For today's designer journal I want to talk about canon, or more precisely, the world-building of Rogue Angels. I want to explain why the world-building matters to me, why I want it to be consistent, and how I am trying to achieve it.
So, let us try to dive in together and see if I can bring some inspiration to the table :)
First of all, I believe that in order to truly enjoy something, you must first understand it. This goes for football and stand-up to chemistry and gaming. If you cannot grasp the rules of a sport, you cannot get excited in the right moments. If you do not understand the topic, you will not laugh at the punchlines.
Escapism is the same. To play a video or board game is to accept the setting and limitation of that world and play by its rules. The better the understanding, the more engaged you may potentially get. I want players of Rogue Angels to feel their characters are in danger when encountering new enemies, I want them to feel exposed if the environment turns hostile, and so on.
World-building helps gamers get invested in the struggle of NPCs, it can help raise the stakes when needed, and it can underline the consequences of certain choices. I want players to be invested in Rogue Angels, so I try to provide a plausible and palpable world that allows for such investment to root.
How To World-Build?
At its core, sci-fi makes anything possible. So for it to become tangible and interesting, I believe it is important to draw clear lines between what is possible and what is not, and make sure not to deviate from that course. If you can built understandable rules, you can create engaging struggles and tension as a direct pay-off to player investment.
So for Rogue Angels it started a long time ago, when I was working on my first game, Burning Suns. I wanted to create epic space battles, different alien species that worked together, unexplored worlds, hostile creatures, the whole nine yards. Rogue Angels is built in the same world, and world that I later expanded together with the talented author Lisa Wylie, who wrote the Burning Suns novels.
My approach to world-building in general terms would be something like this:
Rogue Angels is its own beast, and personally I feel it is very important that all players can enjoy the game without ever having to touch any other product and/or book written in the same world. To achieve this I try to do world-building within every page and decision of Rogue Angels' campaign and story.
In practice this means that I do the following:
Lastly I want to get around the cutscenes, because they are the catalyst for all the world-building happening in Rogue Angels. Instead of presenting the story in a 3rd person perspective like seen in most board games, I was inspired by Blizzard games like Warcraft and Starcraft to unfold my plot, progression, and action through minor cutscenes spread out during missions.
This approach keeps the narrative in "real time" and is focused on drawing the players towards the action, instead of letting them hover above it with a 3rd person perspective.
For the cutscenes to stay relevant, I try to evaluate them by applying the following questions:
In the end it is all about making Rogue Angels a place that the audience wants to escape to. They must yearn to come back, to make the next FTL jump, and to initiate the next encounter.
I am convinced Rogue Angels will achieve this :)
Thanks a lot for joining me on yet another talk :)
Now I would be thrilled to hear what you think about world-building, where has it been done well, or perhaps not so well? What would you love to explore and learn more about in Rogue Angels?
You can read the campaign books here.
I really appreciate your patronage in getting this project off the ground :)
Best regards Emil