Monthly Archives: June 2014

Mecha Ace is Out!

Title_Screen_Finished(L)

Well, the day’s finally here: Mecha Ace is out in the iOS app store, Google Play store and the Chrome Webstore.

Clocking in at 230 000 words, this interactive fiction is pretty much the largest and most ambitious project I’ve ever done. I hope that everyone enjoys the story, setting, and characters I’ve put together over these past few months.

You can get Mecha Ace for your Android device here, for your iPhone or iPad here, and for Google Chrome here*

 

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Mecha Ace Q&A: Part Three

With Mecha Ace’s release imminent, it’s time for me to post the third, and final section of my Q&A thread on the Choice of Games forums. I hope these sections have answered any questions you might have about my upcoming interactive fiction.

Sneaks asks:
Precisely what caused CoDEC to rebel?

A:
There’s no one real reason, but there are a few major causes. Foremost is the Imperial government’s moratorium on new colonies, preventing those living on the frontier from expanding in search of new resources. Almost as important was the Imperial government’s refusal to allow colonial governments to field their own armed starships, meaning that any piracy on the frontier could only be answered by armed industrial armatures based from space colonies (which would have very limited range), or pleas to the Imperial military for aid, which could take weeks, or even months to arrive, if at all. In addition, there was the Imperial government’s insistence on favouring corporations based in Sol or its core systems, which obviously did not sit well with corporations based in the frontier, which had become very powerful during the initial colonisation of the outer worlds (who were also straining against the moratorium). Lastly, there was the fact that while most major colonies had instantaneous FTL communications via very large and expensive ansible facilities, the comm channels were all-but monopolised by the Imperial government (never mind that the ansibles themselves were funded and built at the Empire’s expense), mostly to micromanage the various Planetary Assemblies, which had nominal power, but whose authority could be overridden by any member of the Empress’ court. 

On top of that, there are already been minor rebellions and civil unrest. Generally, the Imperial response has been demanding that the “traitors” (who are often not even aware that they’ve been labeled such) to surrender, publicly executing the ones who do surrender, and saturation-bombing the areas where any suspected rebel holdouts are hiding.

Needless to say, this has not made them very popular.

Nocturnal_Stillness asks:
Will there be a chance to sacrifice one of your squad to take down a particularly tough foe? For example shooting through them to lower the chances the enemy can dodge?

A:
Yes, and unless you can convince the others that it was necessary, the survivors *will* call you out on it afterwards.

WulfyK asks:
How old will the [player character] be?

A:
The player character will start the game at an indeterminate age, but hints in the text imply that the player character is somewhere in his or her late 20s.

Ramidel asks:
You mean that we aren’t random teenagers who just fall into the cockpit and proceed to become the best pilot in the history of war?

Heresy.

A:
That was actually something I took a look at when I started writing Mecha Ace: I came to the conclusion that with a teenaged protagonist in this sort of setting, the player’s agency would either be heavily curtailed, or the setting would have to bend over backwards to accommodate things that a fifteen year old kid couldn’t get away with. In short, it’d be a story about growing up, and that wasn’t the direction I wanted to go in: watching someone else grow up through the traumatic stresses of the battlefield can be a rewarding experience, playing through that process would cut off a lot of options.

That being said, there are characters in those same series who do have more unrestricted freedom to act, and often drive the plot by acting more than reacting, ones with a lot more power and responsibility over the lives of their fellow pilots than the teenage protagonist does. In short, I came to the conclusion that while it’s fun to watch Amuro, it’d be more fun to play Char, so to speak.

Mecha Ace releases the day after tomorrow.


The Brave, The Proud, The Rocket Corps

simplerocketcorps

As Mecha Ace rushes courageously towards its release on the 13th, I’d like to take a second to update you on one of my other projects.

Rocket Corps (formerly Rocket Age, but unfortunately, we found out that name was taken) is a character-centered board game with card-based gameplay in a setting best described as 50s space opera, altered for modern sensibilities. Working together as the crew of one of Earth’s first starships, two to four players must face unexplored sectors and mysterious alien threats as members of the eponymous Rocket Corps.

I’ve been part of the development team as lead writer for nearly a year now, and we all feel that the project is starting to come together into something worth showing to the world.

For more info, take a look at Turtle Ship Games’ latest post, complete with some art of one of Rocket Corps’ characters, Captain Jadwiga Zielinska, by one of our artists, the ridiculously talented Eva Toker.


Mecha Ace Q&A: Part Two

As promised, here are some more highlights from my Question-and-Answer thread on the Choice of Games forums, regarding the story, characters and setting of my upcoming interactive fiction, Mecha Ace.

Havenstone asks:
What is gained by making the war machines humanoid? Doesn’t the humanoid form introduce inefficiencies that will lead to the downfall of whichever army is the last to ditch its sentimental attachment to bipedalism? 

A:
I’m actually glad you asked this one. The main reason for this is the introduction of orbital bombardment to the future battlescape. While combat armatures do have a much higher target profile than say, a main battle tank, they also have the advantage of being able to take to the sky quickly, “jumping” with their legs, and then staying in the air on thrusters. This means they can go from holding position on the ground to moving quickly in the air at a moment’s notice, something which is very useful when there are ships in orbit trying to take out enemy troop formations. Likewise, unlike MBTs, combat armatures have a lot more movement options in certain terrain, especially urban areas (a combat armature can hop over rubble and other large obstacles), mountainous regions and forests.

In addition, unlike aircraft, which need to be based in vulnerable servicing installations (airfields) and cannot act independently for prolonged periods of time due to fuel limitations and pilot fatigue, combat armature units can simply shut down all but essential systems and allow their pilots to rest when out of immediate danger. This sort of thing allows combat armatures to take and *hold* territory for prolonged periods of time. The fact that their overpowered reactors make them capable of exiting most planetary grav-wells mean that combat armatures fighting in a ground campaign can be based on mobile and well-defended carriers in orbit (which can’t enter atmosphere).

Thirdly, there is the fact that a humanoid combat armature has a distinct advantage over traditional space-borne fighters: namely, prehensile limbs which allow a combat armature to attack or defend in one direction, while accelerating or decelerating in another. In addition, the amount of thrust required to move one or two limbs carrying weaponry (which, also unlike a starfighter’s armament, can be swapped out on the fly) into position is a lot lower than that required to re-orient an entire spacecraft. Lastly, there is the fact that by retracting or extending these limbs (and therefore, the vernier thrusters attached to them), a skilled pilot can manage more precise manoeuvres than with fixed manoeuvring thrusters.

Lastly, there is the question of size and the need for a pilot. Combat armatures are the size they are due to one of the setting’s primary technologies: the Inertial Canceller Field Generator (ICFG), a device capable of negating inertial forces in a small area. These are needed to protect combat armature’s pilots and the delicate electronics of its flight computer (as opposed to the more robust, and more primitive computers in unprotected missile warheads) from the crushing (up to 950 gs) inertial forces of high-acceleration space combat. However, hardware limits have made it impossible for an ICF to be generated to cover any volume less than about 125 (5x5x5) cubic metres. As a result, combat armatures have their internal ICFs packed with the “squishy” flight computer and cockpit, and the more robust portions (especially the thrusters, which ICFs tend to wreak havoc with) outside. The inclusion of a pilot was simply due to the fact that with FTL communication being highly expensive and resource-intensive, having a pilot in the chair was the only way to have a human brain with a reasonable reaction time ready, even if combat was taking place light-seconds, or even light-minutes away from the mothership.

It is for these reasons, especially their ability to act as armour, air support, infantry and starfighter, that humanoid combat armatures have remained a key part of humanity’s war-making arsenal.

And yeah, also because they look awesome.

WulfyK asks:
How long will the free (demo) be?

A:
It’ll go until near the end of the third “episode” (out of nine episodes and three interludes), roughly 25 000 (out of 230 000) words in.

Ramidel asks:
What’s the difference in your structure between “episode” and “interlude?”

A:
Episodes are mostly fast-paced action-centric sequences, with set objectives and direction. Most are spent in the cockpit, in combat, with the lives of the player character and his/her lance-mates in very real danger. 

Interludes are more like breather sequences. Though the plot still moves forward in interludes, you will have the chance to wander around and interact with both the setting and NPCs more freely.

That isn’t to say that interludes are entirely safe, or that episodes are spent entirely in combat, but the former definitely favours combat, and the latter definitely favours character interaction.

Mecha Ace comes out for iOS, Android and Chrome Webstore on June 13th.