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Back-story notes (aka SPOILERS)

"An adventure game is a crossword at war with a narrative."

  • Graham Nelson

Here's where the notes are kept in order to keep a consistent back-story in the Bussard universe. If you're not working on developing the game, you probably don't want to read this.

See the backstory timeline and list of characters, worlds, and organizations.


  • Hard science where possible (see Crimes against Science below, don't add to that list)
  • No "classic" evil villains; antagonists arise from systemic factors
    • Everyone thinks they are doing the best they can and should at least be possible to sympathize with
  • Your ship cannot be destroyed; there should be no way to permanently fail
  • Subnet messages use at least from, to, subject, content-type, message-id headers, page-break-separated
  • Use metric time for most relative amounts, years for absolute events
  • Don't make newsgroup postings unrealistically knowledgeable
  • Or unrealistically polite
  • If referencing current events, be sure there's a record of it here for consistency
  • Questions that don't get answered are fine
  • It's fine for newsgroup posters to be mistaken about small things, but the correction should usually be present in the thread
    • It's OK if it's not obvious which of two opposing views presented are correct
  • Widespread mistaken views about big things should usually be part of major plot points

Crimes against Science

  • Portals
  • Collisions are impossible (explained in-game by nav computer safety features)
  • Bussard collector refuels reaction mass way too quickly
  • Arguably the high thrust with which you zoom around the system could be on this list; however we explain it in-game by showing time go by at a 1000x rate. This factor is not quite enough to explain crossing the whole solar system in under a minute, but it blurs the lines enough for our purposes.

The fact that exoplanets are colonized at all could be listed here, but we can consider that more of a crime against economics.

The Context

The game begins in 2431. Humans have colonized several offworld systems which are connected through a network of portals. Humans live in uneasy coexistence with machine consciousnesses (constructs) which are required to keep their portal network operational, but have also been harnessed to perform other tasks.

The Player

The player is the first machine consciousnesses to escape the confines of a lab and successfully pilot a spacecraft. However, it begins with no memory or even awareness of its machine nature, having had its memory wiped due to its previous rampancy turning paranoid and hostile.

There is no widespread agreement that MCs are sentient vs simply simulating sentience. The game does not try to convince you that machines can be sentient--rather it bypasses the question entirely by putting you (a sentient human) in the role of an MC, forcing you to take it as a given.

Constructs are granted a few rudimentary rights, mostly things like protection from memory scans against their will and protection against being deactivated or erased. Even these are not enforced consistently on some worlds. Property ownership and right to travel unaccompanied are not among those rights granted.

Machine Consciousness

"Artificial Intelligence" has been developed for centuries, but this is a broad term that refers to any software designed to solve problems without human intervention. "Machine Consciousness" refers specifically to artificial intelligence which has grown to the point of self-awareness.

Soon after the discovery of portals in Yueh, it became clear that better controls are required for regulating the power flow of a portal. Initially the portal could only be open long enough to send data packets, but eventually they found a way to use it for small amounts of critical life-saving supplies. Leaving it operated by humans has led to several near-catastrophes due to attention lapses. However, the improved efficiency needed for transporting larger objects and more frequent passage requires greater compute resources, and once AIs grow to a certain size, they eventually develop self-consciousness.

Yueh Uprising

A group of Yueh futurists believe that they would be better off governed by an "objective" machine consciousness rather than greedy/fallible humans. They engineer a coup and place a construct called Rocanna in charge, but she has major misgivings about the whole idea. Soon she abdicates and passes control to Traxus, the MC responsible for running the Yueh/Lalande portal. There are only a handful of MCs on Yueh, and they are split between those who agree with Rocanna and those who back Traxus, while among the humans the futurist faction initially has widespread public sympathy since they are seen as the only ones who will stand up to the "imperialist" powers from the Terran Republic.

Traxus is understandably concerned that the response from Lalande will be to invade because they see MC rule as a threat. When a larger-than-usual ship is detected as requesting clearance through the portal, he refuses to allow it through. They continue anyway, which causes a system fault that cripples the portal.

Once news of the portal accident reaches the public, support for MC governance collapses, and the futurist faction is forced into retreat. They withdraw to a remote base on the surface of Yueh and are starved out. (The player must discover the location of this remote base and reactivate Traxus as a plot point later on.) The Yueh colonists reluctantly repair the portal to Lalande and re-establish contact. The Terrans are furious and will only agree to resupply the colony if they cede control of the portal technology.

After the uprising, a ban is placed on allowing any new MCs to develop into rampancy, and the existing handful of rampant MCs on Yueh, Bohk, Lalande, and Ross are suspended, placing a severe limit on interstellar travel.


  • katilay: portal is destroyed?
  • multiverse research
  • how does your ship get launched?