Dieselpunk + Steampunk Culture

Hello guys n gals,

Because this is my first post in here, I want to introduce myself. My name is Marvin, I am 27 years old and live in germany. I work as a Web-Developer for a living.

Me and my Team (which is called "Norntale") are currently developing a game, set in a dieselpunk-setting. Because I don´t just wanna create what my point of view, I want you guys to be involved at a very early stage. We are currently in the world-creation and storywriting.

So, I guess there are some of you who want a good dieselpunk-game to happen. So I want to give you the chance to take part in creating one. What do you want to see in a good dp-game? Story, World, Mechanics, System, Music, etc.

Please tell us what you think and wish for.

Here are some rough infos about the current state:

- Set in an alternative world
- Big war happened in the late 40s
- Huge corporations got in control of everything, governours are just marionettes
- World outside the cities is destroyed wasteland
- A new form of energy was explored in the late 40s (which allows things to not run on diesel or similar, because the resources for that got empty; May be a synthetic form of fuel)
- The rich live in wealth and the working class just works for them, many are poor
- There are working camps where the useless ones (disabled, mentally and physical ill) have to work
- People live vegan because most animals are extinct (but not birds, dogs, cats and rats)
- Corporations control people with their private police (mercenaries)
- The game will be played in first person, have rpg-mechanics with skills, levels and such
- The graphics will have a mature comic style with heavy light-shadow contrast and less saturation
- Story takes place in one of these cities in the country of germany
- Some more technical advancements which you would call cyberpunk than in other dp-releases

Feel free to add things and suggest the historical events in that world. Which should be the biggest countries? Are there still feudes? What else would you change or add?

Thanks in advance.


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Replies to This Discussion

It depends on the story.  What you've focusing on now are tropes.  To me, this is like getting hung up on curtain designs before the house is even built.

  • Who is the main character?
  • What do they want, and why do they want it?
  • Who stands in the way and why are they standing in the way?  This answer must evoke the same sympathy as the main character's struggle (e.g. you should want to play as the antagonist just as much as the protagonist).

If those questions are answered in a way that causes drama, and the conflict makes sense to the player, then you're already 10 steps ahead of other games.  From there you would ask, is first-person the right way to tell this story?  How do the mechanics of the game create drama and enhance immersion in the story without standing in the way of what the player wants to do?

Once that is done, then you add in just enough world-building details to tell your story.  Add too many, and you lose focus on what's important, and you make the writer's job harder.  Inconsistency takes the gamer out of the story, so keep it simple.

Thats the way I work.
I can´t think of a good story, if I didn´t have some visuals to get the feel. So I have to create an environment first.

Also I have some ideas in mind, which really fit in the dieselpunk-setting.

The reason for the First-Person View is, because personally I don´t like games in 3rd Person or other views. The game will have a heavy focus on exploring and so this is the best view to make the player feel like he´s really exploring the scene. Also, if the planned kickstarter campaign will have more than 100% funded, we´d like to include "Oculus Rift"-support (for the ones that don´t know the Oculus Rift: It´s a Virtual-Reality-Glasses device), so 1st-Person will be the best choice.

To refer to the questions you mentioned, here is the first short story-draft (just very rough):

The world had a huge conflict during a time, when capitalism started spreading around and countries fought for ownership of the bigger enterprises.

There is a young politican who is aiming to be governour of the city. Because he is such a charismatic guy and born of wealth, it is pretty clear that he will become the governour. Two huge corporations offer him money, so the future governour will do what they want. Of course he should only take the highest bid and go with one corporation. But he tries to fool them and takes the money of both. The corporations get behind that and now both of them send out people to kill him. While that happens, there is a man (main character and ex-computer-security guy) which was sent to a working camp because he suffers from depression. Now he has to work hard under very bad circumstances (not with computers but with heavy physical strain). He longs for revenge at the people and the system that got him there. Someone from the rebels helps him to escape from there and tells him that he has to reactivate his hacking-abilities, because it would help his revenge to control the young politician (they also don´t know that he is now being chased by the corporations) and it would also help the rebels goals (help the citizens). He can escape and without knowing what´s going on, he is able to hack and control the politician. Just after he recognizes that he is in the middle of a deadly plot, he also recognizes that he can´t get out of this body anymore. Now he also has to escape his followers. After some time, guys from the corporation recognize that he hacked the politician and also send other hackers after him. Now the main character can´t trust anyone anymore, because everyone could get hacked.


To reiterate:

  1. A greedy politician is on the run, because he tried to swindle two extremely large corporations.
  2. The corporations now want to kill him, because... they're evil?  This is bad motivation.  If they're puppet masters, then why isn't the politician completely controlled by them?  If they can kill such a high-profile target without repercussion,  then why haven't they completely taken over the government yet?  Who is their backup?
  3. You were sent to a work camp because you don't feel highs or lows (depression)?  It doesn't make sense, because it sounds like that's exactly the type of person the government would want in the world.
  4. After working in the camps for a bit, you were rescued by rebels who want you to ghost hack into someone who isn't even in power yet?  Why not ghost hack the current governor or the person in charge of the work camps?  If ghost hacking is possible by one lowly programmer who was too powerless to prevent himself from being placed into a work camp, then why don't the mega-corporations with all of the resources use ghost hacking more often?  
  5. By virtue of ghost hacking the politician, you're now trapped in his body.  Has this happened before?  Does the charismatic politician still have any control, or is he now in complete control by the depressed computer hacker?  Sounds like the rebels have a terrible plan.  Just because they have the politician's body doesn't mean that their depressed hacker will have the charisma, contacts, and sway to continue being a successful politician.

All in all, it sounds more like a plot from Ghost in the Shell than a dieselpunk game.  Rather than get hung up on the tropes of dieselpunk, I recommend using dieselpunk as the fashionable "style" of the time, like in Blade Runner or The Troubleshooter, but keep the technology and time period as cyberpunk as possible.  For example, in Deus Ex, the fashionable style is Baroque.  You can see Baroque styles in the furniture and clothing of the characters, but the world they live in is still very cyberpunk.  These types of visuals will help define your artist's style bible and will help them develop the game's props much faster than if they were starting from scratch.

Here's how I would clean it up:

  • Get rid of the work camps.  They make no sense and the rebels already have enough motivation without them.
  • Get rid of the government facade.  The person (or people) in charge of the city should be there because they did something the people needed and wanted.  This could be the head of the corporation who was able to feed them or bring them electricity.  Without this product, the people would die, and that's why this person is in power.  However, this does not preclude other companies who want more power over the city.
  • The person in power is going to be publicly shamed by a rival company.  How?  By taking control of them via ghost hacking.  Even though ghost hacking would spark an inter-company war if the attacker was caught, a competitor is desperate enough to try it.  However, they discover that the person in power has already been hacked by you.
  • They try to negotiate with you to do their dirty work, but when that fails, they blow the whistle on you.  The anti-ghost-hacking firewalls are thrown up by the security teams, and now you're trapped.
  • Company A is tracing the hack back to the rebels.  This puts the rebels on the run.  Most of them will try to cover their tracks rather than risk being killed.  This means, you'll have no support structure except for your best friends.  Company A also wants their leader back, so they're aggressively searching for you throughout the city.
  • Company B is also trying to kill you.  You know they were also trying to ghost hack the leader.  If that information made it to Company A, an all out war between the companies would occur.  They have hackers who can turn your friends and contacts against you via ghost hacking.
  • Resolution - If you can cause enough sabotage within Company A, and trigger the war with Company B, then your job is complete.  However, like most anarchy, what was the after-plan?  If Company A & B provided something that kept people alive, what were the rebels willing to replace it with?  Why is that a better solution?

The way I see it is that the game is going to follow the cyberpunk themes(hacking and dystopian setting) but have a noir/dieselpunk style (clothes and buildings and vehicles). So it won't be a dieselpunk story at heart, but still very close.

For the points:

1) Getting rid of the work camps is not needed since they seem to work like a prison system, only for people that didn't do anything wrong other than have something that is viewed as "lesser". It works well for a dystopian world that wants to move forward and get rid of "less than perfection". I say keep them.

2)The government facade works well because it is a world that runs on lies and deception. Covering the eyes of the public, which is what was big during the propaganda times of the diesel era; mainly in Germany and Russia. The corporations seem to have created monopolies in their fields of goods, so there is no need to have one act as a government as well. And with the corporations so big and wealthy, they should have more say than a government since they practically control things anyway. So the government facade is so the public can have a speaker, while the companies are the ones whispering in their ear, and having things made in their favor; robbing the people of their rights in the workforce with nobody able to object.

3) The politician can be hacked during the time of reelections, so it would be useless to hack into someone who is getting kicked out of office if he hacked the current governor, right? So yeah, the new governor can be the one who gets hacked, then after getting the money from two(or more) companies, maybe to reserve resources to them of something that is low like the new fuel source or work space, then that's where he is about to be on the run and is hacked into.

4) For the resolution, I think that's the beauty of a revolution, the uncertainty of a better tomorrow. If the rebels make things worse for progress and better for living, then that's a good ending. If they make it where the world ends, that's a perfect Noir ending. So either way, an ending where the rebels... erm... rebel is going to end with something to think about and admire.


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