One of the first things that we did at Framebunker was to create an internal wiki where we could start assembling our notes on Static Sky. A section of this wiki was devoted to defining the pantheon of megacorporations that would become the corporate backdrop of our game world. In this blog post, I’ll go into a little detail about our design process and the results, which we hope will offer an extra layer of depth to the world of Static Sky.
First, a bit of background. For cyberpunk enthusiasts, the idea of megacorporations needs no introduction. For the rest of our readers, Wikipedia provides a good introduction:
“Megacorporation” is a term popularized by William Gibson derived from the combination of the prefix mega- with the word corporation. It has become a term popularly used in cyberpunk literature. It refers to a corporation (normally fictional) that is a massive conglomerate, holding monopolistic or near-monopolistic control over multiple markets (thus exhibiting both a horizontal and a vertical monopoly). Megacorps are so powerful that they can ignore the law, possess their own heavily-armed (often military-sized) private armies, hold ‘sovereign’ territory, and possibly even act as outright governments. They often exercise a large degree of control over their employees, taking the idea of ‘corporate culture’ to an extreme.
Most of the wiki pages for corporations in Static Sky began with a tentative name and a few quick notes. If we had a technology, for example, and needed to introduce a new manufacturer, we would create a page with some details. As the wiki became more detailed, pages were merged and moved, and eventually some began to resemble “About Us” pages from fictional corporate web sites.
Armed with a wiki full of notes and reference materials, we started designing the identities and branding of our in-world companies. We used a design processes similar to that used for branding real corporations — complete with full identity design and the development of standards documentation. For some of the more prominent corporations, we added product branding guidelines, established typefaces for corporate communications, and even made notes as to how the brand should be portrayed in in-world advertising.
Going beyond basic logo design means that even little things like item descriptions can be shaped by corporate branding. Take, for example, ammo upgrades from two companies:
Xian Wei XW-L10 – a caseless 10mm x 28, 240 grain, polymer-jacketed projectile with an ogive hardened steel core embedded within a rectangular propellant block of nitramide. Available in 95 round magazines.
Sakai-Izumi HSD “Long” – Neutralize threats before they become problems with the caseless ammo optimized for long range accuracy and increased stopping power due to higher sectional density. Find out why IZ HSD is preferred by 8 out of 10 security professionals. (10mm x 28 / 95 rd.mag)
Both types of ammo have similar stats, but item descriptions take on different tones based on the brand positioning of the manufacturer.
connections and histories
The next step was to take these megacorporations (and smaller upstart companies) and create the connections between them — establishing the subsidiary relationships, trade partnerships, and technology licensing agreements that tie these fictional organizations together. Doing so established opportunities for deep rooted conflict and alliances — details that would not only be used to create backstory, but to provide motives and scenarios in actual playable missions.
These relationships also allowed us to expand the histories of the corporations. Short descriptive histories were written. The idea was to keep details loose so that the histories could later be woven together to make a more comprehensive composite history. The AIOMI corporation’s history was, for example:
The OMI corporation was founded by researchers at the Applied Optics Research Lab to commercialize cybernetic vision technologies under a grant administered by the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency for the DoD. OMI enjoyed initial success as one of the first cybernetic technology companies to offer field-rated wet (implanted) optics for enhanced military use. However, with diminishing government contracts and repeated failures to commercialize a civilian version of the product, OMI was eventually forced to restructure and accept acquisition by the Applied Informatics company. The newly rebranded AIOMI was able to combine OMI’s mature hardware with AI’s proprietary environmental analysis and data acquisition software and finally find success and acceptance in civilian and commercial markets.
It is light on details and isn’t very exciting, but it immediately gives some ideas as to what sort of AIOMI products would be available in-world for players. It is conceivable, for example, to make older military-style AIOMI RSD implants available in second-hand implant shops (homeless veterans selling their bionic eyes to make ends meet makes for a grim social commentary) and to have new AIOMI products given more consumer-friendly names and focused on things like data overlay.
Most players probably won’t notice these things, but for those who do, it will offer an extra layer of depth to the world of Static Sky.