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In the wake of recent tragedies, I find myself asking, "What can I do about gun violence?" And there are a number of things that people can do. But for me, I have a hard to saying, "I'm making a game where people shoot each other up, isn't it fun?" and "People are getting shot in reality, and it's tragic," and making those two thoughts make sense together.
I brought this up with the team this morning, and we had a discussion. As a team, we've long-since agreed that our game isn't about killing people. It's about disabling their suits, so that the victor can scour an area for salvage unopposed. It may seem like a semantic distinction, but it's one that fits in with the lore of the universe. Humanity is on the knife-edge of survival as a species, it doesn't make sense for people to be killing one another. So taking it a step further, we're removing all the guns from our game.
That's not to say that we've got a ton of guns in there, but the original concept for combat revolved around two people fighting one on one with various weapons at various ranges. Some attacks would be physical melee attacks. Some would be energy blasts. Some would be handguns, some would be rifles. Depending on the range between you & your opponent.
I don't have a problem with combat. I don't mind folks chopping at each other with laser swords or blasting each other with lightning. Thematically, it even makes sense - overload your opponent's suit with energy to force a shutdown. No problem. But shooting people with something that looks like a rifle or a pistol and then explicitly not having them die was ... weird. And uncomfortable. It looked dynamic and exciting and visceral, and people immediately understood what was happening. Finding a replacement that will feel that "natural" in context will be difficult.
But at the same time, for us, it's what we want to do. We're creating this dystopian future from scratch. We can make whatever we want. I always admired Gene Roddenberry's desire for a utopian future, where mankind had moved beyond things like racism and sexism - it was a vision that strived for something better. It's different than what we're making, but in a way, I hope we can emulate part of that ideal. It may be a dystopian future where people fight to survive, but it'll be our strange, fantastical dystopia where people don't murder each other using weapons that mimic those that are a tragic part of our current real world.
I see it as a challenge. Constraints breed creativity. We need ranged combat for the mechanics in the game to behave the way we want them to. Finding a way to do that that feels exciting and visceral and understandable - we'll have to create our own new language for it, figure out how it works, etc. It's an opportunity to do something recognizable and interesting, and not lean on the simple, obvious option.
Thanks for reading.