Part 3: Theory
SO WHAT ACTUALLY HAPPENED THEN? – CONCLUSIONS
Now comes the whole point of this discussion – try to formulate a completely accurate theory as to why Earth was not in Elite without compromising any of the data available.
In order to do this, we have to use several assumptions gleaned from the empirical evidence above. These are:
- Political reasons prevented GCW from listing Federal or Imperial planets on galactic maps.
- The 8 galaxies are 8 separate areas of our galaxy linked by stable wormholes.
- Planet names were replaced by system names when GalCop ceased to exist.
- The Old Worlds are already noted on the galactic maps by their system names
Note the date mentioned as the in-service date for the MC15 Transporter. It is listed as prior to 2500, but an exact date is unknown. The prototype is known to have originated from Sol, but it is now manufactured by a company called Lakon Spaceways. So it is not made by the Federation, but it was designed by them.
We can then assume that the worlds of GalCop split away from Federation control around 2500. However, according to information from the novella Imprint, the Galactic Co-operative of Worlds was not ratified until 2696.
As to the matter discussed above of GalCop being unaware of the existence of the Feds and Imperials, this simply cannot be the case. Earth is only 20 light years away from the upper edge of GalCop space, and there is not enough space there for there to be anything of major consequence blocking them off. A war zone would not be likely due to the fact that Feds and GalCop would both be involved in the conflict, with the area being so close to Earth. Add to this the fact that Achenar falls within the GalCop map for Gal1. There is no way of twisting or turning the map enough to get Achenar out of the way. Hence, Achenar is there – like it or not.
The Galactic Federation (or GalFederation) is mentioned a few times in the manual, so we know from this that GalCop is aware of the Federation and vice-versa, since 2845 saw the publication of a treatise on the Federation itself – so GalCop are obviously watching and commenting on their neighbouring organisation. This raises the original question again – where is Earth in Elite? It can be surmised that Earth is still around, it is just impossible to travel to it. The knowledge that both Federation and Empire require payment of a huge fine to allow pilots starting at Lave in Frontier to dock at any of their stations would point to some sort of conflict – possibly a political upheaval or cataclysmic event that resulted in those affiliated with GalCop being banished or exiled from Federation / Empire space.
With all this in mind, it can be said that the worlds that would one day become GalCop have voluntarily seceded from Federation or Imperial influence as of 2500 or so and may instigate a policy of non-contact. Their technology would in this case diverge from that of the Federation. The 11 worlds included in Frontier from Elite are referred to in Frontier’s Gazeteer as the Far Colonies. That may be the identity the seceding worlds chose for themselves. The absence of Sol and Achenar systems from the Gal1 map can be explained by the fact that these worlds would not be included on the Gal1 map due to the policy that non-GCW worlds are not listed on the standard star-charts (reference The Dark Wheel for proof of this).
In conclusion, we can assume that 2500 to 2505 saw the secession, under extreme prejudice, of the Far Colonies from the Galactic Federation. Open hostilities and conflict soon result in a blockading of the area. The Far Colonies, during their expansion, enlist the aid of several alien species local to the area in defending against Federation incursions. This ends with the Federation imposing an exile order, based on irrefutable charges and evidence of high treason against the Federation and Mankind, on any citizen or inhabitant of the Far Colony Expansion zone.
Sometime early on between 2505 and 2696, the other seven galaxies were discovered, and the inhabitants of the Far Colonies expanded onto these areas. At the time of first discovery, these areas of space were thought to be separate galaxies, but it was soon discovered that the seven other zones were far-off areas of our own galaxy. By then the moniker ‘galaxy’ had become commonplace, so it remained in use.
In 2696 the Far Colony expansion programme reached the stage where a more diverse administrative body was required to maintain order within the area. The Galactic Go-operative of Worlds charter was passed.
The date of Commander Jameson’s death is taken from the manual of Frontier, and from this we can work out the approximate time that Elite is set, since Jameson is obviously intended to be the Jameson from Elite save-game fame. Since Jameson probably devoted a few years to the pursuit of Elite status, we can assume that he started a family relatively late in life, say around 25-30 years old (assuming that he started his space career at about 20 years old). Given that he is presenting a ship to his grandchildren, we can assume that space flight is a family tradition, so we can assume the same about his children – they started families at around 25-30 years of age. Assume the grandchild represented in Frontier is about 20. That gives us about 70-80 years passing between the start of Elite and the start of Frontier. Using this logic, we can say that Elite is set around 3125.
NOTE: thanks to some very good deductive work from Commander McLane on the Oolite forums, it has been noted that the above timescales do not work in relation to Jameson's age. James starts his career in 3125 but is born some time before that, which I did not take into account when adding all that up. In addition, there's too much time between Jameson starting a family at 30ish and the posited next generation in about 30 years. In the timeline as it stands now I've pushed Jameson into having kids in his 40s and specifically having the child that will give rise to the heir mentioned in Frontier when he's 42. That also means that the man can have about 20 years of his favourite career before trading in his wings for a bag of nappies. I've added some notes on the Jameson family to the timeline.
As a side note, several things were changed when versions of Elite were ported to more advanced computer systems such as the Archimedes, Amiga and Atari ST. These could be thought of as representing the changing technology (such as the more advanced docking computer, improved sensor resolution etc.) and thus the advance of time. Dodo stations also make more regular appearances, hereby signifying that time has gone on as space stations are a little more time-consuming to replace (think about relocating six square kilometres worth of people and equipment for a start…)
For these reasons, I think of the 16 bit versions of Elite as representing a further 8-10 years of technological evolution. Hence, Amiga Elite (which was the particular version I owned) could be set around 3134.
We can also extrapolate the approximate time frame of the Dark Wheel novella from this (using logic that is a little more fuzzy, but grounded in the available evidence). The Faraway system mentioned in TDW is not represented in the game. The Faraway system involved a lot of careful positioning of ships to ensure correct hyperspace transit. This does not happen in the game, so we can say that a superior system has superseded the Faraway system. Hence TDW takes place a little before the game.
TDW mentions Mamba fighters, so it is obviously set after 3110 (the in-service date for the Mamba). The universe of Elite is quite advanced technologically, so I have surmised that some sort of computer control system was developed to take care of the hyperspace navigation problems and misjump issues. Upgrades of this sort could be carried out on each ship that docks at a station probably within a couple of days (including waiting time), so there really is not much to add. I would say five to ten years before the Faraway system was phased out. Hence, Dark Wheel is set between 3115 and 3125 – I tend to favour the earlier time. My preferred year for the start of TDW (the destruction of the Ophidian vessel and the death of Jason Ryder) is 3115.
Moving on, we have to start wondering when the transition from GalCop to Federation / Empire began. By the time of Frontier everything has changed. Shields are a different technology. Energy cells are no longer used for power, laser technology has radically altered, vessels are now a modular design, navigation systems are different (reflecting the change in the games’ flight engines) and space is blue! Not to mention the fact that the only planet / system names to remain the same are the 11 systems around Lave.
Obviously a larger time frame is needed for these changes to take effect. Given that players of Elite would have played it a lot since its release, I’ve decided to use a little real-world time in this decision. Elite came out in 1984. It is now 2002. 18 years have passed in real-time. So, we will use 18 years as the amount of time from the start of the game (worked out above to be 3125) until the point where things start to change. That does not leave a lot of time for those who only discovered Elite on the 16 bit versions, so we will add it to the start of the 16 bit generation, 3133.
Hence, the chain of events bringing the worlds of GalCop back to the body of the Galactic Federation occurs around 3153.
And that pretty much sums it all up! From the information above a mostly complete picture of the Elite Universe from the earliest mentioned date to the start of Frontier can be put together. All of the unanswered questions about the changes between Elite and Frontier are dealt with, and we finally have a completely integrated universe.
To finish the main body of this treatise then, here is the addition to the timeline above, incorporating all of the information discussed above. The next page to view is the combined, complete timeline, which includes the timeline information at the start of the text.
Thank you for listening, and I hope this is of some use to someone.
- Circa 2500-2505 – The Far Colonies become an independent state. Ties with the Galactic Federation and the Duval Empire are officially severed. Colonial ships and personnel are declared persona non-grata and open hostilities greet any trespassers. Colonial navigation systems are set not to show any worlds of either Federation of Empire on star charts, and all relevant locations are locked out of hyperdrive guidance systems
- 2545 – discovery of stable wormhole leading to what is thought to be another galaxy. The next five years see the discovery of a network of stable wormholes joining a total of eight galaxies together.
- 2573 – the first colonisation fleets are dispatched to survey and populate the newly found galaxies
- 2581 – astronomical study reveals that the galaxies are, in fact, located in our own galaxy, spread across three different spiral arms, including the Perseus Arm. The name ‘galaxies’ sticks, however.
- 2627 – first manufacture of IGH unit, allowing creation of a hyperspace branch to the stable wormhole from any area of the currently occupied galaxy. The IGH unit is too large to fit to small vessels, and is only fitted to larger colonisation and exploration vessels.
- 2663 – Xexor Industries successfully test the first IGH unit small enough to fit on any hyperspace capable vessel. Despite the extortionate cost and mediocre safety margin of the unit, Xexor Industries receive over a hundred thousand advance orders in the week following the announcement of the test’s success.
- 2696 – GCW Charter passed. The Far Colonies become the Galactic Co-operative of Worlds.
- 2715 – standardised trading systems are ratified at a GCW council summit. The programme is initiated immediately.
- 2849 – first contact with Thargoid vessels. Intermittent contact with lone vessels becomes common through the following year. GalCop Federal Law Centres record a great many attacks on these strange octagonal ships – on occasion with no provocation from the Thargoid party. Victories against the alien vessels are few.
- 2851 – first recorded Thargoid invasion of a system. War is declared, and the Galactic Navy is mobilised.
- 2870-75 – Thargoid war settles into a collection of war zones and frontiers. This situation would remain more or less unchanged in GalCop space for the next 300 years.
- 3115 – Elite combateer Jason Ryder killed by pirate attack.
- 3122 – Upgrades to hyperspace systems and shipboard computer controls are completed – Faraway jump system is no longer required, and the systems are retired.
- 3125 – Commander Peter Jameson begins career as space trader.
- 3132 – GalCop begins a programme of retrofitting some out of date spacefaring equipment to older vessels. At the same time, satellite and comms buoys are upgraded.
- 3133 – By the start of this year, records show that nearly all active space vessels have been upgraded. Modifications include higher resolution viewscreens and console displays, more efficient shied generators and energy units and enhanced comms systems, including HoloFac upgrades.
- 3149 – GalCop suffers massive losses in Thargoid attacks. Negotiations are opened with the Galactic Federation and the Duval Empire for aid in the wars. The Federation and Empire are having increasing trouble with Thargoid incursions, but not with full-scale war zones such as GalCop has seen. Aid is initially refused. GalCop petition for aid at the start of every year until 3150.
- 3150 – the Federation agree to aid GalCop and offer technology exchanges as a means to achieve the defeat of the Thargoids. Later the same year, the Empire extends a similar offer to the Federation deal. GalCop accept.
- 3151 – The Thargoid threat is halted within the year. Bioweapons are suspected to have been used.
- 3162 – GalCop’s economy begins to collapse.
- 3164 – During this year, the stable wormhole connecting Galaxy 1 to Galaxy 2 and thence to the rest of the seven Galaxies collapses. It is thought highly likely that the collapsing was engineered. Galaxy 1 stands alone. GalCop is reduced from over 2040 worlds to less than 200. GalCop is a shadow of its former self and no longer a threat to either Federation or Empire. The Exile remains in force.
- 3165 – It is discovered that the alien races once indigenous to the Far Colonies region of space have gone. Those worlds that had human colony areas become human worlds as the colonies spread out. Those that did not now stand abandoned. It is surmised that they departed for Galaxy 2, somehow managing to find a method of travelling there. Humanity stands alone once more.
- 3169 – By now, GalCop has been further reduced by internal problems, political issues and pressures from the larger and more ruthless Federation and Empire. Many worlds leave GalCop and ally themselves with one of the other organisations. Some world governments decide to become independent. Some colonies leave their worlds and make for new homes within Federation or Imperial space. The Galactic Co-operative of Worlds president officially rescinds the GCW charter on the 19th August 3174. The resources of the organisation (such as the Navy and Police forces) are auctioned to the Federation.
- 3170 – Since GalCop as a political entity no longer exists, both Federation and Empire lift the exile on GalCop worlds. A fine of 75,000 credits remains to be paid by any native of the 11 ‘Old Worlds’ centred on Lave who wishes to dock at a spaceport in either organisation. These eleven systems maintain tight relations, forming an unofficial trade and protection alliance – much like the original alliance that grew into GalCop.