The Guild-State: A Framework for Understanding Guild Behavior in Star Atlas

By Published On: 21 January 2023Tags: ,

Star Atlas — The next evolution of governance?

For many, Star Atlas is a grand-strategy MMORPG filled with space battles and galactic conquest. But to others, Star Atlas represents the next evolution in societal governance enabled mainly by Web3 technology.

By some definition, the metaverse is a shared social space that exists in the digital realm. This space operates in parallel to everyday society. As a shared metaverse, Star Atlas will serve as one of the next iterations of meta-social constructs that have been established by games like Second Life, Entropia Online, and EVE Online. As a metaverse, Star Atlas will have its own economics, politics, and cultural customs.

It has been stated that Star Atlas will be an evolution in governance; decentralized governance models replacing centralized democracy at some point in the far future. In the Star Atlas metaverse, states built around national identity will not exist. Even pre-defined game factions will be transcended at some point for constructs that people will self-determine and coalesce around.

If Star Atlas is to be a grand experiment in decentralized governance, then who will act as the main players in this new galactic hegemony? In the current global system, nation-states act as the main players in international political relations.

Since Star Atlas seeks to transcend the current geographically defined nation-state system, it is only natural that nation-states be supplanted by a new form of centralized societal organization.

In Star Atlas, guilds or guild-states will become the new hegemonic power.

And while Star Atlas and Web3 offers an opportunity at a more open, equitable, and decentralized society, the tools and governance systems to enable such an ideal are still nascent. Furthermore, human psychology and societal behavior has yet to adapt to these new ideological norms as well.

Thus, without definitive evidence that Web3 technology will dramatically shift governance behavior, we must rely on well-established international relations concepts, modified slightly for the Star Atlas metaverse.

International Relations Theory

Defining Interstellar Relations

In Star Atlas, the term international relations can be used interchangeably with the term interstellar relations. Additionally, nation-states can be replaced by guild-states. By establishing these two base terms, we can further dissect guild-state behavior.

Where defines a Guild-State?

With a base framework in place, we can now begin assessing Star Atlas guild behavior. First, we must establish what is a guild-state.

While scholars have many overarching criteria for what defines a state, the common characteristics of states are:

  • Definable and defendable borders recognized by other states
  • Interstellar systems of government (hierarchies)
  • Sovereignty over territory (legitimate use of force, rule of law)

If a Star Atlas guild meets, or seeks to meet, these criteria now or in the future, then they can be considered as a guild-state.

Interstellar Relations — Idealism vs Realism

In sum, the concepts of Interstellar Relations draw heavily upon the theories of Earth’s international relations. The two major paradigms of Liberalism and Realism remain largely intact until evidence suggests either these models prove non-applicable or the influence of Web3 technology evolves upon existing models.


Liberalism is one of the two major theories in interstellar relations. Liberalism argues that all guild-states do not have the same goals based on selfish interests but that a guild-state will relate with another guild-state based on its internal norms and culture. Liberalist believe that human nature is not inherently bad, and that guild-states are capable of cooperating to the extent of forgoing their interests to achieve a collective goal.

Liberalism suggests, in fact, that guild-states can peacefully co-exist, and that guild-states aren’t always on the brink of war. Liberal scholars point to the fact that despite the persistence of armed conflict, most guild-states are not at war most of the time. Liberalism argues that relations between nations are not always a zero-sum game. A zero-sum game is one in which any gain by one player is automatically a loss by another player. One’s gains in security, for example, doesn’t make someone else worse off, and vice versa. Liberal theory also points to the fact that despite the condition of anarchy in the galaxy, most guild-states are not at war, most of the time. So, the idea that interstellar relations must be conducted as though one were always under the threat of attack isn’t necessarily indicative of reality.

Liberalists think that interactions between guild-states should be based on international law and morality, not just on power. Liberalists want to create a democratic and peaceful galaxy where everyone can have a say.


Realism is the other dominant schools of thought in interstellar relations theory, theoretically formalizing the Realpolitik statesmanship of early modern Earth. Although a highly diverse body of thought, it is unified by the belief that interstellar politics is always and necessarily a field of conflict among guild-states pursuing wealth and power. Realists think that individuals and society are not inherently benevolent but rather self-centered and competitive. This perspective, views humanoid nature as egocentric (not necessarily selfish) and conflictual unless there exist conditions under which beings may coexist. It is also disposed of the notion that an individual’s intuitive nature is made up of anarchy. In regard to self-interest, individuals and guild-states are self-reliant and are motivated in seeking more power.

Realism suggests that guild-states should and do look out for their own interests first. Realism presumes that guild-states are out for themselves first and foremost. The galaxy is therefore a dangerous place; a guild-state has look out for themselves and prepare for the worst. What matters, then, is how much economic and especially military power a guild-state has. When your neighbor misbehaves, you can’t call the Council of Peace.

Classical realists say this is just nature. By nature, individuals are at some level greedy and insecure and behave accordingly. So even if you’re not greedy and insecure, you have to behave that way, because that’s the game. Structural realists say it’s more about how the galaxy is organized — an anarchic system creates the Hobbesian state of nature, referring to the 16th century Earth philosopher who justified the existence of the guild-state by comparing it to a somewhat hypothetical “state of nature,” a war of all against all. So, guild-states should seek peace, but prepare for war.

Star Atlas Guild-States and Interstellar Relations

Through qualitative analysis of Star Atlas guild-state’s policies, actions, and public statements — particularly as they pertain towards other guild-states.

It’s important to note that ideologies of Guild-States can change over time. Further, a Guild-States outward interstellar relations behavior may or may not be indicative of Guild-State leader’s personnel beliefs. Guild-States that are more democratic in nature are likely to have policies that are reflective of the interests of the broader populous as opposed to a single individual or group.

At the onset of 2023, a general analysis of the Star Atlas Interstellar Relations spectrum is thus:

Interstellar Relations Spectrum in Star Atlas

Note: Guild-States denoted with an asterisk are confirmed Pirate Guilds. Should pirate guilds, or any other guild for that matter, not meet the criteria for a Guild-State then Interstellar Relations theory would prove inapplicable.

As we can see from initial guild-state behavior, the scope of Star Atlas guilds covers nearly the entire Interstellar Relations spectrum, much like in international relations.

Its important to note that Liberalism and Realism are not measures of whether a guild-state will initiate conflict. Instead, they are measures of how a guild-state is likely to perceive the Star Atlas metaverse and enact diplomatic policies.

Guild-states that lean towards Realism view the Star Atlas system as anarchic, and thus view other guild-state security posturing with relative concern.

Guild-states that lean towards idealism, believe that shared values and strong interstellar laws and customs will prevent increasing conflict.

Again, its important to note that Guild-state ideation is not reflective of any one individual within the guild-state, but rather a summation of an entire Guild-state’s governance and bureaucratic systems and policies. Guild-State behavior will certainly change over time, this is to be expected. Certain macro-governance effects may even skew the entire spectrum either towards Liberalism or Realism. In either case, by using the Guild-State framework, Interstellar Relations scientists and analysts can now begin to study, analyze, and discuss Guild-State behavior in Star Atlas.

About the Author: Krigs

An ardent supporter of emerging technologies, Krigs has been covering blockchain games for over two years and believes passionately in their power to revolutionize our collective gaming experience.

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