Hey everyone I’ve been a quiet observer of Thrive for some years now, this is my first time actually posting with an account for the forum I just created.
I was looking through some of the discussion topics in the Future Game → Society Stage tab and really quickly ran into a few big problems that I worry will come up with further development of Society Stage, which I wanted to post about just so that we could possibly preempt future issues. Those issues are, notably, that scientific accuracy for this stage will be immensely difficult, as will the possibility of developing it to any extent that is reasonable.
To start, the first thing that people need to be very very honest with themselves about is that society, its origins, its functions, and whatnot is so incredibly far from a settled science. Literally just like, last year, the book “The Dawn of Everything” came out which entirely challenged significantly standing narratives about the origins of human society. I personally found the book to be quite convincing, but many do not, and many other still are uncertain – and in this I am referring to the perspectives of the literal scientists. The point of bringing this up is, creating an truly accurate narrative on how an alien society will develop is simply not possible in our current world because there is no agreed-upon understanding of how society truly develops and works.
I would fall in the camp of people who thing that humans developed in a unique, variety of ways, with diverse political systems emerging for early humanity that have existed and wrestled with each other up until the movement into the present, global, neoliberal order. From here, I expect, or at least hope, that society will in someway move towards a more free, socialist or even communist world order that breaks many of the constraints that have been placed on people by our current order. However, there are people with almost opposite views. Some people believe human society started in a sort of dog-eat-dog anarchic state, from which farming and states emerged which have vyed for power until the present day, gradual becoming somewhat more free with our current capitalist order being probably one of the best that we could have. And there are so many other perspectives. The point is, there is no one, accurate view on society, not even for scientists, and none of this even gets close to taking into account the unique aspects that could come from alien societies.
Furthermore, looking at the scope of what can be told in the game, there’s only so much the developers will be able to do. Even getting to a Society Stage that vaguely looks like, say, Sid Mier’s Civilizations will be incredibly difficult, yet there is still drive to go even further than that. Which, admittedly, is a beauty of this community! But we have to temper our expectations and know the best path to take both to please the community, and for the developers to actually be able to implement it.
What I’d propose would probably start from an inner, less objectionable core, and expand to incorporate other options as the developers are able. What would that mean? Let me lay it out.
One topic that would probably inevitably come up for Society Stage is the “nature” of your species going into it. Is your species inherently violent and greedy? Inherently cooperative and selfless? Is it possible for a greedy species to build a civilization? Is it possible for a selfless species to build a civilization? What is probably easiest to start with is a default tabula rasa, blank slate behavioral design for all species, period. The devs have a lot on their hands! If someone wants to add more “species nature” options, they can do that later. It’s easiest to start with a presumption of no inherent species nature.
From there, what generally does seem to be agreeable both in the scientific literature and common culture is that society is decently likely to at some point begin to accumulate in cities. Is farming needed to be developed for these cities? Well that’s debatable (see Ukrainian megalithic sites). Is statecraft needed? That’s also debatable (consider catalhoyuk). Will they be democratic, authoritarian? Religious? Peaceful, warlike? That’s all really hard to say.
I would propose that cities should be their own technology path. There shouldn’t be any prerequisites, like farming or statecraft, maybe just something like “permanent housesing.” From there though, we should want to give the player freedom. We don’t want to pile everything on as the initial goal, because the developers need to be able to start somewhere. But, just as basics, it may be nice to give the player the freedom of tall or wide playstyles (concentrated cities of high populations, versus spread out more agrarian civilizations). As for politics, a basic range from free and democratic to restrictive and authoritarian. Items such as religion, farming, statecraft, complex housing (apartments), stratification, division of labor, and bureaucracy should all be technologies that can be added in by the developers when they can, and may be best left as optional. That will restict the player the least.
From these tall/wide, democratic/authoritarian societies, there should be the ability to interact with rival factions, again with a variance, of either collaborative encorporation/allyship, or conquest. Ultimately, this is all done simultaneously to research and development of the technological prerequisites for industrialization. Once industrialization is initiated, the game should move on to the next stage, where they can try with different forms of government and different pathways towards spaceflight. Again though, it would be best for this to be restricted to some basics the developers can start with, then build out from.
Ultimately, the pathway would look like tribal societies figuring out how to develop city building, from which they can adopt tall/wide, authoritarian/democratic, collaborative/conquering playstyles, each with their own ways of taking the player to their next industrial stage.
There’s so much that can go into the Society Stage. There really is. But if we want to actually create a core for the stage, which can take it to Industrial, its important to create limits that allow for some basics that players can play with their species a bit, without the stage having an untenable scope.