The Future of Transcendence

Graphics by Aeonic, digdug, dvlenk6, Psycholis, and Xolaris
George Moromisato
13 January 2012

Influences & Inspirations

To shape the Transcendence Multiverse I've sought inspiration from the classic game that invented the RPG: Dungeons & Dragons. Unlike every other packaged game before it, D&D was incomplete: it needed the active creativity of the players in order to work. D&D was popular not because it was a perfect game but because players turned it into their game. The adventures, monsters, and rule variants that Dungeon Masters and players created were often more important in a specific game than the rules that Gygax and Arneson wrote down. (And this was perfectly fine with them; their attitude was, "why have us do any more of your imagining for you?")

In the same way I want Transcendence to be a game for building adventures.

When I started Transcendence my only goal was to create a fun little single-player game, but as the community grew and more and more mods showed up I realized that we're creating something bigger. Collectively we're creating the Transcendence Multiverse, a family of games and game extensions, all bound by a common engine, built out of components like Legos, and set in an expanding and diverse milieu filled with warring civilizations, mighty starships, and wondrous items.

I think with the Multiverse we have a chance to create something unique. It's ironic that games, the most interactive form of mass entertainment, have the greatest disparity between producers and consumers. Everyone's a photographer now that phones are digital cameras. Millions create their own short movies, thanks to software like Adobe Premiere, iMovie, and YouTube. But it's still rare for people to create their own games or even significantly modify existing ones. With Transcendence I think we have a chance to change this.

My plans for the future of Transcendence focus on supporting and expanding this Multiverse, and the first step in the plan is to make it easier for people to discover and download mods.

Transcendence Mod Exchange

Later this year Transcendence will acquire built-in support for displaying and downloading mods from a central site. Initially the game will access a site on Kronosaur Production servers called the Mod Exchange. (Eventually it should also download mods directly from Xelerus.) The Mod Exchange will host extensions and adventures, both official and otherwise, and will hopefully make the process of discovering, downloading, and using mods much easier for players.

For creators, the most interesting feature of the Mod Exchange is that you will be able to charge money for mods. Of course, at first this won't mean much. The player community is currently too small to support a real marketplaceā€”no one is going to quit their jobs to write Transcendence mods. But every ecosystem has to start somewhere, and I believe that this will set up a virtuous cycle in which modders are incented to create better mods, thus attracting more players, and in turn incenting more modders to write.

Moreover, I intend to try various experiments to bootstrap the ecosystem. For example, perhaps it will be possible for players to pledge money to get a mod written (a la Kickstarter). A modder might propose a particular mod and ask for a certain number of pledges. If the requisite number of pledges are made, the modder writes the mod and the pledges are charged. If not, all pledges are refunded.

There are many details still to be worked out, so I don't know if the end result will be exactly as described here, but I'm excited to take this first step towards creating a little economic ecosystem for Transcendence.

Zodiac Base by Psycholis
Zodiac Station by Psycholis.

Achievements and Stats Online

Though I'm excited about the Mod Exchange, the first online feature to actually show up is likely to be game stats. The same backend server that supports the Mod Exchange will also be able to host stat files from games. A player should be able to upload their stats under their account and be able to refer to it later (via the game or a web page). And of course it should be possible for people to share their stats with others via web pages.

Eventually the game should support achievements stored under the online account (instead of the game). For example, I think it would be great to award an achievement to a player the first time they complete the game. Additional achievements would be awarded for playing with permadeath, etc. In a sense this is creating a metagame since players will compete for achievements across games.

Version 1.08 will have an embryonic (read, "buggy") version of this.

Mods with Global State

Traditionally, when I've added a feature to the core engine, I've also provided a way for mods to take advantage of it. Access to a global server backend is no exception. Eventually I plan to allow mods to access a private database on the server. This would allow mods to save state globally across games. For example, imagine if Luminous's ability to adapt to weapon types was saved globally. Or imagine creating a station that buys and sells items across games (i.e., we save the inventory to a global database).

The Multiverse

Of course, everything I've described so far is just technology; they are the pieces from which we will build the Transcendence Multiverse. But the Multiverse itself is only as interesting as the adventures that it contains. My main task in this area is, of course, working on Part II of Domina & Oracus. But I also intend to develop additional (and separate) adventures in the Multiverse.

I believe there are many more stories left to be told in Human Space. The Black Market, the Corporate Hierarchy, Ringers, Luminous, and Teratons: we could probably devote an entire adventure to each one of them. Some of those I hope to write in the coming years. Many more I hope to create in collaboration with others (like Wolfy's Ranx extension).

Over the last several years we have built something extraordinary: an entire universe filled with potential. Just think about some of the classic mods that exist and how they've expanded the game: Northwind items, Shrikes Mines & Missiles, and The Network and just three off the top of my head. Dozens more are just as good, and each one has expanded the Multiverse little bit.

I believe that this is just the beginning. Together we can build the Transcendence Multiverse into something richer, deeper, more cohesive, and more engaging. The future of Transcendence is exciting, and I can't wait to get started.