Ryders are single-seater, humanoid combat mechs serving the role of "fighter" units.
The specific origins of mechanized humanoid space superiority vehicles remains unknown. Ancient artifacts suggest that ryders have been used in space combat up to 3000 years before the re-recording of history. The exact purpose and functionality of ryders during ancient times is speculative. However, the current dominant theory is that ryders were used for ceremonial as well as military purposes during Ryuvia's time, with all soldiers donning highly elaborate frames depending on their social status and military rank.
Commentators have noted that Ancient Ryuvian technology (Lost Technology) intentionally sabotaged their own effectiveness. As the power of the Ryuvian Empire grew and the resources and knowledge of thousands of worlds were gathered through instantaneous warp travel, the destructive power of humans increased ever exponentially. Ultimately, the Ryuvian Emperor mandated various forms of arms control for fear that humanity would destroy itself with its near limitless power. Ceremony replaced function as the driving force of military life. Tradition and Emperor worship were tenants of Ryuvian society, and thus much of Ryuvian life was centered around religion and rituals. The ultimate goal was both to limit the development of galaxy destroying weaponry, as well as to promote loyalty to the Emperor.
But not even these rituals could prevent the amassing of war weapons and the Ryuvian Empire destroyed itself in a massive war of succession to the throne, taking much of humanity's technology with it.
To be sure, some form of ryder technology still survived, and even immediately after the Ryuvian Wars, there are indications that some ryders were in use by the few survivors left on Ryuvia Prime. However, these ryders were weapons of desperation constructed after centuries of warfare, and were mere shells of their ancient forms.
In the centuries following the collapse of Ryuvia, humans scrapped together whatever steel shells they could muster to take to the stars once more. Most initial starships were aerodynamic in design, as humans lost their once vast space manufacturing centers, and most ships had to be constructed and serviced on land.
The modern ryder truly came into existence some time near the year 398, when a band of Alliance explorers discovered a fully functional Ancient Ryuvian ryder by accident. Armed with ancient technology far more destructive than anything the Alliance had seen before, the original ryder was hailed as one of the most important lost technology discoveries of the modern era. Facing a desperate war against the New Empire, Alliance scientists quickly replicated the original ryder without much understanding of its functions. Once the tide of war turned against the New Empire, Imperial scientists quickly stole and copied the Alliance ryder designs as well. From there, the ryder design proliferated throughout the galaxy, until it was adopted by galactic powers and crime lords alike.
By the time the story of Sunrider opens (circa 503), nearly every faction in the galaxy had adopted ryder technology for over 100 years. The ryder's functions are now better understood, and various refinements have been made to the ryders which were used during the Imperial-Alliance War. A century of training space pilots using ryders, as well as the substantial expenses which were expended to even understand ryder technology have made switching to another form of space superiority vehicle untenable for most governments. The vast majority of the best pilot instructors are experienced in ryder combat, and most scientists and engineers have dedicated their lives to understanding the original ryder design, and so substantial political, financial, and bureaucratic forces stand in the way of abandoning ryders.
To be sure, ryders are not without their disadvantages. Ryders are almost exclusively space superiority vehicles, and even grazing a planet's atmosphere is considered suicidal by most ryder pilots. Ryders are uniformly manufactured in space to reduce manufacturing costs, and most never set foot on a terrestrial environment during their operational cycle. While a modern ryder could theoretically survive atmospheric re-entry, ryders do not carry enough fuel to operate on land and would most likely be flatted on the ground upon impact. Carrying ryders on landing ships for land operations have seen various fiasco as well, ranging from ryders toppling over, bursting on fire, fuel shortages, and mold interfering with delicate electrical systems. Some criminal rings have been reported using ryders to terrorize isolated human settlements on land, but aside from the fear factor, a well placed human bazooka will cause a ryder to topple over spectacularly and/or burst into flames. Some experimental land based ryders involved strapping enormous jet packs containing tons of fuel to allow it to fly in a terrestrial environment... but the fiery end result of that experiment was so tragic that all the scientists involved were thereafter blacklisted from every reputable research academy in Alliance space.
- Paladin (limited production experimental series, only one is seen in the game)
- Seraphim (a common scout at the time of the Holy Ryuvian Empire, but only one is known to be exist in the present)
- Sam's post about ryders on the forums