Powered by Jitbit .Net Forum free trial version.

HomeSunless Skies

For the discussion of our Sunless Skies, released January 2019.

On the subject of terminology Messages in this topic - RSS

Posts: 536

My thread about adding engine and speed mechanics has attracted a bit of discussion about terminology in Sunless Skies, i feel that debate warrants its own seperate thread.

Those things you soar around the high wilderness in, what really ARE they? A lot of words are used interchangeably, but i think most of them are not correct

According to wikipedia, a train is a set of interconnected vehicles (cars, or carriages). Their motion being powered either by internal self motors, or by a seperate locomotive pulling the train.
Since our things in sunless skies are only a single object, and not a series of several things linked together, Train doesn't seem a correct word for them


"A locomotive or engine is a rail transport vehicle that provides the motive power for a train. A locomotive has no payload capacity of its own, and its sole purpose is to move the train along the tracks.[1]"

The word locomotive, sometimes called engine, refers to the front car of a train. Its the thing that does the work, with the other cars expected to do whatever else is necessary. Hold passengers or cargo, hold mounted guns, etc (yep guns on trains are actually a thing!)
Given that our things are not simply for moving, but also have other purposes too, i don't believe locomotive is a correct term


Another peculiarity. Engine seems to have two relevant uses here.
The first, and the one that i really care about, is the more generic definition: An engine is a machine that converts energy from one type to another - typically energy gained from some kind of input (burning fuel, supplying electricity, turning cranks) into mechanical energy to move other machines

The other use of Engine, as mentioned above, is interchangeable with locomotive. But as mentioned, a locomotive is a specialised single purpose vehicle, and i believe the reason they're called engines is simply because they're an engine on wheels with very little else. Which is to say, if a locomotive did other things besides powering movement, it wouldn't be called an engine

All of the above terms refer specifically to something in a certain configuration. None of them can correctly apply to what we have - a full vehicle with multiple internal compartments and facilities. From various ingame texts, it's clear that your vessel has not only a bridge and a whole seperate engine room, but also barracks with beds for the crew, and at least a galley for preparing food. A cargo hold for storing valueables is there too. I'm sure we'll find mentions of countless other internal rooms if we scour storylets, it's far too complex a vessel to be called an engine or locomotive. But as a single vessel, train isn't correct either

If none of those are correct, what is left?


Terminology was so much simpler in sunless sea, a transplantation of naval culture in its entireity. A ship is a large watercraft, and there's not much standing water in this setting.
However, in science fiction settings, ship is often used to refer to spacegoing vehicles too.
Wikipedia doesn't agree with that, FWIW, and instead redirects us to:

A bit of a mouthful, but this seems to be the closest we have to a widely accepted generic term for vehicles that travel in space. IT's the first one i've found which doesn't have any obvious disqualifying factors, and could be technically correct

This term is entirely fictional, but it does have its own page. A vessel designed to travel around and between star systems. Actually fits what we have pretty perfectly. The four regions in the game are infact star systems, and we will be doing interstellar travel once albion is released. (We seem to have floating islands rather than planets, but that's a minor detail)

Steam Rocket
A final suggestion, and an odd one, but this does correctly describe the kind of propulsion we have. In sunless skies our engines heat up water into highly pressurised steam, and we open it to release it from the vessel in order to provide thrust away from the direction of release. This is how our trains move, turn and strafe
It's not entirely clear what the chimney on the front is for, it seems entirely extraneous since it doesn't contribute at all to thrust. Perhaps simply an emergency vent to prevent pressure going too high

All of the train related terms unfortunately, just seem to be rather unsuitable
Of all the terms i've looked into, any of the last three seem to be the most technically correct. Only the last one preserves the pseudo steampunk culture the writers are going for, but it is a bit of a mouthful
I like starship personally, with an unspoken agreement that "ship" is just a shortening of starship, and doesn't refer to watergoing ships

What are your thoughts, dear readers?
edited by Nanako on 2/1/2018

Sunless Skies needs engine and speed control mechanics. Have a look at my design proposal for implementing it

+1 link
Posts: 7

When choosing words to describe something in a fantasy setting being tehcnically correct is the last on the list. The focus is on conveying the essence of the setting in a way that the players vscerally understand. This is why train, locomotive & engine are used to describe these ships - the writers want the players to truly feel like they're "flying" a train.

Besides, space trains don't exist in real life so who's to say skyfarers didn't appropriate these terms? Surely Victorians cared less about the technicalities of the words they're using and more about the connotation they carry.
+1 link

Powered by Jitbit Forum © 2006-2013 Jitbit Software