you don't get out of giving me titles. Not if you want to see me write something for the Fucking Holidays, at least.

Malcolm: I start on Babel 17 as soon as I finish Singularity Sky, so soon. I look forwards to it. If you haven't read the latter, pick it up. I think you'd like it.

I think I'm done, now.

[0]: No links. The LJ posts are scrappy and are being rewritten for the site.

Comments

( 2 informants — We want information! )
eyebeams
Dec. 11th, 2004 08:58 am (UTC)
Cool. I really wanted to see more of the fantasy game. I'm putting R2R through another design cycle next year and I'd like to see how you play with that.

Damn, dude. Now I have to read Babel-17 again. The seminal Delaney SF novbel is Dhalgren, though.

Holy shit -- how did I miss your Mage stuff? This is brilliant, and you Got It. Something very much like the Nine Discs was in the playtest for Judgment: items representing the Spheres, but with an inherent yearning for completion in the Qlippoth: desire without discrimination. Ultimately, once player character toom the mantle of the rebis and took the name Napea Daath: Enochian for the sword the cleaves the Abyss.

Of course, Napea Daath needed to die, in the end, or else he would simply take Voormas' place. Ultimately, a PC killed both him and Voormas with the First Focus.

Femtotech is very much like some of the stuff in my anarcho-space opera game, though you have done a better job than I.

I'm looking forward to more of the same.
everinward
Dec. 11th, 2004 06:57 pm (UTC)
I'll edit.
( 2 informants — We want information! )

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