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Entry 2020: The Pandora Incident

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1 hour ago, Steve Jones said:

You think you would have done better if you followed the Doc’s tip?  
 

The doctor's tip can increase your chances of survival throughout the game... IF you know what to do with what you find on that suit. 🙂 

 

However, you will NOT know exactly what to do until a little later... 

 

Enough spoilers  🙂 

 

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2 hours ago, Steve Jones said:

You think you would have done better if you followed the Doc’s tip?  
D0B85DB8-8689-4A4B-BA70-6C942873914B.thumb.png.06406110be9f6d5c8783fc26fe0d1ecb.png

I grabbed the Oxygen Key Card from the suit right before the tip was given and assumed that was all that there was to get.

 

I played a quick game before this recording to get a feel for this version and I did what I believe is intended by the hint.

 

In this video I lost my bearings trying to rush to beat the time limit.

 

I've got my ECS hooked up now and my next recording will feature the enhanced sound. If I make it all the way through and get a good ending I might edit the video to delay spoiling the game. It's fun figuring everything out through exploration and experimentation.

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Great!  I'll check it out today.  Thanks!

 

    -dZ.

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9 hours ago, cmadruga said:

Testing some new features from the next release... coming soon.

 

 

 

Wow!  It looks and sounds great!  Here are some comments on what you show on the video:

  • I really like the shooting animation/sound effect combo -- they go together very well now.
  • The "swoosh!" sound effect of the opening and closing doors is very good too.
  • The "crunching" sound (which I suspect is to alert that a monster is nearby) is good, but perhaps a little too loud.  Maybe it should be slightly fainter to fit more as a background element, especially if the creature is outside the room.  This could add to the atmosphere.
  • The laser death visual and sound effects are good.  I would suggest two things to make it more interesting:  1) flicker the beams a little to make them look more like light-beams, and less like straws; and 2) add an initial "power up" sound effect, like a tone ramp to indicate that the lasers are about to fire.
  • The monsters seem to go through the doors, because there is no opening and closing animation accompanying their traversal.  If this was done on purpose, I suggest adding some sort of "matter-transference" visual effect during the transition.  Otherwise, it just looks like an oversight.
  • The "Game Over" scene is great, as well as its music.  However, the normal incidental music continues to play while the player avatar is clearly collapsing to its death.  This makes the transition a bit awkward.  I recommend that you either change or stop the incidental music at the moment when the player starts to die, just to make the transition to the "Game Over" screen more impactful.

That's it!  It's looking and sounding great so far.  I can't wait to play this new version. :)

 

      -dZ.

Edited by DZ-Jay
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Updated version attached to first message.

 

Includes new graphics for introduction sequence, title screen, prelude.

 

 

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On 11/12/2020 at 11:19 AM, cmadruga said:

image.png.c47d5230e656f91a337680eca9eb3e1f.png

The first sci-fi survival horror game for the Mattel Intellivision!

 

Brought to you by Team Pandora:

  Game design and coding: Carlos Madruga

  SFX and additional coding: Arturo Ragozini

  Graphics: Justin Cheer

  Music: Adán Toledo

 

Latest alpha:

01.16.2021

For details, see release notes below.

Release notes 01.16.2021.txt 2.74 kB · 0 downloads

Please note: the inventory screen is now activated with keypad 4.

It is recommended to use the latest version of Jzintv when emulating the game.

 

 

bin/cfg

TPI_01162021.bin 95.59 kB · 0 downloads TPI_01162021.cfg 375 B · 0 downloads

rom

TPI_01162021.rom 98.09 kB · 0 downloads

Your constructive feedback is appreciated.

Make sure to read the tips at the bottom of this message.

 

The Pandora Incident features...

- Tense and story rich gameplay, in which decisions matter and affect the outcome of the game.

- Intellivision graphic capability fully utilized, with rich background graphics and large, detailed sprites by Justin Cheer (Black_Tiger).

- Awesome music by Adan Toledo (Nyuundere) using ECS extra sound channels

- Game concept born from Carlos Madruga's (Cmadruga) dream of doing a homage to Project Firestart (C64), with all new story, characters, music, graphics. An apparently impossible game to pull off on the Inty suddenly came true!

- An elegant internal framework for graphic compression, screen attribute mapping and event processing designed by Arturo Ragozini (Artrag). He also created the sound effects.

 

Videos

 

 

 

Snapshots

 

pandora1.gif.ed6f360e61778eede6aaf6a2934d4006.gif    pandora2.gif.2374ea095cf4515b9aba976784d3ec7c.gif  

 

pandora4b.gif.fd5114150c8e3512b8f669833b704fe0.gif  pandora3.gif.b877ac86f4b553323bd3111fc70041be.gif  

      

 

Game description:

In "The Pandora Incident", players assume the role of "Ellen", a cargo starship pilot who is forced to respond to a distress call while in transit. 
The distress call was issued by a secret corporate science research ship, named Pandora.
Once Ellen's ship - named "Costaguana" - reaches the Pandora, Ellen and Norbert (the ship's resident synthetic, or android) decide to split. 
Ellen then takes the shuttle to board the Pandora, while Norbert stays behind at the Costaguana. They plan on staying in contact.
 

What happens next? You will find out by playing the game and making decisions.

 

Controls:

 

General navigation:

Disc = moves protagonist around. Moving near/over objects will pick them up, or initiate interactions.

Upper action buttons = fire gun

Action buttons will also accelerate dialog scrolling.

 

Inventory screen:

Keypad 4 = opens inventory screen

Action button = exits

 

Answering Yes/No questions:

Those questions will be shown at the bottom of the screen.

Disc = makes selection

Lower action button = commits

 

Operating terminals:

To open a terminal, approach it with your character.

Once the terminal is open:

Keypad 1,2,3,4 = selects option from the menu

Action buttons = accelerate text scrolling

 

Screen elements

 

image.png.dcdc20576aabbf3590f79d905d4d002f.png     image.png.42f4e52035b0fa71d715f627e738fe31.png  

 

image.png.da160e43d40f694cf91c578144db1ed1.png             image.png.ec46bbfdd4d39fa00d7cdaf48ff34e17.png    

 

 

Tips:

 

- Read everything carefully. Critical information is buried inside terminals and dialog.

- Take the time to investigate each room. Some rooms contain interactive elements like buttons, terminals, etc.  Approaching those elements will trigger actions.

- Examine bodies on the floor. Some may carry important items.

- Watch your ammo. Sometimes it is better not to engage. Also keep in mind certain "things" can make your bullets count more...

- Careful with your choices. Going here or going there first? Sometimes it does make a difference.

- Make a map and take notes if needed. 

- Don't plan on finishing it on your first try... and once you do finish it, try playing it again a little differently.

 

Enjoy the game!

 

Team Pandora

 

Sweet.  I've been following this game since it was first posted. Unfortunately, I stink at it. But it seems like a very good game.

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That title sequence in the video looks very cool! 👍

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29 minutes ago, Old Timey Retro Gamer said:

Sweet.  I've been following this game since it was first posted. Unfortunately, I stink at it. But it seems like a very good game.

Why do you say you stink at it?

Maybe I can point you in the right direction.

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In the room with the power switch, all the different control panels on the left and backside of the room bring up the same terminal.

 

That was confusing, given all the different colors that are used,

and the fact that in all other rooms I've visited so far, each

active control panel gives a different terminal.

 

Is this behavior expected?

 

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Yes that is expected... since you are supposed to be "in a hurry" at that point.

The idea was not to make the player waste time searching the panels.

 

BTW, congrats on the progress! ;-)

 

An update is coming soon.

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Updated version posted on the first message.

Check out the release notes for bugs corrected and new features.

Download the new "Player Guide" if you are getting stuck when playing the game.

 

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I just played the last version for a while ... wow!  I am very impressed.  I really like this game!


I got a good play in, and got pretty far before my wife called me to dinner.  I'll play again later and try to complete it.  I do need to build a map!  😬

 

I do have some feedback (don't I always?), but I'll post it later when I have more time.  Right now, I just wanted to say, congratulations guys!  This game has come along nicely.

 

    dZ.

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Thanks! A lot of work, and time, (and love!) went into it.

 

FYI, the "Player Guide" has a simplified map on its last page... but I think it's more fun to play and make your own map or annotations as needed.

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31 minutes ago, cmadruga said:

Thanks! A lot of work, and time, (and love!) went into it.


Don't worry, I'll be gentle with my feedback. :)

 

31 minutes ago, cmadruga said:

FYI, the "Player Guide" has a simplified map on its last page... but I think it's more fun to play and make your own map or annotations as needed.

Gotcha!  I will try making my own map.  I think it's the kind of game that I need to figure out based on the terminal read-outs. :)

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So ... feedback, right.  Here we go!

 

First let me just express how much I like this game.  I've never played the original upon which it is based, but I am a fan of Resident Evil and classic adventure and survival horror games.  If I may at times seem overly harsh in these and my past comments, it is only because I think the game is so good, and has such great potential, that it just needs that little bit more to push it towards perfection.  It is also always from the perspective of an outside player.

 

I say "little bit," but only in the entire scheme of things, considering the entire game as a very complicated project; but I know that sometimes these things tend to come from either design flaws, trade offs, early decisions, and are thus probably not easy to change at this point.

 

So please, understand that my comments are intended to push you to elevate the game.  😃

 

With that caveat out of the way ... on with the feedback.

  • The atmospheric environment, the music, the visuals, the tension ... it all works.  It reminded me of playing the original Resident Evil back in the day:  every time I open a door, I was dreading what I would find on the other end; and every time I hear the "monster tune" my heart raced and my body tensed up!  Good job!
     
  • There seems to be something strange with the title sequence, I can't pinpoint it, but the pace seems a bit off.  I understand that you are trying to recreate that feel during the climax of "Alien" when the lights are "strobing," and it mostly works.  But I think the blinking is either too slow for a strobing effect, or too fast for a slow-motion effect; it feels almost like "flicker."  The best way that I figure it, is that because the "EMERGENCY" text is blinking at one rate, and the lights are strobing at a weird rate, it makes both look like there is something wrong with the screen painting itself.

    Honestly, I can't really place my finger on it, but it just feels just very slightly off.
     
  • The background music at the beginning is nice, but perhaps just a little too low in volume, especially when transitioning from the introduction sequence music, which is at normal volume.  Maybe it just needs to be cranked up just a single notch in the volume scale, maybe not.  It's just that the difference between it, the sound effects, and the other musical cues is very dramatic, which feels unbalanced.
     
  • I like the arrows on the edges of the screen to guide and point to where the exits are, that is very helpful.  However, some of the arrows look distorted:
    image.thumb.png.8ef37aab510008978a364635255db1d9.pngimage.thumb.png.25dcf54d505de2143cf03b3d3ed544a0.png

    In particular when the picture is expanded to fill a screen 4:3 and not played in a tiny emulator window.  I know that this is an artefact of attempting to keep the perspective, but perhaps it would work better if they were straight.  I know that the very first screens where I saw it, it took me a second to figure out what they were.
     
  • I really like the way in which the carnage is depicted.  It sets the tone of the game and is readily intelligible what happened:
    image.thumb.png.30cdbe7bd392aecff3b0c3628b57fe62.png


    It is easy to tell what is what, and the severed bodies are a nice (and gruesome) touch.  Well done!

    That said, I think there are a few images which look much too "aligned to card-boundaries," which lessen slightly the impact of the image, making it look less organic, and just a tiny bit approaching "programmer art" tiles.  Perhaps there is nothing that can be done about it due to the GRAM constraints, but it warrants a thought.
     
  • In the terminal message below (as in others as well):
    image.thumb.png.77c4b081cb5bbd10c32a1234fdddd7cd.png

    I find the term "public distress beacon" a bit awkward.  Perhaps it is a translation from another language, but it occurs to me that a distress beacon is "public" by definition, since its purpose is to attract attention and solicit assistance.  It's not bad at all, but it distracted me a little, trying to make sense of what the game was trying to tell me by explicitly pointing out that it is a public beacon.  In my head I thought, "why public?  As opposed to a private distress beacon?  Does it mean I have to distinguish between them?  What does that even mean??"  It could be just me.
     
  • In the terminal message below:
    image.thumb.png.fc4f7398981cda74f6b854d63557d593.png

    There seems to be a stray period after "manually," making it read "Cryo Pod 2 manually. disabled."  If it is supposed to mean that the pod was disabled manually, then the period doesn't go between "manually" and "disabled."
     
  • It seems that the health and ammo pick-up occurs even when your health and ammo are maxed out, or you have taken all there is (as in the armory).  This is awkward, and a little confusing.  For a while, I stayed at the health station just absorbing as much health as I could until I figured out that it was just saying  that my health was getting filled up, but had already been there for a while.  I would recommend testing the player state before engaging the action.
    image.thumb.png.3e8c838c6446c01d6d6488f28a5b5e11.pngimage.thumb.png.519eccfa5f480d0adb27a7d54cad51bd.png
     
  • In the terminal message below:
    image.thumb.png.421a8bd63cf82d655ef75fb8b73625ee.png

    The text wrapped strangely, causing the comma after "firm" to start a new line.  This is typically not how "text-wrap" algorithms work in practice, and makes it look awkward.  I understand the space constraints so perhaps the entire text needs to be revised.  How about the following:
    Tyler, whatever you
    do, do not let those
    creatures enter the
    reactor room. I know
    you're all alone in
    there. Stand firm.
    We will send rein-
    forcements to you!


    If you do not like hyphenating, then perhaps something like this:
    Tyler, whatever you
    do, do not let those
    creatures enter the
    reactor room. I know
    you're all alone in
    there. Stand firm,
    and we'll send you
    reinforcements!

     
  • The last part of the terminal message below is a bit awkward:
    image.thumb.png.3950f3f09c198602c152f4325ac69898.png

    I understand that it is a desperate message sent under stress (nice touch on the typos, by the way!), but a construction like, "I'm very hurt," is not common.  Perhaps something like this would do:
    Doc I ddid al I
    could... theyy got
    in ... started
    ripping the shieldd
    but could not finish
    Dont thnk Ill makeit
    tel my kids I lov...


    The typos to pack the words are, of course, justified.

    Also, it is not clear whether the Tyler is the one who started "ripping the shield but could not finish" (to destroy the creatures), or whether it was the creatures (to attack Tyler).  If it was Tyler, I suggest you just add "I" before "started," just to make it clear.  If it was the creatures, then I suggest changing it to something more dramatic like:
    Doc I ddid al I
    could... theyy got
    in ... started
    ripping the shieldd
    but didnot get thru
    Dont thnk Ill makeit
    tel my kids I lov...


    Personally, by the context of everything, it seems to me that Tyler was trying to rip the shield but could not finish it, so "... I started" would work.
     
  • In the terminal message below:
    image.thumb.png.fa80b9e469459b3dd273aec8b4d4f78d.png

    The last comment seems a bit out of place.  A "memo" is a note typically passed to others as official record, not a personal diary.  Is this a "memo" or is it a "journal"?  The first part suggests it is indeed a memo, pointing out how others have ignored the implications of the project and need to take action.  The second part feels a bit too personal to be in an official record.  However, I do understand what Dr. Jorden is trying to say, so perhaps a more diplomatic approach would work.  Something like:
    I don't see enough
    discussion about the
    ethical and moral
    implications of this
    project.
    WE MUST STOP IT...

    But it seems HQ has
    sent Mr. Carsten to
    ensure we don't.

     
  • I think the "monster tune" is great, but sometimes it seems to persist for much too long -- even when they are out of the room, or you change floors -- which after a while, diminishes its dramatic effect.  To me the scariest thing is to be in a silent room and hearing a faint "monster breathing/growling" sound effect -- it immediately changes the atmosphere and tenses me up.  It reminds me of similar effects in Resident Evil and the "radio noise" in Silent Hill (still one of the scariest survival horror games I've ever played).  I think that the "monster tune" in such cases reduces the effect of the growling.

    I do not know if it would be an improvement, but perhaps the "monster tune" should only happen while the monster is in the room, sort of like a battle track, and just rely on the monster sound effects for the rest of the atmosphere.

    Another thing is to scale the volume of the monster growl dependent on its distance (in rooms).  Again, this plays with the player's emotions by indicating that a monster is either approaching or going away, increasing or decreasing the tension, accordingly.  Do not be afraid to use the dynamic range of the PSG for atmospheric effect.
     
  • I found a weapon upgrade and a few other items that I saw in my inventory, but it is not clear to me how to use them.  If the weapon upgrade just works automatically, then perhaps the gun-shot sound or visual effect should change slightly to convey that.
     
  • It seems that the entire screen is re-painted when dismissing a dialog box.  I'm sure there are practical reasons for this, but it seems that the re-paint occurs slowly, which is distracting: the entire screen blanks out for a few frames and then gets re-drawn, from top to bottom.  Is there a way to use extended "CARTRAM" to store a buffer of the underlying BACKTAB cards and just repaint those?  Or perhaps the screen drawing algorithm could be optimized to update within the span of a single frame.  If you need help with such things, let me know.
     
  • Similar to the previous one, it seems that status messages about health or ammunition are re-painted for as long as I keep pressing the character into position.  For instance, in the room depicted below:
    image.thumb.png.3c5d73113482384b8ac6a5b226ab85f6.png

    The sound effect loops, and the message re-draws while I press the disc upwards towards the box.  This is regardless of whether my health is already at maximum.  In the case of the text message, it gets erased and re-painted, which causes it to flicker.  Perhaps there should be a semaphore flag so that the event is not re-triggered until the player moves away and returns.  (Apart from the previous recommendation of conditionally triggering the event based on player state.)

    The same thing happens in the armory, picking up bullets.  I just stayed there picking up bullets for a looooong time not knowing that I wasn't getting any more after I got them all.
    image.thumb.png.519eccfa5f480d0adb27a7d54cad51bd.png

    It also happens on locked doors:
    image.thumb.png.590944b7ca9ec32527de9cd17afd474b.png

     
  • I know it is a bit more work, but it would be very cool if you loaded up some "computer-y" fonts into GRAM during the terminal sessions and used that instead of the built-in GROM font.  Since there are no other graphics in those screens, they should be able to take the entire GRAM space.  Taking a few frames to load the GRAM (up to three or four) should not matter during the transition to the terminal screen.

    Let me know if you are interested in this, and I can help design or port some fonts.
     
  • After the introduction, I think the music should fade out before starting the game.  Right now, it continues during the transition, only to cut abruptly when the game starts with its incidental background music.
     
  • A strange thing I found is that the background music is restarted after certain events.  Like for example, when I try to backtrack to the first screen, I call the elevator, and it tells me it is disabled.  And in doing so, it restarts the song.  If select not to call the elevator, it continues normally.
    image.thumb.png.384d38dadc1770896164e8d7593129ec.png
     
  • Also, calling the disabled elevator results in moving the player sprite a few pixels up when the "disabled" message is displayed.  If I continue pressing "up" multiple times, and calling the elevator repeatedly, Ellen keeps going upwards, until a maximum is reached, at which point I am trapped in a wall.  I then have to do the exact same thing in reverse to go down (press "down" and call the elevator repeatedly to move a few pixels at a time), before I am free to move again.

    Here's me, trapped in a wall:
    image.thumb.png.9805e79f2ff3ead71d9e24a097685e4c.png
     
  • When the elevator is disabled, it shouldn't prompt me to call it at all.  It just wastes player time.
     
  • In that same screen above, it would be very cool (and I'm sure, a bit scary) to have Ellen read the message written in blood on the wall.  I mean, when she gets on top of it, a dialog box could say ""<some dire warning>" written in blood on the wall! ... My God! What happened here??"

    Just an idea.
     

 

That's all I have for now.  I will continue playing later today and provide additional feedback as I progress.  So far, the story is developing nicely, and I think I am able to follow what's going on.  I will also make a map, since it is a bit hard to keep track of so many rooms in my head.

 

Great job, Team Pandora!!!

 

    -dZ.

Edited by DZ-Jay

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Thanks for playing the game, and for the detailed feedback!

We will be discussing the input. Of course, given we are up against the deadline there is only so much that can be affected.

Either way, we plan on continuing development post-contest and there are many things we either did not have the space or time to add.

 

In the meanwhile, a few comments on some of the non-technical elements:

 

- About the term public distress signal, the word public was added intentionally.

 

It may become clearer as you continue to play it, that the narrative hinges on the fact that something went very wrong inside Pandora's private setting, and it was bad enough for a whistle blower to decide to do something about it. Hence you being there, a cargo ship pilot with no idea of what you are getting into.

 

Could there have been other, more private ways to resolve the situation? Yes, and during the game you will see that someone is still trying to steer the ship in that direction.

If that someone wins, that's what will end up happening. It is a possible ending.

The idea is that the universe of Pandora is full of corporations doing whatever they want in the dark confines of space. And they prefer to keep things quiet and fix their own messes. 

That's not to say it is a completely lawless universe. Actually, when things go public there are consequences... which is another possible game ending.

 

The full, post contest version of Pandora would show (in the complete introduction dialog between Ellen and Norbert) that Ellen was actually a little reluctant to answer the distress signal. She knew there was something fishy about it. But since the signal was public, by law she had to act or be held accountable.

 

At one point we had a message on one of the terminals that openly expressed the displeasure of corporate HQ with Pandora's choice of issuing a public distress signal.

It was removed, but maybe it should come back for emphasis.

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On the message about who's ripping the shield. No, it was not Tyler.

It could have been made clearer, but either way, as you play the game it will become clearer the relationship between the creatures you will find and radiation.

Hopefully the game will clarify the reason for creatures trying to rip the reactor shield, and the consequences of that action.

 

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About the "danger" message on the wall, for the post-contest version we were interested in adding a cut scene to show the corpse in more details. Possibly also have some comments from Ellen.

But none of that made it to this version.

Edited by cmadruga

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16 minutes ago, cmadruga said:

Thanks for playing the game, and for the detailed feedback!

It is my pleasure!  I'm enjoying this game very much, and can't wait to see it complete. :)

 

16 minutes ago, cmadruga said:

We will be discussing the input. Of course, given we are up against the deadline there is only so much that can be affected.

Either way, we plan on continuing development post-contest and there are many things we either did not have the space or time to add.

 

I understand.  I foresee a full CIB release at some point in the near future.  In that case, much more features can be including, even non-IntyBASIC optimisations, etc.

 

16 minutes ago, cmadruga said:

In the meanwhile, a few comments on some of the non-technical elements:

 

- About the term public distress signal, the word public was added intentionally.

 

It may become clearer as you continue to play it, that the narrative hinges on the fact that something went very wrong inside Pandora's private setting, and it was bad enough for a whistle blower to decide to do something about it. Hence you being there, a cargo ship pilot with no idea of what you are getting into.

 

Could there have been other, more private ways to resolve the situation? Yes, and during the game you will see that someone is still trying to steer the ship in that direction.

If that someone wins, that's what will end up happening. It is a possible ending.

Thanks, I understand now.  Still, I wonder if a different word would fit better.  As I said before, distress signals -- whether internal to the ship or external -- are public by definition, since their whole purpose is to attract the attention of someone else.  Perhaps "external distress signal," would work better.  It makes sense to send an external distress signal outside the ship, as opposed to an internal one, for a medic or support team, etc.  Whereas a "private" distress signal makes no sense.

 

 

16 minutes ago, cmadruga said:

The idea is that the universe of Pandora is full of corporations doing whatever they want in the dark confines of space. And they prefer to keep things quiet and fix their own messes. 

That's not to say it is a completely lawless universe. Actually, when things go public there are consequences... which is another possible game ending.

 

Yes, but in this sense, public and external are not interchangeable.  The distress signal is external: it goes outside the ship; which makes the emergency go public: making it visible to others.  Perhaps a nuance of the language?

 

16 minutes ago, cmadruga said:

The full, post contest version of Pandora would show (in the complete introduction dialog between Ellen and Norbert) that Ellen was actually a little reluctant to answer the distress signal. She knew there was something fishy about it. But since the signal was public, by law she had to act or be held accountable.

Understood.  Still my last comment applies.

 

16 minutes ago, cmadruga said:

At one point we had a message on one of the terminals that openly expressed the displeasure of corporate HQ with Pandora's choice of issuing a public distress signal.

It was removed, but maybe it should come back for emphasis.

 

No, no, I do not think the problem is in missing information in the story.  I believe the problem is in the word "public" in this context.  There is no such thing as a "private distress signal" -- or at least, there is not enough context in such a phrase to convey what you want, therefore it hinders the meaning you are putting on the word public.  I think "external" does have that context, because it conveys that it goes outside the ship (something could be public within the ship also).

 

All that to say that I understand what you are trying to convey, but the wording may not be doing your point justice.

 

    -dZ.

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