After the End

After the End (WIP)

Simple description: Fallout 3 meets Silent Hill – post-apoc psychological survival FPS
Theme: Absurdism – the search for meaning in a hostile existence.
Internal Motto: No such thing as continuity errors.

After the End (AtE) is a first-person survival game set twelve years after The End. It was never quite clear what exactly happened at The End, but the survivors have settled into a wary existence, under assault by demons both real and imagined. Or perhaps just imagined… it’s hard to tell anymore.

Base-level gameplay consists of simply surviving. Hunger and thirst are a constant concern. Additionally, if players do not attend to their mental state, they will be beset by Figments: nonexistent monsters that nevertheless have real effects on the player. Whether it is due to a chemical agent or residual evil, the remnants of civilization (factories, hospitals, towns) are especially dangerous in terms of Figments.

In addition to general exploration, players can utilize certain Tokens to experience a Flashback. Flashbacks are specific scenarios set in the character’s past, functioning as “dungeons.” And much like dungeons in RPGs, there comes loot in the form of caches that the players “remember” themselves hiding at the end of the Flashback. The counter-point is also possible: players can experience Premonitions, which are future versions of Flashbacks.

There is no perma-death in AtE on default settings. When a character dies, they “wake up” somewhere else with symptoms of a(nother) psychological disorder and all carried geared having taken durability damage.

Other players do exist in the same AtE gamespace, and they can be interacted with or even attacked. PvP combat can end up being a little asymmetrical however. When a player kills another player, the survivor is immediately attacked by Figments based on quality and quantity of the victim’s goods (or the Skill level difference). Meanwhile, from the victim’s perspective, at the moment of “death” the attacker will morph into a powerful Figment themselves. The more damage the victim deals to the Figment, the lesser the quality of goods the attacker will receive and the lesser the durability damage to their own gear. Regardless of outcome, the attacker and victim will not appear in each other’s game space for a set duration.

Cooperation is encouraged in AtE. When two players set themselves as Friendly to one another, friendly-fire damage is reduced and special cooperative abilities are unlocked. While it is easier to balance mental state in a group, the nature of Figments is such that when that state slips, it slips harder. In other words, Figments scale up to group size. Friends can experience Flashbacks and Premonitions together as well.

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Sample Dialog:

Imagine an incomprehensible reality. One in which cause is unmoored from effect. Where the laws of physics are suggestions, where the ego is an alien unto the self. Without rules, there is no knowledge. Without knowledge, there is no thought. Without thought, there is no self. And without self, there is no… anything.

In a truly incomprehensible reality, madness gives the world some much needed structure.

Look around you. Taste the formless chaos. And when you feel it dance upon your tongue… bite deep. As the hot blood runs over your lips, you will know you have given chaos its flesh, given it form. In return, the chaos will give you sustenance.

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Crafting

The crafting system in ATE consists of three components: item creation, item customization, and item repair. The setup and interaction between the components is meant to address some of the weaknesses in other MMO crafting systems.

1) No item is strictly “Bind-on-Pickup” or otherwise soulbound. If you craft an item, you can sell or trade it to another player without limitation.

2) However, any item that you have crafted yourself for your own use will always be more powerful than the same exact item that you bought from someone else. The increase in power is tied to your relationship with the item, not the physical properties of the item itself. In other words, the lovingly-crafted sword you forged yourself will be more powerful in your hands, but to anyone else it will simply be a (well-made) sword.

3) Items decay, and will need frequent upkeep and repair in order to maintain efficacy.

An integral part of the crafting system is Intention. Intention is a currency of sorts which can be imbued into an item to increase its power not just for you, but for anyone else who may use it. As demonstrated by the rest of the game, reality in ATE is malleable; the stronger your conviction that something is the case, the more true that conviction becomes. This underlying feature of the world has multiple effects on how crafting is handled.

First, things you deliberately do are more tightly bound to the collective reality of the world. Leveling the Muscle Memory skill might allow you to automate some crafting processes for instance, but those same items will not be as powerful as they could be if you took direct control over their crafting. Sometimes it may not seem worth your time to hand-craft 36 individual bullets, for example, but if you did, those bullets would deal more damage.

Second, you can “spend” Intention at each stage of the crafting process, thereby increasing the item’s total power. For example, if you craft a sword with parts purchased from other players, you may be able to imbue the final product with 1000 Intention. Alternatively, if you dug the iron and copper out of the ground, you can imbue the ingots with 200 Intention, then imbue an additional 500 Intention when you turn the ingots into sword components, and finally spend your 1000 Intention crafting the sword. Thus, the final product will contain 1700 Intention instead of just 1000.

While the components you purchase from other players can come with Intention baked in, you lose the opportunity to utilize any Synergy bonuses you might have via items or Skills. A good Blacksmith will know what qualities to look for in the components he/she uses to craft a weapon. A good Smelter will know what kind of ore makes for the best ingots. Thus, if a Smelter is also a good Miner, they will be able to identify and extract the best ore from the ground to create the best ingots. If that same Miner is also a Blacksmith, they will be able to locate, extract, refine, and then produce the best possible components to turn into the best possible item. This means that sword could end up being imbued with not 1700, but even 2000, 2200, or even 2500 Intention – two and a half times stronger than a default crafted sword, let alone one you bought from someone else.

Third, an item can still gain Intention after its creation via the Customization/Repair process. Building something entirely from scratch will still be the most efficient in terms of Intention spent, but there is still a place for purchasing items from masterwork crafters and making them your own.

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Primary Meters

Endurance & Exhaustion: The body’s ability to perform actions. The Endurance meter starts off full, with both damage and exertion (such as Sprinting) reducing it down to zero. At zero Endurance, the meter flips around and becomes Exhaustion instead. Additional damage and exertion at this point fills the Exhaustion meter higher. At 100% Exhaustion, the player collapses and possibly dies.

Sanity & Psychosis: The mind’s (in)ability to cope with (un)reality. The Sanity meter starts off full and – once away from one’s Safe Place – passively decreases from the general cruelty and indifference of the world. Seeing the ruined remnants of civilization is particularly distressing to the psyche, as can be witnessing especially gruesome scenes. Some attacks can even target Sanity directly. At zero Sanity, the meter flips around becomes Psychosis instead. At this point reality warps into an even more hostile version of itself, and you become assaulted by Figments. Additional Sanity damage at this point fills the Psychosis meter higher. At 100% Psychosis, the player collapses and possibly dies.

Secondary Meters

Stress: the sum total of all physical and mental detriments on the self. Higher Stress levels can lead to impairments and otherwise making abilities less efficient. Stress typically increases in the vicinity to known danger, be it enemy or environment. Stress can trigger the Adrenalin meter prematurely even without hostiles around, thereby wasting the combat boost. Similarly, Stress can make it more difficult to manage Psychosis.

Adrenalin: A physiological response to Stress, this meter typically activates during combat. While active, it replaces the Endurance meter, decreases damage taken, and increases a number of beneficial abilities. When Adrenalin runs out, the Endurance meter returns, albeit at a penalty.

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Skills

Skills function as “levels” in AtE, and represent abilities that the character is actively trying to learn/work on. Skills are learned in real-time, whether logged into the game or not. Within the game world there are “Skill books and magazines” that can be scavenged/traded which apply a small multiplier on the speed of earning the next Skill Rank. Achieving higher Skill Ranks in a particular skill can unlock additional abilities or sometimes a Synergy Bonus with other Skills. For example, each rank of Pattern Recognition will increase the effectiveness of Scavenging, in addition to its other effects.

The current list of Skills is as follows:

Conscious Compartmentalization – Psychological defense mechanism that isolates harmful or conflicting modes of thought. Each level reduces the Psychosis gain from witnessing cruelty, horror, and passive psycho-active sources.

Neuroplasticity – Ability of the mind to reroute neural pathways around damage; the mental equivalent of Pain Management. While levels in this Skill do not remove the gross affects of Psychosis and similar maladies, each level does diminish impairments to self-function (e.g. dizziness, etc).

Parkour – The physical art of maintaining efficient movement and momentum. Each level reduces the Endurance lost while Sprinting. Additionally, new movement options are unlocked at certain levels. At level 2, you automatically go into a roll upon dropping from any height, reducing the effective drop distance by 10 ft. At level 4, waist-high obstructions can be vaulted over. At level 6, one can Sprint over balance obstacles. At level 8, a wall-climb will allow one to double-jump near vertical surfaces. At level 10, limited distance wall-running becomes possible. Synergy bonus with Preternatural Reaction Speeds and Physiological Conditioning.

Prodromal Sensitivity – Increased awareness of the signs and symptoms of oncoming Psychosis and other health issues. Each level increases the buffer time between the first signs of Psychosis and full-blown attack. At level 2, grants ability to perceive psycho-active auras. At level 4, grants ability to identify specific psycho-active objects. At level 6, grants ability to perceive psycho-active auras in darkness. At level 8, grants ability to seek or filter out specific psycho-active auras. Synergy bonus with Biofeedback and Mental Conditioning.

Psychological Sublimation – The channeling of negative psychic energy into more productive forms. Each level grants a bonus to Endurance and Damage when experiencing Psychosis.

Mental Conditioning – Training intended to reduce and mitigate damage to one’s psyche. Each level reduces the duration and severity of negative mental states, such as Stress and Panic.

Speed Reading – Ability to quickly read and understand text. Each level decreases time necessary to finish Skill Books, while also increasing the benefits thereof. Synergy bonus with Scavenging, Language Proficiency, and Polyglot.

Language Proficiency (5) – Learn and understand new languages. Each rank unlocks a new language of your choice. Synergy bonus with Scavenging. At Rank 5, unlocks the Polyglot Skill.

Polyglot – Ability to learn, speak, and read all languages, including nonverbal and nonhuman ones. Synergy bonus with Empathy, Mental Resilience, Tracking, and Scavenging. At level 3, there is an increased chance that a Book of Gibberish actually turns out to be useful material. At level 6, gain ability to read animal signs. At level 10, ability to interact with and potentially deconstruct hallucinations.

Tracking – Skill in locating and following trails. Each level increases number and visibility of track signs. At level 5, unlock Hide Trail (active ability that increases the difficulty of anyone following your trail at expense of own tracking of trails). At level 10, Hide Trail becomes a passive ability that has no downsides.

Situational Awareness – A heightened subconscious attentiveness to one’s surroundings. Each level improves movement speed and safe sprinting speed. Synergy bonus with Tracking, Camouflage, Scavenging, Pattern Recognition, and Parkour.

Preternatural Reaction Speed – Ability to react to danger on a purely subconscious, instinctual level. Each level increases the odds of your character performing an evasive maneuver on their own, while also reducing the time necessary to draw a weapon. Synergy bonus with Situational Awareness and Parkour.

Pattern Recognition – A keen eye towards the identification of patterns, and recall of prior encounters with beneficial or dangerous situations. Each level increases the odds of successful trap, camouflage, and item identification. Synergy bonus with Scavenging, Situational Awareness, and Preternatural Reaction Speed.

Camouflage – Ability to hide in plain sight via application of various materials. Every two levels introduces new terrain options for camouflage, including the recognition and construction of the paints necessary. At level 10, unlock Peripheral Ghost (passive: form becomes blurry and indistinct unless someone is specifically looking towards you).

Cartography – Training in the drawing of maps and the reading thereof. Each level increases the accuracy and detail of the maps you draw. Synergy bonus with Tracking.

Scavenging – Extremely important Skill of locating and identifying useful items from the junk. Each level increases the base quality level of the items you run across, possibly pushing them over the usefulness threshold.

Salvaging – Ability to break down a given item and still retain useful components. Each level increases the efficiency of materials retained. At level 5, unlock the ability to salvage Intention from items at the cost of any other components. At level 10, able to salvage Intention and components at 40% efficacy.

Mining – Knowledge of the techniques of removing useful metal ores from the earth. Each level decreases the amount of time it takes to mine while also increasing the ore yield.

Metallurgy – Knowledge and practiced skill at smelting raw ore into ingots. Each level increases the efficiency of the smelting process and increases Intention pool.

Smithing – Practical knowledge of crafting metal-based tools and equipment. Each level increases the efficiency of turning raw materials into finished goods, and allows for an increased Intention pool. Synergy bonus with Repair & Maintenance and Jerry-rigging.

Armorcraft – A specialization in the creation of metal armors. Each level increases the quality of the final product and potential Intention pool. Synergy bonus with Customization (metal Armor).

Weaponcraft – A specialization in the creation of metal weapons. Each level increases the quality of the final product and potential Intention pool. Synergy bonus with Customization (metal Weapon).

Repair & Maintenance – Knowledge concerning the fixing and extending of useful life of items and equipment. Each rank decreases the cost of repair/maintenance and lowers the durability penalty. Synergy bonus with Jerry-rigging.

Jerry-rigging – Ability to temporarily increase the useful function of broken or near-broken objects or equipment to the long-term detriment of said item. Each level increases the total time the item remains functional and slightly decreases the durability penalty. At level 5, electronic items can be Jerry-rigged.

Customization – The modification of items and equipment to better suit your individual qualities. Every level improves the Intention ratio.

Tailoring – Skill to craft cloth-based items and clothing.

Leatherworking – Skill to craft leather-based items and clothing.

Basic Survival – The foundation of knowledge necessary to survive sickness and injury. Each level increases the chance of recognizing and scavenging medical supplies.

First Aid – Practical knowledge on the stabilization of injuries. While proper medical supplies provide the highest level of stabilization, later levels of this skill allows for increased effectiveness of improvised treatment.

Hygiene – The development of routine, subconscious habits that reduce the chances of developing disease. Higher levels also passively reduces Stress. Synergy bonus with Cooking, Food Preparation, and First Aid.

Physiological Conditioning – Knowledge and conscious control of bodily functions. Each rank improves HP, run speed/distance, and carrying capacity.

Biofeedback – Recognition of internal biological indicators, such as heart rate, etc. Rank 1 unlocks Sprint meter; Rank 3 unlocks Stress meter; Rank 5 unlocks Adrenalin meter. Synergy bonus with Psychological Conditioning.

Pain Management – Conscious control over effects of pain. Each rank decreases the impairment from taking damage. At Rank 3, character will not flinch unless attack directly injures arms. At Rank 5, Ignore Pain (Minor) is unlocked. At Rank 7, pain is ignored as long as Adrenalin remains active. Rank 10 unlocks Pain Asymbolia (ignore all pain).

Adrenal Manipulation – Increased control over the release of Adrenalin. Each rank increases the amount of Adrenalin. Rank 3 unlocks Slow Burn (50% less intensity for +50% duration). Rank 6 unlocks Fast Burn (150% intensity for -75% duration). Rank 10 unlocks Controlled Release (turn Adrenalin on/off at will).

Autogenic Training – Training of the body to induce calm and relaxation on demand. Each rank decreases the severity of panic and stress, while also decreasing time necessary to achieve zen.

Muscle Memory – Ability to unconsciously perform repeated maneuvers at various levels of efficacy. Each rank reduces the number of times an action needs to be performed before Muscle Memory activates, while also increasing the efficiency of the action. Every two ranks allows one additional action to be committed to Muscle Memory at a time.

Cardiovascular Improvement – Targeted improvement in the cardiovascular system. Each rank increases Sprint distance and reduces Stress levels while running.

Weight Training – Targeted improvement in developing strength. Each rank increases carrying capacity and melee damage.

Psychosomatic Training – Advanced training in linking physical health to mental health, and vice versa. At level 3, physical health no longer deteriorates during Psychosis. At level 6, physical health slowly regenerates at high Mood levels. At level 9, physical health regenerates at an increased rate at medium Mood levels. At level 10, even serious wounds have a chance of regenerating at high Mood levels.

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Mental Penalties

Dissociation – minor detachment from reality. This manifests as dwindling motivation, slight increase in unreality, and an increasing amount of input lag. This state is generally a precursor to Psychosis.

Psychosis – Loss of contact with reality. All persons not participating in the player’s Delusion are replaced with hostile shadow copies. The environment becomes warped and twisted, and the player assailed by hallucinations. Simply existing in the Psychosis state drains player health, so escaping is a top priority.

Apophenia – Seeing patterns in random data.

Pareidolia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pareidolia) – Vague and random stimulus being perceived as significant. A type of apophenia. Often seeing faces in patterns.

Neurasthenia – Weakness, fatigue, depressed mood.

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