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Non-combat space exploration idea, feedback welcomed


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#1 Milcho   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 1177

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Posted 20 August 2013 - 07:03 AM

I've been experimenting with this idea for a 2d top down space exploration and survival game, sort of rogue like. Feedback would be great - I'll try to point out things that I really need feedback on, but any is welcomed.

 

Some notes on small things, don't need any specific feedback, but just to give a better idea:

  1. 2D topdown view, with realistic space flight physics, barring gravity (I think it makes flight significantly more complex, but not more fun). All stellar objects (planets, moons, asteroids, stars) will be real sized. I've experimented to see if I can get it working, see this video (turn hd to see the stars in background)
  2. The 2D topdown view, and a simple solar system/galaxy map (for 'jumps' inside the system and between systems) are the only two views. No controlling crew, no other perspectives or models besides your ship and various other space objects. Crew and your character don't have any graphical design, but simply are a name and specialization + stats (base morale, hire price, salary/week that sort of thing). All interaction is done through text-based descriptions and player choices.

Some of the key gameplay ideas. I'm most interested in feedback on these:

  1. Interaction: Stopping over certain objects allows interaction and choices via a text menu (nothing fancy), and results/feedback is also given via text description. For example, stopping over ship debris allows options to scan or try to scavenge resources. Stopping over a city on a planet allows for trading (components, materials, rations), and for hiring new crew members. Further examples of interactive objects: space stations, derelict ships, asteroids, spacial anomalies, and terrestrial planets/moons
  2. Crew: You have a list of crew on your ship. Each crew member has a specialization that serves a purpose, either on ship, or on Missions (described below). Crew members also have morale (starting at random value) that takes penalties if you fail to pay their weekly salary, or if you have insufficient Rations. If a crew member's Morale gets low enough he/she leaves the ship.
    1. Pilot: needed to fly a ship. If his morale drops too low and he leaves, you are 'moved' to the last city/space station you vsited. 
    2. Commander: Increases survival odds of everyone if present in mission. Allows for 'Negotiate' option, if available on missions
    3. Engineer: allows repair of ship components whilst in space (if components are present). Guarantees safe recovery of   components if present on Missions.
    4. Scientist: Can turn Raw Data (obtained from scanning spatial anomalies) into Research Notes. Can research Unknown Objects (recovered from certain missions) and turn them into specific and valuable objects (to sell or to use). Guarantees safe recovery of Unknown Objects if present on Mission.
    5. Mercenary: Allows for 'Attack' option if present on Missions.
    6. Doctor: Can heal Badly Injured crew whilst in space. Reduces odds of any crew member dying if he's present on a Mission.
    7. Companion: Adds to crew morale, does not require a salary, only one per ship. Adds additional trade options in certain space stations/cities. Your character must have a minimum reputation before being able to ask a companion to join the crew, and have a minimum number of crew members to keep her on board.
  3. Your character: Your character is like all other crew - he has a specialization that you can pick at start. The only difference is that your character is not affected by Morale, and thus will never leave. However your character is affected by rations, and if he hasn't eaten anything in some time, he dies, resulting in Game Over.
  4. Survival: You must provide rations for your crew each day. You can select number of rations to per day (0,1,2,3 or 4) - and each provides a different Morale boost/loss to each crew. You must pay weekly salary of your crew (on individual crew basis, in full or none) - paying/not paying has a Morale boost/loss effect on each crew.
    Two types of fuel must be resupplied: Chemical fuel for free space flight, and Deuterium for FTL jumps.
    In addition to that, your Ship has various Equipment, some optional, other required to survive. Each equipment piece has a durability value that has a chance of decreasing at the end of each day. Failing to repair vital equipment results in death. (permanent). Repairing equipment can be done at a City or Space station for currency, or may be done anywhere for free, if you have an Engineer and if the needed components are available in ship inventory.
  5. Exploration: Procedurally generated systems, each containing random features. Various ship Equipment is used to explore and discover different objects and missions. Optional equipment must be purchased at Cities or Space Stations.
    1. Radio sensors: Always present, can detect directional radio transmissions (i.e. from Derelict Ships, or Crash Sites) inside a single Star System.
    2. Heat Sensors: Optional, can detect Ship Debris inside a single Star System. 
    3. Planetary Sensors: Can detect possible locations of Settlements and Ruins when near a Planet.
    4. Scientific Sensors: Can detect the presence of spatial anomalies inside a single Star System.
  6. Missions: Most interactive objects (except Cities and Space Stations) provide some sort of scripted mission. Missions are displayed as text description only, i.e.: You click Explore when stopped over a Settlement, and you're provided with a short text intro to the settlement and the people. At this point various options may open up, depending on the scripting and crew present on the mission. If you have a Commander present, you may be given an option to Nagotiate. This will result in different events happening (all through text) than if you didn't have a Commander on the Mission. Other crew member types open up various other  options if present on the mission, with branching possible at every decision point, and different rewards (or problems, such as getting one of your crew injured or killed) arise depending on the branch taken. This all happens through text commands. Missions will have to be manually written based on type, and picked at random when a Star System is generated.

So, that's the concept, more or less. The main goals in the game are to survive, explore, and get rich. I've thought about possibly including big goals like buying a new ship, but I've yet to figure out what gameplay effect this may have, though it might be good to have big goals like that.

 

I'm interested in whether you think this idea sounds interesting - it's really a 2D space flying + text adventure mix. Any comments on the gameplay mechanics - i.e. are they clear, do they sound tedious, would they be interesting would be appreciated, but any other comments, suggestions, ideas or criticism are also welcome.



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#2 Orymus3   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 10626

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Posted 20 August 2013 - 08:59 AM

I like your core idea.

One note though, would ship size affect the game in anyway? for example, is there a max to the amount of crew you can have onboard?

Also, is there a gain to having more than 1 crew of each specialization?



#3 Milcho   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 1177

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Posted 20 August 2013 - 10:14 AM

I like your core idea.

One note though, would ship size affect the game in anyway? for example, is there a max to the amount of crew you can have onboard?

Also, is there a gain to having more than 1 crew of each specialization?

 

Yes, your ship would have limited crew capacity, it would be silly otherwise.

 

I still haven't settled on having different ships yet - thinking about possible gameplay implications.

It's possible that I could have your the sensors mentioned above be slotted, and getting a new, bigger, ship would allow more than one sensor type equipped at the same time. Additionally, the scientific sensor could be something only available to bigger ships only - so that spacial anomalies could only become a source of income (and bigger income at that) at later stages.

Ship size could also have a direct correlation to inventory space, allowing for longer missions and more salvaging. The idea is that everything: rations, spare parts for repairing, salvage, recovered items, etc. would occupy some volume in the ship's inventory.

 

For the crew - the only advantage of having more than one of a certain specialist on board would be redundancy: If a crew member gets injured, he/she is unable to perform their duties on board the ship (i.e. engineers can't repair) and they're not available to be sent on missions - which is where redundant crew comes in. That's about the biggest thing I can think of.

 

My scope is currently on running a small ship, ala Firefly or Farscape. Not a huge one with hundreds of crew as in Star Trek.



#4 Norman Barrows   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 2308

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Posted 20 August 2013 - 10:21 AM


I've thought about possibly including big goals like buying a new ship, but I've yet to figure out what gameplay effect this may have, though it might be good to have big goals like that.

 

they will need to have an impact on the game.   take oblivion for example: you can buy 8 horses, but only use one at a time. you can buy 8 houses, but all it gets you is a bed and containers, and a bunch of pretty graphics. you can't even hide from the guards in your own basement. and there are beds everywhere for free, and you start the game with one container of infinite capacity (joffre's chest).  but then again, oblivion is primarily a large scale mission based shooter, and not primarily a rpg.

 

since the game is about "becoming more powerful", everything you buy must make you more powerful.

 

unless the objective is to just get money, like a high score in pinball. in which case, high score alone is a rater lame reward mechanism for this type of game. players would most likely become bored easily: "look! i just found some salvage worth 10,000 credits! who cares? it doesn't get me anything but a higher score."


Norm Barrows

Rockland Software Productions

"Building PC games since 1989"

rocklandsoftware.net

 

PLAY CAVEMAN NOW!

http://rocklandsoftware.net/beta.php

 

 


#5 Orymus3   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 10626

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Posted 20 August 2013 - 06:19 PM


For the crew - the only advantage of having more than one of a certain specialist on board would be redundancy: If a crew member gets injured, he/she is unable to perform their duties on board the ship (i.e. engineers can't repair) and they're not available to be sent on missions - which is where redundant crew comes in. That's about the biggest thing I can think of.

 

I agree that Star Trek overdoes it (1000 people on a single ship), however there was one interesting episode that I really liked where they basically explained that there are three shifts in a day (as there is in most 24h places).

 

Day shift (approx. 8-16)

Evening shift (approx. 16-24)

Night shift (approx. 24-8)

 

I doubt having 'shifts' would apply to your game given the scope, but having redundancy could somehow mean they sometimes get to sleep, which would then affect their morale positively, or rather, the lack of redundancy would affect it negatively.

 

Make sense?



#6 LorenzoGatti   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 2762

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Posted 21 August 2013 - 01:41 AM

Hiring anonymous crewmembers and having "your character" among them is utterly incoherent.

If you want a simulation, there should be no player character: all, including the commander, should be anonymous pawns, with the player identifying with the ship as a whole.

If you want a roleplaying game, the protagonist should be the designated Commander (possibly subject to mutiny, marooning, combat, and other mishaps) because the Commander is the one ordering everything discussed in your post.


Produci, consuma, crepa

#7 Milcho   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 1177

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Posted 21 August 2013 - 05:13 AM


they will need to have an impact on the game.

Yes, I agree. Having only get more money as a goal wouldn't be ultimately satisfying if there's nothing you can spend your money on.

I've worked out three ship properties that can be upgraded and which can also be weighed against each other: Cargo Space, Max Crew and Sensor Slots.

 

This can give somewhat of a variety in choosing a starting ship, and then a variety of ships when upgrading.

For example, when choosing a starting ship, you can pick one of three: One that has above-average cargo space, one that has above average crew count, and one that allows an extra sensor slot. I'm thinking that the Directional Radio sensor would be build-in function in all ships, rather than a slot.

So, new ships you can buy would improve on all aspects (cargo, crew, sensor slots), but each would have a focus of some sort, providing a bonus to one of the three categories. I think that would a be a good start to having something to look forward to in a game like this.

 


but having redundancy could somehow mean they sometimes get to sleep, which would then affect their morale positively, or rather, the lack of redundancy would affect it negatively.

Hmm, I haven't really thought about sleep, but I'm not sure I want to increase the complexity by starting to track each crew member's sleep hours. One easier option is to add a "Tired" status for a few hours to a crew member after an action (fixing, healing etc) on board the ship, or after that crew member returns from a mission. If you then have the crew member do something else while she/he has the "Tired" status, they take a penalty to Morale, and the Tired status is refreshed. The penalty would disappear if you let the Tired status expire (as if they've rested). That's something I might be able to work in without too much difficulty, though I'll have to see if it would be a mechanic worth having.

 


Hiring anonymous crewmembers and having "your character" among them is utterly incoherent.

Yeah, I can see how it looks. Originally I was planning a more complicated morale system with things like what you said -  mutiny, being marooned and such. But that didn't fit in with what I wanted, which was just a space exploration/survival game. 

The possibility of just having random crew members (they're all going to have names, so not technically anonymous) occurred to me, but then the question is this: What happens if all your crew's morale drops too low and everyone leaves? Game Over? .. I suppose that could work, actually...



#8 Orymus3   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 10626

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Posted 21 August 2013 - 05:43 AM


Hmm, I haven't really thought about sleep, but I'm not sure I want to increase the complexity by starting to track each crew member's sleep hours. One easier option is to add a "Tired" status for a few hours to a crew member after an action (fixing, healing etc) on board the ship, or after that crew member returns from a mission. If you then have the crew member do something else while she/he has the "Tired" status, they take a penalty to Morale, and the Tired status is refreshed. The penalty would disappear if you let the Tired status expire (as if they've rested). That's something I might be able to work in without too much difficulty, though I'll have to see if it would be a mechanic worth having.

 

I was thinking something simpler along the lines of:

recurring morale penalty caused by exhaustion if you have no redundancy, and that penalty would get reduced for each crew member added, maxing at 3 or 4 (shifts of 6 hours being ideal, with crew members always fully focused).



#9 Milcho   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 1177

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Posted 21 August 2013 - 07:24 AM


I was thinking something simpler along the lines of:
recurring morale penalty caused by exhaustion if you have no redundancy, and that penalty would get reduced for each crew member added, maxing at 3 or 4 (shifts of 6 hours being ideal, with crew members always fully focused).

 

Not a bad idea. I'm assuming this would only apply to people who have something to do on board, such as the PIlot, Engineer, Scientist, Doctor, Companion, and maybe the Commander (even though he doesn't have specific on-ship tasks, it can be seen as applicable). Well, I guess that's everyone except a Mercenary, since he doesn't have any real on-ship tasks.

 

I have one issue though - after all that ship size discussion, I'm leaning towards starter ships being of max crew maybe 4 - 5. In such a case, maybe each ship could have an 'optimal' number of each crew member required to operate it. If crew of certain type is lacking, they get that morale penalty that you mentioned. This would sort of tie in with different ships, i.e. potentially some more expensive ones would be more automated, requiring less crew, but performing same tasks as other less expensive ships of the same size. What do you think? Or am I making it too complicated for a player to manage?



#10 swiftcoder   Senior Moderators   -  Reputation: 10364

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Posted 21 August 2013 - 07:42 AM

I have one issue though - after all that ship size discussion, I'm leaning towards starter ships being of max crew maybe 4 - 5. In such a case, maybe each ship could have an 'optimal' number of each crew member required to operate it. If crew of certain type is lacking, they get that morale penalty that you mentioned.

I think you could simplify this even further, and just have a morale penalty for all crew members if the ship is significantly below its optimal number of crew members.

While specialties are obviously important, on a real-life ship everybody pitches in when you are short-handed. Even if the engineer takes the brunt of it when you are short on engineers, your crew is a team, and everyone runs short of sleep when there is too much work to go round.

Tristam MacDonald - Software Engineer @Amazon - [swiftcoding]


#11 Orymus3   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 10626

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Posted 21 August 2013 - 09:49 PM


I think you could simplify this even further, and just have a morale penalty for all crew members if the ship is significantly below its optimal number of crew members.

While specialties are obviously important, on a real-life ship everybody pitches in when you are short-handed. Even if the engineer takes the brunt of it when you are short on engineers, your crew is a team, and everyone runs short of sleep when there is too much work to go round.

 

Given the feel of your game, I'd also go with something like that after carefully re-thinking it through. Actual crew count would be more relevant.

If its a 4 crew ships, having less OR more crew could both result in morale drops, so that, when attempting to go anywhere over 4 (and invading everybody else's personal space), you'd need to be damn sure you need that scientist onboard.



#12 Milcho   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 1177

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Posted 22 August 2013 - 08:06 AM

Thanks for the input guys. I now have a fairly good idea of how buying new ships can affect gameplay:
 
List of ship features, dependent on ship size and specialization. Larger ships improve on all aspects, but different varieties specialize in one (or two) areas.
  • Crew Capacity: maximum number of crew members you can hire for this ship
  • Optimal Crew: A range given for each ship's optimal number of crew members. If outside the range, crew receive a morale penalty (i.e understaffed or crowded)
  • Cargo Space: measured in cubic meters - how much cargo you can carry on the ship, and all non-mounted equipment, including Rations, takes up cargo space.
  • Sensor Slots: how many sensors you can equip on this ship (excluding the default build in Directional Radiowave which comes standard with all)
  • Advanced Equipment Slot: Used for the Scientific Scanner and for the Ram Scoop.
  • Fuel Capacity: Something I overlooked. Chemical fuel is used as you free-fly around (only if you accelerate/decelerate), while Deuterium fuel would limit to how big of hops you can make between star systems
 
The mountable equipment on each ship:
  • Heat Sensors: require one free sensor slot
  • Planetary Sensors: require one free sensor slot
  • Scientific Sensors: require one free sensor slot - this only provides the location of spatial anomalies, not the ability to scan them (locations become an item and can be sold)
  • Scientific Scanner: requires one free Advanced Equipment Slot - provides the ability to scan spatial anomalies, requires Scientist to operate
  • Ram Scoop: requires one free Advanced Equipment Slot - if you fly though a Gas giant with this equipped, it replenishes your Deuterium fuel supply.
 
To give an idea of the scale I'm thinking of: starter ships would start with crew cap of 4, limited storage space (need to work out exact size), 1 sensor slots, little fuel capacity (also need to work out units) and no Advanced Equipment slots. There'll be a few starter ships to pick from, each giving a little bonus to a specific area - more crew, more fuel, more cargo or one more sensor slot. Same type of specialization would apply for later ships. The largest ship will have a crew cap of no more than 20. 
I'm also thinking of a couple of new crew roles to give a reason and a way to expand crew size:
  • Cook: If present on board, and you give more than 1 ration a day to your crew, gives a morale boost. Only one allowed on-board.
  • Xenobiologist: If present, you can send a simple exploration mission anywhere on a habitable world that has a small chance to refill your rations.


#13 swiftcoder   Senior Moderators   -  Reputation: 10364

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Posted 22 August 2013 - 08:20 AM

I'm also thinking of a couple of new crew roles to give a reason and a way to expand crew size:

I like this idea. Having a set of required roles which are needed to operate the ship, and then a large list of 'specialists' who provide specific types of bonuses.
 

Cargo Space: measured in cubic meters - how much cargo you can carry on the ship, and all non-mounted equipment, including Rations, takes up cargo space.

I'm concerned that you might be giving the player too many variables to juggle. You now have 4 separate resources that all punish the player from straying too far from a known resupply location: deuterium, chemical fuel, rations and cargo space.

Between two different types of fuel, and the need to balance available rations vs cargo space, there seems to be a lot of ways for a player to lose the game just by mismanaging basic resources.

Tristam MacDonald - Software Engineer @Amazon - [swiftcoding]


#14 Milcho   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 1177

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Posted 22 August 2013 - 08:50 AM


Between two different types of fuel, and the need to balance available rations vs cargo space, there seems to be a lot of ways for a player to lose the game just by mismanaging basic resources.

 

Hm, perhaps. Fuel can just be simplified to one type - Deuterium, and not worry about free-flight, giving a sci-fi explanation that it uses the Fusion reactors and some insignificant (read: not having a gameplay effect) amounts of Deuterium.

 

As for Rations and Cargo space - rations don't have to take up huge amounts of space, the numbers can be adjusted so that for a decent sized journey of say, an in-game week, the rations necessary, even with max crew, would take up 1% of your cargo. There's a lot of factors involved, but what I mean is that rations don't have to eat up a lot of space.

 

I'm all for simplifying things, in fact the fuel simplification doesn't sound bad at all - but I'm also ok with making the player lose the game because of resource mismanagement (to some degree). There's no combat, no real outside threats to your ship at all, so I was initially struggling of ways to introduce difficulty.



#15 swiftcoder   Senior Moderators   -  Reputation: 10364

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Posted 22 August 2013 - 09:04 AM

so I was initially struggling of ways to introduce difficulty

I'm curious whether you feel it is useful to have loss conditions at all in a non-combat exploration game with no external risks?

I could easily see an Infinite Space-style end condition (fixed mission length in years, score is how much wealth/tech you accumulated by then). In that model, running out of fuel would make you have to limp back to the home base at low speed, in the process losing valuable exploration time/incurring late arrival penalties.


Tristam MacDonald - Software Engineer @Amazon - [swiftcoding]


#16 Milcho   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 1177

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Posted 22 August 2013 - 09:47 AM


I'm curious whether you feel it is useful to have loss conditions at all in a non-combat exploration game with no external risks?

 

Well, among one of the many games that inspired me is a game called Motherload, a flash based 2d grid-digger game. It was fairly popular, and there's even a greenlight version being made. The game had you digging for different minerals, then coming back to the top to sell them. It had cargo size limits, as well as limited fuel - and essentially had you die when you ran out of fuel. Despite that, it was still interesting, and kind of addictive to push yourself to go digging deeper for better materials. It's one of the feelings I was hoping to re-create (only in space). 

 

The idea of just getting a high score as an ultimate goal doesn't have much of an appeal to me, and neither does time-limited exploration. I have some vague ideas about other possible end-game goals - possibly involving unique missions and solving some mystery - but I'm holding off on that until I get the basic gameplay settled.



#17 Jungle Friend Studios   Members   -  Reputation: 115

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Posted 23 August 2013 - 03:42 AM

I like your idea a lot... Think Smuggler in Space. I'd check out Sid Mier's Pirates on mobile for some ideas on the sort of base smuggling A.I. involved. Imagine rare items with random spawning stats and trading capability. 

 

If you want to talk more about it, my contact details are below smile.png


Edited by Jungle Friend Studios, 23 August 2013 - 03:42 AM.

Looking to meet strategic partners and other game developers!

Skype: JungleFriendMax





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