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Let's discuss the world of Pioneer

Petty Officer Registered
Joined: 14 years ago
Posts: 27
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Hello Tomm, others,

I would like to chat about the Pioneer setting and the rules of the world. It would be good to establish some consistent base rules so as to avoid Making Stuff Up on the Spot later on. I'm not calling out for a detailed backstory here, but interested in these things because they would conceivably have gameplay effects.

As I've understood, Pioneer is inspired by, but not a straight remake of Frontier. I probably don't have to introduce Frontier as a game.

You can read the Frontier manual here:

It's quite light on technical explanations. There are also other sources for Frontier/Elite related information.

Pioneer does not have such a collection of information at the moment.

Below, I have listed some sections that could use some defining, plus my own thoughts on them.

The World

In the year 3200 or so humanity has spread into stars. It is certainly not an utopia; there are competing factions, resources are finite, capitalism is the king, pirates prey on trade ships and so forth.

Space travel has become so commonplace that it is possible for a wealthy private person to purchase an interstellar space vechile and start a life as a trader, miner, mercenary, outlaw...

Countless planets now house variable size human populations. They are isolated enough to have varying societal and governmental models. Each planet, for the purposes of gameplay, is probably best considered to be one 'nation' instead of trying to emulate the cultural variety of Earth.

Planetary population is concentrated in few cities, which could be the result of

1) The galactic population is limited, either due to rapid expansion or other factors

3) The population is concentrated in these megacities (arcologies, underground structures)

The number of established colonies should probably be limited as currently they seem to be infinite. That would leave some real unknown frontier to be explored.


Factions are interstellar entities that have controlling influence over multiple star systems. Who are these major players in the known space? In addition, can a star system be influenced by multiple factions?

In addition: aliens! The Pioneer universe is so far not teeming with intelligent non-human life. Is anybody out there? Can they coexist with humans or are they too alien?

Economy, trading, energy, production

There is still value in trading various physical goods. That would mean there are no replicators or nanoassemblers or magic that can effortlessly turn junk into valuable alloys.

The current trade goods are: Hydrogen, oxygen, metal ore, carbon ore, metal alloys, plastics, fruits, meat, live animals, liquor, grain, textiles, fertilizer, water, medicines, consumer goods, computers, robots, precious metals, industrial machinery, farm machinery, mining machinery, air processors, slaves, hand weapons, battle weapons, nerve gas, narcotics, military fuel, rubbish and radioactive waste.

Is this list subject to change?

Energy can be harvested and stored in a variety of ways that beat today's efficiency, but it shouldn't be free so as to keep the economy plausible. High-end solar collectors good, pocket sized fusion reactors bad.


The ships move around using thrusters, as in not a reactionless drives of any kind. Large ships are not any slower than small one-man craft - but they will require more thrust to accelerate.

Propulsion will of course require fuel. Should the game take fuel consumption into account? It's not necessarily an unfun concept...

Speed of Light

It shouldn't be feasible to attain lightspeed using normal propulsion. Currently, in the game it takes about 28 days for the Eagle Long Range Fighter to reach lightspeed using maximum propulsion, as the fuel is infinite.

It's not just the time-dilation issues of FTL speeds, but even high sublight speeds turn the smallest starships into incredibly powerful missiles. You do not want to give such power to every space captain.

Ship design & aerodynamics

Currently we have some classic Frontier ships and some other designs as well.

At the moment any ship can operate in a planet's atmosphere. Somewhere down the line, it would be good if huge battlecruisers and other flying bricks were restricted to zero/low-gravity operation.

I think at the moment only gravity is modelled, so there is no air resistance or whatever factors exist in the real world. It's an entirely different and wide area of simulation, so I'm fine with the current state...


Hyperdrive is used to jump from one starsystem to another. The drive consumes fuel, amount depending on the jump range. Time passes faster during the jump, so a week might have passed when you emerge "on the other side". At the moment the drive has a few seconds of countdown and can be activated anywhere.

The hyperdrive needs some careful limitations. One cannot build an empire if a fleet of pirate warships can jump in at any time, rob everything and then just jump out again. Or, one cannot be a pirate if cargo transports can just jump to a safe system within seconds.

The Frontier manual explains hyperjumps near planets and stations are forbidden by law... Which is fine if you assume everyone follows the law. It would be just simpler to explain the drive needs to be clear of strong gravity fields.


Earth-like gravity generated by unseed methods are a staple of TV scifi. Understandable, but for a game we are not required to make such concessions. The power to alter gravity is not a minor thing and would have far-reaching consequences. It would be safe to stick to artificial gravity generated by rotation.

Besides engineering problems in toilet design, low gravity has detrimental effects on the human body. It could be probably overcome by some advanced medical technology.


It would be cool not to have faster than light communication that is based on some mysterious principle. It would give the star systems a degree of isolation. It does not really have to be visible in gameplay, but just an idea for the setting.


The ships, or more precisely, the puny space captains need protection. I would assume the ships are covered in some Pretty Touch Material. While in reality a small rock moving at the high speeds of Pioneer would punch a hole right through anything, in games it's best just to ignore such things 🙂

Shields and forcefields can be also used to protect your fragile spacebucket. Shields can have plenty of limitations. They require power, do not necessarily give all-around bubble of protection, or maybe one shield "projector" can only defend against one target at a time.

There are probably some sort of hull auto-repair systems.


A large topic. The common weapon categories are:

Kinetic: they require ammunition. Travel in straight line. Generate little to no heat when fired.

Energy: plasma bolts, laser beams and whatnot. Require power to fire. Generate plenty of heat. Beam weapons have no travel time, but they can have limitations like diffraction.

Missiles: self-guided weapons that hunt their target. Damage is high, and constant over range. They require ammunition. No heat issues. Missiles have limited propellant, and are susceptible to countermeasures. Also in this category: mines.

Combat and damage

How can the combat be made interesting? I guess the major problem are the high velocities.

Also: damage modelling. How far do you want to take it?

Tractor / Repulsor beams

Tractor beams are a common mechanism to pull in delicious loot after combat. How do they work? What are the limitations? Any alternatives? KISS option: flying into a cargo pod at slow speed to collect it.

That's about it. Probably plenty of other stuff to cover. Put your goggles on and give your thoughts.

Captain Registered
Joined: 13 years ago
Posts: 1035

Thanks for putting this together. I don't have time to answer in detail right now, but wanted to get in early and say that I've been thinking about story background for a little while now. Tom has a rough outline of history from 2000-~3000 and some ideas about factions etc. When I get chance I was planning to write it all up on the wiki as a start point.

The other thing to note is that soon (maybe even in alpha 9) it'll be possible to define custom/hardcoded starsystems via Lua scripts rather than needing a recompile. My hope was that with a bit of backstory to guide things and the ability to easily define systems we'd start to see a cohesive universe develop.

Crewman Registered
Joined: 13 years ago
Posts: 5

i would put the 3 mayor factions in Frontier (FEII) and First Encounters (FFE)

1)Earth Federation (FEII)

sort of mixed capitalism and welfare (similar to our idea of western style culture)

2)Empire (FEII)

more bended towards capitalism with very few or totally absent welfare, sort of fascist thing from what i remember, or military dictatorship under an emperor.

3)Alliance (added in FFE)

they are the ones that rebelled to Feds, and Empire.

I imagine that as a sort of Western Frontier (like in the cowboys movies) or if you like a sort of rebel alliance in SW, i dont know

we could expand on that...

PS: (I, personally, would add a 4th faction, called for example The Brotherhood, with very few system, and totally pirate!, and a 5th faction called for example the Merchant Guild, sort of merchant organization)

Master Chief Registered
Joined: 13 years ago
Posts: 172

One small note - my memory (and knowledge) may be failing me, but according to the general relativity theory, as an object approaches the speed of light it needs increasing amounts of energy, proportional to mass. Ergo, the ships can have different speed limits accordind to their ability to transfer energy into the engine system.

Regarding the "world of Pioneer", I would favour a sort of medieval setting: some independentish worlds part of a few alliances (Alliance of Free Worlds, The Chop Chop Continuum, ...), a couple of empires (call it Federation and Ruby Empire) and the odd non aligned world (Iluminatus, ...).

That in a setting of no aliens, ofc.

Lieutenant Registered
Joined: 14 years ago
Posts: 564

frontier did have the thoagoards but they were hyperdimensional - perhaps u can locate aliens far out into space using a exploration-expansion-colony assistance- galactic expansion over time