So my goal for Praxis is to try and build a robust backstory that the game can evolve with a bit more organically from that story, rather than develop the story about where I want the game to go. I had taken an initial “bad” approach (we’d call it bottom-up, where you come up with the gameplay concepts and fit a story around it, rather than top-down) and the original story suffered a lot because of it. So initially I had come up with a gameplay concept I thought would be fun (there was actually a lot more to it after the initial pitch – the idea was to marry an RTS with a CCG, so you’d be ‘base building’ as your building your unit defenses and juggling between them. The idea COULD work in theory, but it didn’t fit my design criteria for the audience I was trying to target). And with this idea, I came up with a story. The setting was a post-post-apocalyptic world (that wasn’t a typo), in a pretty crafty story where everyone has a stack for the downfall of the world but everyone points fingers at everyone else as the source. I had worked on this story a bit with my English major friend and here’s our last draft (sent in an email on 10/26/11):
“General plot is that people put pressure on the government, and the government deperately needs funds to prevent economic collapse. President sends his officials to solve the problem. They devise a radical solution of creating a deadly, very contagious virus and the resulting vaccine, and sell said vaccine to bring in additional revenue. The virus production is contracted out secretly in two halves, a group who knows they are creating a weapon of biological warfare for the government, and a group who thinks they are part of an excercise to respond to a biological disaster. Everything goes as planned, the president's officials inform him of this virus (and not the fact that they are behind it) and to warn the people. They largely ignore this warning. The virus is released, and people die as mutated, disfigured versions of themselves in a slow and painful death. It spreads much quicker than the government anticipated, but the money is good so they do nothing about it. A whistleblower from the vaccine manufacturer realizes this is the cure he helped invent a few years prior, and whistleblows thinking it will help clear his name, and help the situation. The people find out and revolt in panic. They attack the capital where the virus is being manufactured. The government, fearing the cure will be destroyed, employ the military to protect the cure at all costs. They do not know what they are protecting, just following orders. They are overwhelmed though, as the people mistake their guarding for guarding the virus itself, and the cure is destroyed. Anyone who cannot get one of the few remaining vaccinations floating around eventually dies over the next few years, as society crumbles when 95% of its population dissapears.
Fun plots gimmicks to play with: Old world vs new world, who actually caused it, discovering what the old world was like, etc.
The Wandering - The looters, pillagers, and rapers out full force. Banned together like wolves not out of camaraderie but out of survival, they lost their morals in the destruction and the risk-vs-reward scales are definitely tipped towards risk. They are largely unorganized, but some rulers have risen with an iron fist. Their focus is on hitting quick, fast, with no defenses and straight at your buildings. Playstyle: Glass-cannon like playstyle of pure aggression. They go full force after buildings, their defense is their offense.
The Resolute - The last of the truely civilized, banding together to try and reestablish government with the eventual goal of reviving society. The leaders are grizzled, emotionless veterans, but full of soul and livelyhood in the grey world. They are the last strong grip on modern life and fight hard to keep their ground. They are likely the holy-ground for the pure of heart still around, but not the most public for such a cause due to their favoring survival over the true benevolent nature. As such, they are often conflicted between survivors and their capacity for new recruits etc. Because of their morals, they are often in a more defensive position but not afraid to take action when necessary. As a result of being the only group who favors society's revival, they have attracted the pure of heart and greedy alike. The government officials who were never exposed for being a part of the virus took haven here. Eventually, there will be a conflict as their views on what society should be are different and a group will likely break off. Playstyle: war-of-attrition, establish a defense, win through outpacing their opponent not sheer power. Very resourceful compared to pure defensive power.
The Battalion - What was once a military is now a political power. These are your meathead warriors with a chip off their shoulder in a taste for blood. Once defenders of the people, they are now defenders of themselves. Everyone mistakes them as being on the government's side, when in reality they were just as unknowing about what was going on as the people and are falsely lumped with them. They for the most part are isolated, but if you step on their toes you will be crushed by any means necessary. I imagine them metal-gear style, somehow with technology that doesn't exist anymore but is limited in nature. Basically they are the ones with the fun toys being part of the advanced military branch. Playstyle: Big, heavy hitters. Hit big, hit hard. Who needs control, just crush them instead. Who needs beginning-game, the game ends when these guys start the fuck up. Focus on comradery and military stuff.
The Faceless - Through some weird mystical way these are the ones who can see "the bigger picture". Methodical in nature, everything has a purpose and they believe the apocalypse was to turn the tides in their favor. The world is their game, and they watch it slowly shift towards their vision, playing a hand in history when necessary. Mystical powers of some kind, perhaps divine. Definitely not worldly. Their name comes from both from the dark hoods they wear that mask their face, and rumors that they sacrificed their appearance for power. Playstyle: Very controlling, they aren't power hitters but they can control the board enough to ensure victory.
The Lost - Not fully fleshed out, but they have never been seen, only told in stories around the bar. If anyone has encountered them, they haven't lived to spread the world of their existence, and if they did no one would likely believe them. They are manical, where the wandering are feared for being agressively scary, these guys are feared for being creepy as fuck. They will suck the life out of buidings to damage others, even sacrifice their own health in the name of winning. They don't speak, they are just feared. You do NOT want to come across these guys (if they are guys) somewhere. Likely birthed out of the same power that made the faceless what they are, perhaps more morbidly corrupted by the affair.”
Sounds pretty fun for a first pass, eh? There were terrible issues with what weapons they’d use to fight and how this would fit in with the current game design and why they’d be fighting so much if most of the world died etc, on top of the hyper realism with attaching it to an Earth disaster that just muddled everything. In reality, while the story would make a great book, it would not make a great card game. So when I went to reboot this game two or three months ago, I had come up with the base idea – what if life was extractable as a substance, and useable from a manufacturing/engineering perspective? And I had devised a whole bunch of different scenarios that I dismissed for various reasons. Each one was great in its own regard, but not great enough to stand on its own. I had then stumbled upon a pseudo-science article that talked about “shadow matter”, in reference to some bacteria that coexists in our world but is entirely invisible to us. And it got me thinking: what if there was a fourth dimension wasn’t time in the strictest sense, but rather difference instances of existence. Completely different worlds with completely different histories, but if you were able to “link” them you could traverse between them as if you lived in an XY plane world and found out about the Z axis. And suddenly things started to come together. I came up with this idea of the laterals, these links between parallel worlds that are JUST similar enough that they could connect. So here’s my rough idea, by worlds:
Cypris – this is the remnants of ‘Earth’, after the blight engulfed the southern hemisphere. The blight is some unknown but deadly cloud from unknown origin in the southern hemisphere that crawled almost tendril-like to crawl across the globe, killing everything in its path over a period of 5 years. Only the northern-most nations had enough time to set up proper protection against the blight creep, with three main havens that were strategically chosen by all northern nations to try spread out evenly: one in North America, approximately at the Canadian Shield, one in Europe in the Germany/Poland/Czech area, and one in northern Russia in the northern Siberian Federal District, around Krasnoyarsk Krai. This has been going on long enough that people are ‘sustained’ and ready to start developing solutions to rid the world of the blight. Which leads to existence #2:
Gathis – Gathis has two independent races currently at war. One being the faceless (who need a new name), who like my description above have sacrificed their normal senses for some “heightened” ones. They are unique in that they share a collective thought process, as if a single entity were controlling all of them and are able to communicate through thought alone. The people of Cypris think it’s a sign of a God. The crazy advantage to this puppet method is that there is no distinct leader to kill, theoretically. But Gathis is inhabited by some 4th faction (which I call clades, fitting?) that’s been at war with them for who knows how long. And the faceless are losing. The catch is, this mastermind has made a connection to a man named Marcus, leader of the Russian haven. They can implant thoughts in his head, but they cannot receive return messages. Marcus interprets this as the voice in his head, telling him if he can open a lateral to Gathis and help the faceless with some vital resources, they know how to clear the blight. He complies. But there’s a catch, unbeknownst to both of them there’s actually MORE than two existances, and Marcus actually connects to existence #3:
Praxis – Praxis is a graveyard. When Marcus and his group first arrive, there are giant hulking structures, but no signs of life. Marcus takes in the surroundings. It’s beautiful and peaceful. But dead and desolate. And he starts to think – maybe the answer is to transfer here instead. To get away from the blight and start over. And he sets up a colony. But unbeknownst to him, Praxis IS inhabited. The Deldra (needs a name change) are watching their every move. The Deldra are machines infused with life. See, long ago, there was another race on Praxis. They were as intelligent as they were cunning, and they were able to extract life as a tangible substance. This was a major breakthrough, similar to life before and after electricity, or steam powered engines, or even early agriculture. They infused simple machines with this life, turning them into a living hulk of metal. Praxis was once beautiful, but as this old race extracted life from the world, the world slowly died. And as the earth bled, the old race was too ignorant and blindsided by their own advances to realize the issue. And as these machines infused with life became more and more advanced, they took on their own identity. They collectively became the Deldra. And with this, they wanted independence and equality, as life they felt they deserved to be viewed as more than just servants of their machine-past. But the old race refused, and a war erupted, and the Deldra won out. The old race was wiped out from the earth, and the Deldra were free. But the world was different – the Deldra don’t need food or water, they don’t need housing, and they are highly efficient without the same emotional range. They are programmed strictly for survival. And as they continued to grow, Praxis continued to die, until one day it was too late. With the arrival of Marcus and his crew, the Deldra felt this was a second coming of the old race, and so they planned their attack. This is where shit goes down. Marcus thinks it was a setup -- and from Praxis opens a new lateral to Gathis. And that's all I've got so far?
Also my 'buildings' are not accounted for in the story yet. Are they villages on the other side of the lateral? Why can I score and steal them? Do they hold open the lateral? These are questions that must be fleshed out.
Anyway that's for now, if you stuck with this post this far, you're a trooper. Thanks for being awesome.