by Cody "Micajah" Bye, Managing Editor

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by Keith Baker, Lead Writer for Jumpgate Evolution

To be truly successful, a video game must be incredibly immersive. As massively multiplayer online game players, we often enter our worlds of fantasy to escape the
trappings of reality and jump into realms where our personas are the
heroes of the day. The epic stories that surround us are our stories to
experience, and it takes a highly talented writer / historian to craft
a setting that remains reasonable even while keeping on us on a
particular path.

For NetDevil's Jumpgate
, that task falls squarely on the shoulders of
Keith Baker, a tried-and-true veteran writer and designer of
roleplaying games who was made famous with his award-winning style="font-style: italic;">Dungeons and Dragons
setting, Eberron.
Now working at NetDevil, Keith is responsible for crafting the
backstory behind the game's competing nations. Ten Ton
Hammer's Cody "Micajah" Bye tossed Keith a variety of questions on the
Solrain Commonwealth, and Keith's answers should give players an
interesting look into one of the game's three playable nations!

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Keith Baker

Ten Ton Hammer:
To start, what kind of people live in the Solrain Commonwealth? Are
they mainly traders and enterprising citizens, or can they be
militaristic as well?

style="font-weight: bold;">Keith Baker:
Following the Shift, the Solrain Commonwealth was rebuilt by corporate
powers, and today most of the people in the Commonwealth are employed
in some capacity by one of the Six Syndicates. However, despite being a
corporate culture, Solrain needs its soldiers and explorers. So as a
nation, Solrain is best known for its mercantile might – but
as a Solrain player, you can certainly follow a martial path.

Ten Ton Hammer: How
does the Commonwealth fit in with the Octavian and Quantar
cultures? Are they in a constant state of warfare with them, or do they
trade evenly among all of the citizens?

style="font-weight: bold;">Keith: There
have been a number of Solrain-Octavian conflicts in recent history. At
the moment there is an uneasy truce, but there are factions eager for
conflict on both sides and new skirmishes could break out at any time.
The Quantar are far less unified, and it's a question of relations with
specific Quantar paths – which likewise fluctuate.

Ten Ton Hammer:
What can a player expect if they decide to make a Solrain character?
Will they mostly be asked to escort merchant ships, or will they be
merchants themselves?

style="font-weight: bold;">Keith: This
depends entirely on what faction you choose to align yourself with. The
Commonwealth isn't a monolithic entity, and by choosing a faction
within your nation, you can pick a path that best suits your
preferences. The Zelcane Trust is a mercantile power that will
primarily distribute and reward noncombat missions, so it's a good
choice for the player more interested in the economic game. The Combine
is a ruthless syndicate whose agents will focus on combat missions. And
the Crows are a combination of idealistic rebels and independent
smugglers who fall between the two – engaging in free trade
and fighting both the corruption within the Commonwealth and the
outside forces that threaten it.

The Solrains are known as
a mercantile power, but this can take many
forms; as a Combine enforcer, you may just make sure your cargo bay is
large enough to hold all the scrap you can salvage from your victims,
because there's value to be had there.

Ten Ton Hammer:
How is writing for the Solrain Commonwealth different from the writing
you do for the Octavians or the Quantar?

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Up close and personal
with a Solrain fighter.

style="font-weight: bold;">Keith: I'm
still working to develop the full voice of each culture; it's an
ongoing process. In general, though, it's a matter of trying to call
out the core values of the nation. The Octavians are a militant
culture. The Quantar are driven by their spiritual beliefs. And the
Solrains are cynical pragmatists, part of a culture shaped by corporate
values and criminal cartels. They're not concerned with honor or glory,
or with the secrets of the universe; they're always thinking about how
things affect their bottom line.

Ten Ton Hammer:
As a writer, how do you insure that your ideas and concepts behind a
culture are thoroughly translated into the game?

style="font-weight: bold;">Keith: This
is a two way street. As a writer, I want to see my ideas translated
into the game – but as a game writer, it's also my job to
look at the game and make sure that the story fits the world that has
been created. It's the same thing as working on Eberron –
Eberron is a fantasy world, but it's specifically a D&D world,
and when working on Eberron material I need to think about D&D.
So with JGE, I'm working closely with the artists and developers while
discussing ideas and what exactly is possible within the mission

Ten Ton Hammer:
Do each of the various factions have their own storyline that a player
can go through? For example, will Solrain characters be able to help
free their nation from the greed that corrupts it?

style="font-weight: bold;">Keith:
First, a point of order: The Solrain Commonwealth is a nation. As a
nation, it includes multiple factions. One of those factions, the Crows
(derived from Commonwealth Restoration Organization) is fighting
against the corruption within the Commonwealth; the other factions are,
to varying degrees, part OF that corruption.

Looking to the broader question, yes, each nation and faction have
their own storylines, along with the broader stories that affect the
universe as a whole. It's our intention that you, as a player will feel
like you are part of an unfolding story. With that said, I wouldn't
expect to FREE the Commonwealth from corruption; it's too entrenched,
and it’s the sort of social transformation that would take
years or decades to reverse (just as blowing up the first Death Star
didn't instantly bring down the Empire). But you should feel that your
actions are aligned with the overall goals of your faction. Assuming,
of course, that you choose to pursue one of these paths; nothing's
stopping you from ignoring the factions and following your own
independent goals.

Ten Ton Hammer:
Are there any role models that you use to emulate the sort of people
you see in the Solrain Commonwealth?

style="font-weight: bold;">Keith:
Certainly, and again it varies by faction. Looking to the Zelcane
Trust, I'd go anywhere from Machiavelli and the Medicis to Microsoft or
Starbucks. The Combine is Murder Incorporated in space, with a touch of
Blackwater and a dash of the Godfather. The Crows have room for Luke
and Leia, but also for the original Han Solo – the
independent smuggler who's working with the rebels not because he's
interested in their idealistic cause, but because he sees the profit in
it. With the Crows, I also see a touch of the Weather Underground
– a fringe group using violence to fight the dominant power.
Within the spectrum of Solrain, they are the "Good Guys" –
but there's still room for some moral ambiguity within their ranks.

Setting aside the extremes of the factions, I also think that the cast
of Firefly has a lot of good Solrain archetypes. Simon could have lead
a successful life as a corporate doctor if he hadn't been forced from
that path by fate. Jayne is a perfect Combine character – an
amoral mercenary who doesn't give a damn about honor or glory. And in
Mal you have the Crow – a man with integrity and a good
heart, but one whose idealism has been beaten down by the hard universe
that he lives in. Perhaps he can find it again; only time will tell.

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A Solrain Hauler

Ten Ton Hammer:
In your writing, how do you tempt players to really dive into the
storyline behind a given faction or character?

style="font-weight: bold;">Keith: It's
one of the biggest challenge with MMOs – to find a way to
make every player feel as though he or she is the protagonist of a
fantastic story, when of course thousands of other people may also be
playing through the same story line. You need to find emotional hooks
and ways to make the player identify with the character and to feel
that there is more to the character than his ship and the credits he
has in the bank. It's not something I can go into great detail about
here, but it's certainly an issue I've been exploring for years
– going all the way back to my work on VR1 Crossroads and
Lost Continents, not to mention pen and paper roleplaying and live

Ten Ton Hammer:
Finally, what kind of history surrounds the Solrain Commonwealth? Where
do they
come from and how have they changed?

style="font-weight: bold;">Keith:
Obviously this is a big question, and I'm just going to give you the
one-paragraph answer. There was a time when the Solrain Commonwealth
was a great mercantile power, but also a nation that placed great
emphasis on opportunity, ingenuity, and the rights of the individual.
This all changed with the Shift, a cosmic cataclysm that swept a
handful of colonies and space stations across the universe. With no
jumpgates, lines of communication and support were shattered and the
old ways fell into chaos. Within Solrain space, it was a few corporate
powers and criminal cartels that held the ability to exploit the
resources and to provide the goods and services people needed to
survive. Eventually these groups joined together to formally seize
control of the Commonwealth Council, and a body that had once been
based purely on merit and skill became a puppet of these Six
Syndicates. As a Solrain player, it's up to you to decide whether to
work for one of these powers – or whether to follow the Crows
as a free trader or rebel.   

To read the latest guides, news, and features you can visit our Jumpgate Evolution Game Page.

Last Updated: Mar 29, 2016