The Earth Domains: A Political Menu

So you want to start a colony in the vicinity of the Earth Domains? Here’s what you need to know. The Earth Domains are a grouping of political units, each controlling a geographic location in space. Each of these units, naturally, is called a Domain. The predominant political unit of the Earth Domains is known as Earth Central. Earth Central is composed of a number of old nation-states (now known as domains themselves) that subscribe to a single Federal structure.

While not all the old nation-states have joined Earth Central, it is the largest single political unit on the planet and in the Domains. Earth Central oversees the political order and administration of the domains as a whole. Even so, while all Domains (States, Colonies, Cities) have some association with Earth Central, the Domains are hardly monolithic and can choose varying degrees of autonomy. This article delves a little into the different degrees of association with the Domains.

I think the easiest way to break it down is like a menu. If you are about to start a colony somewhere in the Domains or in adjacent unclaimed territory, you have multiple choices as to your level of interaction you have with Earth Central.

No Participation

Your colony chooses to have no obligations to the Domains. You run things the way you want and don’t pay them any taxes. This is not a very practical choice; since your colony might not be recognized by The Domains, it might just be annexed at some point in the future. Furthermore, if you are looking to become a local dictator of your very own corner of space, both Earth Central and the Accord of Beings may be at your doorstep soon for offending their sensibilities.

  • No Participation
    • Requires: nothing
    • Grants: nothing
    • Risk: as an unrecognized colony, you are pretty much on your own

Chartered Domain

You register your colony with the Earth Central government so that your claim is recognized. This can be tricky. Practically, you’ll need to be claiming a location that is undesirable enough to be outside what The Domains considers to be “feasibly colonizable”. In other words, you might only be granted a charter if Earth Central and the other Domains aren’t interested in making a claim themselves. If you are making a claim to unclaimed desirable territory, you had better have some political clout.

All registrants are required to adhere to the Accord of Beings Charter, which grants basic rights to all citizens of certain species. Finally, your claim must be proportionate to your population size. A single person claiming an entire planet will be laughed out of the registration office. If you do clear all these hurdles, you will be granted a colony charter. This means that your claim to your space may not be violated by Domain. Note that a Chartered Domain is not an Earth Domain itself. The Earth Domains may or may not come to your aid if you are threatened by non-domain actors or unfortunate circumstances.

  • Chartered Domain
    • Requires: Registering with Earth Central, resolving any other claims from other Domains to your space, adherence to the Accord of Beings Charter
    • Grants: Legal Recognition, Protection from Annexation by other Earth Domains
    • Risk: You are not protected militarily from non-Earth Domains entities

Military Confederate

If you want to fall within military protection of the Domains, you will have to charter your colony (as above) and pay military taxes. You will also have to be a “feasibly defensible” colony. An attack on any Earth Domain Confederate is seen as an attack on all; so the members of the Military Confederacy will want to ensure that you will not be dragging them into a war. Your citizens will also be required to participate in military service, and a draft (if one should be instated). As stated above, your colony will have to contribute to any war effort affecting other confederates.

  • Military Confederate
    • Requires: Chartered Domain, military tax, participation in military service and draft, participate in defense of other confederates
    • Grants: Military protection
    • Risk: You might entangle yourself in conflicts that are not of your making

Economic Partner

As a Chartered or Confederate Domain, you are free to interact economically with the rest of The Domains as you see fit. However, if you wish to participate fully in the economic might of the Earth Domains, you must become a full Economic Partner (EP). Full Economic Partners face no trade taxes and free movement of labor, and participate in a single currency. Economic Partners are not required to be Confederates, but usually are. You give up your own currency and may be affected adversely by economic occurrences beyond your Domain. However the ease of trade and movement of individuals between Economic Partners can be very beneficial. You will be subject to taxes and regulations associated with managing trade, fighting piracy, and ensuring fair trade practices.

  • Economic Partner
    • Requires: Chartered Domain, Removal of all trade barriers with other EPs, adoption of Earth Central currncy (the Credit), additional trade regulations and taxes.
    • Grants: Free trade and labor transfer with other EPs
    • Risk: You might entangle yourself with macroeconomic trends beyond your control

Social Participant

A Social Participant (SP) Domain pays into and benefits from a full suite of social benefits and safety net programs run by Earth Central. Domains can present their own social benefits, but the Earth Central social benefit infrastructure is a fine tuned apparatus second to none. Due to its effectiveness, no other Domain can match the cost/benefit ratio of the Earth Domains social programs. Social Participants guarantee their citizens with healthcare, unemployment insurance, poverty prevention, public schooling and other measures that enforce an agreed level of life quality. Social Participants pay a considerable tax for these benefits, but benefit from more stable and attractive living conditions. Social Participants must be Economic Partners, and while Social Participants are not required to be Military Confederates, currently all SPs that are also Confederated. This is likely due to the political and cultural similarities shared by SPs.

Earth Central

Finally, there is the Earth Central level. Domains in Earth Central not only share military, economic, and social infrastructure, they are also all subject to a federal government with a common legal and statutory code. All federal laws fully apply to all Earth Central Domains and all Earth Central citizens can vote in federal elections. Domains and Cities within Earth Central may have additional local laws and have some executive autonomy, but may not contradict the federal government’s laws. All Earth Central Domains are on Earth itself, except for August Domain, which is 750 light years away.

Status Report

I’m adding a status report to the bottom of the home page to show how far I am on each video. One of the initial purposes of the blog is to keep me on track with video production. While I can’t yet give a certain date of when the next video will be done, I’d like you to know what phase of the process I’m on. Here’s an what the status report looks like at the time of this blog post’s writing:

A quick breakdown, on the left are the phases and on the right are the states.

The phases have to happen in sequence, except for animating and scoring, which can both happen after storyboarding:

  • Writing – this is the process of writing out the chapters. I’m actually with writing all the way to chapter four, and most of five is done. This is not a bottleneck to say the least ๐Ÿ˜„.
  • Recording – recording voice for the video.
  • Storyboarding – arranging the shots and composition for the animation.
  • Scoring – creating the soundtrack. This is done by Seedling, not me.
  • Animating – drawing, tweening, and sequencing frames.

Each phase will be displayed in one of 3 states. I believe that tasks, any tasks, can only exist in one of three states:

  • Not Started/Waiting
  • In Progress
  • Done

Here it is broken into a table for reference ๐Ÿ˜‹:

Not Being worked onBeing Worked on
Not DoneNot Started / WaitingIn Progress
DoneDone

I will will update the status report whenever I am ready to change the state of one of the phases.

By the way, the header image for this post is meaningless. It’s just that WordPress wouldn’t accept the image of the status report because it was too small. So I goofed out a sketch and called it a blog post.

Thanks for reading!

Step by Step

Keep plodding along. One of the hardest things for me to accept about work is that it takes time. Things that seem like they should take half an hour instead take an hour and a half. I discussed this in one of my early posts – The Trade – the feeling that things should be done sooner and that I am too slow to produce.

This is, of course, hogwash. Things just take time, especially if I am not particularly well-practiced at things. Take for example of Akrai, the Marvan Heron above. I’m having to come up with a physiology of a fictional animal that I invented. The known proportions of the human figure are not helpful here; there is no Vitruvian Marvan Heron. All I can do is rely on my own sketches and pictures of ostrich legs as study. This is one of the first sketches of this creature, so of course I am not practiced at it and cannot produce it very quickly.

A typical canvas where I stick a bunch of previous drawings for study while I working on a new figure (center left).

I have been impressed by how much repetition has aided me in drawing drovers and armored humans (as seen in the first video). A perfect example of this repition is the animation below, which required redrawing the same figure in different poses multiple times.

There are thirteen unique frames in this short animation, with some of those frames repeated.

I used to look at concept/study sketches from animators that thought they were mostly fanciful showcases for characters, not true source material. But seeing how much I’ve been using concept sketches for my own work has changed my mind. I have concept sketches and studies for most of the characters and the species of free drove; and I use them regularly to ensure that I am somewhat consistent.

Here you can see some breakdowns of drover anatomy, not all final mind you, it’s all a process of iterative refinement.

I suppose that much like everything else, the bulk of work in animation and drawing is preparation. I can only approach it one step at a time to avoid becoming discouraged. I will say, it’s a really cool feeling when a series of tiny steps eventually (and sometimes suddenly) lands you with a finished product!

Progress Update: Voice recording for Chapter 1, Part 2 is under way, and I have 3 minutes of animation already storyboarded.

See ya soon!

Chapter 1, Part 1

Yes it’s true, the first video of the Free Drove series is finally up!!

This is the third video to be released on the channel, the first two being the intro videos (subtitled and un-subtitled). But this video is the first in the actual story proper.

You might notice that the posting date of the video is 2020-03-21 which is a day after I promised it (2020-03-20). But, in fact, I did have the video posted around 22:00 Honolulu time so technically, I made the deadline ๐Ÿ’ช๐Ÿ˜ . No, I don’t live in Hawaii, but I couldn’t make it by local midnight… It was a real dash.

Animating Coal, the human in the center, was a serious undertaking, took me several days, probably 8 hours in all. I don’t know why I got so ambitious so close to the deadline!! ๐Ÿ˜ฉ

Anyhow, the morning after the video was posted, we worked out some graphical uggs and fixed up the sound. I reposted the video on the 21st with the fixes and deleted the old one. I promise the sound quality is much better!

The Surprise – MUSIC!

So in my post about the intro video I promised a surprise, and if you’ve watched the video, you’ll have noticed the soundtrack! You might have notied that I wrote “we” in the paragraph above. Well, I’m glad to let you know that I have a talented musician contributing to the project! For the purposes of this project he goes by Seedling and is a self-published composer and multi-instrumentalist. His contribution has added another layer to the video in a way that I could not have done by myself.

I’ve never mentioned anything about music before and it was something I only thought of doing after I started working on the first video. But I really love how it turned out. Working with Seedling was a really fun process. Most everything is a product of his brain, but when I had a suggestion, he integrated it into the work and kept rolling. I think I will ask him to make a post about the music sometime in the future.

Beyond helping with the music, Seedling also lent his discerning eye for catching some graphical issues that were left behind by my clumsy hands.

Coalescence

So now I feel like the spirit of the project is really coming together. I have the same path forward, but the landmarks of two videos behind me. This will help me refine the process and strengthen my resolve to keep going.

In order to be more accommodating to guests, I’ve rearranged the blog’s front page. It now features the introductory video, blog posts, video library and the twitter feed in that order. I think that someone stepping onto the site will not experience the confusion that would have bedeviled earlier visitors. If someone is not sure what they are looking at, they can watch the intro video to get a quick context. People who want to stick around can read the articles and leave comments. I’m always looking for feedback and comments, so please feel free to drop a comment either here, on YouTube or on Twitter.

Thanks to everyone who has been on this adventure with me so far and I welcome all who want to join in and watch this science-fiction story continue to take shape!

The Mines (Part 2)

This post continues the post “The Mines (Part 1)“.

Fear and Fact

The minesโ€™ ability to evade port-tracing filled many with fear.  If the Aggregate had technology advanced enough to port-in without being detected, the military outlook boded poorly for Proxima.  But the few communications that arrived from the embattled core worlds did not describe any attacks like the ones seen on August. 

Mysterious Origins

strategists on August surmised that the frequency of the mine attacks, usually days apart, hinted that the mine senders’ capabilities were limited.  Either the unique porting technology had a high energy cost, or the mines were being manufactured, one at a time.  Perhaps even both constraints applied?

The origin point of the mines was presumed to be single location.  This was assumed because of another characteristic of porting technology: While a single small or short-distance port is almost untraceable, multiple ports from the same origin point vastly increase traceability.  As long as the minesโ€™ senders were intent on staying hidden, they would only send one mine at a time.  While this meant the origin remained hidden, it also allowed the colony a reprieve between attacks.

The Factory

Given these factors and the steady frequency of attacks, Augustans began to use the term โ€œThe Factoryโ€ as shorthand for the minesโ€™ source.ย  Evidence seemed to point to a single location with limited porting capability, and/or a limited output of mines.ย  The Factory was conjectured to be small in size, cloaked, very closed to August, and possibly mobile.

This post adheres to Organic Realignment because it uses an image from the Free Drove Intro Video.

Organic Realignment

So I mentioned in my intro video post that I learned some things about myself and about the way I work. So here’s what I learned:

1. I have time constraints

I have a full time job, which I enjoy, but limits the amount of time I can dedicate to the project. So you say: “Seriously, Saps, you didn’t already know that?” No, Yeah, I knew that… But I overestimated how much time I have left after work and I also underestimated how tired I am at the end of some days. Of course, everyone has a limited amount of time, but we aren’t always aware how little time we have, or how long a task will take. Which brings me to…

2. I overestimated my productivity

So this was probably my biggest flaw. When I started the Free Drove Introductory Video, I thought it would take me a week! Hahaha ๐Ÿ˜‚, what a dummy! It ended up taking me around 2 months to finish (late December to late February). Now, of course this doesn’t represent eight weeks of 40 hours, but still, I knew that when I started and it still ended up taking 800% more time… (and I’m a certified project manager, so FOR SHAME!).

Part of the overrun was due to me adding bells and whistles, wanting to enhance the video. Another was not really having the video storyboarded from start to finish, so I wasn’t clear on everything that was going to be needed. For the next video iterations, I will be sticking to this formula:

  • Record voice
  • Storyboard the video
  • Add drawings and animations

I’ll amend this process as needed. One more thing, I can feel myself getting better and faster at drawing, and getting more comfortable using the particular set of hardware and software that I have.

3. I lost track of scope

In project management, scope is the entirety of the work that will be completed in a project. There are many pitfalls that occur in defining what a project will accomplish, and sometimes the pitfall is having ambiguous definitions.

As I started posting on WordPress and Free Drove’s Twitter feed, I’ll admit, I got a bit dazzled by the quest for views, followers, and likes. This quest can lead one down a bad path, if you let it. In an effort to promote the project, I tried to create more art that fell outside the scope of completing the video and this slowed me down. My efforts were largely unsuccessful anyway, so can’t say it even helped out much ๐Ÿ˜…, I still have a lot to learn. So what’s my solution?

Organic Realignment

I’ve decided not to create additional art that falls outside the scope of the videos and the site. Instead, I’ll post progress shots and gifs that let folks see how the project is going and helps me focus on pushing out videos. So basically, realigning the blog and promotional efforts to use what I’m already creating as part of creating the video.

Let’s see how this iteration works out for me!

The intro video is up!

Yes, I wasn’t slacking off all this time!! Thank you for being patient.

So obviously I have been MIA for more than two weeks. Sorry about that. By now I have broken my promise to post at least once a week. That’s ok, I’ve learned a little about myself and about my work recently, and I’ll be posting a bit about that soon.

Friends, Aliens, Proximans!

More importantly THE INTRO VIDEO IS UP!๐Ÿ˜† “Why you shouts, Sapling?” you ask, exasperated at your own bad grammar… Well, I underestimated the task, it’s that simple. It took me sooooo much longer than I thought it would that, despite being a bit disappointed in myself, I am very excited to have this first part of the project done. This is why I am shouting.

I’m actually really pleased with how the video came out. I know it may not seem like much, but there were a lot of animation tricks and techniques that went into it. The spaceships jumping in, the motion of the stars in the map, pans and fades, all were new for me.

The tactical overview took the longest to coreograph and animate

I knew what I wanted the video to look like and implementing it was a lot of fun. I encountered some bugs and stepped on my own toes a couple of times (erasing the previous keyframes ๐Ÿ˜ฉ). But I emerged from it with lots of experience and best practices to apply in the future.

All the while, the story of Free Drove is alive and well. I’ve been adding plot points, imagining character interractions, and just generally loving creating this world in my head. Can’t wait to share more.

August City, our home

As I noted in the video, the first actual video in the series is Due March 20 (2020-03-20). Don’t worry, I’m not actually over-estimating my abilities on this one, I actually have most of it done. And I have a surprise coming with that video, you’ll love it!

Talk at you soon!

The Crew

August has grown accustomed to sudden attacks from autonomous incursor “mines”. Even though the war that commissioned these devices ended 35 years ago, they continue to attack, their automated factory evading detection and disarmament*.

Despite the real threat that these war machines pose, the Proxima Coast Guard stationed in the colony has grown adept at handling it with minimal casualties. When the factory creating the mines could not be found, Proxima first proposed a heavy naval presence to deal with the incursors. However, the colonists of August, traditionally pacifist and idealistic, felt this would make the war feel permanent and slow down the colony’s healing. Instead, the Coast Guard seemed a better candidate. A Coast Guard force had been stationed in the colony since its inception, tasked with a variety of law enforcement and military defense functions. The most common roles were trade stewardship (preventing piracy and smuggling), border enforcement, and preventing unauthorized settlements.

During the war, the Navy abandoned August for more strategically important worlds, but the Coast Guard never left. In fact, it was the Coast Guard’s modest fleet the prevented the colony from falling to the enemy during the siege.

Nowadays, the battle-tested Guard not only carries on its initial functions, but also employes a crew of highly mobile and adaptable special forces whose only function is to repel incursor mines. The First Picket Special Forces (commonly referred to as “The Picket”) is a small group of highly trained officers that are equipped with the finest technology available to the Proxima Alliance and trained to improvise against their ever-changing foe.

In the picture below are some of them.

Work in progress: The Picket unit crew. From left to Right:
Akrai (heron), Akilesh, Thoris (human, mod), Sarine, Coal, Damselfly (drover), Brin, Artemis, Apriva (minor kite), Hessness (major kite)

*The Aggregate surrendered but claims it does not have the means to find and disarm the factory

The Mines (part 1)

When the war broke out, Aggregate space fleets attacked August, landing ground forces to dislodge the colony’s defenders. Responding quickly, Proxima fleets arrived and scored a decisive victory against the aggregate, clearing the skies above August of all enemies. Most of the Aggregate’s ground forces were destroyed. But before all the invaders could be cleared, the Proxima fleet was forced to return to the core worlds where the Aggregate was attacking with its full force. This left August’s colonists to fend for themselves with only a handful of heavy military assets.

Animated strategic view of the battle of august. The landing craft of the Aggregate deposited a force of Shock Drove that was not eradicated by the Proxima Fleet.

The first of the threats to the colony was the Shock Drove: A hardy and versatile soldier species that had landed during the initial invasion. Now, their remnant forces were quickly multiplying and staging ever escalating attacks on the colony city. Due to their lack of sophisticated military equipment, they did not pose an overwhelming threat at first. Then the mines came.

A roughly humanoid mine assaults the streets of August City

Arriving through jump portals, these “mines” took on many forms. Always artificially intelligent and autonomous, they ranged from highly powered weapons platforms, to animal like monstrosities. Sometimes they were shielded craft that took incredible amounts of firepower to take down. At other times they were small, evasive agents of terror, striking at the civilian population and disappearing before they could be destroyed.

Aerial mines variants were also seen, such as this heavy weapons platform

The sheer unpredictability of the mine attacks, in both timing and form, eroded the colony’s morale. As the months dragged on, combined mine and Shock Drove attacks became an ever present threat to the population.

Most demoralizing and perplexing was the mystery of where the mines came from. For all their efforts, the colonists were not able to find where the mines originated. Jump portal technology is such that objects arriving via jump can usually be traced to their point of origin. The further away the jump’s origin, the larger the amount of energy required for the jump, the easier it is to trace. Likewise, the larger the object arriving via portal, the more energy required, the easier it is to trace. If a jump is sufficiently close, or the object sufficiently small (or a combination of both) the jump’s origin can avoid being traced.

The fact that the mines’ origin was impossible to pinpoint meant that they were arriving from a location that was reasonably near the planet or perhaps even on it.

This topic is continued in “The Mines (Part 2)“.

Preview of the preview

Here’s the first half of the intro video. I tried uploading it here but apparently I can’t do that. I also don’t feel like putting a partial product on YouTube, so we’ll keep this one as an underground release ๐Ÿ˜‹.

By the way, did you know that, on PC, pressing the Windows Button and Semicolon (;) brings up the emoji menu? Yeah, discovery of the decade for me so far…

As for the work, I’m making some headway on the animation and will probably have the rest done in the next two week (trying to be realistic this time).

I know it’s not much yet, but I’d love your feedback.

Thanks! ๐Ÿค—(Emoji from emoji menu, I’m free to express myself now!)