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Old 04-28-2008, 01:11 PM   #1
Milawe
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Science or Fiction?

I know a bunch of you play or run science fiction games out there, and I've recently become very interested in playing some. My question is how heavy is the science in some of these? I've usually avoided science fiction games because I'm a total science nut, especially in the areas of biology, genetics, and astronomy. Many of the "big name" science fiction games out there really just have the normal game mechanics in a futuristic setting. You're lucky if you get ships, but if you get ships, you usually can't land on a planet.

How much science do you guys have in the games you play or build? Are the builders in these games expected to have a scientific background? Lastly, is there a heavy science fiction game (RP required, please) that you would recommend?
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Old 04-28-2008, 01:21 PM   #2
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Re: Science or Fiction?

In my experience, most futuristic muds lean more towards Science Fantasy than Science Fiction.
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Old 04-28-2008, 01:24 PM   #3
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Re: Science or Fiction?

It's a very very small niche. I don't know of any that require roleplay either.
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Old 04-28-2008, 01:55 PM   #4
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Re: Science or Fiction?

You know what they say about sufficiently advanced technology.
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Old 04-28-2008, 03:44 PM   #5
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Re: Science or Fiction?

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You know what they say about sufficiently advanced technology.
"Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." - Arthur C. Clarke

Yeah, but I want to get into the science of it all.
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Old 04-28-2008, 04:18 PM   #6
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Re: Science or Fiction?

Yeah, I agree -- but I was kind of responding to KaVir, in that when you get to a certain point of technology it usually veers off into Science Fantasy, for the reason explained in the quote from Clarke.

While I would be totally down with a mud that pushed at genetics, nanotechnology, quantum technology, xenobiology, etcetera...I still don't know if it wouldn't feel like Science Fantasy when all is said and done. The alternative seems to be cyberpunk, which swaps Fantasy for a grittier kind of reality (except in the case of Cyberpunk Fantasy, like Shadowrun, I guess). However what we're really talking about here is HARD SF, which is distinct from cyberpunk as far as genres go. Hard SF is great and all, but how do you represent it in a game in a fun way?
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Old 04-28-2008, 05:23 PM   #7
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Re: Science or Fiction?

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Yeah, I agree -- but I was kind of responding to KaVir, in that when you get to a certain point of technology it usually veers off into Science Fantasy, for the reason explained in the quote from Clarke.

While I would be totally down with a mud that pushed at genetics, nanotechnology, quantum technology, xenobiology, etcetera...I still don't know if it wouldn't feel like Science Fantasy when all is said and done. The alternative seems to be cyberpunk, which swaps Fantasy for a grittier kind of reality (except in the case of Cyberpunk Fantasy, like Shadowrun, I guess). However what we're really talking about here is HARD SF, which is distinct from cyberpunk as far as genres go. Hard SF is great and all, but how do you represent it in a game in a fun way?
I was thinking of something like the Red Mars series by Kim Stanley Robinson where you actively try to colonize another planet and deal with all the issues surrounding that. All the challenges of terraforming and moving on to various planets could be very exciting, imo.

Or you could do Ender's Game type of idea where you do end up battling for the survival of the human species via computer generated means. The players wouldn't need to know the science so much as the creators/builders of the mud. I could have sworn that there were some out there that were more than just science fantasy. I hadn't given the genre a shot yet, so I don't actually know.

What about the Star Trek muds? Are they heavy into the science fiction rather than the science fantasy?
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Old 04-28-2008, 05:47 PM   #8
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Re: Science or Fiction?

"science fiction makes the implausible possible, while science fantasy makes the impossible plausible" -- Rod Serling.

I'm not saying there's a clear line between the two, because there's not. But the majority of futuristic muds I've seen tend to lean more towards what I'd consider "science fantasy" - for example the Star Wars muds with lightsabres and the Force.

Quote:
What about the Star Trek muds? Are they heavy into the science fiction rather than the science fantasy?
Invisibility (cloaking devices), teleportation, faster-than-light space travel, bizzare monsters, time travel, etc...IMO Star Trek contains many elements of science fantasy.
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Old 04-28-2008, 06:04 PM   #9
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Re: Science or Fiction?

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Originally Posted by KaVir View Post
"science fiction makes the implausible possible, while science fantasy makes the impossible plausible" -- Rod Serling.

I'm not saying there's a clear line between the two, because there's not. But the majority of futuristic muds I've seen tend to lean more towards what I'd consider "science fantasy" - for example the Star Wars muds with lightsabres and the Force.
Yes, I get what you're saying, and most futuristic society games do tend more towards science fantasy. While those are interesting for their setting and possible RP opportunities, I'm looking for one that explores more "possible" science theories and situations than hack n' slashing in a futuristic setting.

I'd be interested in a mud that had the science of constructing a light saber, but as its own world, I mostly have no interest in playing that anymore. Not that I think you were recommending a Star Wars mud, but I'm just trying to further your example.

Quote:
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Invisibility (cloaking devices), teleportation, faster-than-light space travel, bizzare monsters, time travel, etc...IMO Star Trek contains many elements of science fantasy.
I agree. That's what I'm not looking for really unless there's a lot of "probable" science behind it.

For example, I'd love something where I was like "Okay, I've managed to obtain a nuclear device. Now I want to go detonate it in a nebula. What happens?"
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Old 04-28-2008, 07:31 PM   #10
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Re: Science or Fiction?

I like the terraforming idea. This reminds me of a thread on another forum (WORA). The concept of the mud could be a colony ship that (crash?) landed on an alien world, and the players are responsible for the survival of the colony, so it would involve some cooperation, a la Tale in the Desert, or that mud Dark Voyage that part of the team from the old Inquisition mud was working on. Maybe when it crashed it scattered some essential parts of the ship over the surface, so that gives you some incentive for exploration. Essential tech would be locked into these parts of the ship, and players would have to bring that back to the colony to expand and survive.

As the mud gets bigger you could open new worlds with different ecologies...maybe set it up like some MMOs where the whole playerbase works together to unlock a gate (i.e., construct a new tech), such as repairing a ship that would allow them to land on a moon and set up a base there.

Players could design new technologies, kind of like crafting swords and what not but more interesting .

You could have hostile native life, maybe let some players that win extra rewards switch into those mobs for some PvP fun, kind of like the LoTR MMO and some other muds have done.

The ship AI could be kind of a meta-NPC in the game, directing traffic so to speak, and ramping up the dramatic tension when appropriate.

Lots of potential.
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Old 04-28-2008, 11:08 PM   #11
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Re: Science or Fiction?

That's basically what I'm looking for. I have a lot of interest in how we could actually live somewhere off the earth and how we'd get there. I recently watched a show on settling on Mars, and obviously, I've read K.S. Robinson's highly acclaimed Mars series. A game that creates its challenges on early colonization has some serious potential. As technology increases, new systems can be implemented to aid exploration and colonization.
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Old 04-29-2008, 12:49 AM   #12
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Re: Science or Fiction?

This is kind of out of left field, but I seem to remember that NASA was looking for game ideas for a MMO? Can anyone verify this?

edit: I guess I could have taken five seconds to look it up...

NASA Goddard's MMO Game
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Old 04-29-2008, 12:58 AM   #13
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Re: Science or Fiction?

Oh, wow. That's pretty cool, but it looks like it's going to be more about education and caters to kids.

One of the things that I've always thought about colonization is that once the terraformed colony becomes relatively established, one of the primary goals would be reproduction to increase the population of the planet. (This is something that makes shows like Battlestar Galactica a bit difficult for me to totally buy.) I'm not sure that's something they'd address as a serious issue if the game involves a lot of kids and exists purely for education.
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Old 04-29-2008, 01:11 AM   #14
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Re: Science or Fiction?

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I'm not sure that's something they'd address as a serious issue if the game involves a lot of kids and exists purely for education.
However, it would be perfect for your run-of-the-mill MUDder.

Seriously...

It would be pretty cool to have characters develop the technology for baby farms or something like that...and then you could have rival groups who want to breed naturally, etc.

Does anyone know if Tears of Polaris is going this route? Or is it more Star TrekWars?
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Old 04-29-2008, 02:00 AM   #15
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Re: Science or Fiction?

I can't believe Bryce prefers Van-Pattons card over mine..
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Old 04-29-2008, 02:31 AM   #16
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Re: Science or Fiction?

I know, I know, that's not really that family friendly.
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Old 04-29-2008, 08:45 AM   #17
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Re: Science or Fiction?

I've got to agree with Kavir. I have yet to really find a game that was really Science Fiction instead of Science Fantasy (and in some cases I'd even be hesitant to add "science" to the front of it).

I'm reminded of an essay by Isaac Asimov (found in his last published collection, Gold) entitled "The Name of our Field". He talked about the difference between science fiction, or SF, and sci-fi. He gave a short summary of the evolution of the name and examples of how SF and sci-fi differed based on their approach to the material.

When you look at the application of science fiction in MUDs, you find that quite often (I'll restrain myself from saying in all cases) it's little more than window dressing, using a poor (or complete lack of) understanding of science to create a setting that really isn't rooted in anything remotely based on science. It's just fantasy but with "laser" added to the front of "sword" and spaceships instead of horse carts.

There might be various reasons for this but three that I've observed are the sometime lack of intelligence, education and maturity in the individuals creating these games; a lack of suitably intelligent, educated, and mature players interested in such games; and difficulty in translating science fiction into a format that will appeal to enough people to make a game worth developing. I've seen a definite parallel between science fiction and historical themes/settings in regard to these three problems though I believe that there's no reason all three can't be overcome.

Not everyone out there is an ignorant moron but there certainly is a dearth of individuals interested in creating both science fiction and historical themed games instead of fantasy, be it science fantasy or whatever. Four years ago I conducted a poll of gamers in the role-playing and gaming organization I founded while in college. Given the choice of science fiction, medieval history, classical history, other history, medieval fantasy, other fantasy, and other, the number that chose medieval fantasy or fantasy exceeded the other five by a factor of nearly ten to one. In short, the people with the ability aren't often interested and the people interested don't always have the ability, at least not in any number large enough to accomplish their goals.

If I ever get the game I'm working on right now finished, my plan for a second game is to try and tackle a science fiction one. But at the slow rate this one's progressing, I don't expect to even begin contemplating attempting the design of another game until the later half of next decade.

Take care,

Jason
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Old 04-29-2008, 10:44 AM   #18
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Re: Science or Fiction?

I'd have to recommend "Firefly"-themed worlds as probably the most hard science-fiction game environments (in the non-original theme category). However, it ends up sharing a lot with a Western theme as well. And as for "hard", I've never quite understood the solar system it is based in, to have so many accessible worlds without an FTL or at least extreme-speed drives.

I'd usually include Star Trek, and any new Battlestar Galactica settings as mostly hard science fiction. I agree that time travel, psychic aliens, and holodecks just about cross the line though

Of course, the main reason for things like teleportation and FTL is literary, particularly in the light of a movie or TV episode--it lets the story move along. A book isn't quite so constrained, but still usually needs FTL so you can get to other worlds in a "reasonable" time. However, what really gets me at times is when the story becomes inconsistent. If it takes FTL to get between worlds, and the FTL breaks down, "limping" home using sub-light just does not work. Even in a solar system, you'd probably have to have an almost lightspeed drive to get anywhere before you'd run out of consumables (a ship designed to reach a port every so often is not going to stock enough food to last 10x the expected run).

As for where things cross the science/fantasy border, it's hard to say. I guess I'd probably choose whether or not it's done using technology. Teleporting using a transporter is OK. Using some psychic/magic/non-technology method is not (e.g., "flinging" if you ever read that series of books). This is just a reference to hard vs. fantasy, btw. I don't dislike science fantasy as a story setting just because it is was it is.

Last edited by Zhiroc : 04-29-2008 at 11:03 AM. Reason: clarified for non-original themes
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Old 04-29-2008, 10:52 AM   #19
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Re: Science or Fiction?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ide View Post
However, it would be perfect for your run-of-the-mill MUDder.
Totally. Honestly, I didn't think there'd be no suggestions for a science fiction mud. I hadn't explored that side of mudding yet, and upon having recently gotten heavily involved in science fiction, I wanted to give it a try. It just got me to thinking if a science fiction mud would inherently have to be more selective with its builders than a pure fantasy mud.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ide View Post
Seriously...

It would be pretty cool to have characters develop the technology for baby farms or something like that...and then you could have rival groups who want to breed naturally, etc.

Does anyone know if Tears of Polaris is going this route? Or is it more Star TrekWars?
I hadn't given much thought to Tears of Polaris, so I haven't a clue what they're up to. I'm hoping for heavy science fiction, though!

Seriously, though, now I want to play a terraforming/colonization game. Maybe that'll have to be the next big project. You on board, Ide?

Last edited by Milawe : 04-29-2008 at 11:45 AM.
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Old 04-29-2008, 11:37 AM   #20
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Re: Science or Fiction?

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Seriously, though, now I want to play a terraforming/colonization game. Maybe that'll have to be the next big project. You on board, Ide?
I would say yes, but I have to finish my 5th c. BC Japanese hunting and fishing game first.
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