I was talking with my wife about the game. Yet again. I think I was on some sort of tangent about an encyclopedia that would change the narrative depending on what stories one explores. At this point she has been listening to game ideas for months from me, and her patience is well into the realm of a saint. But after letting me go on for a few minutes, her eyes were glazing over, and she pointed out ot me, and in the way that only she can, that my story at this point is completely devoid of focus.
And she was absolutely right. I needed to go out into my field of ideas, and herd all of the cats back into a paddock.
On further reflection, I need a narrative hook. And ideally, a common thread that while it may not be the ultimate end of a story, is something that leads the story into one of two choices. Either closer to the core of the story, or out towards one of the many ways that lead to a ***YOU HAVE DIED***.
That vision I have come up with is a magical supercomputer. This AI has its finger on the pulse of every system on board the ship. It listens to the messages between every person on board. It knows the plans and budgets of every group. This computer is tied into the sensors, it knows the inventory on every shelf. The computer has the ship's flight plan embedded within it, and can measure how close or how far the ship is from achieving that plan. It has a massive database of human history, as well as an analytic model of human behavior.
The problem is trying to communicate any of this to the mere mortals on board.
The computer appoints a Soothsayer to act as an ambassador to the human race on board. This person spends years learning the language of the computer, and interpreting its reports. The Soothsayer then has to turn these reports into actions by the human population on board.
Your character is a hastily appointed "Apprentice" to the current Soothsayer.
As the Soothsayer's apprentice, you are issued a highly simplified version of the Soothsayer's interface to the great computer. This interface gives you a simple gauge readout of the long-term survivability of the vessel. As you advance that readout will become more detailed and complex. But initially it reports the estimated time until the vessel arrives at its destination, and the estimated time until the ship suffers a catastrophic failure leading to the death of all on board.
The vessel has 5 years left in the current voyage. It will take 20 years for the people on board to establish a self-sufficient colony once the vessel does arrive. The problem is that the current estimate until a disaster renders the ship uninhabitable is 10.3 years in the future. Plus or minus 5 years. And the number has been creeping steadily downward, as the current Soothsayer's mental state has deteriorated.
Your character will have to learn more about how this seemingly Omniscient Computer works. Find out what in its models is projecting an impending mission failure. And more importantly, find out what needs to fixed outside the model, and fix it.
Predictions from the model are... somewhat hard to translate into human speach. The computer tries, but the results are like Nostradamus run through Google Translate. Your predecessor is available early in the game to guide you through the basics. But then you find out why you were hastily appointed. She is quickly losing her mind to dementia. The medical staff estimates she has just a few months left until she's too mentally incapacitated to be allowed out in polite society, let along conduct her duties. And the computer knows this too.
While the Mentor Soothsayer is still coherent you can ask about how you will ever learn to do this job. Basically, you learn by playing games. This entire ship is a game. Every model the omniscient computer uses is a game. She takes you to an entire museum of games. It contains playable copies of games from across the ages. At the tail end of the museum are standalone versions of each of simulations the omniscient computer is playing to determine the outcome of the mission.
Your character was selected because of your age (a Soothsayer takes years to train) and the fact that as a child you beat one simulation that completely eluded all of your peers. That was proof to the computer that you have the right stuff. Nevermind all of the games that you stink at that all of those same peers know how to play much, much ' better. That particular game was the most important.
Which is why, no matter what information guidance counsellors tried to enter for your character, the computer rigged that the answer would always turn out to be Soothsayer.