Wherefore Art Thou, Sci-Fi?

That video games use what was once futuristic science-fiction technology to simulate young worlds of magic and elves never fails to befuddle me. It's not that I have any particular gripe to levy at the over-populated spawn of Tolkien, and certainly I've participated in as many adventures into dragon infested dungeons as the next nerd, but I wouldn't mind seeing a few more derelict spaceships, many-sunned alien landscapes and antiseptic futuristic control rooms in the gaming canon. Why has science-fiction been relegated to second or third chair in the most technologically advanced entertainment medium available?

Science fiction at its best is far more than shooting aliens with guns of increasing unlikelihood, but that's all we've been getting the past few years. It has become a sub-section of the genre that encompasses games like Ghost Recon and Battlefield, an action gaming conceit that permits the development of the unreal. This, while fantasy gaming surges through epic role-playing games, MMOs, immersive strategy games and every corner of the industry where consumers put cash to counter. But I'm encouraged by the potential of several upcoming titles to free gaming's red-headed stepchild from the creatively bereft shackles by which it has been bound. From the hype-overload of Bioshock – of which, we have certainly drank if not actually prepared the drug-laced Kool-Aid – to Mass Effect and Tabula Rasa, it's good to see that Sci-Fi is getting some overdue attention.

I understand that fantasy gaming is easy, because magic offers developers and story-writers the freedom to do virtually anything. No creature or plot-point is off-limits with the omnipotence of magic to craft and shape worlds of daring impossibility, but what seems missed in the process is that the conceit of hyper-advanced technology offers the same design latitudes. Sci-fi is no less prepared to visualize the fantastic, and that developers haven't taken as broad advantage of that signifies that something ain't quite right here in River City. At a functional level, sci-fi and fantasy aren't particularly different, in that magic or technology can both be employed to open wide the doors of unrestrained creativity.

So why is it that fantasy has become the realm of the imaginative and sci-fi the realm of the derivative? Why are there compelling fantasy worlds with varied populations, while sci-fi seems to be limited to shooting Borg rip-offs in dull hallways with plasma rifles, plasma cannons, plasma guns and plasma swords?

The number of really good sci-fi games released in the last few years is pretty thin, and can mostly be defined by the offerings of Bungie, Relic and one or two others. The rest of the sci-fi gaming genre is just mediocre shooters that take the trappings of science fiction so you can shoot helmeted alien guards with futuristic machine guns, and Star Wars games.

There's nothing fundamentally wrong with Star Wars games, mind you, or to a lesser extent Star Trek, but the two franchises represent a disproportionate chunk of the genre over the last ten or fifteen years. They so dominate the idea of sci-fi gaming that even if games don't have the franchise license, they continue to exist within the conceits and clichés defined by Lucas and Roddenberry.

It might be easy enough to levy the same complaints at fantasy for doing the same with Tokien and Gygax, but there are a few important differences. First, Tolkien's world is far more imaginative and creative, but more importantly, until recently, it was not a visualized and concrete world to the masses. Middle-Earth existed only like an abstract idea of a world, still open to the imagination of those who read and those who borrowed from it. Star Wars, arguably the Lord of the Rings of sci-fi, is a hard edged world of finite imagination, we all know how it works and worse what it looks like. As to Gygax and D&D, well that was more a foundation for a game than a dogmatic definition. D&D demanded your creativity to work, and provided a framework of original story telling. Fantasy paragons were painted in broad brush-strokes, while sci-fi was a finely imagined portrait.

In short, we were taught from the start to tell our own fantasy stories while we learned to watch others tell us the stories of sci-fi.

That's not to say that plenty of games didn't break the mold of Star Wars, but that it was far easier to fall back on the conceits of existing franchises rather than fully realizing worlds. There were visual and ideological icons of sci-fi coming from these franchises that were mostly inescapable, and they cropped up all the time. And, of course, half the damn sci-fi games just dropped the pretense and slapped the franchise name right on the box.

But, what that's left us with is a few key games that broke the mold by being entirely different, and a bunch of customers who kind of got tired of sci-fi because it the rest of it all seemed the same. With another round of years revolving around Lucas and his middling prequels there wasn't room for much else, and when it was gone there was a hole in the ground where games like Deus Ex, Fallout, Freespace 2, Wing Commander and Synidcate used to be.

But, this is an unusual article, because it ends with concrete enthusiasm for what the gaming industry has got in store for us. Someone must have noticed the hole in the ground, because the next few years have a slew of games coming to our eager eyes with fresh IPs and loads of potential. Too Human, Bioshock, Mass Effect, Fallout 3, Crysis, Tabula Rasa and others seem to be ushering a new era of science fiction gaming.

After ten years of elves and magic, I could use a bit of a change.

Comments

SommerMatt wrote:
glacellus wrote:

It all comes down to what kind of target audience one has in mind. Triple-A titles with high production costs will always need to appeal to a broad audience, and therefore one needs to serve those motives and symbols familiar to this audience, at least for purposes of marketing. One way to bring in more details is to "sneak in" new material after a few hours of playtime, and make it optional content.

Again, I don't know where this idea comes from. I'll put forth the crazy theory that the reason why there aren't very many SF games out there is because... NO ONE TRIES TO MAKE THEM. People can't buy what doesn't exist.

True, I do not disagree with you. It's just that the huge production cost, in movies and games nowadays, forces out more "outlandish" ideas, whether in SF or fantasy, for larger sales. I think one complaint many SF fans (like me) have, and what is addressed earlier in this thread, is that SF is often watered down to motives which might as well appear in a historical setting.

Having said that, I certainly don't mind a good fun space opera with good vs evil once in a while...

SommerMatt wrote:

SF has always been more popular in the mainstream entertainment machine... Look at the top grossing films of all time:

#2 -- Star Wars ep IV 1977
#4 -- ET 1982
#5 -- Star Wars ep I 1999
#7 -- Spider-Man 2002
#8 -- Star Wars ep III 2005
#10 -- Spider-Man 2 2004
#12 -- Jurassic Park 1993
#15 -- Spider-Man 3 2007
#20 -- SW ep II 2002
#21 -- SW ep VI 1983
#22 -- ID4 1996
#27 -- SW ep V 1980
#31 -- Matrix Reloaded 2003
#39 -- Batman 1989
#41 -- Men In Black 1997
#49 Ghost Busters 1984

Total 15 in top 41

IMDB wrote:

#3 Shrek 2 2004
#6 PotC: Dead man's chest 2006
#9 LotR: Return of the king 2003
#13 LotR: Two towers 2002
#18 Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone 2001
#19 LotR: The Fellowship of the Ring 2001
#22 Shrek the Third 2007
#24 PotC: The Curse of the Black Pearl 2003
#25 The Sixth Sense 1999
#26 The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe 2005
#28 Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire 2005
#29 Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End 2007
#33 Shrek 2001
#34 Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets 2002
#37 Jaws 1975
#42 Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban 2004
#45 Bruce Almighty 2003
#46 Raiders of the Lost Ark 1981

15 in the top 41

Also noting that most children's films are fantasy - all the pixar ones etc, disney films... i didn't include them. (Meet the robinsons is a notable exception)

We're pretty even here*. Not to mention that the recent glut of sci-fi and comic book film cash-ins have skewed that list post 2000. Before that the number of high grossing films is a little more even in the top of list for money grossed.

The fantasy films that were popular may not have been what we would want as a popular franchise but they existed in what form was acceptable to the public of the time. You list star trek and other sci-fi franchises but beyond Star wars there aren't many sci-fi "big ones" in that top 100. Where's star trek?
The TV shows you list are all post 1990 - 13 years after the big kick off with Star Wars ep. 4 and they are not the majority of TV. You know what the majority is? Current day series about mundane jobs that are sexed up.... lawyers, forensic science, policing - you name it. Fantasy doesn't have much if any share of TV... what was there in recent times? The 10th kingdom? And yet the fantasy films seem to do considerably well considering the "lack of exposure".

A good example of this is the nutty professor or the green mile beating the fifth element. I'm not saying that TGM is a bad film (i love it, makes me cry every time) but i also see TFE as a really good sci-fi film. Hell, even Jumanji beats TFE and total recall....waterworld (i like that film), unbreakable (comic bookish), BtotheF 3, Ghostbusters 2, End of days, vanilla sky (which is bottom: #307)

*Actually i skewed the results in sci-fi's favour without even realising. Worldwide sales are more favourable to fantasy in terms of top grossing films, even though it's still pretty even.


We know as much about how SF works (computers, lasers, FTL drives, black holes, time travel etc. etc) as we do Fantasy (the stuff we've already talked about).

The average person, however, does not. I'm arguing that the accessibility of the archetype is what draws players in. Easier to learn a social background to a story, than to add in learning the technology, alien thinking, etc. I also think it's easier for a developer to just mutate a "medieval" story setting, than to produce a new world of the future.

I do want to clarify one issue, however. "Wherefore" means "why". In the scene, Juliet is lamenting that the mere coincidence of name casts a cloud over her nascent romance. The exchange centers around names, not the fact that Romeo is hiding in the bushes.


Juliet.
O Romeo, Romeo! wherefore art thou Romeo?
Deny thy father and refuse thy name;
Or, if thou wilt not, be but sworn my love,
And I'll no longer be a Capulet.

Romeo.
[Aside.] Shall I hear more, or shall I speak at this?

Juliet.
'Tis but thy name that is my enemy:
Thou art thyself, though not a Montague.
What's Montague? It is nor hand, nor foot,
Nor arm, nor face, nor any other part
Belonging to a man. O, be some other name.
What's in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet;
So Romeo would, were he not Romeo call'd,
Retain that dear perfection which he owes
Without that title. Romeo, doff thy name,
And for that name, which is no part of thee,
Take all myself.

Romeo.
I take thee at thy word.
Call me but love, and I'll be new baptis'd;
Henceforth I never will be Romeo.

Juliet.
What man art thou that, thus bescreened in night,
So stumblest on my counsel?

Romeo.
By a name
I know not how to tell thee who I am:
My name, dear saint, is hateful to myself,
Because it is an enemy to thee.
Had I it written, I would tear the word.

Juliet.
My ears have yet not drunk a hundred words
Of thy tongue's uttering, yet I know the sound.
Art thou not Romeo, and a Montague?

Romeo.
Neither, fair saint, if either thee dislike.

I don't think it's a coincidence that the quintessential fantasy story (LOTR) is essentially a story about the nature of power, how power corrupts, how the acquisition of power changes you, even if it's justified power, etc. While scifi is largely about how people can abuse/use the power of science to destroy/help mankind.

Most games revolve around the defeat and acquisition of power by the player. Going into the ethical "should" questions is generally beyond the storytelling in most games right now. So fantasy works well for the needs of the current gameplay, whereas scifi does not. I hope that as storytelling in gaming becomes more complex scifi will start to catch on, as gameplay moves beyond the simple mechanics of power and into the ethical considerations of it.

PyromanFO wrote:
Going into the ethical "should" questions is generally beyond the storytelling in most games right now. So fantasy works well for the needs of the current gameplay, whereas scifi does not. I hope that as storytelling in gaming becomes more complex scifi will start to catch on, as gameplay moves beyond the simple mechanics of power and into the ethical considerations of it.

I think you have a core insight here. Science fiction has almost always been about hard questions - who we are, where we are going, and what it means to be human in a world where there are others (or humans that aren't ... human?).

Thing is, there was some good sci-fi storytelling in the 90's - particularly Wing Commander, with the Hobbes' betrayal in WC3 going deep into some interesting territory. I think that, more than anything, is what I miss. And to be perfectly honest, the storytelling hasn't been that great on the fantasy side either.

A new promising Sci-Fi 4xRTS coming out is Sins of a Solar Empire, you guys should look into it and maybe try and get an interview. Its the kind of Sci Fi RTS that StarWars Empire at War should have been.....

Aetius wrote:
PyromanFO wrote:
Going into the ethical "should" questions is generally beyond the storytelling in most games right now. So fantasy works well for the needs of the current gameplay, whereas scifi does not. I hope that as storytelling in gaming becomes more complex scifi will start to catch on, as gameplay moves beyond the simple mechanics of power and into the ethical considerations of it.

I think you have a core insight here. Science fiction has almost always been about hard questions - who we are, where we are going, and what it means to be human in a world where there are others (or humans that aren't ... human?).

I said almost the same thing on page 1


Let's face it. People don't like to think and fantasy allows that. Sci-fi makes them question themselves. Makes them question their knowledge and humanity. It asks questions rather than reinforcing stereotypes (in general).

Yes but you said "Scifi makes you think so most people don't want it". I said "Fantasy is more suited to the power-dramas that drive current gameplay". There's a bit of difference there.

Elysium wrote:
there is much greater awareness of what a sword or fireball does than a Zero-Point Energy Field Manipulator.

Also, there's much greater awareness of what a laser gun does than the Broken Battlesword of Al'Hazadem. Works both ways.

I would imagine the Broken Battlesword doesn't do much considering that it's broken.

PyromanFO wrote:
Yes but you said "Scifi makes you think so most people don't want it". I said "Fantasy is more suited to the power-dramas that drive current gameplay". There's a bit of difference there.

Hehe, i did say almost. Also, drawing parallels between successful TV series, books and movies.... how many of them "make you think"? Not many, i can guarrantee you. Most people want to switch off and relax or be told what to do rather than have to figure stuff out for themselves. I don't blame them because i feel the same way after finishing work

I think that we're not comparing apples to apples here. If some of you folks are going to demand "high" sci-fi, then you should compare it to "high" fantasy. That means not just swords and/or horses, and not just unthinking rehashes of dogeared story archs and characters.

I mean, how many games even have dark elves like drow or morhedel? How many have species beyond the standard dwarf, elf, human, halfling, and potential half-orc? How many "fantasy" games make you actually do much imagining?

And for the record, many sci-fi classics on screen and monitor started as "low" sci-fi, but then had armies of nerds come in to write up the physics of how warp engines work and blaster pistols shoot. When I stop to consider the real difference, the differentiation can be crudly summarized to "Does it have Trekkies?" With enough monkeys on the internet, any "magic" can be sufficiently explained away by theoretical science. It's a sort of inversion of Clarke's third law.

Clarke's third law is incorrect. Any poorly imagined advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic

To be honest though, i know of no high fantasy in the same way that i know of high sci-fi. I know of original fantasy that doesn't treat on the worn carpet of fantasy.

Any examples, wordsmythe? I'll give them a read.

Robear wrote:

We know as much about how SF works (computers, lasers, FTL drives, black holes, time travel etc. etc) as we do Fantasy (the stuff we've already talked about).

The average person, however, does not. I'm arguing that the accessibility of the archetype is what draws players in. Easier to learn a social background to a story, than to add in learning the technology, alien thinking, etc. I also think it's easier for a developer to just mutate a "medieval" story setting, than to produce a new world of the future.

Once again, this make absolutely no sense. Look at that list of top grossing movies above. How can you tell me that the "average" person just doesn't get SF? The "average" person gets SF MORE (or at least just as much) as they do FANTASY.

And again, how is it more work to create a SF world than a fantasy one? If you want to take the lazy way out, any author can "mutate" another pre-existing world into a generic setting. But whether it's Harry Potter or Star Wars, the authors had to inform us about their world and how things work (tell me the SILMARILLION is easier to read/understand than a Bradbury story... I dare you :)).

PyromanFO wrote:
I don't think it's a coincidence that the quintessential fantasy story (LOTR) is essentially a story about the nature of power, how power corrupts, how the acquisition of power changes you, even if it's justified power, etc. While scifi is largely about how people can abuse/use the power of science to destroy/help mankind... Most games revolve around the defeat and acquisition of power by the player. Going into the ethical "should" questions is generally beyond the storytelling in most games right now. So fantasy works well for the needs of the current gameplay, whereas scifi does not.

You state your opinion as if it is abject fact-- Fantasy deals with this, SF deals that that. Who says? Erm, besides YOU I mean There is absolutely nothing inherent in either genre that requires it tell these stories you present above.

So after all this, what does everyone consider steampunk?

That genre is ripe for the plucking. Rise of Legends demonstrated how inventive and visualy stunning the source material can be.

edit: I was pissed beyond belief at Hobbes betrayal. I felt really ripped off. Jazz's betrayal in WC2 was much more well written.

You state your opinion as if it is abject fact-- Fantasy deals with this, SF deals that that. Who says? Erm, besides YOU I mean There is absolutely nothing inherent in either genre that requires it tell these stories you present above.
I didn't mean to state that's all they could ever be, just that the most common examples of the genre typically revolve around that. LOTR in particular, on which most of the fantasy genre is based.

Science fiction for instance has shown that it can be used for almost any type of story. But what's considered the foundation of science fiction is largely stories about the should/shouldn't of science. I'm not limiting the genres to those definitions, just trying to find common ground among the "staples" of the genre.


Once again, this make absolutely no sense. Look at that list of top grossing movies above. How can you tell me that the "average" person just doesn't get SF? The "average" person gets SF MORE (or at least just as much) as they do FANTASY.

Sales per title of SF books are down, and that's been the general trend since the 80's, when a lot of the publishers merged or went under. That reduces the audience that "gets it". Further, the movies you cited (15 of the top 50) only show about 6 original SF themes (Star Wars, ET, Jurassic Park, ID, Matrix, MIB), with 4 being comic book conversions and one a comedy about ghosts. On the fantasy side, we have conversions of major novels (LotR, Harry Potter, LWW), made for movie stories (PotC) and a few that I'd debate (Shrek is a fairy tale, for example, a sub-genre, but is a kid's film, a subversive social commentary and a movie franchise that extends a book series.) Jaws is not fantasy, it's action/adventure/suspense.

I see in both cases that sticking to the familiar is the core of success. MIB, Matrix, ID, ET, all these are highly original works that push the boundaries. But most of the SF and fantasy that's out there is derivative of the familiar. And for most people, swords and medival times are more familiar than most SF settings. Put another way, very few of those SF movie viewers would pick up an SF book, but many of the fantasy viewers would pick up a fantasy book, in my experience. SF tends to be less generic and harder to get than fantasy.


And again, how is it more work to create a SF world than a fantasy one? If you want to take the lazy way out, any author can "mutate" another pre-existing world into a generic setting. But whether it's Harry Potter or Star Wars, the authors had to inform us about their world and how things work (tell me the SILMARILLION is easier to read/understand than a Bradbury story... I dare you ).

Because with fantasy you can simply lift from the past. Tolkien's work was literally unique because it was an academic exercise for him, one that turned into a story for his son. But look at all the fantasy work that is simply King Arthur or the Fall of the Roman Empire rewritten. Or indeed, Tolkien in different worlds. With a fantasy world, everyone understands swords, impoverished peasants and their feudal overlords, the heroic archetypes, magic and the mythical and legendary stories that lay behind our culture's entertainment.

Now tell me, without citing a *specific* SF story, what unifying cultural background do we have in SF? What common ground do readers have, besides an understanding of current science? I think you underestimate the relative difficulties involved in telling detailed stories in the two fields. And that in turn dictates that the more familiar themes will show up more often than less-familiar ones, with of course popular series skewing the numbers not because of setting, but because the first story was popular and people like to return to that world periodically.

SF is harder to follow because there is much less common background to present to the reader. That is echoed in it's relative lack of broad commercial success. Star Wars, Babylon 5 and the like are exceptions as successful series; ET, Blade Runner and similar one-offs are much more typical of the reception of SF by the general public - decent, but not in the same league as fantasy.

What you don't think an intelligent shark bent on murder of a family (and later on his siblings) is fantasy?
Wasn't there some reverse swimming in Jaws the revenge? Can't remember...

Other than that, great post and said everything i have been trying to say

Duoae wrote:
Clarke's third law is incorrect. Any poorly imagined advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic

To be honest though, i know of no high fantasy in the same way that i know of high sci-fi. I know of original fantasy that doesn't treat on the worn carpet of fantasy.

Any examples, wordsmythe? I'll give them a read.

Clarke's third law only really applies to those who do not deal in or understand the technology. If you brought a computer to Pythagoras, he'd consider it magic. If you think you don't apply, you're either not thinking of sufficiently advanced technology (beyond things we're theorizing about possibly existing today), or you're a victim of hubris.

WoW is not hard fantasy, but LotR is. LotR had research in folk tales and pagan mythology behind it. It had invented languages and literatures for different races. It wasn't great writing stylistically, but it certainly was dilligent.

Ah.... guess which fantasy i've never got past book one in?

Read the Hobbit and The fellowship of the ring (twice now) but i just can't gather the will to go on. I managed to watch the films though that was a stretch. Wasn't anywhere near as bad as Gormenghast though.... *shudders*

Thing is, with respect to the tech discussion, is that poorly imagined technology isn't explained or explainable - this is why it appears as magic. You can take a computer to Pythagoras and slowly explain to him the processes we've come through to get to this point - abacus, calculators, etc. You don't have to get into minute detail but there is a logical explanation there. Any poorly written sci-fi has no explanation as is indistinguishable from magic because it essentially is magic - there is no substance.

Take "hyperdrive" for instance in star wars. There is no attempt to explain that. Is it a parallel dimension or warping space? In Star Trek - even in the original series - it was evident what "Warp space" was... And you can't argue that we were publicly theorising about the possibilties of warping space and time back when they were first introduced...

Dyson spheres (or Halos) are immediately explainable. Gravity in non-rotating ships is not really explainable - that's why i loved Babylon 5 so much. "Shields" are pretty much crap except for perhaps deflecting magnetisable objects or other particle beams (like the ion "shield" that is currently being talked about for a moon base).

I could go on but it's not something i have to think about much and so don't have many examples easily to hand.

[edit]
Just got back from watching a re-run of The X-files and it occurred to me that the point at which (IMO) the series got crap was when they switched from investigating and having theories on strange occurrances (e.g. genetically mutated flukeworms or precognitive photography) to the pseudo sci-fi generic and unexplained "aliens are taking over the world". I just thought i'd through this in as another example.

But what makes "warp space" so much different from any other fable about physics? Is it just a question of how much paper the author spends on explaining things that are not essential to the plot?

Edit: Why couldn't you get through much Tolkien? My guess is that there was too much junk about races and languages and such that didn't matter.

wordsmythe wrote:
But what makes "warp space" so much different from any other fable about physics? Is it just a question of how much paper the author spends on explaining things that are not essential to the plot?

You mean teleport and dimension door? Gate?

Well, you can warp space. It's a possibility.

Controlling matter at the subatomic level and forming it from energy as is used in replicators and (on a larger scale the holodeck and on a longer range, teleporters) is also a possibility.

The difference is that it's believable. I don't know, maybe it's because i'm into science that for me it's important that things like this make some sort of sense. The thing is, authors don't have to spend a lot of time explaining stuff to make it believable but just having an unexplained or unexplainably illogical doohicky or McGubbin as a plot device just makes me think that i could have just read a fantasy epic instead.

I don't have to suspend much belief in a flying dragon (Neverending story) because fables and tales of our ancestors tell us these things could possibly exist in nature and mythos. We grow up with those tales. Seeing a plane fly, i have to know how and why it flies. It's not a magical device and just saying that it uses transatomic-propulsion to ensure that the gravity arbitration system (GAS) engages.

Admittedly no sci-fi is perfect and there is always fluff. But i like the ones that at least try and base some of the stuff on realism.

It's kinda like writing a sonnet but not sticking to the rules. You're told it's a sonnet but the timing is all off... it makes it all that much harder to read because what you expect doesn't jive with what your eyes are showing you.

[edit]
Took out the explanation bit of my plane analogy Can't control myself...

Hm, I prefer free verse. :J

I don't have any problems suspending belief, but then I also feel pretty sure that our current physics model is not terribly much more the "truth" than the Newtonian model. Point is, I am ok with reading that in the year 40XX, they will have discovered how to make cream soda out of toxic slime through the power of laughter. Plus, you know, it's fiction.

wordsmythe wrote:
Hm, I prefer free verse. :J

I don't have any problems suspending belief, but then I also feel pretty sure that our current physics model is not terribly much more the "truth" than the Newtonian model.


Fair enough

Point is, I am ok with reading that in the year 40XX, they will have discovered how to make cream soda out of toxic slime through the power of laughter. Plus, you know, it's fiction.

I have to read this book.... please let me know its ISBN

Sorry, I'm distracted by daydreams of cream soda.

Maybe I am making a huge assumption in circumventing the high fantasy vs hard sci fi debating going on... But what I got from the original article was the perceived lack of "sci fi games" was meant more as a reference to a lack of modern and/or futuristic settings moreso than games that have every minute piece of tech explained and/or certified scientifically sound. Reading that made me wish someone would take the setting/backstory of Anarchy Online and/or Neocron and flesh them out and update them to be something that could compete on todays market.

It doesn't have to be insanely complex for me. I want to shoot things with laser guns, fly around on a hovering motorcycle like device at ridiculous speed, join an evil corporation bent on world domination, run around with a huge mohawk haxx0ring random pieces of technology with some miniturized vaguely laptop like device strapped to my arm, fly around in a giant mech or have a killer robot companion by my side, rip off all of my limbs and replace them with stronger better faster cybernetic versions with added functionality, use some sort of psionic resonator to kill things with my mind, summon up a cloud of obedient nano machines to devour the flesh of my enemies, etc etc etc. I don't care even the tiniest bit how any of it works. I just like this type of setting. I am bored with being an elf and shooting fireballs at people. I want to shoot them in the face with a shotgun.

As for what is coming out there are a few nice titles on the horizon for consoles and single player type games. For MMOs I think TR will be a bit of a disappointment even though it's sci fi. For near future type games Funcom announced the secret world not too long ago which is supposed to be more of an H.P. Lovecraft-esque present day game than real sci fi but I thought I'd mention it since it isn't fantasy. Couple of secret world links below if anyone is interested:

site - http://www.darkdaysarecoming.com
forums - http://www.darkdemonscrygaia.com

Shadowrun MMO?

Robear wrote:
I see in both cases that sticking to the familiar is the core of success. MIB, Matrix, ID, ET, all these are highly original works that push the boundaries. But most of the SF and fantasy that's out there is derivative of the familiar. And for most people, swords and medival times are more familiar than most SF settings. Put another way, very few of those SF movie viewers would pick up an SF book, but many of the fantasy viewers would pick up a fantasy book, in my experience. SF tends to be less generic and harder to get than fantasy.

There's really nothing to say to any of this, because it's still just speculation... on both eneds.

Reading is down all across the board, except for a total fluke like the HARRY POTTER series... and I would lay serious money on the fact that MORE people on this planet have SEEN the LOTR movies than read the novels. That aside, nothing you've said has proven the point that people don't "get" SF. The simple fact that many more SF themed movies and TV shows keep being produced year after year proves that these ideas and settings are "got" by many people. We can nitpick those movie lists (I'd really dispute the POTC movies being in there, and 6th Sense is definitely supernatural/horror... the X-Men and Spider-Man do deal with science, at least, in dealing with genetic mutation etc., Ghostbusters uses advanced tech to combat supernatural creatures, which is SF in my book), but that's really neither here nor there. Fantasy films have NEVER been popular until just this past decade, and there's also never been a fantasy themed TV show which has lasted anywhere near as long as a TREK or other SF franchise.

I know that you guys are saying that doing serious, science based HARD SF is a difficult sell, and I agree. I guess you don't seem to understand what we're saying-- that a setting with SF accoutrements is ENOUGH for us. Robots, space ships, ray guns, women from mars... we'd rather have those things than yet another generic fantasy RPG. The average person GETS robots. They get time travel. They get ray guns. They accept FTL travel without a dissertation explaining how it works. That's all a game designer has to do to make us happy.

...fantasy you can simply lift from the past. Tolkien's work was literally unique because it was an academic exercise for him, one that turned into a story for his son. But look at all the fantasy work that is simply King Arthur or the Fall of the Roman Empire rewritten. Or indeed, Tolkien in different worlds. With a fantasy world, everyone understands swords, impoverished peasants and their feudal overlords, the heroic archetypes, magic and the mythical and legendary stories that lay behind our culture's entertainment.

SF is harder to follow because there is much less common background to present to the reader. That is echoed in it's relative lack of broad commercial success. Star Wars, Babylon 5 and the like are exceptions as successful series; ET, Blade Runner and similar one-offs are much more typical of the reception of SF by the general public - decent, but not in the same league as fantasy.

Not to get all PC on you, but MAYBE this is true for a person in the Western hemisphere... it certainly isn't some shared heritage for all the peoples on God's green earth. Those who have grown up with western-style fairytales MIGHT find these things "easier" to comprehend, but I'll again ask what fantasy mainstream properties have reached the success of Star Wars/Trek before LOTR came along? You say that fantasy has a broader appeal... I'll say that SF has a much broader, world-wide appeal because of the very fact that it DOESN'T rely on the understanding of Northern European folktales. Flying cars, lasers, robots and time travel (as I've said) are just as understandable to people... even those who've never read a SF book in their lives.

...And with that, I think I'll bow out of this thread... seems like we've all said out piece.

OK I don't have time to read the 3 pages of replies so far, so I don't know if anyone has said this yet but ...

Ender's Game the video game!

Ender's Game is a book by Orson Scott Card.

It looks like they are finally going to make the movie : http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0400403/

Some have compared the movie Battleship Troopers to the aliens in Enders Game and some of the characters have similar traits, but what is unique to Enders Game is the story of Ender and the academy; the experience of Ender Wiggin the child prodigy and champion of earth.

Aang wrote:
OK I don't have time to read the 3 pages of replies so far, so I don't know if anyone has said this yet but ...

Ender's Game the video game!

Ender's Game is a book by Orson Scott Card.

It looks like they are finally going to make the movie : http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0400403/

Some have compared the movie Battleship Troopers to the aliens in Enders Game and some of the characters have similar traits, but what is unique to Enders Game is the story of Ender and the academy; the experience of Ender Wiggin the child prodigy and champion of earth.

I'll believe it when I see it. Just like the film version, they keep talking about it but it just never seems to happen.

EG is a tough property to make a game out of... because really, a lot of the impact in the book is the "twist" ending. So what do you do in the game? Make it a "battleroom" game? They tried that with EA's "Quidditch" game, and I don't think it went over too well. Do you make it a COLONY WARS style game? That might be cool, although none of the main characters actually flew the individual ships themselves... so make it a tactical shooter? Try to mash the entire book into the game? How would it work?

Since I usually read this book about twice a year (during the SF class I teach), I've thought of this topic before... the best I could come up with is that they could make a Doom-style game with the Space Marines clearing out Eros (they made it sound like a really hard-fought battle in the book).