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News: New blog post: Economy & Outposts (9/19/17); Starsector 0.8.1a is out!
 
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Author Topic: The Lore Corner  (Read 101039 times)
Gothars
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« Reply #360 on: June 22, 2017, 03:09:53 AM »

So you'd rather have no story for fear of it being cliche?

I'd trust David to come up with something interesting, or at least tell it in an interesting way. That's arguably more important than being wholly original.
In any case, the story is just there to frame gameplay, and I think upping the thread level with some Sector-external factor would make for good gameplay.
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« Reply #361 on: June 22, 2017, 03:53:31 AM »

So you'd rather have no story for fear of it being cliche?

A story =/= everything must be explained.

Sometimes less is more. A bit of mystique goes a long way to making stories interesting.

I think the core of StarSector's story is that the Sector doesn't have to be falling apart: it has enough resources that it can, if everyone works together, potentially build itself up into a new Domain of Man (assuming the old one is gone). Human nature, however, means that no matter how many iterations of the simulation you run... the Sector is always be doomed.

Introducing an external threat means that the Sector will, if allowed enough time to respond, unite against the common enemy. This basically reverses the undertones of the story, which isn't a bad thing in itself... but I find that in similar stories I tend to enjoy the first part (before the introduction of the external threat) more than the second.
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Gothars
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« Reply #362 on: June 22, 2017, 04:43:42 AM »


I think the core of StarSector's story is that the Sector doesn't have to be falling apart: it has enough resources that it can, if everyone works together, potentially build itself up into a new Domain of Man (assuming the old one is gone). Human nature, however, means that no matter how many iterations of the simulation you run... the Sector is always be doomed.


That's not so much a story but the scenario we already start with. From that, good stories might emerge from gameplay, if that becomes dynamic enough.
But that is still different from a proper written story with an narrative arc. That such a story will shed some light on the calamity is not a necessity, but seems an obvious choice. It is by far the biggest open question, after all.

Introducing an external threat means that the Sector will, if allowed enough time to respond, unite against the common enemy. This basically reverses the undertones of the story, which isn't a bad thing in itself... but I find that in similar stories I tend to enjoy the first part (before the introduction of the external threat) more than the second.

That's only the case if it is indeed a common enemy that so powerful that all the factions have to unite. There are many other possibilities. It is an opportunity to change the rules of the game up to that point.

« Last Edit: June 22, 2017, 11:03:57 AM by Gothars » Logged

David
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« Reply #363 on: June 22, 2017, 09:10:52 AM »

I probably shouldn't get too deep into my general feelings on mystique/revelation in stories/worldbuilding like in Starsector because it'd constitute some kind of meta-spoiler ... so I won't!

Human nature, however, means that no matter how many iterations of the simulation you run... the Sector is always be doomed.

... However whenever someone says the phrase "human nature" a little red light starts blinking in my brain, I drop everything, and spring to (rhetorical) action!

Man, if the Sector is always doomed due to some inexplicable fallen (biblical implications intended) & unchangeable nature of humanity, that'd be super depressing. I've read stories I felt were just a rumination on (the author's) misanthropy, maybe put through various ideological/aesthetic lenses and oftentimes I don't feel their conclusions are 'earned', albeit with of course concession to the subjectivity of writing and authorial intent being allowed to make emotional statements rather than statements of fact. One story in particular that I felt really earned its ultra-depressing conclusions as the sort of logical result of the scifi conceits being explored was Peter Watts' Blindsight. So ... read that one if you want to feel bad about everything in an interesting way. The setting-conclusion to Reynold's Revelation Space series is arguably pretty depressing, but I'd say quite a lot less so than Blindsight.

But I mean, to back up here to Starsector: the problem is one of resources and conflict. These are political problems. Political problems are negotiable, whether through literal negotiation or use of force, be it giant warfleets or ... other crazy scifi things? These problems involve human? actors/characters and this includes (as this is a game) the player. Given conflict and actors there's potential for a story! Maybe it'll end badly, maybe not.

One thing I feel I can say (because it's on the upcoming features list on fractalsoftworks.com) is that Alex & I have talked for a long time about how to provide a game of Starsector with a conclusion. Details TBD.
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« Reply #364 on: June 22, 2017, 03:30:47 PM »

The setting-conclusion to Reynold's Revelation Space series is arguably pretty depressing, but I'd say quite a lot less so than Blindsight.

Going on a bit of a tangent here, but eh; I always thought the Greenfly and its implications were one big, annoying, cheap asspull to deliberately end it all on a grim and gloomy note. Doom and despair for the sake of doom and despair. I'm not sure how much Reynolds explores or explains the Greenfly in his novellas, since I've only read summaries of them, but based on those and the main books the whole thing just comes so completely out of the left field that I can't help but feel aggravated by it.

Hum, point is probably that Reynolds' writing can be pretty irritating at times, and hopefully Starsector doesn't end in a similar way. Or something.
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« Reply #365 on: June 22, 2017, 05:40:16 PM »

And re the depressing nature of The Sector... there's very little going on in the game that isn't a thing irl
Also, David discussing Blindsight fills me with squee
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« Reply #366 on: June 23, 2017, 12:39:43 PM »

About the "collapse," I'll just affirm once again that mysteries are always more interesting than the solutions to those mysteries. This is why Sherlock Holmes always has a cocaine relapse after he solves a case.

Anyway, It's weird that such thoughtful, seemingly humane people like Alex and David made a game that is basically SpaceSyria and contains a pessimistic, even nihilistic view of human nature and political endeavors. Not only that, it particularly encourages the player to engage in endless, brutal aggression without even a pretext of justice. I don't know if it's just the playerbase you've attracted and the way they tend to play the game, but the system seems to glorify and encourage violence (making the game all about bounty hunting) above alternative activities. Like it's always "the heart of the game is combat, you aren't supposed to have too much fun or earn money doing other stuff." And it's not space invaders; they went through the trouble to make a well-realized fictional world; one that's basically evil.

It's one of those situations where creators created something which does not mirror their own beliefs at all. At least I hope it doesn't.
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David
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« Reply #367 on: June 26, 2017, 02:54:11 PM »

Anyway, It's weird that such thoughtful, seemingly humane people like Alex and David made a game that is basically SpaceSyria and contains a pessimistic, even nihilistic view of human nature and political endeavors. Not only that, it particularly encourages the player to engage in endless, brutal aggression without even a pretext of justice. I don't know if it's just the playerbase you've attracted and the way they tend to play the game, but the system seems to glorify and encourage violence (making the game all about bounty hunting) above alternative activities. Like it's always "the heart of the game is combat, you aren't supposed to have too much fun or earn money doing other stuff." And it's not space invaders; they went through the trouble to make a well-realized fictional world; one that's basically evil.

It's one of those situations where creators created something which does not mirror their own beliefs at all. At least I hope it doesn't.

Yeah, uh, this is a really interesting set of issues. To start, I'm pretty sure both Alex and I consider the Persean Sector to be a dystopia. Heh, a thought: like take Star Trek inverted = Starsector.

Speaking more for myself (as we're getting away from Official Statement territory), I hope the world-building makes it clear that the dystopian state of affairs is not a statement about what I think is ideal or inevitable, but more showing the result of a given set of conditions making a disaster really disastrous. In this case, Domain policy which kept its colonies reliant upon its central authority caused the Sector to be ill-equipped to handle the collapse of the Gate system.

As for what the players do .... yeah, you have a good point. The player is rewarded for being pretty awful, in general, though ideally I'd like to aim for a place where the player feels more like a Han Solo figure, though this'll change as the scope of the game changes. And I'd like to add more interactions with people and beliefs in the world, and have the game acknowledge/judge what the player has done for good or ill somehow. (And in a way more sophisticated than adding up good deeds - evil deeds = outcome on table.)
We'll have to see how it pans out in v0.9 and beyond eh?

To be perfectly honest, the ultimate goal of Starsector's worldbuilding is to create a backdrop for a certain set of gameplay mechanics: space combat plus power/wealth accumulation in a manner that gives the player as much personal control over their own fate as possible Because Video Games. This wouldn't work so well in a Star Trek game ( ... though I bet a cool game could be made based around the Maquis in the DS9 timeline). Or imagine an Iain M. Banks: The Culture: The Game; Allocating resources would be a matter of convincing godlike AIs to back your plan. Could be cool! But uh, given the medium and genre conventions, it's a heck of a lot easier to make a combat + numbers accumulation game.

Also: your mention of SpaceSyria is interesting, because both recent geopolitics and not-recent geopolitics/history inform a lot of the inspiration for writing Starsector. And I remember talking to Alex about parsing the Syrian civil war as an example of conflict in Starsector surrounding the Diktat and etc. I will say that nothing is a 1:1 analogy, so I don't encourage people to map Starsector onto Syria. (Though Pathers are a bit ISIS-y, aren't they.)


Related example: I really don't think the makers of Brigador think it's morally acceptable to shoot up cities in a combat mech, but I think they thought it'd sure make a cool video game. Authorial intent can be subtle, but I think one can pick up on approving vs. disapproving portrayal of a setting. I hope!
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« Reply #368 on: June 27, 2017, 10:04:15 AM »

Thanks for the thoughtful response.


Yeah, uh, this is a really interesting set of issues. To start, I'm pretty sure both Alex and I consider the Persean Sector to be a dystopia. Heh, a thought: like take Star Trek inverted = Starsector.

I love star trek and I really respect (increasingly, these days) its optimism  but it's definitely neat to sometimes be reminded (from the remove of fiction!) that good outcomes are also not inevitable.

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[...] the dystopian state of affairs is not [...] inevitable, [...] Domain policy which kept its colonies reliant upon its central authority caused the Sector to be ill-equipped to handle the collapse of the Gate system.

Basically as a player i only hear good things about the domain. the domain lead to peace and expansion; whereas post-collapse autonomy led to chaos. So the message is: "People become savages when there is no  central authority." This is a trope of zombie movies and reality TV shows (neither of which I credit much). Also, the domain collapse, to the player, is a mysterious "out of context problem," which eclipses the theme of hubristic overreach as a sin leading to the sector's current condition.

But you say that's the opposite of your intended message.

I'd suggest making the domain overreach/hubris a bit more overt. I won't presume to tell you how though!


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[...] The player is rewarded for being pretty awful,[...] I'd like to aim for a place where the player feels more like a Han Solo figure, [...] And I'd like to add more interactions with people and beliefs in the world, and have the game acknowledge/judge what the player has done for good or ill somehow.

I'm glad to see you're moving things in this direction. But Starsector's scope (fleet, rather than individual ship), and the rapidity with which you progres, rules out Han Solo. You quickly become a small but pivotal actor in the sector; more like Histiaeus of Miletus in Herodotus  than Han Solo (have those two have ever shared a sentence before?).

Most players are locked into the bounty trap-- keep getting more cash to supply larger fleets (to fight larger bounties, etc etc). They become mere thugs for one faction or another, but the combat never does anything. The bounty system itself seems disconnected from the dynamic economy; a relic of an earlier version of starsector and an unsubtle mechanism to generate combats.

If the economy worked for trading, if it were possible to create outposts of civilization, if there were more "good" things to do with force, it would help. It might be interesting to apply economic and military force to create truces between factions, etc. Sounds like you have ideas already.

Quote
To be perfectly honest, the ultimate goal of Starsector's worldbuilding is to create a backdrop for a certain set of gameplay mechanics: space combat plus power/wealth accumulation in a manner that gives the player as much personal control over their own fate as possible Because Video Games.

Whatever your intentions at the beginning, starsector is no longer just space combat and wealth accumulation. You've made a dynamic world, a place that feels alive, and outgrown the player base that was just focused on space combat. So it's also about telling a story with that world. The designers have latitude to decide what morality it imparts.

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Also: your mention of SpaceSyria is interesting, [...] (Though Pathers are a bit ISIS-y, aren't they.)

Well the pather ships are green and some have crescents on them, so one does think of Islam.

The whole sector is Syria: A multipolar conflict so total and protracted that everybody  lost absolute moral high-ground; rather some have even lower ground. Long, high-intensity conflict reaches a post-ideological stage where factions can no longer focus on ideology but are consumed only with the administrative and military details of their own perpetuation. That's the sense I get from Starsector.

That said, the game shouldn't say "these are good guys, these are bad guys." It should be up to the player to see the good and bad in any faction, and either decide to support that faction as the best medium for a re-injection of justice into the morally depleted sector, or to go their own way.
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« Reply #369 on: August 12, 2017, 11:09:04 PM »

Lots of very interesting stuff in here. I've just got to ask, with the church / path being anti-tech, what is their stance on medicine? I imagine they would be very against cybernetics, but where do they draw the line between too much / necessary evil there?

Secondary thought is, since they seem so spread out on Tarsettus maybe it wouldn't be as important since disease would have a tougher time spreading?
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« Reply #370 on: August 19, 2017, 04:28:40 AM »

Quoting from the recent blog post...

Quote from: A True and Accurate History of the Persean Sector
c+160 – Andrada defeats Warlord Loke

Much glory earned by the young and upcoming Hegemony officer Andrada in the Battle of Maxios. Hegemony policy promotes hero-worship as means to unify population.

Involved:

  • Warlord Loke
  • Philip Andrada

How far does this hero-worship go and how literal is it, by the way? Is it just that the Hegemony incorporates heroic figures extensively into their propaganda, glorifying them, their successes, and go out of their way to ensure their further successes (by e.g. reallocating higher-quality equipment and more capable personnel to their command)?

Also, do these policies continue into the present day, or has the Hegemony quietly phased such propaganda out of their doctrine?
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« Reply #371 on: September 01, 2017, 08:57:05 PM »

Thanks for the thoughtful response.

Basically as a player i only hear good things about the domain. the domain lead to peace and expansion; whereas post-collapse autonomy led to chaos. So the message is: "People become savages when there is no central authority." This is a trope of zombie movies and reality TV shows (neither of which I credit much). Also, the domain collapse, to the player, is a mysterious "out of context problem," which eclipses the theme of hubristic overreach as a sin leading to the sector's current condition.
Considering the sector is newly colonized it seems more like a Lord of the Flies type situation. It reminds me of the various IRL colonies which perished in the time between ships arriving from the motherland.
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« Reply #372 on: September 04, 2017, 10:51:53 AM »

I know this is getting off-topic, but it's a holiday and I'm overeducated, so:

Fiction, as a rule, is written from a descriptive not prescriptive vantage point - describing a state of affairs in a fictional world isn't automatically a statement of approval, although it can be. You might be able to infer bits and pieces, but in general, people who ask 'so hey, you wrote a murder scene in this story, you do know killing people is wrong, right?' tend to be disingenuous or naive. (That's not a hypothetical example; a friend of mine got that question in a workshop).

There have been a couple of really good books that touch on the appropriateness of children's play and learning; I'm going to quote Peter Gray's 'Free To Learn':

Some people fear that violent play creates violent adults, but in reality the opposite is true. Violence in the adult world leads children, quite properly, to play at violence. How else can they prepare themselves emotionally, intellectually, and physically for reality? It is wrong to think that somehow we can reform the world for the future by controlling children’s play and controlling what they learn. If we want to reform the world, we have to reform the world; children will follow suit. The children must, and will, prepare themselves for the real world to which they must adapt to survive.

More generally, I think the modern world, to the extent that it belongs in this conversation at all, suffers from an excess of people who would like to be told what to do in detail by a higher authority, and thereby abrogate their responsibility for making moral choices and being clear-eyed about the likely results. That's the kind of thinking that leaves us standing over smoking piles of dead bodies, sooner or later. Fiction isn't a programming language for prescriptive morality. It's a tool we use to explore morality, among other things, separated from consequences. I wouldn't sign the Brigador Action Agreement and shoot up Solo Nobre in the real world; I wouldn't be a space pirate if you offered me the chance; I wouldn't want to be trapped inside a test facility with a portal gun, either, but these are enormously fun and interesting game experiences.

And now I'm going to go back to the game of Stellaris where I've used nothing but plantoid pops as a sapient food source to ensure that my galactic space cannibal empire is vegan.

(Personally, I always mapped a lot of Starsector's conflicts to the Yugoslav Wars and the various post-Roman/Hellenistic uglinesses. When a nation or an empire comes apart, especially one that was pretty fractious to begin with, it doesn't take long at all before compounding cycles of violence lead to spasms of incredible destruction. What responsibility the former nation, or empire, has for that is rarely explored.)
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« Reply #373 on: September 04, 2017, 01:52:17 PM »

(Personally, I always mapped a lot of Starsector's conflicts to the Yugoslav Wars and the various post-Roman/Hellenistic uglinesses. When a nation or an empire comes apart, especially one that was pretty fractious to begin with, it doesn't take long at all before compounding cycles of violence lead to spasms of incredible destruction. What responsibility the former nation, or empire, has for that is rarely explored.)
SPACE GREMLINS!


I mean, it is always midnight in space... right?
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I've seen things you people wouldn't believe. Eagles and Falcons on fire off the L5 of Sindria. I watched Tachyon beams glitter in the dark near the Perseus Nebula...
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« Reply #374 on: September 23, 2017, 05:47:07 AM »

Fiction, as a rule, is written from a descriptive not prescriptive vantage point

Yes of course. But the author of the fiction, presumably, has something they want to say about a theme, rather than just a chronicle of "stuff that happened to made up people" (then it would just be soap opera). As readers, we can than evaluate that book, and decide if it says something worthwhile, or something that is cliche, homily, sophistry etc.

So authors should make sure the words as written are actually saying what they want to say. Never mind kids playing with sticks, what people say does influence other people. This is often why people want to say things. This is why propaganda exist. This is why Plato goes on about types of music. A nation that reads only Victorian novels will choose a leader different from the nation that watches only reality TV, etc.

In the game designers case, are the mechanics and lore drops they put into game creating the gameplay that tells the story they want to tell? Starsector is clearly trying to say something, so let them say it as well as they can. I saw inconsistencies between what the Starsector authors seem to be trying to say, and what the game actually says.
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