[WIP] Nikola Tesla: War of the Currents

Alter the course of history as an inventor at the dawn of the electrical age! Can you outsmart Thomas Edison and help Nikola Tesla realize his dreams of worldwide wireless power, alien contact, death rays and sapient machines?

The man who invented the 20th century was a queer immigrant from Serbia. Nikola Tesla dreamed of distributing free energy to all of mankind but passed away in a New York hotel room alone and forgotten. What if it had gone differently?

In the year 1886, you join the eccentric Tesla as his laboratory apprentice. Notoriously bad at
monetizing his inventions, but nonetheless ingenious at building them, Tesla needs your help with making a living wage as much as with performing his experiments.

Fend off Edison’s spies, Wall Street bankers, electrical industry magnates and other unsavory types as you navigate real historical adventures involving electrocuted elephants, the Niagara Falls electric plant, pigeons, and that time Mark Twain had the mishap of soiling his trousers in Tesla’s lab.

Develop your own science skills, your social life, or opt to be more business-minded. Manage your mentor’s fragile mental state while balancing your laboratory’s checkbook. Love your work, your pigeon, or pursue a risqué romance with Edison’s daughter. Will you manage to maintain enough funding and influence to prevent the destruction of Wardenclyffe tower and perform the most esoteric of experiments? Bring free power to all, contact the aliens, or accidentally flatten a city. The history of the last great independent inventor, as well as the future of society, are in your hands.

  • Play as male, female, or non-binary; gay, straight, bi, or asexual/aromantic.
  • Achieve fame through spectacular inventions, people skills or cunning business.
  • Influence historic events such as the invention of the electric chair, the Chicago World Fair, the social unrests of the turn of the 20th century, and more.
  • Monetize your inventions or uphold Tesla’s ideals of working for the betterment of mankind.
  • Uncover secret societies lurking in the background of early-capitalist New York.
  • Meet a cast of historic characters such as Thomas Edison and his family, George Westinghouse, Mark Twain, J.P. Morgan, Joseph Pulitzer, Lewis Latimer, Charles Steinmetz, Lord Kelvin and many more.

The world awaits in darkness, ready for your electric light.


Tentative release date: Fall/Winter 2021

About me:
I’m a physicist working in space science, and also Nikola Tesla’s compatriot from the Balkans. I love writing stories based in Slavic heritage, hard science, or preferably a mix of both. You can find me on Twitter to see my other stories. Don’t hesitate to ask me anything, I can go on about Tesla and my research for ages!

What I need:
This is my first CoG game and I’ve been learning as I go, so all feedback is welcome. I’ve completed 8 chapters so far (out of 10 planned), clocking in around 150,000 words. Let me know what you think, share your suggestions and ideas you’d like to see implemented, and if there are things you particularly enjoyed, no matter how minor, I’d love to hear about them! (I’ve been alone with this for two years now, throughout the pandemic madness and juggling my real-life research, so I’ll welcome reader enthusiasm to fuel me through the rest of the CS maze and over the finish line!)

Read the Work-In-Progress now: version May 16th 2021, 8 chapters

Click here to wishlist this game on Steam

134 Likes

Intresting subject, it sounds really fun. I started it though I haven’t played through the demo yet but might I suggest implementing a save function? 8 chapters can be a lengthy amount of game to get through without stopping

4 Likes

The writing is really good. Engaging. So far there isn’t a single sentence I felt like skimming through, which is incredible given my attention span.

Another thing I particularly enjoy is the decision to have the protagonist be an active and meaningful figure, and not a helpless observer like in some other historical fiction games, love to see it.

12 Likes

Wow, this is amazing. The writing is wonderful, but I think the characterization takes the cake here.

2 Likes

Good shout. I thought Dashingdon had some sort of auto-save feature going on. I’ll look into implementing the additional CJW plugin. Other than the *sm_init command in startup, do I also need to insert the *sm_save command manually at save points throughout the scenes, or does the plugin save automatically?

I am massively relieved to hear that! I think this is my greatest concern, balancing the player’s ability to influence events with my urge to do at least some exposition about true historic events and persons. I do want the player to walk away having learned a little bit about who the people in the Currents War were and what they stood for. So for instance, Westinghouse is necessarily your first benefactor, though that does not have to be the case in the later game. Chapter 7 is particularly a nexus where I allow the player to influence the direction of events to a greater degree than in the earlier game.

This is also awesome to hear, since I do beat myself up over being so verbose, haha.

Thank you very much. Characters and dialogue are what I enjoy writing most, and the people in this story – everyone from Marion Edison to Lewis Latimer – are such fascinating figures that I wanted to give the player the feeling of truly getting to know them.

7 Likes

@dklindzic I have a suggestion could you add a description of the stats? and a cheat menu?

1 Like

As a big Tesla (the inventor not he company) nerd, you certainly have my attention :grinning_face_with_smiling_eyes:

I just started the demo and I’m enjoying it so far, can’t wait to play the rest!

On Dashingdon you only need to put the *sm_init command in startup file after all of the *create commands and check the “Check to use smPluginMenuAddon save plugin by CJW” box in the game’s settings, Dashingdon will take care of the rest.

As for a save function in the final game, there are a few ways to accomplish this. A checkpoint save system seem like the easiest to me, as it can be entirely done within ChoiceScript without the need of additional tools. There are a few threads around on how to do this, I found this one helpful:

Anyway, keep up the good work!

6 Likes

I have read a part of the Demo, and liked it a lot. I only found one little mistake. There is no word Erleichtung in German, perhaps you misspelled Erleuchtung ?

This game is amazing!

The first game on COG/HG to actually make me laugh out loud, the conversations were amazing, I especially loved Mark Twain in this one.

I would recommend adding a save system for the demo so that we can choose other options, and a cheat system similar to war of the west, where you can increase your stats and money.

4 Likes

Usually my eyes kind’ve glaze over at eduntainment, but this was really engaging and well written. Also pleasantly accurate from the bits I looked up. Although, (and don’t know if he was actually like this or not), but the way Twain is written makes me want to reach through the screen and smack him. Really shortsighted and just generally not particularly likable. Then again, I am playing the MC as very business savvy, so maybe with a different character build it’s different.

Twain (as written here) is that whimsical uncle you either warm up to or that drives you nuts during family meetings. I personally find him amusing enough and kind of insightful when he cares to, but yeah, he’s built as a writer not as a businessman lmao.

6 Likes

Yeah, if I met Twain in real life I’d probably avoid him, but he’s great as a character.
Also, if Marion leaves for Europe, is it permanent?

It would be nice to have the option to invent and present alternative execution methods to AC electric chairs (eg DC electric chairs, drug executions, gas chambers, etc.). I think this option also comes with serious business, political and ethical issues that will make the game even more interesting.

The premise sound interesting. Cant wait.

damn this was a good wip

1 Like

@dklindzic
good job

1 Like

This game, even unfinished as it is, is simply superb. I cannot wait to play through to the end and see how the rest unfolds.

That being said, I know it’s tricky to write in something other than your first language. Therefore:

  1. Choose UK or USA spelling, but not both. I saw “glamourous” in one paragraph and “honor” in another.
  2. Watch those tricky prepositions such as on/in/at because they rarely map 1-to-1 from one language to another.

And personally, why the emphasis on German asides for Tesla even after Tesla knows Edison/MC doesn’t speak it? Why not Hungarian or Serbian words? That’d be pretty cool.

AWESOME GAME!

1 Like

Woah this is really good, but I have to say the “American Dream” ending got me really sad, I’m definitely interested!

Thanks so much for checking it out, everyone! :black_heart:

I’ve now updated the Dashingdon version to have saving enabled and added stat descriptions. (Thanks to @SirEdmund for the help!) I am, however, unable to edit my original post because my account doesn’t have the permission to embed/edit media. Mods, could you please help me with this? :sweat_smile:

Very good catch, I have indeed. Thanks, this is now fixed :heavy_check_mark:

Okay, I see a few people are requesting a cheat system. Can someone elaborate on what kinds of features they would like to see in there? Also, what is the benefit of a cheat system vs. simply enabling multiple saves? Thanks!

LOL! Amused to read all these takes on Twain. He’s my favorite character to write, other than Nikola, because he provides the whole story with some levity. (And the anecdote with him soiling his inexpressibles in Tesla’s lab is absolutely true! Tesla used currents to treat himself all the time, including experiments on the infamous brown note.) I figured the story had so many corporate businessmen in it – Westinghouse, Edison, JP Morgan, et al – that it needed an antithesis in someone who is completely external to the electrical industry. I based his voice off of his humorous speeches (like this one on Ulysses Grant as a baby, with an impressive meandering dedication to setting up the punchline that makes me feel like he was just as likely to make people laugh as he was to make them groan at his constant wit) and the lesser-known aspects of his political and activist views (this article on Twain’s socialist tendencies is an eye-opening read). But with such a voice-y character, it’s inevitable that you will have strong feelings about them, either love them or hate them :grinning_face_with_smiling_eyes:

Another reason I like having Twain around is because he’s such a perfect foil for Nikola: they are both staunch humanists at heart, but where Nikola is stiff and obsessive, Clemens is relaxed and hedonistic; where Nikola is anti-social and aloof, Clemens is hyper-attuned to the human condition. I think this is why they were such good friends in real life.

If Marion left on good terms, she will return for one final side-quest, though she will be somewhat changed :wink:

So, I was going to make more out of the capital punishment topic, as I indeed think it’s a fascinating moral issue, but I didn’t want to get too sidetracked on my first draft. For now I’ve just relayed the most relevant issue, which is the fact that the electric chair was a byproduct of capitalist competition by direct order of Tom Edison, something I was not aware of. The movie Currents War with Cumberbatch also presents this issue, I very much recommend it.

Thanks for the kind words! Indeed I mix up UK and US spelling all the time. We’re aiming for US spelling according to the style guide, but things still sometimes slip through. I think I’ll go through line edits with a fine comb on a much later draft before release.

Oh man, okay, get ready. So the reason for this is real pedantry! Back then, the territory he was born in (Croatia) was occupied by the Austro-Hungarian empire, which widely repressed use of our native Slavic languages in the public sphere. So Serbo-Croatian would have been spoken mostly in the privacy of his home and his father’s church. Once he enrolled in higher education in Graz and Prague, all the university lectures were in German, and most of his early professional experience on the telegraph exchange was done in German and French. Therefore, although he was fluent in at least five or six languages, in the years preceding his move to the States, he would have spent all his time speaking German and French in public, and his mother tongue would have been consigned to a more personal and intimate sphere rarely used with strangers. Most of the technical terms he learned at university did not have Serbo-Croatian analogs at the time anyway. Regardless, he held his mother tongue close to heart for the rest of his life, and wrote letters in it often. But it was not something he could often get a chance to use if he wanted to be understood by his foreign peers.

So in trying to find out how Tesla would have spoken when he landed in the States without knowing a word of English, history pointed me in the direction of German. There are a few places in the game where Serbo-Croatian is used, mainly as something he reverts to in moments of vulnerability or impulse. This was a decision I made for the sake of accuracy, and out of hope that his broken English might be a bit more understandable to the average English reader if I used German words rather than Slavic words, which share no common roots. But this isn’t a style decision that’s set in stone, and I could still change my mind here. In fact, I know that as a Slavic reader myself, I would have liked to see a little more of Nikola’s Slav side, though I know he did not get to share it often. What do you all think?

For a time, I was also considering giving the player a fourth heritage option to choose from, beside European, African and Native American, and offer them a chance to also play as a first-generation immigrant from the Balkans, so that they share a common history and language with Nikola. But I think this would result in fairly hefty extra writing, especially in the early game, because I think it would open up an entirely new side to Tesla’s character which might be perhaps too different to the way players of other heritage would get to perceive him. Would this be interesting?

It’s sad indeed! Funnily enough, this is one of the first stories we learn about Tesla as schoolchildren in the Balkans. Back home, he is venerated like a folk hero, with as much myth and legend floating around as facts. The story we learn is that of an underdog who was wronged at the hands of cutthroat capitalists and Wall Street, with Thomas Edison as the big bad villain, a narrative which was not really popular in the US discourse until relatively recently. And likewise it’s true that despite his genius, Nikola was forced to dig ditches for telegraph wires for two whole years after he landed in America and got swindled by Edison, a very painful and hungry time in his life he was never truly able to speak of in his later years. This is the story I wanted to focus on, and to reclaim Tesla for the queer, neurodivergent and immigrant community, rather than keep watching technocrats revise his identity to serve their self-image. :innocent:

20 Likes

@dklindzic If you use @ you can tag the moderators so one of them sees your request.

Edit: sorry for the @, I’ve been wrestling with reply functionality lately.