The Crossing

There are three playable races in The Crossing: humans, gate people, and simulacra. Choosing which race you wish to play as is the first thing you do upon entering the game. So let’s begin.

HUMANS

Humans in this world, as I’ve already begun to explain, are men from the ancient civilizations of earth who have proven themselves to be exceptional warriors, and who after their deaths are invited or compelled by some mysterious magic to enter The Crossing.

Playing as a human, you enjoy enormous privilege. Everything in The Crossing – everything in the culture and economy of the world – seems to exist for your benefit, and you have an immediate advantage in being respected and feared by nearly everyone you meet. You begin the game with the best resources, in terms of starting gear. On the other hand, because of your high status, some people will be adverse to offering you aid or training.

Having lived your life as a renowned fighter, your physical strength is considerable, and your competency with weapons, as well as your capacity to learn new martial skills, is higher than any other race. However, since as a human you are also a completely material being, you cannot use any magic. Only by using enchanted items can you approximate the magical abilities that other races may naturally wield.

The Gate People

The Crossing is populated primarily by the gate people. According to their own mythology, the gate people were created by an ancient race of giants in order to serve the human warriors as they sought to make their crossing into godhood. As such, their culture is one of well-ingrained subservience, and few individuals seek to subvert or oppose this system. Young women are often raised as concubines, to provide humans with female companionship. Men are usually workers or tradesmen.

A very few gate people, however, have begun to investigate their own potential. They have discovered that, far from being a weaker species, each member of the race possesses, latent in his or her physical body, a ghost – a powerful magical force which can be manipulated with practice. Playing as one of the gate people, you will begin to awaken and unravel these powers, and perhaps in doing so discover the real origins and history of your people.

Starting the game, you lack immediate material resources (armour, weaponry, etc.), but you have other advantages. You have access to many trade and training opportunities. Your physical strength is only moderate, in comparison to a human. You are not as resilient against violent force, but you can endure the weather and terrain of your world much better. And your magics, if you cultivate them, offer ample compensation.

Simulacra

There are very few Simulacra in The Crossing. They are peculiar beings, constructs of mud and bone and various animal components. All simulacra are created and made animate by an old woman called the Bone Witch, and afterwards set loose into the world to develop or decompose as they will.

As a simulacrum, you are an unknown entity, even to yourself. An incomplete being. Though you do not have a ghost, as the gatepeople do, some remnant of the ghosts belonging to the animal parts in your body can be coaxed forth and strengthened. You are wily, in your lurking strangeness. You are very good at creeping around and gaining entrance to otherwise inaccessible places.

Simulacra start with the fewest advantages. You are extremely weak, and susceptible to harm. Your fragile body does not fare well when exposed to the elements, and water is particularly dangerous as it will break down the mud and dust that holds your make-shift skeleton together. On the other hand, from the get-go you can explore at a much broader range than other races, without having to fight or flee. You are naturally stealthy, for one thing. And because you do not register as alive to many wild creatures, you are frequently overlooked by would-be attackers. This makes you an excellent treasure hunter, though you have a longer way to go in order to become a competent warrior or magic-wielder.

Character Generation

So. Creating a character to play with, you would choose one of these three races, and go on to customise your appearance. Though I outlined the respective strengths and weaknesses of each race, I find that games work best when the player’s performance isn’t restricted in the long run by their early choices. If you chose a human and wanted to use magic, for instance – or if you wanted to be a Simulacrum warrior – I wouldn’t want that to be impossible. It might take longer to get there, but I wouldn’t want that to be a decision that limited your efficacy in the long-term.

Each race should feel distinct, however. Their respective abilities should define their play-style, without limiting it. Attacking something with a sword should feel very different between all three.

I’ll get into a little more detail about my imaginary game mechanics later. Since I don’t actually have to program anything, I get to be as ambitious as I like, right? But I’m building this hypothetical thing not because I think I could actually even begin to design a working game out of thin air, with no previous experience. But because I want to think about what my ideal game might feel like, to play.

Tomorrow I’m going to talk more about character customisation. I think that character customisation is one of the most significant components of this sort of game, actually, and that its significance grows as videogames progress.  Let me explain.

Have many of you played the Mass Effect series? This is a good example. In the Mass Effect games, you play as an (absurdly) competent spaceship commander, who is generally regarded by everyone as being the most effective and badass person in the universe, bar-none. It’s a total male power fantasy. You shoot lots of stuff. Somebody tells you how awesome you are at least once every five minutes. You can punch a news reporter, if you want. It’s a great game.

In Mass Effect, though, you can change your character’s appearance, so you don’t actually have to look like this guy. You can make your character a woman. Of course, sticking a woman in a male power fantasy and giving her a gun so we all know she’s “kickass” isn’t anything new. That shit gets done in the name of progress all the time, and it pisses me off. Mass Effect is a little different, though.

Playing a woman in Mass Effect, you are doing everything that a male character does. All the animations are the same. You sit like a man and stand like a man and walk like a man. Not to say that that’s necessarily what we want, either – videogames where women walk like men. But it means that she isn’t animated like a woman in a videogame – full of weird, institutionalised sexism. And that is something I’m interested in.

And that is why changing your character’s appearance can be more meaningful than you might imagine. Subversive, even. And more on this tomorrow, because I’ve ranted long enough for now.

25 Comments

Filed under Hchom

25 responses to “The Crossing

  1. This is incredible. I am so, so, so incredibly delighted by this series. Can’t wait for more.

  2. Krazmo

    I would totally play your game. I think I would like to be a simulacra.

    I played both Mass Effects as a woman, though I’m male. I find that my favorite parts of them are when they aren’t trying to be a game so much as an interactive story. My favorite example of this is the Matriarch bartender on Illium in ME2. There’s no reason to talk to her that I have yet discovered, no effect on the game, but still she has a fascinating, funny story to tell and I love that.

    More of that , please.

    • Marian

      I was really intrigued by that bar matriarch character, too. And I agree that it’s one of the great strengths of the game, that they’ll voice record all that and dedicate the resources and so on. And like you say she could just as well not exist, for practical purposes. Definitely more of that.

  3. Mr. Man

    The races are all very interesting. Would have to give each one a play-through. Being soluble though, quite a burden.

    • Marian

      Well, it wouldn’t quite be a wicked-witch-of-the-west “I’m meeelting” sort of thing, but yeah. There would have to be some way to get around it. Amulet of Insolubility, water resistance +75?

      • Mr. Man

        I actually think it’s kind of better if it was like the wicked witch. You’d have to keep your head on a swivle. How tense would that be?

      • Rizz Rustbolt

        And then there’d be the opposite to deal with as well. Drying out would be just as bad.

        • Marian

          Yeah. I’d have to implement some kind of wet/dry guage. In fact, that’s all it would be about. Other races would be running around levelling up, and you’d just be in a continuous wet-but-not-too-wet, dry-but-not-too-dry Cooking Mama-style mini-game.

  4. Awesome start so far. Each race sounds worth playing, but in a way I’m most intrested to see what you do with the Simulacra since it’s the race I’d want to play the least (looking forward to the story parts). Since they’re such rudimentary creatures, I guess you could have some awesome variety in healing/body manipulation ablilities. Maybe some physical customisation as your character levels up, rather than tacking-on-some-armour type stuff?

    I’ve just started playing Mass Effect 2 lately. I liked the idea of having a female lead, but the voice acting and modelling was so clearly put to the side compared to standard Shepard that I didn’t bother. The hair rendering on all custom characters looks reaaallly awkward, too. Still a pretty looking game, mind.

    • Krazmo

      I got around that by giving my female lead a buzz cut. I think she looks great.

    • Marian

      I agree, I was thinking that with the Simulacra I would want their bodies to be much more customisable over time, both in terms of looks, and in terms of moulding their strengths and abilities. They would be more of a blank-slate race in this way. And I would intend them to be a little I’m more challenging to pick up, particularly if you wanted to go out and start hitting things right away. But who knows how well that would actually work.

      I have to disagree about the voice acting on female Shepard, though! Partly I’m used to her now, and the guy just sounds weird. But I think she did a surprisingly good job (at least in terms of my needs and wants).

      @Krazmo – I gave mine a buzzcut too.

      • Haha, it’s true that male Shepard’s voice is wooden, but I think Lady Shepard’s voice put me off because the VA is used for at least 30% of the women in the game. But shit, maybe I’ll have another go after my first playthrough.

  5. monique r.

    this is amazing and in my head, i’m pre-ordering RIGHT NOW.

    I can’t decide if I’d prefer a game like this on a handheld device or console? I guess console suits the graphics more but there’s something about the ability of a handheld game to invade your life.

    • Marian

      Ooh, well if it’s an online sort of game, I don’t see why it couldn’t be played on both. An full version that you play on your console or PC. and a more limited version that you can play on a portable device when you’re out and about. Interesting to think about.

      • wow. you just blew my mind with the online idea. Now, I’m just imaging this as this functional runescape, LOL. Don’t know if you’ve played it but that game is just insane because there are thousands of people on at all times which is chaos at all times– kind of like trying to use a computer at a public library, why bother?

  6. Klovharu

    For the record, I’d go with female Simulacra. I’ve never been much of a magic user.
    Human sounds like a shortcut, and if all humans are male…

    Fourth option: Xena, Warrior Princess.

    (And yes, this is pretty much the best thing ever.)

    • Marian

      We would have to do a playthrough where we made Xena and Gabrielle looking women. Except that we would fight over who got to be who (hot).

      Also, you are my lead writer. I want the dialogue to sparkle. TO SPARKLE.

  7. I would play this game in a heartbeat!
    I’d probably play as a Simulacra. I like the blank slate aspect of the race, seems like it would be the most potentially rewarding, especially if their appearance is customizable and morphs over the game span (like you mentioned in the comments).

    Really enjoying these posts!

  8. I WEEP that this game does not exist. As a female gamer who is just starting out and trying to find games that appeal to her, it’s really irritating to wade through the sexist chaff and play something that feels new and relevant and that doesn’t alienate me every five minutes. Also inspiring as I am concepting something to send to the local game-dev companies; it’s always awesome to see concepts by an artist I admire!

    • Marian

      Man, I seriously hear you. It sucks having to play a game with your hackles raised, because you know something is going to piss you off sooner or later.

      Good luck with your concept.

  9. I’m going with Simulacra though I would probably end up playing all three .

  10. Kirk

    I’ve never played Mass Effect, but I can totally understand your frustration with the male-dominated world of videogames. It seems to me that, with so many games allowing the players to customize their “avatars,” the idea of not being able to create a character that feels like you must be frustrating. What gets me, though, is the level of creativity you’ve put into your world, its mythology, and the creatures that thrive within. That’s the core of what makes fantasy so freakin’ awesome.

  11. Bloomie

    Hm, you really got me thinking. All the races are really interesting, even the humans in my opinion. You did them to be quite unique.
    (Although, I wouldn’t just spread my own writings on the internet because of thieves. Maybe I’m paranoid, but I’m afraid that someone would stole my virtual property. Some people do that. And yours is too good to be stolen.)

    You got me thinking about the Simulacra the most. They could learn the ability to shapeshift into a human or a gate people form, adding to their stealthy-ness. And the similarity could have levels too. Aww, I want to play your game so much! :D

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