Monday, March 31, 2014

VIII.III Defining a Look - Broken Contract Security Officer Concepts Part III

Since we have a reasonable idea of what the Security Officers are going to look like, and Sam Alcarez was busy moving this weekend, I asked Geng Gendall if he would do something special for me.

One of the Broken Contract play testers is a good friend of mine named Chuck. He gets a charge out of playing as the Security Officers during play testing so I asked him via text, "Hypothetically, if you, Chuck Hickey were a fascist security officer, would you carry a baton, shock baton, arc pistol, or repeater rifle? Would you be in charge or a grunt? Strictly hypothetical."

He responded: "I like things up close, and hate responsibility, so I'd be a grunt with a shock baton. :)"

This is Chuck standing hard at a grocery co-op, because as we know, co-ops are the hardest.

I wanted to see Chuck in Security Officer attire so I sent a brief to artist Geng Gendall who enthusiastically accepted the request. It went something like this:

"He'd like to be a low ranking Security Officer with just a Shock Baton. He's the guy in the center. These couple pics give you a "sense of the man". Haha."

Chuck singing in his hardcore punk band: Black Sheep Squadron

I then sent him the "paper doll" security officer image with the below notes: 

My cut and paste Security Officer off of various Sam Alcarez art.

"He'd lose the hat, glasses, and holster. Maybe replace the kit on his belt with some form of restraints and maybe his gas mask? Maybe in addition to the corporate logo on his chest, and an arm patch with the initials BSS? And definitely some sort of threatening action pose."

Art by Geng Gendall.

This is what Geng sent over this morning. Pretty awesome. I think he'll be Officer Hickley in the game. What do you think?

-Nick

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Tangent I. The Bigger Picture

Enforcer concept art by Oliver Zavala.
The background on this site only gives you an introduction to the back story and tells you a tiny bit about Breakers and Security Officers. It is a very myopic look at a much grander storyline, and that is by design. Still, I think for those of you who are following this project, its worth giving you insight into the bigger picture.

When I originally brainstormed the idea behind Broken Contract, it revolved around Breakers and Enforcers. The Breaker concept has been fairly constant, Breakers being workers who have broken their contracts with the corporations they work for by attempting to desert and flee towards a new life free of indentured servitude. The original nemesis though, was not the Security Officers, it was the Enforcers. Contract Enforcers come from private bounty hunting firms that are paid to bring Breakers back to work.Though I can think of all sorts of great story lines, cool equipment, and variant scenarios involving Enforcers, I felt like the initial "break attempt" was great subject matter for a stand alone game. Ultimately, starting at the inception of a Breaker's new free life seemed like the best way to go because it gives ample room to build.

This, of course, then leaves room to expand from the point that Breakers exit the confines of their iron mines (or maybe eventually other possible work environments like agri-domes, labor camps, or factories) to a life on the run from newly hired Enforcers. The Enforcers would then be hired to track them down in the desert wilderness outside the mining colony.
Enforcer concept from Colin Swanson-White, or maybe this could be an Exciser?
What is freedom? Where are they running to? These are fair questions. For many, freedom is probably a bullet in the back knowing that for a brief instant they've crawled out from under the corporate heel. For others, it will be something more sustaining. What type of life exists for someone who has broken their corporate contract? There is mention of 'Steader Towns outside the domes populated by those who were able to buy their freedom from the corporations. Most 'Steader towns have sprung up by drawing off the combined incomes of followers of various religious cults, as singly no one could raise the money to buy a plot of land from the corporations, and religious organizations tend to have a greater sense of community. These could be havens that Breakers could run to, or they could be a source of income as either business associates or marks to be robbed to sustain that sense of freedom in the desert. The eventual introduction of 'Steaders creates a whole new wealth of story lines for gaming excitement.

The vision I have for the future involves eventually integrating 'Steaders, Excisers (no 'Steader really wants to pay their taxes so some sort of tooled up private firm needs to collect them), and Big Riggers (because with some Breakers living like bandits to survive, there would be gun toting teamsters to transport goods between 'Steader towns, agri-domes, and mining colonies.) I think there are a lot of concepts that could be fleshed out into a vibrant evolving universe. It all has to start somewhere though, so I paired it all down to a handful of Contract Breakers trying to escape the mines in which they work, and Security Officers trying to stop them. But believe me, if given the opportunity there will be much more to come.

-Nick 

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Broken Contract and Social Media

Art by Geng Gendall
I just added some links to the right hand side of the screen for Broken Contract on a couple of social media sites. There are now:

Broken Contract Twitter
Broken Contract Facebook

And I'm sure some more to come.

The above image was sent via Facebook to me by Geng Gendall, an illustrator who felt that the Security Officers should have more of a hard hat type design, and a light. Rather than simply describe it, he sent it in concept form, even adhering to the uniform that Sam developed. We're still sticking with the "western" hat but it was cool none-the-less, and I really appreciate him taking the time.

If you'd like to contribute concept art like Geng did, please go ahead and send it. I can't guarantee it will be used for anything, but it will always be appreciated and noted! And you never know... Maybe you'll define something new?

In the meantime, please go follow Broken Contract on Facebook and/or Twitter. Thanks!
-Nick

Sunday, March 16, 2014

VIII.II Defining a Look - Broken Contract Security Officer Concepts Part II

We're still working to define the look of the Security Officers in Broken Contract. Sam has come up with a variety of looks and we're trying to nail down the one that both defines them and makes them interesting for others to eventually paint figures of and play in the game. I happened to notice that Sam has been using consistent posing while we've worked on the look, so I came up with the idea of making paper dolls of his art so that I could combine elements and find what works together. Standing in FedEx Office I printed out his art and then broke out the scissors and got cutting.and pasting.
This was a new piece of art Sam provided to me after the last blog post. The goal was to define a much more fascist looking Security Officer. He looks like a loyal boot boy for sure with his high boots, high collar, fitted uniform, and clean cut hair. I was concerned he didn't look rugged enough though, with the horrible working conditions and disparity. Also, the diagonal stripe made me think of the Ottoman Empire soldiers or something. He looks like a hard ass, but was he the right kind of hard ass?
I still loved the look of this guy with his very minimal gear, but with a latent air of intimidation with his 'State Trooper' style hat and sunglasses. Of course, my first order of business would be to see how this head would look on the 'boot boy' body.
Here's the end result. He looks like a real jerky Canadian Mountie. This combo made me like the fascist garb a lot more. But some of the Security Officers are going to be more tooled up. So I looked to this piece of art, scissors in hand.
This concept has a very "traditional" look and is a bit more gear heavy which adds some visual interest. The trick is, these poorly paid Security Officers would not be consistently gear heavy. As friends pointed out, he looks like he's ready for action, but something about him says lieutenant or administrator, like he normally spends more time behind a desk than suppressing insurrection in the mines.
I used the mirror image function on the copier to reverse the leg armor and then cut out the cod piece, pouches, and reinforced leg protection. I also removed the diagonal stripe and replaced it with an oppressive looking corporate logo. I think this image captures the overall look we want - the pin striped uniform pants, the high collar shirt, the Trooper hat, the body armor, the corporate logo, and some kit. This truly looks like a Security Officer that mixes sci-fi and western elements. I think we have a keeper. However, I like the idea of disparity even within the Security Officers. Disparity is a form of control as those with some power will struggle to maintain that power, even if it means distancing themselves from those beneath them.
When I worked for GW new hires were to wear the SCOUT name tag for the first few weeks they worked for the company. This was to avoid buying a name tag for someone who might quit a couple days after they got hired. After a week or two, then we could order their official name tag. I imagine new Security Officers being given the same sort of treatment. You get a cheap vest, a baton, and a mask, and if you don't get killed in the first few months, then you earn your access to uniform and gear, which are of course taken from your pay.

This was a really fun exercise and I'm really happy with the results that I got. Thanks to Will Blood, Nick Powell, Matt Sears, Ken Aponte, and Josh Raymond for their input on the designs. They acted as a focus group of sorts and I greatly appreciate them taking a moment to comment. And of course, thanks to Sam Alcarez for taking the time to produce the awesome art.

-Nick

Monday, March 3, 2014

VIII. Defining a Look - Broken Contract Security Officer Concepts

Security Officer concept art by Sam Alcarez.
The other day I had a great meeting with Sam Alcarez, the new artist working on Broken Contract. One of the most important parts of developing a game like Broken Contract is defining the look and feel of the game. There are so many ways to depict security forces in the future, and they can go to differing extremes. You can go for completely tooled up, heavily armored cops with the greatest in technological advancements like Robo-Cop, some sort of mech, or just a heavily armored "super soldier" sort of look. Then there is the other extreme, like the stripped down, lightly armored but precisely uniform fascist looking peace keepers in The Hunger Games. Of course, in a sci-fi western like Broken Contract you can envision any manner of "space cowboy." So there is a huge variety of looks and feels we could go for.
Katniss being led away by peace keepers in one of The Hunger Games movies. Its the future but they aren't super tech. They look like pseudo-fascist motorcycle cops. Even their body armor looks thin and sort of useless.
The dystopian future that I envision involves the galactic mega-corporations like FeSky and Agri-Corp employing mainly poorly paid rent-a-cop security guards. High technology means high prices, and that affects the bottom line of the corporations. So I envision the security forces existing in tiers. The "boots on the ground" daily use security forces in the mines are poorly paid rent a cops with minimalist equipment to do their jobs.
Chicago cops during the NATO protests 2 years ago had three times the amount of gear this riot cop has - which is sort of perfect for an underpaid, underfunded security force.
 Now to truly capture a bit of that sci-fi western look, it would be ideal to fuse elements of all of the above with some 1950's-ish southern prison guards out of Cool Hand Luke. Like the riot cop above they have that "under equipped" look that I'm shooting for, but a level of attitude like it doesn't matter - as if a scowl, a pair of shades, and a gun is enough to keep a chain gang in line.
Watching Cool Hand Luke while developing Broken Contract made me extremely excited. Fuse Cool Hand Luke with Firefly and you have a less dystopian snapshot of how I envision the setting.
The end result of all of these elements? Well, I guess we're looking at lightly equipped, uniformed, space cowboy fascists. Kind of a lot of concepts rolled into one but we're narrowing it down. Somewhere in these concepts we have the answer.
Concept art by Sam Alcarez. This really captures the Cool Hand Luke meets sci-fi look. He just needs to look a little more brutal and fascist.
Concept art by Sam Alcarez. This Security Officer looks very much like a modern Security Officer. He just needs something to distinguish him as a little more fascist and western themed. Ah, the hard balance.
Feel free to comment on what you like and don't like. I'd love to hear your feedback.

-Nick