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Communication and First Contact

Communication and First Contact

Is it reasonable to presume that all languages, even those created by aliens are naturally divergent as is the case in human languages? By divergent, I mean that given time and lack of contact between two languages used by the same species, the two languages will drift as new words and new grammatical rules are created. Even within a society there is sufficient evidence for divergence of language by age, culture and location.

Personally I think that this is a reasonable presumption which is why I believe that any advanced culture capable of going to the stars will have developed some form or Rapid Assimilation of Communication Protocols (RACP). At its highest development it would be a squirt of data with the structure of the language along with a dictionary in various simple forms such as binary.
This would start with fundamental progressions in order to establish key concepts such as counting and then standards including pi and e. From there it would move into establishing other basic mathematical functions leading onto data storing protocols. Once these are established, it is only a small step to coding sound and tagging it. This leads onto language, from simple words up to phraseology and grammar in general.


Concepts such as past, present and future (if all three perceptions are actually used) are configured along with ownership and gender as applicable (e.g. ‘this was his first contact with an alien species’). Finally there needs to be some form of feedback and interpretation system, allowing for translation.

Whether the system extends beyond verbal communication will come down to the specific species, or more likely how the system is expanded and upgraded as new species are encountered. These would presumably extend into non-verbal cues (symbolic gestures of aggression, pigmentation changes etc), chemical emissions (pheromones), emf (telepathic species), subsonic and ultrasonic ranges and even tactile behaviours.

Probable Future Development
What we presumed in Phoenix is humanity developed smart headsets with realtime translation technology by the mid twenty-first century. Many of these relied on the conversations being picked up by the headset, based on where the eyes of the wearer were trained, uploaded to a server, processed and then transmitted back.

The programs running on the servers were continuously updated and became ever more sophisticated with overlays to indicate probable non-verbal cues (very useful for meeting people from different cultures).

As technology advanced what once ran on vast server arrays became localised. When humans went to the stars they took the technology with them as those colonising new worlds quickly started creating new words to describe their surroundings.

The software had to develop further to allow for on-the-spot translation from previously unknown words. This was either through data-dumps of everything, where time allowed or more often the realtime updating of words and their etymological roots as they occurred until the two systems (speaker/listener) agreed.

Even when one side was without a translator, it can be presumed that a single translator would be able to pick-up words and give a probable translation, presumably with some visual overlay of subtitles with emphasis on words that were potentially wrong. Incongruous words appearing in the subtitles/voice over would cause the listener to request clarification. As the speaker explained again using different words and actions, these would be correlated with the previous statements in order to produce a more coherent translation, if not necessarily a direct translation. It is probable that the software would also pick up cues from the person trying to understand and even guide them.

What is fundamentally clear however is that no magic is involved. The intrepid explorer does not land on a world, point a device at a some cave-dwelling aliens and gets to chat to them about the benefits of economical housing.

First Contact
Since humanity reached the stars it has encountered dozens of sentient species. While virtually all of these communicate through vocal mechanics, there are a few that don’t, namely the aquaphids. Even the hive have a primitive range of vocal signals that allows them to order Rubis Beer and a side of fungus at most starports. As such there are a few basic protocols that are followed unless otherwise specified when making first contact.

The technological level of the encountered species is first evaluated remotely, either from off-world if the size and technology of the species is observable, else from a discrete distance on the surface. If the species has media technology that utilises remote communications (global networks or at least some form of broadcasting such as radio), assembling a language database and RACP is straightforward and it is quickly on to determining who to speak to and where to begin negotiations. It is presumed that some degree of investigation of the social nature of the natives has occurred and that the team will not be blundering into a xeno-chainsaw fest.

Where a civilisation has not reached this point there are more options based on the speed of communication and the size of the native communities. A planet spanning nation based on written words couriered between locations allows for contact to be attempted at any level from landing in the grounds of the movers and shakers right down to finding a few scouts of a nation on a distant frontier to meet with first (isn’t it strange that dog-headed people always seemed to live just beyond the next hill). Without a pre-loaded library of culture to review, the latter may prove useful in avoiding general panic.



Going Native
Where the native species bares some passing resemblance to the contacting species, there is always the option of first getting to know the natives by blending in. This is a three step process consisting of remote observation to determine their xenophobia and likely reaction to dealing with a ‘foreigner’. The reason for this is that no matter how good the explorer, they will never be perfect and as such, posing as an outsider that it likely to be accepted is the only realistic alternative. A peddler or trader from a distant land makes for a good cover (and how are the natives to know the luxury foods and other trade goods are from off-world). The second step is to prepare the cover story and ‘get in-character’ and approach with fingers crossed. This may be anything from approaching the walled gates of a medieval city through to shouting up into the canopy from a safe distance. An old-Earth tactic was to pull the boat up onto the shore and spread out goods to trade along the beach and wait for the natives to get first curious then bold. The final step is to come back alive having gained a better understanding of the native culture and language. This should include some form of escape/extraction plan should things go pear-shaped.

The Alternative Approaches
Of course all this assumes that the purpose of first contact is to achieve some sort of amicable relationship, possibly leading to trade, tourism, cultural education and a mutually beneficial future. If first contact is purely for the benefit of the off-worlders, whips, shouting and blowing things up is all that is required – just ask any Flagritz. Playing at being gods on the other hand tend to end somewhat messily (recipe for apotheosis, add one god to a large stockpot with various root crops, cook slowly, stir, season and eat).




 
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Meklan Unleashed on Mobile Bay

Mad Dewiek scientist Dr Kala released a number of Meklan on the busy world of Mobile Bay in the Yank system. Thousands of civilians have been killed in what is treated by DEN warlords as an amusing practical joke. Rather than take any responsibility for their affiliation’s reckless behaviour, a DEN lord rumoured to be half-meklan himself quipped he would nuke the planet whilst another merely saw it as an opportunity to test some of his greener troops in combat. Surprisingly, the KAS planetary defence force was up to the job of repelling the insidious incursion. Questions remain whether further meklan are stored elsewhere on the planet and whether anybody will challenge the Dewiek’s lack of care for the lives of innocents. Probably not, given how even the mighty IMP are now cowering from a fight with the DEN (see inside this edition).


 
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Who is behind the AFA?

Following the large scale holiday attack by the AFA against the FET the question of who is behind the attacks has been raised once again. What is clear is that the AFA is using ships that were transferred from the GTT to the IMP. The organisation and expertise of the operation also reduces the pool of potential candidates. Few can go from commanding a handful of broadswords to half a thousand warships and significant army logistics without a long stint in one of the more combative affiliations. With the DEN’s allies the HEX in close relations with the FET and no recent history of animosity between the aliens and FET, at least since the departure of former one-eye big-bun Norozov, it would be a bizarre turn of events if they were behind these attacks. Frankly, there’s no point dancing around it. The IMP are clearly behind the AFA. The question is what can anybody do about this move of significant Imperial resources to a black-flag agency?


 
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Fox Effects Fantastic Turnaround

With his feet barely under the table, Xavier Fox has managed to dramatically turn things around at the GTT. With year-on-year sales figures up by 23%, manufacturing up 42% and ship production increased by 36%, the megacorporation is running at full steam with noticeable impact on local economies across the Stellar Empire. Political analysts also note that after a period of retrenchment following the disastrous leadership of Ike Krieger, investment in defence is at a five-year high. After such bullish growth, the trick will be for Mr. Fox to recruit C-level executives fast enough to match his ambitions. It is notable in temperament, the current crop of GTT politicals do not exhibit the monomaniacal xenophobia of their predecessors and have resisted repeated provocations by the DEN to enter a pointless spar before they have re-established superiority against the foolhardy aliens.


 
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Felini flounder in Winter against superior Dewiek forces

The FEL have managed to get their asses kicked by the DEN yet again after provoking the definitely “not cute or cuddly” Dewiek in the Crossley system. The furry punching bags had bought a civilian flagged outpost in the system, without permission or under certain conditions depending on who you ask, and then had the gall to reinforce this error by positioning warships in orbit. The famously patient warlord Halvor did not buy the story these heavy hull armed ships were merely transports and sent a pack to clear the orbit. The mouthy yet green Felini fleet commander Pr'prz fancied his chances against what looked like a light complement of DEN warships and ordered his own warships to engage in the neighbouring Winter system. The result was predictably a wipe out of the FEL forces consisting of forty-seven capital warships at no loss to the DEN. Once again, a series of calamitous decision making resulted in Felini lives being wasted by a leadership barely fit to clean a litter tray. The otherwise untested Halvor can now claim some victory ale although with his penchant for picking on creatures as weak as Gracians, it’s not exactly clear how much glory this new breed of Dewiek warrior can claim against the legends of old.


 
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***** Inter Galactic News *****

Dastardly Dewiek Disregard Yank Neutrality

The governor of a MRC outpost in the Yank system reports that a 400-hull DEN warship called Grey Hunter Axiom entered orbit of Spritzer and opened fire with weapons of mass destruction (WoMD) against a platform, outpost, ground party and ship. Reports indicate significant casualties to Kastorian personnel both in space and on the ground. The KAS Junta is gruffly warning, with a slightly indifferent air, that everybody better stay out of the sector of the outpost for their own health. It is unclear what measures the KAS have or will take against the DEN on this matter. Such a breach of Yank neutrality has in the past caused the Dewiek to froth at the bit against the Empire for their disregard of ‘civilised’ norms. Their current silence on this matter speaks volumes.


 
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***** Inter Galactic News *****

Yenni-bodies Pirates?

A PIR outpost was miraculously discovered by an IMP freighter, of all things, in the Yanni system with several Javelin class warships in orbit. After noticing the IMP freighter and seeing the public post by Jack Jones on subspace, the PIR decided to flee and leave a combined force of IMP and FET forces to capture the outpost. A brain damaged three-year old commentator who still believed in the goodness of people and Santa Claus was quick to commend the IMP on their good work, dismissing those who thought it no more than a convenient clearing up operation signifying* completion of operations in the nearby FET claimed systems of Graydown, Canth and Onissian by IMP puppet Edward Lowe. Meanwhile, the Wolf Lord Lyceum summed up the view of many when he screamed, “What is this amateur b*llshit?” into an uncaring universe.


 
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Crowe Coups Self

The IMP Viceroy Tiberius Crowe has finally achieved something in his unremarkable tenure by relinquishing even the semblance of wearing big boy pants and instead, appointed Jack Jones as Patrol Commissioner, salty spokesperson and policy maker for the Empire. Crowe will now join CIA Director Laton in riding the special bus to work where the two of them will enjoy long pleasant afternoons sipping cups of tea. Actually, just tepid fruit-scented water as neither of them can be fully trusted with a hot kettle. Occasionally, they might be visited by equally dynamic war “veteran” Admiral Bridge to enjoy mimes presenting the latest comics from the Howl. Meanwhile, Jones is putting pressure on the FET and will soon no doubt find a pretext to deploy his vast mercenary forces against anyone else who is seen working too closely with his most hated of enemies, the HEX.


 
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Highlord Aadolf Loses Control As Dewiek Break Peace Treaty

Around one hundred DEN warships have launched an attack on a small GTT destroyer squadron of forty ships in the Daggern system. Two GTT ships were destroyed and another fifteen suffered noticeable damage. CEO Xavier Fox issued a restrained but angry statement demanding the DEN explain themselves. Highlord Aadolf’s buffoon-like response amounted to “Dewiek be Dewiek, let’s drink and forget about it.” Cold comfort for the dead crew onboard the GTT ships and their families. Especially, as seems likely at this time, the Empire will settle for some bloody money instead of retribution.


 
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The Worm Turns

The FET have reduced relations with the IMP to neutral. Sneezy boss Cu Chulainn took the bold step of putting 1 and 1 together by linking recent mercenary attacks in their systems with the IMP scouts seen loitering for some time and refusing to move. Even bolder, hints that they believe “a certain Imperial citizen” is responsible for Edward Lowe’s entire underhand operation were voiced loudly enough that the handsome but hard of hearing Tiberius Crowe had to take note. He was seen grappling in trademark fashion with his skin tight jacket, pulling it down over his partially concealed middle-aged girth, as he sat to issue a terse public statement. Exactly who this citizen may be was left unnamed and no news channel subject to Imperial laws would dare unmask the villain. Luckily dear readers, we are not subject to phony Imperial laws. It’s Jack Jones everybody. Jack Jones, butcher of Naplians and fancier of silver long johns.


 

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I’ve played on and off for approximately 10 years, over a 20 year spell. After some interesting debate on the in-game forum, I did wonder what, exactly, has kept drawing me back to the game, when for so many others I’ve generally lost interest after a few months.

Ultimately, I think it is a combination of automation (that allows the game to handle thousands of positions to interact on a daily basis) coupled with Special Actions (that allow the story arc to develop in a way that could not be catered for by a set of predefined list of available orders).
-Zigic