About 8 months ago, maybe a little more, I posted a whinge on Facebook about a lack of interesting post-apocalyptic events in the UK. All of the games running seemed to be Fallout based or something akin to post-apocalyptic-lite. The kit standards and aesthetic also seemed to be quite generic and not specific to the particular games being run.
The standard uniform for games seemed to be combats and shiny, clean kit. Combined with the tendency to be rules-heavy it just wasn’t what I was looking for in a game. The one game that wasn’t quite as generic focused on the Fallout franchise as their world, and honestly I’m sick to death of Fallout already. Eventually I decided that since no game existed for me to play, I would create one.
I knew right from the start what I wanted the game to be like. Simple rules, high kit standards, and a totally believable world. Importantly I really needed both players and crew to buy into the world. At that time the Mad Max Fury Road trailers were starting to come out and I knew that I wanted it to be close to that look. My costuming inspiration came from Waterworld, Mad Max Road Warrior, Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, the Metro game series, along with bits from film and other sources. These elements together are what say ‘post-apocalyptic styling’ to me.
The events I preferred going to almost always had a distinct visual aesthetic that all players and crew adhered to. This was always going to be key. I wanted a look that carried across from every player to every NPC. I wanted everyone to look like they belong in the same world. The question was how to encourage everyone to adopt that look.
Firstly I approached the design of the world and the issues that it might have. The story is set 50 years since mankind fell so I began to consider what might be problematic. National power – gone. Indoor plumbing – gone. Heating – gone. Access to prepackaged food – gone. And of course, fuel – gone. Survival is key in this world and essentials for life are highly prized and sought after.
I invented a faction called The Depraved as a reason why cities were off-limits to players to prevent them claiming tech that they scavenged from urban areas. Even with statements like ‘no one who enters a city will ever leave alive’ I still had players send in backgrounds claiming to be next-level ninjas who can beat Solid Snake at sneaking past people.
Conveying the visual aesthetic was always going to be the hardest part, so I started pulling together ideas on Pinterest as inspiration for myself and others. Sometime in January, almost a year before the event, I started making kit to show players more specifically what I was looking for.
What am I after for the look of my game? Dust is a good start! Dusty, torn, repaired, torn again. Bits and pieces stuck to other things to give the impression of patching gear up or making something new. Everything should be practical and with purpose.
A lot of people have said ‘but people wash themselves and their clothes!’ to me. Of course they do… when a shower is just a button-push away. In the game world your choice is to drink the water or wash your clothes. Drinking takes priority.
But going back to my first point – this world needed an obvious aesthetic that wasn’t prevalent elsewhere in other games the UK. The most common look for other futuristic or dystopian games is clean, sci-fi influenced kit. The had to move away from that somehow.
The look and standards have been embraced in way that still shocks me. Which just goes to show that if you set high standards and convey your ideas clearly, your players will rise to the challenge.