I've resurrected an old 2d project that died a couple of years ago, trying to fix what killed it originally. It's a space game in the spirit of Space Pirates and Zombies or the old Escape Velocity-- ship combat, trading and upgrading, basically, except that the map practically has no end. Aside from technical problems, the original game suffered from lack of direction in that you could wander and collect and sell resources and do a tiny bit of fighting but there wasn't much point to it all.
So I'm now trying out procedural leveling and questing to try to give the gameplay more meaning and am looking for feedback on a couple of points:
First, concept overall and any general thoughts/ideas/cautionary tales are welcome.
More specifically, the upgrading: I'm going for simple linear leveling of ship systems in order to allow procedural advancement and let you compare yourself to others. Leveling is a matter of having a system (engine, sensor, shield) of class X. Higher systems cost more, but I can't control grinding so I'm dividing space into settled regions with each having 5 to 10 levels of upgrades. ("Wilderness" bounds these regions and features survival gameplay, equipment degradation, random loot/artifacts and possibly perma-death with the option to "fast travel" between civilized regions as a reward for questing.)
I'm assuming that challenges with this system will be a bit arbitrary. Instead of hit points, damage from things like weapons or anomalies versus defenses is a matter of the difference between class. A ship with class X shields versus class X laser fire can take about 8 to 10 hits, but only 6 to 8 hits from class X + 1 fire and so on. It's balanced now so that something 5 classes above you will one or two shot you while something five classes below can barely touch you.
Procedural questing is sketchy. I see a mix of low reputation earning linear quests (fetch, kill) and high rep earning puzzle solving with story elements similar to the old Starflight or Star Control: Clue hunting, pumping NPCs for info and whatever RPG skills I can squeeze in (hack, steal, bribe, etc.) all culminating in gathering items that will solve the quest. Story is conveyed low-fi via text from messages found / stolen and (hopefully passable) generated dialog. Solving the main quest opens fast travel to safe civilized regions and random special artifacts.
Not yet sure what failure means nor whether to play with regions having timed quests. I'm thinking losing all advancement in the new region or maybe you have to risk the wilderness.
That's the basics. Main worry so far is not making the universe generic, which I think regions & loot will help and whether or not procedural questing will actually work (story who/what/why is dicey, as is decent procedurally generated characterization through dialogue).