Hello. I'm writing a Geneforge fanfic/story of sorts and I'd like some help deciding a few things/answering a few questions. Before I ask my questions, let me outline the basic premise. I apologize in advance for the wall of text - my idea is somewhat complex. Also, spoilers - don't read if you haven't played G1 and G2, and one of either G3, G4 or G5.
Virtual reality has now advanced to the point where it's pretty much indistinguishable from actual reality, and AI has advanced to the point where an AI is indistinguishable from a real person. Normal video games, while not obsolete, since not everything is possible in VR, are still now vastly overshadowed by VR games, particularly VRMMORPGs - games like WoW adapted to VR, with living, breathing worlds that adapt realistically in response to player action due to how advanced AI is now - NPCs are essentially real people now. People connect to these games through VR pods - think Matrix type sustenance tubes outfitted with brain jacks. Except, you know, less evil looking. In fact, things have even progressed to the point where, for a significant fee and quite a bit of risk, a person can have their consciousness virtualized, and live in VR full time in a position halfway in between a normal player and an NPC - aware of the reality that whatever VR they're in is a game, but still bound to it and having it be, in effect, as real to them as actual reality is to normal people. Which is both a plus and a minus, of course - at least they can respawn. All of this background stuff is to support the focus of the story - some enterprising Geneforge fans have brought Terrestria to VR, adapting Geneforge into its own VRMMORPG.
This version of Geneforge isn't just one of the games in the series adapted to VR, though - then it wouldn't be an MMO, or multiplayer in any fashion. Instead, it creates an alternate version of Terrestria, set in the time just before the events of the first Geneforge game - the Shapers rule uncontested and in peace, occasionally having to deal with the odd rogue Shaper, Servile uprisings or Outsider gaining Shaper knowledge. The Shapers are somewhat dickish, but their rule is relatively prosperous for those not unfortunate enough to be governed by those Shapers who are complete douchebags, like Goettsch. The main reason I call this an alternate version of Terrestria is because the continents and islands are different, and this is because when the game starts, it's essentially every player hunting for the new Sucia and the original Geneforge it contains, and it wouldn't do to have it be where everyone knows it is. You see, players in this game start out already having a backstory - you get to decide whether you start out as a Shaper, Outsider, Drayk or Servile, and you get to choose between a few options for your backstory after you've chosen your character type - after which you play through a few flashback scenes from said backstory for purposes of character development, determining your abilities, and determining your friendships/relationships with the NPCs you start around. After this character creation process, it is determined where your character is now, and your plopped into the game world to do what you will - and since, in the beginning at least, the game world is at peace, this means there is no inherent conflict to start with, and there would probably never be, if every player was a Shaper and just decided to spend all their time peacefully researching. But of course this isn't going to happen.
Consider all the differing viewpoints fans of the Geneforge series have on regulating Shaping, Creation rights and all such topics? Serviles are, of course, still slaves at the beginning of this game, and Shaping still tightly controlled. The mere existence of players in the game world is bound to cause conflict - as soon as the game launches the game world will likely dive into chaos as all the players work to bring about their own ideal versions of the Geneforge universe into being - the players themselves are conflict generators. You could posit that, although fans of the Geneforge series may differ greatly on which side is best in each of the RPGs, that most generally agree that the Shapers are more dickish that they need to be, Servile slavery is bad, and the Drakons turn the Rebellion into a horrific bloodbath - and given all this, and the fact that the game world doesn't start in conflict, all the players could theoretically unite peacefully and work to change the Shapers from the inside. But even if this did come to happen, there would still be those players who wish to pursue the path of omnicide, or recreate the Barzhites and pursue unlimited power, or cause trouble and attempt crazy feats for shits and giggles. Again - the players are the conflict generators.
And then there's possibly the biggest factor in whose vision of Terrestria succeeds in the end, or at least gets the upper hand - the existence of the Geneforge - not the watered down "You're a Shaper now!" Geneforges of G4 and G5, or the Drakon only version of G3, I mean THE Geneforge - the "I'm a God now" Geneforge of G1. When the Geneforge VR game launches, it exists - and it is public knowledge it exists, as it is public knowledge that at the launch of this game, the game world is a version of Terrestria just before the events of G1. Which means that everyone knows that the fate of the Geneforge in this game will greatly affect the conflict which of the soon-to-be factions will, if not prevail, have the vast advantage. If the Geneforge is destroyed, the Shapers maintain the advantage they start out with, due to their power and control of the known world. If the Geneforge is destroyed, and knowledge of canister creation burned, then any rebellions against the Shapers will have an extremely hard time of it - it wouldn't be impossible, but it would definitely be torment mode for said rebellion. Any non-Shaper faction that took control of the Geneforge, however, would have the advantage then, because God-making machine. They would also have plenty of difficult keeping themselves from becoming even worse than canister junkies, of course, but without some form of power booster, the Shapers would be difficult to beat. If, however, the Geneforge was destroyed but knowledge of canisters got out, or weaker, more diluted Geneforges were made after - then I'd say the playing field between the Shapers and any rebel type factions would be about even. Canister junkies would still be an issue, of course. And of course, odds are there wouldn't be just one rebel faction - the Awakened would no doubt be a thing, maybe there'd be a less crazy version of the Taker/mainstream rebellion from the RPGs, probably some Barzhite types, Trakovites of course. And there'd also probably be a group of wannabe Drakon, and of course, as I mentioned before, the Omniciders and the Challengers - those out to kill everything and those who were the type to play through all the games on torment singletons, and out to attempt challenging feats.
Essentially, every player would be a very important person, able to bring about great change in the world, especially if working with other players, and NPCs would be a factor too - they'd be the rank and file of everyone's armies, of course, but such important figures as the Shaper Council would be NPCs - and as I said, because of AI tech in this story, NPCs = basically real people. And of course, every player would be out to find the Geneforge, either to use it, study it or destroy it - and of course, canisters too. Every player who cared to participate in the hunt for the Geneforge would have to investigate any number of Barred sites, since it could lie in any one of them, and deal with getting to said sites and searching them and dealing with the dangers and traps of said locations. Every Shaper player would have to find some way to either get the Council to send them on missions to such places, or sneak off on their own while somehow avoiding censure. Outsider players would have to deal with not having the powers of a Shaper, or hiding them to avoid execution if they do have the ability to Shape. Servile players, would, of course, have the hardest time of it - they'd have to deal with essentially being a slave, escaping said slavery, avoiding recapture/execution, not being able to use canisters, Shaping or magic by default while also really needing that power to truly rebel, the difficulties of getting together any sizable band of rebel Serviles together under the Shaper's noses... And Drayk players? They'd have all the problems Serviles have, but with the added difficulties of every Shaper and Shaper soldier wanting to kill them on sight, being hunted by the Shapers, and generally being treated as an enemy of the Shaper state right from the get go. Also, Serviles can't use canisters, but in this game at least, they can use the Geneforge. Not so for Drayks. To truly advance, a Drayk player would have to convince a Shaper or Lifecrafter to ReShape them into a Drakon - a risky and difficult task. It is true that Drayks get to breathe fire, are very strong, are natural born smiths and have hard scales - but each Shaper player starts out as a Journeyman Shaper, not a master but still more powerful than a mere Drayk, an Outsider player could start out as a mage as mighty as a Drayk, and at least a Servile player isn't going to be shot at on sight or the subject of a huge hunt. Starting out as a Shaper, Outsider, Servile or Drayk would be congruous to starting out in Casual, Normal, Hard, or Torment difficulty.
The main character of this story would be a virtualized person, so as to not have to deal with explaining/writing about them having a job, and being able to have them be a person in this VR world full time. They start out as a Drayk. Because [censored] yeah. Dragons. Also, he's a hardcore dude, the kind who plays through every game in Torment difficulty. So yeah.
This VR world would not have stats or character sheets - or it would I guess, but not anything players could directly see and manipulate - magic/Shaping would have a comprehensible system you'd actually have to understand to get the most out of, and everything else would work just like it does in reality. No leveling up and assigning character points.
As for how the magic/Shaping system would work... New Creations, at least before any players bring about any revolutions in development based on DNA, are developed by taking an existing creature/Creation, bombarding with varieties of Essence in varying patterns - the Shapers know, for example, that this form of bombardment tends to produce more of this kind of effect versus that type of bombardment, that kind of thing - they're pretty much just short of knowing about DNA. Shaping up already established Creations on the spot, however, is a matter of memorizing the Essence makeup of said established Creation type, then taking your Essence and forming it into that pattern, thus bringing into being, on the spot, a Creation. Beyond the Essence required to bring them into being in the first place, Creations do not subsist on Essence given to them by their creator, they do not disappear when their creator dies, and nor does their creator have some portion of their Essence rendered unusable while the Creations they made are alive - after made, Creation eat like everything else to survive. A Shaper/Lifecrafter does, however, have to link themselves to their Creation with Essence to reliably control them - and this is not merely a matter of amount of Essence, but also one's degree of control over their Essence. This accounts for a Shaper's ability to control Creations from great distances, as well as the limits of this ability, and how rogue creations one has never seen before can be calmed and taken control of - although it is, of course, the easiest to form a mental connection with a Creation right after it comes into being and it is still somewhat confused. And of course the more intelligent/powerful a Creation is, the harder it is to control them in such a fashion - a Creation isn't rogue just because it is not under the influence of such a connection, however - if you're willing to take the time, a Creation can be trained just like any other animal, and then safely entrusted to a worthy Outsider. Another thing - Essence reserves can be naturally replenished, but only if you have some Essence left within you, and very slowly - if you are completely out of Essence, or need more Essence NOW, and don't have a week to wait, you have to find some already existing Essence, which can of course be tricky, given how Shapers guard it and allot it. There is something to keep players from immediately introducing DNA into Shaping development, however - how can you alter what you can't see? A player could come up with a magical microscope type thing to view DNA with, of course, but could they come up with such a thing before the other players found the original versions of such devices along with the Geneforge and canisters?
Canisters. I view canisters as essentially applying the Creation development methods of Essence bombardment to an individual person in a very specific, controlled way so as to give them a specific power - however, due to the fact that every person is different biologically, in the vast majority of people canisters produce the side effects we see canister junkies suffer from in the RPGs. And the Geneforge is a super canister, essentially. A brute force way to give some super Shaping abilities, that will thus have unpleasant side effects.
Normal magic works similarly to Shaping - you force Energy into patterns that produce spell effects - spell casting is, however, far easier than Shaping, as the patterns of Energy required to bring spell effects into existence are far less complex than the patterns of Essence required to bring viable Creations to life. In your spell casting, if you have Essence, you can also supplement it for Energy in order to supercharge your spells - Essence is superior to Energy in every way but availability - Energy is everywhere, whereas Essence is artificially made and somewhat expensive to produce.
Necromancy, interestingly enough, is fueled by Essence, not Energy - given how the Shapers ancestors seemed to be some form of necromancy-based empire, in this VR world, necromancy is Shaping's predecessor. I've never seen any undead entities beyond Shades in the Geneforge series - no physical skeletons or zombies at all. Thus, Shades are all there is - necromancy is completely centered around the creation/manipulation of Shades. Shades are essentially pure essence constructs, and Shades arisen from the bodies of mighty Shapers/spell casters arise because that person have Essence still within them when they died, which eventually copies them as they were upon their death, them mimics them as closely as possible, but in the form of a Shade - Shades are not actually the ghosts of the dead, but rather the ethereal copies of the dead, unable to do much more then gradually fade from existence and mimic the one they originated from, follow the orders of a necromancer, or seek of sources of Essence to consume, so as to continue fueling their own existence.
When it comes to the new Sucia island - it won't actually be called Sucia, and it might not be an island - I'm not going to have any surviving Servile populations their, nor Sholai. That would just confuse things unnecessarily, especially when the players of this game would already be familiar with all the Sucia-originated ideologies from the RPGs. The new Sucia is simply going to be one big mess of dangerous ruins, rogue and Barred Creations, hostile Shades and forbidden knowledge. Oh, and Heustess. I think that was his name? The dude who the Shapers' necromancer ancestors mutated thousands of years ago, the dude who's been waiting for their return since forever so he could murder them, and who somehow missed the creators of the Geneforge. That guy. He's there, and he, some servant minds and some old Drayks are the only sentient, not inherently hostile creatures on the new Sucia. Anyhow.
That's what I've got so far.
Now, onto questions/decisions I need help with.
How many people would play this game, and how would this population of players split up into the different factions/ideologies? I have no idea how many people play Spiderweb software game, and you have to figure that only a small fraction would like the Geneforge series enough to play such a VR game over any other offerings, and only a portion of those would even know it existed. I'm working under the assumption that playing a VRMMORPG would be like living a second life - most people wouldn't play more than one. A small player base isn't a problem with the way I've set up this story - no matter what, the players will be only a minuscule portion of this VR world's population if you factor the NPCs - this VR game is very much about small groups of people being able to change the world through Shaping. I need to know how many people would play it, though, and how they would split into the various ideologies, so I know how many player characters to directly include in this story, and how many of them will be this faction or that. Again, the factions I think would arise would be the Awakened - they would be focused on defense and diplomacy, another creation freedom focused faction focused on taking their freedom forcibly - like the Takers or Rebellion but less crazy, a faction of power-seekers who may or may not mingle with the other rebel-types and may or may not be ass-hats like the Drakons or Barzhites, the Shapers of course, the Omniciders, and the Challengers - sorta like the Omniciders, but more focused on chaos over straight up death and bloodshed. Oh yeah, and the Trakovites, although I feel like in this kinda scenario especially their cause would be sort of doomed, and sort of purposeless before any real conflict and bloodshed had occurred. I'm kinda skeptical any players of this game would actually try to start the Trakovites.
Then, there's the questions of how big would the NPC population be, exactly, and how would the population shake out into castes? I feel like Shaper held territory might actually be somewhat sparsely populated - after all, a large population is just going to result in a lot of unemployed people when you have Serviles to handle unskilled labor for you, and servant minds to handle the duties of clerks and administrators. I feel like the Shapers would probably realize this, and thus institute population control laws to keep things manageable and relatively prosperous. Hell, if we're going by what we see in the games, even skilled labor would probably be handled by Serviles, and there wouldn't be any work for humans except being merchants and maybe Servile caretakers, and Servile caretakers only - Serviles take care of all the other Creations. So I'm going to just say for balance purposes, in this VR world Serviles are used for unskilled labor only, and Servant minds are only used as clerks and administrators for Shaper stuff. So I see the castes as shaking out like this - Shapers > Servant Minds > Outsiders > Serviles. So Outsiders would all either be craftsman, merchants, mages, alchemists or soldiers. I imagine the Shapers would have a pretty big army relative to their population then - most of the people who would usually end up as unskilled labor in any other society would really have no other alternative but to enlist to earn their keep in Shaper society. Anyhow, I still have no idea how big a population would live in Shaper lands, and how many would fit into each caste/occupation. Oh, and I guess educators would be another common employment - there's no way Shapers don't institute schools for Outsiders.
Next up, and connected to the population question, is the question of geography. One continent or two, and how many islands? I'm going to go ahead and say that geographical realism and accuracy can go to hell - if you look at the world maps of the RPGs, you can see very little that is realistic or accurate, and I really don't think us Geneforge fans care too much about that, so I doubt this VR world would be too geographically realistic either. I just want the forum's thoughts on one continent or two, how big the continent(s) and islands should be, how many islands, and how many areas you guys think would be Barred, and why those areas other than the place where the Geneforge is in this world would be Barred.
Finally, Creations sizes in comparison to humans, and what Creation variants exist. The cryo variants of fire creations are not a thing in this VR world - breathing fire, spitting acid or even spitting magic bolts all make sense to a degree - those are all matters of glands and muscle, or the Creation being able to channel some of their energy into an attack - fire and magic attacks are essentially energy attacks, with the fire just being a somewhat diluted form of raw energy. Ice, though - heat based attacked make some sense because energy = heat. Lack of heat = cold, cold = lack of energy. How is a creation supposed to spit a lack of energy? So no more ice variants. I'd like feedback on what variants you guys think would or wouldn't exist. As for Creation sizes - you know those Creation data sheets that appear as loading screens for G5? They list Creation measurements and weight in the form of Spans and Stones. I don't care about the weight all the much - I think common sense is enough to know what Creations weigh a [censored]ton and the effects of this - what I care about is the height and length, relative sizes. The thing is, I heard somewhere that a span = 0.2286 meters - and going by that and the measurements listed in Spans, A Drayk would be twice as long as a human is tall... but would only be as tall as someone's shoulder standing next to them. What? That sounds wrong. So what do you guys thing the relative sizes should be? I don't really have a good head for measurements, so I'd appreciate it if you guys could describe your opinion in such terms as "as tall as a man" and so on. If not, fine, but it would be convenient.
I'd also appreciate general feedback and suggestions on this idea. Thanks.
Edit: Oh, also - if any of you guys would care to describe what kind of character you'd play, and what your goals and methods would be, I'll totally make a character out of you. Just include a character name, preferably one that sounds like an actual name. Thanks.