Oni2:Slaves of War/Overview
Oni's timeline has already veered away from ours — for instance, we have passed the start of the World Coalition Government (the manual says "2032", but this is meant to say "2012", the same year the Freedom Riots happened), the development of phase technology (first used in 2012), and the beginning of the BioCrisis — but it's possible to reconcile all the differences in our timeline and Oni's by tying them to a single point of divergence in history and calling Oni's timeline an alternate history. This also makes everything easier to explain to the audience.
Before continuing, an unanswered question from Oni is how Hasegawa could have invented the Daodan Chrysalis. It's way too advanced to be a mere next step in the technology of the time, and he only had up to 3 years to do it, since the manual says Konoko was orphaned (meaning, separated from her dad) at age 3. My approach to the backstory has Hasegawa inventing the Chrysalis — the implantable form of the Daodan — but not the Daodan itself.
As the basis for Oni's alternate history timeline, my point of divergence occurs in 2000 AD when a scientist in Oni's timeline develops phase technology. This allowed contact between our world and another place. In our timeline, some small difference caused this technology to not be discovered. In Oni’s timeline, while experimenting with the "phase veil", some small seed or seeds of life slipped through into Oni’s world unseen. This foreign life was able to grow even in Earth’s environment because it was Daodan-enhanced; all life is, in this other place.
According to this premise, the atmosphere is becoming toxic not because of industrial pollution (as the fans tend to assume, but is never stated) but because Daodan-enhanced life is coming through the phase veil and taking root here, xenoforming our planet to resemble their home. At first it is only simpler kinds of life, like bacteria and plants, but as those flourish here, larger alien life forms which depend on the simpler life as food are able to live here too.
By 2012, a few things happened as a result. For one, the BioCrisis was serious enough that the WCG had to be formed. The manual states that the purpose of unifying the nations of the world was to avoid the spiraling debt that many were in. In our timeline, some countries are in financial trouble, but in Oni's, the situation was made worse by having to deal with the gradual toxification of the atmosphere, which led to the construction of Wilderness Preserves and Atmospheric Conversion Centers.
After Jamie’s death, Hasegawa analyzed the Wilderness to find an answer as to what killed her and what made the Preserve so dangerous, and he noticed that the same genetic signature/process was occurring in all the hostile/alien plant life. Naming it the Daodan ("troublemaker"), he then decided that if humans had this same extraterrestrial process inside them, they could adapt to the xenoformed environment in the same way that this life is adapting to (and changing) Earth.
This approach unifies the development of the Daodan Chrysalis, the reason for the WCG and the cause of the BioCrisis, and explains all of this with a single change in our recent past, which is the successful development of experimental phase technology in Oni's world and not ours.
Oni 2 would take place months after Oni ends.
After the events of Oni, the WCG is going to be staggered by the task of rebuilding the ACCs, and things will probably get pretty chaotic. The Syndicate knows at least some of the secrets of the Chrysalis and may try to sell them to the populace since the ACCs that formerly sheltered everyone will take a while to rebuild. And we can also assume that the Rebellion (who, depending on the version of the Oni manual you read, are either hinted at or directly mentioned) will see this as an opportunity to fight the WCG.
Konoko (now going by her birth name Mai) will initially think that the Daodan Chrysalis is the solution to the problem, but will learn over the course of Oni 2 that it is actually the gravest threat of all. Her father (who she will be reunited with) still thinks that the Daodan is the answer, putting them in eventual conflict. She will at least temporarily work with the Rebellion while they share the same goals, and familiar faces from Oni will show up as reluctant allies and as old enemies. Additional possible factions include Daodan-powered warlords in the Wilderness, a WCG research group attempting to kill the Wilderness with nanotechnology, a counter-symbiote WCG agency headed by Griffin, and Syndicate-funded nations that are breaking away from the WCG.
The nature of the place on the other side of the phase veil will probably be an important component to the plot, explaining why the Daodan Chrysalis is not the panacea that Hasegawa thinks it is. One possibility is that, rather than a random alien environment, the "other side" is actually our distant past — a failed society populated by an alternate branch of evolved intelligent life. As they become aware that "our side" is their future and that this means they are one day going to disappear, they decide to come through the veil and take over the present. Mai is going to have to figure out how to stop this invasion plan and keep those ghosts of the past where they belong.
The only problem with putting the Daodan back where they found it is that Daodan-based life on this side of the veil may depend on the Wilderness to live. An energy network composed of Screaming Cells and other living things could be the source of an Imago symbiote's energy, which leaves the question of what happens to Mai and other symbiotes if the Wilderness is removed from Earth.
Due to the complexity of the story, potential exists for additional Oni sequels, or at least an Oni 3, but the story could also be told in a single game if necessary.
Oni starts us off with a seemingly controlled situation; the WCG is in charge, putting the world into a kind of stasis. On a more personal level, Konoko has been trained as a cop and has an SLD assistant, and that world's all she's ever known. The end of Oni, however, leaves us with everything being turned on its head. Therefore, I think it's natural to be led to the notion of opposites, for both story-following and story-telling reasons:
Oni => Oni 2
Order-to-chaos => Chaos-to-order
Oni was about a seed of chaos growing in an orderly (controlled) world, and Oni 2 can be about a seed of order (control) growing amidst chaos. While everyone knows that destruction in games is fun, games like Okami have demonstrated that it can also be fun to restore a damaged world.
Oni => Oni 2
Isolation => Belonging
Oni was about Konoko working alone, losing anyone that she had left to trust, so let's make Oni 2 about working with others as part of a group ("Someone left to trust"). Plus, I'm inspired by Guido's art, in particular this piece, which is my favorite. I really want to see Mai be part of a team like that — even if it turns out that not every member of the group is entirely allied or trustworthy....
Oni => Oni 2 (=> Oni 3)
Technology => Nature (=> Spirit)
Oni was about a world encompassed by technology, surrounded by concrete, plastic and glass. Oni 2 would open up the game's vista to show the natural world as well, without abandoning the cyberpunk aesthetic in the urban environments. Oni 3, if made, would advance in the direction of "spirit" or energy. The technology shown in the games would also advance from the genre of cyberpunk (with its focus on distinctly mechanical objects such as robots and cybernetic prosthetics) to biopunk (biological/genetic manipulation) in Oni 2, and then to nanopunk (nanotech tools and human augmentation) in Oni 3. In Oni 2, human-made biotech would be used in an attempt to neutralize Daodan hosts, and in Oni 3 nanomachines would also be used, however in the end the Daodan organism would prove superior to everything, and completely unstoppable, except by the symbiotes themselves. If the game series was only going to be a duology and not a trilogy, then I would probably work a modest amount of nanotech into the second game, but the overall story arc would not be as satisfying on this particular level since the idea is to have the Daodan "tried" by successive challenges and rise above them.
With the above in mind, here are the forms of conflict I would like to focus on:
- Man vs. Man: there's going to be plenty of this kind of conflict all over the world — debates over whether the Daodan is needed or whether it's too risky; how to fight against the Wilderness, potentially with risky countermeasures; fights over land with working ACCs; fights with Syndicate warlords who want a piece of the world for themselves....
- Man vs. Nature: the plot can serve as an analogue to the global conflict between our selfish desires as a race and the needs of the planet; is there no way to co-exist peacefully with the Wilderness, alien though it may be? This is the conundrum that all of mankind is facing, but especially Mai.
- Man vs. Self: Mai feels guilty for the Cataclysm she caused. She's not sure she made the right choice, and after being betrayed by, or at least having to fight, her former agency as well as her brother, she has lost the ability to trust people. Her agon is her inner guilt and her unwillingness to trust others, but she has to learn to trust and work with the other characters in order to prevent more disasters like the one she had to bring about the last time she worked alone. Finally, she's concerned about how her Imago form will turn out (if we don't have her already at that stage when Oni 2 begins). All of these are internal struggles that weigh down on Mai's psyche.
Additional possible themes are (1) parental relationships — the need for us to become independent of our parents as we develop into our own person, and (2) preparing for the responsibility of parenthood — given that Mai will be reunited with her father, and given that the Chrysalis inside her could be considered a metaphor for pregnancy.
Assuming we had the use of Oni's original engine, or had totally reproduced its behaviors, what areas can we work on for Oni 2? What areas of Oni needed improvement? The melee combat is probably the area we'd need to focus on the least, as it is the most polished. Our time would be better spent in areas dictated by Oni 2's story, or by criticisms of Oni. Too many bullet points on our feature list will result in another Oni project that takes longer than planned, so let's keep it to a minimum. Here's my suggestions for the bare minimum (see the top of my Design Notes for additional possible features):
- Slightly improved melee: now with parrying, grappling, throw escapes.
- Slightly improved mobility: now with ledge-grabbing and more stealth options.
- Slightly improved AI: Enemies can now call or run for help. No blithely walking past KOed comrades when the area is supposedly secured.
- Multiplayer focus: emphasize multiplayer mode as much as the single-player story mode. Consider a co-op story mode as well as competitive and co-op MP levels.
- Power progression: Mai's powers develop over the course of Oni's story mode, like moves are unlocked over the course of Oni.
- Natural environments: this one could be a stumbling block for the Oni engine. We might need to re-write the 3D engine (or incorporate an open-source engine) in order to do complex outdoor scenery. If Mai and co. are supposed to be exploring the Wilderness, then this is an unavoidable issue. One specific concern I have is interactive flora. If you're in the middle of a bunch of bushes, do they actually quiver if you brush against them? Does the character push palm fronds out of their face as they walk? If the plants just sit there as static models, then we have a problem, especially because the Wilderness probably is a bit more lively than our everyday ferns and flowers and trees.
- Replayability: Oni 2 needn't be a long game if we make design choices that encourage the player to replay it. Various ways to extend the life of the game are: shapeshifter, multiplayer, and interactivity during cutscenes (see HERE for details).
On the subject of the story mode's length, Oni is approximately 6-8 hours long if you take your time, and speed runs are only an hour long. This isn’t uncommon. Here’s an article about how even the biggest games these days are very short. An Oni 2 made by a few fans could be excused for being even shorter, if we take into account MP and the aforementioned replayability factors.
Conversely, we might choose to label the big-budget blockbuster games like Uncharted and God of War as the “Hollywood approach” of gaming — creating those huge spectacles takes up a lot of the development process — and then label ourselves “indie filmmakers” by comparison. If we focus on building less expensive and more expansive areas as a fighting sandbox to provide hours of basic gameplay, with fewer specially-scripted events, we could conceivably create a game at least as long as Oni. This isn’t to say that we don’t want memorable cutscenes and boss fights, but we probably shouldn’t plan any events that require a lot of special coding just for one scene if we’re aiming for a lengthy game.
More emphasis could be placed on Oni's animé heritage. This could be done with cel shading, though it's difficult to do this right. Even harder would be level design, specifically the texturing, since animé backgrounds are often impressionistic paintings and would not work in a game where you can get close to them.
Alternately, a unique minimalistic look could be designed in a way that is low-cost to develop, such as a look that uses vibrant colors in place of detailed texture work, and uses accurate lighting to create realistic-feeling spaces.
Emphasis can also be placed on memorable settings. Many of Oni's settings are industrial and not very fantastical, or are interesting but illogical, or are large but barren, or have potential but are poorly textured and improperly lit. Putting more effort into creating aesthetically enjoyable spaces for players to explore can be helpful when advertising the game and may encourage more replays of the game.
If it is technologically feasible, we should bring much more life into the world, showcasing natural habitats with strange life in them.
Also, being that Oni is science fiction, more thought should be put into the technology of the world, particularly since Oni's world has been affected by the BioCrisis, which would steer tech development in different directions from our world. Depicting novel technology will make the game world more interesting.
Finally, pertaining to color...
Oni => Oni 2 (=> Oni 3)
Blue => Green (=> Yellow)
Oni's logo sets up the color blue as the primary color of the game (though BWest did take steps to reduce the amount of blue actually used in levels), and this is fitting since the focus is on technology, typically represented by that color. Since Oni 2 would add the element of nature, its logo would be green in place of Oni's blue. Oni 3, if made, would use yellow as its thematic color to represent energy, change, and spirit. Of course, yellow is an overwhelming color and is best used sparingly, so it would be a frequent highlight/detail color but would not be allowed to dominate the color palette.
Things from Oni that we want to make reference to or develop on, even if trivially.
- The Marionette project
- More advanced SLD technology
- Bertram Navarre
- Q-31 Railgun
- Deadly Brains
- Theta wave scans
- Funny civilians and general Bungie-style humor
- Flatline zombies
- "I have accomplished everything our father dreamed of doing."
- From the manual:
- "An average family can afford a nice place to live, timeshare on a vehicle and a terminal that links them to the WorldNet."
- "The poor wretches who can't afford to live in the cities get as close to the atmosphere processors as they can and eke out a miserable (and dangerous) existence working on the reclamation teams who beat back the corrosive stain of the wilderness."
- "Biotech is to us what nukes were to our great grandparents"
- "cyber drugs"
- "Others claim a connection between the Syndicate and the remnants of the countries erased by the World Coalition Government's land grab."