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(鳳凰) is a computer role-playing game set on a Chinese controlled Mars in 2075. Space debris has become a growing concern on Earth, since several ships have been destroyed because of random space debris striking their ships. Because of this, some people believe that space colonization will be impossible by 2090 unless something is done about the problem. For some people, this fear led them to push for the colonization of other planets immediately, before it becomes impossible. Others counter by saying that colonies would not be able to survive without the help of Earth, and if they are cut off they won't survive. But enough people have become infatuated with the idea of colonizing other systems in our solar system that it has become a reality. Many of the colonies started off as research stations that expanded to support a growing number of people.
, comes from the name of a Chinese bird. The Fènghuáng is often considered to be the Chinese equivalent of the phoenix. Since the game is about new colonies on Mars, as well as the rebirth of humans as posthumans, the phoenix was an appropriate symbol. Since the game also deals with a Chinese controlled colony, the Chinese version was more appropriate. In the game world, the ship that brought the first colonists to Mars was known as the Fènghuáng.
The primary question the game asks is "What is human?". Cybernetics, genetic engineering, and artificial intelligence all threaten the original idea of what it means to be human. The player will have to decide what constitutes a human being on this world with a variety of beliefs.
Your choices have consequences, either major or minor, on the game world.
Character creation should be very powerful. The character you create is the one you will play throughout the game, with character development basically just fine-tuning your character, instead of allowing the player to completely change their character through the course of the game.
Character development should be mostly invisible to the player. Skills improve and degrade through use or lack thereof. New skills can be taught, but learning them should be limited by time and/or money to prevent the player from being a jack-of-all-trades.
Combat should not be a major focus, but if the character gets into a combat situation, it should be more than just win/lose. Characters can be scarred or disabled by combat, but the combat does not have to be lethal. Few fights would be lethal, unless the player tries to escalate it to that level first. Running from combat should also be an option.
Grinding should be eliminated. Repetitive tasks to improve your skills are not really fun, so it should be avoided. Making the player only gain skills when they achieve some important goal, like solving a quest, can help prevent grinding, but there needs to be something to keep players motivated.
Artificial intelligence has made tremendous advances since the early 21st century. While human-level AI's do not yet exist, they are getting very close. Artificial intelligence are sentient, but not sapient. Artificial intelligence can learn new things, but they have only a little empathy and they lack creativity.
Brain scanning is a new emerging technology that is still heavily regulated. The only way to scan a person's brain destroys the brain in the process. The brain scanning techniques have not been perfected yet, and the uploaded version of the person often seems "off". Because of this, brain scanning is only allowed in cases were the person has no chance of survival, or has already recently died. However, even these scans are controversial.
Computers are now small enough to be built into practically anything. Only quantum computers are anywhere near the size of the computers found in the late 20th century and early 21st century. Now, most computers are either implanted into the users mind, or built into some form of eye-wear.
Cybernetics gained a lot of popularity in the 2040's and 2050's, but they have been in decline since then. Advancements in genetics have allowed people many of the benefits that cybernetics could offer, but without the unnatural feel. However, a few people still use cybernetic limbs either because they can't afford the biological replacement, or they want the increased strength offered by newer cybernetics. These people are usually considered fairly eccentric, however.
Genetics have made major advancements over the years. Genetic engineering now allows all major defects to be found and removed before the birth of a child, which is a fairly common practice. However, genetic engineering also allows for more drastic and controversial changes to the human, many of which make a technically new species of being. In the 2050s, it became possible to replace any organ inside of the human body, with the exception of the brain, with a biological replacement tailored for that person.
Important Differences from Earth
The gravity of Mars is .376 times the gravity on Earth. This takes newcomers a while to get used to. However, once a character is accustomed to the new gravity, they can work extremely well in the new gravity, and are able to lift nearly 3 times as much as they could on Earth.
The temperature of Mars is much colder than the temperature on Earth. While the facilities on Mars are temperature controlled, they are still colder than most places on Earth.
The atmospheric pressure on Mars is much lower than on Earth. It's impossible to survive on the surface of Mars without a pressure suit. The atmosphere is also mostly carbon dioxide, so it is impossible for humans to breathe. Plant life could survive on the planet, but only if it can survive extremely cold temperatures.
There are no standing bodies of water on Mars. The colonies must create water. Because of this, water is much more valuable than it is on Earth.
The Martian day is approximately 24 hours and 40 minutes long. It is not far from Earth's, but it makes communication between Earth and Mars difficult at times.
The largest colony on Mars in 2075,
is located in Valles Marineris, the deepest crevice in the solar system. Huǒxiá grew from the original design for 30 scientists, but the research on Mars expanded and colonists started emigrating to Mars. By 2075, the population of Huǒxiá has reached around 5,000. This is where a large part of the game will take place. Since the player cannot survive for exteneded periods of time on the surface of Mars, he must travel to and from the colonies without wasting too much time. A large variety of people live in this colony. From scientists who study Mars, to doctors, engineers, and programmers.
The European Union also has a colony on Mars. It is also located in the Valles Marineris, but it is several kilometers away from the Chinese colony. It is fairly new, and it is mainly still for scientists, but it is starting to accept colonists as well. There is debate whether or not they should build an automated transport to allow people to freely travel between this colony and the Chinese one.
Memes are cultural units that are analogous to genes. The term was originally coined by Richard Dawkins in his book, ''The Selfish Gene''. Memes and memetics play a large role in the culture of the future. Advertisement firms started putting a lot of money into memetic research in the 2020s, and the entire field received a massive boon. Advertisers learned how to make advertisements more likely to appeal to their target audience then ever before. However, other fields benefitted from this research, especially education. By 2075, powerful memes are everywhere. Most people know they have been "infected" by many memes, but they often embrace them. Here are some examples of popular memes in 2075:
"Amortalism" - Amortalists believe that it is immoral and harmful to society for people to live forever. This group is against scientific study designed to expand the life cycle of humans.
"Machine Rights" - This group believes artificial intelligences deserve some protection rights. Some people take it as far as believing AI's should be treated as human equals, while others only want some basic protections to prevent AI abuse.
"Autoevolutionism" - Autoevolutionists believe that it intelligent beings should be directing evolution, rather than simply relying on natural selection. Modern technology has done a very good job of nullifying the natural selection process already, so the followers of this meme believe its their responsibility to guide mankind into a posthuman state.
"Biochauvinism" - This is a fairly large group of people that have varying problems with artificial intelligence. This is an unorganized meme, with a vast amount of variance amongst its followers. Fear of AI gone amuck has been a driving force behind this meme for many, and the countless fictional disaster stories helps this meme spread. Some simply want intelligent safeguards placed on AIs, such as enforcing Asimov's Three Laws of Robotics to prevent disaster. Others feel that creating any AI is playing God, and simply asking for trouble. This might need to be split into subcategorized memes.
"The Singularity" - The singularity has not yet occurred, and its popularity has dropped considerably from the massive boon it received after the creation of TELOS, but it is far from dead. Many people put a lot of money trying to inform others of the coming singularity, and they try to campaign for specific restrictions on artificial intelligence so that the singularity is beneficial to humans.
"Free Mars" - This is a fairly new meme that is gaining in popularity. Many people believe that Mars should not be controlled by nations on Earth, and are campaigning for self-rulership, especially since Mars has effectively been cut off from the Earth. However, the Chinese government is not likely to give up control of their Martian colony. Many of the officials are very supportive of the Chinese government on Earth, and they would be very hard to sway. The Kessler syndrome, which has physically cut Mars off from Earth has swayed public opinion towards supporting this meme. Followers of this meme are divided on the issue of violence. Most of the followers believe that a non-violent solution is the only way of bringing about true change, while the other members believe that non-violence never solved anything.
"Reds" - This meme is against the terraforming other worlds, but particularly Mars. There are varying degrees of beliefs within this meme. Some followers believe that humans shouldn't be on Mars at all, while others believe that a small presence is fine, as long as it is only for research purposes. There are even followers that don't mind wide scale human presence on Mars as long as permanent terraforming is never used on the planet. Reasons for following this meme are diverse, and many very different people believe it. Some people with this meme have it for religious reasons, but there are also scientists who believe in this meme because they don't want to infect Mars with Earth life before it is fully studied.
"Grinding" - Grinding is the art of extreme body modification. The term was originally coined by the comic book writer Warren Ellis, and became popular in 2010. What is constitutes grinding has changed over time, since some modifications which were considered extreme in the past are now ubiquitous. Many forms of cybernetic modification are not widely accepted yet, and considered mild forms of grinding.
"Where's My Jetpack?" (Needs a better name) - People following this meme believe that the future they were promised was stolen from them. This is a more passive meme then many of the others listed here, since there is only a limited amount people can do.
"Greens" - This is the opposing meme to the Reds. People with this meme believe that mankind must terraform new worlds to advance. The main concern for the followers of this meme is currently the terraforming of Mars. They argue that if life existed on Mars, we would have already found it and any life we find at this point would be extremely suspect, since the planet has already been contaminated with life from Earth.
"Neocolonialism" - This meme suggests that mankind must spread out across the galaxy and colonize new worlds to survive. Supporters of this meme suggest continuing exploration and colonization of our solar system first, and then exploring other systems that are relatively nearby. People with this meme are usually afraid of some catastrophic event occurring in our solar system that could destroy all life.
"Post-Asceticism" - People with this meme try to minimize their external needs by improving themselves to be more complete, usually through genetic engineering or cybernetic implants.
Fènghuáng tries to emulate the style of play of pen and paper role-playing games as much as possible for a computer game. Rather than forcing you to play a certain character, the game expects you to create your own character. The game is not played in a linear fashion, like most video games, but has many branching paths and open gameplay whenever possible. This means the game does not force you to follow a specific storyline; however, just because the game lacks a forced storyline doesn't mean the game lacks a story. There are certain events that occur, and the player's actions can greatly change what happens during these events. Powerful factions are battling each other for control of Mars, and more importantly, for control of the human race. The game places heavy emphasis on quests with multiple solutions, and detailed branching conversations. While the game does offer the ability to use force to solve problems, an over-reliance on combat will put the player in a situation where he has few friends and many enemies. The game will be possible to beat without ever needing to even pick up a weapon, however.
Character creation and development
The character creation system will use a point buy system. The player can spend points to buy certain statistics, attributes, and skills that will define their character. The amount of points the player is allowed to spend is based on the difficulty level chosen. On average difficulty, the player may spend 200 points. There are also many options that do not have point values, but can have an affect on gameplay (such as gender). The player character is an immigrant from Earth, and must also select a job that will have an affect on gameplay, as well as the character's statistics and skills.
Strength - Measures the characters raw, physical strength. This statistic is not as important in the future as it might be in other settings. Since other statistics are more valuable, this will cost the player much less than other statistics such as intelligence. Strength is also easy to modify using technological means. Strength is used to determine the carrying capacity of the character, how much damage the character can inflict in melee combat, and some skills use Strength to determine the skill's effectiveness.
Intelligence - Intelligence measures the characters ability to reason and solve problems. Intelligence is a major factor for determining the available dialogue options, and many skills are based upon a character's intelligence. Intelligence is a fairly powerful statistic, and it will cost more than any other statistic.
Dexterity - Dexterity measures how nimble the character is. Dexterity is needed for delicate work, and several physical skills are largely based on how dextrous the character is. Dexterity is a powerful statistic, but it does not offer the same game changing abilities intelligence offers. Dexterity will cost more than strength, but less than intelligence.
Perception - Perception measures how aware a character is of his surroundings. The ability to hear things and the ability to see things clearly are based on perception. Perception will sometimes allow the player to notice something he would not be able to find otherwise, but it has limited use in many situations.
Constitution - Constitution measures how healthy a character is. It is a combination of endurance and vitality. Characters with a lot of constitution will not tire easily. Constitution has extremely limited use for many character builds, so it is fairly cheap to buy.
Willpower - Willpower represents the basic resilience of the character's mind. Characters with a high willpower will be very resistant to subversion, coercion, and can overcome temptation. A character with low willpower would be gullible. With many of the attacks in Fènghuáng representing a mental assault of memes, a high willpower score is in some ways more important than a high score in constitution. The gameplay effects of this would be subtle, however, and willpower will also be relatively cheap to buy.
These are works that have influenced the creation of this game in some way. Either they gave me ideas for setting information, or they helped me refine how I wanted the gameplay to work.
Dawkins, Richard. ''The Selfish Gene'' (Oxford University Press, 1990).
Kurzweil, Ray. ''The Age of Spiritual Machines'' (Penguin, 2000).
Moravec, Hans. ''Mind Children: The Future of Robot and Human Intelligence'' (Harvard University Press, 1988).
Zubrin, Robert. ''The Case for Mars'' (Touchstone, 1996).
Dick, Philip K. ''Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?'' (The Random House Publishing Group, 1986).
Dick, Philip K. "We Can Remember It For You Wholesale" (The Magazine of Science Fiction and Fantasy, April 1966).
Gibson, William. ''Neuromancer'' (Berkley Publishing Group, 1984).
Robinson, Kim Stanley. ''Red Mars'' (Bantam, 1993).
Stephenson, Neal. ''Snow Crash'' (Bantam Dell, 1992).
Ellis, Warren. ''Doktor Sleepless'' (Avatar Press, 2007).
Cascio, Jamais. ''Transhuman Space: Toxic Memes'' (Steve Jackson Games, 2004).
Jackson, Steve. ''GURPS Basic Set: Campaigns'' (Steve Jackson Games, 2004).
Jackson, Steve. ''GURPS Basic Set: Characters'' (Steve Jackson Games, 2004).
Pulver, David. ''Transhuman Space'' (Steve Jackson Games, 2002).
Woodward, Jonathan. ''Transhuman Space: In the Well'' (Steve Jackson Games, 2003).
Zeigler, Jon F. ''Transhuman Space: Fifth Wave'' (Steve Jackson Games, 2002).
Film and Television
''2001: A Space Odyssey'' (Stanley Kubrick, 1968).
"Blade Runner" (Ridley Scott, 1982).
''Ghost in the Shell'' (Mamoru Oshii, 1995).
''Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence'' (Mamoru Oshii, 2004).
''Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex'' (Kenji Kamiyama, 2002).
''Planetes'' (Goro Taniguchi, 2001).
''Arcanum: Of Steamworks & Magick Obscura'' (Sierra, 2001)
''Fallout: A Post-Nuclear Role-Playing Game'' (Interplay, 1997).
''Fallout 2: A Post-Nuclear Role-Playing Game'' (Interplay, 1998).
''Planescape: Torment'' (Interplay, 1999).
''System Shock'' (Origin Systems, 1994).
''System Shock 2'' (Electronic Arts, 1998).
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