The year is 3609. Mankind died with the Solar System over twelve hundred years ago.
You are one of the few survivors. As the Chief Propulsion Engineer aboard the CSS Francis Drake, you have existed in cryostasis since you departed Earth during those final days. You and the Drake’s thirty-eight thousand colonists are destined for a distant star system.
Things are not going to plan. With still seven hundred more years left, you and a small selection of forty crewmembers have been woken prematurely. A micro-meteoroid strike has caused the ship to vent some of its vital propellant, making the deceleration burn necessary to arrive at your final destination presently impossible. With no other options available your Captain has diverted the Drake to a planet where it can gather the resources to resume its journey.
That planet is Tiamat. And despite all the odds, humans live there; seeded via robotic mother ships sent at the dawn of the 22nd century. Inhabiting the one small island chain amidst the planetary ocean, the people of Tiamat were engineered and conditioned to lack competition, division, and archaic mores. Their placid existence is interrupted by your arrival.
Appointed as Acting First Officer, you are tasked with securing the Drake’s resources. The mission depends upon you.
• Discover the truth about Tiamat, your ship, and the final days of the Solar System.
• Respond to environmental disasters, mutinies, and the competing demands of your people and the natives of Tiamat.
• Define your history and live with the personal consequences of abandoning Earth.
• Enter a relationship with one of two women: your colleague Caroline, or the native Therasia.
• Decide the fate of the CSS Francis Drake, the inhabitants of Tiamat, and yourself.
Thanks for reading so far. The Sea Beyond the Stars is something that I have been thinking of and intermittently working on for the past several months. The biggest inspiration for this work is Arthur C. Clarke’s “The Songs of Distant Earth” - those who have read it probably can easily see the blatant similarities (the art above is taken from an illustration for that book). I also owe a great debt to dozens of other science fiction authors I have read throughout the years for planting many of the seeds that germinate in this work.
First and foremost I want the The Sea Beyond the Stars to be enjoyable to the player. Whilst doing this, I have three conditions that I’d like the story to meet. I want it to be a) melancholic, b) literary, and c) hard science fiction. By each, I mean the following:
You are playing a character who has lost virtually everything, and that colours much of what you’ll experience. A notable chunk of this story (approximately 20% of it) will be devoted towards exploring the past of your character and the nature of their loss and the final days of Earth. While in the ‘present day’, you will be spending much of the story also resolving problems that just do not have an optimal solution or a right answer.
In this story I want to explore some ideas. I have always seen science fiction as one of the best mediums to generate examples and thought experiments to help the reader build up their own ethical and philosophical compass; The Sea Beyond the Stars is written with the hope that it will do just that.
Some of the main ideas that have emerged at the forefront in the work so far are: the relationship between an individual and their culture, the psychology behind colonisation and reproduction, the moral basis of authority, and the whether creating a blank slate for civilisation is desirable.
I would like this story to have as much verisimilitude as is possible. For me, this has always meant sticking with the boundaries of what is permitted by science as we know it. All the technology, phenomena, and science featured in The Sea Beyond the Stars attempts to conform with real concepts in astronomy, physics, and engineering. While I won’t divert sections of the book to giving technobabble, I hope that even the most scientifically literate person can read this work and find that they can maintain their suspension of disbelief. I also may assemble a codex or a compendium of technical and scientific details (which basically exists in very rough form at the moment as my notes).
On the spectrum of CYOA games from ‘RPG-like’ through to ‘interactive novels’, I am going firmly on the side of ‘interactive novel’. There are no numeric stats, there is no inventory, and there are no skill checks. The player will change the plot through discrete events – making every playthrough hopefully seeming like a self-contained narrative experience. So far, I have around 6 endings planned; some endings being attainable only if you enter a specific relationship.
The player assumes the role of a 29-year-old man serving as Chief Propulsion Engineer aboard the Colonial Star Ship Francis Drake – better known to its crew as the Drake. After being woken from cryostasis, the player finds themselves appointed as acting First Officer of the Drake and tasked with leading a small skeleton crew to the surface of Tiamat to build and operate a temporary surface base and refinery. There they must to acquire the raw materials needed to repair and refuel the Drake for its journey onwards. On their way, they must contend with the memories of the destruction of Earth, their newly developing relationships with the crew and the natives, and their own personal beliefs as to what they and the crew of the Drake should do.
Caroline Jensen, Chief Fusion Engineer
The 25-year-old responsible for keeping the Drake’s main power source up, Caroline is your extremely capable and no-nonsense subordinate. Her blunt brilliance disguises the fact that she is suffering greatly from the destruction of Earth. She must struggle with her demons, and also balance the needs of herself and the crew against those of the people of Tiamat - potentially coming at odds with your own judgment. All this culminates in a choice to continue with the Drake or to stay on Tiamat.
Therasia, Woman of Tiamat
Born to a people who know little of competition, want, or division, Therasia has lived a long and tranquil life - despite this, the slow aging of the Tiamatians means that she still only has the body of a thirty-ish year old woman. A serene, motherly, and curious spirit, her grace and sincere interest in your people quickly makes her the liaison between the crew of the Drake and the natives of Tiamat. Her desire to know more, however, also sews the seeds for a conflict which may turn this encounter into a tragedy.
Captain John Steele
The authoritarian commanding officer of the Drake, Captain John Steele takes his duties to his crew and to mankind very seriously. Dismissive and wary of the natives of Tiamat, Steele believes in doing whatever is necessary to ensure the starship can continue its journey. As far as he sees it, on his and the ship’s shoulders lies the destiny of mankind. Nothing must stand in his way.
28/01/18 I’m presently at at 110k words, with each playthrough ranging from 35-42k. Act 1 is close, but I’m eager to make sure that I release the best first impression that I can. I tend to do lots of rewrites and edits (and also revise earlier content as I make inroads into the larger story); for that reason I’ve decided to push back the demo release. I’m hoping that I’ll be comfortable releasing it within the next couple of months, but I won’t make promises.
13/12/17 I’ve hit 60k words, with each playthrough ranging from 15-20k words. Alongside that the final bits of flowcharting have been completed.
27/11/17 Presently I’m around 40k words in; the final product looks set to be approximately 400k words with each playthrough taking up around 100-150k apiece. This is my first dabbling at interactive fiction, so this is a very fun learning experience for me and I hope that this enjoyment translates well to the final piece of work. My hope is that I can release a demo (or, if I feel like showing my prose at its worst, a playtest) by the end of January 2018. This would consist of ‘Act 1’ – covering the arrival at Tiamat, first contact between the Terrans and the Tiamatians, and the establishment of operations on the surface of the planet.
I’d love to hear any questions you guys may have about the project or any suggestions you may have for things you are particularly looking for. Thanks for reading.