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Floatstones - thinking out loud

2 months ago
Commended by JJJ-thebanisher on 1/15/2017 2:49:23 AM

Hello, happy to be here, after running through all of EndMaster's work, the Achilles series and a couple of other really solid content on this site I'm diving in to write my own storyGAME. The premise is between gadget and caper sci-fi, set around the year 2100 on a post-global warming Earth, after the discovery of a rare element on Mars, called Floatstone (which is shipped back to Earth, Elon Musk's Mars colonization plan succeeded and there is a population of ~50,000 on Mars as of 2100).

Floatstone is analogous to modern diamonds, being a fairly commonly occuring substance on the Martian poles, but kept artificially scarce by Martian oligopolists. The concept is the stones nullify gravity in a range, with 100 kilos of floatstone ore (unrefined and uncut) nullifying gravity in an imperfect and slightly wobbly at the edges 50 meter radial sphere (the effect reduces away from the center, so at the fringes the gravity is more like half of Earth's). The ore can be refined to extract the element Floatinium, which when combined with carbon can be structured into pylons that generate a focused cyllindrical gravitational nullifying beam, generating a field with a radius of three meters, and 100 meters long (the pylon is in the middle of this field, it tapers off at the ends, so to create a chain you'd want each to be around 80 meters apart so the overlapping fields avoid tapering when moving items between pylons in a network. Stacking floatstones in different formations can increase the overall field size and strength.

Mars already only has 38% of the gravity of Earth, so the tech is far more attractive to sell on Earth. This system is being used on Earth to create a superfast and cheap logistics network, and spherical versions are being used both in aviation (perpetual fuel), personal transport (elite vehicles that can run on compressed air collected at the front of the null field and vectored out the side to give motion, and launching satellites. Snipers have been asking for gravity null fields to prevent bullet drop while assassinating high value targets from extreme ranges. It costs around 10 million USD (in 2016 money) to extract and refine 100 kilos of ore into one kilo of refined ore, a pylon uses one 100 grams of refined floatinium in its core). Floatstones are able to remain stationary in one location, and if enough support is put on them, they can hold any weight of item held within their field (no item has been found large enough to disrupt the field, as of yet, though there is some promise in magnetic wave technology destabilising the pylon's field temporarily - think EMP burst style.

Robots as semi-autonomous AI exist and are fairly common, but Artificial Super Intelligence has not yet been achieved, and Artificial General Intelligence is extremely rare and limited to the intelligence and government supported science communities.

If the price were to drop or the refining tech were to improve further, it's possible floatinium would be commonly used in playgrounds for children and other mundane uses

I need your help in figuring out other potential applications of the technology, any and all suggestions (medical/social/household/military/industrial, etc) where the tech could be used. Floatinium was discovered in 2095, and made public in 2100, so it's not gone beyond elite households as of now, but the story intends to cover the time frame from 2100 to around 2200, so there's time for the tech to evolve.

Looking forward to your thoughts, and thanks for reading all that. Please note the numbers are indicative, may need to rework the economics of the pylon network as I think more about the setting

In case this is the wrong fora for this discussion, my apologies, and please point me in the right direction, thanks!

-StrykerL

Floatstones - thinking out loud

2 months ago

Hi Stryker, I've moved this to the writing workshop as it seems more like planning for a story than a story itself. The Creative Corner is for displaying your work whereas the Writing Workshop is for discussing plans for your work, or asking questions about how to improve it.

This looks like a really interesting premise, and I'm super excited to see what you plan to do with it. You have great taste in content, too!

Floatstones - thinking out loud

2 months ago

Thanks for putting this in the right place, and for the interest. This will be my first sci-fi based game, hoping to have it up in a month or two (will be working full time on it)

Floatstones - thinking out loud

2 months ago

Addenda: As of yet, no decay has been seen in the floatstone's performance, however scientists have hypothesized that it is possible that prolonged exposure to Earth's gravitational fields may wear them down after a few decades, causing need for replacement. The 'spent' floatstones would most likely be able to be recharged on Mars (like batteries) by leaving them back at the poles for two years or more

Floatstones - thinking out loud

2 months ago

So is it physical or chemical property? If the floating property is physical, then they would have had to get energy from somewhere (Prequel material).

Floatstones - thinking out loud

2 months ago

Excellent question. Hmm. I'd been veering to leaving the actual method behind them as unexplained (the sufficiently advanced technology and magic spiel), but that feels like chickening out now that the question is raised. 

Unlike Earth with its poles, Mars lacks an inner dynamo to generate a strong field (and accordingly poles), though it may have had one in the past. It has local mini-magnetospheres instead of one large one like on Earth, and I'd plan for Floatstones to occur naturally in some of these under certain conditions.

Floatstone rocks would carry a physical 'anti-charge' of sorts that was based on their existence, analogous to how magnets have charge. Magnetic fields arise from the stable and orderly arrangement of magnetic moments of atoms, and the same can decay through ambient fluctuations over time (magnets are a stable situation but not perfect so as to be immutable).

I'd planned for the Floatstones' 'anti-charge' to decayed in exposure to gravitational fields, hence the in story problem of them 'wearing out' and potentially needing recharge back on Mars in the mini-magnetospheres that created them. 

So the final answer is Option A: Physical, measurable, decayable, Magnetic field analogue - Arrangement based

Picture of Mars' magnetosphere in link (how do you embed pictures in posts?)

http://www.space.dtu.dk/english/Research/Universe_and_Solar_System/~/media/818F991E2DED4214BEB94BDC7D69A640.ashx

Thanks for the question, it forced out a better reasoning behind the stones than what I'd started with, if I've made an error somewhere, please do haul up the faulty reasoning up by its neck

Floatstones - thinking out loud

2 months ago
Commended by JJJ-thebanisher on 1/15/2017 1:22:07 PM
It seems like the floatstones would be useful in large scale construction (construction of space ships in particular?), and I'm sure could be of help to the handicapped in various ways.

You've put an impressive amount of detail in the setting and technology, but any thoughts on the actual plot yet? If it's covering a hundred year period, it seems like you'll be trading off protagonists quite a bit. (Unless life spans are significantly longer by this time period...)

Though I can appreciate the 'setting first' approach. I wouldn't call it the most efficient way to write, but it's what I tend to do for my short stories. Define it all clearly enough in your head and with a solid springboard to start from, plot ideas just sort of organically come about.

Floatstones - thinking out loud

2 months ago
Commended by JJJ-thebanisher on 1/15/2017 1:24:24 PM

Thanks for the feedback! Floatstones would make sense for assisting the injured and elderly, that's a great point. 

Alright, you asked for it, this is the long version :)

Plot: (Please note this is tentative, and will evolve with reworks)

The compounded climate changes that devastated the 2040s onwards changed the geopolitical map of the world from 2016 to a new equilibrium. Equatorial regions experienced extreme desertification, the gulf stream shut down and Europe was lost as a frozen wasteland. Exodus and racial fighting became the norm as most nations fell to the influx of environmental refugees that would make the 2010s situation in Syria look like a bitter joke. One of the great miracles of the Great Upheaval, was that no one pulled the nuclear button, and for that one small saving grace humanity (and life on Earth) still have a fighting chance, albeit a perilously uphill one. 

The small bands of (relatively) habitable lands were the Siberian (former) wastes, the Northern United States and Canada, Venezuela, Argentina, Peru, Chile, parts of Himalayan India, and a few other regions. Weather cycles are unrecognizable, with extremely erratic and concentrated rainfall matching paired with Tsunamis, Hurricanes, and worse. 

Ecosystems were thrown into turmoil, and in a cascading series of extinctions most large sized animals died out from habitat change, humans are the largest living mammal on the planet, and while the rodent and insect populations are more or less unaffected, there are no more than one billion humans left alive in the vestiges left to it as of 2100, and much of those live in abject misery. The only jobs are with the government or in growing enough food to survive, and warlord chieftains are the predominant form of government, though some pockets are seeing a slow and tenuous return to republics. Science and medicine have regressed significantly, and the rise of superbugs in the 2020s made Penicillin, our one miracle of medicine useless for most of society.

Clean food and water are the most important commodity, and with the loss of the Ozone layer through decades of pollutants, humans either leave for the surface in UV protection suits, or at night, the long eerie night. 

The sole silver lining of this destruction was that it spurred the few remaining power bases to unite and commit resources for a Mars project like never before. The early 2020s were a golden age for the world's space program, the one last hurrah of a dying world, a glimmer of hope in an otherwise dark, dreaded, and terrifying reality for those that remained.

Religion's hold on the general populace waned, in the face of the sheer brutality of the 2050s, the largest affiliation amongst the Remnants on Earth as atheist. However, the 2060s saw a rise in cults, some of which still exist today (in 2100).

On Mars, the population had grown to nearly 50,000, and with each passing day, the Martians looked back at the world of their origin, the cradle of human life in deep anguish and sorrow. The discovery of floatstones was hailed as an absolute miracle, and rekindled the flame of bringing Earth, now commonly called Fallen Earth amongst the Martians, back to a shadow of it's former glory.

Into this world, you, J4X-A5ER (all Martian names are a combination of alphanumerics) were born. At the age of 16 you volunteered to be part of the Martian mission to Earth, Project Phoenix. This story is about your life, of Mars, and of Fallen Earth.

----------------------------------------

Alright, so that's the setup (yes, it needs polishing, but that's roughly what I wanted to convey). The plot is that you volunteered as part of the team to help deploy floatstone technology on Earth and hopefully bring it back to livable status through using the terraforming tools used in colonizing Mars. Technology levels on Earth are near 2020 levels, albeit with a fewer number of rare earth metals being required in construction, with anything more complex being logistically unfeasible to manufacture. 

Through the game you will make allies and enemies, support or oppose projects by the Mars government on Earth, attempt to reform a government on earth (by Guns or Butter, basis how people respond), and ultimately try to build a sustainable form of governance (including culture). You are NOT a god, you are a part player, initially not even the head of the expedition. You will grow with time, and this journey is the story. There are multiple endings planned based on your opinions of governments on Earth and Mars, and how events progressed. I'm working on a part RNG system to measure progress of technology and rehabilitation efforts, so technically replaying the game with the exact same choices may lead to different outcomes. Features wise plan to include a Journal Item and a Codex Item. No items will be needed in the game play itself, all of those will be handled with in text events.

Whew, quite a mouthful there, would love to hear your feedback!

Cheers, StrykerL

Floatstones - thinking out loud

2 months ago

As I mentioned earlier, this looks really great. A word of wisdom, though, avoid sequels whenever possible. Self-contained CYOAs tend to work way better. More here: http://chooseyourstory.com/forums/writing-workshop/message/21186

Besides sort of pigeonholing you into linearity, you'll find that sequel adventures don't get nearly the readership that the first installment gets, so you don't even get as much positive reinforcement. In general, I always advise people to avoid sequels and demos wherever possible.

Floatstones - thinking out loud

2 months ago

Alright, points taken. I'd planned to bridge the decisions in the two parts (so it wouldn't be that everything you did shoehorned you into a specific linear path in the second half), assigning coded words inputs at the end of Part 1 (say Victor Oscar Foxtrot Charlie - coding >4 variable levels per word via modified morse code structure) to be entered when someone plays the second part, which would pre-populate the major outcomes from the first part into the second.

The core structure of the four acts are:

1) Growing up on Mars (till age 16), induction into the Phoenix project, introduction to Martian and Earth factions, launch into space

2) Planetfall on Earth as the Phoenix Project, preparing a situational analysis on what interventions to carry out on Earth, getting the plan of action approved

3) Long chapter on the trials and tribulations of life on Earth, the factional fights within Earth, Mars, and between Earth and Mars

4) Endgame - outcome of the previous decisions and interactions, >5 possible scenarios in my mind at the moment

I'm designing for adequate consequences from each act into the next, so there should be enough engaging content within just the first two. 

However, I'm sure you've seen a lot of people say something similar in the past, so is there a way to allow select 'alpha testers' to read a storygame in progress? That'd help me get the feedback I'm looking for in the first place, and remove the need to consider two parts. 

Floatstones - thinking out loud

2 months ago
Commended by JJJ-thebanisher on 1/16/2017 8:21:45 PM

I did that for The Tower II but I might have removed the password, I don't remember. One thing to know is that if your game opens with a password, it won't ever be eligible for featuring! You'll also get so, so few plays. It kinda of sucked! I'm talking from experience here haha. How big do you see this project being? Even if it's going to be massive, I really recommend keeping it as a single storygame.

I like the way you've divied up the plot. I can imagine each act ending up with an extremely cinematic scene. However, it seems like your plot will be largely linear until the very end. That's extremely common here because it's a lot easier to write that kind of story, but you seem like a really talented guy and you might find a way to do better. When I say largely linear, I mean that your actions will affect the near future and the way you get to the next stage, but the next stage is set already and you can't affect it until the very end.

As far as alpha testers... totally! In your game properties page, make sure 'sneak preview' is selected. Then you can link the storygame anywhere and anyone with the link can play. I'd recommend not adding your End Game links until you've disabled sneak preview though, because anyone who can play can also rate if they find an end game link. (http://chooseyourstory.com/forums/feature-wishing-well/message/13027)

Floatstones - thinking out loud

2 months ago

Yikes, it's good I asked beforehand then! Alright, nixing the two part password format (looks at the mountain of content and shudders at the thought of how long it'll take to write all of it). 

Also, the intention is for the plot to be anything but linear, from what I've seen on the scripting walkthroughs, I can determine which page link to open based on global variables, and I intend to use that to the fullest (is there any limit to how many variables I can run in one storygame?). Events trigger based on the status of different story variables (e.g. 'colony food supplies < 2 months' AND 'faith in phoenix project = Low'  leads to a showdown between you and the earth colonists) was how I planned to make the story dynamic, what you encounter is path dependent on what you've done + RNG. Further, the progress of the project is a dice roll within a bounded range (e.g. project completion = base percentage complete till date + 1dX roll for the completed year, X being a range determined by story choices), so it'll be entirely possible for different playthroughs with the same decisions (though due to the very nature of that framework, the decisions available would also vary due to random rolls, in one your boss may be in a happy mood, in another in a bad one, changing your options). So the idea is that there aren't Chapter Ends per se, but there are a pool of major events that can trigger based on your variables at a certain point of time (e.g. bad rolls for years lead to the project falling behind schedule, forcing you to be recalled to Mars to explain for the slow progress).

The project does indeed seem like it's going to be massive, I'm in for one wild ride and a couple hundred liters of coffee (note to self: probably should get a bulk order on that)

 Alright, will use sneak preview judiciously, and thanks for the additional insight on not enabling endgame links

Thanks JJJ for the feedback!

Floatstones - thinking out loud

2 months ago
There is a variable limit, but it's absolutely massive. In the thousands somewhere iirc.

This all sounds really impressive and like it will be a lot of fun to play and replay. Complex event chains that flow naturally with different outcomes based on more than one factor are something I'm extremely interested in both in CYOAs and other forms of IF. (Games like King of Dragon Pass come to mind.)

Usually I would advise newbies to start with a smaller project and not bite off more than they can chew, but you've clearly put a lot of thought into this and are enthusiastic, so I'm wishing you all the best.

Floatstones - thinking out loud

2 months ago

Thanks for the heads up on the variables, I hope I should be able to manage with a dozen or less key stats, and a number of situational variable trackers. My whiteboard is an absolute mess of squiggles of ideas at the moment, and I hope most of them get into the final game.

I've played Failbetter's works and relished Alexis Kennedy's talks but somehow had never heard of King of Dragon Pass, I'll have to pick it up on the next Steam sale (though I hear the Steam version isn't the best). One of the best implementations of interlinked outcomes in recent memory was the Witcher 3 DLC quest - Skellige's Most Wanted - wherein a group of monsters banded together to try and kill the Witcher (for killing legions of monsters during his day job), but if you had chosen humane options (not killing sentients like Succubi during earlier quests), you could mention those, and if you had >3 of those choices to speak of, you would be able to convince most of the monsters that you genuinely meant no harm where none was intended, and in gameplay outcomes face a much more manageable final fight to that quest (vs 1 monster vs 4). That one quest stood out in my mind as a masterpiece of path dependent design, and I hope to emulate that philosophy in my work.

I'm still in the research phase for the setting, and that's informing the plot, so switching from the PC being a volunteer for the project to part of a special project to raise a set of children under Earth level gravity on Mars in order to serve as Mars' emissaries to Earth (people living indigenously on Mars or space in general for too long suffer major bone density and muscle mass loss which would among other painful things lead to them fracturing their bones while landing on Earth). Interestingly, I doubt Zero-G or reduced G would have too much of an impact on human babies due to their gestation inside amniotic sacs (a remnant of our water based origins), but unfortunately for this story there's no literature on the matter. Ah well, can't have your cake and eat it too.

Floatstones - thinking out loud

2 months ago

Just noticed this, so...

COMMENDED HIS OWN POST! CORRUPTION! CORRUPTION!

Floatstones - thinking out loud

2 months ago

Two things there:

His post was helpful, prevented me making a mess of things later by going for a two part format wherein the second wouldn't get featured (never knew out why Achilles 2 hadn't been featured before that insight) (p.s. the Achilles series really is on a cliffhanger right now, it's kind of between ME2 and ME3 plotwise, would love to see the next part). 

Second, now that you're here, feedback on the premise please :D

Floatstones - thinking out loud

2 months ago
Commended by JJJ-thebanisher on 1/18/2017 8:37:01 PM

Pfffh, I'm sure the case could be made (fairly easily) that his post should of been commended, but that's boring. Yelling that he's corrupt is fun. Achilles II might've also ended with everyone important surviving and heading off into the stars to adventure! The fact that you choose to fight a superior foe only to find out he was one portion of thousands means everything you built in the two games was easily destroyed by the Ancients and you were all massacred. Or maybe I'll make a sequel. Who knows.

Anyhow, for your stuff, I think you should change Floatinium's name as adding "Inium" to it's function isn't the best idea. "Inium" would imply that its the actual chemical name while the "float" part makes me think it's just what people call it, and I think it's a bit silly for snipers to spend money on it rather than just calculating gravity's effect on their bullet, since the money could be better spent in an assassination job, but those are nitpicks.

Realistically, I don't see why it would really need to have a need for it to be used in anything other than transport, other than maybe a few ultra-rich making things they own float just for the sake of showing off, like having a floating chandelier or whatever, but if you do have a reason for making it multi-purpose I'd be quite curious to hear it.

But yeah, the premise seems cool and there doesn't seem to be any issues with it, having the reason space exploration and colonization is so much easier being the Diamond/ MacGuffin is a clever idea, looks all good.

Floatstones - thinking out loud

2 months ago

(Looks towards the horizon with the hope that one day, a sequel to Achilles 2 will arrive)

Point taken on the inium, switching the premise towards making the Floatstones more like magnets in their way of functioning after an earlier question challenged my logic. (E.g. for magnets)

They're called Floatstones because the first people who discovered them really weren't feeling creative that day. The premise with snipers was that it wouldn't be the bullet itself but the flash heatwave generated by air accumulating at the front of the bullet (and heating up due to compression) that caused an area heat burn at the target site - so pretty much becoming a ranged bomb mode assassination, but will re-look that part. For the military, they'd be more useful for quiet spec-ops insertions (without any radar signature as humans in spacesuits with thrusters wouldn't need an aircraft). 

Among uses, the biggest one I've found is in drastically (as in monumentally) reducing the cost of sending a payload into orbit, eliminating the need for gigantic first stage boosters by making a quasi space elevator through use of the stones. Interestingly, by reducing the need to worry about launch efficiency, the added benefit is that payloads can be launched from anywhere on the planet (not just near the equator). Needed more utility uses because you can't write an interesting story where the hi-tech MacGuffin only does one thing that's only used in a specific industry.

Decadent decorations for the ultra rich is a great point, will note that one. Currently Healthcare, Construction, Mining, Rocket launches, Transport (both logistics networks and hover cars/vehicles), military uses, smuggling, playgrounds, and now decorations are the alternate uses, so there's a healthy number of tradeoffs the player can make in the game (and accordingly a large number of people who can feel angry for being left out). 

Thanks for the input, Steve!

Floatstones - thinking out loud

2 months ago
Shhh. You're supposed to turn on him after you get his trophy.

Floatstones - thinking out loud

2 months ago

You seem to have alot of enthusiasm towards this.

That's always good, and thank you for tagging me in the previous thread. I'm very intrigued so far and everything seems good in my opinion :)

I'll be monitoring this thread for updates from now on. I have a feeling that if your posts in this thread are any indicator of what the quality of this project may be, only good things can be expected.

No pressure or anything, good luck! ^^

Floatstones - thinking out loud

2 months ago

Thanks for the support and the interest, I suspect that once my current enthusiasm is drained in balancing multiple storylines, it'll be the pressure to meet everyone's expectations that'll keep me going

(Fun fact, the same logic is also what gets people through college, the motivations to get in and to get through are often entirely different)