Part 1: Polaris - Part 01 - June 17, 1177NC: Shuttlebug23 June 1177NC (3957 CE): Shuttlebug
A new pilot! Before we reach the present day, we need to get a few things sorted out first.
With those entered, the game throws some backstory at us.
And the game proper begins.
We start in orbit above the planet Ryll in the Porto Rillia system. Our home since childhood, we're taking our new shuttle out for a spin and getting used to calling ourself Captain. A full-fledged Citizen of the Federation, we're ready to face big trouble, and we're going to start by having a drink as soon as possible. We land back on Ryll, test drive complete.
We're met by some old man.
Ryll's Description posted:
With three hundred separate spaceports at last count, and many more in the pipeline, Ryll is the ultimate port world. Ryll's bountiful oceans are home to a variety of genetically engineered giant kelp that fits well into the natural ecosystem. This kelp is harvested for biotech, food, and medical purposes. Ryll's shallow seas and sweeping plains are dotted with bulk carriers, and the occasional Pegasus or Leviathan comes to collect a cargo of herd animals or kelp. Ryll is a very prosperous world, and its wide open spaces are often used in government films promoting tourism and colonization.
Here we're presented with a Yes or No choice. I choose to continue the tutorial. Saying no leaves him out of your life forever.
As you wander around a spaceport for the first time as a fully fledged ship's captain, a weather-beaten man, in his early fifties by the look of him, comes over.
"You look a little lost, m'boy" he drawls in a gravelly voice, "you look like I did when I had just taken my first flight as a ship captain. Mind you, that was nearly thirty years ago, but I never forgot that day. 'Tis a grand feeling being a captain of a starship, and that first landfall is something you'll never forget."
You smile and admit that you have indeed just made your maiden voyage, and he slaps you on the shoulder with a wide grin.
"Congratulations, son" he says, shaking your hand with genuine regard before stepping back and looking at you with an almost calculating look on his face. "When I first made landfall, I remember runnning into a guy by the name of Gary, and he was just looking to settle down after plying the spaceways for a few decades. In exchange for passage he showed me the ropes, and how to get started in this crazy universe of ours.
"Well, I guess what comes around goes around" he smiles, nodding at you, "so I guess I'll make the same offer to you. What do you say?"
So now we have a mission and a destination! Let's hit the bar before hurtling into the void. All planets have unique bar and planet descriptors, which is pretty impressive as there are several hundred of them present in the game.
"It'll be good to pass on some of the things I learned" he smiles, a distant look in his eyes, "and I think old Gary, bless his heart, will be smiling, wherever he is."
"Well" he continues after a short moment of reverie, "enough living in the past, it's the future we need to look at. Eventually l want to head over to Dunroamin in the Journey's End system, but I tell you what, let's head to Earth in the Sol system, and we'll take it from there.
"To do that," he explains with a warm smile, "Just click the 'Okay' button below and then on the 'Leave' button in the main spaceport. Once you are back out in space, if you have kept the factory settings for your keys (if not, use the key settings you decided on), hit the 'M' key to bring up the map, and start plotting a course towards Sol (the system with the red arrow pointing at it). To help you out with this, I'll enter in the Sol coordinates from my pocket-comp.
"When you're ready," he concludes quietly, "accelerate out to a safe distance from the center of the system and hit the 'J' key to make the jump into hyperspace. Repeat this as often as you have to. If you find yourself in a system that doesn't link in a direction you want, just backtrack a little, and if you run out of energy, just land somewhere and refuel."
Ryll's Bar posted:
This bar reflects the cosmopolitan nature of Ryll. The patrons seem to come from all over the Federation, and with so many different backgrounds, the bar caters to almost all tastes.
The bar gives you several options for interaction, and it's where, naturally, all the adventure comes from.
You can watch the news:
You can gamble: (I bet on red).
You can lose at gambling (green wins, and takes my thousand credits with her):
Welcome to the Galactic Racing Network, GRN(tm)!
You're looking at the future of racing; high speed, high danger and high excitement! The vehicles you'll be seeing today are superpowered racing Vipers, the quickest and most nimble ships in known space. Piloted by supremely talented individuals from all corners of the galaxy, these Vipers always put on a good show!
You'll have four colours to choose from: Red, Yellow, Blue and Green. To place a 1,000 credit bet, all you need to do is click on the racing Viper of your choice. You'll then watch the race as it finishes to see if your Viper came in first! If you win, a cool 4,000 credits will be deposited in your account.
One a race has been run, you can see a new race by clicking on any of the Viper colours to reset the game.
Best of luck, and good racing!
Gambling plays one of four random 5-second videos. I'll show these off sometime in the future. I believe it's a zero-sum game, though I'm sure if we have a gambling addict for a pilot we'll figure it out soon enough.
"Delores Reitz, the solid workhorse of the GRN league, has crossed the line narrowly ahead of Geordie Wills and Happer Marist in second and third respectively. Delores has been looking strong in the pre-season warm ups this year, so this win isn't a huge surprise. With the work she's put in, she deserves it!"
You can hire escorts, and you can leave. As we don't have anything worth escorting, I choose the latter.
We leave the planet for the second time and get ready to hyperspace. Now is a good time to introduce the game interface:
The interface is quite simple, and all combat and navigation-relevant information is displayed off to the right. Pilot information, active missions and cargo manifests are available in a pop-up box, and the main menu is one button away. Escort information is treated specially, and I'll go over it once we have some minions.
Your ship has three gauges: Shields, Energy and Armour. Shields and Armour are depleted from taking hits in combat, and can be recharged and repaired on-planet and with special items. Energy is used up by weapons, special items and hyperspacing, and can also be recharged on-planet or from friendly ships for a fee.
All of a sudden, two Rebel ships hyperspace in and attack the Federation garrison!
You can see the Pork Chop Express off to the right, directly in the line of fire. I take a hit from a stray blaster shot, tossing us aside, but manage to regain control in time to stay near the action. The marauders are the sleek, dark Rebel Valkyries, which are certainly a match for the slow and bulky Federation Destroyers they're up against. The bottom Destroyer is taking quite a bit of damage, so I stay close by in an attempt to loot it should it be destroyed. Fortunately for them, the Rebels lose their nerve and bug out back to the Pirate systems before anyone gets killed.
Peace restored, we follow Barry's instructions and hyperspace to Sol. Porto Rillia is actually 3 jumps from Sol, and it is possible to completely strand yourself in a deserted system along the way. This sector of Federation space is well controlled, however, so getting stranded isn't much more than an expensive inconvenience.
Earth is the most prominent planet in the Sol system. Europa and Mars are also present, but have been marginalized. Landing on Earth proper is a privilege reserved for high-ranking Federal bureaucrats so instead we will be docking with the Kane band. A giant space elevator-cum-ring surrounding the Earth, it's where the majority of commerce takes place.
Is that shadow even possible? Maybe future-Earth is currently in the throes of hyper-summer.
Presumably Earth still has the literal Mecca as well. Barry interrupts to drone on some more.
Earth, via the Kane band, named after its designer Omata Kane, is still the centre for all activity in the core worlds. Most ship keels are laid here, the Federation has its seat of government here, and it is, of course, a tourist Mecca because it is the homeworld of humanity. It is said that all roads lead to Sol, and it is literally true, as the old Council Hypergate system originated here. The Kane band houses most of Earth's serious shipyard activity. There are no greater shipyards anywhere in known space; in fact, Sigma Shipyards actually owns 62% of the band surface. The Moon has taken a back seat, and has been strip-mined for centuries.
Another yes/no choice. I'm pretty sick of him and his horrible space-etiquette by now, and reject the offer.
"This is the lifeblood of our civilization," drawls Barry as you walk around the warehouse. "It is here that most fortunes are made, and more than a few are lost. It's not very exciting, but it can be lucrative if you stick to it for long enough."
"You see" he explains in his gravelly voice, "some places have high prices for certain things, and others have low values for them. Different places have different values. You make money by buying low and selling high. Sometimes you can even buy medium and sell high, or buy low and sell medium, but, obviously, the profit margins will be lower. Over time you will start to identify trade runs.
"To give you a head start" he continues with a quiet dry smile, "I'll show you a couple of easy runs that should get you started, what do you say?"
So be it. I hit the bar (just like all the holovid spacer heroes do!) and prepare to jump to Journey's End.
"I understand" Barry nods, smiling quietly, "you want to get out there and do this all on your own without some old fogey hanging off your back. Still, I'm holding you to the original agreement of a lift to Dunroamin in the Journey's End system."
I can't pass up Viper racing! I bet on blue. Yellow wins. Fuck it, I'm getting out of here.
Earth's Bar posted:
A well-known haven to spacers, Kane's Lubritorium is known throughout the Federation for its warm flat beer from rusty taps. An acquired taste for sure.
This is our map and hyperspace planner. You can set multi-jump routes and the map will automatically update as you jump about. Our map is woefully incomplete at the moment, but will fill out with time. The galaxy is a big place!
I make the jump. Jump time is hardly ever an issue in small craft, but large freighters and carriers will take up to four days - hardly enough to make rapid deliveries. It's a nice touch, the game is balanced such that you really have to fit your entire playstyle to your ship, while making many styles viable. It's open-ended in a very enticing way.
When in space you can jettison cargo, an option usually used in the course of piracy. This includes most mission-sensitive cargo, but unfortunately Barry is considered indispensable - meaning we can't turn him into a space-popsicle to save some fuel.
Ah, time to drop Barry off and-
Whoops this is the wrong system let's not stay here
Chlorine gas whips past the visor of your biosuit as you clamber over rocks made of silicates and metals. You seriously hope you don't accidentally puncture your suit.
I make the correct jump this time and end up in Journey's End, landing on Dunroamin. It's not the prettiest place.
Barry goes his own way.
Dunroamin was originally discovered and claimed by an itinerant prospector and space-tramp, but she lost it in a court case against the Colonial Scouting Corps (who claimed that it had been discovered months earlier by one of their long-range probes). The out-of-court settlement enabled that tramp, Felicia Kane (great grand-daughter of Omata Kane), to set up home here in the style to which she would become accustomed. Dunroamin is analogous to old Earth's Beverly Hills, with many holovid stars and sporting heroes making their homes here. The Federation Navy also has many bases on Dunroamin with large numbers of troops stationed here.
Free at last! Let's see what other options besides the bar are available to us when planetside. There's the mission computer, offering various sidequests:
"I wish you well, son," Barry says in his gravelly voice, "I'm sure you'll do fine." and with that he turns and leaves, soon disappearing into the spaceport, leaving you alone and ready to take on the universe.
The trade centre, offering all sorts of commodities and novelties:
The outfitter, offering different upgrades and weapons ("outfits") for your ship:
And the shipyard with a variety of new and certified pre-owned starships. Our basic shuttle, while it managed to get us here in one piece, is entirely useless for any serious travel, trade or combat. We'll have to upgrade, but with our credit quickly dwindling there aren't many options available at the Shipyard. Still, literally anything is an upgrade at this point, and I purchase a used Heavy Shuttle. I don't stick any outfits on it yet - there's no point until we have a goal in mind.
Of course, it needs a name. What should it be?
Heavy Shuttle posted:
This particular heavy shuttle looks like it has been through more than its fair share of scrapes and only just managed to come through them in one piece. In looking over it you see that most of its systems have been patched up one way or another, but that not much works as well as its basic specs say it should. Still, the price being offered by the former owner is more than reasonable, and it does still run.
Exuberant off of slightly reducing our chances of horrible horrible space-death, we visit the bar for a celebratory drink. Suddenly, adventure appears!
Dunroamin Bar posted:
This very upper-class bar is for the very rich and the high-ranking officers of the Federation Navy. You quickly learn that while the service and drinks are of excellent quality, the prices here are heavily inflated.
Do you want an adventure? Y/N (I will always answer yes, unless the choice is a plot-critical one - then it's up to you.)
You are sitting quietly enjoying a cold drink, when the man beside you turns and starts up a conversation. The space jock lifestyle is a fairly lonely one, with months between seeing old friends, and you are more than happy to chat away for a while with him. It turns out that he is an Auroran living in Federation space. When he told you, you looked at him somewhat skeptically, but once he explained that he was watched by the government very carefully, and had to log all his travel and movements, you can see that this might be possible. Charengo has been living in Fed space since his House cast him out. Your limited knowledge of the Auroran lifestyle gives you enough of an idea not to question him further; these things are always a matter of honour, and best left alone.
During the course of the night it becomes apparent that Charengo is something of an entrepreneur, and has organized for a number of Federation citizens to go to Hourglass and hunt the dreaded Cunjo. He has a number of expatriate Auroran warriors to act as guides, and enough weapons to destroy a small Federation battle group. He has run a number of successful hunts, but has run into a snag. His regular pilot was killed when a Cunjo ripped him to pieces. So now he has a party ready to leave, but no one to get them there.
Suddenly, a light comes to his eyes, and you can all but see a light bulb appear next to him. "Say," he asks, "what are you doing tomorrow? Do you feel up to ferrying us to Hourglass and dropping us off back at Earth? It won't be too dangerous, the Cunjos aren't mating at the moment."
You look at him in a mixture of disbelief. You have never seen a Cunjo, but you really don't want to.
Charengo sees your expression, smiles and leans closer, "There is big money in this. If you do it for me, I'll always be in your debt. And I'll pay you 75,000. You won't have to go on surface for very long, and you won't even have to leave your ship. Even in mating season, Cunjo can't tear through metal."
What do you say?
So here we are. A new (to us) ship, on a strange world and with the universe ahead of us. What shall we do?
You stick out your hand, and Charengo grasps it.
"I really should be getting everything organized," he smiles warmly. "I'll meet you at your ship tomorrow. I'll have my team with me, and four clients, three of which are public servants who are out for a thrill, and one who is a much more serious hunter. We'll probably stay on Hourglass for a few days, depending on how the hunt goes, and then we'll return to Earth when we're finished."
What should we name the new ship?
What should we do now? Trade, pirate, mine, fight, run missions, gamble our life savings away, or explore?