Friday, November 29, 2013
Thursday, November 28, 2013
Things change from generation to generation, and it is not uncommon to see some cultures experience radical shifts between generations. The plant-like Erwani in Solar Echoes have experienced a very distinct cultural shift, and the two generations are so at odds with each-other that they cannot co-exist. The older generation of Erwani, referred to as the “Elders,” are naturalists and despise anything technological. The are adamantly against the use of technology, and remained so even during the wars against their aggressive planetary neighbors, the Omul. The younger generation of Erwani recognized that the Omul's technological superiority was likely to win them the war, so these young Erwani studied and began to embrace the use of technology themselves, even integrating technology through grafts with their bodies. Though the younger generation was were able to defend against and minimize the Omul assaults to protect the Elders, the Elders refused to acknowledge this aid and attributed the Omul defeats to their own battle prowess. The Elders subsequently banished the younger Erwani for their connection with technology, though these young Erwani still graciously maintain their efforts to protect the Elders from afar. There can be notable disparity between generations experiencing cultural shifts today, and I have witnessed, first-hand, extreme differences between immigrants and the children they have raised in America. In some cases, children raised in America cannot communicate with their own parents—the children have become fluent in English from the public school systems while their own parents never learned to speak it!
Wednesday, November 27, 2013
While the Omul are all about individualism and relativist thought, the insectoid Chiraktis in Solar Echoes can almost be considered a polar opposite. Their entire society is structured around a single point of focus--the Queen. Her will is followed without question, and the males, or drones, exist only to serve her. Individualism is not only discouraged inside the hive, but punished severely. Outside the hive, exceptions are made for the drones so that they may blend in with the other cultures and quietly pave the way for Chiraktis expansionism. Even the names of the drones reflect their ideology—in the Chiraktis language, each name is merely a number. Lying or dying for the Queen is considered a great honor, and Chiraktis drones are fiercely loyal to her. However, it does seem that the longer a drone is away from the hive and its brothers, the more the influences of other cultures appear to have an effect. Some drones have even adapted rather well to life outside the hive, but if there is even an imagined lapse in their loyalty or quality of service to the Queen, these “defectors” are hunted down and killed quickly for their betrayal.
Monday, November 25, 2013
It is sometimes difficult to imagine cultures much different than our own, but for anyone who has lived in a different country, it quickly becomes apparent that the mindsets of people across the world are quite varied. When designing the culture of the amorphous, amoeba-like Omuls, we imagined that the formlessness of the Omul itself might cause them to tend toward a more unstructured, relativistic outlook. An aversion to symmetry seemed another likely outlook for this odd alien race, and I found myself thinking of a culture where, in a way, the opposite is the case. In Japanese culture, for instance, there is an old saying: “The nail that sticks out gets hammered down.” In this culture, individualism is largely discouraged and conformity is praised, so I tried turning that a little on its side when considering Omul culture. The Omuls do not respect other Omuls that hold fast to a single ideological position, and they have great disdain for those that are not in the practice of changing their opinions fairly often or viewing all opinions as equally true. For a people that believe there is no single truth, holding to one would be viewed with great contempt. In some ways, hasn't our own culture begun to reflect this as well?
Thursday, November 21, 2013
Our last example of redefining life in the sci-fi universe of Solar Echoes focuses on an alien that exists outside our dimension. It is difficult to conceive something that exists beyond our knowledge of three dimensions, as even our understanding of the fourth dimension (persistence through time) is influenced by our fixed existence in the present. In Solar Echoes, there is an extra-dimensional race that is said to be composed of pure energy, able to exist within the vacuum of space and to move through solid matter. These aliens do not behave as we would expect, seemingly violating the physical laws of the universe only because they move through dimensions and are therefore not entirely bound by these laws. Some might readily classify such beings as “spiritual,” but we simply imply that these alien beings are not fully understood and seem to be able to act apart from some of the known laws of our universe. These beings are detailed in the Mission Controller's Guide, and the MC is told that they are to be used primarily as plot devices rather than actual threats (for purposes of game balance.) Regardless, the concept of extra-dimensional beings does bring up the same question again: are we being too narrow-minded in our search for “life” in the universe by imposing our paradigm upon this search?
Wednesday, November 20, 2013
We challenged the common concept of carbon-based life again in yet another Solar Echoes alien, one of the villains players will be likely to face when their characters have become more experienced. This alien is not organic or silicone-based, but entirely digital. Though it is not Artificial Intelligence, it may seem so upon first encountering it. Yet this advanced alien is a multitude of consciousnesses networked across all of their starships and robotic avatars. These digital aliens did not begin this way, but that story is reserved for those who would seek to learn more in the Mission Controller's Guide, which has the details about these and other alien races. Players will discover new alien races as they play, as the MC will slowly reveal them over the course of a story campaign. Considering this alien race, if we were able to upload our consciousness and exist as data moving across the internet, would this not redefine our classification of life again? For more on this concept, I highly recommend the Japanese anime, “Serial Experiments Lain.”
Tuesday, November 19, 2013
Though yesterday's article from “The Onion” about fire-based lifeforms was a joke, it does bring up an interesting point—are we operating on assumptions about what constitutes life? We form our presuppositions based upon our knowledge of this world, but what if there is life in space that shatters those assumptions? In Solar Echoes, one such lifeform that challenges this is an alien that is not carbon-based, but silicone-based. Its crystalline structure allows it to exist on harsh, volcanic worlds that would otherwise be entirely inhospitable to life. A creature like this caused us to entirely re-imagine certain aspects of life. For instance, how would a creature like this communicate? What would it feed on? Does it need to aspirate, and if so, what would it breathe? These questions and others were a fun challenge to address, and we enjoyed developing a creature beyond our biased concept of what “life” should be.
Monday, November 18, 2013
Our search for extra-terrestrial life has always been based upon our understanding of life. We have been looking for planets in the “habitable zone” (also known as the “Goldilocks Zone.”) This zone is “the region around a star within which planetary-mass objects with sufficient atmospheric pressure can support liquid water at their surfaces.” We assume that all life needs the same conditions we have in order to exist. We assume that life will be carbon-based, and that it will require water. In Solar Echoes, we challenge these presuppositions by giving the very same bias to the 7 playable character races—they at first assume that all life, like themselves, is based upon these same factors. The character races in Solar Echoes are in for a rude awakening, however, when they begin to encounter lifeforms that do not fit under these assumptions.
Even though the article below is a joke (it's from The Onion, after all) it brings up this very same concept. Are we assuming too much?
Scientists theorize the sun could support fire-based lifeforms...
Friday, November 1, 2013
It's been exactly one year since we released Solar Echoes, and we're excited to offer a $5 discount off both the newly revised Player's Guide and Mission Controller's Guide for a short time. We will be discounting other Solar Echoes products in the next two weeks, but this is the only time to get the Player's Guide and Mission Controller's Guide at these low prices!
Player's Guide (was $25, now only $20!)
Mission Controller's Guide (was $20, now only $15!)
Since the release last year, we have updated the Player's Guide based on player feedback, now with more setting information, rules clarifications and tweaks, a few formatting adjustments, flavor text for our chapter art, and even some new alien character art throughout the book by artist Sarah Carter!
We are excited to hear your thoughts about Solar Echoes. Please feel free to email us any questions or comments about our game at firstname.lastname@example.org, and we look forward to your reviews.
Thanks again for your support, and have fun playing Solar Echoes!