Voyageur » Devlogs » 3. Alignments

2016.6.17

3. Alignments

So here’s a problem with procedural text. If you’re just assembling text fully at random, you get contradictions. Voyageur solves this problem by assembling text according to a model. But it’s not enough to avoid outright contradiction. The worlds in our galaxy have to be diverse, but they also have to be consistent with themselves, aligned with a particular feel or theme.

The alignments are five perspectives on the future of humanity; they’re survival strategies, value systems, aesthetic preferences, and ideologies. They’re designed to not map cleanly to real-world ideologies, to act as a broad symbolic system. Every region of space in Voyageur has a specific alignment, which informs what kinds of places and stories you will find there. Most of all, they give each place you visit a coherent set of values and aesthetic. But they’re not all-encompassing; two regions with the same alignment could be very different. Here are the five alignments that will be in Voyageur:

Chrysalis

Shivering Chrysalis

Chrysalis sees a universe that is infinitely hostile and infinitely diverse, and still believes humans should colonize every inch of it. It believes that the only way to do this is by expanding the definition of what it means to be human. In extremes, that means shedding the human body completely through radical cybernetics or brain uploading. Chrysalis prefers distributed systems and improvisation. It realizes that things will inevitably change, that information is always imperfect, and that it will change along with it.

Chrysalis worlds are full of biotechnology, gengineered interventions in the local environment, improvised structures, and organic-looking buildings. Structures and technology are often grown, not assembled; sometimes by genetically tailored organisms, sometimes by nanotechnology. Chrysalis tries to make the most of every environment, no matter how hostile and unpleasant it may seem to outsiders.

Chrysalis thinks Dome is miserablist and suicidally narrow in its thinking. It’s also deeply suspicious of Star’s utopian tendencies.

Hammer

Hammer of Tyrants

Hammer believes that every system eventually becomes corrupt and dangerous, and so it believes in periodically smashing those systems. Hammer is an impulse to revolt against the established order, or run away to the frontier where there isn’t one. It cares deeply about justice (however that’s defined) and doesn’t think the past is any indication of how things should be in the future.

Hammer worlds are often borderlands full of misfits and outcasts. Frontier colonies are haphazard and wild; cities are sprawling and dark. Whatever physical or social structures there are, they’ve been assembled by repurposing the discarded remains of what came before. A particular aesthetic of rust, dust, and grime emerges in these worlds.

Hammer thinks Dome is blatantly oppressive. Ladder, meanwhile, is just cowardly.

Star

Distant Star

Star is all about following something bright and distant. Star believes that an utopian society is achievable, given enough knowledge and planning. It believes that injustice and misery are fundamentally just a consequence of not understanding the world well enough. Star believes that if you join together enough knowledge in one place, that place can produce directives and plans that will solve everyone’s problems at once.

Star-aligned worlds are often covered in beautiful utopian architecture and design, often a revival of some Old Earth style or trend. People live in arcologies designed like expanded versions of classical architecture, or houses that wouldn’t seem too out of place in 20th-century Earth. Decorative art is representational, optimistic, and everywhere.

Star thinks Chrysalis is messy and irresponsible to the point of danger; and simultaneously it believes Ladder completely lacks vision.

Dome

Ivory Dome

Dome sees the same infinite, hostile universe that Chrysalis sees and comes to the opposite conclusion: Humanity has to encircle itself with environments that support human life, specifically and narrowly defined. And those environments have to be stable, they have to be steady-state. Dome believes that planning and control can create a society that would stay the same for thousands of years.

Dome worlds breed a suspicion of outsiders who might upset their delicate social and ecological balance. Domed cities are stereotypical, of course, but Dome also like underground habitations and arcologies. When it builds conventional structures, they are often functionalist blocks of concrete and steel; Dome is all about efficiency, and adornment is the first victim of efficiency.

Dome thinks Chrysalis is replacing humanity with something other, under the guise of saving it. And Hammer’s vision of constant change and growth is just unsustainable.

Ladder

Gilded Ladder

Ladder is inherently suspicious of ideology. It believes in incremental change and small-scale decisionmaking. It believes that the big questions of the universe are unsolvable, but they can be reduced down to many small questions, and many actors working independently to chip away at them can collectively come up with a solution. And it thinks that any one of those small actors minding their own practical problems is more important and productive than a million philosophers debating the big issues.

Ladder society prizes engineers and technicians at the expense of nearly everyone else, and their aesthetic reflects that: Lots of sleek, gleaming machinery, objects that are very clear about how advanced they are, angular buildings made out of black steel. In cities, street layouts are often simple grids, so that they can expand with the minimal amount of urban planning possible. Augmented reality is required to navigate those cities, and the AR views are often covered with advertising. Ladder isn’t overtly concerned about whomever gets ground up in its machinery.

Ladder doesn’t believe revolution ever works, so of course it thinks Hammer is only ever going to break stuff it doesn’t understand. At the same time, it thinks the utopian technocrats aligned with Star are creepy, overbearing, and delusional.