Life is quite busy! I'm trying to chew through database programming material for a new job, which is in healthcare. Although it's not the most exciting thing in the universe, I work with some really cool people. I'm also, thanks to the tender loving folks at the IRS, enjoying having more than $0.37 USD in my bank account... just don't tell anyone that I now program in Visual Basic, okay? o_O
The local lottery here is up to $250 million. The only thing I can think about is how many games I could make with that. (Of course, with next gen budget balloonage, probably two... anyways...)
I finally have the cash to buy game tools! I picked up the Torque Shader Engine, Character Viewer and Torque 2D. I'm getting into learning the viewer because I really want to see what my models look like in their engine. But I can't seem to get WinCVS to download TSE! I'm going to fight with it a bit more before I try switching to an older version of WinCVS.
The real thing I want to talk about for a moment is this, though: What are some credible ways to build a galaxy?
One major problem I find in trying to come up with new game design ideas is the search for validation. You might have an awesome idea with great potential. Or you might just be off your freakin' rocker.
This is one of those areas. How do you even approach an idea as intimidating and potentially overwhelming as trying to generate the illusion of a seemingly boundless play space? Our galaxy contains between 100 and 400 billion stars, more than anyone could ever explore in any lifetime. How can you create the sense that not only can the player strike out in any direction as often as they like, but that there'll be something interesting to do when they get there?
I've got several ideas here. The first, as I've written about before, is "Go Anywhere Gameplay." Whatever you are as a character, that's what generates the gameplay. It could be a ship filled with mutinous pirates, or the cybernetics, AI and nanotech in your own body.
But that by itself is not enough. There needs to be the sense of story, there need to be interesting places to go, and worthwhile characters to meet/defeat.
I'm considering a number of issues here:
- Simple one, but how do you name everything? I don't like the results I've seen of some of the random technologies like Markov lists, so I'm experimenting with phonemes. Ideally, I can both screen for inappropriate names (or even legally verbotten ones, like "Skywalker"), and create grammars that match the disposition of the race (harsh sounding words for a harsh culture, IOW)
- What does the world look like and what is a planet good for, let alone a solar system? This is a hard design conundrum because it basically asks what the player can do and what they're supposed to be doing. Should every planet be a threat of some kind? Should there always be resources? How many "duds" can there be, even if it's realistic to find a barren, radiations blasted wasteland without life or minerals of value?
- How do you (or do you?) keep the player focused? If the play space is too large, they may wander down so many paths that they get swamped and can't even remember the main goal.
I think one of the biggest secrets lies in giving the illusion of boundless space but making the player so involved that they don't need to find its edges. I'll explore this more in coming posts.