Yearly Archives: 2012

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Somnium

The setting formerly known as “Voyagers” now has an official name.

I spent a long, long time debating this (and I am sure I really got on the nerves of the few people I bothered with the big naming question) before settling on “Somnium”.

Somnium is Latin for “The Dream” – appropriate for a science fiction setting that deals with the – probably overly optimistic – assumption that we will discover an FTL drive and colonize the galaxy.

It was also the title of a book written by Johannes Kepler (yes, the Kepler) which describes a voyage to the moon. Written in the 1600s, the book is more of a fantasy story from our modern point of view – but it was meant as a serious work, and ultimately could be described as one of the first works of Science Fiction.

It will likely be next to impossible to get a good domain name (and so on) for Somnium – I already checked – but the situation isn’t much better with anything else I came up with. And quite honestly I am getting tired of referring to it as “My Science Fiction Universe”. đŸ™‚

More on NaGa DeMon:

Here we are – NaGa DeMon Day 3. The entire thing is still unsuitable for actual use, but a picture of where we’re going is slowly emerging.

I spent way too much time today on other things (I will shamefully admit to finally getting that last level for my World of Warcraft character; which took about six hours) and thus started fairly late. I’ve probably worked 3-4h on this today, and I will continue working after I post this – but since Nov 3rd is over, I thought I should post today’s update.

I do think I found a “method” that works for me – it’s a combination of brainstorming and patching in bits and pieces one by one and in a decidedly non-linear fashion. I expect that I will end up with a collection of rules that “kinda work”, but do not mesh perfectly; balancing and fine tuning is a second step, to be done later.

Today’s file:

More on NaGa DeMon:

I’ve started slowly, mostly because I had other things to do.

Most of my time spent, so far, has been on research – I already had some notes, and I haven’t incorporated everything in this very basic first document either, but anyway, it’s a start.

I’ve decided that I will upload the state of my document every time I post a status update to my blog. I encourage you to download it and very much would welcome feedback, but don’t expect anything “usable” for a while.

See also:

 

Building a Better Star Map III: Placing Stuff

Now that we roughly know what territory humans occupy, it’s time to start working on some actual, practical details. First I used our theoretical groundwork to set a border for the Federated Nations – my setting’s “precursor empire”, if you will. It’s a white, thick, dashed line on this map:

Interstellar Borders, Part 1
Interstellar Borders, Part 1

I then placed Empire (red), Terran Federation (dark blue), and neutral nations (lighter blue – the smaller nations). Having a number of smaller independent nations that can and will get caught up in our interstellar war makes for more interesting politics and plots.

It’s getting a bit crowded so from now on I’ll turn off the whole mess of circles. It’s time to return to detail work anyway – after all, my first version of the star map wasn’t bad – it was just too large and too off center!

Starting to transfer some planets on the spinward edge of human space, I decided to work along the former FN border – moving out just a little bit since the Free Colonies, the worlds named after Arthurian knights and of course the Sword-Worlds were always intended to be “the frontier”:

Details on the Frontier
Details on the Frontier

Looking at the map, though, I am beginning to realize I will probably have to improve the background eventually as well – it was probably not the best idea to make it so “noisy” (pixel-y). I like it, but it’s causing problems with compression. Here’s a version with a 5×5 pixel Gaussian blur applied to the blueish background:

Smooth
Smooth

Which version do you guys prefer?

Incidentally, I am working off of a bitmap export of the old star map, marking off worlds as I transfer them to avoid duplication and omission.

I do not follow any sort of “scientific” method for placing these worlds. While there are some things I could work out – for example, star forming regions would have young stars that haven’t had a chance to develop worlds, if they ever will – the amount of work that would be required is in no way justified by the benefits. So instead I simply place and will keep in mind that they are “important worlds” for when I work out detail maps.

 

Naga Demon

I usually take part in NaNoWriMo in November. However, this year I decided I should do something a little different: Naga Demon.

Naga Demon is the “National Game Design Month”. The goal is to create a game, and play it – even if you do it by yourself.

That’s much more reasonable than trying to write 1667 words – on average – every day after work.

My Goals are, specifically:

  • Write star ship construction rules
  • Write star system generation rules
  • Write trade system rules
  • Run a small tramp freighter through a small star cluster until she made a fortune or runs out of money…

And yes, those are all things I can use for the development of my science fiction setting. As a big bonus… I will try to finally decide on a name for the setting.

Firefly

I finally watched Firefly (all 15 episodes) this weekend. It’s been on my “to watch” list for way too long. I still have the movie to watch. It’s certainly a show that should’ve kept running for longer – definitely higher quality than the usual garbage we get (it bothers me that even Terra Nova had more episodes than Firefly!).

Some general observations:

  • Serenity (the spaceship) is ugly and I do not believe this is a design that would work too well. It’s unique and recognizable, but, I don’t know; lacks any sort of aesthetic. It has no cool factor.
  • Interior design of Serenity was impeccable, however.
  • Characters are awesome, script were mostly good, great sense of continuity from one episode to the next (event of previous episodes are mentioned; even details are kept – for example, Kaylee wants a spare part early in Ep1 which is mentioned again in Ep3 if I do not misremember; but there are a handful of such things).
  • Show makes good use of tropes and of its wild west elements.
  • The entire show matches a stereotypical Traveller campaign almost perfectly.

Now, for what really matters though: Worldbuilding.

The show does have a fairly thoroughly designed world. You get a good “sense of place”. The incorporation of Chinese elements is done well (although I do not think this is nearly as original or “inventive” as some people may think; even back in ’05 China had a very eager space program and fantastic economic growth). The blend feels fairly natural, although it’s hard to establish a meaningful pattern for when characters fall back into Chinese instead of the English they use 99.99% of the time.

(It’s done in the script in places where context lets everybody understand what is said anyway; I guess you have to pledge practicality issues and move on.)

I have some issues with the design of the physical setting though – of “the verse” itself.

From what I understand, it’s supposed to be one gigantic star system with multiple suns. Secondary/tertiary sources seem to confirm this view. In theory, this can work – but it’s highly unlikely. Moreover, the Firefly wiki states that “four of the main sequence stars orbit a central star”. Meh. Stars would be arranged hierarchically. They probably should have made the “verse” an open star cluster; those have stars packed fairly tightly at the center (1.5 stars per cubic light year) but I have to admit that I am not sure this would consist of G, K or M class stars which could potentially harbor planets suitable for human life, with or without terraforming.

I think they probably wanted to avoid FTL technology. Ironically, this also means there is an upper limit on the distance between Earth and the The Verse – even if you assume they can travel at c and accelerate to c instantly, this would be about 400 light-years. It’s probably much, much less – but without knowing more about their drive technology, even a back-of-the-napkin calculation is futile.

In the show they also state that the “gravity” of planets was changed during terraforming. You can’t do that unless you add more mass to a planet. I don’t mind some technobabble – and I do realize they have artificial gravity in the setting – but this just seems like a stretch.

Still, over all, the worldbuilding is certainly better than that of most other shows. The problems that exist certainly do not detract from the overall quality of the show… not much anyway.

I kind of feel tempted to create a “mini setting” similar to Firefly… Maybe a nice project for Wednesday.

Update: Watched Serenity. Bad movie. But I guess better than no closure at all. Not gonna analyze it much – but in the first scene, with young River, we see a map of the Verse in the background and it seems to confirm that the verse is one big solar system.