The original NS story
I was looking through my files today, and came across an old story I wrote. It was dated May 3rd, 2000, which means it was written before I started working on the first Natural Selection. It’s the first thing written for the game and I remember writing it in one sitting.
Reading it again, I can see how some of the ideas and themes that made it into NS (and NS2) were present. The idea of resources (“RUs”), a mix of non-combat and combat (building and downtime), and the idea that you are completely depending on your team mates.
There is also some schlocky drama, some questionable writing, some missed goals (“play easily”!) and lots of Aliens references. It’s not high-art, but I can remember having a wonderful feeling about it as I wrote it. I was fantasizing and dreaming of a game like this (I still do) and hoping to create something as powerful as a movie or war-time experience. The main character’s age was the same as mine, which showed how I identified with him. I think I simultaneously wanted to be in this game-fantasy and also to feel like I created something powerful, something uniquely suited to me. It served as an emotional guidepost for what I wanted to do with my life.
It’s a bit embarrassing to release this, but what the heck – hopefully some of you will appreciate it.
- Multiplayer-only strategic first-person warfare where deathmatch and hero tactics don’t work but individuals can still be effective- Some pre-game planning and rich in-game tactics
- Social games that encourage role-playing where you have time to meet and talk with your teammates in a non-combat situation before the action starts. End result: real drama
- Truly social, dynamic and memorable games
- Encourage tactics rarely seen before in games, never seen before in a FPS, but always seen in real combat including suppressing fire, flanking, frequent small skirmishes, true importance of surveilling and fatigue level
- Real first-person strategy with a resource model
- Simple to learn, with in-game training. Targeted at FPS players that want something new. They should be able to easily download. play and advance their skill level with this game
The screen is black.
A computer types out the words in the bottom of the screen:
Name: James Honnel
Number of combat drops: 3 (simulated)
The game fades in from black …
You are being called to war. You find yourself closing your closet door in your barracks. There are sirens going off and the intercom is telling you to everyone to get that the station has just entered code-blue. There are other beds in this room but they have all been recently emptied. A half-dressed soldier runs by the open door. Zipping up a duffel bag and adjusting the rifle slung over her back.
A voice crackles to life from somewhere nearby. “Get to dropship Vulture private! EDT, three minutes!” A map or screen indications show the way. You run out of your room into a beehive of activity. Soldiers are suiting up and computers are printing out information. Leaving the hallway a huge shipyard opens up. There is a huge spaceship just HANGING there in the middle of a huge spherical room. The room must be twenty stories tall. A couple mechs fire their welding torches in an attempt to get the blacked hull patched. There are many levels of hallways running around the edge of this room, many of which house more soldiers. There’s the sign for the armory.
I step into the human-shaped supply depot and it closes around me like a mechanical mouth. We’re apparently on a tight budget here because it accesses my file and displays my vitals on the screen and tells me how many resource units I have left. As I choose weapons, ammo, drugs and specials, my RU total goes down. As I put them back, it goes back up again. It won’t let me leave until I’ve purchased under my allowed RU limit. After I agree, the machine outfits me with the body modifications I requested, then spits me out, slightly poked and prodded but for the better. Let’s rock.
The computer tells me I only have a minute before the dropships depart, I better get moving. As I run down the hallway, moving illuminated red lights show the best route to my assigned ship. At the end of this hallway I see a walkway leading down into a ship. Sarge is here along with a handful of other soldiers. I sit down on the only empty seat and strap myself in. Sarge glances at me and explains our mission:
“Glad you could make it, soldier. The enemy has taken our outpost on Sordo TV. They’ve killed most of the civilians and are fortifying it. If we allow this to happen, they will probably use it as a launching point to attack our home planet. Our team, along with dropship Condor, will retake the east quarter, while the bulk of our forces retake the more populated west city. I know some of you haven’t dropped before and I won’t lie to you. Some of you might not even make it to the planet’s surface. They know we’re coming and will try to target the Vulture or your drop pods. When you do land the first thing we’ II need to do is find each other and build a comm link so we can get help once we’ve deployed. We really need teamwork for this one or we won’t make it back to tonight’s celebration back aboard the Righteous”. he smiles. I’ll see you down there.”
(All together, each character in their own voice) “SIR! YES SIR!”
At the end of this rousing speech, the dropship door closes and gas and steam blow out around the edges. The main base computer can still be heard faintly through the closed door indicating 10 seconds until launch. The drop ship starts to vibrate and lights blink on all around. Just then the drop ship slowly leaves the dock. There are windows on the back and floor of the ship and only then do you realize the enormity of the Righteous and this mission. There are dropships leaving ports even spread out in a circle around it. They descend out of the bottom of the ship in a huge ring and depart in a beautiful display of slow-motion choreography. The sounds of the Righteous recede and there is finally a quiet and somber moment as the ships depart in unison …
I take a deep breath and close my eyes. The guy next to me with thick glasses is speaking softly to Gerraro that this is his first drop and he doesn’t know if he’s going to make it back. You never think you’re going to see war until you do. I can hear that red-haired woman talking about the farm she grew up on in rural South Carolina. How long ago was that, someone asks. Well, Jesse, I left for the academy six years ago… but it seems so much longer than that. My brother has been there with Papa, ever since Mama died, keeping him company and helping him run the farm until I’m done my training. Every month he calls and I tell him, I’m coming home soon, Papa, soon. How I miss those long lazy summers, flowers, pies and lemonade…
I must’ve dozed off until we hit the atmosphere. The ship is shaking so hard I can barely make out the faces of my comrades. The ship humming is so loud I wouldn’t he able to hear them anyway. The Sarge is screaming at someone in silence. Another solider is trying to wake up Gerraro across from me by shaking him. He’s not waking up. Sarge opens up a human-sized door and motions the solider next to me into it. He walks in and the door closes behind him. A second later the door opens and the solider is gone. Sarge motions to me. I get in and suddenly I’m falling…
…towards the planet’s surface. My entire pod is shaking and I still can’t hear anything. I can however, see very clearly that I am moving very quickly towards the planet’s surface. A few seconds later. I sec the ground rushing up at me through the peephole in the bottom of this pod until I hit.
Suddenly I’m standing and my pod is around me in pieces. There are gunshots going off and missiles flying up into the sky. I see another pod get hit with one and it explodes into a few big pieces. One piece lands a hundred feet away from me and is still steaming. I try to find my comrades. My HUD tells me the approximate center between the all the dropped pods and I head towards it.
This probably used to be a real nice city. Now it’s a blackened and seared sea of twisted metal and smoking wreckage. Hey look, that used to be a house I bet. Or maybe a big mailbox. A beeping on my HUD tells me I’m close to our rally point. I can see a couple familiar faces hiding near it next to a pile of rubble. Behind them I see the east quarter, a city no longer filled with citizens hut invading military. It looks deserted, but I know there are troops hidden in those buildings. awaiting our attack. A enemy aircraft flies across the sky a mile away.
One of my teammates has the tele-link and is deploying it behind this rubble-house. It unfolds itself and powers on. It starts speaking to us:
“This is how you can teleport non-organic matter from the Righteous. If you need more supplies, you can get them from here. This is also your pickup point after you complete your mission. If you need extra supplies or upgrades, come back here and see if you have enough RUs left. If you lose this, you lose our connection and are on our own.
“As this war progresses, the Righteous will re-prioritize battles and allocate us more resources depending on our predicted chance of success, and impact our success will have on the war. It likes efficacy and doesn’t want us throwing our armor in front of sentry guns. Work well together and maximize your team’s impact to get more RUs. The better equipped you are, the more likely you are to come home. The Righteous has calculated a 31% chance of success for this mission. Prove it wrong. Good luck.”
I saw the wiry guy with the thick glasses that dropped before me. He is wearing a jetpack of some type. He had a tattoo on his arm of a golden gavel. Below it was his name. “Judge, you take the top of this old building here and give the rest of us scouting information. You can pick targets for us and tell us what the enemy is doing. He nodded then walked over to the tele-link and ordered up some infrared goggles. A moment later, he was wearing them. “Wait for my communications.”, then he triggered his jetpack. Steering it carefully, he glided up a few stories to an old window a couple hundred yards away and entered. A few seconds later we heard him over our radios.
“I don’t see any heat signatures before the main building. Inside it however, there is a wide dispersion of heat. It could be soldiers or maybe just their stoves. I’m also getting a reading from the top floor of that building to the just north of it, maybe scout or sniper.”
We nodded. I looked at the beefy bald soldier with a machine gun and heavy armor. “Let’s group up”. He acknowledged me then we discussed our plan of attack. I brought up my overhead map on my HUD and gave us a waypoint closer to the city. “We’ll approach here, I want you guys to approach separately here and here” as I gave them each waypoints alongside mine. “Approach carefully but quickly. We have a lot of ground to cover. .. and watch out for snipers.” I looked at our last soldier, a steel-eyed woman with red hair. You guard the telelink. If any other allied soldiers arrive, give them orders and info on us. If we need more help, we will radio you.” She nodded and I started to walk away. “Red.”. “What?” “My name’s Ash but my friends call me Red.”
” Um. aren’t you forgetting something?”. She smiled. I grimaced and picked up my gun from next to the telelink and walked off with Mr. Clean and a couple other soldiers.
We walked in a wide line towards the city, using the rubble as cover and stopping couple hundred feet search for enemies. Twice so far, my RU count had increased. Apparently the computer thought our squad was worthy. Or at least me … maybe it was the way I took charge back there? On my first live mission’? What am I thinking?! I better not tell my teammates exactly how much I got just in case they didn’t get as much. If they had a high probability of failure, it wouldn’t help them to know it .. just keep working together and we can get some real firepower to bust this place up when the shit hits the fan…
I heard the high-pitched whine of a bullet and a muffled cry off to my left. “Damn it! I told you watch for goddamned snipers!”. I pressed my back up against a ruined car and glanced over at my friend. He was lying face-down, gun still clutched in both hands. A pool of blood spread from where his head was. “Shit! He’s down!” I opened up comms on all channels. “This is Roman, nobody goddamned move. I think there’s a sniper in that tower and I’m going to take care of him right now. Sit tight. Give me 60 seconds.” I heard the buzz of acknowledgments and I reached into my pack for my hunter-killer. I’ve never used one of these in real combat, only simulations. I equipped it before I came and it cost me plenty of RUs. I pulled it out of it’s vial and twisted out one end to form the tripod and set it up. I tuned my HUD cam to it’s frequency and activated it. The tripod flexed for a memento and then popped the whole contraption twenty feet into the air. Suddenly I’m driving it. I can’t control the speed but I cm control it’s direction. “Judge, can you designate that target for me?” A moment later I see the tower window illuminated by a green laser dot. I home in on it. .. as I fly in the window, I see a prone soldier huddled over an absolutely huge sniper rifle … too bad I couldn’t take that one home. The hunter-killer sinks into the flesh of his back then automatically detonates. There is no sound at this distance so I radio my comrades. “It’s done”, I say quietly.
”OK, let’s move up to the base of the tower and guard that corridor in front of the main building. Mr. Clean, I want to you station yourself at one end and don’t move. Fire at anyone that comes out that front door. All the citizens here are dead by now. Judge, I want you to continue scouting and alert Mr. Clean if anyone is approaching him from behind. I’m running back to the telelink to get us some upgraded ammo.” They both acked me and Mr. Clean moved up quickly, dropping prone and setting up his heavy machine gun when he got there.
I grabbed the weaponry and ammo off our lost soldier and hustled it back to the telelink. “Red, I’m approaching the telelink, don’t shoot me.” I came around the pile of rubble that served as our meager base, but I didn’t see Red anywhere. I looked around nervously and stepped into the telelink for outfitting. I sent back up the weapons and ammo we no longer needed and ordered up the armor-piercing ammo upgrade for everyone. It usually took a few minutes. I brought up my command interface. “Mr. Clean, I can’t find Red anywhere. I’m going to nccc your help when we enter the building so I’m going to fortify your area with a mechanized tunet. Have any extra RUs?” “Yeh, comin’ right up, mate”. I didn’t know he was an Aussie. My RU count suddenly doubled. Where the hell did he get all those? I ordered up the laser sentry gun. “Red”, I radioed again. “You here? I’m statting to get wor-”. “Yeah I’m right behind you.” I jumped. I got my new weaponry and the telelink closed. “I guess I didn’t see you there .. where were you-” “We lost James?” “Yeah. A sniper got him”. She started to respond when we heard gunfire over our communicators. “DIE YOU BAHSTUHDS!” Mr. Clean took out a couple guards who ran out the wrong door. Now they definitely know we’re here if they didn’t already. We ran towards him. “Mr. Clean, hold your position, but expect retribution. Red and I are coming to fortify.
We joined Mr. Clean and started to set up the heavy laser turret. “This is a risky spot, don’t you think? Right NEXT to the enemy?” “We’re short men, we have to take the offensive.”
I radioed Judge. “Judge, what arc you doing?” No response.
I pulled up my command menu again. A camera was deployed near Judge. He must’ve placed it in preparation for leaving his post, so he could scout remotely. I sat behind the turret and took control of the camera. I was staring at a wall. Strange. I could almost hear the servers straining as I tumed the camera around I realized I was facing upside down, looking down from a wall of the tower. As I rotated camera, I gasped when I saw the unconscious body of Judge near the window. A moment later. a figure with a jetpack flew right in through the window. He pushed the body aside then noticed the camera. I went to static.
“Everyone, Judge is down and there’s an enemy in the tower he was in! Repeat, Judge is down and the tower is held by the enemy!” Red finished getting the tunet online just as we heard a noise behind us. The laser turret spun and fired a few beams into the metal door someone was hiding behind. It penetrated it and we saw a body fall from behind it. Red and Mr. Clean were dragging me away from the tunet and out of view of the sniper tower. Behind us, the laser turret start firing nonstop and targets we don’t look back to see. I pull out a grenade and toss it into a doorway as we run by. Explosion. Screams. I do it again to the next doorway. Damn, no more grenades. We pray the third doorway isn’t occupied and duck inside. It’s dark and quiet in here.
Judge: After ten seconds of blackness and heart noises, your new identification and rank scrolls across the screen. Jack “Raven” Dineo. Demo expert. Next thing you know, you’re back in a drop pod, rushing down towards the planet. You hear the same distinctive sounds you hear the first time, indicating that it is happening at the same point in time everyone else dropped. You hit and everything goes to blackness as you fall unconscious.
<More typed text>: 12 minutes later (substitute the amount of game time that has elapsed since landing on the planet) . Waking up on the planet’s surface. your rally point beeps on your HUD. How long have you been out? Run to the rally point and see if your team is there. No one is here, but the telelink is. Radio the team. “Hello team, this is Raven. Come in. I just got to the rally point.”
“Mr. Clean here. Took you long enough but we’re glad to see ya, mate. There’s heavy sniper activity in the towers, watch out for them. We’ve taken out quite a few of their ground troops though and are heading into the main building right now ..I don’t know what you should do… is there anything you can do?”
”I’m good with explosives. I’ll try to cause a distraction and cover you. I’ll see what I can do. Out.”
I gave the ammo upgrade to Red and Mr. Clean. “Let’s do this.” We walked in the compound, expecting the worst.
We walked through the old residential building, clearing it out room by room. Sometimes Red would toss a grenade or flashbang in first, we would always walk in together and concentrate our fire. They weren’t expecting us to enter from the rear. They died and died.
When we got to the front of the buildings, we had forgotten all about the first soldier we lost and about Judge. We were kicking ass. As we finished our duty, we exited the front of the building, towards the initial fire corridor we brilliantly took control of. Red stepped out of the front door with almost a smile on her face. I heard the nightmarish crack of a sniper rifle as the bullet hit the door frame next to me. “GOD DAMN IT! GET DOWN RED!” She turned and nodded, then sat down abruptly. Just at that moment, the top of the sniper tower exploded and flames billowed out each window. Raven, Mr. Clean and I huddle inside the doorway, separated from red by the corridor that the laser turret guarded. How it knew when to fire at enemies and not teammates, I don’t understand. As the flames illuminated this burnt out city, I could see Red’s face and her red uniform. She stood up and then immediately fell over again. The bullet had gone straight through her armor and out the other side. She started to curl up on her side and shake. I ran to her and we held each other. There were still flashes of light and small explosions going off around the city as she died.
Some time later, Mr. Clean helped me to my feet and carried me back to the telelink, where our transport had landed. Raven, Mr. Clean and I boarded silently and we left this godforsaken planet that was once a city.