Here, at Softlight Entertainment, we made it our goal to try and create a game world that is both futuristic and familiar at the same time, without sacrificing realism for the sake of gimmicky, overused tropes which you would encounter in a typical Science-Fiction setting. We want to create something new and unique, a fresh approach on familiar elements of Sci-Fi epics, integrated in a completely new and unique setting, which is still sufficiently anchored in reality, so that it feels familiar and believable. The typical Science-Fiction setting overuses ideas such as Faster Than Light (FTL) travel, but at the same time, sacrificing concepts such as relativistic time dilation effects, for the sake of a false sense of scale, which is intended to generate an impression of grandeur in the audience. Typical Sci-Fi settings are set in vast universes consisting of large numbers of locations, which are usually very scarcely described.
Very early in the development of Cold Steel: Defiance, we made the decision to create a condensed setting, thus allowing us to pay more attention to every detail, expanding every element of our setting, in order to create a living, breathing world with a rich backstory. Rather than creating a vast, interstellar setting, we decided to do away with these elements of common Science-Fiction and instead, chose to focus on a time period which is less explored by gaming: Pre-FTL inner solar system colonization era.
This drastically condensed setting enables us to shift our focus towards the human element of the story, mainly the political, historical, economic and cultural background of every faction in Cold Steel, developing a more detailed accounting of the events which led to the current situation in the game world, as well as the technological developments which facilitated humanity's first baby steps towards becoming a mature, interplanetary civilization.
Each faction will have its own, distinct traits and political hierarchy, influenced by the environments which it occupies and the historical events which led to its current state of existence. During the earliest stages of conceptualization, we have realized that the extinction plot, which has been done so many times in Science-Fiction games, is rarely properly implemented and does not focus on the process of making difficult, stressful decisions which really convey the sense that the player is responsible for the lives of millions of individuals, the last survivors of a dieing race.
In most video games, morality is divided in a good/bad alignment system which, while it was innovative when it was first introduced, is rigid and does not properly evoke the emotional content of having to make extremely difficult decisions in a life-and-death situation. Thus, rather than being a game about an apocalyptic threat, Cold Steel: Defiance is a story about psychology. With this game, we intend to appeal to the players' emotions, putting them in the situation of making hard decisions and sacrifices, while also presenting them with the consequences and responsibilities of controlling the destiny of an entire civilization.
In order to achieve this goal, we aim to create a world which is as living and as real as possible, a world in which every character feels like a living being with its own personality and aspirations. Thus, Non-Player Characters (NPCs), will not only have a system of daily routines, but their own psychological background, which, along the reputation system which we will explain in another entry of the DevLog, affects their attitude towards the player, also based on what actions the player has taken.
The world of 2084 is a world filled with activity, a world in which something is always happening, somewhere and chance encounters with a number of situations is a very real possibility. Exploring the vast wasteland between Martian colonies will not feel like a trek through an empty world, as the real signs of human habitation are always there. Vehicles will be traveling between colonies, bandits may occupy parts of the land and ambush unsuspecting caravans, bandits which will then be hunted by law enforcement, as their notoriety increases, also providing the player to take up contracts as a bounty hunter, in order to make that extra cash.
Mysteries await to be discovered by players which are passionate explorers, while literal treasure troves of Earth technology provide the opportunity for scavenging, while NPCs may attempt to reach these newly discovered sites, before the player. Businesses will open and close, depending on their success.
In space, convoys of cargo ships will haul precious supplies from one place to another, while pirates will attempt to attack and plunder them. These ships may be boarded and looted, or the pirates may be hunted down. The player may be offered contracts to haul a variety of goods to any destination, also leading to the risk of a pirate attack.
Cold Steel: Defiance also has a strong political and diplomatic content. The interplanetary political scene is an ever-changing environment and the changes in diplomatic status may alter the way the player is treated by members of one faction or another, depending on his or her allegiance. The player may also become involved with politics and affect the situation from within.
In Cold Steel: Defiance, there are no invisible walls or barriers. The basic principle of our level design is “If you see it, you can go there and there's an explanation for why it exists in the world”. All of these elements come together to create a detailed, life-like simulation of society in the year 2084, increasing the feeling of immersion and the replayability of the game.
This sums up the first DevLog entry of the game. In the next entry, we will explore some of the core gameplay mechanics of the game, such as combat and customization, as well as the complex reputation system which plays such a crucial role in the game.