In this Design Discussion we want to talk with you about the Entropy's setting and the basics of its history. We feel that 'lore' can be an important aspect of any MMO, and putting things like the upcoming factional conflict system into context can make them a lot more fun and engaging for all of us.
Below is an 'overview' of the setting that we've been working on for a future revision to the game manual. As it's intended to introduce new players to the basics of Entropy's setting, we thought it would be the perfect place to start a discussion.
Please take a look and, as always, let us know what you think! We'd love to incorporate your ideas and suggestions into the setting of the game. Bear in mind that this overview only contains information that's well known to the inhabitants of the game world. We have several ideas for story and plot developments as the game progresses, but please feel free to suggest more. :).
If you're interested in finding out a little more about the 'Big Three' megacorps and their history, you should also check out Design Discussion: The Megacorporations
Your Entropy Development Team
Welcome to Entropy
You are a PIlot, one of the rare individuals gifted with the ability to perceive the chaotic maelstrom of the Void. Only Pilots can safely guide starships through this dangerous and unpredictable extra-dimensional space, allowing them to travel vast distances in seconds and making interstellar civilisation possible.
Once, your mind cybernetically melded with Artificial Intelligence of your ship, you could have entered and left the Void at will, free to travel anywhere among thousands of inhabited star systems with a thought.
But like so many things since the Shutdown, all that has changed.
The Interstellar Confederation had grown and prospered for millennia, incorporating hundreds of species and thousands of star systems. Under the benevolent guidance of an elected Confederation Council and its AI advisors, the Confederation's member states and polities enjoyed peace, economic stability and access to wondrous technology.
Much of this utopian existence was made possible by the full integration of AIs into Confederation society. Recognised as fully sentient and granted the same status and legal standing as organic intelligences, early AIs created successively more advanced generations of themselves. As their sophistication grew, so too did their capacity for abstract thought and scientific research, quickly outstripping even the most gifted organic minds. With AIs providing both miraculous technology and the sophisticated processing capabilities required to fully utilise it, the result was a seemingly endless golden age.
Then just over two hundred years ago, without warning, the AIs... Stopped.
No one really knows what happened in the fateful moment that has become known as the Shutdown, or why. What few records survived the ensuing chaos are fragmentary and often contradictory. All that seems certain is that all AIs across the whole Confederation - many of which had been operating flawlessly for thousands of years - suddenly ceased functioning.
Despite many efforts, no attempt to initialise a new AI has succeeded since.
The consequences of the Shutdown were catastrophic on a previously unimaginable scale. Anything that had been actively monitored, controlled or managed by AIs - which in many star systems meant almost everything, from power generation and environmental control to trash recycling and public transportation - crashed, failed or switched to uncontrolled standby modes, all at exactly the same time.
Hundreds of cities and orbital habitats were wiped out, briefly burning hotter than stars as their AI-governed power plants lost containment and exploded. Others suffered slower, but no less horrible deaths as life support systems failed or became stuck in unsustainable emergency modes. Entire planets started to become uninhabitable, their artificially maintained ecosystems rapidly disintegrating without AIs to oversee the intricate terraforming systems that sustained them.
Compounding these disasters and the countless others like them, interstellar travel came to an abrupt halt. Although their Pilots could still sense the Void, without their AIs to perform the incredibly complex calculations and field manipulations required to enter - or exit - that strange dimension, starships lost their ability to leap between the stars and suffered multiple system failures. Every star system was left to fend for itself, without hope of outside aid.
Millions lost their lives in moments. Billions more died in the dark, desperate times that followed.
From the Ashes
In an instant, the Interstellar Confederation had gone from being the largest and most powerful civilisation in recorded history to a vast expanse of isolated star systems struggling for their very survival. But although no system escaped the Shutdown unscathed, the scale and impact of the disaster varied, and some systems fared better than others when the AIs were lost..
In some cases this was because the system contained one or more of the rare planets capable of sustaining life without AI-maintained terraforming systems or artificial environments. Others were, whether through choice or circumstance, economic or technological 'backwaters' that relied on simpler systems that were easier to control and maintain without AI supervision. In a few, heroic efforts or just plain luck allowed the most immediate crises to be contained or even averted.
Few of these systems had the resources and expertise to even attempt to reestablish communication with the rest of the Confederation. In those that did, most efforts failed, frequently at the cost of further lives and unreplaceable technology. But in a handful, they remembered the Void Gates - ancient relics from before the development of the Pilot/AI interface that allowed ships to enter and exit the Void independently.
Shut down and deactivated for thousands of years, these forgotten monuments to an earlier age of star travel still floated at the very edge of many star systems. Reactivating them, and adapting what starships were available to function without their AIs, took years. But eventually a few of these systems managed to send refitted ships through the Gates.
What they found was frequently terrifying and often dangerous - entire systems where nothing but wreckage and ruins served as grave markers for the dead, or where ragtag bands of survivors fought over what little technology still functioned. But with a persistence that has already become the stuff of legends, these few scattered star systems finally established contact with each other, founded a new Confederation Council, and began the slow process of rebuilding civilisation, one star system at a time.
The Rise of the Megacorporations
Critically short of resources and manpower and desperate to reestablish a functional economy, the new Confederation Council contracted out services to any company or organisation that proved itself capable of performing them.
Initially, the programme was a great success, creating jobs and a sense of purpose and focus for the population. Over time, though, the most successful companies have grew and merged and took on more and more responsibility, eventually evolving into the so-called 'Big Three' - megacorporations so firmly entrenched in the structure of the new Confederation that the lines between them and the government have blurred.
Although the Confederation is still nominally led by an elected Council, the bulk of the actual work of governing is contracted out to the private sector. The Big Three megacorporations have expanded and diversified to the point where they now compete with each other for the rights to administer entire star systems.
The megacorp contracted to administer a star system on behalf of the Council is responsible for ensuring the safety, security and economic prosperity of the local population. If it fails to do so, the system's Council members can petition to have the administration contract reassigned to another megacorp. These checks and balances were intended to encourage the Big Three to focus their efforts on providing the best services and keep them 'honest'. They have instead led to ongoing campaigns by each of the megacorps to exploit the system by embarrassing and discrediting their rivals.
Typically, this involves contracting Pilots and Cartels as 'security consultants' or something similar, then using these deniable assets to disrupt their rival's shipping and stir up trouble in the star systems they administer. If these operations can cause enough chaos in a star system or just undermine the population's faith in the current administrator, it can be used to pressure the Council to reassign the system's contract. With control of the majority of the mainstream media, it's relatively easy for the Big Three to blame any unpleasantness that comes to light on clashes between independent Cartels that got out of control, pirate gangs, anti-Confederation terrorist actions or whatever else their highly skilled PR divisions come up with.
The New Confederation
Nearly two centuries have passed since the refounding, and although much has been accomplished, the Confederation today is still little more than a pale shadow of its former glory.
Of the thousands of inhabited star systems before the Shutdown, reliable Void Gate connections have been established with a little over a hundred, and nearly half of those have yet to be recolonised. Few of the previously habitable planets survived with their ecosystems intact, and the majority of the population live in Stations and orbital habitats.
Life in the frontier systems is hard and unforgiving, plagued by raids from vicious pirate gangs and attacks by insane cults who believe that the AIs have become gods and all organic life must be 'cleansed' before they will return. Travel through the wilderness where these gangs and cults make their homes is fraught with danger, and disturbing rumours talk of even more strange and deadly threats emerging.
Even in the relatively safe and prosperous developed systems, existence depends on a bizarre mish-mash of high and low technology from before and after the Shutdown. What little
pre-Shutdown tech still functions is poorly understood at best, and frequently irreplaceable.
Barely restrained by the Council, the 'Big Three' megacorporations squabble among themselves over the contracts to administer entire star systems.
Teetering on the brink of a new dark age, under threat from both within and without, the new Confederation is a far cry from the utopia it one was. But for a Pilot like yourself, willing to pit your wits and skills against its many dangers and your preternatural senses against the chaos of the Void, it's also a place full of opportunities...