Today has seen some buzz on social media about PokerStars adding avatars to the Power Up game. While these avatars have been around for a few months, it did get me thinking about the back stories and the Universe that are attached to them.
The current 14 avatars all have biographies that seem to ask more questions that they answer. Each character has a nation, at least one sponsor as well as play styles, highlighted strengths and weaknesses. While your choice of Avatar doesn’t currently have any impact on the gameplay, it certainly looks like that is the direction PokerStars is looking towards.
Currently, 11 “nations” are mentioned as part of the Power Up Universe, but that certainly doesn’t preclude more from turning up in the future. Some tantalising clues to the nations’ differences turn up in the player profiles, including nations underwater, in space and made up entirely of dogs!
The profiles illustrate a universe without Hedge Funds, gender roles, homophobia and transphobia. However, big corporations are still around if the list of sponsors are anything to go by. Sponsors range from “Goggle Manufacturers” to “Smart Wine Vintners,” which starts to paint a picture for me of a fully formed universe behind the Power Up game. The play styles, strengths and weaknesses will mostly be familiar to a poker playing audience, with reluctance to fold and being overly cautious standing out to me as representative of the current poker players.
The internet isn’t mentioned, but Continuous Presence (CP) is, which appears to be some new kind of Virtual Reality that allows people in this universe to be where ever they want at all times. CP isn’t the only new technology mentioned, Sonar Receptors, “Waterskin,” genetic manipulation and many others show up in the profiles. Pretty impressive for such a small amount of written content to be able to give so many clues about a fictional universe.
The list of available avatars may not be fixed at just 14. Other characters are named, but are not currently available. Bella Farscent, Clarissa Talbot and Charlotte are all mentioned as characters in the Power Up Universe. I’d be surprised if more Characters weren’t already prepared, waiting for the game to finish its Beta phase, and to release in full.
The Power Up Universe seems to be rather interesting. We heard some cryptic hints about the universe from interviews with PokerStars employees during the launch. It’s meant to be a hopeful futuristic landscape, not the usual dystopian mess we usually see in video games like Fallout and the X-Com series.
All of this leaves me asking myself where this is all going? Are PokerStars going to be adding “Hero Powers” in the style of Hearthstone? Is the choice of Avatar going to change a player’s “luck” with the cards? Are we going to see new and interesting changes to the underlying mechanics of Power Up? It’s certainly possible.
I don’t know about you, but I’m also looking forward to reading more about the Power Up Universe. Placing the game in a defined universe can add a lot to the experience. Games like League of Legends and Starcraft have lore and stories behind all the gameplay that add layers of intrigue and knowledge on top of the game itself. As a big fan of Science Fiction, I see a lot of promise in what I’ve read so far. I just hope PokerStars follows through on what I see as a great direction for the story behind the game.