Void: Corporation

by Jonathan Lim

Science Fiction

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From the Author

I can't believe this thing is still here...

Yes, I am the author of this game. I never wrote another one. As some people have divined, "Void: Corporation" is both laughably amateurish and deeply lodged in my own past.

I am simply astonished that this game still exists (time of writing being 2019), received reviews I never knew about, and received a user review as recently as two years ago. I have taken so long to find this out that the links to the full reviews of the game largely do not work.

In the year 1996 my brother introduced me to the idea of role-playing games - not formal, commercial games with dice, but highly informal games which needed only a gamemaster, who operated as a kind of superintelligent computer running a verbal text adventure. We improvised everything; non player character responses, combat outcomes, the fate of armies. The gamemaster would simply tell the story and improvise outcomes. It is a form of entertainment that should be familiar to the player of interactive fiction - but with nothing programmed, and no trace left behind.

I am moved to find the readme document attached to the game for instance. Who would have thought that I would one day wish I had recorded all those lengthy and epic adventures? Now I can remember very few of them. I find reference to the murder of Grand-Admiral Pentonville on Skylab 7, an incident that heralded a new and darker period in the war, in which government agents called the FMI were as deadly as the alleged foe. I also find reference to Wen-Gao Ren, an ancient and goodly comrade to the main character Pip Martyn; so steadfast and dependable in battle, his talents taking him to the Admiralship. How fine a soldier; and how sad the day when he betrayed all his friends in a bloody coup and tried to take over the Federation government.

Other epic events linger at the back of the mind; the fighter pilot Paul Ashwin whose brother Peter Ashwin had joined the Secessionists; Paul was willing to shoot down his brother to save his friends, but then deliberately crashed his ship in despair. The epic Battle of Ceres, in which Chuck Jackson, the loner American with blue hair, had his wing shorn off by a cable holding up the notorious tower-fortress. Dan Clayman, with his endless mojitos, being "bailed out" of Tewkesbury Station after assassinating mob boss Vincent Talbot, gunfire scattering around his feet.

I wrote the IF game after the role playing was largely over; it was sort of a tribute to those days in restaurants when my brother and I would be leaning over our steaks hammering out the next adventure in the tale. The tales of "Void" and "Void: Corporation" must have then been almost over; for Wen-Gao Ren had turned traitor and the war virtually over. It was also a palliative for an extremely painful time in my life; I was diagnosed with depression around the time I submitted the game or slightly after - in retrospect I should have been diagnosed some years earlier.

I am a published author now; I like to think that a great deal of what I learned about writing came from those immense improvised epics - and I hope some fragment of the flavour of those tales comes through the total amateurishness of the game.


To clarify certain aspects of what I write about these RPGs; the original RPG of 1996 was "Void", which dealt mostly with space battles and whose name referred to the void of space. The main character of those RPGs was the pilot Pip Martyn. Contrary to what the readme file says, I intended the space war to last from 2051 to 2055 (the file says 2052 to 2055). The RPG, however, I deliberately started in medias res in 2053; we never did do a "prequel"!

The followup RPG started when I was "contaminated" by cyberpunk reading around 1998. Since this was a cyberpunky "spinoff" we called it "Void: Corporation". That, I hope, explains the somewhat odd name of the game. The main character here was Dan Clayman. I somewhat wish that the game had been based on "Void" instead, since those war stories were more epic!


One final word. A very early review of this game, now apparently lost, pointed to the motto of the FMI as being "possibly unintentionally hilarious". The motto is "We Really Want To Serve With Integrity". My brother was delighted with that review, when I told him, for the motto was his idea entirely. It was intentionally funny, and we both used to laugh over it. Something about protesting too much...


PPS: The game came 41st out of 60 in that year. However, there must have been a surfeit of prizes that year, because I got a prize. It was a series of weird mini sculptures made out of coloured dice by Andrew Plotkin himself! These were typical of the sort of objects one might find in a Plotkin game I always thought. He was very friendly in his email. I may still have a couple of those sculptures somewhere.

Note: this rating is not included in the game's average.

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rec53, November 29, 2019 - Reply
Thank you for this retrospective!
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