Transcendence is not meant to be a realistic prediction of the future, nor is it a sly commentary on the present. Transcendence is first and foremost a game: an immersive, pretend universe in which you can have a wide range of experiences. But at the same time, I want the Transcendence universe to feel plausible. And it’s hard to create a plausible future history without considering the trajectory of the present.
Early in the development of the game, I outlined the historical events and circumstances that would lead to the Transcendence universe in the year 2419. Some are pure fantasy, such as the discovery of a stargate in the Kuiper Belt. But others are geopolitical shifts that are rooted in real-world trends.
The rise of the Corporate Hierarchy is one such event.
The 18th Century
The Transcendence universe is nothing like Earth in 2020. Today, every inch of land is controlled by a sovereign government, and any attempted rebellion or revolution is instantly broadcast to the whole world in sub-second ping-times. In contrast, the Transcendence universe is filled with unclaimed territory, and communications across Human Space relies on passing through stargates, which adds days or weeks of delay.
The nearest analogue to Human Space is the world of the 18th century, when unexplored lands still existed, and news took months or years to reach any government.
In the 1700s, the East India Company created a private army to protect its trading posts in India. By 1778 it had 67,000 troops, recruited largely from the Indian population. But as the EIC’s power and ambition grew, it exceeded its ability to successfully govern its territory. The Bengal famine of 1770, caused by EIC’s failures, made the British public take notice. After the Indian Rebellion of 1857, which caused widespread destruction, the British people and government had had enough: they nationalized the EIC and took over India as a British colony.
Of course, India’s experience as a British possession was no utopia either, but that’s a different story.
The Treaty of Clavius
In 2127, the Commonwealth signed the Treaty of Clavius with the Corporate Hierarchy. The Hierarchy was granted the right of free trade in all Commonwealth areas, in exchange for recognizing Commonwealth jurisdiction.
In a sense, the Corporate Hierarchy is a slightly smarter, slightly more enlightened version of the East India Company. Every member of the Corporate Hierarchy is a shareholder, usually in the company they work for. The executives of a company are chosen by shareholder votes, in proportion to their number of shares. Corporations in the hierarchy vote on intercorporate rules and common defense in proportion to their market value.
And, of course, the Corporate Hierarchy maintains a vast and powerful fleet to defend its interests.
So far the Treaty of Clavius has held. Commonwealth citizens enjoy all of the trade goods that the Corporations offer, while Corporate shareholders accumulate profits. In theory both sides are happy, but there are two complications:
There’s a growing sense in the Commonwealth that they are being left behind. The wealth accumulated by shareholders yields investments in both skills and infrastructure, which leads to more wealth.
Within the Corporate Hierarchy, there is schism between the common shareholders who work for a living and the hyper-wealthy executives who run the corporations.
How will this turn out? Will the Commonwealth start supporting the Black Market to undercut Corporate power? Will there be internal strife in the Corporate Hierarchy? And how does the Pilgrim fit into this? Will the conflict between Domina and Oracus unite the two sides? Or will it drive them irreparably apart?
In this video I play through some of the Corporate Privateer missions:
This week I’ve been working on 1.9 Beta 3. I’ve made the following changes:
I’ve modified the UI for invoking powers to show a small icon for each power. The icons also show up at the Sisters of Domina station when describing the powers.
I’ve added a rank stats block to the Corporate Privateer missions (in Corporate Command). This allows you to see your progress as you advance through the ranks.
I’ve started improving outlaw mining stations based on Song’s Elemental Shift extension.
Join the Universe
What do you think? Do you think this future history is plausible? Do you have some ideas for stories in the Corporate Hierarchy? Let me know in the comments below, or write to me: firstname.lastname@example.org.
And of course, you can subscribe to this email newsletter to get updates and stories about the Transcendence Universe. You can subscribe for free or contribute to the development of the game and receive additional posts.