All right, I'm trying to arrange all the ideas here onto one clearly-defined page, and add some new ones which I think might contribute to the story. I'm trying to flesh everything out a bit and create a more stable background. It'll be a bit of a long read... but hopefully you'll find it worth it.
This is all just suggestions for fleshing the lore out a bit.[/size](and hopefully I don't come off as self-important... I'm just trying to contribute.)
I could also be being far too realistic here.
The only things I've changed from DarkSpartan's ideas are:
- The reasons behind why you can have a starship, but still don't know much about computer tech. This gives a reason.
- The state of the galaxy - I edited it to make more sense with the fleshed-out storyline. I may have gone a little overboard... But his state of the galaxy would work just as well, and possibly more so as far as gameplay goes.
- I gave a reason and backstory for WHY things went to shit.
- Tech isn't universal in my example... mostly because I enjoy working things out to their logical conclusions. This part isn't necessary.
To start with, the Milky Way is enormous - far larger than most science fiction writers dare to dream. It would naturally be hard to keep up with. Simple FTL travel will decrease your time traveling between stars by only a fraction, and warp drive, even at warp 9, will still take a ridiculous amount of time. In fact, to cross from one end of the galaxy to the other at warp 9 (1516 times the speed of light), it would take you approximately 75 years. I don't think anyone wants to play a game that takes so long. Traditional warp drive won't be an option from a gameplay perspective. Not only that, but today's computers don't physically have the capabilities to handle modeling the entire galaxy, regardless of whether or not all the stars are loaded - for the simple reason that an x/y/z plane that large would produce integers and decimals far too large for the computer to process. And back to a gameplay perspective: Most of space is empty. Literally, a traveller to our solar system with today's technology could fly straight through the star system without even noticing Earth at all. Space is too vast. Asteroid fields, even at the densest, are sparsely populated enough that seeing an asteroid would bring people rushing to the windows, and they'd go home to tell their kids that they actually saw an asteroid on an interplanetary flight. This isn't fun gameplay. This isn't something interesting enough to suck up your free time. No matter what we do, if we want the game to be playable - and more importantly, enjoyable - we're going to have to be unrealistic in some form.
But that doesn't mean our story has to be. Let's assume that we utilize two methods of travel in Trillek, instead of just one. We have hyperspatial travel for interstellar transit - since there isn't much out there interesting anyway - and then we have FTL travel for interplanetary transit. You could cut down on the amount of time to travel to Pluto from the Sun by any amount you want at this point - realistically, at Warp 9, it would be a matter of seconds. We don't even have to reach Warp 9 - and that puts the immense scale of the galaxy into perspective. Seconds instead of 75 years - star systems are tiny. However, as noted before, I think it would be a lot more fun if things were slightly unrealistic - i.e. asteroids were more common for mining purposes, and planets were relatively larger and closer together. In fact, as far as gameplay goes, it would be fun to get rid of the massive, multi-year interstellar gaps altogether. Setting my course for Alpha Centauri and coming back a few weeks later doesn't sound fun. But from a story standpoint, we can afford to be slightly more realistic.
First, an important thing to note at this point would be the structure of a galactic civilization stretching the vast width of the stars. As I noted at the beginning, it would take 75 years at warp 9 to cross the galaxy. Hyperspace (or something similar that achieved the same effect, like stargates, warp gates, or shorter distances) is important. Instantaneous quantum entanglement communication would keep the galaxy from ever falling - somebody could just ask, "So, Joe, need any troops over there on the galactic fringe?" and Joe replies back the next second, "No Bob, why you asking?" - quantum entanglement isn't the best formula for galactic demise. Warp-speed communications would also be ridiculous, and then there's the issue of getting something that by definition travels at the speed of light, to go faster than light (I'm talking radio waves in this example). Therefore, you have interstellar couriers - which I think I saw mentioned elsewhere. I doubt any civilization, even galactic, is going to have tens of thousands of couriers anyway, so the galactic leaders can't say, "Let's check all the outer systems for signs of rebellion and send them all messages." They'd have to check a handful at a time - so there's an area of unknown, even to galactic leaders. They would rely on the delegation of different quadrants and sectors of each galaxy to the governing of other people, much in the way towns have mayors presided over by higher powers - you have layers of authority. I imagine mail would still arrive at least weekly in the outer regions - but such a quick visit wouldn't be enough to make you entirely sure of the exact state of a system. Lies could be told.
To summarize: The issue wouldn't be "how far" - the issue would be "where to".
So, all this down, let's get started.
By year X, humanity has spread throughout the galaxy, and forms a "galactic empire". I imagine that might hold pretty well for a while, particularly with FTL communication utilizing quantum entanglement (which I'm against for that reason). Now, of course, the problem is - how does such a mighty empire fall? How does an empire that spans hundreds of thousands of worlds fall from its mighty state into a dark age of technological development?
Well, as others have noted before, it's simple. What we're essentially looking at is the fall of the Roman Empire, on a galactic scale. Note, this has been done before by Isaac Asimov in his Foundation series, but to my knowledge never actually put into a game. That's just as far as I know, mind you. Isaac Asimov's stories actually focused more on the rebuilding of the Galactic Empire, through the means of "Psychohistory" - a new science aimed at studying human psychology and using it to predict and manipulate the future - but we don't have to deal with that. The player isn't going to be playing for a thousand years. We only focus on one little bit of that - not directly after the Empire falls, when fighting is still frequent, but when everything has settled down a little in most places.
Now, back to the problem. What makes the empire fall? Some have suggested civil war, others have suggested AI taking over. Really, these are all good ideas, but they all lack a little bit of sense as to the atmosphere that would likely be around... If an empire really did span the galaxy, it would have to be ruled by a centralized government, and possibly a centralized figure or council. This is about where I'm skewing off the path from Asimov's work, as he did it differently. If a centralized council did it, and the empire was governed by democracy and galaxy-wide elections, there would be no cause for unrest.
So, let's say, one member of the council manufactures an emergency. I'll call this guy "Trillek" for the sake of making sense of the name - I've noted that the name doesn't really seem to have any purpose as of yet, and people are wanting to rename the project to something else because of it. (I'm not trying to be self-important or arrogant - I just don't want to call him "this guy" the whole time I'm explaining this, and "Trillek" seems suitable for now. We could name him Gigglybounce for all I care.)
Our man Trillek's goal is to gain ultimate power - control of the entire galaxy. He's power hungry and wants nothing more than to erect a throne for himself, so he can govern on his own terms. So, his plan is simple: Get the galactic council, or board, or panel, or congress, parliament, or whatever, to disagree with itself so a timely decision can't be reached. I'm not going to go fully in-depth here - some of this could use being fleshed out later anyway. He tells the council that there's an imminent danger of a CPU-based artificial intelligence waging war on the empire - and someone leaks it to the public. This immediately starts rumors circulating through the galactic population, and people begin to mistrust their computers - but only the more gullible, superstitious ones. In response to the public's fear, the council opens an investigation that is fed falsified findings, which is Trillek's doing, as it's part of his plan. The council begins to believe the paid-off investigators, and they start debating on what course of action to take against the (fabricated) imminent AI invasion. However, they can't reach a decision, as each member of the council has a different opinion. They then debate amongst themselves for ridiculous lengths of time - which is exactly what good old Trillek wanted. He's secretly telling each member of the council that he sides with their vision, and nobody else's - and when he suggests that they select a single person to make the emergency decisions - everyone votes for him, because they each think he's on their side. Trillek becomes the de-facto leader of the galaxy - but it's only an emergency position.
Now, about here I'm going to bring up how somebody suggested we have Andromeda smash into the Milky Way around here (not technically "smash" - a lot of star systems would hardly feel the effects). I think it's a great idea. It would increase the superstitious fear people would have, making them afraid. People who are afraid think less logically and more impulsively - and it could be a huge part of what happens next. It's absolutely unnecessary, though. It would just add a new element to the game.
Back to what we were doing before:
As the AI invasion is entirely fabricated, it is easily "crushed" - or at least, part of it is - Trillek would logically maintain that there was still some threat, so that he could remain in power. He doesn't have to actually do anything - just say that whatever had happened, got fixed. Eventually, he might manage to do away with the council by himself, especially if he has the thanks of the inner galaxy for "crushing" the "AI invasion" - but the outer fringe of the galaxy wouldn't share the same adoration. They would've known firsthand that there weren't any rogue AIs running rampant in their neighborhood, and without having seen it themselves, as it was supposed to be around there, they wouldn't be impressed.
(Here I'll note that I think it's a very bad idea to put the real Earth in the game. It destroys the feeling of exploration, and destroys the suspension of disbelief by forcing the player to compare real life to an imaginary, often unrealistic universe. If you don't include Earth as a starting point, you can do whatever you want with reality. This works for games just as well as stories. I'll still use the word "Earth" just as an analog.)
Part of absolute power is being absolutely corrupted, and part of being absolutely corrupted is being absolutely paranoid that someone's going to come and take all of that power away. Trillek would want to defend himself from assassinations and from the threat of anyone disobeying his orders, and might gradually turn the central area - let's say the area of the galaxy surrounding Earth (or, rather, the Earth analog) - into a police state. He wouldn't say it was for his own safety, of course, but for the safety of the people. As the empire wouldn't have enough resources to increase the military presence all the way across the galaxy, this would cause even more unrest among the now-undefended fringe areas. Then, of course, he would have to expand the increased military presence to cover all the central areas - since they're the areas he's trying to control - spreading these new governmental resources thin. Whereas before, each system would have their own military to take care of themselves, and nobody would've cared to attack anyway, now, even Earth's defenses are spread a little thin, even though overall, the central galaxy is better defended than before. I.E., instead of having backup soldiers at the ready, now they're all activated and sent out away from Earth. BUT! Increasing military presence of course costs money... and that money has to come from somewhere. If he quietly increased taxes on the outer fringes of the galaxy - galaxies nobody in the central area around Earth considered all that important - he would have his increased income, and none of his loyal subjects would really care. However... this would tick the fringes off even more.
But there's still the council to deal with. Eventually they might catch on to the fact that all the emergencies keeping Trillek in power are a little too convenient - and they might start fighting amongst themselves, trying to take him down again. Maybe he has one or more of them killed. No matter what happens, the galactic seat is in disarray. It could last however many years, or even centuries, if we wanted it to, with assassinations and power reversals and an ever-more-paranoid system of monarchy emerging -
- but this is when the disgruntled outer regions launch an attack that absolutely nobody predicted, a la the "barbarians" that sacked Rome. A galactic empire would be stable only because of trust, and keeping people happy. An unstable monarchy with brief reigns per Emperor doesn't do that, and that's in addition to our "barbarians" getting written off as lesser citizens. Maybe it's cliche, but it's cliche because it works.It makes sense. Not much else does. You can't have a galactic empire fall without a reason, and no matter what you do, you need an equal and opposite force in order to force a change.
Earth would fall under immediate attack, and with hyperspatial travel, it wouldn't be too hard for someone from the fringes to speed a fleet right over to the Solar System without meeting any resistance along the way. Earth itself would be sacked - probably through nuclear weaponry, which would be the only thing that could decimate Earth in a sensible timespan. It would take a considerable amount of time for what was left of the government to send couriers to all of the planets in the empire, recalling the troops - even if they did start right away. There would still be an immense fight, and the "barbarian fleet" might take a ridiculous amount of damage, but Earth could still easily be destroyed. (Not gone obviously - busting a planet would take far more firepower than any ship or fleet of ships could reasonably produce - and a "Death Star" is incredibly unrealistic.)
By this time, the Empire's forces have rallied, and they can launch a counterattack on the outer systems themselves - but also by this time, there's a power vacuum. Nobody holds the throne. The generals of the empirical army are striking out of a sense of vengeance, a need to crush the threat, and nothing else. The outer colonies can be mostly destroyed, but somewhere along the line, the military will segregate into opposing forces as they're essentially fighting a civil war, and the vast galactic army will begin fighting under itself, beneath a number of different leaders. Order would be almost impossible to restore, and eventually, there would be nothing left of it.
The galactic empire has fallen. There's still plenty of technology, but the best stuff - the cutting-edge tech - has been destroyed in the battles, and the fall of Earth. There would be NO dreadnought-sized battlecruisers left, I think - any that were still around would be fought over until they were eventually and inevitably destroyed. The size of your main ship would almost be a status symbol.
This is where I start fleshing out the setting for the current game. Everything above is the lore. Everything below is background.
To explain the rest logically, you look at the psychology of the different planet-countries of the galaxy. A "king" might erect himself as the leader of a small group of star systems, providing he has the resources to control it. He wouldn't have the military resources to expand his empire to where the Galactic Empire had been before, but he would be able to defend himself, and possibly conduct raids on other "kingdoms". They might even call them kingdoms. Traveling between them would be dangerous and put you at risk of attacks from pirates, as well as, possibly, the local military. Stellar communities would withdraw and try to become self-sustaining if at all possible. If not, they would look to a leader in a nearby star system for assistance and protection, possibly offering tribute in return.
Isolation spurs cultural evolution. Each kingdom of planets would develop their own cultures and ideals. The cultures would continue branching off and becoming more their own as time goes by. Religions might develop, encouraged by their kings - historically, religion has been an immeasurably valuable resource in keeping order. A common faith can work wonders for a people. However, the ruling class of the day would be merchants, traders and explorers - the latter especially if Andromeda were colliding with the galaxy. You would have an entirely new galaxy to explore and claim, and little kingdoms throwing out new colonies and trying to establish new territories over the fresh resources. However, this would DRASTICALLY alter the atmosphere of the game, and make the diplomatic state of the galaxy seem a lot more stable. Regardless of this, we have yet to explain the technological discrepancies, which I'm going to get to in a moment.
The loss of Earth would be more than a diplomatic loss. It would mean the loss of the center of academics, technology, and development, especially if Earth had housed a central library storing the how-to's of all human knowledge. The other planets would of course maintain some of this - but they would be oriented less towards "let's know everything" and more towards "let's specialize". One system might have a particularly good knowledge of how to make personal shields, while another system might hear of a personal shield and call it the stuff of legends, or even magic. Note, this is not me suggesting we work magic into the game. I'm against that. Strongly. I'm just suggesting the idea that not all technology will be everywhere.
A side effect of isolation is that people become more superstitious, and have a greater belief in the supernatural. Part of this could show up in concocted religions (possibly even rulers setting themselves up as gods, which could be interesting), while another part of it could be the problem that started it all - Trillek's problem: the fabricated AI story. Naturally, the fear of the unknown could cause people to start getting rid of their computers as early as the fall of Earth. By the time the player shows up on the scene, all that would have been re-manufactured could've been the 16-bit CPUs.
Regardless, robots are out of the question. There are no robots, nor can there be. Otherwise there aren't 16-bit CPUs. Robots can't run on that.
So, that's the atmosphere, matching up with what people have said before: Numerous kingdoms, each spanning only a handful of star systems, complex diplomacy, traders and explorers rule the day, some territories inventing religions, a few kings setting themselves up as gods, pirates getting out of hand in less civilized areas, private armies, and entire groups of systems that only have particular sets of technology, forcing the player to truly explore if they want to upgrade their equipment. And then, you have Andromeda: The unexplored, unknown area - the "Here be monsters" of medieval times - and maybe we could even make there be monsters. I'm personally against a second sentient race, but it could still be interesting.
As someone else noted - it's entirely possible that some kingdoms would actually shun the idea of expansion, closing off their borders. This would be realistic - but unfortunately not be much fun ingame. It's like an invisible barrier that blocks access to somewhere you really want to go - and not being able to go there would just make you want to go there all the more. It might be a little frustrating - particularly if you were on the run and desperately needed a place to dock.
From what DarkSpartan said in this post, edited to fit with the above:
... A couple of hundred years later, and you have still-working starships, but the level of cooperation has gone completely to shit. You have small empires and groups, but a large-scale government is impossible ...
Even the technology to make the FTL computers to run those ships has been lost-- they have to make do with much older technology that they can build.Those computer cores are worth their weight in gold and platinum. ...
The widespread cultural collapse of the Reverse rode the wave of large-scale destruction of technology, from the top-down. The old Empire shattered, leaving only various smaller empires behind, the largest of which could count even a handful of worlds.
Four hundred years later, there is a semblance of order starting to build at the core of the Old Empire. What form this will take, no one can say, but the call is out to reclaim that which was lost.
The "areas" he's mentioned would be more as follows:
"The Core Worlds: These are the ones at the center of the Old Empire, and the ones that were quickest to recover. Most of the tech curve is available for sale, but it tends to get spendy. The law here is quick to respond-- only the stupidest of Pirates even consider operating here, and those usually don't live long. Of course, the influence of civilization brings with it its own ills. No law is absolute, but absolute power corrupts absolutely."
--Note: Earth would NOT be the new center of the rising galactic empire. That would be ridiculous. I imagine there would be a pull to re-establish civilization with Earth as its center, as per tradition, but if Earth was so thoroughly sacked I'm sure that there would be much better places to build - particularly if Earth was nuked.
Personally, I'm of the opinion that there should only be a small handful of "core worlds" - and that it is only "core" insofar as that it's where you start, and it's the best defended of the bunch.
The Kingdoms: Trade would be profitable here but you have a huge variety of different cultures and religion to deal with, in addition to local law enforcement not being able to keep pirates away. Not only that, but few, if any, kingdoms should have all tech available to them. Trading with only particular kingdoms might have some sort of advantage realistically, but in gameplay, that would make exploration a lot less fun.
The Fringe Zone: The ruins of the Galactic Empire's counterattack, and the hardest hit when the shit hit the fan. There are still some small governments set up, but they would rarely span more than a single system. Tech would be scarce. The law would be what you made of it - a few "sheriffs" might try policing their realm, but for all extensive purposes, this is the Wild West of space. New colonies are being set up by those of the kingdoms that want to expand their territories, but either bring with them a small fleet of defensive ships or they risk getting destroyed.
The Frontier: Andromeda, more or less, or unexplored areas that the old Galactic Empire never reached, depending on if we want a galactic collision. Pirates make their home out here, and explorers and mining crews, hoping to strike it rich, regularly meet their end. If you wanted to find new planets to explore, this would be the way to do it, but you'd have to be extremely cautious. The potential gain is high, but the potential risk is higher still. Traveling out here is gambling with your life.
Anyway, this is what I've pieced together from what everybody has said. There could be other explanations, and this is mostly just ideas, so don't be afraid to constructively criticize... I love debates, really, so long as they remain civil. Hopefully nobody gets ticked off at me for posting this, though - and hopefully this hasn't already been stated and I just somehow missed it. I know I'm new to the community, and while I've been a fan of the 0x10c idea for a while, I understand that I have to earn the respect of you guys. I'm totally fine with having this idea picked over... it's just an idea, anyway.