Originally Vortex was a life bearing planet but according to the Atlantean Library, it at some point lost its ability to produce food (whether in whole or just not to the level required by the Vortexkind is ambiguous).
It is suggested (but not proven) that most if not all of Vortex is covered in water, explaining why tool crafting and intelligence arose in an aquatic species rather than a land based species. A second theory is that only the Tube and the Machine are immersed in water, as in the Dark Future wherein much of the Vortex architecture contained dry land and areas where they would be forced to exit the water. However, this would apparently pose a problem to warrior drones that die upon entering shallow water and lower pressures.
Another speculation is that the Vortex at some point mechanized parts, if not all, of the surface of the planet with installations and machinery, perhaps being the cause of Vortex losing its capability of producing its own food.
The Vortex may also have entered a state where they were unable to feed their species due to a state of overpopulation.
The Vortex hive on their homeworld is known as the Machine and is navigated by Ecco during the conclusion of Ecco the Dolphin. The Vortex Queen is forced to detatch from and abandon this hive after being defeated by Ecco.
It would later have a counterpart on Earth called the New Machine that served most of the same purposes as the original.
- If indeed covered entirely with water, Vortex matches the description of other aquatic life bearing worlds found in various science fiction media.