Making a coherent narrative universe

Making a coherent narrative universe

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Shadowstrike

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I took a break from Stellaris to play through the Mass Effect trilogy recently, and it occurred to me that one of the reasons the Stellaris galaxy feels disjointed is that the events and lore are all in separate, unconnected bins. Essentially you have five "groups" where lore events comes from: 1) anomalies/archeological sites from "unknown" alien civilizations, 2) Precursors, 3) Fallen Empires/Marauders, 4) Leviathans, and 5) Crises. But these are all unconnected to each other, so each anomaly/archeological site/event is entirely unrelated to anything else. As a result, there doesn't feel like a coherent "back-story" to the galaxy as you explore it. Instead, it feels like everything is a one-off.

Upon galaxy creation, each FE should have a "zone" around them designated as places they influenced; there should also be other such zones filling in the rest of the map representing other recently extinct empires. Within each zone, some large proportion of anomalies and archeological sites should be linked to that FE/ancient empire. Alien mural? Drawn by some of the FE? Race track? Related to an ancient sport by the FE? A determined exterminator empire? The FE created them in a science accident gone wrong. Ruined science nexus? The FE might have built that at the zenith of their power. Zarqlan's tomb? Maybe he was a member of the FE species, or of a subject empire they conquered. Likewise, the origins of the enclaves should somehow be connected to these empires.

Now at the locations where the different zones converge/overlap, you might seed anomalies related to conflicts: ruined shipyards, planets with titanic life bred to be engines of war, etc. At the locations where these overlap with the Marauders, you can have anomalies related to how the Mauraders were driven off their original homeworlds (and perhaps have those homeworlds as colonizable or tomb worlds).

Now, repeat this process again with the Precursors: define zones where they existed, and then seed anomalies related to each Precursor in those zones. Have those anomalies be linked to the precursor somehow. Like maybe the Awakened species was fighting the Precursors. Or the Leviathans you find there are related to the Precursors (maybe they built the Engimatic Fortress?) Then because these overlap with the later FEs/extinct aliens, you're going to have some regions where both are referenced. Perhaps the FE/aliens too studied the ruins of the Precusors? Maybe some events could be related to both of them.

The Crises are a little trickier, but it would be interesting to hint that the Precursors, or FEs/extinct aliens interacted with them in some way. The Contingency is perhaps the easiest, as its already established that they were already in place - so maybe they are responsible for the extinction of some of the aliens, or maybe they were beaten back by an FE? You can have more tomb worlds near sterilization hubs, maybe. The Extradimensional Aliens might be hinted towards by references to jump drive tech, and perhaps references to beings from other dimensions in the ruins? The Prethoryn I suppose wouldn't have any hints, because they are newly arrived to our galaxy. I suppose one might also imagine that some of these extinct aliens might have been destroyed by the end of the cycle - and there can be events for that.

In terms of what would actually need to be done to the event text, you'd probably need to insert places where the original name of the civilization responsible is included (as a variable), and in some cases, the species type (for instance the mummified reptilian pilot event). In terms of interactions, the FEs should probably respond if you interact with some of "their" ruins - maybe they are grateful that you return some lost artifact, or unhappy that you are looting the tombs of their ancestors. They might target certain worlds if they reawaken. And perhaps this might provide a springboard for why they would become guardians of the galaxy: maybe they too fought the contingency long ago.

The hope here is that when you come across anomalies or archeological sites, they will form a consistent "lore" for that particular playthrough. Each piece will feel like part of a coherent narrative, rather than being completely detached from every other thing you find in the galaxy...
 

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delta180

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if you started not near an FE or a marauder (more likely if you do not have the DLC) then would would not be able to get these story events or would you still get them at the normal rate?
 

DrNukeLear

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I can see where you're coming from and I like your thinking. The simpler way to approach this is to rewrite or adapt the existing narrative content and events (I said simpler, not less work intensive) as follows:

Each narrative event (Archeology Site/Special Project/Anomaly etc.) cycles through nearby star systems until it finds an appropriate narrative 'tag' and then drops that reference into the text - if it doesn't have a relevant nearby tag it generates a random one.
When the narrative event finishes it leaves it's 'tag' attached to the system it was run from (for reference precursor tags are placed during galaxy creation at the moment).
As a result Event 1 can speak about the Trilar Empire and a couple of systems over an ancient crashed Trilar spaceship is found.

Obviously this leaves the larger narrative pieces FE/Marauders/Precursors/Leviathans/L-Gates.
I think a new series of anomalies/special projects/archaeology sites for placing in systems adjacent to these sites or empire borders would help mesh these to the larger tapestry. For example you could find a fleet wrecked by the Ether Drake in an adjacent system. This could be presented as an anomaly, this anomaly then picks up a nearby reference and could mention that it was a Trilar fleet (+minerals or tech progress) or the Cybrex (+1 cybrex point of interest).

By having this rolling 'tagging' of systems you can get a lot more dynamic narrative occurrences rather than creating fixed zones at game start, you could also have crises (End Game/Khan/Grey Goo etc.) dynamically tag systems they cleanse/conquer so that when the crisis is over it informs the narrative of the affected areas. Obviously this would not occur through scanning the previously scanned system but be awarded occaisionally as random events.
 

Methone

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While I'm not sure about making a deliberate narrative - part of the joy of Stellaris is the emergent storytelling - I can get behind Anomalies and Digsites being flavored by the surrounding Fallen Empires and Marauders.
 

Tamwin5

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While I'm not sure about making a deliberate narrative - part of the joy of Stellaris is the emergent storytelling - I can get behind Anomalies and Digsites being flavored by the surrounding Fallen Empires and Marauders.

If I'm reading this correctly, it wouldn't be deliberate narratives (outside of the already existing precursors) but rather threads to tie the now completely isolated anomalies and dignities to each other, with a few special ones that would provide background for leviathans/marauders.

Say you have the cruiser trapped in the gas giant anomaly. With the new system, it would notice that the Edrina Vestige are nearby, and describe it as "An ancient Edrina cruiser, likely from when they were first expanding their empire". But if it happened that a precursor was nearby, maybe it was trying to quarantine itself from the Javorian Pox, or attempting to hide from Cybrex scanners. If you found the Automated Dreadnought, its creators could have been killed by a local FE, or have been a war of mutually assured destruction with marauders, leaving one dead and the other homeless.

It's tricky, because trying to put this much detail into every event would be a MOUNTAIN of work. But just dropping a name infant of the object is loosing out on so much potential. I'm unsure which approach would be better.
 

Shadowstrike

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The idea of actually having different versions of the flavor text for each event sounds a lot neater, but you're definitely right in that it would be a lot of writing. Perhaps just the functionality of being able to do this would be a good start? Like allow for multiple versions of event text, and throw in the ability to condition it upon what is nearby
 

Tamwin5

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The idea of actually having different versions of the flavor text for each event sounds a lot neater, but you're definitely right in that it would be a lot of writing. Perhaps just the functionality of being able to do this would be a good start? Like allow for multiple versions of event text, and throw in the ability to condition it upon what is nearby

If you are going to go through the effort of implementing the system, then you would make some content for it. I could see this being a DLC in 2 to 4 years from now, once they have covered a lot of the easier stuff.