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Sunday, 30 October 2016

Fanstorm Armada v1 - Background

I've done a lot of work in Firestorm in the past, and that produced directly for SG was only a very small part of that. I'm also fortunate in having a network of people across the globe to critique my work and provide alternative ideas and suggestions to refine that work. Rather than let all of those hours go to waste, I'll be posting up my thoughts, background and developments here for the community to share.

Before I get to mechanics and rules, the big area I (and many of you out there) have felt is lacking in Firestorm Armada is background. Now approaching this requires more than just sending a whole bunch of freelance writers off to get some stories together, or even asking an active community for content. Why? Let's have a look...

Freelancers tend to do one of two things - they either write to a tight brief with good guidelines, or they're given freedom to write what they like with much looser reigns. One of the first things I started working on, therefore, was a set of writer guidelines to shape the universe. This is important because there are basics of technologies that will affect the whole shape of how the universe is written about. Let's use an example to illustrate this.

Have you ever watched Buffy the Vampire Slayer? It was a huge hit in the 90s and a lot of it still stands up as good, silly, fantasy fun. However, it was written at a time where mobile phones were not omnipresent, and many of the plot lines would simple be answered by having one. A modern equivalent would be written from a different perspective and would follow a different line just because of that one simple difference in communications technology.

It's the same with a game like FA and its background. SG have never been that interested in the technological background of their universe, which then makes it problematic to shape the universe coherently, which means any freelance or fan based content will vary on approach and not produce a cohesive, immersive universe. This doesn't matter for some, but it does matter for most gamers, who tend to be of a similar detail-oriented ilk within their hobby sphere.

Communications is one example - is it possible to contact a planet from another planet? Is it possible to contact a ship in FSD? Can a ship in fold-space be detected? What is fold-space? All of these basics affect any story written in or for the universe, so its important to nail this stuff down.

Another facet of this are the various races in FA - what is their background? Where did they evolve, and how? Evolution shapes the way creatures act hugely, and much more than we recognise. Our "fight or flight" mechanism comes from our evolution, the propensity for males to have better spatial awareness than females comes from the evolutionary branch of it being selected for as males went out to hunt...every aspect and nuance of our underlying behavioural mechanisms has come from our evolution from single-celled organisms, shaped by the changing environment and evolutionary pressures of millions of years.

Even where we have humans in the Firestorm universe, we have different interpretations of the seven or so human factions (Terran, Dindrenzi, Directorate, Hawker, Works Raptor, OSO and RSN). Are the Dindrenzi space nazis or not? Is that the role of the RSN? What is life like in the Directorate? The unanswered questions are almost infinite.

This is also highlighted in game instances, like the so called "Fleet Admiral". Now Admiral is a very high rank in a navy, and really this doesn't make much sense in a background and real-world sense, but this is just an in-game reference. Even so, when trying to put in the invasion "Commanders", it puts you as a designer in a corner, so one of the things I looked at before giving titles to these Commanders was to create a full military structure for all of the core six races, and place the Commanders logically within them. This provides consistency both now and in the future. Unfortunately the recent posts by SG have ignored this, introducing the rank of "Pioneer-Marshall" and "Monitor-Commander" - which sound cool but don't actually sit with any prior background.

As such I will be presenting the work I've done independently as a Fan-derived version of Spartan's universe, and nothing within it is meant to challenge any of SGs licences or IP, but merely to provide an alternate and fully fleshed-out background - let's call it an alternative interpretation - of their game. I hope you enjoy it, and I'm always open to feedback and discussion on any aspect. if people have better or cooler things to add, then I'll add them.