Dev Diary #4 - Solar Astrography

Org takes place in the 25th century A.D., over four hundred years in our own future.

Despite two failed efforts, while the stars yet remain out of reach the planets and moons of our own solar system have not, and wide swathes of the solar system have been colonized. Efforts by political actors to dominate this colonization effort failed in the face of powerful corporate entities who, over time, themselves evolved into political entities in their own rights. Earth's nations remain divided, although more concentrated than in our own day, and still wield immense power in the struggles over dominance throughout the solar system.

Yet despite the might of Earth's great powers, the distances of space are beyond vast, and political divisions are enormous, and the ecological turmoil and devastation in adjusting to a world ravaged by resource exhaustion have meant that the influence of Earth's nations is thin at best past the asteroid belt.

The astrography of ORG was designed to create certain playing conditions:

  • Earth and the inner worlds are, simply put, behemoths in terms of concentration of power. Despite a tidal wave of colonization, the single greatest nexus of power remains on Earth.
  • The outer worlds, particularly those past Jupiter, are less powerful than Earth, but such is the distance that they are independent and provide a secondary, less populated area for players to focus on who wish a little more isolation.
  • Distance is critical. As in our own, real solar system, the distances between the inner worlds of our system - Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars - are dwarfed by the vast distances between the outer gas giants and dwarf planets of the Kuiper Belt. Transporting goods, ships, and agents within an orbit are - with two exceptions - instantaneous, but transporting these between orbits takes time depending on the real world distances between these worlds.
  • Raw materials are not distributed equally throughout our own solar system, and neither are they in the solar system of Org. While many types of raw materials are all but exhausted on the Earth of Org, they are much more plentiful on other worlds. In the outer solar system, icy moons are the rule rather than the exception, with metals being the relative rarity. This disparity creates hard choices for players governing the direction of their orgs, and creates both strife and trading arrangements between both players and non-player polities.

The astrography of ORG consists most broadly of ten orbits starting with Mercury, then going on down the line to Venus, Earth, Mars, the Asteroid Belt, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, and finally the distant Kuiper Belt at the far periphery of our solar system.

Within each orbit are multiple regions. Most regions are simply the whole of a particular moon, but some families of asteroid - for example, the Florian Cluster and the Koronian Cluster - are multiple individual asteroids treated as a single region for purposes of the game. Other regions are reflected as single worlds split into multiple regions: Venus consists of two regions, Mars three, and Earth herself six.

Regions are the basic territorial unit of the game. It is important to remember, as well, that players play organizations, and these organizations are not restricted to a single region or even a single orbit (although there are many advantages to concentrating your efforts). State polities - nations, in other words - are the titular masters of these regions, but in fact they are essentially puppets of the organizations that influence, corral, and dominate their actions. The states of Org are the pawns; the players' orgs are the true masters, though they bear neither flag nor anthem.

Take for example the state polity of the Eastern Federation:

The Eastern Federation is a post-modern alliance between several of the great Eurasian powers, most notably Russia, China, and Korea. Arguably the single most powerful state entity in the solar system, its reach extends past the region of the Eastern Federation on Earth to include Mercury and several clusters in the Asteroid Belt. As well, the Eastern Federation maintains close ties with the Southern Bloc on Earth, and the Gallilean moons of Ganymede and Europa, providing not-inconsiderable military support to Ganymede in its war with neighboring moon of Callisto in the shadow of Jupiter.

A player's organizations could operate partially, totally, or not at all within these boundaries. Tasks, particularly in the Political and Military categories, will tend to influence the player's organization's Reputation with the Eastern Federation, its allies and its enemies. For example, if the player conducts a privateering raid on possessions of the national polity of State, whom the Eastern Federation is highly competitive with, the player's organization's reputation with the Eastern Federation will go up - but its reputation with State and the friends of State will go down.

Thus, while players are not at all bound to operate within the bounds of a single state polity, they need to weigh their actions against the consequences of the friends and enemies they will make as a result. For some categories this is a greater concern than others; player organizations that focus on the Research or Commercial categories will tend to make fewer waves with the various non-player controlled states. Player organizations that engage tasks in the Political, Military, and even Cultural categories will need to make sure to balance their own future needs against those of their present.

So, what makes regions different, anyways?

Every player has a limited number of tasks they can have running at any one time, and tasks are always based in a specific region. For example, constructing a facility or mining hydrocarbons must be done in a specific region such as the Eastern Federation, or Mercury, or Ganymede, or the Hildas Triangle of the Asteroid Belt.

Regions do not, however, have the same sets of tasks available. Some tasks will always be available, but many are only intermittently available, and some tasks will simply never be available for certain regions. What random tasks are available in a region refresh at a set interval, though that interval differs depending on the region; regions with higher populations, such as those on Earth or Mars, will refresh their task lists much faster than on outlying moons or distant asteroids.

Finally, the total number of tasks available for a player to consider acting on also varies depending on the region. As with task list refresh rates, central, more populous worlds will tend to have more tasks available, though not nearly to the same degree. Where the Oceanic League or the Southern Bloc regions on Earth might have 25 tasks available at any moment, even tiny Weywot in the Kuiper Belt - not even 75km across - still might have 5 tasks available.

The player's job is thus to weigh the degree of competition with other players they are facing, the resources their particular strategy of domination requires, the category they are focusing on, and the repercussions of their actions on the political actors in the regions within which they are active.