Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Mark726's EVE Lore Survival Guide: Technology

Ah, the miscellaneous category. When all the stuff I think is either important or just kind of neat can get shoved in somewhere in no particular order because I didn’t think I could fit it anywhere else (would any one even WANT the empire section to be any longer?). In any case, welcome back to the last part of the Eve Lore Primer. Today’s post will roughly be split into two parts. First, I’ll be looking at a few of the more critical pieces of technology in Eve that work hard to make our internet spaceship lives more friendly and, you know, plausible. I’ll be ending on a few miscellaneous things that don’t really fit anywhere else. If you’ve made it with me this far, thanks!

Technology

For a game that takes place 21,000 years in the future, technology actually plays a fairly secondary role in the lore. That is a testament to CCP’s content writers who avoid, as much as possible, the whole “technobabble saves us all” approach to conflict resolution (much as it pains me to say this, my beloved Star Trek is particularly bad at this). Still, it’d be ridiculous if CCP didn’t lay down SOME background knowledge on the technology that makes our lives in space possible. I’m only going to be covering the big ones here, but there’s a LOT of lore out there for anyone who’s interested in the more mechanical side of things.

Capsules

Ah, the capsule. The pod. The egg. As particularly bad trolls try to say in help chat now and then (feel free to say hi to me in there if you see me), some think it’s a sign that you’ve leveled up when it first appears. The capsule is the singular achievement that separates us players of Eve Online from the general unkempt masses. The deep history of the capsule is, to my knowledge, completely unknown to us, in game or out. What we do know is that the Jove (for reasons unknown) offered the Caldari capsule technology in 23224 AD, shortly before the battle at Iyen-Oursta. In exchange, the Caldari handed over significant amounts of cultural and social information.

The capsule offers a pilot complete and unfettered access to a ship using only one’s mind, while cocooning the body in a hydrostatic fluid that dampens undue stresses. Connections are made directly to the pilot’s nervous system that allows them to feel each time a ship gets hit, to move the ship as one would move a muscle, and to see out of a ship’s camera drones as if it were their own eyes. The ship’s computer even creates sounds to feed into a pilot’s auditory cortex to help the pilot situate himself in space. This direct connection to the ship drastically lowers a ship’s crew requirements, while also dramatically decreasing reaction times. The end result is a faster, leaner ship that has even more capabilities than a ship with a crew twice its size. This, incidentally, is the theoretical reason why we players are able to kill rats as easily as we do. Capsule-piloted ships are so efficient they take on ships the same size or even larger vessels with nary a scratch. Obviously, when a pod-piloted vessel explodes, one of its last orders of business is to safely eject the pod from the dying ship (the rest of the crew may or may not be as lucky).

But the capsule is not without its risks. Beyond the risk that a potential pilot doesn’t have the proper genetic makeup, the biggest risk to the average would-be capsuleer (ignoring the apparently painful process of adapting your body to the capsule; you know, holes in your spine, parts of your skull peeled away to make way for implants, etc…) is something known as “mindlock.” It apparently occurs when the brain isn’t able to “shrink” itself back down to a mere human body. It got accustomed to controlling the pod and/or ship, and once unplugged, it couldn’t re-engage its connection to the much more frail human body. In the chronicle I linked here, it’s quite clear that a mindlocked pilot is still fully conscious and aware of what’s going on around him, just unable to move. However, even the Jove apparently didn’t know at that time whether a person was still conscious in a mindlocked pilot. It’s still not clear where the state of research is on mindlock in modern times. What IS clear, however, is that the incident rate of mindlock is very low today, thanks to better training techniques, so it's not a big deal these days.

Cloning

While the capsule alone dramatically increases a ship’s effectiveness, the thing that truly makes us pod pilots truly immortal is the joining of a capsule with cloning technology. Cloning has been around in New Eden for a while (a business prospectus of one cloning company, Cromeaux Inc., can be found here, which describes the basic process). But this isn’t modern real life cloning, where your DNA is taken and a clone is grown like a child would be. Rather, biomass of some kind (usually, human cadavers in the high quality clones (yes, it’s made of people), but apparently any kind of biomass will do) is used to create a human body with functioning organs. These generic humans are then seeded with a customer’s DNA and stem cells, so within a few months the body is made up mostly of a customer’s own actual DNA. Tattoos, skin coloration, and piercings can be applied as the process continues. The one organ missing is the brain.

The brain is instead grown individually after a cloning contract is created. When a person becomes a clone company’s customer, a brain scan is taken to get the brain’s shape and major nerve clusters positioned appropriately. This scan is used to create a gel model that eventually leads to neuronal growth that matches the customer’s own brain structures. This new brain is seeded with receptors attached to an FTL communication receiver (we’ll talk briefly about that in a bit). If that’s a bit too technobabble-y for you, the process is essentially that a person’s personal brain is created from the scan, it just doesn’t have any power to it yet.

At the moment of a customer’s death, a snapshot of the brain is taken using a transneural burning scanner. This scanner is able to see, down to individual neurons, the exact state of a person’s mind at the time of death. The scanning process has the somewhat unfortunate side-effect of completely destroying the original brain (and if that’s not sufficient, a quick-acting neurotoxin is injected just to be sure), but it is able to then transmit the brain’s state via FTL communications to the new clone. In the new brain, the transmitted patterns can quickly be almost precisely duplicated using the aforementioned receivers. The “almost” is key: the quality of the scan and how well it’s copied to the new clone at the moment of death can vary. As you learn more, you need a higher quality of clone to make sure the more complex information is transferred properly to the new clone, which is why you need to upgrade your clones now and then to hold more skills. The whole process of transferring consciousness can be completed within moments.

Unfortunately, modern burning scanners are somewhat large contraptions that require a person’s head to be in precise alignment at the moment of death. Because planning death this precisely can be difficult, cloning and transfer never quite gained wide traction throughout the cluster, remaining the province of the rich for the most part. This changed, however, when engineers realized that there was a significant and growing population who would always be in the same position when they were most likely to die: pod pilots. The neural scanner is now tied to a pod’s structural integrity system. When the pod detects a breach of any kind (since the chances of surviving a pod breach are minimal anyway), the scanner is automatically activated and that body is instantly killed, with the consciousness of that person transferred to the new clone body. CONCORD quickly authorized (and, indeed, required) the use of cloning technology in pod pilots in YC 105 (conveniently, the game year that Eve Online starts in) when the two technologies were safely combined. The age of the pod pilot had begun.

In the novel Templar One, Sleeper wreckage is discovered that eventually allows the same cloning technology to be miniaturized to such an extent as to be implanted into individual soldiers without the use of a pod. A small device, Sleeper in origin, lets the consciousness be saved at the moment of death and passed on to a waiting clone. This essentially allows the creation of immortal supersoldiers, and conveniently sets up the upcoming first person shooter Dust 514.

DUST 514 Technology

DUST 514 will be adding some new technology that, while it technically won’t have much of an effect in our game, will certainly affect the game universe. The most important of the new tech involves the mercenary implants, which takes the aforementioned cloning technology to a new extreme. I mentioned above that normal cloning scanners require the head to be precisely positioned in order to properly scan and download a pilot’s neural patterns. However, in Templar One (if you haven’t figured it out yet, you may want to consider reading this book if you have an interest in deep EVE lore… but if you’re looking for a (very) brief over, see the video below), a new conscience transfer technology is discovered. Found in Sleeper ruins, the new implant is functionally equivalent to the old-style (I use the term loosely for something that won’t be invented for another 21,000 years) transneural burning scanners: it allows all knowledge and conscience to be transferred to a new brain even at the moment of death. However, instead of relying on an outside contraption to scan and then kill the old brain, this device implants directly into the brain (and if the DUST cinematic trailer is to be believed, replaces part of the brain stem), so the transfer can occur with the head in any position. No more need to have the head positioned in the scanner; even if the head is sitting 3 kilometers from the rest of your body (who knows what those orbital bombardments will do to you), the implant will make sure everything is transferred safely to a new body. With speed that generals around the world would envy, the technology was immediately militarized and incorporated into an elite group of Amarr soldiers named Templars One through Six (in a shocking turn of events, one of Templar One’s main protagonists is… well, Templar One).

There was, however, something wrong with the implants. Well, not so much wrong as much as they were still occupied. The Amarr first stumbled across these implants while investigating Sleeper ruins. They found intact, but seemingly dead, bodies and took them in to study. They eventually discovered the implants discussed above, and what they were able to do. However, the Amarr were unable to reproduce the implants themselves. Faced with this unprecedented military technology, they did what any God-fearing society would do: they resorted to grave robbing. They soon culled hundreds, if not thousands, of these implants and used them for their own purposes. The other empires (with a little help from CONCORD and good ol’ Directive Alpha Gamma 12) soon caught wind of these programs, and set to work on their own research initiatives, following the same grave-robbing techniques the Amarr first pioneered.

The problem, of course, was that the Sleepers they were culling the implants from weren’t actually dead. They were simply living up to their names: they were sleeping. The implants, apparently, not only serve to transfer a conscience to a new body; they also help connect that conscience to the Sleeper mainframe, as it were. When the implants were removed from the Sleeper bodies, at least parts of the Sleeper conscience remained in the implants. And it turns out they didn’t much appreciate being ripped out of their own bodies and used for the designs of us lesser civilizations. They would briefly take over the new mercenary soldiers, making them speak in tongues and have strange visions.

The Amarr eventually recognized what was going on (indeed, Templar One implies that the Empress is dealing with her own Sleeper conscience, take from that what you will) and, with massive effort, managed to create their own functionally equivalent implant technology. Seeing that harvesting more of these implants could incur further wrath from the Sleepers, Empress Jamyl authorized each of the empires to have access to her alternative, Sleeper-less implants. And thus, we head into the launch of DUST 514 with each empire having their own sets of immortal infantry, and apparently free of the terrifying visions that hampered previous incarnations of soldiers. Despite obvious advantages, it doesn’t look like capsuleers will be gaining access to this technology anytime soon. Oh, and I should mention that I believe the same strict compatibility requirements for capsuleers apply to the new implants.

Beyond that, the technology in DUST revolves around guns, guns, and more guns (along with vehicles that carry aforementioned guns). EVE Online players should recognize some of the guns as miniaturized versions of our beloved space pew pew modules, but there are sure to be new things out there. The Art Department seems to have done an excellent job with keeping the themes of each race. Gallente merc technology has that green, organic feel to it, while at times it looks like Amarr mercs are clothed in pure gold. I haven’t seen much to indicate that, beyond the implant technology, there will be much to revolutionize EVE technology. Still, the ability to bombard planets back to the stone age from orbit ought to put a smile on anyone’s face.

One final note before I move on: CCP has made it clear that DUST 514 refers to something, but what specifically hasn’t been quite spelled out yet. I would guess that DUST (which, according to CCP, is meant to be capitalized as such) is an acronym for something. And the 514 chronicle states that each soldier with the Sleeper implants had terrifying visions. Visions of the number 514 written in blood… (Cue the Twilight Zone music…)


Faster-Than-Light Communications

FTL communication was actually developed significantly after the development of FTL travel. Strangely, after FTL travel was developed, a ship became the fastest way to spread information, a situation not really seen since the great Age of Exploration on Earth before the development of radio. As the interstellar community grew, some form of communications proved necessary to allow communications across the hundred light-years of New Eden. Many attempts were made to solve the problem, and it was such a problem that even the ancient civilizations seemed to have their own problems with the concept. Some had hoped that the idea of entangled particles (quarks and atoms that, through some quantum mechanical wizardry, instantaneously respond to a stimulus on one of the entangled particles, regardless of how many light years apart the two particles are) would solve the problem. While this line of research seemed promising, no data seemed to be able to be transmitted through entangled particles; only random noise made it through the gauntlet of quantum statistical probability.

The breakthrough came from a young Gallente scientist, Li Azbel, although she might well have been Minmatar given her solution. Her solution is complicated and filled with technobabble that would make a Trekkie proud, but it essentially comes down to using that random noise to her advantage. Rather than transmitting data bit by bit, she discovered she was able to modulate the amount and frequency of the noise itself, which lead to being able to transmit data. With this breakthrough (using useless junk to piggyback data onto), engineers were quickly able to construct fluid routers made up of entangled particles. These routers were soon joined into a massive communications network that today spans the cluster, and allows us now to contact any person anywhere.

Stargates

Stargates are the backbone of New Eden, shaping the cluster and its politics as we know it. The gate network snakes throughout New Eden, and today lets us cross over 100 light-years in just a few hours. Conceptually, jumpgates are actually fairly easy to understand: they’re artificially contained, static wormholes that take you from one system to another. It’s their construction that mucks things up a bit.

As I mentioned during the Empires section, our modern stargates are based on the wrecks and ruins of stargates originally built during the first colonization of the Cluster (while we know the reason for the fairly rapid colonization of the cluster, ingame scholars apparently continue to debate the reasons for it). The Amarr were the first to discover the near-perfect ruins of a gate in Amarr Prime, which let them fairly easily reverse-engineer the working principles. The problem that they ran into was that a single gate is not enough: it needs a partner. So before the Amarr could activate the gate in their own system, they had to send out ships filled with crews in cryogenic suspension. The ships would travel on their own for years or even decades until coming to the new star system, at which point the crews are woken up and they construct the companion gate. While most of the time these journeys ended well, there have been some very close calls. The discovery of jump drives only came about recently, and even today there are dozens of ships heading out into the unknown to try to construct the next set of gates.

Stargates can only work in certain systems. The artificial wormholes are created at points of gravitational resonance (essentially, where gravity waves can cancel each other out, like at Lagrange points for the more scientifically inclined, or when you create a standing wave). At these resonance points, the gravitational shear is so intense that it becomes easy to just poke a hole through space-time. The hole doesn’t necessarily connect to anywhere at first, but if two gates are near each other and each trying to form a connection, the two gates are attracted to each other and eventually a stable wormhole can be formed between the two gates (though it can take a while). However, the amount of resonance needed can only really be found in binary star systems (this has ALWAYS bugged me because there’s never been any evidence in the Cluster of where the second star is, but I suppose that is neither here nor there), meaning that only 2 of every 3 star systems is theoretically able to hold a gate of any kind. There’s more maths and technobabble involved in the article linked to in this paragraph for the people interested, but suffice it to say that using a gate can be an uncomfortable experience since, even with modern technology, you’re still being stretched along a pretty steep gravitational gradient.

Today, the technology of stargates have been miniaturized enough that capital ships are able to create their own wormholes capable of carrying themselves to nearby systems without the use of stargates, though the use of a jump drive (this jump drive should NOT be confused with the jump drive mentioned in the interstellar travelling article I’ve been linking. That ‘jump drive’ seems to be referring to what we now call the warp drive). The general principle of the jump drive seems to be the same as stargates, only now the use of cynosural beacons allows the forming wormhole to easily latch onto something in the destination system. Jump bridges work on a similar principle.

Warp Drive

While on the notion of interstellar travel, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the warp drive. Formally known as the Sotiyo-Urbaata drive for the two Caldari scientists that developed it, warp drives are the things that allow us to zoom around the solar system at multiple astronomical units per second (as a reference guide, it takes light approximately 8 minutes to travel 1 astronomical unit, so traveling at the standard 3 AU per second is quite speedy indeed). First developed in the year 22821, the drive was built to solve the problem of how to quickly travel between Caldari Prime and Gallente Prime. Even though developed over 600 years ago, the Amarr and Minmatar took a while to catch on (the Minmatar had independently developed acceleration gates for their intra-system travel needs, the Amarr apparently just enjoy rocking back and forth and slowness).

The warp drive works through the magic of “depleted vacuum.” Even empty space generally has SOMETHING in it, be it atoms here or there or even just random particles that pop into existence only to be annihilated mere moments later. So even the vacuum of space is never truly “empty.” The warp drive works to create full, “depleted” vacuum, so there is literally nothing in it. No specks of dust, no virtual particles, no energy or matter of any kind. Such an empty place, according to the game lore, has special properties. Rather than being affected by friction, it actually has anti-friction: things (including light) actually move faster in this kind of space, rather than slower. By creating a depleted vacuum and expanding the field to cover the entire ship, the ship then slips into faster than light speeds as it tunnels through space. Navigation at FTL speeds isn’t easy; the ship can only detect gravitational sources at warp speeds. When the drive is activated, it locks onto a sufficiently massive object (even stations can do) that acts as a beacon, so the drive knows when to cut out. The need to lock onto a gravity source to activate the drive is the nominal reason why you can’t just pick a random direction and warp off, but doesn’t quite explain how we can just warp to bookmarks in the middle of nowhere (but WHATEVER). Furthermore, you can blame your warp core (essentially, an aneutronic fusion reactor coupled with the depleted vacuum generator) for creating “four dimensional drag” that pulls your ship to a halt (this is ostensibly why we play submarines in space (from a physics model perspective), as opposed to the Newtonian motion that we would see in real life).

Vitoc

It’s hard to control slaves. They tend to not enjoy the experience. It was a lot easier to control slaves before they learned to read (since reading allows radical ideas like “hey, let’s not be slaves anymore” to be easily transmitted throughout a slave community), but in order for most slaves to be useful in this day and age, the ability to read and write is basically required. So as time went on, the Amarr had to develop more advanced techniques to control their slaves. One of the more devilish techniques they developed was the use of vitoxin and its antidote, vitoc.

The methods have varied over the years, but the underlying concept is the same: inject the slave with a toxin that will kill the slave (in, of course, the most gruesome and painful way possible) unless an antidote is injected every day or two. That antidote is vitoc. To make matters worse, vitoc was also created to be extremely addicting, producing intense states of euphoria after it is injected. Thus, even if there were a way to remove the toxin from the slave, they’d still find themselves intensely addicted to the substance. In the modern era, the Amarr have swapped to using a virus that ultimately produces the deadly vitoxin. The Amarr use this to control their slaves, threatening to withhold the vitoc if they do not follow orders.

Various attempts have been made to fight vitoxin and vitoc addiction over the years. One of the most promising cures, Insorum, was developed by Ishukone. Otro Gariushi, Ishukone’s former CEO, gave the antidote’s formula to the Minmatar free of charge (apparently enraging the mysterious Broker in the process, who had been bidding on it), and it is now part of the standard treatment regimen. However, research into other cures, both scientific and holistic, continues. One of the primary centers for vitoc research can be found in Yrmori, at the Forlorn Hope institute (which is admittedly not the first name I would have picked for an optimistic “yes, we can beat this thing” research institute), and a full cure for the toxin and addiction have yet to present themselves.

PREVIOUS: Frontier Organizations, Part Three (S-Z)
NEXT: Miscellany & Conclusion

10 comments:

  1. Mark726 - thats one hell of a lot of work put into things.

    Awesome work. Learnt a few things too which was kinda nice.

    Is this going into something like the Eon mag? Because it should. Seriously.

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  2. Many thanks for the kind words! I'm glad that you're enjoying them (and even learning things now and then :-D).

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  3. Not to mention the injections of humor - ugly bags of mostly water... :)

    Guessing you were brought up on a TV diet not too dissimilar to mine.

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  4. I'll be honest, I was *positive* when I made that reference that I was referring to Hitchhiker's Guide. Just looked it up after seeing your comment, and nope! Still a great reference, just not the one I thought I was making, lol.

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  5. I am not sure where you take that the Amarr empress gives the cloning technology to the other empires. But I don't remember reading that in the book.
    Maybe I fell asleep on that page.

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  6. Actually if you read the end of the book, it is suggested that someone finds an old outpost of the Broker with the cloning technology. For me it suggests that this is how the empires get the new cloning technology.

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  7. I (And I again),

    I can understand the confusion if you've only read Templar One. However, the chronicle '514' (available here: http://wiki.eveonline.com/en/wiki/514_(Chronicle) ) from earlier this year makes it pretty clear that the Empire gave Sleeper-free technology to the other nations. To quote 514:

    "Accept my gift of alternative implant technology," said the Empress. "Created through other means, with no Sleeper taint, and thus no way for them to gain a foothold or exact their revenge."

    While the other nations caught wind of the program and originally started down their own roads of acquiring the merc implant technology (following the original Amarr development path), it's clear that the Amarr have gifted Sleeper-free tech to the other empires (you could quibble over whether or not the others ACCEPTED Jamyl's offer, given the chronicle's ending, but not accepting the offer would raise a host of practical gameplay issues in Dust 514 so I think it could convincingly be argued that they did). Wanting to offer this gift is hinted at in Templar One as I recall (it's been a while since I've really read it), but the offer is made explicit in the chronicle.

    Thanks for the feedback, and if you have any other questions or comments, don't hesitate to bring them up, I like this kind of stuff :-D

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  8. Ah that would explain it.
    I missed that one. I have read everything so far about the EVE universe. But that one fell through.
    Thanks a lot for the help :)

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  9. I always thought this little piece of scripture from the amarr was the meaning of the whole 514.

    'Which test reveals more of the soul - the test that a man will take to prove his faith. or the test that finds the man who believed his faith already proven? If you know this answer, then you also know which of these challenges bear the greatest penalty for failure, The gates of paradise will open for you one time only; woe to the soul who dares to knock twice.'
    -Book of Missions, 5:14, The Scriptures


    5:14 of the book of missions. I think this quote really sums up the immortal. Normally you only may die once, but the immortals, well they keep a knockin' and not goin' anywhere.

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  10. It is amazing an aneutronic fusion reactor coupled with the depleted vacuum generator of warp core.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VUrt186pWoA

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Lay it on me.