The Grand Plan - What is Ascension III?

What is Ascension III?

For the longest time, a vague outline and a list of features. The earliest inklings of Ascension III came in 2013, but the current concept in broad strokes is a little newer, with the design starting in 2016. By 2018, things had started to firm up, and now, after an absurd amount of meandering, I finally have something resembling an elevator pitch:

Gunfights with dragons! Also a princess, ancient ruins, spaceships, and plenty of self-awareness about how over-the-top it all is.

There have been many additions and subtractions to the Ascension III concept over the years. The idea of setting it on an island came early, to limit the size of the world in a natural way, and that evolved into an island chain for technical reasons. In the very early stages the protagonist was a player-defined hero, but this became a princess trying to reclaim her throne fairly quickly. The original "metal dragon" enemies gave way to actual dragons (which are a lot more fun) some time in 2017. Empire management and naval combat were toyed with, but both dropped by 2018. The combat style was an open question until the opening days of 2019 when I settled on high-intensity run and gun.

Throughout most of that process, I never had a specific vision for the heart of Ascension III. It's actually a huge relief to be able to coalesce it down into those two sentences.

Gunfights with dragons! Also a princess, ancient ruins, spaceships, and plenty of self-awareness about how over-the-top it all is.

If you prefer your pitches as X meets Y, it's Halo meets Skyrim. Except instead of several million dollars, I had twenty. It's less of a silly comparison than it sounds; though my scope is far more limited, the combat will be heavily inspired by Halo along with some of the aesthetics, and it will have both the dragon-fighting and dungeon-crawling of Skyrim.

So, now, instead of working from a scattering of various elements and trying to come up with a solid core idea, we can take the core concept and go from there. The feature list still isn't 100% locked down, but it looks something like this:

  • Dragons!
  • FPS-style combat with satisfying guns and melee
    • More run and gun than cover-based
  • Partially open world with free roaming between islands
  • Mostly text based conversation system
  • Villages with NPCs and stores
  • Inventory/equipment system
    • Yes, that includes loot
  • Quest log/tracking
  • RPG levelling/progression
  • World map with fast travel
  • Companions and teammates that can follow you around

In addition to those gameplay features, there are also two quality-of-life features I really want to get into the game:

  • An in-game music player that lets you listen to your own music, with convenient playback controls and integration with cutscenes etc.
  • Mod support in at least a minimal fashion.

In truth, broken down this way Ascension III isn't all that different from what it looked like a year ago. The big difference is that we now have something to tie it all together, and we can use this to inform what to keep, what to emphasize, and what to prioritize. For instance, combat used to be almost an afterthought, but if our game is all about fighting dragons, it needs to get kicked way up the list.

The basic storyline is also pretty solid at this point, although the writing process is ongoing. In short:

Thirty years have passed since a recon ship crash-landed on Rynn and introduced a world of blades and magic to the greater galaxy. It is a time of great change, with new technology, new ideas, and new institutions. The Remarian Empire, once the world’s premier superpower, is fracturing as provinces break away and form nations on newfound ideals.
Aurelia, daughter of Markus Caesar III, is studying on Earth. It is expected that she will take the throne in a decade or two, though the Senate currently prefers her cousin, Alexander. But when Markus dies unexpectedly, she returns to Rynn where Alexander is crowned. She goes into a self-imposed “exile” to the Virtis Islands, in fact with the intention of completing the last part of a plan that her father started.
It is believed that a powerful ancient ruin, the ostentatiously named Ark of Infinite Power, lies beneath one of the islands. Markus believed that it could be used to restore the Empire to glory, once again the dominant power on Rynn and possibly even a player on the galactic stage.
But she is not the only one searching. On her first night on the islands, dragons suddenly attack, for they too want the power for themselves…

That's what Ascension III will be. Next up: how we're going to get there.

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