Fun Space Opera: The Game/Novelization of the Movie of the Game of the Book


#1

So I’m consistently running into blocks with Who Is Left, partly because of the tone of the story (gritty realism is something I’m typically comfortable with, but I guess I’m just kind of sick of it right now), partly because of the really hard mechanics (I rely heavily on dialogue when writing, which is hard to do when you never know which character might be dead at any given point).

So I decided to go with something a bit more lighthearted (a bit), and which also requires more in the way of invention instead of research. A space opera with similar characters and even a vaguely similar premise, but which is under no pressure to develop advanced combat mechanics and such until I’m feeling more comfortable doing so. Also, being a space opera, I can resolve a lot of plot problems with “because of space.” Things like alien artifacts, “psionic” powers that are basically magic, and single biome planets are staples of space opera, which basically lets me write fantasy with laser guns.

I don’t have a playable demo ready yet, seeing as I just started writing it today, but here’s the opening paragraph, which I’m basically posting purely in the hopes that people will tell me that I’m like Shakespeare but in space and beg me to finish it, since I’ve been struggling to muster up motivation lately.


You can never trust an alien species whose language doesn’t even have a word for “democracy.” The Vilectine Dominion seems to take every other species’ atrocities and moral shortcomings as a personal challenge to do something even worse, and the result is a vast empire built on slave labor and buttressed with mass graves, supported by the twin pillars of oppression and genocide, and with the husks of a thousand dead cultures buried inside of its walls.

All in all, not the best people to have knocking on your door just after breakfast.


#2

Just because it is space opera (and fantasy for that matter) doesn’t mean that there shouldn’t be thought involved in how things work. I personally am quite sick of it when writers simply slap on magic and doesn’t give it more depth. I don’t care if it’s just technobabble or magicbabble, but it improves my enjoyment significantly when I see that there is some thought given to those elements.

Also, I’m another one who is quite sick of gritty realism! :smiley:


#3

The only thing you really have to do in fantasy or space opera is make sure you don’t violate your own rules. In sci-fi, modern, or psuedo-historical pieces, you have to make sure you don’t violate actual laws of physics. In space opera, though, you don’t have to have any kind of explanation as to why hyperdrive lets you go faster than light. It’s hyperdrive. It goes faster than light by definition.

Fantasy is even easier. “It’s magic.” Magic has no hard and fast laws, you’re allowed and encouraged to make up whatever new kinds of magic you want, and so long as you don’t contradict yourself no one cares. When I want to have a scene where the hero jumps out of a plane, crashes through a skylight, and confronts the villain, I don’t have to figure out whether or not that could possibly be a reasonable course of action in real life. I can just spit out a bunch of technobabble about orbital drops, force fields, and an ion storm.


#4

The problem with abusing technobabble is that you often times end up writing yourself into a plothole (I know this most personally from DMing). People reuse and re-purpose things and ideas all the time. Once you’ve put an idea out there, someones going to figure out how it would have completely fixed the plot, often times in way that you characters should have readily seen.

While a lot of mass media can get away with this to a large degree (example: crime shows and major news stations), the smaller the fandom of something (and IF has a relatively small fandom) the more likely they are to critically examine the work in question. While you can get away with this by not taking anything seriously (example: Futurama), if you do want to do something fairly serious, people will start trying to pick it apart.

Also (just a note) it’s easier to handwave things that more ‘fantastical’ in Sci-Fi (example: force fields) than more realistic things (example: There Is No F***ing Enhance Button That Suddenly Makes Photos Clearer… Ahem, or how lasers work).

When you start using technobabble you walk a fine line between Rule of Cool and Plothole. (Not trying to discourage using a Space Opera setting, just pointing out that’s it’s as easy as ‘just slap some handwavium on and plot holes and call it done’.)


#5

Well, I do expect technobabble to be at least internally consistent.


#6

I’m always up for some sci-fi, especially since every CoG so far has been either modern or fantasy. Just make sure you have a gender choice in the game and just remember to keep your science consistent.

To use the example you gave as a further example, the reason that falling to the ground from a plane is one of kinetic energy, your gravitational potential energy is converted to kinetic energy by your weight. When you hit the ground, the kinetic energy has to go somewhere quickly. It does this by pancaking you. A force field that would counteract this kinetic energy would also counteract the kinetic energy of bullets and explosives, rendering you immune to those too.

To explain, the kinetic energy involved in hitting the ground at terminal velocity (~45m/s) assuming you weigh 100kg is given by Ke=0.5mv^2, for an approximate total of 101,250 Joules. Ker-splut.

If you are shot by an M-16 rifle with a muzzle velocity of ~950m/s and a bullet mass of 4g (0.004kg), the kinetic energy will be (again according to Ke=0.5mv^2) 1,805 Joules.

So if you have a force field that can handle falling out of a plane, you have a force field that can handle being shot simultaneously by 56 US soldiers.

Try to bear this kind of thing in mind when creating your technobabble.


#7

Except, Canisa, the whole point of space opera as opposed to sci-fi is that I don’t even care about any of that stuff. I’ve written sci-fi before keeping track of all this stuff, but that’s not what I’m doing with this. Star Trek is sci-fi, Star Wars is space opera. Buck Rogers is space opera. Despite its pretensions to the contrary, Warhammer 40K is a (grimdark) space opera.

Laser guns don’t make much sense as anti-personnel weapons in real life, but if I want a laser gun in Fun Space Opera, I’m just going to drop a laser gun in. I won’t even bother explaining why. Lasers are effective ways of killing people because of space. It’s not just that you CAN do that with space opera, it’s that you aren’t really making a space opera until you do that sort of thing.


#8

Sorry, I guess I was just trying to be smart. Just try to keep it believable, yeah?


#9

Um. Define “believable.” Because keep in mind the model for this is roughly Star Wars, where space knights use their space magic and laser swords to protect/restore the space republic from the evil space nazis led by evil space wizards. In space.


#10

By believable, I mean take into account human ingenuity, as well as a few central tenets of physics. As I showed with the ‘force field’ debacle above, if you aren’t careful your hand-waves can have unforeseen utility (e.g. a super-science parachute that doubles as tank-level body armour). With this kind of thing it’s generally worth thinking for a while about other potential uses for any given piece of technology, since at least one of your players is going to wonder why they couldn’t feed their teleporter a ‘fake’ signal and have it function as a matter-replicator. After all, human ingenuity and improvisation is a big part of space-opera, as Scotty will happily show you.

As for those central tenets of physics I mentioned earlier, it’s worth bearing in mind scale, especially. Quite apart from the fact that space is huge; sometimes it’s tempting to have spaceships that are kilometres long, without explaining why they don’t curl up into a ball under their own inertia during manoeuvres; in addition, time-scales of centuries and millennia show up far too often for my liking - in Star Wars the Old Republic lasted for at least 30,000 years, whereas in the real world recorded human civilisation has lasted approximately one sixth of the time that the Old Republic apparently did. To say that this stretches the bounds of believability is kind at best.

To summarise, put some decent thought into your technobabble and remember how big things really are.


#11

Even the Force has its own internal logic. Well, let’s not take into account all of the EU.


#12

I think the key word here is “context”. A reader/player/viewer will accept many things so long as it is contextually relevant. It sounds like that is (purely conjecture) the author’s intent.


#13

Wait, so you’re saying that because human history hasn’t been recorded for 30,000 it’s implausible for a fictional republic made up of the union of various sentient species to have existed for that long? That’s your argument?

Although admittedly the extended universe seems to have decided that there was actually a new sith war every 50 years or so that tore the republic apart, so there you go.


#14

I’m saying that 30,000 years is an extremely long time for a coherent political entity to remain in existence. I’m not saying it’s impossible, just that it’s sufficiently unlikely that I find it irksome when that kind of situation shows up in fiction.


#15

Canisa, you really, really need to grasp the difference between sci-fi and space opera if you’re going to have any fun with my project at all. Or, if you just don’t like my genre, then at least stop posting in my thread about how to make a good sci-fi when I’m explicitly not making one of those.

The point of sci-fi is exploring the impact of new technology or other scientific phenomena on the world. Or possibly another world. It’s a broad genre. But you have to make things make sense according to natural laws as we know them, because otherwise your whole premise, which was founded on science to begin with, will fall apart.

And that’s exactly why I’m NOT writing a sci-fi. I don’t really have any point to make about new technologies with this story. I don’t want to wonder about what impact contact with an alien civilization would have on our culture or politics, that’s one of the endless number of interesting and valid themes that I’m not exploring with my story, which is why it’s set in a time and place where interaction with other space-faring civilizations is a centuries old concept and the actual planet Earth as we know it probably doesn’t even exist, because I’m certainly not looking up known solar systems of the Milky Way to set my story around.

Space opera, like detective stories, romance, fantasy, horror, and most other genres, doesn’t care about science. It’s basically just a fantasy story that happens to be set in space. A five-kilometer spaceship is exactly the kind of thing that could show up in the story I’m writing (though I don’t plan on it at the moment). If an in-universe expert on the construction of starships says they’re mechanically impossible for whatever reason, and then a flashback set six months in the past mentions that the Terrans had six of them on public record, that’s a problem because it’s contradictory. But if the Terrans and Vilectines and everyone else important just have a bunch of physically impossible starships lying around, that’s just fine because of space.


#16

Okay, sorry. I’ll stop raining on your parade. Have fun writing it and I’ll do my best to ignore anything that doesn’t make sense.


#17

@Chamomile I like the writing and for a first paragraph, it accomplishes what it should: grabs my attention, sets up some background, sets the “place.” So go write some more!


#18

I agree, just write the thing already! See if you can get a first chapter up for us.


#19

Well, I bothered to comment. I obviously want you to write this.


#20

To clarify, I am still working on it. It’s coming a bit slowly, though.