Kaiju is the Japanese word for “strange beast.” I grew up in Japan, watching such kaiju staples as Ultraman, Mecha-Godzilla, and more when they were new in theaters and popular on television.
I grew fascinated watching the out-matched humans, whose cities were being destroyed by these strange beasts with fantastic shapes and powers, band together to fight against all odds. Humanity would often form an elite group to fight these monsters, using their most cutting edge weaponry (at the time) such as laser tanks, supersonic jet fighters and, more often than not, giant mecha to match the kaiju’s size and power. Often a lone hero would be the one to save the day, either piloting or fighting alongside a giant robot of their own (Johnny Sokko, Evangelion, Pacific Rim). Sometimes, the hero could transform themselves (through alien or human technology) into giant form to fight the monsters hand to hand (Ultraman).
Yet other times the humans would not be able to match the size of the kaiju, and would have to rely solely on their own bravery, steely determination, teamwork and cleverness to survive (Attack on Titan). Em-8ER falls into the later category. Gatestriders employ their best advanced technology (omniframes) and even larger mid size mecha (THMPR MEK/A), to fight off a shape-shifting Alien hoard and their occasional giant kaiju. Like the bad guys of these kaiju themed series, the Tsi-hu aliens keep creating/finding/capturing new types of kaiju to wreak havoc upon the humans.
The kaiju theme is central to Em-8ER. This part of the document explores ways to realize that vision in the game. It is perhaps the most difficult, both from a technical and budget standpoint, part of the game development. It’s not easy or cheap to pull off giant monsters in a convincing way. This part of the vision book will be more exploratory than concrete in terms of its game design ideas. The larger budget and team we have, the more likely we will be able to pull off some of these concepts and features.
The Tsi-Hu and Kaiju
The Tsi-Hu are an alien race, so dangerous they had to be exiled and trapped in a time-loop so they could never advance. Their homeworld was filled with giant kaiju, and evolving alongside them and battling them on a daily basis made them a hard and ruthless enemy.
Over centuries, in their long fight against the kaiju, the Tsi-hu adapted and evolved. They gained the ability to shape-shift into their own mini-kaiju form for brief periods of time. In this “beast-mode” they would swarm and overwhelm the larger kaiju that threatened their civilization. Evolution selected and preserved this particular mutation of the Tsi-Hu to allow the fittest to survive. You can imagine a similar parallel if the dinosaurs of Earth had never gone extinct, and humans were forced to evolve alongside them. Perhaps whatever biology was responsible for creating such monstrous creatures also subtly affected the Tsi-Hu themselves and helped them gain this unique shifting ability.
Eventually the Tsi-Hu were able to master and control their kaiju. The Tsi-Hu captured and implanted kaiju with cortical control devices located at the base of the spine, penetrating beneath to the brain stem of the beasts. At first, they enslaved smaller kaiju, who they used in turn to defeat and eventually capture larger kaiju. They studied their strange biology, and learned the nature of their extraordinary abilities. They incorporated these into their own bio-mechanical weapons and some even experimented with splicing these abilities into their own beast-forms. They also began to breed and enhance their own unique kaiju, grafting them with technology like shields and weapon systems to make them even more powerful. They employed kaiju as weapons, and took them into battle.
The technology of the Tsi-Hu is itself a blend of biology and technology. Armor and weapons are grown as much as they are built. The energy to power these devices come partially from their ability to feed. The Tsi-Hu feast upon their enemies in beast form, and transfer part of the energy to the weapons and armor that are grafted to them. This grafting is organic and at will. Armor wraps around and bonds with a Tsi-Hu warrior, but can be removed and put aside. Weapons entwine with arms and graft to nervous systems and arteries when wielded, but disengage and go dormant when holstered.
Tsi-Hu Enemy Types
Tsi-Hu are the primary force that player’s will encounter in Em-8ER. They have two primary forms:
Humanoid: When in humanoid form, Tsi-Hu primarily fight from afar with ranged tactics. They employ armor and guns much as humans would. The difference being that Tsi-Hu armaments are bio-technological in nature. Humanoid Tsi-Hu will stay back and pick off, harass, siege or otherwise weaken targets with ranged weapons, while allowing beast form Tsi-Hu to move in for the kill.
Beast: A Tsi-Hu in beast form is a very frightening experience. Four legged and with bladed limbs, they move extremely quickly. They leap and dash in for the kill while their humanoid brethren harass the enemy from afar. In beast form, the primary attack of the Tsi-Hu is with their bladed limbs, which rip through shields to attack the armor and flesh beneath. Tsi-Hu beasts must consume their fallen enemies to sustain the immense energy required to remain in beast form. If they are unable to feed, they quickly revert back to their humanoid form. This gives the player a chance to interrupt their feeding or avoid becoming prey long enough to wear them out. Conversely, a Tsi-Hu beast on a killing spree becomes a dangerous thing, becoming more and more powerful with each kill.
Tsi-Hu variants: Tsi-Hu can come in several variants. Some might wear grafted organic power armor, or employ siege weapons. Beast form Tsi-Hu may benefit from several gene-sliced modifications derived from centuries of Tsi-Hu harvesting and researching of kaiju.
Kaiju Enemy Types
There are endless forms of kaiju on the Tsi-Hu homeworld. Kaiju enjoy a rapid mutation and evolutionary cycle, further accelerated and enhanced by Tsi-Hu genetic manipulation. In general, kaiju are classified by size and strength in ranked categories.
Category 0 Kaiju: These kaiju are the smallest kaiju, smaller in size and strength than Tsi-Hu beast mode. They are hive and swarm minded, attacking in packs. They are easily dispatched but dangerous in numbers.
Category 1 Kaiju. These kaiju are similar in size to the player’s THMPR mining mech. They are powerful but tend to lack extraordinary abilities or weapons, and are primarily grapplers and melee types. This is the category of kaiju most often encountered as a mini-boss by players who are escorting resource laden THMPRs back to base. This kaiju will engage and fight the THMPR, while players must defend and assist it in defeating the monster.
Category 2 kaiju: As large or larger than Category 1 kaiju, Category 2 kaiju are distinguished by their special attacks or abilities that make them more powerful and dangerous. They are rare and are often seen in quantity only during military invasions.
Category 3 Kaiju: These are towering beasts with fearsome abilities and extraordinary weapons. They are large enough to damage and destroy buildings, and pose a huge risk to all player built facilities. They are the siege machines of a Tsi-Hu invasion force.
Category 4 Kaiju: These kaiju are, thankfully, rarely encountered. They are so large that bringing one down requires a huge concerted effort by all nearby players. Only a single one might ever appear during an invasion. Category 4 kaiju are base destroyers, able to swiftly destroy a base before moving on to the next. They tend to focus on buildings rather than players in their attack patterns.
Category 5 Kaiju: This category of kaiju is an epoch event, a zone wide or planetary wide threat. This category of kaiju has never been encountered to date.
We’ll build up enemy variety in stages, depending on scope and funding. The first ones we work on will be the Tsi-Hu in both stock humanoid and beast form. These will make an appearance in the playable encounter mockup which is the final goal of the mini-milestones prior to our Kickstarter. After that will be the Category 1 kaiju that attacks the THMPR. From there we will build more variants as time and budget allow.
Again, thanks for reading and all the support and feedback!