Sidereal Confluence: Trading and Negotiation in the Elysian Quadrant
First, why call something “Ubiquitous Cultural Repository” when “Internet” means the same thing?
- The aliens aren't great at naming things: instead of giving them proper nouns, they simply describe what they do.
- I can't give you their proper names, or even describe how they work exactly, as that depends on which species invents the technology. Indeed, that's the entire point of the game. By solving a problem in their unique way, an alien can leave an indelible mark on the growing society. For example, if the Kt'Zr'Kt'Rtl invent the Ubiquitous Cultural Repository, it'll be a near infinite number of disparate networks that embody the idea “the best thing about standards is that there's so many of them”. If the Kjasjavikalimm do it, it'll be built around firewalls and security. The Caylion would extend their existing infosphere offworld, linking the colonies together tightly, make it a centerpiece of culture, and use it to obsolete leaving one's home to do anything. The Faderan might make an interconnected network of libraries and museum — infinite, curated knowledge. And so on. The social influence (victory points) you score represent inventing the technology in your own, unique way, and its impact on society.
Second, the costs to invent technologies. I have five constraints:
- In each era (I, II, and III) every resource needs to appear exactly twice, so you have the same odds of finding a research team that needs whatever you have in excess.
- Over the game, resources need to be used roughly equally across all research teams. This would be easy if every team in an era had the same total cost, but I don't hold to that. The inventions aren't equally valuable, and the cost to invent needs to be (roughly) proportionate to the value of the tech so the Yengii are balanced.
- Across eras I, II, and III, no technology may use the same pair of resources. This avoids two resources being tied together as mutual substitute goods.
- No research team can spend the same resource to invent as to run the invented converter. This is a balance necessity and is tied to invention as a catch-up mechanism.
- Whenever possible, the type of resources used to invent to make sense. Given the previous point, this is generally very hard.
As for the converter, I constrain the input to match the technology, but leave the output relatively free. Unfortunately, this means that many technologies consume the resource they would probably be best producing.
The first two technologies are relatively mundane, being things humanity is working on right now.
Genetic Engineering's art is a picture of the species, their DNA-analog, and their chromosomes.
Nanotechnology's picture is a nanomachine at the top of the card, and two nanomachines working together to build something at the bottom. The marked big thing at the back of the nanomachines is the battery, because finding a way to power one of these tiny things is a difficult problem to solve.
Converts culture into social influence and a large cube (often information) that must be given to another player. Exactly what you'd expect a universal translator to do. The background art is the various languages morphing into each other. The reverse side, “Universal Empathic Communication” is intended to cover having actual inter-species empathy, not just understanding.
Turns information into other resources. The top picture is of such a computer, the bottom is a row of bits (zeroes and ones) where some of the bits are in a superposition of zero and one. The upgrade, “Nondeterministic Polynomial Collapse” is a reference to the P=NP problem (or P!=NP, figuring out which is true is the problem). The implication is that quantum computers are now able to solve nondeterministic polynomial time problems in polynomial time. Or, in layman's terms, there's problems that would take your home computer longer than the age of the universe (or its expected lifetime going forward) to solve. Now, those problems are solved, and quickly. This is an issue for anyone who was basing anything on that stuff being unsolvable; for example: cryptography, and information security in general.
Ubiquitous Cultural Repository
A.K.A. the internet. Background art is the picture of an internet over the species' homeworld. Turns electrical energy into cultural influence, as you might expect. The reverse, “Memetic Lifeforms”, is the idea of creating self-replicating memes (ideas or cultural phenomenon) that undergo evolution and can be seen as “alive”.
One of those technologies that we know will cause great social upheaval. Picture is the alien DNA with its telomeres being reinforced, and cell division. Turns biotechnology into cultural influence. The one downside of clinical immortality is that you can still die by accident. The reverse side, “Practical Immortality”, fixes this. There's several possible solutions (making people invulnerable to dying, backing up people and re-creating them if they die, making deadly events impossible); which species invented this has a great deal of impact here.
Turning lead into gold is a fun pastime, but why not osmium? The background picture is an atomic nucleus with a single additional nucleon being moved into position. (Probably a proton). The reverse, “Pseudomaterials”, is borrowed from an RPG I very much enjoy, Sufficiently Advanced. It's the idea of making electromagnetic fields that behave like impossible matter.
As we transition from era 1 to era 2, the research teams start being specialists in fields that probably couldn't exist without a few era I technologies being invented.
Interspecies Medical Exchange
Honestly, this should probably convert biotech into cultural influence, not organic material, but the biotech is in use with organic construction. Background is the species' central nervous system, digestive system, and respiratory system. The idea here is the aliens sharing their medical knowledge both to improve medical technology overall, but also to learn more about biology in general.
Cross Species Ethical Equality
Converts cultural into two victory points, one of which must be given to someone else. It's not infrequent that this produces a donation culture as well. The intent is that two players run it, and exchange outputs (thereby fulfilling the theme of the card). The background art is a representation of the species' dominant ethical model. This is the idea of reconciling the alien ethical models to allow some equivalence between them. The reverse, “Concrete Universal Metaethics” brings this to it's final state -- having discovered the universal ethical principles behind all sapient life.
An industrial technology, depicted as an inertial power system running on antimatter. The reverse, “Antimatter Compounds”, represents making molecules at least partially out of antimatter. It's easiest to see on the back, but the upper-right side of the card has a picture of a methane atom where two of the hydrogens have been replaced with positronium. Positronium is an electron and a positron (anti-electron) mutually bound to each other, that acts chemically similarly to a very small hydrogen atom. It's also incredibly unstable in reality.
This represents the aliens harvesting whatever laws of physics that allow FTL travel for raw resources. It costs a great deal of electrical power and is a good source of resources for ultratech. The upgrade, “Hyperspace Settlements”, involves people actually colonizing those strange laws of physics. The picture in the background is of an “industrial space folding device” pulling resources out of hyperspace.
Converts biotech into other resources, especially (organic) starships. The background depicts an organic building (above or below ground, depending on the species' proclivities). The left side is a cross-section of an organic wall. Upgrades to “Living Infrastructure”, where the buildings are actively alive (and, presumably, can breed to produce more buildings).
Using limited time travel to make for faster computation. Like other computer-centric technologies, runs on information. The top is a picture of two computers linked by an achronal device (or the same computer linked to itself). The bottom depicts a string of ones and zeroes where a later block was transposed over an early one, moving the information back in time. The reverse is “Time Viewers”, where the achronal bandwidth is now large enough to pass whole images from other times.
Done right, singularities can be immense sources of power. If you constantly feed a tiny singularity with the mass of a mountain, you can get a constant stream of energy in return -- basically a matter conversion engine. There's only two downsides. One: the energy comes in the form of x-rays. Two: you have to control a singularity the size of a grain of sand with the mass of a mountain. This technology solves that, and is perhaps the greatest industrial technology. The background picture depicts a singularity in a containment system, being powered (and spun up) by a stream of matter. The reverse, “Wormhole Grid”, refers to the use of (larger) singularities as pinches in space, that could (if spun very fast, and filled with negative mass material) be used to create stable wormholes.
The end game technologies in larger games. Every era 3 technology produces social influence (victory points) in order to assist with the conversion of resources into points at the end of the game, and to make trading victory points possible on the final turn.
A massive movement to colonize the galaxy, expanding the Confluence to cover much of it. Converts culture into resources and ships (representing the exploration of the galaxy). Produces a number of donation goods, as this is a joint project. Upgrades to “Galactic Colonization”, as the Confluence becomes a new pan-galactic golden age. Background art is a colony ship (right) and the homeworld of the species (left) sending people outward (arrow pointing up-right).
Poly Species Corporations
Honestly, this technology uses food (and organic material) because it was the resource left over. Thematically, the corporations could run on anything. Said corporations make much of their profit selling to aliens, so a lot of the output is in the form of donation goods. Background art is a corporate structure diagram. Kjasjavikalimm and Paths are in the position of leadership due to their organizational skills; Eni Et and Words take on an advisory role due to their emotional and ethical understanding; Caylion, Zeth, and Unity are in middle management due to their ability to coordinate many things (and people) at once; Kt'Zr'Kt'Rtl and Words make up the research and development teams, while Im'dril, Faderan, and Mules make up the bulk of the rest of the work force.
The reverse, “Full Interspecies Integration”, represents the state where the species' have figured out how to form a single, unified, joint society.
Xeno Cultural Exchange
Generally turns industry into a lot of culture. Background art is various cultural artifacts of the species. Reverse is “Multispecies Hybrid Cultures”, as the aliens figure out how to mix their cultures into a cohesive whole.
Slowing time so you have enough of it to get everything done? Who wouldn't want that? This costs biotech as it's needed to modify the perception of time by a biological entity. Background art is various temporal manipulation devices, designed to evoke snowflakes (“freezing time”). The reverse, “Stasis Field”, is the perfected version of the technology.
Converting energy into matter. Top right is a waveform generator, top left some sort of gizmo, and at the bottom a device beaming matter into existence. The reverse, “Macroscale Teleportation”, is Star Trek style teleportation, using the same technology. It's called “macroscale” because “microscale” is actually relatively easy: quantum teleportation has already been achieved in the lab in the real world.
Galactic Telecomm Control
Set up the galactic telecommunications network, run everything. Top is a diagram of that network linking stars, bottom is a picture of a transmission array. Reverse is “Galactic Domination” -- using one's power over communication to take direct control. It's the one “evil” technology.
Almost certainly the best technology in the game, it converts ultratech into an absolutely insane amount of social influence, as you build massive habitation for trillions of people. The picture is an orbital. The reverse, “Dyson Swarms”, are swarms of megastructures encompassing a star.