View Full Version : Rural Cyberpunk

24th Jun 2014, 21:52
I Googled the term to see if it had been discussed or developed before, and it has a few results but nothing major. I think it could be something quite interesting to explore. Think the Petrol Station level in DX 1, but in a more agricultural setting.

There could also be Amish Cyberpunk, the Amish would not be augmented, so they could escape augmentation and corporate control and fight back in groups like the NSF. Amish people could create their own weapons and exoskeletons or power armour powered by corn and made of bamboo or something. Like chain guns powered by corn that shoot projectiles like stones or something. It would be devestating.

Cornpunk/amishpunk is future.

24th Jun 2014, 22:09
Well this is certainly a thread.

24th Jun 2014, 22:43
It's becoming harder and harder to figure out what is going on in here.

Still, I'll bite.

When exploring the idea of 1955-1965 Cyberpunk, there was room in there for an alternate technological revolution in the agricultural scene. I especially liked the idea of low-tech rural Russia with some elements of odd, blocky technology in the communist agricultural industry.

1st Jul 2014, 14:07
Rural cyberpunk, it would make good atmosphere, I want to see it in a video game.

31st Jul 2014, 03:06
I was thinking about this the other day!

The cyberpunk genre/ 'look' can be so narrow sometimes ... megacity chinatown, nighttime, raining. It doesn't need to be though, because the cyberpunk 'world' is quite consistent and realistic. So, what would towns & rural areas look like?

The #1 thing that I thought of was what farms and food production would look like. I can imagine enormous corp-owned farms that have only a few people overseeing them from a high-tech control room. Massive robotic harvesters and other machines do all planting, watering, harvesting, processing, sorting, and packing. Camera drones are their eyes and ears to watch over the whole property, and have weapons they can use to deter wildlife or people.

Next door are comparatively tiny privately-owned farms that still uses early 21st century machinery and human effort to run them. Their equipment is outdated and difficult to get new parts for, but they survive by jury-rigging alternate spare parts in and hacking the vehicle control systems to bypass limits and make it work with these other parts.

Even in rural areas, detailed technical and hacking skills are not uncommon. Struggling farmers or other rural people have been known to hack into corp-owned harvesters and divert them to unload the harvested crop into their trucks. Some will be sold 'off the grid' or on black markets for cheap, others will be incorporated into a local farms crop to legitimize it.

In these rural areas, corporate influence is present but weaker. It is felt more in terms of market forces and economic impact rather than the physical presence of PMCs. The corporate farms are the obvious exception, but they are physically very self-contained. The staff who run the corporate farms are corporate city-dwellers who lack practical farming and rural skills to work outside of their robotic farms. They're generally outsiders to the local rural community, but over time barriers can come down and some interactions can occur. For example, when HQ lets the farm operators down by not being able to provide timely assistance with spare parts, they've been known to turn to locals for help, who will accept payment in goods from the farm, or other favours.

Another aspect of the rural community is off-the-gridders - a whole fringe community of people who have rejected corporate control and seek to escape it by living entirely off the grid. They accept no computerized technology, and live in a variety of old abandoned houses or even log cabins. They have small personal produce gardens, and live in a barter systems. They may have some bits of technology like gas cookers, as they can manage to get them via bartering.

That's all I've got for now, hope you like it :)

31st Jul 2014, 03:15

1st Aug 2014, 07:48
I see potential. Farmers with PTO implants installed in their lower back and high-power leg and arm enhancements could pull equipment. Sensor enhanced vision that allows monitoring of moisture and temperature in silos. High-tech drones that apply fertilizer and provide crop protection functions. And lets think about the potential of inter-corporate farming espionage with power mad agriculturists hacking rival irrigation systems, varmint kill-bots, grain bin-driers and transfer augers.

The Amish don't need exoskeletons or power armor. They have those kick-ass quilts.

1st Aug 2014, 12:09
It's becoming harder and harder to figure out what is going on in here.

Yet even harder still.

1st Aug 2014, 15:50
Yet even harder still.

Come on CyperP, you posted in this thread, you gotta contribute now! ;)

Cyberpunk world, rural setting - how do you see it? Is there just no people left or what? Gotta be something there!

1st Aug 2014, 16:08
Cyberpunk world, rural setting - how do you see it?

I don't see it being notably different than rural locations now. Sure there will be some differences but basing a whole game, novel, whatever around this setting concept seems unworthy. Maybe one level in Deus Ex 4 we could end up in a rural area for variety (Kind of like the gas station map in DX1), otherwise it's uninteresting. DX1 gas station is how I envision rural areas in the future - very little different to what we see now. One unique thing to make a map of this sort stand out would be to have a cyberpunk cityscape backdrop skysphere/box off in the distance. So basically imagine if in DX:HR we went to mainland China, on the coast, and could see Heng sha in the distance. This would make it special and unique, and worthy rural cyberpunk.
That's all I can see being special about it, but my my vision for this particular subject is perhaps too narrow, needs augmenting.

I just associate post-apoc-like wastelands, (or what we have now) with Cyberpunk in regards to the rural side. Definitely too narrow a vision.

1st Aug 2014, 18:01
After all, nothing ever changes in rural areas, and cities are the only interesting places in the whole world.

1st Aug 2014, 18:56
After all, nothing ever changes in rural areas, and cities are the only interesting places in the whole world.

Hey, Mr. Sarcastic, would you enjoy if DX4 was set exclusively in rural areas? No, thought not. It's uninteresting in this context, not suitable for DX/cyberpunk, but like I said, no harm in a little sight seeing for variety, but yes, primarily the city is where it's at.

1st Aug 2014, 20:48
The Omar in me just knows we can all get along without resorting to sarcasm or name-calling. :p

1st Aug 2014, 21:23
My imagination is failing me in thinking of a compelling cyberpunk environment in a rural area. You could say that the DuClaire chateau is in a rural spot I suppose.

Hmm, maybe I have something. A few years ago I was in a Greek village by this big mountain which had this greenish gold fissure of light running up the side of it - it was just a mountain road surrounded by small settlements, but I think the hot air was doing something interesting to the light. It felt wonderfully cyberpunk on top of the hotel roof looking over the little village with that as the backdrop, and listening to the noisy insects. I have no idea how that'd translate to a DX game though.

1st Aug 2014, 22:30
After all, nothing ever changes in rural areas, and cities are the only interesting places in the whole world.

Rural areas change quite a lot! Enormous lots are magically transformed overnight into gigantic shopping malls, or they make way to home developments reminiscent of an old fashioned cardboard movie studio. Nothing says rural life like a street with no trees in the middle of a field, with lamposts and full-size sidewalks that lead nowhere!

Kidding aside, it could be rather fun to investigate a small village and visit neighboring farm factories during a specific mission. I'm thinking of a typical Lovecraftian east coast village, with techno terror replacing the gothic mood. The challenge, in a 3D game, would be to make an organic village that doesn't end up looking like empty Wastelands with 4 or 5 NPCs. A city landscape can look alive with a bit of trickery even with just a few NPCs around. A village, not so much.

Edit: The other problem is the sheer size of such a level. The village itself could be composed of a main street with a few shops, but to get a real feel of the place and build something fun to explore, you would have to include the surrounding countryside. The long distance between homes/life forms, the darkness of the road and the forest, the occasional encounter, those are an integral part of the rural experience, especially when opposed to the busy city hubs previously visited. It's a LOT of work, for one level. In a 10-hour game, by today's standards, they would probably have to cram over 30% of the game in this setting to justify the workload.

Although, still thinking out loud, the first Mafia pulled off a bit of trickery to visit the countryside in a really fun way. The road was on-a-rail, but the motel and the farm/warehouse offered a splendid change from the huge city they built. A few lessons could be taken from this experience. But, again, I don't know if such a large game would be made today, with the costs it represents.

3rd Aug 2014, 09:20
I'm seeing a whole lot of potential in the food-production modules of a large arcology built in a desert environment.

3rd Aug 2014, 18:37
Frank makes a good point.

I could see this rural cyberpunk idea working in a DLC but not so much as a standalone game.

3rd Aug 2014, 18:56
I wasn't talking about it for Deus Ex, I mean in general. I would like to see a game (not Deus Ex) focused on rural cyberpunk, the long-distance influence of the City, the tech improvements to suburban life, etc.

6th Aug 2014, 00:37
Thread title immediately reminded me of:



Star Trek 2009 opening.

6th Aug 2014, 01:35
I would like to see a game (not Deus Ex) focused on rural cyberpunk, the long-distance influence of the City.

Had a long chat about this with colleagues today, and so decided to give it a go, just for fun. Mind you, it's heavily limited, being strictly the work of city boys' imaginations. A ton more work would have to be put into this to turn clich├ęs into an interesting story. But still, let's play ball, for the heck of it! It'll be a long read, if anyone's interested. Lemme grab my notes!

First, the institutions

The ever-present Dystopian city has to be felt in the background. While implied, because we never truly see it, the classical setting is primordial, at least in this version of it. I can't imagine a Dystopia without proper bureaucracy and extended institutions. What it means for the rural world is the extended role of counties and agglomerations. Without changing much to the current status, villages and towns would likely have to report to counties and their respective boards. On boards would be found representatives of each towns and villages. On a larger level, each county would also have a seat on the State boards.

While City surveillance poses all kinds of challenges, the biggest issue with Rural surveillance is its sheer size. We can expect data collection to fulfill this role. In terms of surveillance, CCTV cameras could only ever be replaced by nano drones, which would grid the territory and keep track of people through facial recognition by being in constant flight. I would expect the central government to gradually ask for more information to be voluntarily shared by local officials. A much more compelling census would have to be put in place in rural areas. This may be fulfilled by asking all officials and commerce to report daily by feeding data into a central AI computer. This Software would analyse the data and look for incongruities. It would also match the data fed by officials with the data reported by surveillance apparatus, including drones.

It's not unlikely the central government may be interested in legitimatizing surveillance by taking it out of the hands of intelligence agencies, and hand it over to a civilian organisation, like a Census Bureau. Shady practices of spooks would be institutionalised through public speakers, under the care of a more "benevolent" agency.

Such a large collection of data falling in the hands of the public sector would pose new challenges. Among them, space. For Rural Cyberpunk, it means huge Data Farms installed in the countryside. Depending on the nature of the information, they may require the protection of paramilitary forces, as well as private security contractors. One can easily imagine the clash between the locals and those city boys. Data theft and destruction/alteration would be a constant concern of those Farms.

Surveillance also has a cost. In the long run, despite lowered costs of mass production, it would be impossible to keep a viable and effective surveillance network covering so much space. Attacks on drones would be a federal crime, but in reality it would come to the local authorities to act. Some may, some may not. The entire premise of benevolent cooperation of the towns and counties will result in all kinds of flaws and breaches. Flight patterns of drones may be hacked or altered. It would take a while before Central Census would notice, considering the enormous amount of data to analyse. Small areas of the countryside may therefor be kept "off the grid", by never being patrolled.

A higher degree of surveillance in the city may flat out destroy anonymity typically associated to an urban setting. It will of course also threaten it in rural areas, with a different effect. Citizens may be more subject to local police corruption in a village where all information passes through local authorities. Unlike a rotten city cop, which may abuse some individuals but can't possibly control the destinies of millions, a local official may hold a tighter grip on people with his newly found information, either for his own good, or in order to cooperate with a corporation doing business in the area, in exchange for benefits.

If all transactions are to be fed to the central census, it would be, of course, impossible to avoid second-hand transactions and black markets, especially prominent the further away you get from the City. Creative accountancy alone will not fool the central AI, if large quantities of goods and abnormal movements are to be reported through surveillance drones. The surefire way to avoid detection is likely to be vast networks of tunnels, controlled by local gangs. The more ground to cover, the less possible it is to have boots on the ground. Reliance on surveillance would open up an industry of illegitimate transportation.

The human institutions would likely clash with the AI institution (Central Census). I'd expect the AI to be represented on each County and State boards, and ask questions when unsure about conflicting data. Failure to offer satisfying response would transit to the City.

The human side of things

In rural areas heavily dependent on manual labour, the most likely clash would not be Augmented vs Vanilla, but instead Humans, augmented or not, vs Robotics. The field of augmentations, robotics and AI are all developed in parallel, but there has to be a point in time where they all collide. Some industries and employers may see the benefit of augmented human labor, while others may prefer to turn to robotics. Farming, mines, and factories are especially prone to this issue.

In a truly dark setting, I can see a new form of slavery emerging. I tried to find a way to justify employers spending a lot of money on their workers for augmentations, when they may turn to robotics instead. The reasoning I found is sinister, but plausible. While a human may not be considered property, his augs certainly can. I'd expect a company to sign a loan to each of his worker in regards to the augmentations he offers. Work a certain amount of hours/years, and the augs are yours. Until then, unless you can pay me back, the augs belong to the company. In keeping the worker in debt, the company may continue to legally pay his worker a slaray, all the while keeping property of the augs, thus enslaving the worker. Companies may exchange or sell their augs/loans/bonds, effectively selling their workers like cattle. The worker would be offered to either be traded, or, once again, buy back his freedom by paying for his augs. Abusive loaners would of course keep the workers in perpetual debt, by offering new augs before the old ones are fully paid off.

I would even expect a whole new industry of augs bonds to be created and exchanged, like a slave market. Offsprings may be expected to cover those debts through inheritance, or be augmented themselves to work and pay them back. Second-generation workers may earn their augs quicker, providing they don't fall into perpetual debt themselves. Augs freedom may be a pipe dream, because a corporation, industry or mine may be more interested in a Slave Aug than a Free Aug. Most Free Augs would probably be more likely to find work with smaller local industries and farms, where the owner cannot afford to pay for augmentations or robotics, and would gladly welcome the help of augmented workers for a bargain price.

Areas more subject to poverty and unemployment are fertile grounds for army recruitment. I'd expect a higher number of veterans of all ages in our rural settings. Some may be vanilla, some may be augmented. Much like the Antiquity, augmented vets would be Free Augs, having earned their augs through service. You see those augmented vets adjusting to civilian life, taking jobs where they can. Mines, fields, industry, police or private security corps, or open their own shops. Backyard mechanics and engineers specialised in robotics and augs would be among them, having been trained during service.

A large discrepancy between local and corporate farms/industries is to be expected, technologically. Vastly different technologies would coexist in relative proximity, perhaps even more so than in the somewhat normalised City, where more shades and casts are to be expected. Illegal/unlicensed splicing, farming and industrial espionage, sabotage are all on the menu.

In terms of augs and robotics, they'd likely be licensed and controlled. Central Census will want to repertorize all augs and robots in a registry, prompting a vast industry of unlicensed second-hand augs and backyard clinics. With a mandatory health exam each year, disease and augs could be easily controlled. Once again however, in the countryside, the system heavily relies on benevolent reports from local doctors. All sorts of scenarios are possible to avoid detection, from cooperation to coercion.

Among the different kinds of communities, I'd expect Nomads to try and avoid Central Census by being constantly on the move. Not unlike caravan gypsies, their presence would cause headaches to the City as well as the town and villages they momentarily visit. Some would be linked to criminal activities, while others would simply try to work and live by. All are likely to be ostracized.

Less gloom and doom, I'd expect sports, local and national, to continue taking central stage in many of those communities. I'm especially interested in racing, in this setting. Cars are likely to be more and more self-driven. While city dwellers may resist it at first, many will come to see the advantages of the fast and carefree transport it provides. Eliminating the human factor would result in higher speed and the disappearance of rush hour traffic, among other things. In rural areas, however, those ever-more powerful cars would likely be retrofit and modified to remove the onboard computer for backyard racing competitions, giving a new swing to the car culture, and the freedom associated to it. Vanilla drivers competing among themselves, while augmented drivers may go to insane speeds. Some especially crazy vanilla drivers would likely attempt to go up against aug' drivers.

And that's roughly what we came up with in an hour. There's a lot left unsaid, in between the lines, but I'm sure you can read it. This is the cardboard providing background. The much harder work, which I'd leave to a real writer, is to insert humans into this setting, with likely and plausible struggles and aspirations. And then, of course, build up a game scenario that makes use of this setting!