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A MMOG space trade & empire design, input please!

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I know everyone and their dog snickers at these MMOG threads but please bear with me and offer your personal input on this game design: Game Type: A space trading & warfare game. Trade, build, blow up thy neighbor. Think Escape Velocity on a MMO scale. Setting: A solar system kind of like ours, with about, say, 10 planets an asteroid belt, etc. Technology: No warp speed, no jump gates, just good old cold fusion. Gametype: Emphasis on PvP+ play. The major NPC's are actually the planets of the solar system which regulate trade prices, and major ship construction projects. Minor NPC's exist, just sparsely. The game will use 3d graphics. People like them. Gamestyle: A "realistic" approach. Ships have mass, and an appropriate amount of energy needs to be used to move that mass. Ships cannot do hairpin turns unless they are small enough to afford such maneuvers or have engines to match the required movement of mass. Travel between planets takes about 30 real time minutes on average. [Before you flip out and say WTF please read more.] The overall effect would be more akin to ships at sea than super fast star blazing ships nuking each other. Consequently the game play is more contemplative and less of a twitch game. Also there is planetary gravity and solar gravity, meaning players actually can orbit the sun or around planets. Things rotate around the Sun at about 10x realtime! :o Gameplay: A forced turn based game. After 30 seconds the next "round" is issued. Every PC ship is controlled by AI. Players feed objectives and play styles into the AI and watch as it is carried out in "real-time." The player turn is the window of opportunity in which a player can 1. update his ship's AI and 2. manually control ships by issuing overriding orders. When a turn cycles the sever updates the players AI routines and makes the necessary changes. Players commonly own more than one ship. Most players will have anywhere from 0-100 ships as their direct personal property. (You do not need a ship to play the game, more on this later. Also the number of ships is limited by server CPU power so that 100 number is just a guess.) The player can switch between any of his ships instantly. The player ships are however held accountable to player actions, in other words if one of your ships on the other side of the solar system makes some enemies all of your ships are treated as "you." Commonly a player will have many ships heading to many destinations at once and can "micro manage" where and when necessary. An example: Ship 1: on route to moon2 with cargo ETA: 20 min Ships 2-23: in an active war zone in conflict with playerX ETA: now Ship 24-25: parked in Marz4 orbit and in active trade with playerb, and Marz4's Zeno space station NextETA: 3 min etc etc. In the above example the players attention is needed wherever is most important, or exciting. In this case I would probably want to watch the battle in case my opponent is controlling his AI manually. (Humans will always be better at tactics that the AI literally cannot interpret) A human controlling a large attack fleet will always be better off than an unattended fleet. Or perhaps a major deal is being haggled about over ship 24&25's cargo that could be potentially more important than any silly war halfway across the solar system, the player should pay more attention to trade. Or maybe ship 1's cargo is the most important element to look after. Players can form up to a six-tier command hierarchy. Horizontal power structures can be infinite. command hierarchies are useful for 1. shared protection 2. Better trade agreements 3. More ship control 4. More resources. Players with certain command options turned on can agree to control allied ship AI (also direct control is possible.) The player controlling another player's ships becomes a temporary owner. So if you have the right alliances you could technically control 0-1,000+ ships at once. Depending on how the command hierarchy is built (yes its player defined but fear not presets are available) you could be the commander of 10 capital-class ships and be a part of a larger 200 ship army. Climbing the command hierarchy is one of the greatest challenges of the game because it is based on player trust and not some abstract value. If you blow up other people's ships irresponsibly chances our not many people will want to ally with you or place themselves under your control. If you deliver on your promises, and increase your alliances wealth then you will probably be promoted in the command hierarchy or be offered a good position within another alliance. Now for some things most modern MMOG's don't do: (section formerly called "shockers") 1. Players cannot "log out" their ships. When they log off the AI continues to do what it was told to do to the best of its ability. If you have allies they generally will look out for your ships (because it is within their best interest to do so!) Fear not, you can "park" your ships in a planetary orbit, effectively safe from all but the most desperate attacks. (planets do not like fighting in their "airspace" and do not pick sides in a conflict, bad for business all around.) 2. No levels. None. No requirements. None. If you log in as a newbie, and your friend wants to give you 20 Deathstar class heavy cruisers, that is his choice and is welcome to do so. You’re given command of your new property as soon as the trade is complete. 3. Ships take time to build, or at least the ones that are not sold "used" or already premade. Planets are the main ship producing elements in the solar system, however space stations can also produce ships, its just not very likely they will be as cheap. Also major ships are almost exponentially more expensive than a small fighter. Usually most players cannot buy a capitol ship outright (unless he is mr. money banks) and often has to finance his ship. If the ship gets blown up or stolen he still will have to make payments or face planitrary wraith. Players can pool their resources in their alliance to fund the bigger projects. 4. Major celestial bodies are known to all players. The map is revealed. 5. Permadeath. If a ship blows up, say bye bye to said ship. Sorry dude, hopefully your not the kind of player to put all his eggs in one basket? Or at least you have some good friends or can hire your services? Maybe watch after someone's ship for them while their offline until you get some credits maybe? 6. No skills. A ship can shoot its guns and fly to the best of its ability. 7. No undiscovered technology. No, none. You know what can be built if you have the necessary money, parts, connections etc. It's just entirely up to the player to meet those goals. Everyone knows about the Ion Cannon Earth Smashing weapon system, but regretfully your ship's chasis don't quite fit that capital ship type weaponry. Nor do you have the funds, or even the need to buy such hardware. Ok ok, you might be asking yourself what is the goal? How do you become l33t? Answer: Your value to other player's is the greatest measure of worth. If you play the straight and narrow conservative general chances are people will put their warships under your, (or one of your subordinates) control. If you’re the trader that always finds the best deals in the solar system; players will flock to you and offer their services to secure the best deals. IF your the dread pirate Roberts and have than nasty group of thugs who don't give a shit about what sort of alliances your enemy is protected by perhaps your services can be of some value, or maybe people just try to stay the heck away from you altogether. Also players can build space stations. Space stations basically become a smaller planet under player control. Trade can be managed by the space station’s players, or adapting to surrounding economical rates. Building a Space station is one sure fire way to become “l33t” but you need a lot of resources and protection to back up your operation lest some pirate wants it for his own. Space station level trade will almost be necessary to purchase or finance the really large capitol ships. Another important thing to note: There will be asteroids that are resource rich. Players will flock to them to secure valuable resources at a fraction of planetary cost. Essentially the player will prospect for mineral rich asteroids. Questions? Comments so far? Also note: more design elements are explored in the thread replies. [edited by - Critical_Waste on June 6, 2003 10:57:07 PM]

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http://www.dr-dimento.com

Follow the links to Diaspora, Xiaspora, Rillaspora.

They are very similar to what you just explained, and fun

Kartekasoft is actually about to design an asteroid-like version of our space-conquest project called Lacuna Forge Lite, Our Lacuna Forge being very similar to your idea and that of Diaspora.

Epiloth

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quote:
Original post by Epiloth
They are very similar to what you just explained, and fun
Excuse me for asking, but could you name in what ways the two ( many ) ideas/games are similar? I am not familier with the games you mentioned.

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They are almost exactly alike except 3 things:

1) You're probably thinking in 3D terms, correct? .. Well Diaspora and all her clones (Xiaspora, Rillaspora, etc) Are 2D mmog's, using sprites of 3d images.

2) You seem to be thinking in terms of controlling an 'army' of ships. This is different than Diaspora, and more like Homeworld.

3) Your ships take time to build. They are instantly constructed in Diaspora-style games. Again, this is more like homeworld.

Everything else is pretty much like Diaspora.

You start out a newly trained rogue pilot with 20k. Buy the cheapest scout or tradeship and trade for hours on end to get enough money to buy a good scout ship, so you can explore the next planet, buy better ship designs, then build them, and continue this until you're in the best ship in the game.

The original Diaspora had sidequests, the clones do not. The game operates mainly due to the players. It is a player controlled game, meaning guilds decide what happens and the game is mostly political. Making their own wars (PvP) and so on.

A great idea, but was not wise of Phil to use javascript as the original code. The game was great for almost 4 years, continually improving and becoming more fun. But in 2001 the server crashed, and has yet to come back online. No official announcement ever given. So now the veterans (illegally, though Phill doesn't seem to care) host 'clones' of Diaspora on home computer networks, etc.....

[edited by - Epiloth on June 5, 2003 4:32:31 AM]

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quote:
Original post by Epiloth
Everything else is pretty much like Diaspora.

Whoa, so your telling me someone has invented a MMOG with a six tier command heirarchy that is customizable, user defined, and a major factor in player policy? Where the heck have I been?

EDIT: So the long travel times and the lack of "total control" of your ships doesn't bother you?

quote:
Original post by m_wherrett
/me snickers
And you! You cannot just snicker and leave. Tell me what is laughable about it please! Also keep in mind we are not talking about techincal feasbility here, just the design aspects presented so far... Thanks for your time.


[edited by - Critical_Waste on June 5, 2003 5:00:45 AM]

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I like it, I find it pretty nice, altough the amount of simulation is a lot (thus server requirements would be high), even if no players are logged in (since the ships will still be there). I mean, saying you have few NPCs (the planets, and the likes), might give the feel that there wont be that big amount of process power lost in stuff players arent involved, but having the players have up to 100 ships, will be create at the worst case 100 NPCs ... well, kind of, I guess you can get the point, lots of processing since that is 100 logic units around per player ... as you said it will depend on the server processing power, I will hope up to 10, I know it seems small, but is more realistic (not that it cant be 100, just an initial guess, also an unknowlegeable guess, since I dont have the knowledge to make those types of analysis ...).

besides the real amount that you will be able to have I say is 1) something that can be done, 2) something that will atract people (I am already interested, for example ).

about what I said about the 100 ships per player, lowering the number automatically raises the number of players you can have (probably not proportionally, but it raises the number) if you mantain the processing power needed, with that said, I would say do it in a way you can play with the values, so you can adjust that before having the final mechanics of the games up (since you might want to add some stuff, or do other stuff different if the players can control a lower amount of ships ...)


once again, I find it a really nice game idea

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Yep, I have nothing against the design, it''s cool, I was just pointing out some similarities to an old favorite game of mine.

One thing to keep in mind is that you don''t always have to be 3D to attract lots of players. Diaspora and all her clones are 2D, and they still have hundreds of players in and around their communities. (Most old-time players, but they are still growing, despite being 2D)

Another thing to think about is to not have an army of ships at your disposal. We see this type of warfare in games like StarLegion, Homeworld, and many other games. This is just my opinion, I don''t like commanding armies, but some people do.

I think in order for a game like this to be great you should be very open ended and vague. Have side-quests but they shouldn''t be a main aspect of the game. They should enhance the story or the enjoyment, but not necessary to have fun. (Grand Theft Auto 3 style)

The reason for this is that if you institute a guild system where you are allowed to assign ranks and permissions, coupled with a very strong PvP system. The players will make their own story through political agendas and guild wars. The game will create it''s own history and it''s own culture that you probably will not expect.

So far so good, great job.

Epiloth

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Its an interesting idea, more like a MMORTS.

From a PvP point of view, I''m not too sure about the planets being a safe haven. For PvP to work you need something to fight over, inevitably this means resourses. If Planets can''t be fought over, you need some kind of other resourse that can be protected/raided and is worthwhile doing so.

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EDIT: Spell checked the original post.

Actually the design is more like a MMOTBS (Massive Multiplayer Online Turn Based Strategy) than a RTS. One major reason it is more of a "turn based game" as opposed to a "real time" game is the pacing. People would usually know a good deal ahead of time that you are coming to get them and have ample time to ready themselves and create a plan a defense or attack. This is hardly the case in most modern RTS''s so I draw a distinction between the two in my mind.

The planets have to be somewhat safe. I say somewhat because anyone can attack a another players ships in orbit, chances are the planet will retaliate and punish you economically though. Also noobies need some place to "start out" and I am not going to get rid of planetary defense. Another reason for the planets power "eclipsing" player power is to drive home the point that there are billions (robots, humans?) living on each planet and they would rather live in peace. If you could swoop down and destroy any AFK players ships with little fear of rapid and coordinated retaliation chances are the same player would want to conquer the planets themselves (but this game is not about that!)

I didn''t include it in the original post but players can build space stations. Space stations basically become a smaller planet under player control. Trade can be managed by the space station’s players, or adapting to surrounding economical rates. Taking over fellow space stations will cause war. Space station level trade will almost be necessary to purchase or finance the really large capitol ships.

Also there will be asteroids that are resource rich. Players will flock to them to secure valuable resources at a fraction of planetary cost. This will cause conflict. Trust me.

quote:
I think in order for a game like this to be great you should be very open ended and vague. Have side-quests but they shouldn''t be a main aspect of the game. They should enhance the story or the enjoyment, but not necessary to have fun. (Grand Theft Auto 3 style)

The reason for this is that if you institute a guild system where you are allowed to assign ranks and permissions, coupled with a very strong PvP system. The players will make their own story through political agendas and guild wars. The game will create it''s own history and it''s own culture that you probably will not expect.
I see your already catching on to the real intent of the game! This is a good thing. I really am happy about this!

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A few more things:

The way planets work in Diaspora is like this; you (and your guild) stop by at a planet and there are two choices. Land at the planet, or attack the Guild Satellite.

Using or accessing a planet that is not controlled by your guild means you pay taxes, automatically drafted and not that even that much, but still taxed. (non-guild players are not charged)

Destroying a guild satellite: (which takes 10 of the best ships in the game 15 minutes, and that is if the satellite was fully upgraded and the enemy wasn''t repairing the satellite while you shot it). Doing this would leave a destroyed satellite in space. First person to land on it can buy it and thus, that guild now owns the planet. The more you upgrade it, the more taxes you make.

The Satellite can also be set to shoot on site by specific playername or guild.

In the glory days of Diaspora, it was thought bad of to shoot other players at planetside. Even enemies during war would not shoot their enemy if they were sitting planetside. It was just common practice held by everyone. Unfortunatly now in the clones, ruthless PKers run around because nobody is there to slap them on the hand (no council)

You see, Diaspora had a council of 12 veteran players who were great players, guild owners, and co-creators. Dia really was a community game, because the players spoke to the council, the council passed laws, rules, etc, and then Phill created it and did the actual work for these things to work. The council-members also had powers to temporarily ban IP addy''s(24 hours)
but of course as things happen, a few of the council members would always become ''corrupt'' especially since they were part of guilds who were constantly at war with other guilds. Refunding of money also became a big problem with abuse. So.... Just a few more things to keep an eye out for, don''t give too much power to too many players, if you setup a council that is.

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Guest Anonymous Poster
Tradewars, an old text based online game, incorporated many of the "shockers" you mentioned.

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quote:
Original post by eglasius
about planets, I would say make the planets have a strong defense system, thus anyone can attack someone at the planet but then they will 99% die since the planet would strike back ...

I could have swore I made this clear... If you attack someone around a planet they will indeed strike back, possibly blowing up the offending ship and placing economic sanctions on you. Sorry if I did not make this clear.

So far no one has been turned off by the fact that most of the game is macro-manangement of your ships or other players ships in your allience?

No one is upset by the long travel times? It will take about 9 hours real life time to get from one side of the solor system to the Sun you know... This is not a problem?


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As long as it''s possible to find plenty of interesting things to do in a given small area I don''t see the problem. If on the other hand every time I want to mine an asteroid I have to spend 2 hours flying across the solar system, mine for 15 minutes, and spend 2 hours flying back THEN I won''t be happy.

I like the sound of your game by the way. And that Diaspora that someone mentioned sounds interesting. I actually like the idea of corrupt council members giving their guilds unfair boosts, makes the game seem more real and alive.

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there you go, now go make a design document, grab a team a make fortune ... well, if it were that easy, lol, but ... I think it will be A GREAT game, you hit it on the nose, now dont loose it.

Go on, dont stop.

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I like your idea, except for the turnbased strategy part. I would really like to see an MMO game based off of these ideas, but also with combat being very much like wing commander...I have a topic down on the board, but its been almost ignored. but i like your idea still.

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quote:
Original post by Dobbs
As long as it''s possible to find plenty of interesting things to do in a given small area I don''t see the problem. If on the other hand every time I want to mine an asteroid I have to spend 2 hours flying across the solar system, mine for 15 minutes, and spend 2 hours flying back THEN I won''t be happy.

I like the sound of your game by the way. And that Diaspora that someone mentioned sounds interesting. I actually like the idea of corrupt council members giving their guilds unfair boosts, makes the game seem more real and alive.


Yar, yes there will be plenty of things to do around the planets. Most conservative players would probably build space stations in far orbit from the said planets in order to act as a middle man on trade prices. They buy from the planet in bulk with a huge freighter class ship and deliver the goods to the space station for "dollars" on each ton extra. The space station would then be 1. closer than planet "A" acting as a middle man for smaller time traders who will not care or notoice the small diffrence in value on certian trade goods, while saving a lot of time not having to travel the extra miles to the planet itself. Since space stations will spring up acting as middle men or just as a hub of a prominiate guild''s "reserve" forces, I predict an entire subsystem of trade would delevop between the planets themselves. Add in large deposits from astroid mining to the mix and you have a dynamic market. "Carbon" might actually be cheaper out by space station "X-4,43,13". Also another consideration is the demand of rogue players. Most likely the real killer types have pissed off every planet in the solar system, they could however go through a middle man via a space station. Also I predict there will be a lot of warfare just beyond the "reach" of planets.

Now about the astroids... sorry to say most prospecting will probably require some forthought. (AKA time.) The reason? Most astroids/comits are further away from the planets for balence reasons. Astroids will be points of focus in much the same way as prominate space stations and planets are to players. They will not be easly depleted and act as mini planets in a way, just with no ability to trade. The player''s must mine the rock to get the goods.

The good news is you can dispatch a astroid mining fleet to certian rocks and then switch over to other points of interest within your realm of control/interest. To watch a single ship fly all the way out to a single rock would be rather boring. My hope would be that the player would focus his attention elsewhere in the meantime. Prehaps checking for the most lurative trade prices and / or deals the astroid will bring in maybe? That is what I would do as a player. So yeah in a round about way I am saying some things will take time. But you can always start a war if you want.

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well, base the size of the galaxy (shall I call all your space a galaxy? ...) on the amount of players/ships you will suport, since you dont want to have players roaming alone in the galaxy all the time, thus make it small enough to have players run with each other from time to time (a fairly small amount of time).

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quote:
Original post by robert4818
I like your idea, except for the turnbased strategy part. I would really like to see an MMO game based off of these ideas, but also with combat being very much like wing commander...I have a topic down on the board, but its been almost ignored. but i like your idea still.
Yeah, I hear you man. I would love to play a MMO Wing Commander type game. It cannot be done on a large scale (yet) though. Our good old friend "lag" is always present, not to mention server requirements sore when trying for something along the lines of real time. Also real time AI is next to impossible for a MMO game, and the focus of AI for this design is something that I find very interesting. Oh yeah an added benifit of the turn based model is that players will not notice any lag. I think this a major plus.

You know I am sort of surprized that most people are not scared off by the fact that you do not have "real time" control of your ships. I thought this would be a major breaking point in the design. I am also shocked that the longer time scale induced by travel times is not offensive to most "players".

So far a rather promising response.

PS> I am working on the said idea. However we are aiming for a working design/demo of the project and it will by no means be full featured. Our goal is to either 1. form a group (with funding) and build the idea 2. Sell the working idea so far.

The nice thing about space games is the lack of demand for 3d models such as trees, hills, levels, etc. Also we don't have the manpower to create a good NPC/quest system so its almost entirely dependent on the players to create the climate. Not that I liked NPC's very much anyways...

quote:
Original post by eglasius
well, base the size of the galaxy (shall I call all your space a galaxy? ...) on the amount of players/ships you will suport, since you dont want to have players roaming alone in the galaxy all the time, thus make it small enough to have players run with each other from time to time (a fairly small amount of time).
Ya know space is huge. I mean really really really huge. Players will probably not bump into each other in transsit between major points of interest unless they plan to run into each other. You can definately watch the action elsewhere in the solar system (sorry a galexy is rather too large for this design) and talk to other players though.

Here check out Celestia it is an awesome application and it really does drive home the point about space being really really big.


[edited by - Critical_Waste on June 6, 2003 4:14:43 PM]

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quote:
Original post by robert4818
Actually what I was thinking was an MMO that's more a mix of planetside (full PVP), Shadowbane (guild run/building), and Wing Commander (space based combat)
Actually this design accomidates all these aspects. The game is full PVP+ already. There are guilds based on command hierachies. There are space stations (buildings) and there is a definate focus on space warfare.

I think the major difference between the two ideas is that you're probalby thinking 1st/3rd person limited, and only a few ships under player control in a real time game. This design is 1st/3rd person "omnipotent" with a possibly large number of ships under a player's control, in a turn based format.

Personally I have always wanted a space-warfare based game ever since doodling a "starwar" on a piece of paper as a little kid.



[edited by - Critical_Waste on June 6, 2003 4:11:17 PM]

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hmm, the only downside I am finding is that if space is THAT huge, player interaction might be low, and since you dont have other stuff to do it might get boring fast.

well, thinking it 2 times, if you have BIG alliances, it is probably that a lots of times someone of your alliance will be at war, and he/she will probably want to give you control of his/her ships (more pcs controlling your ships means better chances of surviving) ...

hmm, well, is a matter of thinking about it a lot, but big alliances is a must, which means you need to be carefull about overpowered alliances (which usually gets a lot of jerks at some point), and people who are left alone (there can be nice and skilled newbies that dont find a nice group), including a lot of support on rating players, looking other groups, ...

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quote:
Original post by eglasius
hmm, the only downside I am finding is that if space is THAT huge, player interaction might be low, and since you dont have other stuff to do it might get boring fast.

well, thinking it 2 times, if you have BIG alliances, it is probably that a lots of times someone of your alliance will be at war, and he/she will probably want to give you control of his/her ships (more pcs controlling your ships means better chances of surviving) ...

hmm, well, is a matter of thinking about it a lot, but big alliances is a must, which means you need to be carefull about overpowered alliances (which usually gets a lot of jerks at some point), and people who are left alone (there can be nice and skilled newbies that dont find a nice group), including a lot of support on rating players, looking other groups, ...
About your first point, I am scared that players will not "reach out" to other players enough as well. You can however watch them flying by if you desired to. Even if a player was relatively alone he could setup trade deals, or establish an allience.

If you think about it most players in Everquest (and a lot of game like it) are rather "alone" as well. I do not know how many times people would run past me even though I was asking a question or trying to get their attention. So I am not sure I ever was online with other people even though I was surrounded by thousands of them...

I have a feeling the big alliances will not form unless players trust each other. This is a good thing. I have not talked a lot about alliances because 1. We have actually began running tests of a working alliance system 2. It is very complex if you really get into it.

As far as the alliances becoming too powerful, well, other players will realize when a certain group is getting too large, and they will probably form a temp alliance to "take them down" a bit. If one branch of an existing alliance decides to break off from a large group you just might have a civil war on your hands. Also consider most players have trouble forming parties in exsisting MMO games. Another thing to consider is player greed. If the major alliances become way too polar you can always introduce a offer a certain general cannot refuse... :D

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