Monthly Archives: February 2015

Politics in Space

Funny thought came up today. A libertarian and a socialist write a game about a future. What sort of a place is it?

Jesse and I have been friends for decades, which is amazing when you think that we are polar opposites on every cultural or political issue. And what’s astounding is that, in thousands of weekly phone calls, we’ve never once had a nasty political fight. His points are always insightful and thoughtful, whereas mine are blustery rhetoric, but still.

So there came a time in the development of Solar Trader when planets and cities and such had to be added. We already knew what sort of universe this solar system of ours would be in 2075 (a bleak one, with immigrants desperately streaming off Earth,  heavy-handed rock bosses on Mercury, a reactionary government in Saturn’s drumstation, and the entire planet of Pluto a prison). Yes, it wasn’t a happy place.

So what would be a future a libertarian and socialist would agree on?

With a nod to Jesse, it would be a Chinese future, with their ruthless command economy dominating all. As we see now, China still pays lip-service to the ideals of communism, but really its all about the tightly-controlled and oppressed society, with a comfortable upper tier and a huge peon class. Their spaceport, a bleak thrown-together metropolis, is now falling apart, indicative of the planet it exists with.

And for me, there is its government-controlled mega corporation, humorously named “MaoCorp” (how could Chairman Mao ever support a corporation, anyway?). MaoCorp is the massive transport company the player (a FreeTrader) finds himself up against. MaoCorp has mob ties. MaoCorp crews hassle the player at every turn. In space, MaoCorp freighters might use their “defensive” weapons against the player if he gets too close (supposedly, they have an “exemption” for such weapons, which FreeTraders NEVER get). MaoCorp directors even send snipers after the player if he gets too successful.

So that’s the sort of universe that has slowly developed by two people with opposing political thoughts about what is “good” and “evil”.

I think the funniest place this shows up is, oddly, ship transponders. Each ship has a transponder, supposedly originally assigned by the Interplanetary Police (pretty much all that’s left of the UN, maybe). The player has a code assigned to him, as do all TreeTraders (an ISO number). Illegals tend to short theirs out. Dead ships automatically switch over to a binary SOS. Bases transmit their asteroid name (using long-standing designations recognized today).

But when Jesse first started working on mook navigation, he had all empty ship slots filled with MaoCorp ships, flying from a planet to a planet. The strange thing was, while most ships you could only see an AU or so away, you could see these guys all the way across the solar system. Why was that?

To fit this into the storyline of a government-backed corporation that doesn’t give a rat’s ass about UN mandates, MaoCorp has rerigged its transponders to “bellow” their codes so they can be tracked from HQ back on earth (perverting their intended use). Worse, they have their OWN codes, essentially an “MC”, followed by the origin planet, the destination planet, and the current sequential run. So, even though you are orbiting Mercury, you’ll pick up the amplified transponder for MC742, the second ship of this series running from Uranus to Mars, way far away. Just another reminding of how corporations ignore regulations when it suits them.

So that’s the system you are in, planets under near-feudalistic rule, inept police agencies bickering and fumbling, the belt swarming with pirates, as well as student riots, food riots, and immigrants lining up around the block at the Chinese Embassy, hopeful that anywhere else must be better than this.

Yeah, it’s a great place to fly around, the Solar Trader universe.

(The first move for a liberal like me is to buy a handgun. What’s that say?) 🙂