Tuesday, March 16, 2010

2D Digital Art II - Game Design Project: The Concept

(Note: Before I begin, I should mention all this stuff is copyright by me, Joseph Cassano. Then again, all stuff on this blog is (or should be, anyway). So yeah.)

I have finally settled on a concept for the project. A concept for a game I shall call (tentatively): The Coast.

It's a science fiction title, and a hardcore, open-world, third-person RPG. In terms of the world and the overall feel, it would be similar to Cowboy Bebop. Gameplay-wise, it would be similar to Steambot Chronicles and Beyond Good & Evil in the aspects of exploration, populated worlds, and plentiful sidequests.

Quick concept work for the setting. Explained below.

The setting is the year 2232 and humanity has, in this universe, colonized quite a few solar systems in the Milky Way. No intelligent lifeforms have been found as of yet that could compete with man – the most intelligent lifeforms found have been as smart as dolphins – so humanity is the only colonizing force.

Specifically, the game is set in a solar system known colloquially as the Coast, called such because it’s the last solar system at the edge of man’s “empire” – the Inter-Planetary Union (IPU or the Union) – and thus the last stop before the uncolonized ocean of space. The Coast consists of a sun much like our own and a sole planet that is located roughly the same distance away from the sun as Earth is from its own. The planet is Tristan and its moon is Isolde – the names coming from the legend of Tristan and Isolde*. These names, along with “the Coast” further establish a nautical theme that pervades the game.

Before Tristan and Isolde can be discussed further, though, a certain man must be introduced as he greatly influenced the history of the Coast. That man is Oswald Samuel Smythe, colloquially known as “Oz”. He is a planetary real-estate mogul that took control of the Coast many years ago and set it up for colonization. In this time, colonization is a legal private enterprise within the Union, but Oz himself is a bit of a crook; his colonization of the edge of humanity’s reach was done, in part, to avoid Union law. Those who came to inhabit his planet and moon all, in one way or another, work for him. Most inhabitants can go throughout their daily lives undisturbed by Oz and his men, but those who “cause trouble” are not so easily ignored. As such, although Oz may not be dictating how everyone lives their lives, his presence is definitely felt – the relationship is somewhat akin to a mob family and the neighbourhood they “control”.

Despite Oz’s control, the Coast has attracted quite a few settlers. The poorer of these settlers tend to inhabit Isolde (although poor communities do exist on the planet) while the rich tend to be on Tristan. Oz’s “keep” – a mansion/fortress where he “rules” from – is on the planet, and as such, people have come to call the planet “the Mainland” and the moon “the Island”.

Not all settlers live on the planetary bodies themselves, though. Some live in a string of various space stations and ships brought by settlers in geostationary orbit around Tristan. Oz’s rule in the space stations is less pervasive due to their chaotic nature (many people are squatters) and the fact that he does not actually own the ships and stations, but he still considers them his property. As such, the region is known as the Jetsam (jetsam being pieces of a nautical wreck that belong to the finder). However, those who disagree with Oz’s ownership – or those who merely wish to defy him – call the region the Flotsam (flotsam being like jetsam, but instead they belong to the original owners).

The entire community of the Coast has existed for 50 years (Oz was not a young man when he established the Coast, but in this time, the rich can live much longer lives). Despite its age, technologies on the coast are generally quite primitive by the time period’s standards (for the sake of visualization, it would mainly be technology of the present time’s “near future”, similar to Cowboy Bebop). Even the ships that comprise the Jetsam are considered “old”, and Oz’s tech is usually not cutting-edge as such things would attract suspicion from the Union.

It is to this community that the protagonist, Zephyr “Zeph” Selkis enters. She’s a strong, independent young woman who travels from place to place in her solo ship, Cirrus, in search of money and something to do; a freelancer of sorts. Her only “real” job is that she occasionally writes articles for Union News outlets, but it is never consistent work. One day, she’s contacted by Union News informing her that, if she needs the work, they need articles about the Coast (the region is much-rumoured in the Union, but no one’s ever really covered it before; Oz makes sure of that). Not having any solid plans and up for a challenge, she decides to take on the job. She’s also aware of the large bounty on Oz’s head put in place by Union Police since they have never been able to successfully capture him. Zeph knows that getting to Oz would be nigh impossible, but she keeps it in the back of her mind while she reports. She also looks for various odd-jobs in the Coast that might pay better than her reporting; there’s no real deadline on the thing. As such, her main objective can be considered to report on matters in the Coast via missions, but she can also participate in many sidequests, and if bold enough, try to apprehend Oz or help in his apprehending. She may even be persuaded to work for Oz himself.

Well, that’s much longer than I initially thought it would be. Regardless, that’s the premise I’ve come up with. Future posts will probably be elaboration, concept art, and what you actually do in the game.

*In the legend, the Cornish knight Tristan is transporting the Irish princess Isolde across the sea to marry his uncle, King Mark, but along the way they ingest a love potion and fall madly in love. The nautical link seems to end there as they eventually reach shore, but I chose this legend because it has two main figures (for the planet and moon), a nautical link of some kind, and I couldn’t find a planetary body designated as Tristan or Isolde.



Above I mention Cowboy Bebop, Steambot Chronicles, and Beyond Good & Evil. I realize, however, that some may be unfamiliar with these works, and the Wikipedia links may not be too helpful. Sadly, I have been unable to find decent gameplay videos of Steambot Chronicles or Beyond Good & Evil of the parts I find relevant, but I did manage to find a video that captures the style of Cowboy Bebop. It is embedded below. I have the video set to play at the beginning of the part I think is the most relevant, but feel free to watch from the beginning if you are so inclined (you may want to mute the music if it's not your style, but I happen to like it):

(Direct YouTube link)

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