Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Disposables: Concept design

This is my concept for a third/first person action game that uses technology to explain current game mechanics (A game that plays like a game with explanations) Example: Game is played in a third person perspective - because each player has a small 'drone' that follows them to allow the pilot to see. Destroying another players drone will force them into a limited first person perspective.

The game is a action adventure following the protagonists as they fight for their freedom from the immortal enemies that currently control society.

Why robots?

I like robotics and the idea of strategic design, so I am usually disappointed by the way they are portrayed within popular culture. The most exposed piece of robotics design in recent works would be the robot suits in James Cameron's Avatar, which I felt were silly and childish (Why would you give a robot a knife?) and older examples tend to just scale up human forms and have them fight as if there were no weight difference or strategic difference between human or robotic forms: Gundam, Power Rangers and Transformers.

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Of course, a lot of these works are aimed at children so the silliness of their actions can get ignored in favour of over the top action sequences.

With the advent of unmanned drone technology and the development of actual robotics to be used in real-world battlefields the idea of war-robots is much less far fetched than it has been in the past, although the design of these pieces of robotics is of course completely different. Specialist robotics tend to get drawn up for one job, rather than one jack of all trades solution - bomb defusal robotics is a specific field, and one of these pieces of robotics could not really be used for any other task.

As such, I would like to revisit the 'Robot Battles' idea in popular culture, with designs based on current real world robotic needs and current weapon design. In all aspects of battlefield robotic design there is only one actual factor that determines the use of these pieces of equipment:

Will the use of this prevent the loss of human life?

The main argument for the current development of robotics in a battlefield is not that they will be more accurate, faster or stronger - but that using a robot will save human life from being exposed to danger (Even if, ironically, the robot is used to kill - like an unmanned drone)  A bomb defusing robot is far worse at its job than a human for manual dexterity, but if it messes up there is no human loss of life (hopefully)

Many works in popular culture that use robotics also usually have some kind of Deus ex Machina in their design, usually in the form of an unlimited (or pretty close to) power source for the robotics to use. Without this in the real world, we have to choose when these weapons would be used, so as not to waste a very limited power source - after all, they don't launch planes for anything - they usually need a detailed plan of attack for them, so they do not waste resources or risk human life.  (The primary factor in using robotics to begin with)

There are a few works in popular culture that try to expand on the use of robotics within our current world and only one that tries to imagine what they could be used as in a warfare situation with any kind of realism, called Steel Battalion.
Console: £300, Steel Battalion game: £150, Television: £15 from a charity shop

This game, for the Xbox, tried to create it's own terminology regarding the use of robotic weapons - it referred to them as VT's or 'Vertical Tanks', which does make sense, as tanks are the closest battlefield weaponry in style and in operation and are also crammed full of modern technology. Like tanks, these weapons were best used at extreme range and in the case of the VT's their increased height allowed them to out distance many other weapons (The only real limit on a modern battle tank's range is the curvature of the earth), however the VT's failed on the one real world rule for the use of robotics: They did not prevent the loss of human life, as they still needed a pilot who was in very real danger during the battle. (the game also had an evil streak, as it would delete your saved game if you did not eject your pilot in time)

With the current development speed of robotics and computer technology I don't feel it's too long before we can see real 'robots' on the battlefield, like DARPA's Big Dog prototype for a 4 legged pack carrier for modern armies that can carry up to 500lbs with no loss of speed.
Go to YouTube and watch the video where they try to make it fall over. It's terrifying.

Thusly, I am aiming my design for Disposables to reflect real world robotic needs with a dramatic slant. The game will centre around rebellion, and the very human story of overcoming repression - but with the weaponry dictated in a real world setting: The robots are remote piloted to prevent loss of human life, are less efficient than using soldiers and are technologically advanced but massively wasteful. The player's perspective will switch from controlling one of these robotic monsters to having to fight on a battlefield where they are roaming.