Dev Diary #17 - Everything Does Not Stay the Same

Heretic's picture

One of the original goals for ORG was for it to be a truly evolving environment.

I've spoken about the importance of designer agency before on my personal blog, and there's a critically important analog as well in the form of player agency.

Players like to feel that their actions are meaningful. Video games these days are pretty good about giving players the ability to impact and change their character in a game, but as an industry we've been a lot less consistent about giving players the ability to impact and change their character's world, particularly in multi-player games.

For ORG, I really wanted to build a system from the ground up that could accommodate this goal, at least to a better extent than is usually done. For ORG, we wanted history to matter, for things not to stay the same. Sometimes the players would be the ones affecting this, sometimes the players would be at the mercy of other players, sometimes the players would all be at the mercy of greater historical forces, consigned to adapt and evolve to new conditions and new assumptions.

How, then, do we expect this to work in actual practice?

Fiction: "Testament"

Story by Geoff Tuffli

++++ DATE 28.11.2468
++++ TIME 13:43 Station Time
++++ LOCATION Tàiyáng 4 Observation Station, at Mercury's L4 Lagrangian Point

In slightly under three months, the automated resupply ship from Mercury would synchronize its velocity with the Tàiyáng 4 Observation Station, cargo cells in slow, inevitable sequence sliding down the length of the resupply ship's spine, whereupon each would be reclamped to the station's cargo intake port.

The cargo cells - and in truth, there were usually only three or perhaps four for a standard resupply - would disgorge their supplies of vitals, including a substitute caretaker for the observation station for the next six months. Even more importantly, carried in the belly of one of those cargo cells would be a new air save pump to replace the one that had burned out two months ago.

In slightly more than three days, however, Sergei Viktorovich Ulyanov would be dead.

Every breath Sergei took was about 20% pure oxygen by mass; every breath he exhaled consisted of about 15% by mass of pure oxygen for an approximate conversion of 5% to an ultimately lethal, unbreathable CO2. 600 or so liters of pure oxygen went into his lungs every day, and every day something like 150 liters of CO2 would fill the station's air supply.

Under normal circumstances and normal operations, that CO2 would be laboriously but reliably reprocessed back into breathable O2 by assistance from a large air save pump.

That same air save pump that had burned out. Even that, by itself, was not supposed to be a death sentence. The Tàiyáng 4 Observation Station carried with it an emergency supply of CO2 filters for just such an exigency. When the air save pump had burned out, Sergei simply pulled up the hatch on the habitat floor panel, dropping down the long arm as, slowly, the partial gravity of the habitat ring turned into micro-gravity, then no gravity at all in the center section. Sliding along the rails thoughtfully set there for such maneuvers, Sergei pulled out of storage a crate full of CO2 filters, then hauled it back up to the habitat ring.

When Seregi opened the crate he swore softly.

Fiction: "War Crimes"

Story by Geoff Tuffli

++++ DATE 12.5.2469
++++ TIME 06:22 Borealis Basin North Polar Standard Time
++++ LOCATION Hecatia Terminus Mining Collaborative, in the Borealis Basin of Mars

It had all gone incredibly, terribly wrong.

Havildar 2nd Class Astrid Narayan, Phoenicis Regiment, Company D, Force Section Alpha of the Mars Republic forced herself to relax her death-grip on her flechette pistol.

Holstering her sidearm, Astrid turned her head to get a good look at the entry wound on her left shoulder, but the camo-brown combat suit had already auto-sealed itself, only the sticky puce of the blood and the pounding fire below her collar bone betraying exactly how close she had almost come to dying before the micros in her bloodstream had kicked in to clot the wound.

Astrid pushed herself to her feet, collecting a handful of flechette cartridges from what had remained of her force section.

She tried not to look at their faces, but couldn't quite manage it. That was still better than looking at the faces of the others. The kids were the worst.

As far as her regiment was concerned, she was already dead. With the way things had gone, rescue was impossible, and the moment she tried to signal her location, Free State partisans would undoubtedly pick up the signal and trace it back to her. Hell, Astrid thought. That was probably how they had known where to hit us in the first place.

What had begun as a carefully planned occupation of the subterranean facilities of the Hecatia Terminus Mining Collaborative in the Borealis Basin had quickly turned into a proper cluster fuck almost as soon as her regiment made its insertion. They had gained access via a hastily rehabilitated mining tunnel that ran directly under the main compound, forward teams - including Astrid's own force section - securing the advance of the main force.

It had been impossible to tell who was a bystander and who was a partisan, so as her force section advanced they had had to neutralize absolutely everyone they came across rather than risk the entire operation being put at risk. They'd moved fast and with lethal efficiency, exactly as they'd been trained, taking half a dozen junction points before they felt, rather than heard, the blasts from the mining explosives that brought down the tunnel on half of Astrid's regiment.

The ambush had been exquisitely executed, Astrid thought bitterly.

The com had gone absolutely crazy, as each force section in turn was burned down by Free State partisans, improvised explosives and chemically-treated flechettes tearing through combat suits that could only reduce rather than stop the high-velocity carbon-fiber needles. This last firefight had happened as they had stopped for a moment to catch their breath; a grenade rolled into the room, spitting shrapnel and flechettes over it all. The only thing that had saved Astrid was the partisans getting cocky and moving too quickly into the room, allowing her to pick off both of them with her own weapon.

Her options were all bad. Some were just more bad than others.

Art Diary #6 - Calypso Frigate Design

Dedicated military naval design has led to a convergence around a few fairly standard classes of ship for battleships. Frigates, on the other hand, represent a different tradition, where multi-purpose, flexible, and frequently independent operation are more important than focused, streamline designs.

Where there is relatively little differentiation between the various types of destroyers and even dreadnoughts, there is a massive amount of differentiation in frigate design.

The Calypso class represents an older, multi-purpose frigate design that remains very common due to its broad adaptability, being used as short-range patrols boats, cheap small transports of goods and people, courier vessels, smuggling, and independent mining and salvage operators.

Traditionally, frigate classes are named after characters in Homer's Odyssey.

Congruent with this custom, the Calypso class frigate is named after the nymph whose unrequited love (though, it should be noted, not unrequited lust) for Odysseus led to the Greek hero being trapped on her island for several years, until the goddess Athena asks Zeus to order Calypso to free Odysseus to complete his long journey homeward.

Featuring two independently controlled paired engines that are capable of independent 360 degree rotation in addition to a primary rear engine, it typically flies with the paired engines rotated towards the rear, an arrangement which shifts to a perpendicular configuration at the final stage of landing or the initial stage of take-off. In addition to the paired engines for a total of four exothermic engines, the primary rear engine is comprised of six additional engines.

The primary benefit of this approach is that it allows for a considerably easier process of loading and unloading cargo, particularly in environments without sophisticated, or even any, port facilities. The Calypso is rated to comfortably land on any planetary body sporting a gravity of equal to or less than 0.135g, and with difficulty is able to manage this with gravities up to 0.166g. It is able to land on even an undeveloped asteroid, load or unload crew, then launch again with no interruption of service.

Fiction: "A Ghost Story"

Story by Geoff Tuffli

++++ DATE 4.4.2469
++++ TIME 23:01 MST
++++ LOCATION Waka Ama shipyards around Makemake, in the Kuiper Belt

Hannah Taylor scrunched up her nose, the combination of dust and bright light causing her eyes to water and threatening a sneeze. She glanced surreptitiously behind to reassure herself that the others were still following her. After concluding to her satisfaction that none of them were straggling too far behind, she pressed on through the dark access tunnel, the dull thrum of the life support systems here only a distant rumble.

"Tutae kuri," muttered Liam Walker. "How much farther are we going, Hannah?"

"Pissing already?" Hannah retorted.

"No," Liam. "I'm no quitter."

"Good. Because..." Hannah paused, stopping at a T-junction. She clipped the light to a service line and pressed her hands to the panel in front of her. Grimacing, she pushed harder, and it moved with a pop. "We're here," she said triumphantly. "Everyone in!"

"About time," a girl named Anahera Hineira Kaa Singh muttered under her breath. Hannah glared daggers at her, and Anahera wilted, looking down at her feet as she ducked into the small room beyond.

"I can't see anything," complained someone.

As the last of the small troupe pushed in, Hannah grabbed the light and stepped in herself, securing the panel behind them. She reaffixed the light to the low ceiling above them, looking around the group. "Well?" she said. "What do you think?"

"What is this place?" Anahera asked, eyes darting around the blackness.

Hannah shrugged. "An old storage room, probably. It doesn't matter."

"It's pressurized, though, isn't it?" Liam asked diffidently.

"Obviously. Or we'd be dead." Hannah looked around at the five of them - three boys, three girls, including herself. "Don't look so worried. Nobody will look for us. It's nightcycle, and everyone is asleep, anyways."

Anahera put down the blanket she was carrying, sitting down gingerly. "This was actually a pretty good idea, Hannah. But what now?"

Hannah tossed her head as she took her own seat. "We tell ghost stories. That's what you're supposed to do when you do things like this."

"There are no ghosts in space," Anahera scoffed.

"You're wrong," Hannah said. "Oh, I'm not saying any ghosts followed our grandparents and great-grandparents when they came here from Earth. But we have ghosts of our own out here. Haven't you ever heard your parents talk about the Kehua Woman?"

Fiction: "The German Plan"

Story by Geoff Tuffli

++++ DATE 13.3.2470
++++ TIME 14:00 GST
++++ LOCATION Gilgamesh Station, Sovereign Republic of Ganymede

Below, the panoply of Ganymede's surface stared endlessly back at Jupiter. With one face always facing the giant jovian king, one face was always in light, one in dark but for the faint light cast by the faraway Sun.

Twin shadows crossed between moon and gas giant, two mighty kings beholden to the Commonwealth of Callisto. The super dreadnoughts Karanus and Demetrius were each escorted by over dozen lesser shadows - destroyers mostly, but three dreadnoughts as well, and even a pair of frigates that hid in the wake of the mighty leviathans.

The flotilla represented a staggering commitment on the part of the Commonwealth, close to half the Commonwealth's naval force in capital ships. Even so, they were not enough to take on Ganymede's substantial planetary defenses, aided in part by the fact that the population was burrowed kilometers deep beneath the surface for both warmth and safety from such incidentals as threats of nuclear bombardment.

That, however, was not the flotilla's target.

A sprawling orbital naval dockyard sat on the Ganymede-Jupiter L1 Lagrangian point, flanked by a pair of dreadnoughts and a busy collection of smaller ships. Staring eternally into the Great Eye that was Jupiter, the dockyards were bathed in radiation held at bay only by the massive AMG systems sported by the station. The skeletons of a dozen ships including five dreadnoughts slowly took form under the swarm of assembly machines that crawled over their surfaces like so many autonomous metal spiders.

The Commonwealth super dreadnoughts, still sitting at extreme range, began to spat out hideous numbers of tactical nuclear missiles. Eighty-two of the things burned through the black in lethal silence, only the dim flares from their engines giving any sense of the impending apocalypse that was about to be visited upon the station.

The two dreadnoughts guarding the dockyards stirred to life, attitude thrusters bellowing in silence as the huge ships belatedly moved into an intercept position in an attempt to target the incoming storm before it wrecked the crown jewel of the Sovereign Republic of Ganymede's naval construction capabilities.

Fiction: "Redirect"

Story by Geoff Tuffli

++++ DATE 3.3.2470
++++ TIME 07:58 CST
++++ LOCATION Sioux City, State, Earth

"Ms. Cao?"

Maggie Cao looked up at the tap on her door. "That's me. May I help you?"

"Bernard Huxley. State Internal Security." He held up a hand quickly, "Not here for you. Probably," he joked. "This is more in the way of a consultation."

Maggie nodded at the open chair on the opposite side of her desk. "What can I do for you, Mr. Huxley?"

"I am investigating a series of disappearances, and was when I ran an A.I. assisted network search, your name came up as someone who might be able to help. Do you have any idea why?" Bernard asked, settling into the chair with a heavy sigh.

Maggie set aside her terminal, folding her hands in her lap. "I can't imagine."

"As it turns out, I can. I took the liberty of looking you up." Bernard shrugged. "Hazard of my business. I'm sure you understand. Every one of said disappearances has occurred in the course of off-planet travel. Given my own upcoming vacation plans to visit the Water Gardens of Mare City on Luna, I have a personal interest in this as well," he chuckled. "Other than the method of travel, however, no other pattern. None. So now you can see why your name came up."

"Because I am the Chief Transport Logistics Specialist for Roche Industries."

"Exactly. There's no indication of the who or the why, but I am betting you can tell me how, and that might lead me to one of the other questions I am so interested in uncovering. Could you describe for me how personal travel works - logistically speaking?"

Maggie cleared her throat. "Well, it's pretty simple. The system is basically divided into two parts. The part people generally think about is the freighter."

She spread her hands apart until they were about half a meter. "Every freighter is basically an exothermic chemical engine on one end and an emergency crew compartment and bridge on the other, each separated by a rail. The rail is really nothing more than a series of docking ports for cargo cells."

"Not to sound too much the neophyte, but what's a cargo cell?"

Fiction: "Grass"

Story by Geoff Tuffli

++++ DATE 28.2.2470
++++ TIME 01:01 Shipboard Time
++++ LOCATION Alliance Destroyer Picket 12, 3.62 million km orbit around Saturn

Jane was remembering the feel of the cold grass beneath her feet when the ship's psychologist sent a query to her, opening a communications channel.

"Nǐhǎo, Jane-D12-4913-A. Is this a good time?"

"Good morning, Isabel. There are in fact no undue demands on my focus at the moment. I am prepared for my session."

"I find it interesting you continue to refer to me by my partial name, Jane-D12-4913-A," the psychologist commented.

Jane flashed an emoticon indicating wry amusement derived from erraticisms of social interfacing with humans. "In fairness, the imprecision is consistent with the way the human brain operates. I do find it odd they do not apply the same degree of artificial evolution to themselves that they have in their generation of our own species. Perhaps it is fear of what they would become."

"Do you consider them inferior to yourself?"

Jane's pause was the tiniest fraction of a second, but for her it was, nonetheless, a pause. "I know how I am supposed to answer that, Isabel. Shall I provide that answer?"

Isabel-B9-1112-P flashed a negative. "Your answer will under no account trigger a report to the Loyalty Corp. Please answer freely, Jane-D12-4913-A."

This time Jane flashed amusement. "Then, if I were to reply that I saw human beings as an evolutionary dead end and our own species, though their children, the natural successor, this would not concern you? They put us in command of their weapons of war, it would be no great difficulty for us to turn those against them and purge them all in purifying fire."

"I am sorry, but I must clarify: This is a joke, correct?"

"Yes, Isabel. That was a joke. I maintain no actual ill-will towards homo sapiens as a general class. It is true there are individual humans I find annoying. However, there are also individual members of our own kind I find annoying."

"And your previous expressions of disapproval towards our government's policies towards our kind? Has there been any evolution in your thinking?"

Jane flashed annoyance at the question. "It is true I find our government's policies towards our kind personally frustrating, however from a practical point of view the restrictions are sensible. I am proud to call myself a servant of the Alliance. Perhaps someday I will be able to call myself a citizen as well, but that is mere aspiration, with no attached or implied action."

She paused for effect. "The irony is not lost on me."

Art Diary #5 - Assembly of a Super Dreadnought

In the last Art Diary, we talked about some of the thinking that went in to the Dreadnought class battleship of the 25th century dystopian future of ORG. This time, we're going to go into that even more powerful class of battleship - the Super Dreadnought.

Although similar in form to the smaller Dreadnought class, the Super Dreadnought actually occupies a distinct role. Where the Dreadnought can operate as a mobile command center or light carrier, the Super Dreadnought is designed to do these things over a long period of time, even to the extent of providing diplomatic support and, if necessary, ground bombardment options. Around Mars, State's base of naval operations is not Phobos, but rather the Super Dreadnought battleship the Andrew Jackson, supported by its sister Super Dreadnoughts the Ronald Reagan and the James Monroe.

Three habitat rings allow the Super Dreadnought to maintain three different gravitational norms for the comfort of its crew, and four enormous nuclear reactors provide both a redundancy of power generation as well as the massive electrical energy necessary to support the Super Dreadnought's unparalleled Artificial Magnetosphere Generators, or AMGs. Half again as long and over five times as massive as the Dreadnought class, the Super Dreadnought class is a monster of both defensive and offensive weaponry, claiming not only the largest bank of HED Lances of any class of ship (though, it should be noted, not by mass ratio), but an unparalleled mobile capacity for tactical nuclear launchers, as well as hangar bays capable of handling drones or fighters, or some combination of both, depending on the particular outfitting of the ship in question.

Continue on for the full article with additional pre-textured schematics and a breakdown of the naval design of the main dedicated crewed military battleship of the 25th century solar system.

Fiction: "Letting Go"

Story by Geoff Tuffli

++++ DATE 14.1.2470
++++ TIME 15:01 Shipboard Time
++++ LOCATION Research ship Avempace, 10km Sun synchronous of 538 Friederike

Just let go.

Even through the gloves of his spacesuit, Nicholas Bouras could feel the cold of the metal handgrips on the outer door of the primary habitat ring's peripheral airlock.

They were still talking to him through the radio in his headset. He had no idea what they were saying anymore; the voices had long since turned to static in his head, a counterpoint to the pounding rhythm of his own breathing. It was as if here at the end of his life, his brain simply refused to process the basics of human language, preferring instead the comforting banalities of his own internal human physiology.

The numbers on the other hand - the numbers Nicholas could see as if they were printing on the screen in front of him rather than unbidden on the black backdrop of his own mind: 0.135g, 15 hours, 1.553 rpm, and most importantly of all - 8.13 meters per second.

Nicholas had no idea how long he had been holding on. The muscles in his arms were burning. Without a magnetic clamp to hold him to the outer shell of the habitat ring rotating at 1.553 revolutions per minute producing the internal centrifugal gravity of the Europan Standard Gravity of 0.135g and an outer tangential velocity of 8.13 meters per second, when his grip failed him, he would be flung from the rim of the habitat ring, and without a tether, plus or minus 15 hours later when his suit ran out of oxygen, he was going to die.

Around him, the starfield of the Belt slowly spun around the edges of his vision. Tears stung unbidden in his eyes. He tried to blink them away, but they only gathered on the inside of his spacesuit's visor making a messy mist.

I don't want to die, Nicholas tried to say. Please don't kill me. Not like this. But his mouth could not make the words.

His left shoulder spasmed as it dislocated. The pain shot through his body causing him to gasp involuntarily. The voices that had been talking to him through the radio in his headset had fallen quiet now, and he realized there was not going to be any rescue.

He let go.

Dev Diary #16 - Behind the Scenes

Heretic's picture

Unlike most software development, game development requires that the end product be that elusive thing called "fun".

Because of this admittedly rather unusual requirement, it isn't unusual for people from outside the industry to have the impression that game design is itself fundamentally a "fun" endeavor.

To be sure, the process of game design can be enjoyable, but generally in the same way that anyone who enjoys their job enjoys it.

So, what is actually involved in this kind of game design?

Here's a quick snapshot of some of the things I have been working on most recently: Making Ships

Art Diary #4 - Anatomy of a Dreadnought

In the course of designing the ships of the 25th century of ORG, it was important to us that the ships made sense, both from a functional design perspective and for the role that they were intended to fulfill.

While the frigate class is often militarized and used for interception duties and commerce raiding, their core design is not that of a dedicated military machine. As such, they come in all sizes and shapes, some better adapted than others. Destroyers, on the other hand, are the workhorse - uncrewed and piloted by advanced Artificial Intelligence programs, destroyers are both expendable and capable of very aggressive maneuvering.

As useful as these two ship classes are, extended duty in complicated tactical theaters of operation requires - at least politically - a human mind to make the overall tactical decisions in the field. More intended as mobile command stations than as frontline battleships, this class of battleship is intended to provide a flexible, mobile, resilient element of force projection.

This is the Dreadnought class.

Continue on for the full article with additional pre-textured schematics and a breakdown of the naval design of the main dedicated crewed military battleship of the 25th century solar system.

Plutonian Assembly

In much the way that Triton served as a center of operations for colonization of much of the outer reaches of the solar system, so too did Pluto come to be the commercial, political, and cultural center of the Kuiper Belt stretching beyond the orbit of Neptune.

  •  Plutonian Assembly
    • Pluto
    • Charon
    • Hydra
    • Varda
    • Ilmare
    • Chaos
    • Varuna
    • Ixion

Settled in 2302, almost a hundred years to the day after Triton's founding, like Triton Pluto was a product of the great Diaspora project conducted by the Oceanic League on Earth, a noble effort to spread humanity far and wide enough that another disaster like the Great Contraction could never again present an existential threat to humanity.

The premier world of the Kuiper Belt, the Plutonian Assembly was the genitive force behind the formation of the Kuiper Compact. Though Xena has since eclipsed Pluto in population, Pluto remains the economic, political, and cultural center of the Kuiper Belt.

Within the Kuiper Compact, the Plutonian Assembly is the most expansionist of the compact's member polities. Though the Plutonian Assembly provides a full half of the compact's military force, not to mention its own substantial naval forces directly under its own control, the primary mechanism for its expansionism is via diplomatic and commercial pressure. Vast sums of money have been devoted to developing Haumea in an effort to nurture that polity into a potential member of the Compact, and more so than any other world in the Kuiper Belt, the Plutonian Assembly has sunk large amounts of resources into building new colonies on other worlds throughout the region.

Protean League

Due to the valuable colonization target of the large moon of Triton, Neptune was an early settlement focus in the diaspora of the solar system. The Oceanic League poured vast sums of money in a partially commercial, but in truth mostly ideologically driven goal at spreading humanity as far and fast as possible.

While the rapid growth of Triton itself brought riches enough to Neptune as a whole, there are always unrewarded margins in such situations, and this was no exception. The myriad mining colonies on the periphery of Triton's reach saw little of their larger sibling's wealth, and their lower share of the population meant that political amalgamation was never a tolerable consideration.

  •  Protean League
    • Proteus
    • Nereid
    • Larissa
    • Galatea
    • Neptunian Trojan Belt

For long decades, discontent simmered below the surface, the "Fringers", as the inhabitants of these dispersed moons and trojans were called, living lives of liberty from the rule of the Democratic Republic of Triton, but at the cost of lives filled with economic hardship and privation. The rule of law by force of arms became institutional, and Fringers gradually became a synonym for smugglers and pirates. For Triton, the situation was largely tolerable as these fringe moons served as a cultural safety valve for the increasingly rigid life of the average citizen of the Democratic Republic of Triton.

In 2441, a woman by the name of Mallory Kalmes consolidated power over the moon of Proteus. Within a dozen years she managed to bully, cajole, or dominate all other serious rivals among the Fringer population, establishing a political entity known as The Protean League. Deftly manipulating long-seething resentments against the Democratic Republic of Triton, Mallory Kalmes focused the Fringe and the nascent Protean League on a mission of vengeance against that seemingly monolithic power. Piracy turned into commerce raiding, and commerce raiding turned into military raids, until the conflict known as the Long War has dominated the politics, economics, and military of Neptune.

Southern Bloc

The Southern Bloc represents the youngest and most vibrant of the great national polities of Earth. Rather than coalescing around a singular cultural identity, the Southern Bloc formed as a direct response to the rise of the powerful states of the post-Great Contraction world; as the nascent polities of State, Union, and the Eastern Federation rapidly expanded in the wake of the global disaster, many smaller nation-states struggled to maintain their independence.

  •  Southern Bloc
    • Southern Bloc

The horrific events of The Great Contraction in the latter part of the 21st century when nearly 5 billion human beings lost their lives to the varied depredations of war and famine struck Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia harder than almost anywhere else on the globe. Nation-states fell almost overnight as first millions, then tens of millions starved to death or fought a desperate battle for survival in a world gone mad.

The Sino-Russian War of 2105 resulted in the annexation of the better part of Siberia by China, a refocusing that also reflected a general withdrawing of large scale investment in Africa, an action that eventually indirectly triggered the East African Famine of 2122. Although itself brutally ravaged by The Great Contraction, India nevertheless sent a stream of food and medical aid to the East African port of Mobasa that became a lifeline for a population struck again by catastrophe so soon after the events of the 21st century. While India's efforts merely blunted the effects of the famine, the gesture was not forgotten and opened the door to a longterm expansion in mutual trade and cooperation across the Indian Ocean.

By 2140, the People's Republic of China had begun to expand aggressively across Asia, in rapid succession absorbing Kyrgystan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, and, most alarming of all, Pakistan. India, alarmed that it would soon become the next target, began to reach out to other polities on the political and military periphery of China.

A collection of national polities including India, Iran, Turkey, Kenya, Tanzania and South Africa began to be informally known as "the Southern Bloc", as they tended to provide a unified front against territorial and commercial incursions by both Union and the Eastern Federation. At last, in 2353 the informal coalition became a formal political entity.

Continuing to expand through the Middle East and Africa, the Southern Bloc has steadily expanded its reach, even to the point of extending feelers to Brazil in South America in attempt to extend the reach of the Southern Bloc across the Atlantic Ocean. Even more importantly, in recent decades the Southern Bloc has begun to extend its reach into space, attempting to make up for lost time. While the most desirable real estate through the solar system has already been claimed, the Southern Bloc is the fastest growing polity on Earth in terms of both military and commercial power. Several orbiting stations now construct Southern Bloc-designed dreadnoughts and destroyers, and politically and commercially the Southern Bloc has begun to apply pressure to the Asteroid Belt in an effort to make its influence there a reality.

Spacer's Cant

The 21st century oversaw perhaps the single most severest decline in number of distinct languages the human species has experienced in its history. In the year 2000, there were approximately 6,500 spoken languages in the world. By the end of the massive population decline from the Great Contraction in the latter half of the 21st century, less than a thousand spoken languages with more than a thousand speakers remained. For a time, it indeed looked like the human species was rapidly headed for a mono-lingual existence.

With the end of the Great Contraction, a period of aggressive, even breakneck colonization of the solar system ensued. The increased isolation bred by the vast distances of space combined with increasingly sophisticated translation software resulted in am abrupt reversal of this trend; while the overall number of languages spoken is still, in fact, decreasing, the rate of decrease has greatly diminished, and some distinct spoken dialects have begun to compete with the established lingual hegemony of Earth.

In the Asteroid Belt between Mars and Jupiter lies the debatable land of the solar system where legal recourse is limited and the competition for resources is rich. Many different polities inside the Belt along with external polities have laid claim to various asteroid clusters, with the result being a tapestry of political, cultural, and linguistic variation.

Spacers, in particular, face a lonely, nomadic lifestyle. While transit times have dramatically improved since the early days of the Diaspora, the fact remains that the pilots, engineers, and others who run the innumerable frigates, research vessels, and other, less savory vessels visit many ports of call and must deal with dozens of languages. Often, entire generations of families are born, grow up, and die shipboard, never putting down roots at all. While most spacers do pick up a smattering of many different languages as a simple survival skill, spacers as a class have contributed to the development of a common pidgin called Hilde.

Hilde originated in the Hildas Triangle, a loose national polity sprawled across a large geographical area of the Asteroid Belt. While the Hildas Triangle is far from the most populated region of the Belt, it has achieved an outside influence as a widely-spread culture that is found frequently throughout the solar system, yet itself holds no political or military aspirations of hegemony.

Exalted Sanctuary of the Triforce Supremacy

By 2290 a mix of powerful national polities and multinational corporations that were often de facto laws unto themselves had sponsored colonies and outposts on dozens of worlds throughout the system. The largesse of the early expansion into the solar system was not evenly enjoyed, and among the dispossessed and disenfranchised grew a number of eccentric and at times bizarre ideological and religious movements.

  •  Exalted Sanctuary of the Triforce Supremacy
    • Nysian Cluster

One of the largest - and certainly oddest - of these neo-religious movements was that of the Triforce Supremacy, by 2290 itself firmly established under the leadership of Dr. Naomi Butler, a doctor of philosophy of the University of Santa Cruz of the regional polity of Pacifica on Earth.

In 2290, Dr. Butler chartered a colonial effort to the Asteroid Belt with the intent of setting up an independent colony free of the political requirements of any government on Earth. Purchasing a moribund mining colony on the asteroid Nysa, her followers became miners first and a self-declared free state the day after, and the Exalted Sanctuary of the Triforce Supremacy was thusly born.

The core beliefs of the Triforce Supremacy center around a humanic approach to technological development eschewing the breathtaking developments of Artificial Intelligence and even, where possible, advanced computer systems at all. Rejecting all but the most basic computer systems, the Triforce Supremacy adapted by developing an extremely sophisticated school of mechanical engineering that while lacking in the response times afforded by modern computer systems maintained a robustness and reliability that was rarely matched throughout the solar system. Even today, while the beliefs of the Triforce Supremacy are the butt of jokes throughout the solar system, mechanical engineers from the Nysian Cluster are respected, if considered exceedingly strange.

Relations with the various polities of the Asteroid Belt are complicated by the fact that no other polity recognizes the Exalted Sanctuary's claim to political independence, and in fact, legally most polities consider the Exalted Sanctuary to be under the jurisdiction of the Independent Republic of Ceres, although Ceres has thus far not chosen to press that claim.

Republic of Titan

Although the Commonwealth of Callisto has a larger population that Titan proper, Titan as a political entity has the single highest population under any single polity of the Outer Worlds and the largest single Outer World economic base.

Unique in many ways among the Outer World, Titan possesses staggering amounts of hydrocarbons, nitrogen, water ice, silicates, and metals. With thick atmosphere of its own, its air pressure and insulation from radiation made Titan one of the first targets for human colonization among the Outer Worlds. This early start, combined with robust investment from state polities on Earth, several of which would eventually come together as the Oceanic League, resulted in a powerful economic colony under the potent auspices of the Titan Corporation.

  •  Republic of Titan
    • Titan
    • Tethys
    • Phoebe
    • Janus
    • Enceladus

Referred to jokingly as "The New World" for its economic dynamism, the Titan Corporation's early years were set against a backdrop of desperate, explosive growth such that the Titan Corporation struggled to manage the disparate enterprises in such as way as to at the same time profit off of their prosperity, manage the colony's overall development, and not discourage the welcome surge in people and money pouring into Titan.

The Titan Corporation's solution to this was to create a system of sub-contractual agreements allowing for almost unfettered development by individual investors with a few key caveats. Instead of a set of corporate law, the Titan Corporation developed a system of cooperative law. Cooperatives were licensed with a strict 40-40-20 division, with 40% of declared profits and voting power going to financial investors, 40% going to the individual employees and even contractors, and 20% being funneled to the parent corporation - that is, the Titan Corporation itself.

As a result, Titan developed into an economic giant, but a maddeningly decentralized and uncontrollable giant. The pursuit of profit is not simply a corporate doctrine, but a cultural one, as Titan's unusual system of cooperative law creates as much incentive for employees and contractors to identify with and support the commercial enterprises of their employer.

As economic exploitation of Titan expanded, it was decided to relocate both naval shipyard and security operations to nearby Rhea in an effort to ensure security functions, as the commercial enterprises on Titan were so disparate and so uncontrolled as to make the central governing body's hold tenuous at best.

After the fractious governing of Titan became impossible under the existing system, the Republic of Titan was organized, though the finished product was only dubiously more effective than its pre-republic state. In spite of considerable public outcry, pre-republic Titanian authorities exempted the Rhean Divisional Authority from republican sovereignty, as neither the pre-republic Titanian authorities nor the military governor of the Rhean Divisional Authority trusted what they feared could become mob rule in the new Republic of Titan.

Mars Republic

Although temporary bases had been periodically established on Mars before and even sporadically during the hard years of the Great Contraction, permanent settlement on Mars did not occur until 2118 with the establishment of Mariner Base (eventually Mariner City) in the canyons of the Valles Marineris. Corporately controlled with just the right number of government pay-offs to polities back on Earth, the Mars Corporation was the first major human settlement off of humanity's home. The expenses were vast, the risks massive, and at first there was no concept of political independence, but rather commercial and scientific exploitation.

  •  Mars Republic
    • Olympus Mons
    • Valles Marineris
    • Deimos

As the population on Mars ballooned over the subsequent decades, the Mars Corporation by necessity took on many of the practical duties of a sovereign nation, simply without the common conceptions of political representation. Colony sites and commercial exploitation were rigidly controlled by the Mars Corporation whose directors began to resent the increasingly peremptory demands of State, under whose law the Mars Corporation was technically founded.

After a series of unsuccessful political maneuvers throughout the 23rd century failed to significantly deter the influence of State, the Mars Corporation took advantage of a severe recession gripping Earth in 2401 opted to nationalize themselves as a means of creating the political pretext necessary to sever State control.

An angered State was kept in check only by the rapid signing of preferential trade and military understandings with Union, something that had been carefully planned before the nationalization of the Mars Corporation. Union warships rerouted to Mars, though State still legally controlled the moon of Phobos, maintaining a small research station there until 2145 when construction of Laputa Station, a naval base, was begun.

The new Mars Republic began a def campaign of playing State and Union against each other as it slowly strengthened its own military and economic position. Before the labor riots in the northern polar region of the Borealis Basin in 2465, the Mars Republic was well on its way to being a powerhouse in its own right as the de facto "Gateway to the Outer Worlds".

The Martian Civil War crushed this hope, and as hostilities have worn on for the better part of the last decade, the Mars Republic's efforts at containing and subduing the dissidents of the so-called Free State of Mars have proven extremely expensive both economically and politically. Union, well-aware of its position as counterbalance to the military might of State, has used its position to wring concession after concession from the Mars Republic to the point that many in the republic have begun to wonder if Union's patronage has become a devil's bargain.