Universe at War: Earth Assault Designer Diary #3 - Story and Setting

Find out the story behind the arrival of three alien factions who battle it out on Earth in this upcoming strategy game.

Alien invasion stories usually involve one powerful alien race landing on the planet, only to be defeated by the plucky human defenders or, in some cases, by their germs. But what happens when three alien races suddenly appear on Earth, and humanity is caught in the middle of an intergalactic conflict? That's the idea behind Universe at War: Earth Assault, a real-time strategy game from Sega and developer Petroglyph, of last year's Star Wars: Empire at War fame. We'll let Petroglyph creative director Adam Isgreen introduce the story for the game, which is due out later this year.

Story and Setting

By Adam Isgreen
Creative Director, Petroglyph Games

In this designer diary, we'll be talking about how and why we set Universe at War: Earth Assault on near-present Earth instead of in the distant future, the near-to-distant past, or in a galaxy far, far away. We'll also fill you in on the story and how it unfolds for each of our three main factions.

From the start, we wanted humanity to appear to have the slimmest of chances against the invading alien forces, because humans are typically at their best when they're down, but not out. We decided on a near-modern setting, since that fit how we wanted humans to fare against our invaders--close to being able to fight back, but just not quite there yet.

We also love to tie our game fiction into reality and popular culture if possible, so 2012 as the start year for our game fit nicely. In our history (real history, not game history), the Mayan calendar ends its last cycle on December 21, 2012. The meaning of this is widely interpreted by those researching it. Anything you could imagine has been predicted already. Anything from massive sunspot activity to a reversal of the Earth's magnetic field, creating destruction or enlightenment--your choice--could occur. Although Universe at War doesn't start on that exact date or follow any specific prediction precisely, the similarities between what the Mayan calendar may mean and our game universe are certainly open to interpretation, especially as you play through the solo campaign and learn more about our third faction, the Masari.

These aliens don't come in peace.

We haven't talked about the Masari before, and we'll have a lot more on them in the near future. While we're not going to say a tremendous amount about them in this diary, let's just say that they've had a hand in human evolution and advancement, and have a very large grudge to settle with the Hierarchy.

With the near-present-day setting fixed in our minds, we started to create the story. We had already built our factions and their play-styles, so we knew what each faction was capable of and how they would play against each other. At that point, it was a matter of coming up with a story that was interesting for the player to experience, provided fun mission objectives that drove the story forward, utilized different units for the scenarios, and most importantly, didn't wear out its welcome.

Our solo-player campaign runs 22 to 25 missions, depending on some late-game choices. You'll get to play as Novus, the Hierarchy, the human military, or the Masari, each with their own campaigns. The mission total may seem short compared to some other recent RTS games, but we really didn't want you doing the same things over and over in each map with little change in-between. Every mission you play is unique from the others in objective, setup, routes through it, and the tech that you and your enemy have to work with.

So what's the story? At its heart, Universe at War is all about an unwillingness to change. Every faction is running head-first towards the future with some very large blinders on, and this is going to hurt them unless they can gain some greater perspective on their actions and realize what they're really doing. We don't want to give too much of the game away, but we can give you a peek into each faction's dilemma as Universe at War begins.

Novus' leader, the Founder, doesn't want to abandon his rigid protocols of attacking the Hierarchy. Each time Novus discovers a new world reduced to nothing but ash by the Hierarchy's march, they turn it into a tomb to honor and memorialize yet another fallen race. When they finally make first contact with a living and breathing planet such as Earth, the Founder is unable to let go of the past. He ignores the human's plight in favor of accomplishing the Novus' mission of sabotage against the Hierarchy. Only Mirabel, a clone of one of the Novus' original race, can see they have a chance to move beyond an existence consumed by revenge.

Property values are sure to plummet now.

Kamal Re'x, a mid-level controller in the Hierarchy armada, has spent a century trying to gain the favor of the Overseers, the Hierarchy's mysterious rulers. He's been in service longer than others, knowing he's destined for greatness and wealth. Just as he finally succeeds in accomplishing a task that will get him the recognition he deserves, his hopes are dashed. He's ordered by the Overseers to abandon his project and leave Earth. Refusing to obey, Kamal goes to greater and greater lengths to claim a new prize he feels is beyond value to his career--the capture and subjugation of the fabled Masari, ghosts from his race's past. This puts him at odds with his military commander, Orlok, and tactical advisor, Nufai, who both believe Kamal may have overstepped his bounds.

Meanwhile, the Masari awaken from their millennia-long hibernation in the ocean depths only to find the planet heavily polluted by the humans, an infestation of living machines walking the world, and their ancient enemy, the Hierarchy, standing within the walls of their nearly destroyed city-ship! Striking out at everything and anything, the Masari react with a savagery that rivals the ferocity the Hierarchy unleashed many centuries before. Unwilling to trust the humans and distrusting these living machines, the Masari set themselves on a path towards extinction, this time with no hope of escape.

So now the stage is set for a titanic conflict between these three alien factions, with humanity stuck squarely in the middle of it all. This holiday season you'll have the chance to play through the campaigns yourself to see how it all shakes out. Who will emerge victorious when the dust finally settles? We won't give it away, but some will survive and some will certainly fall, and no one will emerge unscathed.

Thanks for taking the time to learn more about the setting and story for Universe at War: Earth Assault. We'll be bringing you more information on the game itself and our mysterious third faction, the Masari, in the near future!

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Discussion

44 comments
lafigueroa
lafigueroa

Actually, every so often (Usually over a period of millions of years) The North and South Magnetic Poles switch places, and all compasses point south. Atleast, that's what scientists tell us.

HK-Ghost
HK-Ghost

"[...]a reversal of the Earth's magnetic field[...]" There are no reversals in Earth's magnetic field. There are points where the field is stronger and points where it is weaker (in the North Atlantic Ridge for example) but there are no reversals.. A fact they should correct since they were talking about reality and not in-game story.

gacmyver
gacmyver

and the name, it should change the name :P

KorJax
KorJax

I'm in the beta, and it's great. All the factions play COMPLETELY different in style, the music is amazing (go to the offical Universe at War website to listin to some of the music, it isn't just generic orchistra music for once!), ect. Could use some fixing up, but the beta is getting there just nicely. Biggest problem with this game is the PR for it, there, 99% of people don't even know it exsists :P

bleg32
bleg32

Well, I'm glad that humans are a playable race, but even if they hadn't been, this will certainly satiate my appetite, until Starcraft II!

MrAbidabi
MrAbidabi

cool i cant wait to get the game

gymrejects
gymrejects

it looks pretty good so far cant wait to play

scychotik
scychotik

There is no human campaign it was a miscomunication (that comes from the devs) there is the Human tutorial (the tutorial is part of the story)

KyanMehwulfe
KyanMehwulfe

Interesting choice for new human player-army.

the_air
the_air

is the Human Military playable,cuz in the article it says there's a campaign for All Four Races

scychotik
scychotik

Is that supposed to be bad (8/10) this game is nothing like supcom diverse factions and different scale (it is NOTHING like supcom)

Zuul13
Zuul13

Eh... another RTS. Don't take this the wrong way, I love RTS's. I logged at least 300 hours on Warcraft III and probally the same amout on old school Starcraft. C&C3 is catching up drastically though. I preferr faster paced RTS games like Starcraft to more slower and micro managing ones like Supreme Commander. To me this game seems like a SupComm remake. Or even Total Anihalation? I'm guessing 8/10.

SCPsyWarrior
SCPsyWarrior

Seems like a well realised storyline. For once, the story isn't just something the devs thought up in two seconds so that they had an excuse to blow stuff up!

acej2000
acej2000

I can't get into the hype for this game, dunno why I just can't. Looks like another one for the pile. I hope I'm wrong as the concept sounds amazing.

brood_aliance
brood_aliance

This is my kinda style of RTS, not too much micro (SupCom), and not too little micro (C&C). Kinda like StarCraft and WarCraft. Guess this will be a RTS, I'll be playing while waiting for SCII. I really hope this game will have awesome modding/mapping tools. Defence with the Hierarchy will be so sweet.

CommandoAgent
CommandoAgent

To 8NP4iN Why are ya confused? This game was made by the same team who made first Command & Conquer series before ea took over westwood. You do know they also made dune 2000. You people say everything bad about this game because of the graphics? Lolz some RTS games with great graphics cant be modded , also to make a point this game will be easy to mod on the forums one of the staffers said this ( the map editor, max plugins and a good text editor are all you need to mod this game.)

Humorguy_basic
Humorguy_basic

Just another RTS folks, don't get too excited, it's always ends up with a 72% review if you do that.

Bloodrayne1000
Bloodrayne1000

This game look awsome, i hope there will be lots of battles with different races.

Raptor_4000
Raptor_4000

thats what i heard after reading,scychotik.thanks anyway.

RTSFanatic
RTSFanatic

Awesome read! Sounds like a cool story. I wonder if the humans will be in a expansion. Would be awesome! If they are, they better have a killer Dx10 enhanced Nuke!

ninjarocklee
ninjarocklee

masari lived on earth/home planet and humans have taken over, think of it as cops rushing in yo house for no reason :) with the druggys and your grandparents there?

ppau08223
ppau08223

i cant see how the strategy in this game is going to be better than sup com. you have smaller maps and no zoom also the number of units will be much lower then supcom. but this game will have a much better single player campaign i think

scychotik
scychotik

I think they're awsome, just a little different

nutcrackr
nutcrackr

Game looks good but some of the units really look ugly

undead4110
undead4110

Thatd what i call good music frank klepatchi never fails the music has a cnc feel to it

SpazH3d
SpazH3d

I heard the universe....is at war. :-O

XxSPAZxX
XxSPAZxX

it's coming to the 360 i love using that controller :)

KorJax
KorJax

*watches video* FRANK KLEPACKI MAKES A COMBACK! :D

scychotik
scychotik

That was a mistake the Humans arnt playable out side of the tutorial which is part of the story line so there was a miscomunicationof sorts

Raptor_4000
Raptor_4000

point agreed,kerensky287.i only heard the humans were in the tutorial.has petro changed their minds?

kerensky287
kerensky287

...I read a preview of this game months ago, and it said it was "a game set on Earth, with 3 unique races - and humans aren't one of them." So, what? They're wussing out and letting people play as their own race? Come on! If you have 3 different alien races fighting each other in what is almost a desperate last stand, humans (at this point) will barely have a chance.

beckoflight
beckoflight

The game is something like ground control 2 wich i liked in part & with a litle bit of command & conquer & i think it will be fine !

JPMcferran
JPMcferran

this looks good but dont know if it will be better than Supreme commander

thestrateger
thestrateger

it's looks awesome, the graphic is really good(in the real not in the video) but i don't why but it's not looks so good. and to "grandhand": i still think what is better supreme commander or this, it's really hard...

sirnuke
sirnuke

I'm pretty sure everyone (at least the three aliens) are more or less the bad guys.

Grandhand
Grandhand

this is gonna be better than SupCom

Themaazandar
Themaazandar

if the masari are so pissed off at everyone and everything doesn't that make them the bad guys?

scychotik
scychotik

looks great should be good with awsome story line