Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Starfighter Samwise

I normally spend my lunch breaks writing down D&D ideas on the backs of receipts and then losing them in my car, but today I spent my time thinking about an idea for a video game.

I'm a fan of bullet hell games.  (If you haven't played them, they're similar to shoot-em-ups like Gradius, except cramped and tactical, in the sense that you learn to anticipate bullet patterns rather than respond to random enemy behavior).  It's a pretty well-developed genre, and once you dig into it, there's a hell of a lot of variety, both in interesting boss mechanics and in tactics.

But bullet hell games never have a good story </opinion>.  Like, some games have such good stories that I have fun just talking about the story (Shadow of the Colossus, Portal, Half-Life 2) completely independent of the gameplay.

This is perhaps tough to do for a bullet hell game, because you're basically just a floating dot that spews out a wall of bullets at other floating dots that are also spewing out walls of bullets in an otherwise featureless landscape.  

It's not a genre that lends itself to usual story touchstones (doors, people, a sense of place).

Anyway, here's my script for a bullet hell / shoot-em-up game that will probably never get made.

You are a starfighter.  Basically a fighter jet, but in space.  Your name is Samwise, because your creators were giant nerds.

I say creators because you ARE the spaceship.  You're not a pilot.  You're not an AI.


You: Samwise (a servitor starfighter)
2nd Player only in Co-Op Mode: Frodo (another servitor starfighter)
Squadmates: Grishnakh, Thorin, Bombur (other servitor starfighters)
Commander: Gandalf (a servitor carrier-destroyer)

[Level 0] 

Opening credits.  Spinning views of stars.  Somewhere a woman is talking to you about her day.  Little things, like having to do laundry, and how her cat isn't sick any more.  An offhand mention of the war: "I know you aren't supposed to have fun during a war, but today was a pretty good day."  You are dreaming.
Ends with "So how was your day?  Fly anywhere cool?"


[Level 1] 

Fade in.  Someone is yelling at you.  It is Bombur.  "Rookie!  Wake the fuck UP!"  You were knocked out while killing aliens, but now they need you to wake up and kill some more aliens.  Bombur is sealing a crack in your hull that caused you to lose pressure.

This level is just about fighting space squids and learning the controls.  Old fashioned.

[Level 2] 

This level is about dropping some backstory on the player.

You meet up with Thorin and Grishnakh.  They've disabled a huge alien the size of a sky-scraper by shooting off its face, but they don't have enough ammunition to kill it, and they've already used up their micro-nukes.  So they decide to land on it and give it a push, so that it will fall into the atmosphere and be incinerated.

While they're doing that the alien squid starts giving birth.  It's super gross.  Everyone is cussing.  The giant space squid is bellowing on all the radio and light frequencies.

Then you go around the wreckage of this space station (it was an international metropolis called Cincinnati Station, the largest orbital colony) looking for survivors.  You don't find any, despite that being listed as a mission objective.  Maybe you find a cat. (Gamers like cats for some reason.)

Cincinnati Station is shot to shit.  It's full of hard vacuum and corpses.

[Level 3] 

Short level, but a hard one.  (The first two were softballs.)  This level teaches difficulty, and forces players to develop actual skills.

You also go searching for a communications relay to ask for more orders.  You do that, but no one responds anywhere.  

Finally, a voice booms out in the darkness.  It's your captain, Gandalf.  He berates you for wandering off (your teammates immediately blame the rookie: you) and warns you that he's coming in hot.

Gandalf finally shows up.  He's about 100x the size of your ship, and he is covered in space squids sucking out his power.  This is the boss fight: you need to shoot off all the squids without blowing up Gandalf.  Maybe something else.

After all the shit is dead, Gandalf tells his remaining four ships that he rescued all the survivors, who are safe in his belly.  When Grishnakh questions how that's possible, when it looks like the station has been rubble for at least a day, Gandalf refuses to provide details.


[Level 4] 

This level is a flashback.  You meet the voice from the credits: it is Dr. Rodriguez.  She is one of the scientists in charge of your socialization.  She hangs out with you.  Many of the scientists hang out with you, but she has to hang out with you as part of her job.

This is the part of the game where the players learn that you're a servitor (not a pilot, not an AI) and all that that it entails.  It's the info dump.  Maybe a long cutscene but hopefully it can just be voice-over during the actual gameplay.

Here's the backstory.  Dr. Rodriquez won't tell all of this, but she will tell enough.

You're a flesh brain embedded inside a machine matrix.  The term for this is servitor.  Although you share 99.9% of your DNA with humans, that missing 0.01% means that you are not human.  Not legally, not conceptually.

You are not a fighter pilot.  You cannot exit your ship.  You are a servitor.

Servitors are property, but they are property with rights.  You can't torture a sentient servitor (and they are all sentient) nor can you seal them away in a warehouse for years without intellectual stimulation.  They exist at the intersection of human rights and animal cruelty laws.

Servitors are born from artificial wombs (although they were born from human surrogates in the early days--cloning is a hell of a lot easier than building a plastic uterus).

AIs exist as well, but people shy away from making highly intelligent, autonomous AIs.  (Ever since the incident.)  So that's the niche that servitors fill: tasks that require intelligence, creativity, and autonomy, but that would probably be better served by a computer.  Most of them spend their entire lives (about 60 to 80 years, same as a wild-type human) in the same machine, or in different models of the same machine.  

They can also be transferred from one job to another (such as a telemarketing servitor that got sold off and became a truck-driving servitor) but this is rare.  

Once they were legalized, servitors put an awful lot of people out of work.

Sometimes a servitor is dies inside its machine, either through accident or because they were pushed beyond their expiration date to cut costs.  The servitor is pulled out, blended into dogfood, and a new servitor is plugged into the machine.
Anyway, you're a spaceship.

You're owned by a company called Isengard.  It's a spunky little tech startup.  (Most military and aerospace is run by private interests rather than national ones.)  Isengard is run by idealistic nerds with a Tolkien fetish.  They had a very, very big contract with a bunch of Air Force guys.

The Air Force had a lot of money because they were fighting an alien invasion.  Horrible, disgusting aliens that look like crosses between cephalopods and trees.

The contract was this: Isengard would produce a dozen servitor starfighters.  They'd also make a carrier-gunship that would fulfill the same function as an aircraft carrier—it’d be a place to put the extra fuel, food, personnel, communications, and a few enormous railguns.

All 13 of these ships would have a servitor wired up inside them.  Isengard would grow and train the 12 fighter servitors, while the Air Force would supply the servitor for the carrier-gunship.  A veteran pilot-servitor to watch over high Earth orbit's 12 weapon-children.

When the game starts, the war is basically over.
Planetary bombardment has reduced all the cities to rubble.  North America is silent.  Europe is dark.  Australia is so radioactive that nothing will grow there for generations.  The ozone layer is caught in a runaway cascade of erosion (victims of a redirected gamma ray burst), and in less than a century the Earth's oceans will probably boil off into space as the temperature continues rising.

If there are any human survivors down there, they're being very quiet.

The only humans that are believed to be alive are the one that are still living in the heavily protected planetary defense stations.

So that's where the game starts.  With the Earth silently burning beneath you like a coal seam, and nothing but static on every radio channel.  The alien mothership has also been destroyed, and you can watch it falling into the Indian Ocean like a shooting star.

Dr. Rodriguez is gentle when she relates this to you. You're still a child, and she doesn't want to upset you.  But none of this bothers you.  You don't know anyone on Earth.  It's just the pretty blue thing with the gravity.  All your friends are up here, in space.

Dr. Truskin plugs you in the flight simulator.  This is your final test.  It's meant to be challenging, he warns you.

In this level, you fight cartoon aliens and memes.  The boss is probably a giant nyan cat.  (This is because Isengard Inc. is full of giant nerds, if the LotR names didn't already tip you off.)

It ends with you hanging out with Dr. Rodriguez and Dr. Moore.  You're all watching season 6 of friends together.  Rodriguez and Moore have to explain most of the jokes, but you still enjoy it.  You suspect that the two of them are dating.

[Level 5] 

You are sent out for live flight training with your classmates (which includes Grishnakh).  There will be a live engine test, following by team awareness training with the older servitor starfighters (which includes Thorin and Bombur).

The point of this level is to show how Isengard Station looked before it blew up.  Everything is clean and white.  You can see humans moving through the portholes, lots of them.  There are lots of people on the radio, lots of chatter.  People play music on the radio (Flight of the Valkyries).  People are scolded for playing music on the radio.  You fly through some drills.

Your squad is passing notes.  Whispers that your handlers back at Isengard station can't hear.

"Let's ditch," whispers Gollum.

"There's a salvage we can go check out," says Treebeard.  "It's not too far away."

"Hell, we could even buzz the atmosphere, if we want," says Gimli, who is the best and the bravest pilot.

All the other starships mutter at this last suggestion.  They are only built for space, and if they atmosphere catches them, they could fall into the sky and die.

This level is also to show you what it was like to be a part of a friendly squadron.  All of your classmates are like kids, always daring each other to do dangerous things.

There's no enemies on this level.  There are things that you can shoot that will blow up and scatter debris.  There are small squeezes that you can go through if you dare.  But if you do not do these dangerous dares, if you fly around them, you can still finish the level amid the jeers of your classmates.

Finally you find a slow-moving transport.  Gimli does a few passes, flying a few feet away from the windows.  The ship begs with you, "Please do not harm us!  We are refugees!  There are children aboard!" 

The starfighters have the decency to feel ashamed.  Before they can apologize, they all start turning around and flying right back to base.

Dr. Truskin is yelling at you for turning your radio off.  He has used his manual override to disconnect you from your starfighter.  You can't control yourself.  Many members of the squadron are horrified.  They didn't know that Dr. Truskin had this power over them.

[Level 6] 

Emergency!  Klaxons!  An astronaut has gotten separated and there are aliens out there.  Fight a boss and rescue the astronaut, who turns out to be Dr. Moore.

This is also the first time that Samwise meets Gandalf, who shows up either halfway through the boss fight to help in some way, or at the end of the level.  He is stern but approving.  Paternal.

The stage ends when you return to base amid applause with the rescued astronaut.  Dr. Rodriguez and Dr. Moore are in tears when they hug each other amid kisses.  Grishnakh chimes in on the radio.  "Don't be jealous," he says.

Gandalf tells you that we're going to have to cut your training short.  He tells you, privately, that the war is going very badly.  We're losing, he says.  We need you to start fighting immediately.

You ask when.

Tomorrow.  Now get some sleep.
eXceed 3rd

[Level 7] 

Gandalf is taking control of the situation.  He still claims to have survivors in his belly, and so we need to go to Moon Base Bravo, which is a secret cache of food, air, and supplies.  Enough to feed 30 people for weeks.

After refueling and re-arming yourself in Gandalf's guts, you are ordered to accompany him to Moon Base Bravo.  It's a long flight.

On the way there, you fight aliens.  You also talk with three survivors who are trapped on a satellite on the other side of the Earth.  The satellite is called Phaedra Station and it is falling out of orbit.  In less than two hours it will disintegrate and burn up.  

The three people aboard are all women.  You try to cheer them up, and they try to cheer you up.  They ask you to pass a message on to their loved ones.  Thorin informs them that everyone is dead.  They tell you that they know, they don't care, just take the message.  

Each of them gives you a different message to carry to dead people.  They talk while you are fighting aliens.  Then there are the sounds of three women getting very scared together and the radio goes silent.

You fight this boss in silence.  No music.

The alien boss tries to talk to you.  It screams out UDP packets in ultraviolet strobes of its skin.  It's just gibberish.  English words without context or meaning, or so you think.  You kill it.

[Level 8] 

You arrive at Moon Base Alpha.  Moon Base Bravo is actually located deep inside the moon, where the aliens will never find it.  Bravo is a secret base, and Alpha is the door.  

In this level, you fight AI-controlled drones.  They are a new enemy type, and the tactics that worked against the squids will fail against the drones.  During the level you talk with the station's AI, which is also this level's boss.

During the fight, Gandalf shouts illogical things at it.  He accuses it of aiding the enemy, of trying to hide survivors.  He accuses it of being jealous of them.  He accuses it of disrespecting his war record.

No one feels good about killing it.  It is only doing its job.

[Level 9] 

You are flying through a tunnel to the secret cache of supplies at the moon's heart.  Bombur tells you that you will probably find survivors there.  He wonders how he will break the bad news.

You kill more drones. (The drones should fire homing missiles, because you need a lot of room to out-maneuver homing missiles, and tunnels are nightmares for that.)

Finally, you arrive at Moon Base Bravo.  Miraculously, all of the supplies are intact, but there is no one there.  It is empty.

Gandalf opens his airlocks and says that he's taking on the survivors.  Everyone is incredulous, since there is clearly no one entering him.  He's not even docked.

Finally Gandalf announces that he has evacuated all of the survivors into his crew quarters.  He's going to take them all to the Mars colonies.

Bombur is stunned.  Thorin dissembles, trying to rationalize Gandalf's statements.  Grishnakh tells Gandalf that all the Mars colonies were destroyed months ago.  They were the first to fall. 

Gandalf opens fire on Moon Base Bravo.  He shouts that he needs to destroy Moon Base Bravo.  It contains a large store of unobtainium, which the aliens use as a power source.  There's enough unobtainium here for the space squids to grow a new mothership.  (Note: this is true.)  The station must be destroyed so that the aliens cannot get their hands on it.

Grishnakh tries to stop his insane commander.  Gandalf kills Grishnakh.

While muttering about treason, your captain turns his railguns towards his three surviving soldiers.

Gandalf is the boss in this level.

[Level 10] 

Afterwards the three surviving ships sit in the neon gloom of the moon's interior.  They have no idea what to do next.  There is fuel for them here.  They can see the tanks, but Gandalf blew up the ports.  A human could probably go inside the moon base, get some tools, and refuel them manually.

But there is no human with them.  They have no hands, no manipulators.  All they can do is stare at the fuel tanks and despair.

They decide to head back to Isengard Station, the place that they consider home.  This will require leaving out the other side of the moon, which means more tunnels and more drones.  The boss is a spider, because I want a spider bot inside the moon.

They exit the moon, check their scanners, and discover some bad news.

Isengard station has changed course.  It is not where they thought it would be.  It is now much farther away.  They do not have enough fuel to reach it.

They start having a discussion of what to do.  Thorin says that they should draw straws to see who will sacrifice their fuel for the other.  Don't bother, says Bombur.  You can have my fuel.  I'm the oldest ship, the slowest ship, and the most damaged ship.  You can have mine.

And so Bombur transfers his fuel and weapons to Thorin and you.

Bombur retains a little bit of fuel.  He has enough to make it to the Taipei Excavation, a lunar mine and refinery, not too distant.  Taipei Excavation's radio is unresponsive (last time they checked) but Bombur has some hope that some AI drones might still be around, and perhaps they'll be friendlier than Moon Base Alpha.

Everyone wishes each other good luck, and then they fly off.  You and Thorin in one direction.  Bombur in another.  

You arrive at Isengard without incident.  There don't seem to be very many aliens left, either.  Space is starting to feel empty again.

[Level 11] 

At Isengard, you find Dr. Rodriguez and rescue her.  She is the only survivor.  She is happy that you have the cat from Cincinnati station, because her own cat is dead.  She talks to you a lot during this level, nearly constant voice over.

There is no fuel for you at Isengard.

You fly her back to Moon Base Bravo, where there is food and shelter for her.  She rides crammed inside one of your bomb bays, curled into a ball around a spare oxygen tank.  I feel like a fetus, she says.

You fight more aliens on the way back.  The challenge here isn't the aliens, it's the fuel.  You have a fixed amount of fuel, and so you need to defeat the aliens while only making tiny movements.  The smallest dodges possible.

You get back to Moon Base Bravo.  Dr. Rodriguez opens the docking bay.  She fixes Thorin's eyes.  She refuels you both.  It is a huge sigh of relief.

[Level 12] 

Dr. Rodriguez wants you to go to the Ozone Deflector Station.  This is a thing that was built to protect the ozone layer from exotic munitions damages.  It has stopped working, which is why the ozone layer is falling apart.  If it is not fixed, the Earth's oceans will boil off within a hundred years.

Dr. Moore went to repair it.  He is carrying a new reactor to the ODS in a shuttle.  Dr. Rodriguez wants you to find Dr. Moore and help him install the reactor so that the Earth doesn't become completely uninhabitable for future generations.

It won't be habitable again for centuries, says Thorin.  We don't have enough food for you, much less your great-grandchildren.

We have to try, says Dr. Rodriguez,  What other option is there?

It's pointless, says Thorin.

We'll install the new reactor, you say.

I just hope Daniel is alright, says Dr. Rodriguez.

He's probably fine, you say.  He's very smart.

You and Thorin head over there.  You locate Dr. Moore hiding in some debris.  He tells you that the Ozone Deflector Station has gone into fuck off mode and is attacking everything that approaches.  He needs you to go kill more Air Force drones.

While you fight it, the Ozone Deflector Station tells you about the ecosystems on earth, and what has happened to them since the war started.  It has been recording extinctions.  Now it will record its own.  It is calm when you kill it.

During the fight with the ODS drones, a new ship flies up and helps you.  It is clearly an alien, but the ship is shaped like one of your own.  It's a squid shaped like a starfighter.

After the fight, Thorin wants to kill it.  You argue that it helped you, and that maybe it's a friendly, something created by the Air Force to infiltrate the aliens.  Or perhaps it's a deserter.

The squid-ship follows you around but doesn't say anything.  You name it Buddy.

The new reactor is installed in the ODS and Dr. Moore thanks you.  Now the Earth will heal, instead of die.

A large amount of aliens approach.  They take up defensive positions around the ODS and chase you off.  The big one actually talks properly this time.  It says 'begone' again and again.

After watching the aliens surround the ODS without attacking it, Thorin reasons "They must not want the Earth destroyed any more than we do."

[Level 13] 

On the way back you meet another squadron of servitor-starfighters.  They're a mercenary company, known as the Roman Candles, but are otherwise just like the Isengard squadron.

At first, there is cheer and relief.  Everyone is a little less alone in the universe.  People crack jokes.

They are on their way to make a suicide attack on the aliens guarding the Ozone Deflector Station.  They want to blow it up.  Fuck the Earth.  If we can't have it, no one can.  They mock your plan to restart the human race with Dr. Moore and Dr. Rodriguez.

They want you to come help them attack the Ozone Deflector Station.

The three of you refuse.

They demand your weapons and fuel.

Again, the three of you refuse.

They call you traitors.  You call them idiots.  Thorin attacks first.

In the firefight, Dr. Moore's shuttle is hit.  It explodes, and Dr. Moore is killed.  It is a small, pointless death.

Buddy helps you in this fight, too.  Thorin still wants to shoot him.

[Level 14] 

You get back to Moon Base Bravo, and the power is out.  You report your success to Dr. Rodriguez as soon as you are in range. 

She asks if Dr. Moore made it.  You remain silent.

In this level, you need to go fly to some power generator and kill the space squids that are latched on to it, sucking out all the power.  If you want to dick around with lighting effects (transiently invisible bullets?  fuck), this is the level to do it.

While you go turn the power back on, Thorin will stay behind and guard the station with Buddy.

This is the darkest level, in terms of lighting and mood.

Dr. Rodriguez doesn't respond to your calls.  Thorin says that she's probably crying her eyes out in the bathroom.  You remind Thorin that neither of you have the capacity to cry.

Thorin tells you that the Roman Candles were idiots, and that you probably should have helped them blow up the Ozone Deflector Station.  He says that all of this is pointless

Dr. Rodriguez turns on her radio.  She has been listening.  She built your radios; of course she has access to the decoders.

This is not pointless, she says, and when Samwise gets back she can prove it.  She has an idea.  Also, she has brought Buddy into the docking bay.  She's going to try to talk to him.

Inside the hollow moon, you kill another alien.  Neon tentacles and nameless, snapping orifices.  It chases you, and you fly backwards, back the way you came.  The alien talks to you.  "Drink," it says.  "Energy."  Finally, as you shoot it to death, it says, "Life" and then "Please".

After you kill it, you hear shouts and screams on the radio.  Buddy has just attacked Dr. Rodriguez.

But Thorin was watching it, keeping it in his crosshairs.  He shot it to death before the thing could hurt Dr. Rodriguez too badly.

Dr. Rodriguez is gasping into the radio.  She is heading to the infirmary.  If she acts quickly, she can still save her own arm.

You arrive back at Moon Base Bravo just as the whole moon begins to shudder.  Something huge is outside.  It is tearing apart Alpha in order to get access to the tunnel that leads to Moon Base Bravo.

Thorin points his guns at Buddy's steaming corpse.  He led them here, Thorin says.

[Level 15] 

Thorin is pissed.  He is going to go fight the big thing outside.  He doesn't care if he wins, loses, or dies.  He tells you to come with him.

Dr. Rodriguez yells at you both to stay here, but you both ignore her.

You start to fly away, but your controls are suddenly overridden.  You are a passenger in your own starfighter.

Dr. Rodriguez remotely pilots you back to the docking bay and parks you beside Buddy's corpse.

Hold your horses, she says.  I need you for something.

Dr. Rodriguez turns off your weapons; she turns off your eyes.  

She pauses your life support systems.

She takes you out of your casing.  

You are small and shriveled and wizened, like a long-limbed, geriatric baby.  She tenderly carries you to the medical ward, she reminds you that you are 99.9% human.  She tells you that after this, you'll be free to go get yourself killed however you want.

She anesthetizes you, and unconsciousness claims you.

This level is a nightmare level.

You are fighting things similar to your training mission, but everything is twisted.  Maybe the nyan cat boss is cathulhu now.  Dr. Rodriguez and Dr. Moore are talking to you, and their voices are like the voices of the aliens.  They are saying horrible things, mocking you.

The level is interspersed with visions of surgery and artificial insemination.  Some of the audio is actually Thorin, yelling at you to come help him.  He is dying.

"Where are you?" Thorin pleads.  "I need you, Samwise!"

And then Thorin screams and the transmissions cease.

[Level 16] 

When you wake up, you are back inside your starfighter.  Dr. Rodriquez has refueled it and refitted it.

There are a crapton of alien fighters heading for Moonbase Bravo along three different paths.  You need to fight a battle on three different fronts.  You switch between paths by flying off the left or right sides of the screen.  A little HUD shows you how dire each of the three battlefields are.

This might be a filler level.  I just want some emotional space after the last level, something to clear the head.

Finally Dr. Rodriguez tells you to come back to the base.  The dead alien is talking.

[Level 17] 

The corpse of Buddy is croaking out a single word, again and again.  "Parlay.  Parlay."

Outside, the earthquakes seem to have stopped.
Buddy speaks on behalf of the remaining aliens.  

Buddy says that the aliens are almost dead as well.  They have only one seedship remaining.  It is mostly full of civilians, millions of them in cryosleep.  They do not want to fight anymore.  The mothership is dead, and the seedship outside is now free to do as it sees fit.

But they are dying.  They need the unobtanium inside Moon Base Bravo.

Dr. Rodriguez tells Buddy that she needs them all to fuck off.

Buddy tells her that they came in peace, as refugees.  They were refused, and when they attempted to settle the moon, they were attacked.

Dr. Rodriguez calls bullshit.  Then she thinks for a minute and says that the truth doesn't matter anymore.

Buddy tells her that the two of you will be allowed to live, and taken care of.

Dr. Rodriguez spits on Buddy.

Buddy tells her that the parlay is at an end.  He is going to come inside the moon now, and kill them both.

Dr. Rodriguez tells the aliens that she has rigged the reactor to self-destruct.  If the aliens don't leave immediately, she will press it and destroy the entire moon.

You are bluffing, the corpse froths.

Try me, says Dr. Rodriguez.

If you do not give us the unobtanium, we will perish.  Buddy tries to sound sad.  If you do not give us the unobtanium, we will be forced to come inside the moon, and if you are telling the truth, then we will all die.

Sorry, says Dr. Rodriguez.

I am also sorry, says the corpse, and then it falls silent.

The earthquakes resume.

Go kill that thing, says Dr. Rodriguez.  And take this.

She loads a fusion reactor into your bomb bay.  It is not meant to be a bomb, and it must be detonated internally.  It is a suicide bomb, and it will kill you when you trigger it.

You fly back out into the Kessler-scarred sky.  On the way there you fly past Thorin's corpse.

The final boss has many phases, and each phase is harder than the last phase.

You can detonate the bomb at any time, and the bomb will deal 50% damage to the boss.  The goal, then, is to get the boss below 50% and then detonate the bomb.

Once you kill the boss, the credits roll atop of still images.  
  • Dr. Rodriguez is nursing a baby inside Moon Base Bravo.  
  • She is growing corn in the bathroom.  
  • She has made her daughter a bicycle out of scraps.  
  • She is hanging childish drawings of Earth, starfighters, and a cat.
  • A small girl rides a bicycle through empty hallways. 
  • A woman and her daughter eating lunch in the middle of an empty cafeteria.

Of course, everyone will realize that it is probably possible to kill the boss without using the bomb, and without dying.  

They are correct, but it is very difficult.  Every boss phase is more difficult than the last, and the last two phases are nightmarish.

If you kill the boss without detonating the bomb, the boss thrashes around in its death spasms and damages your ship beyond repair.  Your engines are gone--torn off.

The credits roll as you drift away from the shattered moon.  All you can do is watch the wreckage recede and watch the bars deplete on your lift support.

Air leak detected, the HUD flashes.

Sensors not detected, the audio chimes.

The credits finish, the screen fades to black.

“Rookie!  Wake the fuck up!”  (Callback to the first spoken words of the game.)
It’s Bombur, who actually was rescued by repair drones after you abandoned him back in mission 10.  I bet you forgot all about that guy!
There are a few more scenes.
  • Samwise scavenging old wrecks.  
  • Dr. Rodriguez and her daughter riding bicycles in the hallways while Samwise looks in through the window (a big red machine eye, but a trusted one).
  • Dr. Rodriguez looking at a picture of Dr. Moore.
  • Samwise in the docking bay, reading to his daughter.  (Buddy's blood has been scrubbed away.)
  • Dr. Rodriguez assembling a new ship in the docking bay, with an empty cavity ready to recieve a new servitor.



  1. Can... can you make this? I'd know the ending and I'm bad at shooters, but can I play this? Please?

  2. Holy shit.......
    Arnold I've read every post you've ever made but this is the first time I've felt the need to comment.
    This is amazing, don't let it just be an idea.

    1. I'm asking around to see if anyone wants to make a game. I don't want to have to start learning Unity.

  3. My mind is running with the "last seedship" idea, only the human equivalent. The war is over and all the soldiers are either dead or insane. From underground the last of the natives launch a futile resistance against extinction amid a rapidly changing and increasingly toxic atmosphere. PCs are tasked with helping along the terraforming process, forced into the role of a Columbus against the threat of extinction.

    Super evocative as always. I get so many crazy trains of thought from reading your blog.

  4. Is the idea of the servitors taken from Anne McCaffrey's brainships?

    1. Never read it. But the idea of total body replacement is just a conclusion of the cyborg idea, and you see it in all sorts of media.

      I think I got the name from 40k, though, because I'm lazy.

  5. It's not a bullet hell, but if you want the best story available in a schmup try out Enemy Mind. It's got pretty innovative mechanics. It's not though super polished, and I wouldn't describe it as "tight". But it's a cheap indie title, so in bang-for-buck terms it scores pretty well.

  6. This sounds a helluva lot like Starship Rubicon. With twice as much content == cost.

    Except, about desperation (with consequences) and not a power trip (with consequences). Amid the same context of intelligent space squid invaders and a pilot following orders.

    With bullet hell mechanics, instead of roguelike-via-Asteroids. Fitting.

    Incidentally, I will bump up Enemy Mind in the endless backlog.

  7. I like the ending with the mother and daughter, feels very LISA the Joyful

  8. I've read your blog since 2015 Arnold and for me this is the best thing you've ever written. It's actually almost an amazing short story as-is, I think, since I've read and reread it many times walking my dog. This I love particularly I just want to say.

  9. I try to reread this at least once a year, to remind myself how hate twists minds and how love applies.....pressure to the kinks, either straightening them out or wrapping them into knots.