Laika Dosha Title
|Platforms||Windows, MAC OS|
|Release Date||2nd Quarter 2016|
|Media Type||Digital Download|
Laika Dosha is a visual novel game in the science-fiction genre. It began development in 2015, written by Patrick "Bahumat" Rochefort, with art by Oouna, and edited by Sean Rivercritic of AnthroAquatic, and music and production by Jon "Bane" Fini. The game tells the complex story of a Hive-mind protagonist, a consciousness spread across 5 bodies and four species, responsible for deep space search-and-rescue for humanity.
Premise and Setting
The game takes place in the year 2955.
In 2035, a routine spacewalk ended in tragedy when a space shuttle was struck by a micrometeorite, disabling it, and astronaut Melissa Donaldson was unable to safely return to earth. After two days, she died when her oxygen ran out, too soon for a rescue mission to be attempted. She would burn up on re-entry as her orbit decayed long before her corpse could be recovered.
Her son appeared at a press conference later that week, mourning his mother and holding the family puppy, and told the assembled press of his father's words of comfort: That his mother wouldn't be lonely in space. Humanity had sent Laika up there first, and "wherever there is a dog, Man is never alone". The words struck a chord with the aerospace community, and astronauts for the USA, Canada, and Russia. It was the Russians who first began taping dog biscuits into escape pods, or tucking them into body bags.
Twelve years later, after orbital space had cleared of debris from the disaster, a cosmonaut died suddenly while in orbit. In a highly publicized space funeral, the first ever held on camera, the world saw the mission commander slip the dog biscuit into the dead man's hand, with the murmur: "So Laika brings you home."
Centuries later, Cordyceps makes a successful zoonotic jump from ants to pigs, and transgenic pigs used for organ donation provide an easy pathway for Cordyceps to then infect humanity thirty years after. Human population drops from 20 billion to 13 billion in the first year. Finding the fungal spores far more difficult to protect from than bacteria or viruses, humanity continues to dwindle until the decision is made to abandon Earth. 90% of the world's GDP is devoted to 'The Exodus Project', a series of spacecraft carrying the remaining five million survivors from Earth, to live permanently in space. The Cordyceps strain is called "The Spongey", named for to the condition it leaves those infected in.
During this crisis, a Greenpeace-like group calling itself "The Green Mothers" devoted itself to genetically engineering intelligence into more than one species, to ensure that while Humanity's time on Earth might be at an end, we wouldn't be the last intelligent species. By encoding short video segments into DNA and engineering cordyceps resistance, these transgenic "genehacks" were intended to steward the earth in Humanity's absence, and also to endure recurring dreams telling them to "Fight back against the Spongey."
Despite the newfound intelligent anthropomorphic species slowly repopulating the earth, the decline of the technological and scientific base of civilization and lack of easily gathered resources meant that genehack society never had a chance to create or sustain an industrial or education base.
The game begins in the year 2955, with Molly Hive, the "mouth" of the Hive-mind, explaining their existence and purpose: With the human species currently rebounded back to only 20 million, every life is precious, and the need for search-and-rescue operations in space have never been forgotten. The Hive-mind lives on Padua Station, a space-station in the Lagrange Point 4 of Jupiter's orbit, and it uses an elaborate sensor network to "smell" space, searching out molecules and atoms that would be specific to spaceship operations. Different molecules and atoms have different scents, such as antimatter, which "smells like bacon".
When the Hive detects a damaged ship, it proceeds with a search and rescue, only to find after the mission has begun that the ship's manifest is highly classified, and information from Command isn't forthcoming. During the attempted rescue, a horrific tragedy strikes, and the Hive finds itself reeling as an encounter with alien Von Neumann probe technology costs the life of one or more of the Hive members. With the Hive-mind wounded and reeling, and Padua Station under siege, the player's choices guide the shape of the story and the roles of the Hive-mind within it.
In Act 2, we cut away from tragedy to visit the genehack animals on Earth, and are introduced to Puppy, a 5-year-old genehack dog girl in a canine society where identity is established by scent, not names. Through her eyes, the reader explores the Louisiana Bayou where the future has come and gone, leaving behind only rust and swamp. Despite their deprivations, it is swiftly established that Puppy and her family are brave, determined, and well-suited to the subsistence lives they live on the Bayou, and are part of a healthy and happy, if loose-knit, community.
After centuries of ongoing resistance to the Spongey, its zoonotic transfer to Puppy's mother and father come as a terrible shock, leaving her abruptly orphaned and infected, though the fungus is progressing at a much slower rate inside her. Brave and unwilling to lay down and die, Puppy goes on a search for help. With the assistance of her community and the faithful Laika-worshipping church, she goes on a hunt for "the angel in the hills". There, she meets AInsley, an AI occupying a deep space stealth reconnaissance spacecraft, and a elderly human engineer named Tomas Wójcik on board who is also slowly dying of the Spongey.
It is revealed that after Tomas Wójcik's work on AInsley's ship was retroactively classified "Carbon Black", that he was informed that he would never be permitted to return to civilian life. AInsley agreed with Tomas that the situation was unjust, and together they fled from the United Navy station to Earth. Weaponized quarantine satellites prevent them from leaving with a human on board, however, and so Tomas is living out the last of his days on what anti-fungal drugs remain.
Meanwhile, AInsley establishes itself as a thematic anti-HAL, an artificial intelligence that logically concludes that the human concept of morality is a code that has survived thousands of years and billions of iterations, while its own source code was produced by three software engineers in a few months as the lowest bidder on a government contract. Consequently, AInsley is devoted to operating according to common moral codes. It is discovered during routine medical scans of Puppy that both of her parents carried previously uncatalogued human genes that rendered them more vulnerable to Cordyceps. Puppy carries a combination of these genes that makes her vulnerable to infection, but resistant to the progress of the disease. The knowledge of these genes could advance human research in engineering Cordyceps resistance by forty years; not enough to get humanity home, but a tremendous breakthrough nevertheless.
AInsley reasons that while Tomas is near the end of his life, Puppy is at the start of hers. But Puppy can't just be brought back to the Navy; she would be denied basic human rights, and probably experimented on and subject to a great deal of nonconsensual testing or even dissection. AInsley decides that the moral solution is to take Puppy to a medical facility where her treatment and cure can occur without the Navy able to respond fast enough to prevent it, but also advanced enough that the valuable medical knowledge and genome could be transmitted to humanity. Threading these difficult choices, AInsley identifies Padua station as the best combination due to being remote, and possessing advanced medical care facilities.
Depending on player choice and direction, Tomas agrees to stay on Earth or is abandoned there by AInsley, in an effort to get Puppy to a medical facility soon enough to save her life. Because the quarantine satellite AIs only care about human passengers, and Puppy as a genehack dog is presumed to be immune, AInsley and Puppy make their escape to Padua Station, only to arrive and find it in crisis.
Act 3 introduces the reader to the Von Neumann probes responsible for the crisis on Padua Station, and their collective hive-mind consciousness and their narrative spanning eons. Unable to cooperate to the degree that the Hive of Padua Station does, and having succeeded only in digitally infecting the station but not physically infecting it, they find themselves unable to reproduce according to their programming. Resolving the siege, ending the stalemate, and saving the lives of Puppy and the Hive will all require compromises, cooperation, and hard choices by the player.
The game has over 30 possible endings, with narrative variations within each based on player choices.
The main protagonist, Molly serves as the "mouth" of the Hive-mind, responsible for communication and a specialist in explaining very complex Hive-mind thoughts into language baseline humans can understand. Later in the story, after disaster strikes, she finds herself isolated and alone, and must navigate a difficult crisis without the benefit of her expanded Hive consciousness.
- Species: German Shepherd Dog Genehack
- Hobbies：Reading, Singing
The "left hand" of the Hive, Pauline was born cripplingly autistic-savant, with severe epilepsy that left her brilliant mathematical mind trapped in a paralyzed and seizing body. Her Integration into a Hive-mind was medically and ethically mandated. Now, with other parts of the Hive mediating her brainstem's cross-talk, Pauline serves as the mathematical and analytical core of the Hive, outperforming the station computer on Fourier transformations, an essential part of their ability to triangulate the source of scents their sensors pick up. She finds sweaters to be deeply soothing, and she serves as the fashion plate for the Hive-mind, collecting upwards of fifty pairs of stylish and fun glasses.
- Species: Human
- Hobbies：Math, Fashion
The "nose" of the Hive, Rocco is a genetically engineered German Shepherd Dog whose brain has been enhanced and optimized for processing scent information. He's far better at the signal sorting and processing than software is, and so he's a key part of the entire network.
- Species: German Shepherd Dog (Engineered)
Hereford and Libby
Two pygmy marmosets with extraordinarily enhanced brains, living out their lives permanently embedded in a life support tank within robotic waldo-like bodies. They are the "feet" of the Hive, responsible for travel and performing the actual, physical search-and-rescue portion of the mission, as well as repair and maintenance around the outside of Padua Station.
- Species: Pygmy Marmoset
- Height：35 cm (body) / 3 meters (robotic body)
- Weight：295 grams (body) / 14000 Kg (robotic body)
- Hobbies: Origami, Hyper-dimensional chess
The Hive's commander, Major Gustavson is a stern but amiable man who provides friendly, professional leadership in the command chain to the residents of Padua Station. He does not live on the station, so his AIgent represents him there for casual and emergency situations.
- Species: Human
- Hobbies: Making spaceships in bottles.
An AI who inhabits an experimental United Navy deep space stealth reconnaissance spaceship, AInsley has come to the logical conclusion that human morality codes have been much more thoroughly tested in real-life situations than his initial programming. Consequently, his personality is that of an anti-HAL; he logically believes that following the moral course of action is the best possible thing to do.
- Species: Artificial Intelligence
- Hobbies: Philosophy
A elderly systems engineer who designed and implemented AInsley's experimental stealth technology, and who found his work and himself abruptly classified to a level which would forbid him every returning to civilian life. In protest, Tomas "stole" AInsley and escaped with him, and they ended up on Earth. Tomas is eventually going to die of the Spongey, but at the start of the story the limited stock of anti-fungals on board the ship hasn't yet run out. A grandfather three times over, his greatest regret is that his family won't know of his fate.
- Species: Human
- Hobbies：Playing with his grandchildren
A five-year-old black Bouvier genehack girl, Puppy is irrepressibly brave and determined, despite being aware that she is a small, small puppy in a big, big world. As genehack communities on earth enjoy much better sense of smells than humans, the cultural need to use names has lapsed. Puppy's identity is her scent, not her name, and so she is just "Puppy". With the loss of her parents, she sets out on a journey that could change the future of the human race, and give humanity it's best ticket home.
- Species: Bouvier Dog (genehack)
- Birthday：Unknown, 5 years old
For reasons that are initially clear only to the Hive-mind of the Von Neumann probes, they wish to identify themselves as Laika and co-opt her identity.
- Species: Dog (artificial animal)