Welcome to our first Development update series, where we will be looking at the conceptualisation and development of EDICT (a behind the scenes ‘making of’, if you will). As huge board gamers ourselves we had always imagined what it would be like to develop our own game, however it wasn’t until we were forced into quarantine isolation that we began to ask the question, ‘could we, should we?’. Thus we embarked on our odyssey to make a game we wanted to play, about a subject we enjoyed, at a time when great historical events are about to unfold and in the process have a go at predicting an exciting future.
Once the initial decision had been made and funding secured, Edward, the principal game developer and Allistair, the principal writer, each separately outlined the theme and type of game they wanted to create, to see if there was any common ground. Amazingly, they both opted for the same genre, outline gameplay and theme, no doubt influenced by the board games they had been playing for the last 10 years. As both have a scientific background and are sci-fi fans it isn’t hard to imagine the sort of board games they enjoy, but they wanted to encompass more than just science fiction, both having a love of history, current events and human geography. So all these were added into the mix that would eventually evolve into Edict.
Several months and many iterations of boards, cards and mechanics passed before the outlines of a solid game concept were assembled as the basis for developing the game. Early play testing and design sessions led to the game evolving into something bigger, potentially epic in nature. Very early on combat was ruled out of the core mechanism – after all, who would spend a fortune to journey into space only to have a fight with fellow humans! Space is challenging enough without having to fight over vacuum, so Allistair and Edward decided to put the emphasis on the complications of space, pulling in politics and solar events as direct and indirect influences into gameplay. These would become the two major card decks that can help or hinder the game.
It also became necessary to cast players in roles for the game. While real life space agencies like NASA, ESA and Roscosmos would bring identities, they also are trapped in real world economics where funding, and therefore outcome, is at the behest of politicians. Modelling future Earth politics would prove way more difficult (and unlikely to please anyone) than scientific and engineering capabilities. Therefore, the guys decided to opt for the private sector where the future impact of space commercialization is likely to accelerate change faster than any government funded program is likely to. Trading off the back of state funded advances over the previous 60 years, the time is ripe for private organisations to take. But would space become the new Wild West?
Resourcing the Dream
It became clear early on that in-game rules had to have some basis in real world future requirements. Although there has been a lot of talk about asteroid mining and even a couple of Wall Street start-ups with out-of-this-world dreams, the fact is humanity is at least 50 years off being able to rendezvous with an asteroid and start extracting valuable commodities, turning it into a space craft or even returning it to Earth orbit. And the economics of any of these options need to be clearly worked out before anyone is likely to invest serious money into space exploitation. So, Edward and Allistair modelled their game on resources useful for the expansion of space exploration, the ones to sustain life beyond Earth and build the tools and structures necessary for long term exploration and exploitation. These components work in an in-game economy, based upon a cryptocurrency designed to offer uniform pricing throughout the solar system and backed by the collective banking institutions on Earth via the United World Bank, successor to the IMF and charged with creating and managing a cryptocurrency called Solar Credits (SC) designed and delivered as a currency to benefit all, rather than the privileged few. (Current cryptocurrencies are after all, nothing more than investment opportunities for those who bought in early and are not for the betterment of society. Anyone in doubt should perhaps look at medieval European growth rates when all transactions were based on gold or silver – there was never enough to go around, and this killed the speed of transactions. Bitcoin et al would necessarily do the same). Solar Credits were selected as the currency of choice.
Framing the Rules
Resources like gold and platinum and money. A recipe that made the Wild West wild until the law stepped in. The question of how to exert influence without a space police force needed to be answered if the game were to work for players competing fairly, and not resorting to a god-player. The answer lay in the control of the monetization of resources. Players discover and extract resources wherever they are found in the solar system, using them to grow their business. But financing business growth comes from exporting resources back to Earth and selling them. By establishing the Edict Earth retains control over what is in demand and the prices paid for shipments, all reflected in world events. These are described in the Edict cards and for the game to advance players must collectively answer the Edict, ‘delivering up to Caesar that which is Caesar’s’ thereby reinforcing Earth’s dominance over space exploration. Simply put the Edict controls commodity prices and low-cost transportation in the solar system.
Science Fiction to Science Fact
When it came to predicting future technologies of this century it was important to the designers to include what may be achieved while also acknowledging that every future technological breakthrough will influence the speed at which change happens. Future technologies will speed up the discovery of subsequent technologies in the same way that progress has sped up ever since the advent of powered flight. So, while the game does not seek to order technological discoveries to any great extent, they are all there for players to achieve. And any missing can be for future inclusion.
This is some of the fun and engaging issues Edward and Allistair have tackled in creating Edict: Solar Contention. More to follow if anyone wants to hear the story continue.