The Factors - What the hell are they doing?

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Axel the Chimeric Axel the Chimeric's picture
The Factors - What the hell are they doing?

This has been bugging me for a while, and I'm going to put it simply:

What the hell are the Factors doing?

Of all the things in Eclipse Phase, the Factors have the least hooks out of everything. Sure, there's hooks about Factors in relation to other things and all, but we never really get any description of what they've been up to or might be doing. The most we get is that one rogue Factor in the opening to Gatecrashing.

So what're they doing? I want to know more about transhuman contact with them.




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UnitOmega UnitOmega's picture
Re: The Factors - What the hell are they doing?

I dunno, you tell me. What ARE the Factors doing?

It always seemed to me that, much like the ETI, the Factors and their motivations and involvement are kind of left for the GM to decide what fits with their stories. I mean, except for that one sidebar that says "Yes, Transhumanity has found aliens", isn't most of their information in the GM-only section?

Jay Dugger Jay Dugger's picture
Re: The Factors - What the hell are they doing?

This interests me. The aliens, like psi and gates, seemed sops to the product's consumer base. I don't think they integrate at well with the "hard SF" setting E.P. pretends to.

That might well just be my own biases talking, and I know it. So please, speculate!

Sometimes the delete key serves best.

LostProxy LostProxy's picture
Re: The Factors - What the hell are they doing?

Well unlike most sci fi settings the aliens are actually alien. That keeps it decently hard sci fi since it's far from the only one to introduce aliens.

As for the psi, gates, etc. If you could explain them then they wouldn't exactly be technology beyond man now would they? Really I just think it was a a bit of soft sci fi mixed in because if you don't like it you can ignore it. Personally the Gates and the Lost background is what got me into EP. Without them I would have glossed right over it.

Xagroth Xagroth's picture
Re: The Factors - What the hell are they doing?

The gates, aside from talking about Stargate, are a good enough hard-sci fi option to me: it follows the principle that sufficiently advanced technology looks like magic to those who don't understand it. It gives the setting a "we are not trapped" and "there is still much to discover" air that I find it's really necessary for any setting after playing some Lord of the Rings games back in the day (thanks, ICE, for those supplements, and rest in peace). But I digress.

The factors are, I think, sufficiently explained in the core book, containing much of what the players can deduce during play if they want. Anyway, I think it's easy to think about what do the factors want: survival of the species, which means expanding, forging alliances, crushing threats, etc... Remember, the Fermi Paradox is solved in EP by the Singularity and the Exurgent virus in a galactic scale.

So the factors have seen transhumanity, and are now wondering about allying themselves with us, treat us as a threat, or just annex us. The first option is imposible because of the fragmented situation of transhumanity, and the third would require too much resources (specially because of the exoplanets and Pandora gates). The second would be also very tricky for the same reasons the third is, so for now they wait and see (at galactic scale, a few hundreds of years can mean nothing... or a mere hours can mean it all).
For now, I think there are two factions that the factors would consider interesting to ally themselves with if their memes take hold on most of the transhumanity. One would be the Titanian Commonwealth, that would prove great for an ally; the other, the Planetary Consortium, would be more fitting for a "servant race", and is much more expanded than the TC. So they are courting the titanians and the PC, this last one discretely, and watching who wins the race.

Axel the Chimeric Axel the Chimeric's picture
Re: The Factors - What the hell are they doing?

UnitOmega wrote:
It always seemed to me that, much like the ETI, the Factors and their motivations and involvement are kind of left for the GM to decide what fits with their stories. I mean, except for that one sidebar that says "Yes, Transhumanity has found aliens", isn't most of their information in the GM-only section?

It is, but most of that info is about what the Factors are, not what they're doing. They're an annoyingly limited group in terms of description. As you say, it just sort of goes "Yes, Transhumanity has found aliens" and then describes what sort of aliens they are, a few neat little hooks (and they are neat but they are also little), and then leaves it at that.

Nothing like "In 9AF, transhumanity made contact with the first ever sapient aliens" and then all the stuff you'd expect to find regarding that; tentative first contact details, names of the discoverers, organizations who've been in contact with them, etc.

I know more about Experia's back-room dealings than I do the Factors.

That's what's bugging me: There's none of the detail you'd expect here. Unless someone has answers, this might end up another community project; Factor First Contact details.




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nezumi.hebereke nezumi.hebereke's picture
Re: The Factors - What the hell are they doing?

The Factors are definitely a mystery. There's a few things we can guess they might be doing. They're making deals, they're cutting profits, they're making allies. What is the long-term goal? Is it for or against transhumanity's best interests? Not clear yet. But it's clear whatever they're doing, they're playing a very long game. They're almost certainly putting pieces in play which won't be revealed for a long while, and because of our limited vantage point, we can't even tell yet what the winning conditions of the game are.

As a GM, I play the Factors as being at about transhumanity's level of capabilities (a little higher, but not TITAN level). There is political in-fighting among Factor ships. And currently the Factors are attempting to acquire particular assets, but a pattern has not yet clearly emerged. Factor missions should be along the lines of "aquire this production facility and hold it for us under an assumed name", or "aquire technology to perform X basic physical operation".

Herbo Herbo's picture
Re: The Factors - What the hell are they doing?

*begin wild unfounded speculation*

I personally lean toward the notion that Factors are a very alien species that advances through the digestion of a dead or dying race's technological breakthroughs. Whether or not they tend to push a dying race into the dead category remains something I'm undecided about. They might just have cold dark organelles full of neutrality.

I believe they float around the galaxy in a hodge podge array of ships of wildly different designs because they (at least originally) lacked the advancements required to develop or manufacture that technology in the first place. Like space barnacles, their ancestors hitched a ride on some other race's interstellar armada (or were perhaps a technological life form created by an ETI to assist them in traveling the cosmos). And when that race finally died off the Factors were left with the option of dying off as well, or operating the ships & technology themselves...I think this was their singularity event wherein many Factor groups died off in the process of figuring out how to repair, operate and maintain interstellar technology. Then we fast forward a sufficient amount of time (hundreds or thousands of years?) and they have come accross other ruined cultures or cultures on the brink of collapse. They then picked up bits of technology they needed to keep going or to improve their ability to keep going. To me, this helps to explain their very impressive ability to interface with (what is to them) alien technology. They can operate most transhuman technology after only having the briefest contact.

Now we can unravel their "chance" meeting with transhumanity. I think they encountered a TITAN or something TITAN related elsewhere in the galaxy that made them go "holy crap we need to get that recipe for the TITAN's Carne Asada...it is simply divine" and so they sent their ambassadors (or what we have so ignorantly termed ambassadors) to the Solar system way out on the Orion-Cygnus Arm. When they arrived they found (probably to their alien version of dismay) transhumanity clinging to the shreds of their existence, without the foggiest clue of how to actually create any of the TITAN technology that the Factors so dearly desired to get their pseudopods on. And to make matters worse, these space apes seem to openly fear poking around in TITAN ruins for stuff that might be useful!

I personally think they want the gates so that they do not have to shoot around in dying space barges anymore. It would free them up from having to keep those dang things going and allow them to put down some cultural roots on an easily linked system of worlds so that they can interface more easily as an entire race. And if there is one thing Factors seem to enjoy? It's linking to one another in a big slimy pool of Nickelodeon Gack. However, they need transhumanity to unravel the technology required to construct the gates not just operate them.

They see the groups of transhumanity that are operating the gates as predatory competitors in the interstellar biosphere for survival and do not wish to deal with them (yet :) ). I think they may have also had a run-in with the exsurgent virus (upon encountering the TITAN's perhaps) and so the asyncs stink of infection to them.

I think they are working with Extropians and other scientific groups to push for the "secret" unravelling of TITAN technology (and probably trying very hard to get some artefact TITAN tech from Earth itself through the Reclaimers or relic hunters).

Once they get what they want from transhumanity?...well...who knows (insert Vincent Price laughing cackle and lightning crash)...

*end wild unfounded speculation*

Extrasolar Angel Extrasolar Angel's picture
Re: The Factors - What the hell are they doing?

Well I like the above speculation.Personally I believe that the sentence about them being evolved from predatory species feeding on trapped prey indicates that they are probably trying to digest destroyed civilizations(technology, resources). Interestingly while they forbid the travel across Pandora Gates in Gatecrashing you have a story where factors are dealing with a colony that is on one world reached through a gate. So they must have moved there as well...probably.

Mankind must shed its meat chrysalis and become our true selves. We will take wing and leave for unguessable spheres

Demonseed Elite Demonseed Elite's picture
Re: The Factors - What the hell are they doing?

I also put a lot of weight into that bit about the Factors' evolutionary origins. Humanity is still influenced a great deal by our early evolutionary traits, so I tend to think that at some base level, the Factors are also. And as a species that rose to the top of their food chain by passively trapping their prey, that should make transhumanity a little bit suspicious. I can't help but think that the Factors are slowly luring transhumanity into some elaborate trap that only the Factors fully comprehend.

I like the idea that they've taken advantage of dead civilizations in the past, absorbing their advances for their own use. But I also love the idea that they've taken advantage of wounded civilizations. The ETI has provided the Factors with a favorable environment, creating dead civilizations and wounding those that aren't killed off. The Factors visit these wounded civilizations and cut deals with those eager for a short-term advantage, slowly luring that civilization into becoming the Factors' next evolutionary meal ticket.

I also personally think the Factors survived their own ETI-inspired hard take-off singularity because of their natural mistrust of potential traps. As a species who engineers their environment to kill their prey, they are suspicious of things like seed AI and Pandora Gates. Further, they discourage their use in other wounded civilizations because those things could shine a light on the Factors' predatory past. What if gatecrashing xeno-archaeologists stumble upon the ruins of a civilization that was eradicated not by the ETI, but by the Factors who visited them after their singularity event?

"It's a poor sort of memory that only works backwards." --The White Queen, Through The Looking-Glass

Xagroth Xagroth's picture
Re: The Factors - What the hell are they doing?

Demonseed Elite wrote:
What if gatecrashing xeno-archaeologists stumble upon the ruins of a civilization that was eradicated not by the ETI, but by the Factors who visited them after their singularity event?

If I understood everything right, until now only the Iktomi and the factors have been mentioned in Eclipse Phase as alien races (well, and the ETI).
Unless more alien remains appear, we can a) create a new alien species that has been eaten by the Factors, or b) the Iktomi were "digested" by the factors.
This, of course, would happen only if we follow that line of playing. And according to the "Chekhov's gun" rule, option B would be the one to go (also, Occam's Razor of choosing the simplest option: use what there is already instead of making your own).

Demonseed Elite Demonseed Elite's picture
Re: The Factors - What the hell are they doing?

Quote:

If I understood everything right, until now only the Iktomi and the factors have been mentioned in Eclipse Phase as alien races (well, and the ETI).

There are a couple more extinct alien species mentioned in Gatecrashing. None of them have any indication that the Factors led to their demise, but no one really knows.

The Iktomi may have survived their version of the Fall, because pages 92 and 93 of Gatecrashing mention Iktomi pictographs that warn about the Pandora Gates. In transhumanity's experience, the leading theory is that the Gates didn't appear until after the TITANs and were possibly built by them. If that's the case, what did kill off the Iktomi?

Still, even if the Factors aren't deliberately destroying weakened civilizations, I could certainly understand a trap-building species being especially wary of seed AI and Pandora Gates. And I'd still be concerned that humanity is getting the short end of any bargain with the Factors.

"It's a poor sort of memory that only works backwards." --The White Queen, Through The Looking-Glass

lucyfersam lucyfersam's picture
Re: The Factors - What the hell are they doing?

Quote:
If I understood everything right, until now only the Iktomi and the factors have been mentioned in Eclipse Phase as alien races (well, and the ETI).
Unless more alien remains appear, we can a) create a new alien species that has been eaten by the Factors, or b) the Iktomi were "digested" by the factors.
This, of course, would happen only if we follow that line of playing. And according to the "Chekhov's gun" rule, option B would be the one to go (also, Occam's Razor of choosing the simplest option: use what there is already instead of making your own).

It could be the reason the "rouge" factor was trying to wipe out the expedition in the fiction in Gatecrashing...

Demonseed Elite Demonseed Elite's picture
Re: The Factors - What the hell are they doing?

To further expand on the idea of the Factors taking advantage of post-Singularity civilizations, keep in mind that different colonies of Factors might be competing against each other. Instead of one over-arching conspiracy where the Factors are luring transhumanity into a trap, there could be a half-dozen different conspiracies, each one masterminded by a different Factor colony.

It could also be that Project Ozma understands more about this Factor conspiracy (or conspiracies) than anyone else in transhumanity. Project Ozma's deep levels of secrecy and wide latitude to act as it needs allow it to act (supposedly) in transhumanity's best interests, decipher deeper levels of the Factor conspiracy while trying to take advantage of this knowledge to jockey for the best outcome for transhumanity (or at lest for the Planetary Consortium).

"It's a poor sort of memory that only works backwards." --The White Queen, Through The Looking-Glass

Xagroth Xagroth's picture
Re: The Factors - What the hell are they doing?

Demonseed Elite wrote:
To further expand on the idea of the Factors taking advantage of post-Singularity civilizations, keep in mind that different colonies of Factors might be competing against each other. Instead of one over-arching conspiracy where the Factors are luring transhumanity into a trap, there could be a half-dozen different conspiracies, each one masterminded by a different Factor colony.

This would also be one of the main reasons behind the "don't use Pandora Gates" advice: it will minimize the chance of transhumanity running into another, competing, factor colony.
Myrmidont Myrmidont's picture
Re: The Factors - What the hell are they doing?

I would love more published detail on the Factors.

These are my thoughts. Needless to say, Gatecrashing and GM-section *Spoilers*.

*Wild Mass Speculation*

My first thoughts are that the Factors are waiting for something to kill us (transhumanity) off and take our technology and worlds/habs/facilities. The reason they warn us off using the Pandora gates and seed AGIs is because these are things that they themselves don't fully comprehend, and thus are x-factors in their eyes - things that could ruin a carefully laid plan. Once we've demonstrated our willingness to avoid or abandon these things, then would be the time to strike.

Their seeming ability to interface seamlessly with our technology means there are no real barriers to their occupation of transhuman habitats, worlds or starships - except us.

On Pandora Gates:
Even with the Factors knowing exactly what planets we've been to, there is simply far too much distance involved with hunting down even the majority of the exoplanet colonies - and that's not counting the gatehopping 'crashers who don't even leave a trail through the Gates. We could be through the gates in hundreds of GEVs in mere days, dragging with us parts/replicators for interstellar arkships and genetic databases and dead-stored Egos to restore millions of humans back as a viable population if something didn't wipe us out really quickly. [Not counting existing arkship projects.]

And if even a few 'crashers survived, we could hop from one planet to the next, leaving easily discovered records of how the Factors wiped us out (or, hell, broadcasting THE SLIMY GITS KILLED US through any remaining Black Boxes (c.f. Giza)) and the Factor's tactics would never work again against any alien race who discovered them.

Instead, the Factors wait for us to attract the attention of the TITANs again, or re-expose ourselves to the Exurgent Virus/ETI, and humanity will effectively wipe itself out.

On Seed AGIs:
The Factor's own Singularity was basically a mind-virus. Imagine; that you are capable of linking together with people to do powerful supercomputing. Suddenly, information from an outside source (an ETI trap) requires analysis and consideration, and something takes hold; one of your trains of thoughts - a long, convoluted stream of logic so complex it takes hundreds of your friends to help compute - begins to have a life of its own, spreading memes to more people, making them link, growing stronger and smarter all the time...

Thus, the Factor Singularity was vastly different from our own. Ours was a technological one; theirs was possible from the very beginning, waiting only for that critical mass of Factor goo and the opportunity for infection.

This is why Seed AIs and AGIs make them uneasy. They never had them, instead running copies of themselves in their own minds (forks - think 'fractal minds'). They know that once a seed AI surpasses a certain level, said AI could out-think any Factor blob - a seed AI with the right resources is superior in calculation density to anything the Factors could blob up to, and would be an incredible tactical edge in warfare. They suspect we have the Prometheans (since we've shown ourselves capable of making wild TITANs) - but they're not sure. So, if we don't have one (or more) already, they want to discourage us from making them.

On An Infinite Horizon
Another view on the Pandora Gates is that the Factors want us to stop using the Pandora Gates because of the risk (however small) of discovery of Factor activities/atrocities/colonies/all-of-the-above on other worlds. [Remember, they like to eat their prey alive, so what does a Factor farm look like? A Factor restaurant?]

With each exoplanet we colonise, the number of possible addresses and new colonies grows geometrically. Eventually, it will come to a point where contact with Factor-held Pandora gates is guaranteed. Thus, they need to cut our spread, and fast.

By this logic, the Factor on Pelagic sure as hell didn't get there through one of our gates - so it must have gotten there through one of their gates. Maybe it was a deviant, exiled through a random wormhole and encountering the Love and Rage's base by sheer malevolent chance.

Alternatively, the Factors are 'known' to have FTL drives on their starships, so this one could have been sent in a starship to keep an eye on that colony and make sure we weren't doing anything outrageous (counter-Factor biowarfare?) where they couldn't keep an eye on us. [What, you think they actually leave us unsupervised in the time they're 'away'? If anything their scrutiny would intensify, to see what we're like while they 'aren't around'.]

Alternative Case Scenarios
Factors are interstellar traders. They're like Jawas from Star Wars, selling junk to the wasters out in the desert who can't get any better. If we have non-hostile seed AGIs or use the Gates, the things we invent could surpass their junk in terms of technological superiority. we might find someone who'll undercut their prices - or we could develop our own FTL engines to the same result.

Or, the Factors are telling the truth. They really do represent a collection of other sentient alien species, and the Gates really are dangerous, linked intrinsically to the Exurgent Virus/ETI and the extinction of the Iktomi. The seed AIs we've got are secretly just as bad as the TITANs, they just haven't put their black hats on. We're playing with fire, and they're trying to save us.

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