"First off: Don't ask me your name, I don't know it any more than you do. You've probably been frozen for a thousand years... your memory may come back in time. Or maybe it won't. I don't care either way.
"Second: You're my property now. Yah, you heard me. I don't care who you were or what you did. You can tell people what you want, but my advice is: save your oxygen. Nobody cares or believes you.
Everyone you ever knew or loved or hurt has been dead a millennium, and chances are great you're gonna join 'em soon enough if you want a little reunion. Until then, you work, or you don't get oxygen.
"Third: Yah, you're noticing you have a suit on. Don't fuck with it. Most environments aren't pressurized here -- oxygen's too precious to share with every damn idiot in the rings. It's our base currency. You're breathing mine right now, which means I own you until you work it off or kill me. You want to take a stab at the latter, you go nuts, but I gotta tell you I've got a pretty little frozen statue garden outside of the corpsicles who tried before you.
"So here's the deal: You do whatever I ask, you get oxygen, you stay alive. You don't, you die. Don't worry, I ain't one of those pervo types -- most of those guys got dealt with a long time ago. Infestation's been around forever, we take care of our own, one way or the other.
"You'll probably start by mining. If some miracle happens and you actually have a talent for something, I'll move you over to that. You survive a couple years, we'll call your debt paid up, and I'll give you a quarter 'M' of Oxygen -- enough for a year if you keep your yap shut -- and that suit you're wearing, and you're a free man. Now, don't get all misty-eyed on me, that suit is total crap -- I wouldn't put my third-cousin in it. But you'll learn how to keep it running.
"Now get to work."
The rings of Jupiter -- the area of a thousands earths -- have been turned into the biggest penal colony civilization has ever known. For thousands of years the planets of man have dealt with their undesirables through exile; their frozen bodies are shot towards the rings to be picked up (or not) and thawed out by the "Jovian Infestation" -- the ragtag, fiercely independent great-great-great-grandchildren of convicts of a hundred worlds.
The rocks of the ring have enough oxygen, water, and raw materials to support life. Barely. If you're smart, and lucky. Technology in the rings is the scavenged garbage from a hundred different civilizations, plus whatever trinkets they can create themselves.
You wake up after being thawed out by a "body prospector"; a man who's chosen occupation is to track incoming corpsicles and revive them to be his indentured servants for some number of years.
The game starts with you creating your character by answering multiple-choice questions about your early life in the Infestation: you pick a path and some time goes by and the results are shown to you, and then you choose what you're going to do next. For instance, when you start, you can decide to be a miner, try to work on fixing gadgets, or try to rebel against your master. If you pick mining, your character will get mining skill. If you rebel and fail, you'll get more time as an indentured servant, or dead. If you rebel and succeed (unlikely), you'll be a free man with the assets of your former master, but his entire family will also be trying to kill you.
After this initial period is over, the game proper starts. You will have a ship (or two) for flying between the asteroids in the ring -- since these are claptrap, unpressurized, single-person craft, they aren't much. Think space jalopies. You'll mine from the asteroids, find caches of items that have been lost for centuries, defend yourself from outlaws, and interact and trade with the other colonists.
As you get more advanced, you buy more and upgraded parts for your ship and bolt them on, using an interactive editor. The ship's aerodynamics don't matter (space!), but the ship's handling is entirely dependent on where you place attitude and main thrusters, and your defense (or offense!) is entirely dependent on what weapons you can cobble together. If you lose a thruster in a fight, well... better hope you can repair it. If not, you don't have a thruster there until you buy a new one. Which may or may not work the same.
In many senses, this part of the game is kind of like the old "Privateer" game, except with a ship that you can build (and rebuild, and repair) from the ground up, in 3D, in any configuration you like.
As your ship improves and your range expands, you'll find more types of people and also have new types of missions -- for example, you can track and intercept one of the garbage barges heading towards the sun from some unknown civilization, and scour it for discarded treasures. In a colony where something as simple as a piece of tubing can be the difference between life and death, garbage is like manna.
There are also factions in the game - almost everyone is part of what they call a 'family' -- a group of people, some related by blood, who bond together for protection. Each family also has a list of enemies -- people it thinks the colony would be better off without. The problem is, if you get caught killing someone, everyone from their family is more likely to want to kill you. Of course, if YOU have a powerful family behind you, they'll think twice about it. Unless, you know, they think they can do it without being caught.
Every time you interact with another character in the game, she takes note of how you treated her (traded fairly? traded unfairly? robbed her? tried to kill her?), and tells her family. Families will also offer you quests for items or errands that will earn you their loyalty. You can choose to be a total loner and piss off everyone, or you can be a sycophant and try to join every family.
Families all interact on a giant wikipedia-like network, for which you'll be able to buy or assemble a terminal at some point, and join in. There they bicker and rant and air grievances against each other and try to sway other families to help them, and, of course, mention what can be done by people wanting to get in good with them.
In addition to the explore / mine / trade aspect of the game, there's some role-playing, but done in a new way. Over time, other characters will grow curious about you, and sometimes they'll ask you plot-advancing questions, such as questions about your past, and you'll be offered multiple-choice answers. The twist is, whatever answer you choose BECOMES reality -- that is, you get to choose your character's backstory as the game unfolds, instead of picking it all in advance, OR having it handed to you.
For instance, a trader may say, "You buy a lot of guns, newbie. I take it you weren't a stranger to action Before?" If you answer yes, then word will get out about you, and you may later get asked if you were a soldier or a killer or what-have-you. As you define your character, you'll 'remember' skills that you'd forgotten during your long sleep -- if you were a soldier you might pick up a sharp-shooting ability, but if you were a scholar you might gain the ability to sway people with just words.
Since which questions get asked and when they get asked (if at all) is random, each game you'll have different opportunities available for your character.
One possible endgame: an unbelievably beautiful and advanced ship breaks the quarantine of Jupiter and visits the Infestation... for you. "Why" depends on your choices throughout the game. If you were a noble person Before, it could be your family's descendants have come to rescue you from wrongful punishment. Or maybe you're a prince in exile, and now the last known descendent of the royal family. If you were a good soldier who was framed, it could be that the old government was overthrown and the new one discovered your case history and decided to right an old wrong. If you were a bad dude -- well, maybe they realized that it wasn't safe just to quarantine you, and even all these years later they'd feel better if you were actually dead-dead. Maybe you tried to escape being killed by hiding in the colony, and your would-be killers have chased you.
[Every once in a while I wake up with a game idea or something crazy in my head. I've decided to start writing 'em down so I don't lose 'em.]
Labels: random ideas