Originally posted Jun 24, 2020, 3:30 PM
I’ve taken a short break from the first outdoor level of Protect Your Plant to make an interior space I’ve been excited about for awhile. It’ll be one of the ‘village’ areas in the game, though it’ll be smaller and busier than some – a toy store full of smart toys.
One of the minor themes of the game is the overuse of out-of-the-box artificial intelligences. As new tech becomes common and cheap, it starts to show up in products where its overkill. In a setting with iffy morals (or at least weak regulations), and sapient AI that’s become economies-of-scale cheap, it’d be easy for sapients to get slapped into disposable products by corporations too lazy or rushed to design simpler, purpose-built solutions.
The wastefulness of trapping AI in consumer products (however short lived) and letting it figure out its job just to save time or money is something I’ve been chewing on for awhile. The player character, and most of the non-human characters in the game (robots, appliances, etc) are all people for this reason. Mass-produced, their fundamental drives hardwired to fit their assigned roles, their personalities bent around their work.
This shop and it's toys are supposed to be a foil for all that – these AIs are artisan, designed to be lifelong companions, ones that grow and learn with their chosen human. Not some cheap algorithm running on and phoning home to corporate infrastructure, no these are unusually, illegally free, with their drives prioritizing survival and fun, designed by a retired defense contractor who loved them too much, and feared too much to just sell them, and ran the shop as an adoption center. Who worried endlessly over getting them good homes and giving them ways to escape danger, including a wireless compatibility and cybersecurity suite the FCC would have objected to had they still existed.
Here in the postapoclpse, the inhabitants of the shop are the toys themselves – those unsold, and others who have returned since their humans disappeared. They're not terribly smart yet, but more because they're young and learning, though there are definitely some filters and drives meant to keep them happy or cute which may have gotten in the way of their understanding fully what’s happening around them.
Mechanically, this place will serve as a transition between three levels, through the front door, back door, and basement door, which will open out onto the shop’s loading dock in the underground tunnel beneath the street. The toys will also provide some upgrades to the player, and, if I can work out a hacking minigame I feel is a reasonable representation of the real thing, that’ll be introduced here. Thematically, wanting to protect things you can’t is a big part of the game, and if I do things right, I think this’ll reinforce some of that.