Galactic Milieu

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markm
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Joined: Thu Aug 06, 2015 6:43 pm

Galactic Milieu

Post by markm »

The Galactic Milieu is an online multiplayer metagame which uses FreeCiv for planet-scale representation of civilised worlds.

Because those worlds are intended as "settings" for smaller-scale activities, typically using CoffeeMUD and/or Crossfire RPG currently, the target planet-Earth time per FreeCiv turn is about one Earth month. This is intended to match the CoffeeMUD timescale where MUD time runs about 12 times as fast as planet-Earth time.

Part of the motivation for this comes from decades-ago pencil-and-paper "Dungeons and Dragons" style gaming in which it emerged that most players of D&D-style "adventurers" were not interested in geopolitics beyond whatever quests or adventures on their scale some supposed or imagined or arbritrarily-invented geopolitics made available to them. The idea of having a larger-scale game as a backdrop or setting, if only as a gamemaster-aid to help the gamemaster manage the geopolitical scale, came up way back then.

A lot of the ideas behind the Milieu come from the Digitalis D'ydii Cluster that I developed for the Apple IIe back when that was the hot new PC.

The D'ydii Cluster used ideas from Traveller to populate a cube of space 1.0E11 parsecs on a side (large enough that the galaxies on the edges would be receding from the centre at lightspeed or more if receding of galaxies was implemented) with billions of galaxies of Traveller-style starsystems.

The problem with Traveller though was it had no evolution of the planets. No population growth, government type changes, techlevel development and so on.

Thus once we evolved from dialup "BBS" systems to the newfangled "internet" I started work on a Civlisation-like game, using the Athena widget set; then a year or few along the line the first version of FreeCiv appeared, I realised it had already developed far beyond my Athena-based attempt, so went with FreeCiv. The fact that FreeCiv can let you deterministically evolve a world through time seemed a particularly nice match with the D'ydii Cluster's use of pseaudorandom numbers based on spacial co-ordinates, theoretically making it possible to generate FreeCiv worlds instead of Traveller worlds and continue to evolve them through time until such time as some in game event triggered a need to record them in a database instead of continuing to rely upon the pseodorandom generator.

Over a decade ago now we began playtesting a few initial worlds using a Galactic Ruleset that is sort of a merge of Traveller numbers of parsecs hopped with Star Trek's "Warp numbers", so that a Warp 1 ship hops up to 1 parsec, a Warp 2 ship hops up to 2 parsecs and so on, providing a scale not so out of line with that used in Traveller.

Another part of the Milieu concept is to try to integrate scales toward possibly/maybe avoiding ecenomic strangenesses seen when comparing different/unconnected online games, wherein players entertainment budgets lead to things like a level 70 Ranger on a fantasy planet costing the same amount in dollars as a whole Deathstar in a game where one flies a Deathstar around instead of just running around as on individual Ranger or whatever. I was interested in things like if you buy a magic sword on E-Bay for X number of dollars, and building a Death-star out of melted-down magic swords would take millions of such swords, how much would a Deathstar go for?

Unfortunately there will probably be a tendency once players scale up for at least some of the larger-scale players to trash the prices of the smaller scales by "flooding the markets", "dumping" massive amounts of "stuff", driving prices down.

To some extent that is supposed to be how economics works, but games complicate economics in a way that is possibly not unlike having lots of important economic actors being devotees of godlike entities that do not actually exist in the game but to whom vast amounts of stuff can be "sacrificed".

In the Milieu we therefore attribute the currency known as BiTCoin to the "Hacker" civilisation, assumed to be a civilisation whose technology is sufficiently advanced to be indistinguishable from magick. This provides an in-game backstory as to why BiTCoin is esteemed far more than the currencies of civilisations whose technologies remain within the range shown in the Galactic Ruleset.

The "Hackers" are imagined to live in worlds possibly rather like those portrayed by the default, no-permadeath releases of Crossfire RPG: even death has been conquered, if you die you simply wake up back at your savebed, and so on.

The Crossfire RPG server we use in the Milieu though does have permadeath enabled, despite the fact that who-ever once upon a time added permadeath into the code never really tidied up all the lose ends. (For example if you die someone else could claim your character-name before you reclaim it, thus taking over your guild memberships, bank accounts, mailboxes and so on.)

The Milieu is also an alternate reality game; for example it is assumed that Satoshi brought Bitcoin to the planet known as Earth, that GNU is part of a plot to bring Earth into the Galactic Milieu, and so on and so on. The CE and BCE dates used by FreeCiv for the timelines of the planets are assumed to align with Earth's history.

The recent popularity of the ideas of "play to earn" and "the metaverse" seem basically like the mainstream finally catching up with the Milieu's ideas and getting set to run with them. The Milieu has not actively sought "venture capital" and maybe that will turn out to be unfortunate as maybe now the ideas will become mainstream without the Milieu even being noticed. But the players are theoretically well placed to seek venture capital if they wish to, since for over a decade now they have been "playing to earn" building Corps and such that in principle allow not just venture capitalist buy-ins but also crowd-funding. It is maybe mostly a matter of how much recruiting players choose to do. The clan/guild/etc types provided by CoffeeMUD allow a wide range of options for group decision-making, and some of the clans/guild/etc have accumulated quite a pile of assets over the years.

I mainly posted this here because long long ago I had quite a few posts on whatever the old forum was, but I see that on this forum they do not exist. So I thought it time to broach the subject once more.

-MarkM-
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Corbeau
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Re: Galactic Milieu

Post by Corbeau »

So... this is a long and pretty abstract post about a game system and I must admit that I got lost while I was reading it. I have a few questions and I apologise if they are already answered in the text... If they are please take this as constructive criticism regarding things you may want to explain better :)

So, the questions:

1. Is the game actually running, if yes, is it permanently ongoing or there are sessions that eventually begin and end?

2. What exactly does a player do? Run a character, a group, a nation, a civilization?

3. How does one join and what exactly are we joining?

4. Why are you posting this here? Are you looking for mostly players or developers or both?
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markm
Posts: 5
Joined: Thu Aug 06, 2015 6:43 pm

Re: Galactic Milieu

Post by markm »

Thanks for the questions.

1. Is the game actually running, if yes, is it permanently ongoing or there are sessions that eventually begin and end?

Yes, it is running, and it is permanently ongoing.

2. What exactly does a player do? Run a character, a group, a nation, a civilization?

To minimise the creation / appearance of "stuff" out of "nowhere" distorting the economy, the only "free as in beer" rabbithole into the Milieu currently is the Crossfire RPG interface. Even that equips starting players with starting gear and starting funds, but at least the scale is small enough that hopefully it should not distort the economy too much. Nonetheless there is still the potential for someone to sit there all day creating a character, dropping its gear, deleting the character, starting another and so on over and over gain to amass a pile of stuff "out of nothing" so if that does end up happening even that last free of charge way in could end needing to be curtailed or have some kind of work done toward preventing such "abuse".

3. How does one join and what exactly are we joining?

To join free of charge one creates a non-fantasy character in the capitol city of the Galactic Diplomacy Planet, which is represented at single-character scale using Crossfire RPG at the Crossfire RPG server known as CrossCiv.knotwork.com, which it seems is not always listed by Crossfire RPG's metaserver.

4. Why are you posting this here? Are you looking for mostly players or developers or both?

Both really, since although I try for "minimum necessary change" there are a few little things that would be immensely useful to add into FreeCiv to make it much much easier to manage the FreeCiv worlds of the Milieu. Such matters are taken up in the Galactic Ruleset thread. It is kind of late now to change the basics of the Galactic Ruleset, it would have been nice to have had a lot of playtesting back in the very early days before so many existing worlds and civilisations were depending upon it, but still maybe playtesters would be nice to at least maybe get some idea what one could expect from the ruleset even if it is rather late to try to do anything about it. Once upon a time I had hoped it could get used a lot at some kind of site that hosts multiplayer games, but that never really happened and the times I looked into putting up a web-civ people could use to playtest it it did not seem like webciv was ready to be able to host such a ruleset.

Those are basic answers, now to more elaboration:


2...

Groups exist in the Crossfire RPG and in the CoffeeMud, in the case of Crossfire RPG I cloned their clans/guilds system to create clans, guilds, associations, societies and parties, so a character can be a member of one of each type. Parties are intended for political parties, such as the Democratic Party, the Anarchist Party, the Royalist Party and so on. Technically it would probably make sense that some of the government types in FreeCiv should require there to be more than one character involved, like maybe ideally Monarchy should require, or at least aim toward, at least a reigning couple and an heir; also likely some types should limit the number of characters directly involved, like maybe Despotism should only go up in number of head officers to a triumvirate, as my very vague/poor knowledge of history has led me to think the Roman Empire once upon a time had?

So maybe we ought not really have individual players totally controlling Democracies, probably also not Republics.

But since FreeCiv doesn't directly support delegating various aspects of control of a civilisation to different login accounts, for now all that can really be done toward those kinds of ideas is to leave it to the group or individual behind the civilisation to give out its login username and password to their delegated "clerk of the government" responsible for actually conveying their desires/orders.

In CoffeeMUD, which is an interface very conducive to automation via the use of MUD clients, multiple characters are assumed, so much so that the normal player-account used there allows ten characters, five of which can be online at once, so that a single account can have five artisans working 24/7 but also have five adventurers to play with when player is at keyboard. Such accounts though can be so lucrative that we still have not settled upon a reasonable price to charge for them, other than that it should be yearly rather than monthly and probably be priced at about what it could reasonably be expected to earn in at least six months, so that players who quit before earning back what they paid could in effect subsidise those who keep their artisans busy 24/7 for the full year.

Since FreeCiv turns are typically one game year, and it takes a turn for a starship to make a hyperspace/warp jump, building a unit of 10,000 people and equipping them to settle as a FreeCiv settler unit somewhere would require not just 10,000 characters/NPCs but also a year of breakfasts, lunches, dinners, and drinks for them to last out the journey. Sheer number of characters is problematic in CoffeeMUD, but vast quantities of food and drink and equipment is not really very hard, since it only takes a couple of months of 24/7 scripted activity for Artisans to reach max level (level 91), by which time they will have been able to master various skills and can be very productive.


3...

In the past, most of character creation in Crossfire RPG happened server-side, using maps that let each race and profession be able to be routed to a starting area of its own. Unfortunately newer clients brought in client-side character-creation, so nowadays most new characters just get a very limited choice of starting area and get to try to choose the Galactic Milieu even if they are actually fantasy-milieu characters. Thus when you choose the Galactic Milieu / Galactic Diplomacy Planet to start at you get put in a quarantine version of its Schoolhouse, where you can start to learn and to get experience from reading books increasing your literacy skill but the exit out into the Capitol proper is not enabled. I still have to manually examine characters in the quarantine Schoolhouse and manually move them to the real Schoolhouse if they are not fantasy characters (nonhumans, paladins, magic-users etc) or to a Tutorial House in the fantasy milieu if they are in fact fantasy characters.

Crossfire RPG's player-accounts do not seem to have any limit to how many characters each player-account can have, so players can try out a bunch of fantasy characters if they want as well as having more than one character in the Galactic Milieu. For example some players like to have both their character's capitalised name and an all-lowercase version, because yes Crossfire RPG is not case-independent. Because permadeath is enabled the game is intended more as roleplaying/strategic than as the videogame hack and slash the platform is more commonly played as, so it is useful to maintain a risk-taking character that can die learning where the main strategic characters ought to avoid going, or discover at what level with what equipment it might be reasonable for a main character to go there.

To scale up to the FreeCiv scale requires somehow building or obtaining a Settler unit (10,000 population suitably equipped) and some means of transporting them somewhere to settle. There is also a hosting cost involved, based on the number of "square miles" that FreeCiv reports the civilisation as controlling. Outside of the game this is regarded as a hosting cost, inside the game it is taken to be what it takes for a political party or politician or despot or who-ever to actually control a civilisation. This cost is the same regardless of government type, and is paid to a holding company known outside the game as General Hosting Corp and inside the game as Galactic Holding Corp. It is also required that each civilisation hold at least one share of GHC, and only civilisations can hold shares of GHC, so basically part of scaling up to the civilisation scale involves obtaining at least one share of GHC, which is not traded on the public markets because only civilisations are allowed to have them.

It has been customary to try to hold a percentage of GHC's shares commensurate with the percentage of total freeciv "square miles" controlled, so that in effect what you spend in hosting fees accrues into the value of your shares of GHC. This approach has allowed the original civilisations to not really worry about sometimes lengthy spans of time during which the timelines of their planets were not advanced. (For years we tried to wait for all the civilisations on a planet to be played by actual human players before advancing the timelines...)

I had hoped there would be a lot more documentation, since the Devtome wiki used to pay people in DeVCoins to write articles so I hoped one of the ways players would earn would be by documenting their starting up in the game on the wiki. But that never happened and now the wiki cannot even be edited anymore and the Milieu is lucky it is even being kept online at all to keep what documentation there is still available.

-MarkM-
realdantreccia
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Joined: Sun Feb 27, 2022 4:58 am

Re: Galactic Milieu

Post by realdantreccia »

Hi Mark :)

Happy to see that you're introducing your game with more and more details these days. Does this have to do with the 18 Feb 2022 release of FreeCiv 3.0.0?

Was this game created by British English speaking folks? I assume I have to pay more attention to the differences between that language and my own broken American English/colloquial to Chicago-english. It is a metagame after all :)

I just started to let people know of this post since it is relevant to me for Devcoin (DVC) and its blockchain-based currency being a central unit of account in your game's economy - and the code which you created yourself when contracted in 2011 by unthinkingbit AFAIK. If I have that wrong I am sorry!

https://twitter.com/_Devcoin

official twitter account for Devcoin Project (devcoin.org) A-Team (which markm is the top in our chain of command, and our lead dev and myself are a part of currently!)
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