The Sector was settled by people from the Domain of Man, a galaxy-spanning human superpower. About 206 Earth years (known as "cycles" in the Sector) before the time of the game, the gates connecting the Sector to the rest of the galaxy failed mysteriously, in an event known as the Collapse. Cut off from the stability and economic support of the central government, the Sector was soon hit by a range of calamities including famine, brigandage, technological regression, and a general breakdown of society. In response, several factions such as the Hegemony formed to restore some semblance of order.
At the time of the game, most manufacturing was done by autofactories reading from blueprints on a Universal Access Chip (UAC). Only a minority of colonists had the expertise needed to even start the autofactories. After the Collapse, powerful, organised groups seized whatever UACs they could acquire, often by force.