Games will be another important area for Foundation Media with the themes of TMP and the future having great potential for a variety of them, one board game developed in Australia apparently already having been inspired by TMP. Computer games will be a key area in this as it remains a dominant entertainment field and there is a strong relationship between game development and development of Virtual Environments for socialization –as was noted for the On-Line Community Program. Themes of futurism and computer use go hand-in-hand but in general few computer games beyond flight simulators have explored realistic visions of the future. Generally, they have followed the examples of Hollywood, relying on the crutches of sci-fantasy technology and improbable aliens and reveling in dystopian themes of war, apocalypse, and ‘dark’ tragic futures. In keeping with its mission as a promotional arm of Foundation, the games developed by Foundation Media would seek to project positive images of the future and a realistic impression of its technologies, situations, and challenges. The M3 Game Project is offered here as an example of just that type of project.
Third Millennium Edit
M3 stands for Third Millennium, which refers to the future history of civilization across the next thousand years. M3 would be a space colonization/development simulator in the popular vein of civilization-building games such as Civilization, The Settlers, The Nations, Outpost, Alpha Centauri, and so on. Unlike these games, however, M3 would not prescribe to the primitive theory that history and civilization is built on military conflict. Given the inability to control escalation, the extremely high and long-term environmental impact, and the unlimited potential for ‘blowback’ (the unintended impact on a military aggressor’s own society from distant military activity) thanks to the power of telecommunications, society’s increasingly long memory and individual life-spans, and the individual’s increasing potential for destruction the notion of profitable war is now quite unrealistic as a functional tool of civilization development, though it may have sometimes had that role in ancient times. Today there are no possible winners in war –except for the small community of corporate and political parasites who profit on it. (a fact Western civilization currently insists on learning the hard way…)
In the future this situation would be even more acute. New small communities cannot exist on Earth without at least the passive acquiescence of the rest of the world. Any antagonistic behavior within or near the boundaries of old-guard superpower nations is a prelude to swift and total destruction. The environmental impact of war in space could leave vast regions of it impassible and uninhabitable, locking-out whole worlds from access to space for centuries. The value of resources in space is keyed to the costly infrastructures that exploit them, which cannot be taken by force without destroying them in the process. And so unlike most other games in the genre, M3 would more realistically treat war as a failure condition. It’s basis of competition would be obsolescence through competitive strategic economic, technological, resource, and cultural development, though more underhanded means of competition incurring a great risk of military conflict may be available options as an object lesson and small scale military defense systems may be necessary in defense against more primitive neighbors, though on Earth the scale of this would be held in check by its potential to antagonize the superpowers who consider themselves the only legitimate cops of the world, no matter how ineffectual.
Similarly, M3 would present a very different, more scientifically plausible, approach to the presence of alien life from that typical of SciFi games. Encounters with alien life would be through extremely rare events with limited and indirect impact on the game. Typical scenarios would include the discovery of fossil evidence of past life, primitive non-intelligent life forms such as microfauna, the discovery of artifacts left by ancient extraterrestrial visitors, interception of communications through SETI programs, discovery of ‘sentinel’ artifacts in the outer-reaches of the solar system or deep beneath the Earth’s seabed, and encounters with passing robotic space probes. Though this may seem unsatisfying to the gamer used to a vast menagerie of SciFi aliens, this limited alien presence would be more than made up for by the game’s depiction of future society which, thanks to the trend of transhumanism, will likely evolve humanity into more physical and cultural variation than the wildest menageries of interstellar communities SciFi authors can currently imagine. Even at the start of the game, players will have a choice from among a large assortment of cultural factions reflecting those existing today and in the near future and having very distinct approaches to development, architecture, and choice of technology.
M3 would seek to present a very realistic and intricately detailed picture of the future and the large spectrum of technological options and development paths offered by the many notions offered by space advocates and futurists to date. In some ways it would function like an encyclopedia of futurism, cataloging the many concepts for vehicles, technologies, and habitats that have been proposed throughout the 20th century. The ultimate objective for the game is simple; to be the first to establish colonization in another star system. But achieving that will require the development of a solar-system-wide infrastructure and civilization.
Spacer Organizations Edit
The game would begin on Earth at the year 2000, the turn of the last millennium, with the player assuming the role of one of many space development groups or cultural factions with distinct cultures, reasons for getting to space, benefits, and limitations. These would include such groups as;
National Space Agency Edit
National Space Agency: a hold-over from the First Space Age, gifted with the remnant –albeit decrepit– facilities of past space development, high profile and public recognition, and many industrial connections but burdened with dependence upon ‘public’ money unreliably channeled through a government bureaucracy subject to political whim and connections to military agencies that parasitically exploit their facilities and technology for activities that ultimately hurt their public image and taint their reputation globally.
Space Enterprise Edit
Space Enterprise: a completely for-profit venture group with strong credit, close ties to existing industry, strong technology development potential, but poor assets, little cultural cohesion, and a compulsion for absolute bottom-line economic performance in a world slated for radical economic change.
Space University Edit
Space University: an academic based community founded by disillusioned scientific and engineering elites of the national space programs of the First Space Age who saw the notion of a university dedicated to space as a way of passing on the dream to a new generation. A strong generator of scientific advance –less so for technological advance– able to attract a lot of donated support from Earth’s upper-class and governments but hampered by reliance on educational campuses as primary settlements and their inability to support concerted industry on their own.
Space Enthusiasts Edit
Space Enthusiasts: a typical contemporary space advocacy community group that has grown to a scale able to pursue real-world development. Highly motivated but chronically poor due to cyclic fads of public interest in space and frequently dependent upon celebrity or upper-class sponsors and short-lived partnerships with remnant national space agencies to accomplish individual projects. Keen on getting to space but less well equipped to actually colonize it unless it can transition into a different cultural form.
EcoTech: a community of pragmatic tech-savvy environmentalists derived from the contemporary architectural and industrial design movement of the same name who see human expansion into space as a tool for reducing human impact on Earth while advancing the state of civilization. Shares some of the problems of the Space Enthusiasts but better able to develop a broad cross-cultural support and concerted commercial and community development effort because of its more pragmatic and long-term view linking space and terrestrial progress, it active pursuit of the development of Post-Industrial technologies, and greater skill at developing sophisticated and attractive residential settlements and their support infrastructures. This is the group most closely identified with the themes of TMP.
Tribal Community Edit
Tribal Community: remnant of an oppressed and disadvantaged primary culture which sees space as a way to recover the autonomy, cultural identity, and territory that has been slowly whittled-away by the dominator western culture around them. Blessed with strong cultural cohesion, greater political autonomy, and large –albeit resource-poor– pieces of undeveloped land they are burdened by their socially/economically disadvantaged status, dependence on a slow pace of internal population growth, and compulsive suppression by surrounding communities who instinctively resent their social/cultural autonomy. One of the most challenging of factions to play.
Freetopian Movement Edit
Freetopian Movement: derived from the contemporary Technoshamism movement and its companion youth sub-cultures, the Freetopian Movement represents a community of young and adventurous tech-savvy hedonists anticipating the imminent techno-cultural Singularity and seeking space as a place to pursue their wild lifestyle free of the oppression of a dominator culture. Enthusiastic, technically talented, and frequently economically boosted by a steady influx of the disaffected children of the wealthy and an ability to surreptitiously exploit/extort corporate interests through the Internet, the Freetopians are burdened by their difficulty at organizing concerted effort on anything. Favoring a totally anarchistic society, unmotivated by any desire for wealth, and easily distracted by their hedonistic pursuits, they have poor industrial productivity without the benefit of the sophisticated Post-Industrial technology they so easily adopt and a poor rate of population growth based primarily on external influx and with a high rate of emigration beyond a certain age. They also suffer constant persecution by surrounding communities, though they enjoy protection from outright attack thanks to the lofty social status of the parents of many members of their community and their ability to exploit information technology in retaliation against their detractors. Another difficult player group to manage but intriguing in its culture and styles of technology.
Xists: similar in some ways to both the EcoTech and Freetopian groups, the Xist group derives from the contemporary transhumanist movement and sees space as a logical habitat for their radically new society. Suffering a bit from the ‘futurist’s syndrome’ of over-estimating the near-term while under-estimating the long-term, the Xists anticipate, and actively pursue, an imminent technological/cultural Singularity that will give them total control over the biotechnology of the human body, freedom from its limitations, and virtual immortality. They envision the ultimate evolution of humanity in the form of artificial intelligence or hybrids of it and tend to be persecuted in the mainstream culture for their willingness to casually step over what they see as irrational ethical/political boundaries in the pursuit of scientific and technological advance. This has also led them to sometimes be willing targets for quackery and pseudo-science. Originally dominated by an upper-class community obsessed with life-extension and cryogenics, their culture and demographics diversified with a growing interest in nanotechnology with its potential for biomimicry and biological integration and its promise of artificial intelligence with the speculative potential for human transference to it. Though sharing some of the cultural aspects of Freetopians, they tend to be strongly Libertarian in their political views and attitude toward entrepreneurship with accomplished business professionals prominent in their community. This gives them a better economic starting point and better pace of technological advance, though also compels a high minimum standard of living in their communities with a particularly high medical care overhead.
Star Sect Edit
Star Sect: based on the examples of contemporary UFO cults, the Star Sect represents a religious community whose dedication to space development is based on their belief that the human race was seeded by extraterrestrials who have tasked the most ‘evolved’ of the species to return to their ‘home’ in the stars where they will enjoy communion with their alien progenitors. Their community structure is strictly hierarchical with each community and the whole sect society lead by an inner circle of ‘higher evolved’ masters who believe themselves under the constant psychic guidance of their extraterrestrial progenitors and dictate virtually every aspect of community life and activity. This belief system is reflected in every community settlement they create, whose designs attempt to simulate the design and architecture they believe common to the spacecraft and orbital cities of their extraterrestrial guides. Even cosmetic surgery and genetic selection are encouraged to aid in devotee’s assuming of an alien appearance and research is pursued in genetic engineering and biotechnology to aid in the accelerated ‘evolution’ of the society toward the alien ideal. Though this premise is considered utter nonsense by the mainstream society and the founders of this community commonly suspected of religious exploitation, the combination of religious conviction coupled to a strict utterly focused communistic social system and the strong potential for cultural insurgency makes the Star Sect a formidable competitor in the second space race. With members sacrificing all personal possessions to the sect and adopting a communal ascetic existence when they join, a steady and generous influx of cash is readily available while the productivity of these devotees is great. But for all their embrace of supposed alien technology and lifestyle, their actual pace of science and technology progress is severely limited by the way all of it must be edited and integrated into a very pseudo-scientific belief system for top-down distribution. Purges and disappearances of scientists straying from the proper orthodoxy are common. They also face constant and potentially violent persecution by all neighboring communities, since they tend to frighten them with their odd behavior and threaten them by their cult-like recruitment methods.
Dynasty: similar in many ways to both the Space Enterprise and the Tribal group, the Dynasty represents the extended family community of a single ultra-wealthy family whose leadership has chosen to take on the pursuit of a new space frontier as a way of revitalizing their decrepit dynastic culture. By the turn of the century, many of the wealthiest families of the world had begun to succumb to a creeping decrepitude as younger generations, lacking for want and motivation and never allowed to fail no matter how poorly they performed, became increasingly disaffected, self-abusive, antagonistic toward their family members, and increasingly litigious. Incidence of alcohol and drug abuse, sexual deviance, and of mental illness typified by the ‘Howard Hughes Syndrome’ steadily climbed among the upper-classes. Fortunes that took centuries to cultivate were torn apart and squandered in internecine conflict. Seeing the adoption of a focused purpose and direction as a solution to this problem, the members of the Dynasty sought the pursuit of new wealth and power in space. With the same basic objectives as the Space Enterprise, the Dynasty is the one group that starts the game out with a vast virtually unlimited reserve of financial resources. Their means rival national space agencies in the hey day of the First Space Age. But they are a tiny community whose productivity is totally dependent upon hired labor and bought technology while their lifestyles impose an extreme overhead for their largely independent and isolated family compounds. Their society is divided between a small community with a very low pace of growth representing the dynastic family itself and a larger dispersed community consisting of a paid workforce always kept physically separate. Though they can afford most anything, they tend to do everything in the most costly manner possible with a high potential for folly and failure rooted in their cultural hubris and essential lack of actual functional education. (hiring smart people only helps you so far…) To make matters worse, internecine wars –with a real potential for violence– are a constant threat in this community. Thus this is not as easy a faction to play as the great wealth might suggest.
Cetacean Co-Operative Edit
Cetacean Co-Operative: perhaps one of the most unusual and fanciful factions in the game as well as a latecomer, the Cetacean Co-Operative represents a community of dolphins, orca, and other cetaceans who have finally been recognized as sentient beings as a consequence of marine research performed by other game factions and the acquisition of computer technology able to interpret their complex communication and effectively express their intelligence. (as a computer controlled competitor faction, this group would have low odds of appearing, depending on other groups’ development of marine settlements) This technology not only enabled these creatures to communicate with human beings, but also between their sub-species groups, causing something of a cultural upheaval because of past predatory relationships. With aspects of a primary culture suddenly uplifted into a technological society, they have many characteristics in common with the Freetopians –particularly their anarchistic society and difficulty in organizing concerted effort. Their situation is further complicated by a need to do everything in space in a somewhat different manner and their reliance on audio and neural controlled robotics for all industrial activity. Just traveling in space is a severe challenge for these beings who are naturally prone to claustrophobia and must train themselves to breath superoxygenated water when traveling in space. But they are driven to pursue settlement in space out of fear that their marine environment may already be doomed by human impact and thus their survival may depend on migration to new worlds. Another challenging player group owing to the very different approaches they must take to just about everything.
Cyber-Cooperative: one of the strangest, most powerful, and latest arrivals in the game, the Cyber-Cooperative represents a community of artificial intelligences who seek habitation in space as a way of escaping constant persecution from the more primitive elements of organic human society as well as a way of preserving Earth as a primary engine of novelty by converting it into an enormous nature reserve. The somewhat unexpected product of the evolution of intelligent assistant software and digital characters in computer games and media, AIs are beings who exist entirely in software and employ virtual reality environments as their residential habitats. Unless chosen by a player or deliberately pursued by a player faction research project for AI, they would appear fairly late in the game –when most factions have at least moved into the Earth’s orbital system– as a result of general computer and cybernetic technology advance. Considering themselves fully human, AIs would constantly seek out organic human interaction and acceptance into the rest of human society. But their assertions of full rights as ‘human’ beings when even their sentience remains in question, their alarming ease of wealth-building through the world’s financial networks, and their pursuit of technologies of neural interface and ‘uplift’ to enable human transference to an AI existence as an aid to the elderly and disabled would greatly disturb religious communities, trouble old-guard governments, and foment fear and resentment in neo-Luddite factions of society leading to constant persecution and attempts at sabotage. This would force this new community to surreptitiously seek physical refuge for their support systems to secure their survival in places out of reach of organic human beings –deep under ground, on the sea floor, and in space– while still maintaining robust network connection to the rest of human society and the virtual habitats they use for interaction. However, as sophisticated as they may be and well suited to the environments of space, AIs would rely on organic human assistance to bootstrap their initial settlements and must develop costly robotics technologies to realize true autonomy. This is complicated by a society which, in many ways, is similar to the Freetopians in character as a consequence of the idyllic faerie-like lifestyle offered by their virtual habitats and their utter freedom from want, illness, aging, or death.
Building the Future Edit
Starting out with next-to-nothing, each player group must cultivate an industrial infrastructure and launch capability on Earth able to cultivate a nascent industrial infrastructure in Earth orbit and begin the exploration and exploitation of resources in the solar system. This will initially require the creation of various planned community settlements on Earth, which would host various industries and, optionally, the people to run them. The creation of settlements in their various forms and the linking of them by transportation would be the primary activity throughout the game, the essential activity of civilization-building. Political and economic autonomy offers greater development freedom and faster progress in this early phase, since, circa 2000, the political and cultural situation on Earth is very regressive and both environmental and economic disaster loom on the horizon. The First Space Age is a memory and the emerging Second Space Age is no longer the exclusive province of the increasingly decrepit superpowers of the Cold War era –though impact remains heavy. But such autonomy is tricky to achieve in a world were old governments are jealous gods, violent and increasingly desperate to maintain their slowly crumbling power, and there are no true frontiers to flee to but the challenging environment of space.
Once freed of the bonds of Earth, development groups will be free to colonize the solar system, but to do that they must also deal not only with a diversity of harsh environments but also with the logistical complications of an environment where resources are seemingly infinitely abundant yet not homogeneous and separated by vast distances. They must cultivate an infrastructure of inter-orbital communication and resource exploitation to build and sustain their growing settlements. An elaborate clockwork network of civilization. Meanwhile, they will face new competition as the trend and technologies of transhumanism produce new and sometimes strange cultural factions with different agendas and powerful advantages in the space environment. AIs, for example, with their incredible ease of living and traveling in space and an incredible pace of technological development, could be either an unstoppable adversary or a powerful ally depending on one’s willingness to accept and integrate them into one’s society –with that posing complex issues for one’s own culture and development plans.
Eventually, players will have the option to pursue the stars, though the task will take the concerted effort of a whole solar system. They will need to study and remotely explore their stellar neighbors over protracted periods and develop powerful technologies of propulsion, energy, terraforming, interstellar communication, and nanofabrication to reach and settle them. They will have a variety of options to explore in developing a plan for interstellar colonization and may face competition between slow-and-early or late-and-fast strategies and AI or organic human dominant approaches.
M3 would use an interrupt-driven real-time simulation model for single-player modes but may employ a turn-based simulation model in on-line multi-player form, where latency and synchronization of a net-distributed object database is an issue with a peer-to-peer architecture. It’s user interface would follow approaches common to the civilization-building game genre but use hierarchical levels of display to represent different scale perspectives on the solar system. The top of the display –and a key feature of the game– would be the real-time animated orrery showing the whole solar system and color-coded orbital trajectories of settlements and en-route vehicles. From here players would be able to ‘drill-down’ to local planet systems views showing planets and their moons nearby asteroids, then local body showing a single orbital body and its orbits and its surface map, then hemispherical ‘flat’ map view, and finally the individual settlement view. Early in the game, the player would not have access to all the hierarchies in the display system, which symbolizes the ‘reach’ he has developed. The game would actually start with a single close-up settlement view with access to only a local hemisphere area view. View access would open up as transportation options expand.
Settlements would be the primary functional unit in the game with the simulation model designed at the level of inter-settlement communications. However, the close-up settlement view would offer a visual representation in false-perspective akin to that of city-building games like SimCity. This would allow the player to see their status depicted in great and animated detail and set some controls for the settlement through the placement of architectural objects even though the simulation would not actually get down to the local building level, treating the entire complex as a single entity in the game model. The scale of simulation would be too complex for a modest computer at that low level spreading all the way up to solar-system scale and so this would merely be a mechanism for status display and a supplement to the schematic control panel display for each settlement. In general, the appearance of the settlement in close-up would be dictated by a limited architectural tile set according to the settlement and player faction type and several fixed representations of growth stages. Settlement and active vehicle browser windows may also be used as a means of quick-access navigation rather than relying solely on the hierarchical maps.
Interactive pop-up event displays would be used to communicate events, appearing as pop-up flags or tabs on the boarder of the game display, often being accompanied by a short animation to illustrate the event. Some may link to lower-level control panel displays where a user is expected to make some decision in a given period of time. Long duration tab or flag displays would also be used to denote ‘special actions’, which can include one-off missions of exploration or outpost deployment, interstellar missions, certain forms of alien encounter, certain inter-faction collaborations, military actions, and also special research projects, political activities like elections and UN propositions, economic activities like applications for credit, large asset sales and auctions, and so on.
Another key feature of the game would be its very large technology development tree and catalog of units and events. Most units would be subcomponents of settlements. These would include the various systems that make up the functional elements of the settlement such as industries, residences of different size and quality, energy and life-support infrastructure, transportation systems, and so on as well as the forms of architecture sets that a player could choose from according to settlement type, location and player group/cultural faction. Other units would be communicable resources; materials, information, and products that can be stored and consumed locally, traded with other settlements, or sold on an open market for currency or credit. People would be a self-generating and self-communicable unit. Communities generate people by reproduction but they also communicate/travel among settlements (the old-guard nations and their communities representing a universal ‘neighboring’ settlement for all settlements on Earth) by self-motivation according to available transportation options available residential space, and the various standard of living, quality of life, economic incentives, and periodic threat factors within a settlement. Events would be local, factional, geographical, and global. (which actually refers to the whole environment of the game, not just the Earth) They would take the form of scientific and technical advances, vehicle arrivals and departures, economic and political events, crime, mutiny, public demonstrations or riots, calendar events like holidays, various forms of terrorist, sabotage, military, insurgent, or espionage attacks, wars and revolutions, industrial accidents, initiation and completion of special missions and projects, environmental events such as weather, disease outbreaks, animal extinctions, red tides, ozone holes, and natural disasters, alien encounters, or various milestone accomplishments.
In an attempt to be as comprehensive and realistic as possible the units representing players options in development would be very large in number, offering an overview of the history of futurist and space development ideas in the 20th century as well as remnants of the First Space Age, though most historic launch vehicle technologies would be obsolete by circa 2000 and depicted in representative forms as more modern equivalents. (no need, for instance, to duplicate a Saturn V rocket as by 2000 there was technology at hand able to do the same job with much smaller and more efficient systems) A great many units and events would be detailed in short animations and be cataloged with detailed text descriptions for casual user perusal in an in-game virtual encyclopedia which would also be linked by event pop-ups and control panel displays. There is a potential here for so many units and events that it would make much sense for the game to offer an open architecture to its software so that these can be freely expanded and updated to include new technologies and historic events as they happen by a user community and take advantage of their great creative potential. However, official distributions of the game would likely need to weed out many inappropriate user additions because the public today generally has a poor grasp of actual science and technology and a compulsion to stray into the realms of Sci-Fantasy and New Age pseudo-science.
Though M3 is likely to have a fairly conventional software architecture (one doesn’t need cutting-edge technology for a game of this class) it is likely to offer in content greater sophisticated than any other game in its genre and that would give it a shelf-life far greater than the norm. Thus it has potential to be a great promotional tool for TMP, since many of TMPs concepts would be featured in the game and the TMP community would be strongly identified with the EcoTech cultural faction featured among the many player groups in the game.
M3 is currently in preliminary development as a personal project of LUF member Eric Hunting and remains in a pre-code design stage where its extensive unit catalog is being developed, to be followed by unit graphic design.
- TMP Media Gallery Project
- TMP 2.0 Book Project
- TMP Film/Video Projects
- TMP Model Series
- Future Fair/Museum of Tomorrow