"Where are they?" Interactive Fiction on Civilizations
October 30, 2016 11:42 AM   Subscribe

Epitaph, a game about the Fermi Paradox -- Given the likelihood of other forms of life, why don't we find them? Part of the September 2016 Fermi Paradox Jam, Epitaph lets you act as a guiding hand for burgeoning civilizations discovered. The rarity of a planet's survival to the technological level needed for interstellar communication becomes apparent. Over time, failed civilizations fade away... posted by cobaltnine (99 comments total) 49 users marked this as a favorite
 
I got to teach them calculus and taxonomy! But in the end I believe the worst-case scenario for a civilization is that humans become aware of them.

I'm just going to leave this tab open in the background while I work, listening to the beeps and hums of letting nature follow its own course.
posted by klausman at 12:08 PM on October 30, 2016


Attenuation. The Lucy broadcasts that they watched on Alpha Centuri (time shifted by 4 years) would have needed an antenna pointed directly at earth the size of the moon. And would have been quite fuzzy. Perhaps they don't care or realized that it's just not worth the effort?
posted by sammyo at 12:11 PM on October 30, 2016 [2 favorites]


Five of the six civilizations I managed died because of volcanic eruptions or wayward asteroids before I could teach them calculus. Kind of annoying. If we're violating the Prime Directive to help them up the tech tree, shouldn't we at least keep an eye on ELE asteroids?
posted by thecaddy at 12:13 PM on October 30, 2016 [8 favorites]


I was trying to figure out if your interference matters. Like if you teach them fire does that help them avoid the fate where the forest fire topples their budding civilization? Or does it make it more likely?
posted by Wretch729 at 12:19 PM on October 30, 2016


All of mine so far have died in plagues, especially after learning to sail and visiting distant lands.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 12:22 PM on October 30, 2016 [2 favorites]


Of 11 so far I have 5 volcanoes, 2 plagues, one fire, one comet, one overhunting, and one that has miraculously made it to nukes without dying... so far.
posted by Wretch729 at 12:31 PM on October 30, 2016


Okay it's 3555 and I'm getting ticked about the plagues; I've had one volcano, one meteor, one crop failure, and:

In 3138, a number of Kikin traders returned from across the sea bearing symptoms of an unfamiliar illness. Having no immunity to the germs that caused the disease, the majority of the Kikin population was wiped out by the ensuing plague.

In 3447, a number of Sêqaq traders returned from across the sea bearing symptoms of an unfamiliar illness. Having no immunity to the germs that caused the disease, the majority of the Sêqaq population was wiped out by the ensuing plague.

In 2985, a food-borne illness began to spread rapidly through the Tohto population. Less than 10% of the Tohto survived the plague, causing a population bottleneck which eventually brought about the total collapse of Tohto civilization.

In 3407, a food-borne illness began to spread rapidly through the Juxeg population. Less than 10% of the Juxeg survived the plague, causing a population bottleneck which eventually brought about the total collapse of Juxeg civilization.

In 3484, a food-borne illness began to spread rapidly through the Swotoz population. Less than 10% of the Swotoz survived the plague, causing a population bottleneck which eventually brought about the total collapse of Swotoz civilization.

I mean the bubonic plague was pretty bad but SOME people survived! And there have been terrible population bottlenecks in the past but the species survived! And I find it hard to believe a food-borne illness could wipe out an ENTIRE species! Give me some breaks, fermi game!
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 12:32 PM on October 30, 2016 [11 favorites]


And two more died of food-borne illness while I was typing that! COME ON ALIENS LEARN TO EAT RIGHT!

I would like the option to teach my aliens basic hygiene and safe food handling practices, please.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 12:34 PM on October 30, 2016 [10 favorites]


Aww, my burgeoning space-going civilization just got Skynetted. Stupid rogue AIs. I taught you better little guys!
posted by Wretch729 at 12:36 PM on October 30, 2016 [2 favorites]


By the way EM even getting them to learn modern medicine doesn't always help with the plagues - they can die from a genetically engineered bioweapon.
posted by Wretch729 at 12:37 PM on October 30, 2016


I got up to skynet and then the rampaging killbots cut off communication and I guess we're good with just ignoring that?
posted by logicpunk at 12:40 PM on October 30, 2016 [1 favorite]


Skynetted, too!
posted by willF at 12:41 PM on October 30, 2016


Source code here: https://github.com/mkremins/epitaph
posted by willF at 12:43 PM on October 30, 2016 [4 favorites]


(teaches the Moo-Hazaneth agriculture)

"The Moo-Hazaneth cultivated a bipedal carnivorous flower called the Gombinwindoo, which translates roughly to 'The Visitation Of Death Is Hastened By The Star-Teachings', and it ate every last one of them to a man. Ha ha."

sigh
posted by Sing Or Swim at 12:45 PM on October 30, 2016 [11 favorites]


YESSSSSSS: "The Joco have successfully tested their first faster-than-light starship. No longer are they trapped within the gravity well of the Jete system: they are now free to take their place alongside us as fellow wanderers among the stars. In 6068, the Joco joined us."
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 1:10 PM on October 30, 2016 [14 favorites]


So, after many wandering asteroids;

The Hoqfhoq have begun to establish permanent colonies on worlds other than Nenmoqon Hoqheqaq. Although still largely unable to travel outside of the Honaqon system, the distribution of Hoqfhoq civilization across multiple worlds greatly reduces the risk that they will collapse due to any crisis of merely planetary scale.

woo! But then:

In 4197, an early warning system employed by one of the major Hoqfhoq superpowers detected an incoming nuclear attack. Whether the alert was a false alarm remains unclear, but the resulting nuclear counterattack and ensuing full-scale nuclear war has plunged Nenmoqon Hoqheqaq into a state of nuclear winter from which it is unlikely that Hoqfhoq civilization will ever recover.

...so, err?

And either way I'd have thought they could use their causality violating FTL communications to prevent this sort of SNAFU.
posted by Luddite at 1:40 PM on October 30, 2016 [4 favorites]


"Are we the only living thing in the entire universe?"

Oh wow. That's actually the first full sentence ever I've seen - on the internet or anywhere else - written by a cat.
posted by the quidnunc kid at 1:55 PM on October 30, 2016 [8 favorites]


Talk about a morality play!
posted by Apocryphon at 1:56 PM on October 30, 2016


I got to teach them calculus and taxonomy! But in the end I believe the worst-case scenario for a civilization is that humans become aware of them.

The belief that humans are uniquely evil or terrible is just as parochial and arrogant as believing that we're uniquely special or good. If there is other intelligent life out there there's no reason to believe they're intrinsically morally superior/inferior to us, or vice versa.
posted by Sangermaine at 2:00 PM on October 30, 2016 [11 favorites]


The Frat use stone tools for many things, including when hunting the wild frat in the dense forests of Cacat Frat.

These guys have a theme going.
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 2:19 PM on October 30, 2016 [7 favorites]


The Frat have begun to cultivate crops, including fratfrat a kind of tough moss...
Oh wait, the fratfrat harvest failed and the frat from frat are all frat (which is probably the frat word for dead).
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 2:20 PM on October 30, 2016 [3 favorites]


One of the more interesting suggestions I've seen about the Fermi paradox isn't whether civilizations make it through their atomic age without blowing themselves up, but rather the presence of fossil fuels or something like them - something that's sufficiently energy-dense to boost you to the point where you can develop other energy technologies.
posted by rmd1023 at 2:26 PM on October 30, 2016 [7 favorites]


I find it unbelievable that a globe-spanning industrial civilization would be wiped out by a single volcanic eruption.
posted by Automocar at 2:36 PM on October 30, 2016 [1 favorite]


In 2482, a cooking fire started by one of the Hadqefhabqlap jumped to the forest, where it quickly blazed out of control. When the fire finally burned itself out, the forest had been almost completely destroyed, disrupting the ecosystem of Huufqa enough to cause a total collapse of Hadqefhabqlap civilization.

seriously
posted by Apocryphon at 2:56 PM on October 30, 2016 [1 favorite]


This was like: imagine the worst possible thing happening to your civilization. Never mind probability or statistics, just imagine God fucking with probability for reasons.

Cannot imagine him dicking the universe that way.
posted by pjmoy at 3:04 PM on October 30, 2016


The Fermi Paradox always seemed terribly human-o-centric to me. Why should we assume that other intelligent races would be interested in interstellar communication? And even if they were, why assume that they share any senses with us? Maybe there's some sentient race out there with zero ability to detect or even comprehend radio waves, who have their own Zglorxb Paradox saying 'if there are other intelligent races in the universe, why haven't they transmitted their thoughtsmells to our pastconsciousness yet?'
posted by showbiz_liz at 3:40 PM on October 30, 2016 [7 favorites]


The Humans have begun to cultivate crops. They are especially fond of manhu, a kind of fleshy fungus that grows well in the scrublands of Hu'Manuh.
posted by theodolite at 3:41 PM on October 30, 2016 [6 favorites]


My first civilization nuked itself, not sure if I should be proud or disappointed.

Of course, three others were discovered and wiped out in the time that took.
posted by ckape at 3:45 PM on October 30, 2016


My first civilization made it to the stars. The rest were murdered by cooking fires and wandering asteroids.
posted by Joey Michaels at 4:13 PM on October 30, 2016


Prometheus is a JERK!
posted by Faux Real at 4:52 PM on October 30, 2016 [1 favorite]


I accidentally left it running in a minimized window and it's stardate 17,000 and I still only have the one civilization that's made it.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 5:20 PM on October 30, 2016 [1 favorite]


The fire is driving me nuts. Forests regenerate through fire! That shouldn't wipe out civilization.

Not to mention planetary impact and gamma ray burst are occurring much to often for the historical record (something something anthropic principle.)
posted by stevis23 at 5:25 PM on October 30, 2016 [1 favorite]


The Golgafrincham have sent all their hairdressers and telephone sanitisers off to a fake colony. The rest of them lived full, rich and happy lives until they were all wiped out by a virulent disease contracted from a dirty telephone.
posted by Phssthpok at 5:29 PM on October 30, 2016 [13 favorites]


If only the Golgafrinchans had developed cellular phones.
posted by ckape at 5:45 PM on October 30, 2016 [4 favorites]


"In 5032, an early warning system employed by one of the major U'lupuwckuál superpowers detected an incoming nuclear attack. Whether the alert was a false alarm remains unclear, but the resulting nuclear counterattack and ensuing full-scale nuclear war has plunged Wuluál into a state of nuclear winter from which it is unlikely that U'lupuwckuál civilization will ever recover."
posted by wintermind at 5:46 PM on October 30, 2016


This is like playing a Civilization tech tree.
posted by wintermind at 5:47 PM on October 30, 2016 [2 favorites]


Wood houses, let's teach them fire. What could go wrong?

An asteroid. An asteroid is what can go wrong.
posted by aurynn at 6:20 PM on October 30, 2016 [13 favorites]


The belief that humans are uniquely evil or terrible is just as parochial and arrogant as believing that we're uniquely special or good.

True, though I came by that thought inductively -- as in, we kept finding a new civilization, and then 5 to 100 years later they went extinct. On the other hand, I kept expecting the game to announce that "we" had perished, and that it would continue following some other planet's meddling.
posted by klausman at 6:20 PM on October 30, 2016 [3 favorites]


Further interference is forbidden until 2911.

Don't we wish.
posted by Mr. Yuck at 6:28 PM on October 30, 2016


This is like playing a Civilization tech tree.

Seriously. I usually just rush the Pyramids, Great Library and Oracle at the beginning and from there it's pretty easy to get the spaceship first.
posted by briank at 6:41 PM on October 30, 2016 [4 favorites]


My most promising species discovered television before they also discovered the physics problem of a rogue comet intersecting with their orbital path.

In so many ways I feel like I'm racing against the clock of a capricious and uncaring universe, hoping to keep them from annihilating themselves or having an out-of-control hygiene problem do them in.

Argh.
posted by aurynn at 6:54 PM on October 30, 2016


Alchemy leads to dogs. Of course it does.
posted by Mr. Yuck at 7:03 PM on October 30, 2016


This is cute, but the mean time between civilization ending volcanoes & asteroids is something like a hundred thousand years as far as we know, not a few decades.

This feeds into what I think is one of the big issues people display when discussing space (whether aliens or humans going into space), which is time the intuition about estimates of geological events are treated as if they were around two orders of magnitude faster. Or, looked at another way, technological development and travel are a couple orders of magnitude too slow relative to the big events.
posted by mark k at 7:34 PM on October 30, 2016 [2 favorites]


So I'm curious what events COULD wipe out a world-wide intelligent species -- I buy that minor disasters could wipe out a very small, localized population; and I buy that a post-industrial civilization could be wiped out by nuclear war or global warming or whatever. But the "planetary food poisoning" seems very suspect. So what sorts of events could lead to species-level extinctions of pandemic species? (Particularly pandemic intelligent species.) Very large asteroids, climate change (natural or anthropogenic) ... what else?
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:11 PM on October 30, 2016 [3 favorites]


Well, time between super volcanoes depends a lot on the geology of the particular planet under discussion. And asteroids depend on the local system. There's a decent argument that the moon absorbs a lot of asteroids which would have wiped out earthlings a few times over.

It seems like at least some of the society-destroying events should be preventable with other technologies. Eg, my first civ I taught tool-making to, and they then destroyed their food base and went extinct. So now I teach agriculture early to ensure there's a second source of food, and try to get aqueducts early, too. It's not so much about helping the civ get to the stars as giving them the tools to not die out.
posted by kaibutsu at 8:12 PM on October 30, 2016 [1 favorite]


I feel cheated that one of my civilizations died from gray goo, after they had already set up off-world colonies.
posted by ckape at 8:13 PM on October 30, 2016


The Lo‑e‑slov‑cojh developed rockets before I could even teach them about steam engines.
posted by great_radio at 8:33 PM on October 30, 2016


But the "planetary food poisoning" seems very suspect.

Gluuuuuuuuten!! More seriously, it seems that food allergies are becoming more and more common, so maybe it isn't a case of food poisoning us so much as us being incapable of eating our food anymore? Maybe that's a bit of a stretch.
posted by Literaryhero at 9:10 PM on October 30, 2016


Watched a movie and been running the thing in the background. Didn't get any further than in-system colonies yet, around stardate 10,000.

The Fermi Paradox always seemed terribly human-o-centric to me. Why should we assume that other intelligent races would be interested in interstellar communication?

IMO what the Fermi Paradox is good at is forcing people to come up with solutions that make us exceedingly rare in some way. Psychological explanations, along the lines of intelligent life being common but none of them being interested in the things we're interested in, is a valid explanation.

But for my tastes the main argument against us being the only intelligent life in the universe is that we shouldn't think we're unique. So if we have to assume we're special after all, certainly the simplest explanation is probably that intelligent life itself is rare or short lived.

Well, time between super volcanoes depends a lot on the geology of the particular planet under discussion. And asteroids depend on the local system. There's a decent argument that the moon absorbs a lot of asteroids which would have wiped out earthlings a few times over.

Sure, but if a planet (most planets?) were in a system where there mass extinction level events every century or so it's tough to imagine complex life really getting a good foothold.
posted by mark k at 9:45 PM on October 30, 2016 [2 favorites]


Through their investigations of quantum phenomena, the Naney have discovered a means of sending and receiving messages which travel at speeds exceeding that of light itself.

In 3610, following decades of negotiation, the various sovereign Naney nations came to an agreement concerning the establishment of a unified planet-wide government for all of the Naney.

The Naney have successfully tested their first faster-than-light starship. No longer are they trapped within the gravity well of the Hocacno system: they are now free to take their place alongside us as fellow wanderers among the stars.

In 3621, the Naney joined us.


yesssss got one of my founding Federation planets
posted by nonasuch at 10:20 PM on October 30, 2016 [8 favorites]


It's roguelike Civ.
posted by PMdixon at 10:54 PM on October 30, 2016 [5 favorites]


Wiping themselves out with pre-gunpowder warfare would be impressive if it weren't so annoying.
posted by ckape at 11:16 PM on October 30, 2016 [1 favorite]


I refuse to play whatever games the Big Fermi industry brings out. It's one of the most ridiculous theories ever and my only wish is to live long enough to see it rightly put down like the mad theory it is.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:01 AM on October 31, 2016 [1 favorite]


Alright, then what's your explanation, big sky?
posted by Apocryphon at 12:10 AM on October 31, 2016


I was playing around with some ideas ages ago for sci fi stories slightly inspired by the book Footfall where alien invaders turn up, but they've got technology from a precursor race so never really learnt to think all that well.
So they turn up in a big spaceship, but are not used to actually inventing anything, so humans win hooray.

Anyway the various notions were things like races developing with no fossil fuels so they never really did any kind of combustion technologies. Meaning they very very very slowly got round to inventing fusion power and had all the energy they ever needed, meaning they didn't muck about with aerodynamic flight.
So the aliens turn up and all their flying devices move forward and backwards and up and down and they get completely confused by aeroplanes swooping around them.
Not really very plausible, but the idea was that some things that we take for granted as societal developments just didn't happen, they somehow jumped over them. Then the humans win hooray. (I was a teenage boy at the time, the humans usually won hooray)
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 2:29 AM on October 31, 2016 [1 favorite]


It's roguelike Civ.
Xom is highly amused.
posted by comealongpole at 3:27 AM on October 31, 2016


Alright, then what's your explanation, big sky?

Subscribe to my newsletter and learn the truth!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:10 AM on October 31, 2016 [1 favorite]


I taught one civilisation how to make tools and they wiped out their food supply in a single generation.

The next civilisation had banded together into a nation state and established a capital city before figuring out fire... which... okay?
posted by Happy Dave at 7:25 AM on October 31, 2016


Happy Dave, I had one independently invent electricity and create power plants before getting steam power.
posted by bolda at 7:29 AM on October 31, 2016


Automocar: "I find it unbelievable that a globe-spanning industrial civilization would be wiped out by a single volcanic eruption."

That's okay. I just hit toolmaking with one, and they got wiped out. My other culture died of food-borne illness at fishing.
posted by Samizdata at 7:40 AM on October 31, 2016


FUCKING VOLCANOS
posted by showbiz_liz at 7:40 AM on October 31, 2016 [2 favorites]


pjmoy: "This was like: imagine the worst possible thing happening to your civilization. Never mind probability or statistics, just imagine God fucking with probability for reasons.

Cannot imagine him dicking the universe that way.
"

Obviously you never played SimCity. Whoops, there goes ANOTHER culture! (Food-borne again).
posted by Samizdata at 7:42 AM on October 31, 2016


aurynn: "My most promising species discovered television before they also discovered the physics problem of a rogue comet intersecting with their orbital path.

In so many ways I feel like I'm racing against the clock of a capricious and uncaring universe, hoping to keep them from annihilating themselves or having an out-of-control hygiene problem do them in.

Argh.
"

And there's ANOTHER volcano. Sheesh. The Universe is a cold, uncaring place.

Yeah! Out of control fire this time!
posted by Samizdata at 7:45 AM on October 31, 2016


nonasuch: "Through their investigations of quantum phenomena, the Naney have discovered a means of sending and receiving messages which travel at speeds exceeding that of light itself.

In 3610, following decades of negotiation, the various sovereign Naney nations came to an agreement concerning the establishment of a unified planet-wide government for all of the Naney.

The Naney have successfully tested their first faster-than-light starship. No longer are they trapped within the gravity well of the Hocacno system: they are now free to take their place alongside us as fellow wanderers among the stars.

In 3621, the Naney joined us.


yesssss got one of my founding Federation planets
"

Shut up. My one world government then got Skynetted. And another found stone tools made them SUCH great hunters they broke the ecosystem.
posted by Samizdata at 7:57 AM on October 31, 2016 [1 favorite]


We first became aware of the Badswag in 2263. They reside on the overgrown planet Badslag in the Sbagkwa system. They are adaptable, fearful, and honest.

I am trying not to get too attached to my civilisations any more, but: the Badswag from Badslag! How can I resist that?

(come on, come on, no volcanoes, no volcanoes...)
posted by Catseye at 8:48 AM on October 31, 2016 [1 favorite]


In 2666, due to the growing importance of metal-forged weapons in warfare and the scarcity of metal deposits on Badslag, a massive and bloody conflict erupted over control of these deposits. Over 80% of the Badswag population was wiped out in the fighting, a loss from which Badswag civilization was ultimately unable to recover.

:(
posted by Catseye at 8:53 AM on October 31, 2016 [3 favorites]


If you don't teach them fishing, they can get to the point of having electricity and still wind up dying from over-hunting :(
posted by showbiz_liz at 8:59 AM on October 31, 2016


The earthlings from earth, led by Gozer the Gozerian...
posted by kaibutsu at 10:07 AM on October 31, 2016


Whoa! What if we are actually assisting the billions of civilizations around the universe? Mind blown!
posted by hot_monster at 10:10 AM on October 31, 2016 [2 favorites]


I need an option for 'hand washing' because it seems like most of mine are dying from food borne illness. Don't cross-contaminate you goobs!
posted by hot_monster at 10:12 AM on October 31, 2016 [2 favorites]


I taught Calculus at a University and a Junior College for three years. No one ever died. I feel proud of myself.
posted by ubiquity at 11:16 AM on October 31, 2016 [2 favorites]


The next civilisation had banded together into a nation state and established a capital city before figuring out fire... which... okay?

That's nothing. I had one race invent rocketry before seagoing ships. And another that invented the internet before ships.
posted by Apocryphon at 11:38 AM on October 31, 2016 [1 favorite]


I had some guys develop genetic engineering before water mills. Shortly after they developed steam power, they were all wiped out by a genetically engineered virus.
posted by showbiz_liz at 12:17 PM on October 31, 2016


Also: these fuckers cannot be trusted with stone tools. Why can't we teach them the secrets of "chilling out with the whole hunting thing for a hot second"?
posted by showbiz_liz at 12:18 PM on October 31, 2016 [1 favorite]


"The Nefo make use of stone tools in a variety of contexts. This has dramatically improved their efficiency in hunting the wild nefo."

...idk if I want to assist this race of cannibals in reaching the stars
posted by showbiz_liz at 12:21 PM on October 31, 2016 [4 favorites]


scarcity of metal deposits on Badslag

Well, duh.
posted by stevis23 at 12:26 PM on October 31, 2016 [3 favorites]


We had established space colonization before getting Skynetted. Which I guess at that point is more accurately getting Cyloned.
posted by leotrotsky at 12:56 PM on October 31, 2016 [1 favorite]


The fire is driving me nuts. Forests regenerate through fire! That shouldn't wipe out civilization.

Not to mention planetary impact and gamma ray burst are occurring much to often for the historical record (something something anthropic principle.)


Agreed on both counts! The fire one wouldn't even be too hard to fix to make sensible, by changing the event text to death by deforestation through overexploitation for fuel (and rejigging the weights a little).

The latter, though, what can be done about it, short of a massive revamp to have multiple timescales? Which would have other realism gains — I mean, a local crop failure should leave other civilisations of the same species on the same planet usable, I shouldn't have to wait for a whole new planet — but would probably spoil the short-and-sweet nature of the game.
posted by finka at 1:43 PM on October 31, 2016


I had some guys develop genetic engineering before water mills. Shortly after they developed steam power, they were all wiped out by a genetically engineered virus.

Congrats, you've uplifted some type of elf
posted by Apocryphon at 2:33 PM on October 31, 2016 [1 favorite]


It's year 18395. I finally got one civilization to "join us".
posted by ethidda at 4:06 PM on October 31, 2016 [1 favorite]


My poor Smit'swiutmuit made it to steam engines before plumbing and still got the plague.
posted by Carillon at 5:00 PM on October 31, 2016


You gotta pick plumbing as soon as it crops up! That's how you AVOID the plague!

(...I might have left this game running in a second browser window for 10,000 years or so today)
posted by showbiz_liz at 6:22 PM on October 31, 2016


Catseye: "In 2666, due to the growing importance of metal-forged weapons in warfare and the scarcity of metal deposits on Badslag, a massive and bloody conflict erupted over control of these deposits. Over 80% of the Badswag population was wiped out in the fighting, a loss from which Badswag civilization was ultimately unable to recover.

:(
"

Been there, done that, fellow failed culture uplifter! And think, they could still die from an asteroid or comet strike without the joys of fresh seafood and indoor plumbline...
posted by Samizdata at 6:44 PM on October 31, 2016


Samizdata: "Catseye: "In 2666, due to the growing importance of metal-forged weapons in warfare and the scarcity of metal deposits on Badslag, a massive and bloody conflict erupted over control of these deposits. Over 80% of the Badswag population was wiped out in the fighting, a loss from which Badswag civilization was ultimately unable to recover.

:(
"

Been there, done that, fellow failed culture uplifter! And think, they could still die from an asteroid or comet strike without the joys of fresh seafood and indoor plumbline...
"

Plumbing, even. (Edit is no good if you don't proofread carefully, then move on to other posts without doublechecking first.)
posted by Samizdata at 6:50 PM on October 31, 2016


So I let this run in the background for a *long* time last night, intervening for stretches. Think I got up to Stardate 12,000 or 15,000 or so. Two species got in the federation, though they were both kid of losers when it comes to traits ("sedentary, loquatious and arrogant") while the ones I really like ("nimble, kind and curious") all got killed.

I think I've figured out some of the rules.

**** spoilers *****

(Actually, these may not be spoilers since I might be plain wrong. But you've been warned.)

Ecosystem collapse from hunting/fishing is more likely with one food source and doesn't happen with two. Food borne illnesses don't start until you've done one of those or agriculture. Fire will prevent food born illnesses. Construction triggers potential plagues since you have cities. Plumbing will prevent plagues. Sailing increases the risks of plagues. (I assume there's a mid-game thing that germ theory prevents but I don't know what it is.) I think metalworking triggers the collapse in pre-nuclear wars, and architecture protects against it. Sailing seems to reduce the frequency of civ ending volcanoes and fires as you spread out. "Knowledge" techs like writing, calculus and digital computers *may* speed up the spontaneous discoveries without player intervention, though I don't have rigorous numbers. Same with traits like "wise." Many of these may be frequency reduction rather than hard rules.

If I'm right about most of these I'm more forgiving--volcanoes are extinction level, they just disrupt a local civilization. And it's a bit interesting as strategy. Certain paths put you at high risk--once you have one tech in a bundle you are in a high risk zone until you get the antidote tech(s). Usually more than one, so as soon as you get one of the food techs you're at high risk until you get two more foods and fire. Fire then puts you at risk until sailing, but you need construction for sailing so you really want plumbing asap as well. On the other hand techs like calculus & astronomy are risk free.

The best strategy might be to do nothing unless your civ spontaneously gets a dangerous tech, so you can instantly take a risk reduction tech. I was never that patient. Also, the comets and supernova can't be avoided so patience may backfire. I do think if you're in a low-risk plateau the best option is choose low-risk techs (calculus, optics, taxonomy, etc.) until you're forced into a high risk things.

posted by mark k at 7:04 PM on October 31, 2016 [3 favorites]


YOUR CIVILIZATION HAS DIED OF DYSENTERY.
posted by Ogre Lawless at 10:10 PM on October 31, 2016 [4 favorites]


The code is here, confirming lots of what mark k said above. civs.cljs, events.cljs, and techs.cljs are the core game engine; should be somewhat grokkable even if you're not a ClojureScript programmer.

SPOILERS BELOW:



* I'm not going to go through all the numbers here, but the gist is that there are a few events you can't do anything about (gamma rays, asteroids), but also a few techs that reduce risks while increasing others.
* Writing, printing press, and networked computers all speed up your tech acquisition rate.
* Astronomy makes you more likely to find religion, but doesn't seem to affect the gameplay otherwise
* Your civ's inherent attributes don't affect the gameplay at all.
posted by bbuda at 10:11 PM on October 31, 2016 [2 favorites]


We first became aware of the Powpbotxop in 12853. They reside on the abundant planet Swopot Powpbopop in the Bowpswoswopoq Bowqswoswopop system. They are proud, serious, and subtle.

In 12854, a massive volcanic eruption filled the skies of Swopot Powpbopop with ash and blotted out the sun. The ensuing volcanic winter threw the planet's delicate ecosystem wildly out of balance, bringing about the end of Powpbotxop civilization.

Oh come on!
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 6:29 AM on November 1, 2016 [1 favorite]


So, I made a spreadsheet.
This is more SPOILERS BELOW territory.

The only thing you can't stop is Gamma Rays
Everything else you can mitigate (sort of)

Most techs have no impact at all.
Once you're up to plumbing you're safe from all the early risks except plague.
That can't be completely eliminated until you get to Germ Theory.
Germ theory needs taxonomy and calculus.
They in turn need Optics, Alchemy and Printing Press.
Everything below that you need for basic stability anyway.

After that you're still at risk of volcanoes, asteroids and gamma rays until you get to space colonisation.

Early on, you need all 4 of toolmaking, agriculture, fishing and fire.
They cancel out each others risks.

Plumbing protects against plague (but not completely.
Construction protects against forest fire
Sailing protects against wars over metal

Architecture isn't important. (It protects against "City Fire" but that's not an event that can ever happen. It otherwise only influences flavour text.
Everything else is only important as a prerequisite to something else. (i.e. metalworking is actively harmful, so you need sailing to counteract it, but you need it to get plumbing.)


Genetics gets you Bioterrorism.
Nanotech gets you grey goo
AI gets you skynet.
there is no upside to these three except as prerequisites for other useful stuff

Networked computers and space colonisation has a chance to get you a world government which is negates many risks especially around nuclear war.
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 7:23 AM on November 1, 2016 [2 favorites]


So as an addendum to that, I've now worked out a pretty optimal uplift sequence. It's quite rare for any of my civs to get overhunting, overfishing, food illness, fires or metal wars.
But.. man there are an overabundance of comets, asteroids, planetoids and so on in this area of space.

I get the point that it's astonishingly unlikely to get off your home planet, but it's frustrating to have 20 civs in a row whammed by comets.

Since I've been using my uplift sequence my civilizations have been destroyed by:
Comet, comet, comet, asteroid, comet, planetoid, comet, volcano, comet, overfishing, comet, volcano, comet, planetoid
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 7:50 AM on November 1, 2016


So as an addendum to that, I've now worked out a pretty optimal uplift sequence.

Which is?
posted by leotrotsky at 8:20 AM on November 1, 2016


Firstly:
Toolmaking
Fishing
Agriculture
Fire
In any order, that gets you past the initial food death problems.

Writing
Construction
(both reduce chance of metal war, writing speeds up chance to get other techs. It may be better to do it before the agriculture techs)
Metalworking
Plumbing
(reduces the main plague issues)

Astronomy
Sailing (reduces metalwar further)

Architecture
Printing Press (speeds up tech more, pre-req for calculus)
optics
alchemy
taxonomy
germ theory
COMET

they will usually get some of the middle ones on their own.
I didn't get much past that because of the comets.
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 8:46 AM on November 1, 2016 [2 favorites]


To all the civilisations that I have been helping:

For the love of all that you hold to be holy, DON'T BUILD SKYNET. It's a BAD IDEA and it kills you EVERY DAMN TIME. STOP IT.

...

and keep an eye on the nanobots too.
posted by Urtylug at 6:00 PM on November 1, 2016 [1 favorite]


Every time I start with toolmaking the bastards overhunt themselves into oblivion immediately. I've been starting off with writing every time and that seems to mitigate it.
posted by showbiz_liz at 6:05 PM on November 1, 2016


Liz: I've found that too. I've been going with Writing -> Agriculture and then tools/fishing.

The Ou have successfully tested their first faster-than-light starship. No longer are they trapped within the gravity well of the Opjo Ui system: they are now free to take their place alongside us as fellow wanderers among the stars.
In 25745, the Ou joined us.


Finally.
posted by Urtylug at 12:53 AM on November 2, 2016



Writing by itself doesn't mitigate any food death chances, but perhaps doing it first gives you a chance to get one of the other 4 food techs before the risk factor becomes too high, so is probably a good call.

I quite like the principle. I have some ideas to "gamify" it a bit more by giving you an intervention ship which has a limited supply of power so you can save up and redirect asteroids or use it up more quickly for tech jumps. Something like that.
I'd ideally want to set major planetary impact events to occur at some time in the future and determine that when the civ is generated, rather than as a randomised event.

Not that I have any time to spare, but what in general is the etiquette on forking something like this?
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 3:42 AM on November 2, 2016


Asking the creator would be polite, I guess. I presume it's open-source. I like this game quite a bit, despite the age it took for me to finally get a species to ascend. I could certainly see a more game-y version of this working, although you don't want to make the perfect-play success rate too high or you lose the point. Having an 'avert specific disaster' cards might be nice, or maybe your uplift team could be specialised or levelled up.

There's also something to be said for making the species personalities mean something - say a species might be even-tempered so you can take a bit more war-risk, but as a downside they're also more vulnerable than most to disease.
posted by Urtylug at 1:43 PM on November 2, 2016


I've left this running for a few hours without making any choices at all. We're up to around stardate 12,500 now and it looks like out of 85+ civilizations, nobody's made it yet. The closest anyone got was electricity and germ theory, before a comet whanged into them.
posted by showbiz_liz at 2:12 PM on November 2, 2016


I've left this running for a few days now and I've had a few make it to approximately 20th century levels without interference, and one that even managed to skynet itself without my interfering, but so far the only successes have been with ones I've shepherded pretty much all the way.
posted by ckape at 2:59 PM on November 2, 2016


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