Tag Archives: design

Playing With Minds

Today I’m going to talk a bit about a concept that I’m not sure I’m going to add to Slower Than Light, but is currently on the table.  This is one of those times I’d like to actively solicit feedback from my audience, because this feature could radically alter the gameplay experience of Slower Than Light one way or the other.  That concept is Whole Brain Emulation, otherwise known as mind uploading.

The basic premise is that with sufficient resolution, we can (in theory) create a snapshot of a human brain, transfer that snapshot into a computer with sufficient processing capability, and the computer will simulate that person in all their mental and intellectual complexity.

Along with this concept comes a tremendous load of ethical, philosophical, legal, and moral implications, especially when you consider the related capabilities that might come along with it: mind manipulation, creating multiple copies of the same person’s mind, or most pertinently to our conversation: transmission of the snapshot.

If you have two colonies separated by some transmittable distance, mind uploading offers the potential to move “people” from one system to another at light-speed or very near light-speed, transfer them into a computer or a robotic frame, or perhaps even a human body, and allow them to act at their new location.

Being able to cheaply move population between colonies at the speed of light has tremendous implications for the political and colonial aspects of Slower Than Light.  The technology does not, itself, violate the core stipulation of that game that the speed of light must be respected.  The presence or absence of this technology, though, will shift the focus of this game and the role of spacecraft in it dramatically, so I’m thinking very long and very hard about whether to include it in release.

NOTE: From a technical coding perspective, implementing this form of transhumanism is just this side of trivial, given the architecture of the game’s data structures.  This is strictly a design consideration.

Public Exposure

Links to this site began hitting social media yesterday, and since then there’s been largely positive responses.  It has also been very interesting to see comments on sites like Reddit.  I expect to be directly responding to a number of concerns raised on those sites in the near future, since I suspect that comments there reflect a general sense of what our target audience is thinking as more information becomes available.

Right now the top comment on this thread is a concern as old as this game concept is: When the build time is so short as compared to movement time, won’t the game just become a frustration of doing a huge amount of local activity and waiting for a ship to cross the immense void to arrive at a distant star?

There is some truth there; the in-system game will proceed considerably faster than the out-system game.  The basic (although not atomic) element of game time is the day, and almost every star system will be less than a light-day across.  As a result, in-system play won’t be greatly affected by the signal-delay mechanics.  Most of the early game (at least when starting from a single Homeworld) will be in-system play as the player builds toward their first interstellar colony ship.

Eventually, though, the in-system game is going to get less interesting as the player’s home system becomes adequately developed to meet and exceed all of its productive requirements, and the challenges at home will take a back seat to the challenges in the stars.  At that point, the home system will more or less run itself — only construction of interstellar ships or mega-engineering projects will engage the player at home.  Reacting to events in the colonies will be the major gameplay of the later game, because some interstellar challenges only the Homeworld will have the resources to cope with.

Considerable thought has been put into not only how to overcome the technical and mathematical challenges of Slower Than Light, but also the game design challenges.  I am confident that the game upon release will keep the player engaged for the duration of their play experience.

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