History

From Elite Wiki

Disambiguation

Oolite abounds with histories!

Are you looking for

• History of the development of the game

  • The History of the four games:
  • The History of the development of Oolite as a game?

• In-game History

  • The History from now until the year of Elite: See here and the material referenced below (but be aware of the two schools of purism & syncretism)!
  • The History from now until the year of Frontier: See Timeline (Selezen) & Chronicles of the Milky Way (Dylan Smith)
  • The History from now until the year of Oolite: See below on this page
  • The History of the transition from Elite to Oolite to Frontier: See Lore for discussion, but here is a syncretist timeline:
Elite : 3125
Oolite : around 3142-7 (purists will end the history here, and Cim et al will insist that 3125/3142 are not in the same timeframe as ours!)
FE2 : 3200
FFE : 3250
ED : 3300

This essay on the history of the Ooniverse is taken from Cim's Ship's Manual, tucked away in his Ship's Library OXP.

Note that as a purist, Cim gives a very different history to that of Selezen and his fellow syncretists (see Oolite timeline).

History

The history of the Cooperative is extensive. Certain key dates and events are useful for all pilots to be aware of for the understanding of how the structure and sociology of the modern Cooperative formed, and these are summarised in this section. As should be clear from the later sections, this is currently a time of great change, and pilots should check local conditions in more detail.

Prehistory

The pre-Cooperative history of most species is now a matter for intense archaeological debate with few facts considered settled. The first successful communication between species took place between the Birds and Frogs whose homeworlds were sufficiently close to allow slow speed-of-light communications well before the discovery of witchspace. Relativistic effects make this impossible to date exactly, but a nominal date for this event is used as 0KD – the basis of the Cooperative calendar. (Editorial Note: kilodays: one cimian kiloday is around 10% shorter than 3 modern years - assuming that the Oolite day is similar to the modern day)

The dates at which species discovered and began experimenting with witchspace is also very unclear. It is likely that the Colonials, on their homeworld far outside the eight charts, were the first to successfully develop a witchspace drive, some time around 500KD, with the other species doing so between then and 900KD. Initial difficulties in refining quirium without a massive expenditure of energy, and the inefficiency of early drives - requiring almost twenty thousand times the mass of quirium used today - made the use of witchspace for exploration an extremely slow process, and colonisation virtually impossible, though a few colonies were nevertheless founded during this time. The Birds and Frogs finally met in person in 814KD, beginning a substantial programme of cultural and technological exchange.

The Eight Charts

Other than the the Birds of Diesanen and the Frogs of Bearrabe, no Cooperative species evolved in the same chart as any other, and their scouts found no evidence of other technological or sapient species on nearby systems. Exploration and initial settlement was slow due to the sheer size of the ships involved – a basic scouting ship was considerably larger than an Anaconda (particularly good restored examples can be found in the museums of Dicebe and Ateslete).

The Colonials entered the area now known as Chart 2 from the north of the Tezaeded system, in around 830KD. Their research of witchspace drives had by then progressed to the stage where viable colony vessels could be transported, and the rich mineral wealth of Tezaeded and the superb environment of nearby Onatbeza were ideal for them. Several million colonists made the journey across hundreds of light years to begin the process, as scout ships continued to explore the remainder of the chart. The exact size of the Colonial civilisation at this time is not known, though it is believed to have explored a volume of space considerably larger than the entirety of Cooperative space, and to have approaching a hundred colonies in various directions from its homeworld.

In around 920KD, the single linking system between Tezaeded and the remainder of Colonial space drifted outside the 7LY limit of witchspace drives. Its physical distance as measured by planetary sensors remained under the limit, however. The reasons for this discrepancy are still not well understood, and as the system has itself moved over time – and is now unambiguously out of range – perhaps will never be known. The result was that the hundred million colonists were now cut off from their homeworld.

In the other charts, exploration was continuing, with all species discovering that their homeworlds lay within an isolated region of space; a solid seven light years or more separating their chart from any other system. In around 930KD, however, researchers at Inera discovered the Octagon, and after extensive experimentation were finally able to send a probe around it in 1020KD. Crewed scout vessels followed soon after, from both Tionisla and Inera, rapidly making contact with the other species.

Early interspecies treaties

The existing experience at interspecies communication of the Frogs and Birds proved invaluable at accelerating the establishment of peaceful relations between all eight species, and cross-chart colonies began to be established in 1085KD as species exchanged the coordinates of worlds unsuited to themselves but habitable by other settlers.

The initial peace eventually collapsed, however, when a diplomatic and cultural misunderstanding between the Feline and Insect species escalated out of control in 1117KD, leading to the bombardment of the Ataneris colony and tens of millions of deaths. Retaliatory raids commenced, and both species attempted to recruit others to their side, only halted in 1118KD when the Frogs and Birds imposed a strong blockade in several major systems, preventing the Felines from crossing Chart 6 on their way to Ataneris. Simultaneously, the two species sent their own fleets to defend Ataneris, forcing the retreat of the Insect armada, and opening a window for a peaceful resolution.

The experience left all eight species extremely wary of future wars, and the Unified Species Treaty was signed in 1134KD, establishing the joint Interspecies Assembly. Shortly afterwards, the Colonial settlement at Gerebied declared independence from the Colonial government, in protest at what it saw as a waste of resources continuing to try to reconnect with the Colonial homeworld, and changed its species description to Humanoid. It was, however, not until 1389KD that they – and the numerous other worlds which had joined them – were given representation on the Assembly.

One of the conditions of the treaty was the establishment of joint colonies, to encourage cooperation, and hundreds were founded between 1134KD and the end of the Interspecies Assembly. It was also at this time that the standard calendar was agreed, using the Colonial standard day as its day, and the estimated first contact date as its start.

The Galactic Cooperative

In 1450KD, with over five hundred systems colonised (mostly jointly) and more planned, the success of the Unified Species Treaty became extremely clear when over one hundred worlds put forward a resolution removing the species vetoes from the Treaty. While it was narrowly defeated at the time, it was clear that an organisation based around the idea of distinct species was no longer suited to coordinating between the very disparate systems, and the Galactic Cooperative Treaty was developed to replace it, eventually being signed in 1522KD.

Unlike its predecessor, representation in the Cooperative was solely based on system population, and the importance of the species homeworlds (Tezaeded, as always, standing in as homeworld for both Colonials and Humanoids) was greatly diminished. The Cooperative set up numerous institutions for interplanetary trade, diplomacy and technological cooperation, which continue to exist today with relatively little modification.

Intensive research into both witchspace technology and terraforming made it possible to complete the colonisation of Cooperative space, with the final colony on Oresrati being established in 1886KD. The period between 1600KD and 1970KD is regarded as being the golden age of the Cooperative, a period of immense technological, cultural, economic and population growth, leading at its height to a peaceful alliance between over two thousand systems and eleven trillion people.

The Thargoids

The golden age could have lasted for hundreds more kilodays, had it not been for the arrival of the Thargoids. Their first scouts were confirmed in 1976KD, though an increase in “witchspace malfunctions” suggests that they may have been present in small numbers as early as 1968KD. Over eight hundred kilodays of almost uninterrupted peace had left the Cooperative's military technology extremely atrophied, with only environmental shielding and mining lasers being easily weaponised. Nevertheless, the Cooperative responded strongly, with research across the charts reprioritised. A powerful naval fleet under Cooperative command was developed, and won initial victories against the Thargoid scouts, protecting trade convoys between all systems. Their source and motivation remained, as today, a mystery, with no successful communication being made.

In 2054KD, however, the Thargoid scouts increased in number, as a large invasion force entered Cooperative space. The Cooperative fleet, though large, struggled to hold it off, as the Thargoids used their superior witchspace technology to avoid blockades, destroying convoys and bombarding systems from orbit. Hundreds of systems – perceiving the Cooperative to be unable or unwilling to defend them – declared independence to set up their own fleets, and hundreds more threatened to do the same. In 2058KD, on the edge of a breakup of the Cooperative and the likely annihilation of its inhabitants, the Cooperative General Assembly signed legislation allowing weapons to be fitted to civilian ships.

Almost immediately, ships across Cooperative space were refitted into fighter craft and battleships. Casaulties were high, but no longer could a single Thargoid scout destroy an unprotected convoy and escape before the navy arrived. Several groups of pilots formed Thargoid hunting clubs – with many systems offering payments for proven kills – many of which merged in 2062KD into the Elite Federation of Pilots.

Their hit and run tactics no longer adequate to break supply lines, and their warships temporarily unable to overcome the Cooperative navy, the Thargoids fell back, reducing their presence to a few remaining scout ships.

The present day

Once granted, of course, the arming of civilian ships proved impossible to revoke, and without the immediate threat of a Thargoid invasion, the more criminal elements of society began committing piracy against the trade convoys. The Cooperative navy – severely damaged from the war – was again unable to defend the convoys, and trade companies, planetary governments, and the Cooperative itself therefore instead appealed to the various mercenary and independent pilots, placing bounties for pirate kills. In 2067KD, the Elite Federation of Pilots was recognised by the Cooperative as the official organisation for tracking such kills.

When, in 2079KD, the Thargoids returned, striking with overwhelming force at several key systems across the eight charts, bombarding several major industrial worlds and shipyards, and cutting key intra-chart supply lines, the navy had not been rebuilt enough to stop them. Instead, the Cooperative was reduced to a coordinating role, more in the spirit of the original Unified Species Treaty, bringing together planetary military forces and independent ships to fight off the Thargoids.

In 2080KD, Commander Jameson became the first pilot to reach the ranking of Elite, surprising many who had thought this impossible. After their death at the battle of Inera in 2082KD, a tradition began of dedicating new ships to them, and therefore you may find that the flight computers are set to 'Jameson'. Some shipyards have complex traditions and ceremonies for the symbolic handover of a ship to its first living pilot; others view this practice as unhelpful and disrespectful superstition, and will ensure that the ship computers are set to your name before you board.

In 2083KD, the Thargoids were once again defeated, with their final occupation being defeated at the Battle of Isxees. Since then their presence has again been restricted to a few scouting and raiding ships, though if their origin cannot be determined, a third invasion is considered extremely likely. Following this battle, the Cooperative navy was formally disbanded, its few surviving fleets being transferred to the control of their home systems. System militaries vary considerably in strength, but usually have regional mutual defence agreements, so the poorer systems are not left completely unprotected.

Around a quarter of the systems in Cooperative space are no longer part of the Cooperative itself – either having declared independence following the start of the Thargoid invasion, or having been so badly damaged during it that the government collapsed. The Cooperative retains an embassy in orbit around these “Feudal” and “Anarchy” systems, and some of the longer-standing and less controversial aspects of the treaties such as trade are still usually honoured there, but they are for now being left to go their own way.

There have been proposals to reform the Cooperative to reflect its new smaller role – and perhaps to bring some of the missing systems back in – but so far none have achieved even significant minority support. Piracy continues to be a problem, despite widespread deployment of the Cooperative police Viper patrols, and military research continues in expectation of the Thargoids' return. So far, the original aim of preventing inter-system war has still been met, though in the absence of a direct external threat, many observers believe that this will not continue for long.

Considerations on Cim's & Selezen's Histories - and a third approach

Elite II (Frontier) game box

As the third Lead Designer of Oolite (after Aegidian & Ahruman), Cim was generally trying to keep the various disparate members of the Oolite community 'on-board'. But this essay on the history of the Ooniverse was tucked away at the back of the Manual in the Ship's Library.oxp for 6 years from 2014 and could only be accessed in-game, by those willing to break away from marmalising pirates and willing to read it on a small pokey MFD, one paragraph at a time!

The two schools are doing very different things with their histories.

  • Our Purists, like Cim, look at Oolite's Ooniverse and wonder how it came into being. There are several problems which need to be addressed.
The first issue is population size: adding up the total population in The Eight yields a total of 7,100 billion of whom perhaps 4,000 billion are human. That is only the population of The Eight: ignoring Sol and whatever human populated worlds lie outside The Eight. In 2000 human population was only 6 billion. Given wars, diseases and the difficulties of establishing colonies on new worlds, 1,200 years is not enough time for the population to increase so much.
Then there is the second issue of the evenness of distribution and population around The Eight: the species are distributed evenly (there is no insect corner or lobster corner to be found). And each system has a population between 1-6 billion. This suggests that a lot of time has passed since the initial colonisation. See the discussion in "Not in the manual" - setting and canon in the eight charts linked below.
  • Our Syncretists started playing with Elite, graduated to Frontier and then moved on to Oolite. They wanted to make sense of the games they enjoyed, harmonising them all. And the literature which came with each game gave lore which could be drawn on for doing this. Frontier, after all, had Elite II stamped on the box (notwithstanding the comments of Dylan Smith that it was intended as a new space simulation and then Elite-ificated to help sell it).

There is of course a third approach (Pragmatic):

I don't really see the need for a timeline or a backstory.

The way things are is just the way things are; I don't need to know where Earth is, or how human beings got from there (if they did) to where they are now. For me, a large part of the appeal of the game is its vagueness. It's as close to a blank slate as we can get, and it's built to be modded all over the shop to everyone's individual preferences.
Too much backstory just gets in the way.

(Disembodied)

The calamitous consequences of corporate states

One can also understand why the disjunct between the games happens so easily.

Regarding Elite, Ian Bell & David Braben were into science, mathematics and computer programming. Hence, the game company, Acornsoft, brought in Robert Holdstock to provide the "lore" elements.

When later companies hired people to write Frontier, FFE & ED they hired game programmers, not lore enthusiasts! The idea that these programming employees would spend unpaid hours boning up on this sort of stuff is unrealistic - and so the various games ended up being quite different (apart from FFE which was almost a carbon copy of Frontier, lore-wise). The inclusion of such as Drew (who had to pay his own way, so to speak, for the right to write) at the outset of the ED project helped bring in the Oolite community (who helped raise the money to pay his way for him!). But the paid employees then went on to do their thing for their employers: the board of Frontier Developments contains businessmen wedded to the modern gaming model of bringing in money with DLC, bobbleheads etc - not the Selezen's and Drew's of this world. Drew et al fell at the wayside of commercial imperative, and their influence on the official game faded away as ED developed.

On Dec 27th 2020, the ED wiki contained this comment on the Elite Timeline page: This is the official fictional timeline of the first three games in the Elite series (Elite, Frontier: Elite II, Frontier: First Encounters). This timeline is not canon in Elite Dangerous. The Elite Dangerous timeline has many similarities and differs from the prequels.

And in a box on the same page: This info has mainly been gathered from the first three Elite games (Elite, Frontier: Elite 2, Frontier: First Encounters) Several of the events are from the official lore timeline as provided by the Frontier: Elite II Gazetteer. Please note that this timeline may not always line up with events from Elite: Dangerous. Please do not add events from non-official lore sources such as youtube videos, any books/fiction not available from the Frontier Developments Official store, or from the Elite Role Playing Game.

The Elite Role Playing Game was, of course, written by Selezen. And one would presume that the disparaged youtube videos would include this synopsis of ED lore by Drew.

Links

Discussion threads: