Ansible Station 24: Language Is No Barrier (New!)

Ansible Station 24: Language is No Barrier

Welcome to Black Tail Six, a neutral zone in a galaxy on the brink of conflict. You are the interpreter of Ansible Station 24, a humble station that has suddenly taken on great significance. Whether or not anyone acknowledges it, you are single-handedly holding back the tides of war.

Assisted by a crew of diverse misfits, you welcome diplomats of the three major factions of the galaxy into your station for tension-filled negotiations, where you act as a neutral interpreter and have the chance to subtly edit the meaning, tone, and intent of the diplomats’ words in order to stave off the impending galactic war for as long as possible. The fate of trillions is in your hands. You’re not being paid nearly enough for your work.

Galactic Factions

The Autarchs, autocratic nobility who speak the language Fleschette.

Apolitical Free Trade Association (AFTA) members, shrewd businesspeople and lawyers who speak the languages Pingrit and Lojit.

The Crescent worlders, low-tech commune farmers who speak dialects of Scythe.

Faction and Language Detail

Autarch

The Autarchs (oh-tarks) spout platitudes of unity, strength, harmony, and artistic expression, but they achieve these through staunch authoritarianism. The Autarchs enjoy the greatest amount of political power in the galaxy by conquering and reeducating entire solar systems to follow their traditions. They value the aesthetics of art and beauty above all else, though their definitions of such are quite strict.

Those born and raised in Autarch systems speak Fleschette, a language governed by strict rules around grammar and register. Autarch linguists argue that the language enhances (rather than stifles) self-expression because the confinement of the rules inspires greater creativity in its use. Most speakers flit seamlessly between truth and metaphor and expect you to assume the most charitable interpretation.

Autarchs tend to dislike speaking any language other than Fleschette for cultural reasons; they view Fleschette as the perfect example of what a language should be.

AFTA

Explicitly political despite the name, The Apolitical Free Trade Association is radically libertarian in its ideals. They tend to form companies rather than colonies, and as such there are AFTA members in practically every system in the galaxy. Given the choice between acquiring greater political power and greater purchasing power, they’ll pick the one that gives their people greater choice. Everyone is obligated to live their lives the way they choose, given that it adds value to AFTA.

AFTA boasts of how it coined the language Pingrit, also known as GSL (the Galaxy’s Second Language). Similar to Pidgin from historical records on Earth, Pingrit is a simplified trade language with a limited but pragmatic vocabulary. Pingrit was originally a constructed language, but has evolved over time to a combination of constructed and natural language. All languages in the game are substituted with English, but the default is always assumed to be Pingrit.

Because of Pingrit’s limited, imprecise vocabulary, a more complex form of Pingrit was constructed by AFTA linguists for the purpose of drafting legal documentation. This is called Lojit, a punishingly precise language similar to computer code that some say removes all ambiguity in speech. Despite the lofty ideals, it does not in fact remove all ambiguity, hence the continued need for lawyers. Some scholars tried to start a movement to replace Pingrit with Lojit entirely, but this was abandoned because it takes about seven years of intensive study to become even passably fluent in Lojit.

Crescent

Spiritual, free, and community-driven, Crescent worlds consist of Earth-like planets that support massive agricultural operations. Most Crescent farmers never leave where they were born, content with the community they’ve developed on a local level and having no greater aspirations to explore the galaxy. That said, despite its roots in spiritualism and naturalism, Crescent has made major footprints by fielding missions to solar systems offering promising new worlds to terraform. They need a lot of land, and they’re not afraid to fight for it.

Crescent worlders speak dialects of Scythe, a colloquial everyday language with hundreds of thousands of variations. It’s a hodge-podge language that developed wholly naturally over many different systems and has very few set-in-stone rules. Its dictionaries are either very short or exceedingly large depending on whether the linguist intends to list the few universal Scythe terms or capture the staggeringly vast colloquial vocabularies across the many Crescent worlds.

Crescent worlders generally dislike the role that Pingrit has taken as the de facto language of trade. They view it as a language that stifles the imagination by trying to reduce human experience into a small sample of key phrases.

Other Factions

There are hundreds of other factions in the galaxy each with their own languages and traditions which might pop up every now and then throughout the story. The main character speaks Fleschette, Pingrit, Lojit, and Scythe with relative fluency, and the study of languages and linguistics gives them an edge when gaining conversational fluency with other bespoke languages, but it’s not possible to know them all. As such, most conversations in the game are in Pingrit.

Ansible Stations

Ansibles are faster-than-light communication devices tethered to massive space stations. The crew of Ansible Station 24, your station, is made up of a bunch of diverse misfits and outcasts.

Ansible Station Detail

Ansible Station 24 is occupied by a crew of eight: a hydroponics priest, an astronaut, a station engineer, an ansible operator, a combat drone, a maintenance robot, a landlord, and a political interpreter. It’s a quiet life when the politicians aren’t screaming at each other in the conference room.

Ansibles act similarly to telegrams from historical Earth records, in that they offer nigh-instantaneous communication but are fiddly and difficult to use, and they are very limited in the kinds of information that they can transmit. Operating them requires specialised engineers and equipment constructed outside of planetary atmospheres. There are only about 350 of them throughout the galaxy, and together they provide a web of connections across a vast network that effectively reaches every colonised solar system.

The stations hold a special role in galactic politics as well, acting as neutral stations unaligned with any faction, which means important political conferences are almost always held at an Ansible station.

Life aboard one of the stations is warm, cozy, and comfortable, with vast libraries to explore and opulent furnishing to lounge in. There are no windows; it was a priority to hide the stations from the reality of the uncaring chill of the void outside.

Ansible Station 24 was originally built in a low traffic area, until Crescent worlders terraformed three planets around a nearby solar system. AFTA traders moved in quickly to capitalise on the immigration boom, and the Autarchs jealously set up bases on moons and asteroids, searching for a way to take power for themselves.

Romance Options

  • June (f, 26), a growth priest
  • Beckett (m, 39), the station’s manager
  • Alex Formic (nb, 60), an oligarch, your worst enemy
  • Dahlia (f, 38), a spacefaring courtesan
  • August (m, 25), a spacefaring interpreter
  • Minoa (nb, 20), an alien Autarch princeps
Romance Option Details

I modelled each of the characters in Heroforge to get a sense for their appearance and personality. Heroforge models tend to look plastic and dopey, but the program has incredibly specific customisation options, so it’s a good place to do a quick mock-up.

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June (f, 26)

June is a Crescent “growth priest” who manages the station’s hydroponics. She grows the food in a dedicated agricultural block. Unlike most growth priests, she has moved on from the Crescent community in which she was born. Her reasons are undisclosed. She keeps her feelings close to her chest.

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Beckett (m, 39)

Beckett won the rights to oversee the management of Ansible Station 24 in a bitter AFTA court case after his father’s death, a case that took fifteen years and his entire self-made fortune to win. Pushing 40 and now having only the station to his name, he has resolved to stay on as manager for the near future while he figures out what to do with his life. Mostly, right now, it means he gets to wear a bathrobe and bunny slippers all day without anyone calling him out.

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Alex (nb, 60)

A charming, semi-retired businessperson, Alex Formic runs a space-based auto manufacturing company. They were pulled out of retirement to supply surface-to-space shuttles when Crescent worlders needed to evacuate to make way for an AFTA mining operation, and under their leadership the company suddenly surged in market share. Alex realized that they were getting complacent and that the complacency was galaxy-wide: humans were content to just rest on their laurels rather than explore the galaxy further and improve their lives. They want to light a fire under the galaxy’s ass. Yes, that means conflict, but it also means opportunity. Not just for them. For everyone.

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Dahlia (f, 38)

As an independently-operating AFTA courtesan, Dahlia arrives at the station early in the game as a companion to some haughty Autarch politician. Fascinated with the station and its weird, tiny culture, she befriends the station’s interpreter and asks to keep in touch in her travels. Throughout the game, the interpreter has the option to share a long-distance correspondence with Dahlia as she explores the galaxy. Like the interpreter, she also has a desire to ensure galactic peace, and is also in a unique position to subtly tip the scales.

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August (m, 25)

Early in the game, the interpreter meets August, another interpreter who works for the Crescent worlds. A proponent (and practitioner) of free love and communal living, he is deeply uncomfortable working in space, but his talents as a polyglot have taken him down a path he never anticipated. He sees a bit of himself in the interpreter, who also isn’t fully satisfied with their lot in life, and seeks to keep up a correspondence with them throughout the game as he is ferried across the galaxy wherever Crescent worlders are in need of an interpreter like him.

Minoa (nb, 20)

Humans aren’t the only sentient species in the galaxy, nor the only ones with political power. The Operators, as they’re called, designed the original Ansibles and constructed Ansible Station 0 many thousands of years before humans arrived. Very few Operators remain, but one Operator family holds a prominent position in the Autarch hierarchy. The noble princeps Minoa made a pilgrimage to Ansible Station 24 with their family when they were young and reaches out to the station many years later during the game’s events, unprompted, curious of what became of it. The interpreter has the option to maintain a correspondence with the princeps throughout the game.

Other Characters

  • Maverick (m, 45), an astronaut
  • Linda (f, 65), an engineer
  • Crete (nb, 50), an alien ansible operator
  • Goliath (nb, ~10), a freed Autarch defense drone
  • Nightcrawler (nb, ~90), a maintenance drone
Other Character Details

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Maverick (m, 45)

The station sometimes needs someone to go out on space walks or take shuttles to and from satellite stations nearby. This falls to Maverick, a rough, reckless space cowboy who constantly skirts the regulations of his AFTA union. He has a wife and kids on an AFTA colony whom he loves dearly and speaks to every day on the ansible.

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Linda (f, 65)

Some people are naturally talented at engineering. Others have trained their whole lives. Linda’s both. She puts on airs of a ditzy wine aunt, but when she needs to make a calculation with lives on the line, she goes into a frightening trance, coming up with the right numbers faster than you can punch them into a computer.

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Crete (nb, 50)

Most Ansible Stations have an Operator on staff, and 24 is no exception. Crete is a strange, multi-tentacled hulking alien with a chip on their shoulder and a permanent scowl. Convincing them that you need to use the ansible is a major undertaking. Maverick can smooth-talk Crete pretty reliably, but the interpreter, despite their knowledge of languages, really struggles to get through to them.

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Goliath (nb, ~10)

Goliath is a beautifully ornate (but seriously deadly) Autarch defense drone commissioned for use on 24 when it became clear it was becoming a major hub for political negotiations. Goliath’s function is to be so intimidating that they dissuade any assassination attempts. Beckett purchased Goliath outright, at massive personal cost, to ensure they were privately owned rather than subject to the Autarch’s regulations. Goliath has a soft spot for Beckett, for freeing them, and for the interpreter, for being the only one aside from Beckett willing to speak to them as an equal.

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Nightcrawler (nb, ~90)

The maintenance robot of 24 has stewarded the station for the better part of a century and has seen an innumerable amount of people come and go. Desperate for any semblance of connection, they’ve begun reading up on human philosophy and culture in an effort to strike up conversations and entice people not to hop off the station the moment their contract ends. They haven’t been successful yet.

Demo

https://dashingdon.com/play/will2/ansible-station-24/mygame/

This demo covers the introduction to the story, a little over 15,000 words. There are some differences in content depending on what origin you pick for your character, and there’s a metagame of trying to limit the increase to global tensions as a result of the case, but otherwise there aren’t any significant branching paths. In many ways, this is a tutorial to the game’s systems.

Best Reading Experience

  • Blast some synthwave.
  • Read the Foreword which explains the thought process behind how languages are represented in the story.
  • If you find that you’re having trouble keeping track of names, terms, and references, you can always review the Encyclopedia Galactica from the stats page.

The Future of Ansible Station 24

Right now, the plan for this game is as follows.

  • At the present moment, I am not dedicating full time effort to the game; I’m posting on the forum what I have so far. Once I finish up a few extra projects, I’ll return my focus to the game.
  • Every few months, a large section of the game will be added.
  • The game’s estimated total length will probably be about 150k words, more similar in length to my game The Gray Painter than to A Kiss from Death.
  • Similar to A Kiss from Death, there will be a lot of variation between “runs” of the game, rather than a set of predetermined chapters like A Gray Painter. You will likely not get the exact same scenes from one playthrough to the next.
  • Realistic estimate is 1 to 1.5 years before completion, based on the other two games I’ve finished. Add on six to twelve months to account for any unforeseen issues and the process of submission for release.

Feedback on This Thread

After finishing the demo, consider some of the following questions on reflection!

  • How many typos or mistakes did you spot, and where?
  • Which character did you like the most, and why?
  • Where do you see the story going from here?
  • What do you think the strengths of this story are, so far?
  • Which faction has the moral high ground?
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Love the heroforge models

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WoW… @will this is great so far.

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Enjoying it so far. Tried an Autarch Interpreter with a soft spot for the Crescents. Disappointed though I couldn’t choose my name. With the Autarch’s names looking Roman, it would have been nice to use female praenomen conventions. Especially if I could choose something like Gaia.

Any plans to use International Phonetic Alphabet? I have a few linguist friends, so started learning it myself.

Oh, and does anyone know that poem that starts off as a limerick, but then turns into a haiku? Goes something along the lines of “There was a young man from York, who got limericks and haikus confused”.

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phonetic alphabet

Pronunciation isn’t the source of tension in the story; it’s assumed that the interpreter is fluent enough not to stumble over their words. I want the choices to be about how much you can translate faithfully versus how much is up to your own interpretation. All of the languages are represented with English. There’ll never be any tricks with spelling or grammar or other technical aspects of the languages, aside from things that are legitimately fun, like poetic structure.

To clarify: The interpreter is never outright wrong in how they translate. Each option is always a legitimate translation, with the choice being in what legitimate translation they should choose. The interpreter will never say “rifle” when they mean “flower”.

There are, however, translations that are more appropriate to pick.

Haiku limerick

There was a young man

From Pews, whose limericks were

Secretly haikus

That’s a good name suggestion. I’ll add that.

There’s a few advantages and disadvantages to letting the player fully write their own name. Right now I’m leaving it with a big selection of names that each illustrate the naming conventions of the different factions. Might add in a text box option eventually.

4 Likes

Loved the demo there is much to look forward to and I think I happened to do pretty well over all in my interpretors first case.

Didn’t notice any typos at least nothing glaring do good job on that front :smiley:

Got to say going to miss those diplomats if they don’t make a return appearance in future cases.
Of them my favorite is Rome

Looking forward to seeing the mentioned characters that haven’t yet made a appearance as well want to learn more of June’s back story :: Snickers :: first playthrough as autrach back ground and she wasn’t happy with how first case ended but so want to bring her to my MC way of thinking and being amicable at least.

That said romance wise first playthrough going with august I think.

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I love it already.

Autarchs are literally American Civil War Virginians lmao.

Feedback on Demo

Specifics:

  • “Flowers for Numbers was a heartbreaking children’s film about a family that adopts a security drone after the death of their son;”

Is this a reference to the Haley Joel Osment film Artificial Intelligence?

  • 'Incensed, Rome continues, “Crescent worlder education in law insufficient for purposes.”

I believe this is supposed to be Dr. Gren continuing after you choose for him to go in the negotiation. The type of language seems to fit more to him than the Autarch and Rome hasn’t spoken yet so he can’t really continue.

  • With soaring hearts we’re meant to fly [n] With whispered words, with whispered words
    Against the darkness we defy

When speaking to June and picking the “You didn’t come to congratulate me” option. Not sure what the [n] thing is, probably a coding thing but I know nothing about that, and no punctuation at the end.

Overall:
I really love the feature of showing the tension in negotiation at points and how galactic tension is calculated. I do feel like there is some bias to the choices however. Options to convey intent are often rewarded with narrator feedback such as “The right choice here was definitely to capture intent, not literal meaning,” while choices to be literal are very often met with subtly punishing feedback such as “Sometimes, a reinterpretation is warranted to help reduce tensions.” I understand that most of these options have big effects on the tension in the room but the disproportionate amount of positive results for deciding not to be literal makes the reader feel like they should almost always be picking one choice over another. I really like the concept and what’s here so far is vey interesting, best of luck working on it.

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60 yr old ro :flushed:

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YOOOO I LOVE THIS IF SM!! The individual languages are SO interesting and creative!!! :eyes: :eyes: I may be a little in love with Lojit- just. ahhh!!! Also can’t wait to meet Alex ehsbgyrhenjfsdm. I really liked the characters we met in the first meeting, even though we probably won’t see em again. Most interesting were the Autarch and AFTA representatives (is that the right word?), but I may be a bit biased haha. Other than that, ROBOTS!!! I LOVE THE ROBOTS SO MUCH AND IM so glad we got to hang out with them a little bit during our celebration. I just- AHHHH… I have a soft spot for robots rehsnierfjdkmc<33333 we’re going to be besties by the end of this… Nightcrawlers so sweet and GoliathJRNEFUDHNEDKJM… your honor I love them-

Also I love that we can just be called Interpreter. Enby goals<3

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YESSSSSS A VARIETY OF AGES FOR RO’s!!! :heart::heart::heart::heart::heart::heart::heart: Already a fan for life ☆

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Babylon 5?

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Darmok and Jalad

I can see you’ve all done your required reading.

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I LOVE this! I’ve never read anything like it before, it’s really unique and the struggle to juggle all the different translations to keep everyone’s heads cool is especially intriguing, and just outright fun. I’ll be bookmarking this for sure <3

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nice top gun reference

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