Age of Ascent - Developer Blog

Age of Ascent developer blog: the setting!

April 11th, 2014 by Stewart Hotston

The Vision

Read the Age of Ascent Backstories.

Hi there everyone, I’m Stew. Officially I help look after the story and setting for AoA as well as helping think about systems and design more generally. Later on we’ll talk about influences on design of specific factions, ships, skill systems and even the economy (we might save that riveting gem for last…). However, in this, the first of what should be an ongoing series of devblogs, I wanted to talk about the setting and our aspiration for the game world.

I was pondering where to start and I think at the end. The vision for the game has been clear to me ever since the first time I met James, the Kermit to my Gonzo, for dinner at a restaurant in the UK. We wanted something that felt authentic, plausible and, in the end, an experience that would respond to players and meet them head on. I admit, I’ve just thrown my chances of winning buzzword bingo, but let me try to explain a little.

I love stories. I write stories and I tell stories. When I play, I want to experience stories. I don’t mind shooters or racing games, they have their own charms, but personally, I love games that allow stories to be told, whether they’re scripted or whether those stories arise out of amazing things that happened that no one could have predicted. Let me tell you a tale to show rather than tell.

I play a lot of LARP, yes I know, still. In one game we played there was an election being run – the players were invited to spend a weekend helping choose the ruler of a Fae court for the next one hundred years. There were NPCs wandering the paths of the game talking and trying to persuade, people were given the chance to obtain super votes and even influence each others decisions.

However, a bunch of players decided that they didn’t like the choice. So they challenged the script and attempted to have someone not even on the ballot elected as the ruler of the Fae Court. The game was set so that things like this could happen – regardless of the consequences, regardless of it throwing the script out of whack. The players were successful and an entirely different person came to be Queen of the Court. The consequences are still being felt throughout the game.

For me, the above story has everything we want to capture with AoA – freedom, plot, a story that responds to player actions and, ultimately, players deciding the course of the game. It’s a perfect symbiosis of game and player. We call this emergence.

Technically emergence is a property of a system that arises, typically, when the rules of the system interact to create an unforeseen outcome. There are loads of real world examples of this, from how traffic bunches up on roads, to consciousness and even what happens when you use a cue to recklessly smash balls around the pool table.

So we’ve drawn on the games, books and ideas we love. For me, whether it’s the Shield of Achilles by Philip Bobbitt, The Last Starfighter, Kim by Rudyard Kipling or New Model Army by Adam Roberts, I wanted to make sure that we built on influences we loved, stories that changed us and ideas that were as big as the worlds they appeared in. AoA is a space game where you’re free to do whatever you want – be it build, trade, research, shoot people in the face or just explore.

However, at its heart we are interested in creating a space where stories emerge as you play. Fundamentally they’re going to be your stories and we hope to have the pleasure of experiencing them with you.

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