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Mechanics for space game


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#1 Misantes   GDNet+   -  Reputation: 1074

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Posted 31 August 2014 - 11:58 PM

Hey all,

So, I've been working on a little space game, mostly to get the feel for OpenGL and shaders, and everything has come along nicely. I know it's generally a better idea to have these things worked out beforehand, however, when I first started out, everything was mostly just a learning exercise. Now that things are shaping up, I could use some ideas to make the game a little more fun. So, cart before the horse and all, I thought I'd pick some brains on the forum for some ideas :)

 

What's implemented now is basically a 3D space sim, with thousands of randomly generated solar systems and planets of varying types and compositions. Each planet has randomly generated lifeforms (based loosely on the type of planet). You can fly around and suck the atmosphere/alien species out of the planets or drill for minerals, etc. Your ship has an inventory where you can store samples, or canisters of the gas, or a couple of the lifeforms etc. You can then shoot/beam these back onto your home planet, upgrade your ship, or build terraforming platforms for your home planet.

 

Initially, I was planning on having you have to make a planet viable for your species to live on. So, you'd have to balance the ecosystem with the right combination of atmosphere/species. However, in hindsight, this mostly takes place in the UI, other than the gathering/exploring, and ultimately isn't all that fun. Additionally, I'm struggling with really the implementation of that as well, as, balancing the ecosystem both needs to be simple enough to be semi-intuitive, yet deep enough to stay fun.

 

So, I'm thinking of scrapping the mechanics as they stand now. So, my question to everyone is an either/or.

 

1: Is there a way to tweak the current goals that you would find fun?

OR

2: given the structure that's already in place more or less and just tweaking things, do you have any ideas of what could be a fun game idea? I'm open to pretty much all ideas, whether you're an invading alien species and have to take over all the planets (borg-like), or maybe  change it to a physics based ping-pong game with another alien ship, using planets as the balls :P

 

Details are always nice, but even just generalities are totally appreciated. :D

 

Cheers, and thanks for any input! :)

 

 


Beginner here <- please take any opinions with grain of salt :P


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#2 Thaumaturge   Members   -  Reputation: 1481

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Posted 01 September 2014 - 07:32 AM

The planet-looting that you describe might be useful for crafting: mining and atmosphere siphoning could provide raw materials (potentially useful in constructing ships or developing new technologies), while alien life-forms might provide genetic resources with which the player can alter any ground-troops that they might be carrying.

 

Alternatively, the goal might be to develop some form of biological target--a cure for a disease, a life-form capable of surviving a particular, rather horrible planet, or some such thing, with the lifeform-looting again providing genetic resources.


MWAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!


#3 Luckless   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 1832

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Posted 01 September 2014 - 12:50 PM

How about making it focused on exploration and expansion? You are a pathfinder paving the way for colonization, and new expansion occurs based on your suggestions?

 

It is the user's responsibility to make a judgement call on each planet they come to as to what kind of resource and development, if any, is put into the system. You can't simply blindly colonize everything, but need to establish plans of growth and development, flag areas as trade hubs, and run around dealing with problems as they arise. 

 

Basically playing a StarFleet captain pushing the boundaries of civilization further out into the dark. Push too far and too fast and settlements become weak and prone to failure as 'help' from developed colonies is then too far away. Move too slowly and your approval rating will slowly begin to tank and you'll be replaced/given access to fewer resources/demoted to a lesser ship.


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#4 Misantes   GDNet+   -  Reputation: 1074

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Posted 01 September 2014 - 01:08 PM


The planet-looting that you describe might be useful for crafting: mining and atmosphere siphoning could provide raw materials (potentially useful in constructing ships or developing new technologies), while alien life-forms might provide genetic resources with which the player can alter any ground-troops that they might be carrying. Alternatively, the goal might be to develop some form of biological target--a cure for a disease, a life-form capable of surviving a particular, rather horrible planet, or some such thing, with the lifeform-looting again providing genetic resources.

 

Ah, yeah, I've already implemented this, as far as the ship upgrading/tools resource thing goes. I should have described things a little better. Except for the life-forms' genetic resource, which sounds intriguing. I've been struggling to come up with a decent reason for using the life-forms as right now they're just there to help balance out the ecosystem (which is a rather boring mechanism as of now). Typically in games, animals like that would provide meat/leather/bones for tools etc, but for a space-faring race it seemed a little silly and forced. So, I had all these randomly generated lifeforms with various attributes who didn't do much but eat each other tongue.png There wasn't a whole lot of point to gathering any of them (again, other than to balance out the ecosystem, which at the moment isn't all that intuitive or fun) But, the genetic angle I think I could definitely build on. Maybe scrap the ecosystem-building and approach things from a different angle.

 

 

How about making it focused on exploration and expansion? You are a pathfinder paving the way for colonization, and new expansion occurs based on your suggestions?

 

It is the user's responsibility to make a judgement call on each planet they come to as to what kind of resource and development, if any, is put into the system. You can't simply blindly colonize everything, but need to establish plans of growth and development, flag areas as trade hubs, and run around dealing with problems as they arise. 

 

Basically playing a StarFleet captain pushing the boundaries of civilization further out into the dark. Push too far and too fast and settlements become weak and prone to failure as 'help' from developed colonies is then too far away. Move too slowly and your approval rating will slowly begin to tank and you'll be replaced/given access to fewer resources/demoted to a lesser ship.

I love this idea. I would need to tweak things pretty heavily as right now, even with the thousand or so systems, you can see them all from any given point, more or less already. So, the expanse of space doesn't currently feel too endless (more like the stars in a galaxy, with a giant void outside that). But, the number is mostly capped by framerate currently, as if I add any more systems, things begin to dip below 60fps. But, I think I could spread things out a little, and only update/render anything within a certain radius of the player.

 

Thanks for the input, keep the ideas coming! biggrin.png


Edited by Misantes, 01 September 2014 - 01:09 PM.

Beginner here <- please take any opinions with grain of salt :P


#5 Wavinator   Moderators   -  Reputation: 1822

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Posted 01 September 2014 - 11:54 PM

Animals are challenging to make gameplay out of in a scifi game if you go the traditional routes. Fantasy has the luxury of magic, making even a rat potentially highly interactive (could talk, could be a charm, could be a pet that can steal keys, etc.). The more advance your game's tech, the more you're dealing with a situation akin to trying to find how to make ants matter to a god. 

 

When you can't find a  way to add gameplay in situations like this I've learned that it's important to look at what you're giving away for free. For instance, I think the beaming is maybe killing your idea. It cuts out tons of potential gameplay because it gives away the reward for free and makes coming up with interactivity hard because there's no gradation or variance to achieving victory.  It would be like putting autokill and invulnerability in a shooter-- of course there'd be no gameplay! biggrin.png Part of the fun is risking different strategies with different tradeoffs, which a giveaway eliminates.

 

Unless it's vital for the theme I'd switch to a lower technology that takes more steps to utilize. Can you add collectors (grays or robots or whatever) that can be risked? If players have to land their saucer and send out some kind of gatherer that's more vulnerable, the alien animals stop being ants to a god. This opens strategies like crafting and placing bait, traps that capture without killing, hunting and capturing / netting, stealth and (if you want) even combat.

 

I see nothing wrong with your original "noah's ark" sort of idea so long as you don't make it too easy to achieve. You could have survival pressures with keeping beasts alive (food, air, disease), capture risks without the automagic beam, and you could build around an entrepreneurial element if players were capturing for a variety of reasons: Zoos, private collectors, shady animal fighting rings, universities, or amoral research labs. 

 

If you wanted to keep your colony idea, you could build up to this being an ultimate achievement, or you could break it up. What if the galaxy was civilized or you were going into a new galaxy on behalf of benefactors? They might contract you to garden part of a planet, like populating a continent with different beasts for different themes (safari, research, agriculture, etc.) In this context you'd be colonizing multiple worlds, and the worlds could get more and more extreme and challenging as the clients got richer and richer.

 

If you added NPC competitors (even in abstract) you could open up dirty tricks gameplay. Maybe competitors could introduce anything from pests to xenomorph terrors, or you could do the same, all in a bid to make a world one way or another for some unseen, powerful alien client. You could even make it tougher by adding a kind of Federation / Space UN that forbids you from using the kind of technology that would again make it too easy-- like genetic plagues and the like.

 

Basically I think it comes down to salvaging your original idea by limiting what the player can do, adding detail and making the universe more alive.

 

 


--------------------Just waiting for the mothership...

#6 valrus   Members   -  Reputation: 741

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Posted 02 September 2014 - 12:25 AM

I think the idea of sucking up plants, creatures, cities, atmospheres and plopping them on other planets is a hilarious idea, like "Gray" aliens run amok.  Going further down the humor route, maybe there's no reasonable goal: at one point this sort of wholesale transplantation was for a good purpose, but it's since been lost in a gold rush, everyone going for bounties and lucrative government contracts and silly research papers in high-impact journals.  

 

So maybe you start with missions that sound like they're for the scientific and humanitarian good, like curing cancer, but soon you're completing missions like "Drop 24 gobloids from orbit into a volcano", in order to publish a paper like "The effects of volcanism on gobloid morbidity at terminal velocity", for the sole purpose scooping a rival firm and unlocking new government contracts to bid on.

 

Mechanically, it could be a race across the galaxy to complete bounties and papers before rival firms do.  Bounties give you money, papers give you prestige, and prestige unlocks more governments (which supply you with longer-term funding and more possibilities for bounties and papers).  Meanwhile, however, your rivals are trying to scoop you, as well as doing things to sabotage your projects (like plopping down predators, poisonous planets, poisonous atmospheres, etc.)

 

It might be interesting if you have no "cargo", but can control two or more ships, each carrying the end of a stabilized wormhole.  As soon as you suck up one plant/creature/city/atmosphere, it plops out from the other ship, to wonderful or terrible results.  There's an immediacy there that I think might be compelling: you get to see the juxtaposition of the gobloid's ordinary life on his home planet and his fiery death on some distant planet.


Edited by valrus, 02 September 2014 - 12:26 AM.


#7 Misantes   GDNet+   -  Reputation: 1074

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Posted 02 September 2014 - 04:40 PM


When you can't find a  way to add gameplay in situations like this I've learned that it's important to look at what you're giving away for free. For instance, I think the beaming is maybe killing your idea. It cuts out tons of potential gameplay because it gives away the reward for free and makes coming up with interactivity hard because there's no gradation or variance to achieving victory.  It would be like putting autokill and invulnerability in a shooter-- of course there'd be no gameplay! Part of the fun is risking different strategies with different tradeoffs, which a giveaway eliminates.

 

Ah, I hadn't considered scaling things back. I'm realizing it's a bit of short-sightedness on my part to typically consider only what I might add to the game. There is a bit of scaling up as it is, as the ship is upgradable to beam/store larger species, but I hadn't considered the beaming itself to be implemented as a later stage in the game. I worry there's still the problem of interacting with the life-forms being fun/not fun, and just delaying that point, but I think combined with the genetic manipulation/resources mentioned above, it can probably be salvaged.

 

Perhaps scaling things back a bit, so the player-alien is down on his luck with a banged up crappy ship that can't do much at the beginning. As mentioned, perhaps have the species have to be trapped in order to be caught could make for some more interesting gameplay

 

.

I think the idea of sucking up plants, creatures, cities, atmospheres and plopping them on other planets is a hilarious idea, like "Gray" aliens run amok.  Going further down the humor route, maybe there's no reasonable goal: at one point this sort of wholesale transplantation was for a good purpose, but it's since been lost in a gold rush, everyone going for bounties and lucrative government contracts and silly research papers in high-impact journals.  

Hehe, this is great. I might just have to do this, even if it's totally not what I had in mind. Perhaps I'll fork the game where it stands and develop one that's more along this route, and another that's more of the strategy route.

 

Thanks for all the input everyone. I'm still open to things, so, keep 'em coming. But, you've given me plenty to chew on already :D


Beginner here <- please take any opinions with grain of salt :P





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