Thursday, October 21, 2010

The New World (TLDR Version)

I'm seriously thinking of having the first conversation in the game have an optional player reply at the end of it labelled 'TLDR', and having it pretty much wipe out the rest of the text in the entire game. It might make our esteemed writers cry though.

Maybe we'll also tie it to a nasty difficulty level.

Anyway, here lies the TLDR version of the previous post.

The setting is thus: A system of 17 moons around a gas giant. The closer to the planet, the more magical the setting, and the further, the more technological. Magic is done in understandable and physically limited ways. Magical energy is based on the 4 elements of yore; Earth Air Fire and Water. All matter is made of this energy and so is manipulatable by difficult magic.

The 'home' or 'origin' planet is a low-magic, high-tech civilization. This civilization is based on a vision of reality called the 'rules of invention', which allows them to create artifacts of complicated nature. The complexity is only limited to persistence and discipline. Devices as complicated as laser weaponry can be created by the smartest individuals, while the most stupid can still follow the rules and build themselves a toaster.

The conflict begins when a group discovers that the rules can be broken and that magic is the real law of the universe. In the ensuing culture clash this group builds a device to travel to another supposedly inhabited, high-energy moon. Some do so to prove their theory, some do to escape persecution, and some do to escape civilization, among other reasons.

One of the themes is science vs. fantasy. In this setting science and fantasy are effectively reversed from reality. Rather than science being the breakthrough of the renaissance, magic is, where science previously held sway. Except that the old 'science' is actually wrong and therefore more 'magic'.. It's wonderfully inverted.

A further theme is the corruptability of power. Some of the scientists learn what they can do in the high magic moons and take their research a bit too far. Also there is the nature of humanity, in that with the new tools in hand, people can eventually manipulate their own bodies in the same way that they perform invention.

That's probably still TLDR actually, but it's better.

How bout:


Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The New World

Back in March I talked a little bit about the planned setting. While the basic concepts of the 'main' game still hold, we've gone a bit deeper on the concepts that drive the setting as a whole. And, as I mentioned in the previous post on consistency of the setting, it is time to declare the axioms of the new World.

This may be a bit dense. Forgive me. Perhaps next time will be a TLDR version. :p

First, this is not set in the real world, or even a distant or remote location in the universe. The laws of nature in this universe differ. It is fantasy. By design, it is a fantasy setting with roots in science fiction. That is to say, given a suspension of disbelief for the basic concepts, the rest should feel more science-y and less fantas-y. In fact, the difference between science and fantasy is a major theme of the setting, as you (assuming you keep reading and my language isn't terrible) will see shortly.

The center of importance in this new universe is a large planet, a gas giant, with 17 moons in its orbit. Each of these moons, by the nature of this universe, is habitable. The sun is distant but still much larger than other stars, but the gas giant (we need a name for it) dominates the sky. Furthermore, the stretches of space near the giant are not empty. They are filled, albeit sparsely, with a gas-like matter, which we'll just call aether as an analogue to science past.

The axioms of physics differ in this world, which is the root of the fantasy element. The energy of the universe has 4 distinct forms, which effectively correspond to the elements of antiquity; Earth, Air, Fire, and Water. These also correspond to the phases of matter; Solid, Liquid, Gas, and Plasmas (not respectively, but rather obviously). These elemental energies react to each other not unlike the physical forces of our universe. Small amounts of these energies form the equivalent of atoms. These elemental atoms can combine or react with other forms of the energy, or other energy types, to form more complicated patterns, similar to molecular structures. When there is sufficiet energy the different natures of the elements become more pronounced, however. Dense energy structures will repel their opposites, and larger quantities may produce more explosive results.

Like energy and matter in our universe, the elemental energy manifests as matter in the new World. All things are, in the end, composed of atoms of each element, although in massively complicated structures. As expected, the energy makeup of matter corresponds to the type of matter; stones will likely have mostly earth energy to them, and little air. This fact of existance applies to humans as well. The 'pattern' of their energy defines their physical structure. Unlike the real world equivalent (DNA), this has effect at a larger scale. A person is one large stable structure of energy.

Both people's brains and forms are results of this energy. Thereby, moving energy around is a natural consequence of existance. By an effort not unlike moving a muscle, entities can manipulate the energy that composes their bodies. This is the basics of effects we would call magic. Shifting where the energy lies within the pattern of the body produces effects. Moving earth around may increase the stability or strength of the recipient part of the body. Most entities do this completely subconsciously, just as a matter of existing. Intelligent entities can learn to do more than just move around their own energy, however.

Energy follows a few principles similar to reality. Diffusion and equilibrium are important concepts. A pattern of energy/matter has a nominal quantity of energy to it. When this amount of energy is present in the pattern, the object is in equilibrium with its environment; is giving off as much energy as is absorbing. If the pattern has too much energy, it will emit the energy away from itself. This energy by nature diffuses outward until something else absorbs it. Think of heat transfer in the real world. Combined with the ability to move energy around, this gives intelligent entities a more useful ability. Intentionally pushing energy out of the body will have an effect on the surrounding. Shunting an amount of fire energy into a piece of wood may light in on fire, as a simple example. More complexly, the shunted energy can be crafted into a new pattern, to produce a specific effect, rather than just empowering an object blindly. The limitation of complexity in these patterns is entirely based on the intellect and willpower of the individual. Intellect to understand what to shape, and willpower to control the energy enough to make the shape.

Theoretically speaking, such a crafted energy form could have its own equilibrium and physical manifestation. These patterns are necessarily very complicated, of course. Even more importantly, once the person realizes that they themselves are the same form of energy, just far more complicated, they could begin manipulating their own energy pattern (rather than the quantity of energy in the pattern), or begin creating a new, artificial lifeform by crafting an incredibly intricate pattern.

Take a breath now. Plenty more to say.

Now then! The gas giant is the local source of the matter/energy in the area. The aether is just low-density energy radiation from the giant. The 17 moons, however, are at varying distances in orbit. The close moons will then have a FAR higher quantity of energy on them than remote moons. The quantity of energy changes the nature of life on these planets substantially.

A close moon, one with a great deal of energy, will produce patterns that are very polar; very much focused on single elements. Creatures on this planet will be very imbalanced, both physically and mentally. With too much energy, the complexity required for intelligence is less likely. Put succinctly: The more energy, the less complexity.

A far moon, one with little energy, will produce very stable and complicated patterns. Intelligent life began on the furthest moons. The 'home' planet in our story is not the furthest moon, but is quite distant. The effect of 'magic' on this moon is never obvious. There isn't enough energy to produce random effects in the world. Nothing happens without something influencing it directly. In this way these far worlds effectively resemble our own Earth, although the physics is entirely different.

Note that the equilibrium of an object from a close moon will be very high, while one from a far moon will be very low. A 'near' object moved 'far' will be pulling in as much energy as possible to retain its equilibrium (in heat terms, it would make things cold). A 'far' object moved 'near' would radiate energy continually, as it dumps energy to return to its low equilibrium. Since planetary travel is part of the story here, one can imagine this is relevant.

Another breath; Now we move from 'science' to 'society'.

Our 'home' planet is designed to be similar to earth. The people have, over the years developed their understanding of the world. They've built their rules that help them model the world. However, the rules the society have learned are actually incorrect. The rules can be successfully used to understand the world, but it turns out this is mostly coincidental. Imagine a world where, given the laws of energy above, one can create objects through intellect and willpower. This world, however, has very little energy to work with. Composing a complicated pattern would take a great deal of time to pool the necessary energy. The work would have to be broken into small pieces, each of them internally stable, in order to accomplish any complicated task.

The rules of invention are basically a set of instructions that people follow to produce components, then assemble these components into a useful tool. Now, naively that sounds just like our reality. We build nails, screws, tools, levers, gears, pumps, etc. etc. etc to construct a complete artifact. The end effect is that the rules let people make things. In this very slow case, willpower is translated into persistence, and intellect into discipline. If you follow the rules, you can make something complicated. But it might take a very long time to make something very complicated!

Briefly contrast this to a person from a 'near' moon. With sufficient energy, a simple artifact can be produced on a whim. It will have strength and power and be effective. A complicated artifact, however, is almost impossible! Since it is difficult to keep objects stable, a crafter cannot build separate components. Only an amazingly intelligent (and willful!) person could possibly craft anything of lasting nature.

We must also consider the nature of the crafter. The pattern created by the crafter will be 'colored' by his own pattern, since his pattern is responsible for the crafting. A 'fiery' person will likely create 'fiery' artifacts. Taken to the next level in complexity, this means that artifacts are matched to their creators. Since that sounds interesting, let's amplify that effect. Let us define that artifacts are almost unusable, except by their creators. (This only really applies to permanent artifacts, such as objects created on the 'far' moon). What we get is a world without factorization, without publicly traded goods. Instead, we have a world were anyone can make anything, given the time and instruction (the 'rules of invention'). These rules then become the cornerstone of society. Without the rules, people don't know how to make anything, and without being able to make a thing, they cannot use it. (Clearly this wouldn't matter for mundane things like tables and sheets and houses, but it would for machinery or electronics).

Society, we decide, has advanced to a enlightened age. One based on the laws of reason, and the rules of invention. One were everyone builds their own devices. These devices are all unique in detail, but similar in technique. Furthermore, they don't really need to behave according to our 'real world physics'. What we 'could' get could look a lot like Steampunk, and since that sounds fun, let's make it so. Let's have our 'far' society reach a Victorian-ish era, but with technology that both far surpasses, and is far behind, our own victorian history. Technology can do more, but more variable.

So, what happens when someone learns that the 'rules of invention' are just a facade over real 'physics'?

That's the story of the prequel. A group has discovered 'science', long after technology has been developed despite its lack. From the real world perspective, it's all reversed. Their 'science' is magic, and their 'magic' is science. The scientists discover that, by abandoning the societal 'rules', they can far surpass their colleagues in craft. They use their new concepts to fuel new inventions and new concepts. They learn about astronomy, they learn the nature of the giant, and their neighbor moons. The learn the concept behind the natural elemental energies, and harness it to create awesome new artifacts.

But the people of the world do not see this as enlightenment. They see it as heresy. As the word of Galileo was met with denial, so here the word of Magic is met with fear. The world's powers turn on science in a grand crusade, a holy war to extinguish falsehood and restore the rightful way of the rules. The scientists, together with 2 groups that aided in their discoveries, are driven away. In a plea to prove themselves correct (and perhaps to escape imminent destruction), they create a new, massive artifact. One that will take them to a new moon, one with more energy with which to fuel their science. Using their telescopes and astronomy, they find a planet that also appears to have intelligent life. A concept the remainder of society had not even contemplated.

They undergo their journey...

To be continued...


Skirmish Update

Relatively newly implemented:
  • Class trees with highlighted ranks and XP; allows changing classes. Only 'available' class trees are shown (usually 1 of the 6 possible).
  • Skill trees with highlighted learned skills, ability to learn skills.
  • Rewritten entity storage; saving and loading really works now, really. Skills, classes, SP/XP, and formations are saved without fail.
  • Cut network traffic down to 10% or so.
  • More data parsing stuff to enable different game effects/actions/states
  • Formations are viewable on the client.
  • Local Network server discovery.
  • Some particle effects.
  • Other stuff too rote to remember.