World Building for Game Devs and Writers – Lesson 19 – Science and Technology

Live long and Prosper!

I’m Mark from Amazing Gaming Productions. I am the developer of Tales from Trinity City, a dark sci-fi TableTop RPG. 

Today we’re going to look at science and technology for world-building.

In speculative fiction, technology has impacts on your sci-fi world!

If your story takes place in the galaxy, how do your ships/people move faster than light? How do your cities survive underwater? What powers your technology? Are there AI intelligence and Robots?

Understanding how the technology in that world works can help you tell exciting stories!

Faster than Light travel is a popular trope in science fiction. Whether you have the Earth Alliance entering and exiting Hyperspace, like Babylon 5 – or you are going Warp 9.9 in Star Trek, if you are going to tell stories in the galaxy, you need to come up with some FTL system.

What about stories where FTL has lethal consequences? 

Event Horizon has a great story about how FTL failed. The premise, you can create a portal to Hell if you use high gravitational fields and create a hole in space-time.

Welcome to Hell

If you open a door, something can come out – a good premise that just wasn’t done right for that movie, but maybe you can do it better.

Originally the Mass Effect game series was aimed at an environmental theme. Faster than light speed travel was ageing suns prematurely. They would nova, destroying habitable worlds. While they changed their theme midway through the development of the 3rd game, this was out of the box thinking.

The laws of physics predict nothing should go faster than light, so if your sapients intend on breaking that limit, there have to be consequences to it. Portals to Hell or other disastrous results, novas and supernovas, maybe even instant death for those who intend on doing it – only robots can go faster than light.

Another popular trope in sci-fi is transporters.

Sci-fi writers have popularized transportation in many ways.

In the Dune Series, entire ships would travel without movement. Powerful psychics would move people and materials from one place to another instantly through the Spice.

Dune ‘s transportation is wild!

In Star Trek, they would convert people and materials into data and beam that data to another location and the data would reorganize and reform people or materials.

Does your world have such technologies? How did they perfect these practices?

Another awesome trope in sci-fi is cities in hostile environments to earth-based life. Some have cities under an ocean’s surface or in a vacuum, like Mars. 

1. What kinds of technologies go into building cities underwater? 

2. How do you keep pressure in or out?

3. How do you create breathable air? 

4. How do you manage waste? 

5. How do you keep the citizens safe? 

6. How are cities built in hostile environments far from their home system?

A shield powerful enough to survive immense underwater pressures!

In Total Recall (1990), the early pioneers of Mars built cities out of the mountains of Mars, with domes that helped keep atmospheric pressure for the people living there.

In Stargate Atlantis, the city used force fields to protect the city from the high pressures of the deep sea.

Forcefields are a popular trope in sci-fi.

Mass Effect ships used mass effect fields to prevent projectiles from harming a vessel or person. Star Trek ships use Deflector shields to protect the star vessels from energy and objects.

Shield’s up!

StarWars shields absorb energy, but projectiles and physical objects pass through easily.

Does your culture use forcefields? How do they use those fields?

How does your culture generate energy?

In StarTrek, Starfleet vessels use matter/anti-matter converters to create almost limitless energy for their starships. The Federation doesn’t use it for cities and homes because that is too dangerous – so they use fusion plants for settlements.

In Babylon 5, Earth Force ships use fusion reactors, but Mimbari uses a singularity to power their craft – converting even more energy.

Power plants going on for miles and miles!

In Trinity City, they use nuclear power, solar power, tidal power, lightning rods and batteries to power the city – ensuring everything keeps working.

In the TV show Travellers, one episode has a time traveller preventing a catastrophic event caused by a new energy system. The creators made one mistake in their equations and underestimated the energy it would create.

Another important aspect of speculative fiction is AI and Robots.

Whether it is the Matrix, Mass Effect, Horizon Zero Dawn, or Battlestar Galactica, the theme is that organic and synthetic life may be on a collision course – only one can survive.

But AI and robots in stories could be positive elements in stories. StarWars has droids – and most are just helpful devices, helping their organic masters.

Issac Asimov’s three rules for robotics could be the reason why robots protect humanity from something dangerous. Imagine a future war where robots fight an alien invasion.

Think about how robots could impact your story, both positively and negatively.

There are so many things technology can change in your story. What kinds of technologies will impact your world? FTL? Robots? Forcefields? Energy sources?

What’re the consequences of these technologies? Showing the impacts of technology is a crucial step in world-building. Don’t skimp on the cause and effects of using different technologies.

The more your think about how these technologies work, the more you can create believable stories.

Thanks for taking your time reading this blog.

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Have a great day, guys!

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