News for December 2008
Uncovering The Conspiracy
More Details On The Top Secret Game: Android
Android | Published 02 December 2008

Uncovering the Conspiracy
by Kevin Wilson

Well, now we’ve discussed solving the murder case, and the rules are posted online, so what’s left to talk about? Clearly, you’ve read the rules, so what secrets could Android possibly still hold for you? You might be surprised.


Today, I’m going to discuss the conspiracy behind the murders in the game and talk about some of the people and groups in the game that may be tied to it.


Click this image to enlarge


It may interest some folks to know that the conspiracy puzzle wasn’t actually added to Android until somewhat later in the design process. I had the three parts of the game thought up fairly early on (murder, conspiracy, and personal demons), I just didn’t know how I was specifically going to make each one work. Inspiration can be a funny thing – I couldn’t tell you exactly what sparked the idea to have the conspiracy based off a jigsaw puzzle that the players build as the game progresses, but I distinctly remember getting very excited one day and pitching the idea to Dan. It has gone through some changes from that first pitch, but once the jigsaw puzzle entered the design I had a pretty decent idea what I was going to do with it.


Now, as I’ve gained experience as a game designer over the years and talked to other designers, there aren’t a lot of consistent rules that I’ve found, but one of the few that I like to follow is the concept of ‘paychecks’ and ‘jackpots’. Paychecks are small, regular rewards handed out over the course of a game, while jackpots are large payouts made at the end of the game. Paychecks provide drama and keep the players interested as they play and contribute to the game’s excitement level. Jackpots, on the other hand, bring the game to a close with a bang and add some unpredictability to the outcome. There’s nothing worse than realizing that you’ve lost a game an hour before it actually ends, after all. But what does this have to do with a jigsaw puzzle?


In Android, uncovering the conspiracy delivers a number of handy paychecks to the players in the form of both Victory Points and resources. A player can earn anything from emotional baggage (handy for dealing with those pesky personal demons) to dropship passes (used to jump around the map) while investigating the conspiracy. VP rewards are earned when a player completes a row, column, or diagonal consisting of 5 puzzle pieces, although that can be a tricky proposition without some careful planning.
As for jackpots, the conspiracy has tremendous potential for end-game payoffs for a clever player, and creates an interesting ebb and flow of strategies as links are formed during the game. Favors can suddenly become extremely valuable, while players may suddenly wish they’d paid more attention to their personal demons when sad endings become even more punishing than usual. Ignore the conspiracy at your peril.


But who are some of the groups that might turn out to be a part of the conspiracy in Android?

Jinteki - A Japanese-owned company that designs and grows human clones, Jinteki has a lot of enemies it wouldn’t mind eliminating. The company is run by Chairman Hiro, a visionary geneticist who has begun to unlock the secrets of ESP in the human genome. The more involved with the conspiracy that Jinteki turns out to be, the more valuable contacts and pull within Jinteki (in the form of Jinteki tokens) become for the detectives.


Haas-Bioroid - An American-owned company that manufactures artificially-intelligent robots, Haas-Bioroid is based on the moon, where the lower gravity allows them to manufacture components with much finer tolerances than could be built on Earth. Always ruthless with their competition, Haas is a definite potential member of the conspiracy. The more involved with the conspiracy that Haas turns out to be, the more valuable contacts and pull within Haas (in the form of Haas tokens) become for the detectives.
Human First - Although this anti-android group is comprised largely of middle- and lower-class laborers, there’s no telling what their leaders are up to, nor what depths they’ll stoop to in pursuit of their goals. If Human First turns out to be involved in the conspiracy, then it’s important for the detectives to stay aware of the word on the street (represented by Street favors).


The Order of Sol - This mysterious religious brotherhood is based on the moon in a high-security compound. Tightly knit and steeped in secrecy, there’s no telling how the Order’s goals might overlap with the conspiracy’s. If the Order does turn out to be embroiled in the conspiracy, its sinister plans make it extremely important for the detectives to solve the murder. 


James Levy - The head of one of the wealthiest families in New Angeles, James Levy has lent his name to the local college, Levy University. With any number of enemies and the wealth to buy just about anything or anyone he wants, James Levy is a prime candidate to be a member of the conspiracy. If it turns out that he is, it becomes vitally important for the detectives to circulate among the upper crust (represented by Society favors).


Cardinal Reese - A powerful and charismatic religious leader, Cardinal Reese is the leader of the Starlight Crusade in New Angeles. A modern-day evangelist, the Cardinal has the financial and spiritual influence he needs to be a member of the conspiracy. If Reese is indeed a member of the conspiracy, then the detectives must be sure to keep their own houses in order (represented by avoiding sad outcomes for their personal demons) or he will use his power to discredit them.


Mayor Wells - The political leader of New Angeles, Mayor Wells is the ultimate authority in the local government. Should he prove to be a member of the conspiracy, the detectives will need influence in the government (represented by Political favors) to root out the corruption he has spawned. 


Commissioner Dawn - The leader of the New Angeles Police Department (the NAPD), Commissioner Dawn is in a position that would allow her to conceal many of the conspiracy’s activities. If she is in fact doing so, it becomes vitally important for the detectives not to accuse any innocents of the murder in order to avoid the stain of scandal that rocks the Department.


The Media - Owned by a few shadowy magnates, the local media can be twisted by the conspiracy to downplay the importance of the murders that are being committed. If this is what’s actually happening in New Angeles, the detectives may well be better served to focus on their personal lives (i.e. reach positive outcomes for their personal demons).
The Mining Bosses - Mining Helium-3 on the moon is big business, and the business moguls profiting from it certainly don’t want anyone snooping around in their affairs. If it turns out that the mining bosses are involved with the conspiracy, then the detectives must concentrate their efforts in the business community (represented by Corp favors).

As you can see, depending on which groups are involved with the conspiracy, the landscape of the Greater New Angeles region can be rocked to its very core. Detectives must stay alert to avoid getting buried in this shifting political landscape.


Next time I’ll discuss one of the most unusual parts of Android – the personal demons and the twilight cards.

    
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