Design Notebook: Physics

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Joined: 18 May 2005
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PostPosted: Fri Oct 19, 2007 12:29 am    Post subject: Design Notebook: Physics Reply with quote

Most games operate on the assumption that the underlying world is the same as our own, though often with a caveat that a non-explained magical force exists. There are however other options. Your world could be based on Aristolean beliefs; fire, water, earth, and air make up everything. In your world, matter may be infinitely divisible meaning an entirely different physical reality exists at the substrate than that we currently know (not that it would necessitate a different looking world).

So, what kind of model could we base a game world which meets the criteria of allowing an environment in which most parts of the European middle ages could arise and allow for many of the mystical forces often handled in games as exceptions to the normal rules? I'm currently working to restructure the inheritance of properties in my game between objects, specifically changing from my previous set of 'materials' (wood, aluminum, steel, copper, gold, cotton, wool, blood) into a smaller set of characteristics from which the properties of steel / copper / cotton can be inferred. For example, already the game assumes the luminescent ether and the caloric is the actual 'fluid' which flows from one object to another and represents its temperature.

The real goal of this exercise is to take a step back from our normal assumptions about the underlying physics of the game world, see what can be changed and theorize how that might expand or modify game options.
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Joined: 22 Aug 2005
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Location: Golden Valley, Arizona, USA

PostPosted: Fri Oct 19, 2007 7:01 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well, the first thing that springs to mind with this "exercise" of yours, is in the use of something like the Classical Greek or "Aristotolean" as you dubbed it, physics of the world.

That is, everything is made up of a combination of the basic elements (earth, air, fire, water). The first thing that I thought of when I read that was that it makes an actual "elemental" mage really meaningful. Having control over fire means that you can exert a degree of control over all those "items" which are made up of some amount of fire and the degree to which you can control, modify or use those items depends upon how much of the particular element exists within it.

Things like metals (steel, iron, etc...) would most likely be made up of primarily earth and fire, that is, they come out of the earth as rocks, then fire is applied which (as we know melts the ore out and refines the metal into usable things) converts the rocks (the raw earth) into something else, the iron, the steel, the whatnot.

This cycle is easily extended to include pretty much anything and everything. Clouds are air and water, plants are earth and water, fire (in its pure form) may in fact require a blend of fire and air (afterall, without oxygen, there is no fire). Mud is earth and water, lava is fire and earth.

Anyway, I wouldn't wholly suggest throwing out your "material" sets, as these things are still important as decorator labels for your players to understand what items are made from. Instead, I would redefine material sets to be made up of some degree (whole, round percentages probably works fine) of each or some of the elements.

To add more of my two cents to this little "experiment", I would just like to say that I have often supported the idea of implementing "realism" in games, by defining sets of logical, natural rules that govern the particular themed world in which your game takes place. Gravity turned way up? Maybe it's really hard to jump, way down, you can leap to the top of a 100-story building with ease. There's any number of ways you can explain away environmental effects that are different from our own without resorting to "oh, magic did it!", as is sadly too often the case.

I'm glad to finally see someone else bringing this concept to the fore.

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