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End of the World Survivor Competition

EWSC

Thanatos
Image from Steve Bowers
Thanatos, with numerous widely varied danger zones separated by high mountain chains
The End of the World Survivor Competition is a highly acclaimed contest wherein players attempt to survive in environments designed to resemble mythical, historic or otherwise popular apocalyptic environments. Damage, disease, disfigurement and death are all potential consequences of playing with limited options to stop once started.

History

In 7,989 AT the small but respected South-Herklanians for the Appreciation of Post-Apocalyptic Themes in Fiction Society (SHAPATS) was acquired by the entertainment branch of the Virtoolia megacorp. Market commentators worried that SHAPATS might lose its credibility as an impartial source of criticism and awards, but after a short time confidence metrics returned to normal as SHAPATS operated as before, albeit with a larger budget and greater industry connections.

All that changed when in 8,031at it was announced that Virtoolia had purchased two uninhabited planets in the Borator system in Carina, naming them Thanatos and Midas. Both were placed under the care of SHAPATS which would be responsible for using them to host one of the most dangerous contests in the Terragen Sphere; the End of the World Survivor Competition.

The Competition

On Archimedes 1st, 8,900at, the competition was formally opened on Thanatos. Since that day the world has divided into game zones of approximately 10 million square kilometers in size. The objective of the competition is simply to accumulate as many points as possible whilst in a game zone and exit safely. Before playing, sophonts must agree to very comprehensive consent contracts, understanding that within the competition all manner of harm, including death, may occur. Mindstate uploads and memory boxes are forbidden on the surface so if a sophont dies playing they can only be resurrected from a backup made before entering the competition.

Players can choose a zone to be dropped into from the Lobby Habs in orbit and once there can only leave it via Portals, moving safe areas containing SSTO craft. Each zone has unique challenges tailored for the local theme; examples include being hunted by bots, waging war for resources against other players or simply surviving in a bleak ecosystem (see current zone list for more details).

Points are earned by completing tasks. New tasks are created regularly and can either be announced to the players directly or be hidden in the world for players to discover. Once the player learns of a task they can generally choose whether or not to attempt it. This can be a very difficult decision as tasks are awarded points relative to their complexity and can also remove points for failure. The design and implementation of tasks is overseen by the same S1 entity that maintains the competition: Game Master Titus. Some tasks are short and simple whereas others are long convoluted quests that take months to complete. Common examples of tasks include:

- Travelling to a specific location within a time limit
- Going a certain number of days without being hurt
- Locating secret caches
- Uncovering a secret whose clues are hidden throughout the zone
- Killing a set number of other players in a specific manner

For more information see scoring below.

Body Performance Regulations

When first announced there was much speculation as to what challenge the EWSC would really have to offer. After all, terragen kind had been augmenting itself for millennia to adapt to all forms of exotic locations, natural and invented. Even the most ordinary of baselines tend to have medisystems, DNIs and personal items that vastly increase their survival capability beyond that of pre-technology man. The EWSC addresses this issue through regulations on the bodies players are allowed to have. For each zone Grand Master Titus crafts meticulous rules on the physical capabilities of the players, this often leads to the disallowal of most sophonts. For these sophonts to compete the Lobby Habs offer free augmentation procedures allowing potential players to remove any natural advantages they may possess (and offering to reverse those changes upon completion). In addition the most challenging of zones are designed in such a way to overwhelm many everyday augments. Medicyte diseases, DNI-hacking enemies and sudden extreme changes in environments are just some of the issues encountered by players.

Each zone has different regulations allowing for a range of body types across the competition. In some zones it is even necessary for the average sophont to add significantly to their bodily capabilities, lest they perish within seconds of arrival. The level of augmentation is entirely up to the sophont under the maximum capability allowed, great fame is often bestowed upon sophonts who chose to play in bodies with far less capability than what they'd be allowed. Occasionally zones have been created that use this as a mechanic, offering greater score multipliers for more handicapped sophonts.

Scoring

The points system used in EWSC is the sole metric by which success is officially measured. There are two mechanics determining how many points a player has: the first is gaining points through tasks, the second is the time multiplier. The latter means that the longer a sophont stays in a zone the greater the amount of points they receive from tasks will be. The multiplier has varied throughout the history of the game but a typical example would be that for every month a sophont survives the number of points received from tasks is 10% greater than the baseline. The two mechanics are responsible for much of the strategy in EWSC; tasks are dangerous and increase the likelihood of a player dying but are the only way to get points. Staying safe and surviving increases the amount of points a player can get but doesn't actually award points itself. All good players alternate their time between task completion and staying safe.

There is a third major rule regarding points: whether a player has 1 point or 1 million the points do not contribute to their official ranking until they leave Thanatos via a portal and return to the Lobby Habs. Once they have done this they are declared "Survivors", a prestigious designation that also comes with a rank based on the number of points accumulated over time.

The Survivor List

Anyone who manages to survive a free zone is awarded a place on the Survivor list. The list records their achievements (task completions, points, other records) across all of the games they have played as well as all relevant lifelog data. Points are cumulative between games rewarding repeat play. The list is ordered from highest to lowest accumulated points which allows each Survivor to be assigned a numerical rank.

Since the bicentennial anniversary a new mechanic was introduced by Game Master Titus to further encourage repeat performances and prevent what E called "Survivor Complacency". From this point the list has been subject to points decay, over time points expire causing Survivors to drop ranks in the list unless they play again to gain more points. If a Survivor's points drop to zero they are stripped of the title with the only point in which decay is halted is when a sophont is taking part in the EWSC. A secondary list known as the Historic Survivor List was created which shows the highest accumulated scores of all survivors but does not grant any award itself.

Sophonts on the list are awarded the Survivalist Medal which comes in both digital and physical form. This medal acts as an authentication token allowing anyone with Net access to confirm that the person possessing it has indeed taken part in the games. The appearance of the medal is altered on the basis of the Survivors rank, sophonts in the top 1% receive the Elite badge denoting them as some of the best players of all time. Beyond this the top 100 players are designated Legends, their badge not only denotes this but earns them territory on Midas (currently the lowest score needed to become a Legend is two million, this roughly equates to over five years of continuous play at a good skill level). The very highest player is crowned the Omega Sophont.

Midas

Terraformed at the same time as Thanatos Midas is the reward for the Legends. The world is divided up into 100 "ranges", 1 occupying 20% of the surface and 99 equally dividing up the rest. The Omega Sophont is granted the largest range with the others awarded one each. Within their range Legends rule nigh on absolutely, free to make any alteration to the geography they like including creation of land/ocean, surface megastructures and exotic worldhouse environments. Aside from a commitment not to strain the planetary biosphere to excess and to respect basic sophont rights (a requirement that some organisations have branded "very light") a Legend is free to set any rules and do anything within their Range, including cater for as many or few inhabitants as they like.

Competition at the lower scale of the Legends is intense, to prevent frequent back and forth handovers between the lowest ranked Legends and the Highest ranked Elites ownership of Ranges is reviewed every 40 days. Furthermore a Legend cannot be stripped of their Range if they are on Thanatos, playing in the competition.

Current Zones

Zones tend to stay for long periods, often decades or more depending on popularity. The following zones are now operating:

Ice World: This entire zone is covered in freezing ice, even the deepest valleys beneath the mountain ranges offer little escape. With frequent storms, few resources and roaming cold adapted predators in this zone players battle just to stay warm.

Mass Extinction: The ecosystem of this continent is dying. Rotten vegetation decorates the land not composed of desert. Starved, dangerously desperate animals roam. Sophonts must do whatever they can to stave off hunger and thirst. For the last two centuries continuous settlements have developed in this zone, fighting between them is constant.

Death Habitat: From orbit this land seems like a lush garden zone. In reality it is utterly lethal. Fierce predation, parasitism and violence are the drivers of evolution here. Most plants are poisonous, carnivorous or capable of parasitic traumatic insemination. The animal life has evolved with ferocity to match. If you're not dead by the first night it's a race to learn the patterns of behaviour that will keep you alive, parasite-free and uneaten.

Demons on Thanatos
Image from Steve Bowers
Demons in the Demonic Zone
Demonic Zone: The gates to all Hells have opened and the armies of evil have poured forth. This zone is divided into several constantly warring territories occupied by demon armies of a thousand myths. Survival in this occult land relies on being able to acquire enough magical artefacts to hide, run or fight back against the prowling terrors.

Undying Lands: A plague lies upon this zone, a plague of undying. Ruined cities, rotting forests and empty plains are all infested by undead hordes. While players fight to find food and shelter they must also avoid the millions of relentless undead, many of which consist of the reanimated corpses of previous players.

Sunken Arcology: The once great arcology of Atlantis has sunk beneath the ocean. Survival here requires shoring up areas of livable environment, keeping out the ocean and its deadly collection of deep sea monsters.

Everstorm
Image from Steve Bowers
Everstorm
The Everstorm: A continent ravaged by a never ending cataclysm of weather. The Everstorm randomly tracing a path of destruction upon this rocky land, blowing with enough force to carry boulders and strip soil to bedrock. Staying ahead of the storm is a must, after that players must scavange food from the hardy coral flora whilst avoiding the ferocious shelled-predators.

Poisoned Seas: Within this ocean are floating cities, fleets of ships and creatures larger than both combined. The ocean itself is toxic and hard to purify. Sailing sophonts must survive against the storms, surf, pirates and creatures of the deep.

Xenovasion: The most functional of zones with working arcologies, fabs and tech. Players will need to keep as much of it working as possible as they fight off wave after wave of alien invaders. Biobot warriors of Silent One's, To'uh'ls and every other xenosophont Terragens have discovered (including recreations of those extinct) along with their combat bots will stop at nothing to wipe out every player.

Technopolypse: On the continent of Afrope players must relive the horrors of the Technopolypse. They must try to find food amongst rotting crops, seek shelter in buildings operated by crazed AI, avoid the roving neumanns and citizens of the world driven to madness. Be careful what you connect to, the malsphere is always looking for new victims.

 
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Development Notes
Text by Ryan BInitially published on 21 September 2016.

 
 
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