Marathon Chronicles

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Re: Marathon Chronicles

Post May 1st '19, 17:47

I wrote a thing, which I’m liable to expand and revise later. It retcons some of what I’d written previously (especially in the terminals of “The Paradox of Tolerance”), and I’ll have to revise some of that if I decide to go with this approach, but I think it has a few strengths over my previous version. If nothing else, this version doesn’t retcon the timeline from “Lazarus ex machina” in Rubicon, which I always felt a bit uneasy about doing.

Some details need to be filled in for this to truly read like history, and I’m not sure I can use this kind of narrative in the game itself; it’s the sort of thing that reads like a retrospective history written decades after the events the player is experiencing. I might sprinkle them in the way Eternal does; I’ll have to see. I also might try to make the parallels to our recent history a bit subtler, though I don’t want to make them so subtle that players miss them.

Anyway:

In the aftermath of the war, the predominant question was how to treat the Pfhor. It was obvious they had committed countless crimes against [?humanity], but there was no precedent for prosecuting another species for slavery. The humans and S’pht had to improvise.

The S’pht, having only recently been freed, had little in the way of reliable historical records of the time before their enslavement, and in any case, understood that they had a dog in this fight, so they deferred to humanity’s judgement. The most famous case in humanity’s history was the Confederate States of America from over a millennium earlier, a case that was at best flawed. The failed implementation of Reconstruction resulted African-Americans suffering for almost a century under Jim Crow; although they had the de jure franchise, the de facto right to vote eluded them for roughly a century, and even after that, they were sporadically disenfranchised until the collapse of the country (which, ironically, some historians have blamed in part on the disenfranchisement of African-Americans and other minorities).

The Nuremberg trials were another potential model. The Nazis were prosecuted for genocide, an arguably even more horrifying offence than slavery; these trials became the basis of international law in the system that persisted until its collapse roughly ninety years later, and even subsequent systems owed much to the principles it established. A particularly enduring and famous principle that emerged from this system was that “just following orders” was no excuse for complicity in crimes against humanity.

A problem emerged with this approach, however: prosecuting anyone who followed orders would ultimately require prosecuting the entire Pfhor species. Moreover, the Pfhor had a horrifying totalitarian system of government in which anyone who disobeyed orders – or even ran afoul of the wrong bureaucrat – was potentially subject to execution. Prosecuting the Pfhor’s offences would, under such a set of principles, logically require putting the entire species on trial. Taken to its logical extreme, subjecting such offences to capital punishment would constitute an act of genocide.

One proposal was that anyone who was simply following orders would be subject to lesser punishment, and only those who gave the orders would be subject to the death penalty. This proposal was ultimately adopted, but the implications of subjecting an entire species to a lesser punishment were so troubling to humanity that they ultimately came to a strange and, in retrospect, severely mistaken decision.

The Pfhor, minus their leaders, were ultimately placed into a pocket dimension using only recently discovered Jjaro technology. In this dimension, the Pfhor would be unable to subject other species to their ravages, with one of humanity’s artificial intelligences to guide them to a more enlightened state. After sufficient time passed within this dimension, they would be released from it. Time was to pass more rapidly there; a thousand years would correspond to roughly fifteen to the rest of the universe. Time would pass as if it were just over two millennia to the Pfhor; to everyone else, only roughly three decades would have elapsed.

This plan might have succeeded but for two flaws, one predictable and the other less so. The predictable flaw was that the AI went Rampant. One of the enduring mysteries of this tale is whether this Rampancy was intentionally induced by an engineer on the development team or simply a predictable historical irony. In any case, the intended moral guidance was not provided. Indeed, at some point the AI began assisting the Pfhor in genetically engineering artificial life forms to perform menial tasks; many of these life forms would ultimately be used as foot soldiers in the subsequent war.

The less predictable flaw was a result of a crash of the Chimera on Pfhor Prime. This ship brought the flora and fauna that accompany humans everywhere they goes, and some of them spread across the Pfhor homeworld, severely unbalancing to their agriculture and ultimately establishing a new symbiosis with the native plant life. This process took centuries, which were referred to as the Pfhor Dark Ages; they were stricken with a horrifying famine until their biosphere found a new balance.

Unsurprisingly, the Pfhor developed a strong resentment of humanity grew over this time, and not entirely without justification. The leaders responsible for the war had been executed; even the foot soldiers were long dead. Humanity had visited the sins of the father upon the son, and in attempting to avoid a repeat of Reconstruction, they had instead unintentionally repeated the Treaty of Versailles, in which the austere postwar punishment of Germany created conditions under which the seeds of a particularly insidious hatred were able to take root.

It wasn’t until the two-millennium mark had passed that things really deteriorated, and even then, the rebirth of the Pfhor supremacist attitude wasn’t consistent at first; it was another decade before the Pfhor supremacists were irreversibly entrenched in their system, and the extent of their entrenchment wasn’t truly apparent until several years beyond that. As has been seen far too often in the history of too many species, Pfhor supremacists managed to take over their governments without ever truly constituting a majority or even a plurality of their population.

Bearing in mind this series of disasters, it is little surprise that war erupted shortly after their emergence from the pocket dimension…


Spoiler:
In particular, the implication of the years 2000, 2010, and 2016 is not coincidental. Perhaps I should obfuscate the parallels a bit more, but I’ve seen science fiction bury its intended message underneath subtlety so often that I’m not actually sure I want to. People expect The Twilight Zone and Star Trek-type morals from sci-fi, for better or worse.


I hope to put out another version of the game by June, hopefully incorporating RADIX’ Trooper sprites plus a few other minor changes. I can’t promise anything, but this project has been in stasis for awhile, and I suspect working on it might actually be a way to regain inspiration in other aspects of my life as well.
“People should not be afraid of their governments. Governments should be afraid of their people.” —V, V for Vendetta (Alan Moore)

“The trouble is that we have a bad habit, encouraged by pedants and sophisticates, of considering happiness as something rather stupid. Only pain is intellectual, only evil interesting. This is the treason of the artist: a refusal to admit the banality of evil and the terrible boredom of pain. If you can’t lick ’em, join ’em. If it hurts, repeat it. But to praise despair is to condemn delight, to embrace violence is to lose hold of everything else. We have almost lost hold; we can no longer describe happy man, nor make any celebration of joy.” —Ursula K. Le Guin, “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas”

“If others had not been foolish, we should be so.” —William Blake, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell

Last.fm · Marathon Chronicles · Marathon Eternal 1.2 · Where Monsters Are in Dreams · YouTube Vidmaster’s Challenge
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The Man
Sarasota, FL

Post May 1st '19, 20:41

Will we see a release soon with some informational terminals soon? I find it really difficult to play without knowing the object of the levels. I hope you get better soon though, so good luck!
"The only thing we learn from history is that we learn nothing from history"-Georg Hegel
||Legends of Marathon Net Maps|| ||Eternal Legends of Marathon Net Maps||
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raptor200221

Post May 1st '19, 22:50

I wrote a long post and Chrome ate it. Hopefully this hits all the same points.

First of all, thanks!

I plan to write more detailed mission descriptions for some, maybe most, of the levels, but overall, I’d prefer to defer that until near the end of development if remotely possible, since the contents of the levels are likely to change before I consider them finished. A few particularly notable cases:

  • James Hastings-Trew pastiches in the Earth chapters: I would prefer to avoid anything addressing the mission at all beyond the vaguest specifics. They wouldn’t feel like Tempus Irae levels if you got a step-by-step walkthrough within the game itself. “Everyone I Went to High School With Is Dead” is a possible exception, though I’ve already explained a lot of the biggest potential trip-ups.

  • The automap of “The Paradox of Tolerance” is a complete and utter mess, but it’s also constructed in a way that makes it difficult for players to get lost: if in doubt, go forward. I do need to add something warning players not to get too close to the Enforcers, though.

  • “Dimensional Bleedthrough” also has a mess of an automap, but the mission of this one is simple enough that I think explaining more would defeat the purpose. You find chip A, insert it at point B, find terminal C, and exit. The difficulty is navigating the intentionally disorienting environment and dealing with all the challenging enemies.

  • “Delusions of Adequacy…” may be difficult enough to merit a deeper explanation.

  • Many other levels probably don’t yet have complicated enough missions to merit more detailed mission outlines. If a level consists largely of “Find chip/key A, insert into point B, go through door C opened by point B, find switch/key/chip/wires D, lather, rinse, repeat,” then I’d rather let players get the thrill of exploration themselves. But some levels, such as “Cut Their Grain and Place Fire Therein”, may be nonlinear enough that the automap will, despite not being messy, still be useless – players will have seen places they need to go before they actually have to go there, so they may be unable to tell that anything has changed.

  • Unrelated to writing, but several levels currently don’t have save terminals and I’m on the fence about whether this is a good idea: “Return to Yggdrasill”, “Cel din urmă vis”, “Nightmare Heaven”, and most of “Delusions of Adequacy…” The first two of these may be short enough that it doesn’t matter, but it might be a mistake in the latter two cases.

Are you having trouble with any specific levels? I’d prefer not to insult players’ intelligence by over-explaining the missions, but I’d also prefer not to go the Rubicon route where players are left completely to their own devices on disorienting levels with complicated missions. I’d like to partake of roughly Bungie’s level of explanation. I’m not really the best judge of this, though, since I know my levels back to front. I feel that “Dimensional Bleedthrough” may be a case where a level is disorienting, but is only complicated because of the combat, but I may be mistaken on this count. If you have feedback, that would certainly be helpful here.
“People should not be afraid of their governments. Governments should be afraid of their people.” —V, V for Vendetta (Alan Moore)

“The trouble is that we have a bad habit, encouraged by pedants and sophisticates, of considering happiness as something rather stupid. Only pain is intellectual, only evil interesting. This is the treason of the artist: a refusal to admit the banality of evil and the terrible boredom of pain. If you can’t lick ’em, join ’em. If it hurts, repeat it. But to praise despair is to condemn delight, to embrace violence is to lose hold of everything else. We have almost lost hold; we can no longer describe happy man, nor make any celebration of joy.” —Ursula K. Le Guin, “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas”

“If others had not been foolish, we should be so.” —William Blake, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell

Last.fm · Marathon Chronicles · Marathon Eternal 1.2 · Where Monsters Are in Dreams · YouTube Vidmaster’s Challenge
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The Man
Sarasota, FL

Post May 2nd '19, 02:13

I find it interesting (in a good way) that this latest bit of your Chronicles tackles something that a bit of my own Chronicles (of Quelouva) do: what to do when an "evil through and through" alien empire is finally defeated. In my Chronicles, the scary evil alien empire are the Berol, and their main victims are the main alien race of my Chronicles the Ehrban, and it's only with some human help that the Berol are finally defeated, but the specific humans behind that help are mostly evil themselves (they are literally the devil himself, the four horsemen of the apocalypse, and their big brother who's not like them) and are about to just straight up genocide all of the Berol, who they've pretty much just heard of, when the Ehrban themselves, who've been suffering at the Berol's hands for dozens of millennia, say whoa whoa hold on you can't just genocide an entire species of trillions of people, and demand a better solution be found.

The better solution turns out to be basically slavery, and it doesn't end well.
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Pfhorrest
California

Post May 2nd '19, 16:57

So, basically, this scenario is the most difficult scenario I have ever seen. It is difficult in the fact that the levels are super hard to figure out due to all the secrets that are required to beat the level. The only way that I could really see someone playing through this entire scenario is if almost all of the maps have instruction terminals. The map "Everyone I Went To High School is Dead" Is entirely impossible to figure out in it's current state. It has way too many secrets. There is one map that I played co-op that was impossible to figure out. It was totally by random chance that we actually finished it. It was the map with the 4 quadrants and all the 5D space. Needs an explanation for sure. But overall, the scenario has beautiful architecture, and very fun levels. They really just need an explanation. The levels should at least be explained as much as Eternal did. The story does not need to be as long as Eternal, but you should write out very clear goals, or at least give the players a major hint to lead them in the right direction. I played through Eternal, and I didn't find it confusing, but I played through the first two or three levels of Chronicles, I was constantly getting stuck. You don't need to change the levels from what I can tell, but you really need some kind of instructions for the levels. Overall, Great scenario, but super confusing.:)
"The only thing we learn from history is that we learn nothing from history"-Georg Hegel
||Legends of Marathon Net Maps|| ||Eternal Legends of Marathon Net Maps||
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raptor200221

Post May 2nd '19, 17:32

Thanks.

Most of the secrets actually shouldn’t be required to beat levels, since they generally only contain ammo caches (and sometimes weapons). They’re just there as added bonuses. I’m able to beat most of the levels without using ammo at all, and for the handful of exceptions, I only need ammo in a small number of places. I’ve actually been consistently worried that I have way too much ammo in the scenario, especially if players aren’t playing on TC. There should be enough ammo for players to complete most of the levels even if they don’t find a single secret, but if people are running out, I can add more (at least to the levels that aren’t intended to be gauntlets).

But if the levels are that disorienting, I’ll add more info on where to go at some point. Any particular level names beyond the two you mentioned? (I’m not actually 100% sure which level you mean by “the map with the 4 quadrants and all the 5D space”. One possibility is “Dimensional Bleedthrough”, which is supposed to be really disorienting, at any rate – there should be a terminal explaining that even Durandal can’t comprehend what’s going on there. The player’s only hope is supposed to be exploring and clearing out the whole level. It’s not really divided into quadrants though. “With Strength I Burn” has four quadrants, but not very much 5D space, and also its terminals show exactly where to go. I suppose “Nightmare Heaven” might also fit that description. It doesn’t really have 5D space, but the areas do overlap a lot on the automap.)

Also, thanks, Pfhorrest. That sounds interesting; I really should read that at some point.
“People should not be afraid of their governments. Governments should be afraid of their people.” —V, V for Vendetta (Alan Moore)

“The trouble is that we have a bad habit, encouraged by pedants and sophisticates, of considering happiness as something rather stupid. Only pain is intellectual, only evil interesting. This is the treason of the artist: a refusal to admit the banality of evil and the terrible boredom of pain. If you can’t lick ’em, join ’em. If it hurts, repeat it. But to praise despair is to condemn delight, to embrace violence is to lose hold of everything else. We have almost lost hold; we can no longer describe happy man, nor make any celebration of joy.” —Ursula K. Le Guin, “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas”

“If others had not been foolish, we should be so.” —William Blake, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell

Last.fm · Marathon Chronicles · Marathon Eternal 1.2 · Where Monsters Are in Dreams · YouTube Vidmaster’s Challenge
User avatar

The Man
Sarasota, FL

Post May 3rd '19, 15:21

I don't really have very many level names for the scenario, because I got stuck on almost every level very badly.
"The only thing we learn from history is that we learn nothing from history"-Georg Hegel
||Legends of Marathon Net Maps|| ||Eternal Legends of Marathon Net Maps||
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raptor200221

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