The goal is to produce a complete working game from end to end and work out all of the user presentation issues. I also want to use the exercise as a way of understanding how much time is actually spent writing content, and whether some of my more exotic ideas in creating a cybernetic story teller are actually worth the effort.
The story is that you are on a long duration space flight The Program. In that flight a mystery arises that could threaten the outcome of the mission (and survival of the crew), but part of the investigation takes you into a virtual world the crew creates in an on-board entertainment and training system. Along the way your character can try to find love with the finite number of single crew that are on board with you.
I can't promise it'll be any different than a choose your own adventure, or one of the better games written for Ren'Py. But I just need to go through the motions of actually writing a simple game. Work out how to accept commands from the player. Work out how to track character development. And do so in a way I can control, before I set the computer loose on it.
The sealed environment of a spacecraft (however large) helps a bit with the story telling. Also, having a set number of characters with an already established history is helping me focus my energy a bit. Though I have to admit, I've succumbed to my worst impulses and I've been spending a week solid building spreadsheets and populations models instead of actually producing a story.
(And if anyone really wants to know all about how to design a generation ship to reach the next star system... I have the numbers...)
One of the stranger discoveries I've made on my excursion is for all of the complexity of rocket flight, agriculture and animal husbandry are arguably as complicated, if not more so. We take it for granted that putting seeds in soil and watching them grow is easy. Mostly because we have no idea how it actually works! I'm envisioning a scene where an engineer tries to pull the "well I have a complicated job" card:
Sure, sure, you have to deal with smashing two atoms together and getting more energy out than you put in. Have you actually sat down and designed a crop rotation regimin? Or plotted out a population model for a dairy herd? Calculus... ha. I wish my stuff was that simple! Every time you do your thing it turns out the same way. And if you screw up you know in an instant. When I screw up I don't find out for months!
And underlying all of this tension is the fact that win, lose, or show, you still have to deal with all of these people for the next few decades. I'm hoping to go more Seinfeld than Murder She Wrote, though. But hey... maybe some players want to embrace the dark side...