Today I’m releasing a new video spot for Slower Than Light. I’ve been talking to a lot of my backers and potential backers, and I’ve gotten a lot of wonderful questions that I’ll continue addressing through the rest of the Kickstarter campaign. The biggest request I’ve had, though, is to put together something short that quickly communicates what the “plot” of Slower Than Light is, and something to get excited about.
I hadn’t really framed the question to myself that way before — because of the way the gameplay director takes the game in a different direction each time, I never really thought of the game in terms of plot. When I took a step back, though, I realized that the plot of the game is humanity attempting to evade extinction, which is what brought me to the Fermi Paradox.
The Fermi Paradox, in short, says that if it is possible to build an interstellar empire, it is very unlikely we are the first to do so. Despite that, we see no evidence of extraterrestrial races having done so, now or in the past. Therefore there should be, if not active alien civilizations, at least evidence of their existence in the form of megascale engineering and structured EM emissions that they once existed. To date, we have detected nothing that could be conclusively considered the work of intelligent life other than humans.
Besides the obvious implications for the question of if there is other intelligent life in the universe, Fermi’s Paradox has another thread — if no other race has achieved space colonization on a massive scale, and if progressing to our level of development common enough to happen in the span of two or three billion years with some reliability, then that implies there is some challenge we have not yet encountered that prevents these sorts of cultures from arising.
In many ways, Slower Than Light is an exploration of the Fermi Paradox. On the face of it, the game is simple: build colony ships, fling them to the stars, reach some arbitrary threshold and declare victory. It is the events that don’t fall into that pattern that make it interesting. Searching an empty cluster of stars and wondering why nobody ever came here before can be a chilling experience. Perhaps more chilling, though, might be finding evidence they were here, with more power and knowledge than we have, and failed to endure. What brought them low, and is it still a threat?