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Welcome back to the Monday Morning Mutant Memorandum... or the M4. After a brief vacation over Memorial Day, its time to get back into the swing of things with a brand new topic!
Isuue #3: Death and Immortality in the Wasteland
The key to a successful MMORPG is finding balance. Reality vs. Monotony, Risk vs. Reward, Physics vs. Gameplay etc. Lean too much to either side and you find a game which is more of a life-simulation on one end or a cartoon world on the other extreme. I think most of us here agree that Fallen Earth would be best served by maintaining an atmosphere of Gritty Sci-Fi "Reality". No, not reality as in going to work every day, using the bathroom, and paying taxes. "Reality" in the sense of a fully developed Science Fiction landscape that envelops us and presents a fantastic story concept to explain how we can travel faster than light, beam to a planets surface, or have an alien burst out of our chest. Great Sci-Fi movies are by no means based in our reality, but they develop their own Universe in which some things are possible, but many things are not... and you never see them goto the Head.
So, here I present to you a quandary that nearly every MMORPG faces: Player death and resurection.
First, lets lay down some basic premises that while they may not be agreeable, its rather safe to assume that they will be held true in any combat based MMORPG.
1) Player characters will Die.
2) Player characters will NOT die permanently.
3) There is a penalty to dieing.
Alright, thats simple enough... now how do we make it so? How do we find the balance such that players will FEAR Death but not have months of gameplay washed away by a sudden connection loss? How do we create a balance between the Fallen Earth "Reality", and the fact that no one ever truly dies? And finally, how do YOU think resurection will be handled in Fallen Earth (Mechanics and Backstory please!)
Here is an example of the Fallen Earth "Reality" straight from the official site. Note the advertisement in the middle, and the CNN blurb about Chimps at the very end.
What theories can we extract from these two excerpts?
LifeLoads: I can copy my Mind into a software backup location.
a) Do I die when I do this?
b) Are these machines still available in the Wasteland?
c) Can I download my Mind back into another body? If so, do I need to re-copy myself?
Chimp NeuroMap: Download consciousness into a new body. Plus "Artificial Body" tech, is that a Clone... or something generic so we all look the same? I'll come back to this concept at the end of the Memo.
a) Is the NeuroMap created by the above LifeLoads technology?
b) Does THIS technology still exist?
c) How many times can I download the consciousness into a new body?
d) Can I have multiple copies running around? If not, then why not?
Regardless of how the ability to prevent perma-death is presented, it begs the question: With a world populated by immortals, what is holding us in the Post-Apoc state? Clearly having this level of technology available to the unwashed hordes of people indicates a thriving hi-tech base still in place... and if everyone is immortal then its not even a secret! Without the fear of death, should progress sky rocket? Shouldn't it be possible for huge posses to track down criminals and inprison them without fear of taking casualties?
I really have no answers for that, I just cant find a balance between a tech level that grants immortality to EVERYONE and a fallen society in which we fight one another over the meagerest scraps of old world tech.
Alright, back to the Artificial Bodies. That term, rather than saying Clone, got me to thinking. And since I've asked you all to provide your story as to how resurrection will fit into FE its only fair for me to give a version of my own.
The equipment to read a NeuroMap is compact enough that it can be located just about anywhere. The bulk of the resurection system lies in the Massive Databanks and the Body Factories. A person will regularly go to their nearest data reader and have a fresh copy of their mind uplaoded via a secure network to the hidden database (which is located deep underneath Cheyenne Mountain!). Said person will then go about there daily business of... tending crops at their homestead... until a band of unsavory Dessert Pirates rolls up and hacks him and his family apart with machetes before stealing the crops.
Our unlucky farmer and his family, after experiencing an excruciating death... for the 128th time, is then resurrected using their most recent NeuroMap. Ahh, but since deaths 126 and 127 occured earlier that day when our intrepid farmer was stabbed by his unhappy wife and run over by his ox plow... where does the new body come from? Well, the same place as all his other bodies, he gets another artificial body from the body factory... it is NOT a "Clone". Well, it may be a clone, but who the original template is from has been lost to time.
In the entire Wasteland there are perhaps 20 body Types. 10 male and 10 female. When a person is freshly resurrected and steps out of the Body Factory, he/she may look identical to everyone around them depending on what body is in style, or being distributed that day. The need for developing a unique look and identity is what drives so many people to tattooing, mohawks, hair-dye, and wild clothing and jewlery. But underneath it all, everyone is identical.
Regardless of how bloody the Wastelands become, the body factory which was originally meant to serve a massively overpopulated South West US is quite capable of replenishing the current survivors. The limited population of the Wasteland is due to numerous mishaps that wiped out the memory banks of the SW during the Fall. Nano viruses, EMP, Religious Zealot Terrorists, etc. While the recordings were lost, in many cases the hardware was left in tact. The Body Factories have super Cyborg Guards to protect them
Even with the promise of continued resurection, dieing is still unpleasent. It can be PAINFUL, no one wants that right ? There is the inate human desire to survive of course. There is no insurance company providing you with any equipment when you are resurected, so its just your new John Mk. 2 body, a white sheet, and whatever is in your storage cache.
Now with that in mind we go back to the whole Risk vs. Reward. If I KNOW I'm not going to really die, I'm far more inclined to take chances, because the balance has shifted away from the Risk side. Ahh but wait, maybe I've been running around in my Tom Mk. 3 body for the last 4 years. Sure its scarred and the right knee spasms at the first hint of a storm... but I've got more strength now from my workout routine, I'm conditioned to run 20km non-stop, and I've scavenged and purchased a dozen implants and upgrades...those aren't in the Stock bodies. Ahh, now we have alot more Risk to the experienced adventurer. In fact, I'd say its TOO MUCH Risk. All that sounds like it would take me months of game time to aquire, Strength and Stamina from EXP, implants and upgrades from raiding 100+ dungeons... all that to be lost when Adelphia Cable decides to do maintenance at 1AM?
So, too much Risk for dieing... but I feel I'm on the right track with this. Ok, lets try this. First the Implants and Upgrades. Ok, when you die, you leave a corpse. Raiders may steal all your gear, but implants and such cannot be harvested, well they can but they are worthless since once installed they adust to your Neuro pathways (can't be DNA since we share DNA with so many other folks). Now, implants and upgrades each have a quality rating associated with them, higher quality gives better/stronger features. Each time you die, they degrade a bit. Maybe if you are burned to death they degrade more than if you just bled out from a gutshot. So, death still is BAD. You need to make a corpse run, and the implants you cut out of yourself have permanently lost some of there luster.
Things like Strength and Stamina attributes can be regained in other ways. Perhaps if you provide the body bank with raw materials in advance, it will provide a Stock body with enhanced Strength when you die. Quest oppurtunities here, it could even be possible to buy a future body better than your own... then do you go and die intentionally, or is there a med center where you can transfer into it and keep all your implants in top condition? ie. Dont spend XP on attributes, but earn attributes through payments and quests. Once earned, instead of having your existing shell improved, you switch to a whole new body.
Now, with your implants not permanently lost (just lose a little quality each time) and attributes able to be "Insured" via quests, we seem alot closer to finding a balance. In most cases, your Reward in a dangerous situation is material aquisition. A cool gun, nice armor, money, or that one of a kind Gameboy 42 from 2170. What do you end up Risking against it? Material possession of your own. Hence we have balance.
Analyze all that if you want, but again I'd much rather here about YOUR ideas for handling resurrection and how it fits in with Fallen Earth "Reality".