The Let's Play Archive

Master of Orion II

by nweismuller

Part 19: Assorted Lore Compilation

Assorted Lore Compilation

On trade and 'credits':
Income from trade treaties accrues to both sides, and represents economic gains from trade that allow greater specialisation in both economies, as per standard Ricardian comparative advantage analysis (which I can explain if needed). Meklars excel both in straightforward heavy industry and in medical prosthetics; much of what Narestan civilisation imports from the Meklars is large quantities of refined metals ready for processing into finished products, as well as specialty prosthetics designed for Narestan use. Both the Autarchy 'credit' and the Interstellar Union 'crown' float on Narestan currency exchanges and are used to help trade with the associated state. The Autarchy and Interstellar Union do not have direct contact with one another as of yet, but limited quantities of Meklar or Mrrshan goods get re-exported from Narestan space to the other species. Both the Interstellar Union and the Autarchy maintain some moderate tariff barriers on outside goods, while in Narestan space unilateral free trade is the rule, with the only 'taxes' being insurance premiums on cargos. The game mechanic of 'credits' is an abstraction of different currencies and economic potential manifesting in capital ready to invest in infrastructure, the expert labor and specialised equipment needed for high-tech facilities, and so forth.

E: Oh, you asked about Narestan exports as well as imports- Narestan exports tend to focus on precision machinery, computer equipment, and luxury/entertainment items. All this said, the actual mix of imports and exports on a galactic scale is complex, and what I describe is necessarily a gross oversimplification.

On attitudes towards aliens and contact with them:
The average Narestan views both the Autarchy and the Interstellar Union as distasteful, but not worth the effort to challenge. Attitudes towards normal Mrrshan and Meklars is more positive, although most Narestans have never met an alien (although more have had some exposure to alien media and interest in alien culture isn't entirely unknown). The stereotypical view of Mrrshan admires their straightforwardness and honesty at the same time as regarding their hot-headed, passionate nature as bizarre and quaint. Stereotypical Meklar industriousness and attention to detail are likewise admired, while the strange quasi-religious ideology of cybernetics that permeates Meklar society is regarded as faintly sinister and smacking of fanaticism.

E: permanent emigration from the Autarchy or Interstellar Union is very rare, with neither government particularly willing to make it easy for its citizens to leave, and both Mrrshan and Meklars tend to view Narestan civilisation as rather disorienting in many ways, even if it is appealing in others. As such, most alien contact is with those directly involved in diplomacy and trade, although it is trivial for alien traders to roam where they wish while visiting. It is believed by some security firms that this is used as a cover for some industrial espionage activities.

On interspecies communications:
For most species, it is implied that there is a spoken language that is... well, reasonably amenable to being learned by other species. The three major species that are implied to have communications methods that are particularly alien may or may not be in this game. The Klackons are implied to have multiple bands of communication beyond spoken language, although they evidently ALSO have spoken language- this helps bind them together into an extremely cohesive eusocial society. I imagine that's at least partly pheromonal. The Elerians are implied to have both spoken language and powerful telepathic communications, inherently. The Silicoids appear to have a language based entirely on patterns of flashing lights, based on their art- which is part of why they're Repulsive and almost impossible to communicate with.

At our current level of computer technology (i.e., past the Artificial Intelligence tier with Neural Scanners, Security Stations, and Scout Labs), mechanical translators programmed with specific language pairs should be possible. Unlike Star Trek universal translators, these don't automatically decipher unknown languages, but they should be capable of a significantly better translation by meaning than stuff like Google Translate. They don't have the level of intelligence of a sapient translator and might miss some subtleties, but should effectively communicate basic meaning with few errors on the fly. If you can't afford a dedicated translator on staff and don't know the language, machine translation devices are likely your best bet. The fact that we have Xeno Psychology means that diplomatic teams and advertisers *can* have teams of xenologists as consultants who are deeply-versed in the cultural and psychological underpinnings of alien cultures, helping craft proposals and messages best-suited to sending the desired message across the cultural gaps, but even lacking that expert consultation basic understanding is more than possible.

On FTL and its rules:
Hyperspace is an alternate physical dimension with 'compressed' spatial relationships relative to normal space allowing functional faster than light travel. Punching between normal space and hyperspace is best accomplished near the edge of a deep (star-sized) gravity well, although in emergencies hyperspace can be breached deeper in (which is the mechanism behind combat retreats). As a practical matter, FTL travel in-system involves heavy and risky wear on drive units, to the extent that lacking critical safety reasons for escaping a situation via FTL, it's reserved for travelling to and from the edges of stellar gravity wells at the 'ideal' distance. With current technology, there is no communication possible in FTL, although faint gravitational and radiative 'echoes' from masses in hyperspace allow observers in realspace to get some advance warning of inbound ships in hyperspace, at least since we researched basic Physics. The traces are faint enough that normal pre-warp sensor technology and interpretation methods would only resolve them as background noise. Likewise, the gravitational influences of objects in realspace have fairly powerful effects in hyperspace, but modified in a chaotic enough fashion to make them difficult to interpret as more than navigation hazards under most conditions. Dropping out of hyperspace early is hypothetically possible, but would be extremely bad, in that if you're stuck between stars at slower-than-light speeds, you're in serious trouble, and you're not guaranteed to successfully breach back into hyperspace that far out of a gravity well. FTL doesn't have strange effects beyond the stress of being in a physical realm that tends to be subject to intense and hazardous gravitational flux and bursts of radiation with no apparent source- these hazards are avoidable by any competent navigation but are rough on a ship, and are a big part of why improved materials science was needed to make ships that could survive hyperspace at all.

On propulsion, shipboard gravity, life support, and heat management:
On a ship under way in FTL, 'aft' is 'down' due to running the propulsion. High-efficiency fusion torches are propulsion, but bunkerage for the drives is the primary limit on endurance for FTL ships- a massive proportion of the mass of any FTL ship is fuel. Given that building ships around fusion reactors at least provides an abundance of power, running atmosphere reprocessors and water filters to recycle air and water is practical. Food under way is combined by a combination of long-term shelf-stable rations and hydroponics that take advantage of waste in the cycle for fertilisation- even on small ships there's actually a great deal of space for storage relative to crew sizes. Radiators are used both in normal space and hyperspace, although retracting radiators for combat or when there's a threat of gravitational stresses ripping them off the side of the ship in hyperspace is necessary, hoping you can extend them again before the ship cooks.

On STL voyages and freighter crews:
Travel outside home systems happens, but it tends to be fairly rare- packing up to move to a new star system is a big commitment, but sometimes people look for new starts on another world. Freighter and explorer crews are insular, tight-knit, and very well-compensated- investing years of your life being shut in a freighter with a small other crew is a major sacrifice that takes great rewards to convince people to undertake. Taking an extensive library of entertainment material to keep crews from losing their freaking minds on the voyage is considered critical, and it's usual for freighter crewmembers to retire from the life after only a few voyages, investing the proceeds in helping them start up a new life. Even so, it can be difficult for people so isolated to readjust to wider society, and crewmembers can make lifelong friendships from shared service. There's some exposure to alien culture, but this in itself is a brief period at one end of a voyage- there's more exposure to the people who have enlisted on the same mad endeavor you have undertaken for years on end.

In-system, they keep the torches lit for the duration of the voyage, flipping for turnover at the midway point, as you have surmised. Given the power of modern drives and the constant thrust, this at least makes in-system voyages shorter than we are used to from our 21st-century perspective.

On cultural uniformity, variation, and body modification:
Nares eventually developed something like a unified global commercial culture, but this global culture is highly prone to spawning subcultures of greater or lesser longevity as interests strike people. The wider culture's zeitgeist could perhaps be described as 'sober but consumerist, technophilic, secular, and rationalistic'. Great merchants, scientists, and inventors are culturally prized and regarded as historically important to a greater extent than great kings or generals. Some religions survive to the modern era with reasonable adherence, but religious belief in itself is a minority view amongst the decidedly materialist Narestans. The most popular religion still extant holds that a great Judge regards the world and weighs the souls of those who live, rescuing the honest and just from oblivion in death, that truth and virtue might endure. The Judge is believed not to intervene in the course of normal life, simply choosing whom to save as they die.

Radical body modification might be considered somewhat unusual, but certain subcultures have developed an enthusiasm for the idea, and pursuit of interests that might be radically divergent from others is frankly almost expected within the wider culture. Narestans by temperment may tend towards being somewhat emotionally-muted by the standards of others, but nonetheless can be very idiosyncratic.

On religion:
As noted, Narestan spirituality is relatively rare in the modern era- the majority of modern Narestans are atheist materialists. Nonetheless a number of religions still survive. The single most popular of those surviving religions is the belief in the Judge, a powerful divine figure who is said to regard the world and weigh the souls of all its inhabitants, rescuing the souls of the honest and just from the oblivion of death at the moment of death. The Judge is believed, by its believers, to be indifferent to 'worship' and to be uninvolved in events in the material world, although prayers to the Judge to commend the good or evil that people do to its attention after the fact are reasonably common, as well as funerary rites expressing the hope that an individual was found worthy by the Judge. The Judge is not believed to be a creator-deity, but rather a part of the world that arose after the world came to be.

The next most-popular surviving religion is a polytheistic religion that holds a large family of divinities arose in the world who provide inspiration to mortals to achieve great things and administer the process of sorting the souls of all who live into their proper afterlives. By this religion's teachings, the whispering of inspiration and genius is frequently the work of the gods, who delight in seeing mortals at their best and highest. Offering thanks to the gods for their aid and swearing in their name towards some goal are both widely-spread amongst followers of this religion.

There are other, still smaller, religions still extant, but those two are the most significant ones by a wide margin. The metaphysical claims of the two religions about the afterlife directly contradict, and so belief in the two is mutually-exclusive.

On sensor technology and orbital traffic control:
Current sensor tech for Narestans looks a lot like refined and elaborated versions of 21st-century Human sensor technology- radar, IR, optical cameras, some delicate mechanical arrays meant to measure gravitational disturbances, and so on. The advances that allow Space Scanners along with Physics are not so much a groundbreaking breakthrough in new sensor types as further development of design and interpretation methods for existing sensor technologies. Given that existing sensor technologies allow early detection of incoming ships on FTL approach and detection of sublight ships fairly trivially, collision avoidance in open space is not terribly difficult. In orbit, it is generally considered that placing an object in orbit qualifies as a property claim on the orbit as a whole for the duration of the orbit, and ships in orbit will broadcast descriptions of their orbits. Orbiting an object in such a way to interfere with an existing orbit then makes you liable for the consequences, which means that anybody with any sense whatsoever spends time collecting all the positional description broadcasts and feeding it into their nav system before entering orbit. Likewise, construction of a launch facility on the ground goes with an effective claim on the launch routes up into orbit from the facility and the right to control traffic along those routes. Failure to broadcast orbit information when you claim an orbit is an excellent way to make your insurance consider you at fault for accidents.

The Interstellar Union places orbital traffic control under central military jurisdiction, while orbital traffic control for the Autarchy is administered by a civilian bureaucratic agency in peacetime.

E: For what it's worth, the principles behind claiming ownership of orbits are nearly identical to the principles behind claiming broadcast spectrum on planets in Narestan culture, although unlike orbits planetary broadcast spectrum doesn't tend to be vacated voluntarily nearly as often, and so actually is also treated as a saleable commodity if somebody wants to claim a portion of the spectrum already being used.

On Narestan naval traditions:
Well, thus far, their only armed presence in space has been strapping weapons on orbital shipyards which have yet to be tested in combat. Encountering the Interstellar Union and the Autarchy has been a wake-up call that there are other alien powers out there that aren't necessarily friendly. So far, diplomacy has worked well, but they're also not deceiving themselves into believing that a military dictatorship can necessarily avoid temptation against a totally unarmed target. Working out basic theory by security firms has been a matter of gaming scenarios out, partly inspired by their historical experience with military operations on their own planet- which, although by this point is old, at least provides some historical lessons.

To be perfectly frank, in many ways all their efforts in working out military theory are playing catch-up to other races, who have a much more developed military tradition that isn't encrusted by centuries of disuse. They do have penalties to each and every aspect of interstellar warfare, after all.

On art, entertainment, and culture:
The desire for beauty, comfort, and entertainment to make life more pleasant is a deep-rooted one amongst the Narestans, with evidences of arts and jewellry that date back to their Stone Age, and with a long tradition of art, literature, music, and games in their civilisations. As for the place of the arts in contemporary Narestan culture- as a rule, the visual arts tend to be regarded as explicitly decorative, with the heaviest emphasis on visual artistry in architecture and industrial design in order to make everyday items as beautiful as possible. Sculpture, painting, and so forth tends to be regarded as a way to make a decorative item specifically in the context of a larger piece of architecture. Fashion and jewellry providing adornment for the person of Narestans is likewise considered highly desirable, as an extension of the 'design of everyday things'.

Literature and music, on the other hand, rather than being regarded as 'decoration', tend to be regarded more in the category of 'entertainment'- and Narestan literary traditions eventually led to traditions of theater and film as well. Amongst the most popular heroes in Narestan literary works and in film are individuals who exhibit uncommon resourcefulness and cleverness in pursuit of whatever goals define the work. Narestan neophilia has led to them having a long tradition of speculative fiction imagining a world more advanced and full of more wonders than whatever world they currently inhabit with wide popularity, and speculative fiction continues to be the single largest genre in Narestan literature and film to the current day.

Meeting with Mrrshan and Meklars has led to an interest in alien traditions of art and a demand for imports of cultural products from both alien species, with some dedicated audiences for imported works. Mrrshan and Meklar cultural assumptions tend to be alien to Narestans, but nonetheless they are frequently interesting, if only for a change. Likewise, Narestan literature, music, film, and consumer goods exhibiting beauty due to Narestan standards of industrial design as an art are valuable exports to Mrrshan and Meklar markets.

On 'uniforms':
One cultural detail that the Narestans never developed- they do not do 'uniforms' in the same sense Humans do. They have situations where there is 'standard issue equipment' as required by the practical demands of a job, and in situations where clear identification of affiliation is critical (like with security field officers) they will have badges and brassards to mark people out, but the idea of 'dictating what clothes somebody has to wear to do a job' strikes them as incredibly overbearing and nonsensical. (For jobs like firefighting where the practical demands of protection actually end up dictating full protective outfits, this may be very close to a full uniform in practise, but in those cases personalisation of your own personal issue equipment tends to become almost universal.)