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Should Random Events Interrupt Missions?

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Okay, I''ve got plans for randomly generated missions or free roaming gameplay. The free-roaming stuff is made up partly by complete, self-contained gameplay (like trade, or theft) that you can do all day, but I plan to inject random events which should mix things up. An example would be a distress call you can answer which gets you into intrigue and adventure. With missions, though, I''m assuming you''re going to be focused on completing the objectives. Something like a distress call would be a distraction, and might pull you off focus-- maybe even confuse you if there are several objectives to complete. OTOH, after awhile the randomly generated missions will look similar, even if there are lots of different varying factors. So random events could be just the things. And it also might be odd that all of a suddent the universe becomes a bit more lifeless once you take a mission. Decisions, decisions. Any bright ideas? -------------------- Just waiting for the mothership...

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I think it''s a good idea. To ensure they dont'' get distracted from the mission, make their objectives accessible (F12 or something) at any time. It would also be interesting to make them chose what they think is the right thing to do: ignore the distress call and complete the mission, or help those in need and fail the mission.

When you find yourself in the company of a halfling and an ill-tempered Dragon, remember, you do not have to outrun the Dragon...

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quote:
Original post by Wavinator
maybe even confuse you if there are several objectives to complete.


Which can be a major turnoff. A player might get confused, thinking that he should respond to every distress call. When he is doing one, another pops out, and the idea of free-roaming world will no longer exist.

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They do this in a lot of movies. The hero is on track but then something crops up (the kid he told to wait at the car didn''t and is now in trouble). The hero must detour to save the kid AND still stop the bomb going off.

Done well this actually adds to the feeling that a game world is real. Done badly and it is just another randomly generated, unconnected sub-quest.

Dan Marchant
Obscure Productions (www.obscure.co.uk)
Game Development & Design consultant

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I strongly recommond having random elements injected into mission from time to time. Since they will help make things interesting and add verity. I remember playing a game a few years ago that was completly randomly genereated quests and it was fun at first but quickly became dull since all the quests consisted of

Take this [package/letter] to [building type] in [town] and they will pay you [random amount of money].

or

I was [robbed/attacked] by bandits they are located at [random map location], please [recover purse/kill bandits] and I''ll pay you [random amount of money].


A little verity would have greatly spiced up the game.

Nothing makes a game more interesting and exciting then change and discover, espicailly when it happens when you are least expecting it. The player is making the usual cash building transport mission from x to y when all of a sudden sensors pickup a worm hole or ancient deralict vessel.


That gives me an idea, what about a seiger that use a telepathic cloak, to disguse it self as a derelict vessel or space station?



-----------------------------------------------------
"Fate and Destiny only give you the opportunity the rest you have to do on your own."
Current Design project: Ambitions Slave

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quote:
Original post by TechnoGoth
I strongly recommond having random elements injected into mission from time to time. Since they will help make things interesting and add verity. I remember playing a game a few years ago that was completly randomly genereated quests and it was fun at first but quickly became dull since all the quests consisted of

Take this [package/letter] to [building type] in [town] and they will pay you [random amount of money].

or

I was [robbed/attacked] by bandits they are located at [random map location], please [recover purse/kill bandits] and I''ll pay you [random amount of money].



Gotcha. I hope to be able to do better than this, but after awhile like with anything you''ll notice the pattern.

quote:

Nothing makes a game more interesting and exciting then change and discover, espicailly when it happens when you are least expecting it. The player is making the usual cash building transport mission from x to y when all of a sudden sensors pickup a worm hole or ancient deralict vessel.


Very much agreed. I love games like Morrowind and Escape Velocity, both open ended, but after awhile, you become a FedEx rep with combat abilities. Events at least liven things up.

quote:

That gives me an idea, what about a seiger that use a telepathic cloak, to disguse it self as a derelict vessel or space station?



Oh, now that''s NASTY!!! You''ve got it, definitely going in!!!

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Just waiting for the mothership...

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quote:
Original post by CyberSlag5k
I think it''s a good idea. To ensure they dont'' get distracted from the mission, make their objectives accessible (F12 or something) at any time. It would also be interesting to make them chose what they think is the right thing to do: ignore the distress call and complete the mission, or help those in need and fail the mission.



Yes, you''d trade off your reputation and standing with a faction for the possibility of, say, reward, or treasure information, or a loyal friend who would later appear in the game.





quote:
Original post by alnite
quote:
Original post by Wavinator
maybe even confuse you if there are several objectives to complete.


Which can be a major turnoff. A player might get confused, thinking that he should respond to every distress call. When he is doing one, another pops out, and the idea of free-roaming world will no longer exist.


It sound like I''d better make it clear when something is on mission or off mission, maybe with waypoint cursors and symbols. If you get a distress call from one direction, but here a cry for help in another, you can then make your decision. Do you think that would work?




quote:
Original post by Obscure
Done well this actually adds to the feeling that a game world is real. Done badly and it is just another randomly generated, unconnected sub-quest.



I should warn you that the whole intent is for it to be unconnected. For instance, if you''re in a warzone, and your job is to rescue three diplomats in three locations, you might run across any number of people who need help. But they''re not the diplomats.

I guess the careful tradeoff is whether or not there should be a living world which goes on despite you, or one that''s built solely around you. I''m more inclined to the former because it gives more freedom, but some may feel orphaned by that approach.



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Just waiting for the mothership...

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I''m going to be completely honest. As I read through your posts here, and through the rest of the forum, it looks like you''re really just making the Escape Velocity series with a few minor gameplay tweaks. I mean, the space combat, free roaming gameplay, random factors, all of them are pretty much contained in the latest iteration of Escape Velocity. I''m just curious as to what it is that you are doing differently.



New and improved! Yet still under construction.

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A "telepathic cloak"? So we have to have telepaths on staff to defend ourselves now? =) Our are there going to be telepathic machines? That''s scary indeed.

I''m a huge fan of random events interrupting missions. The more non-linearity the better. =)

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I think random elements are good, if they''re not too far out of the way of the normal mission. So you''re travelling to your next objective and get a distress call. If this distress call could actually refer to the mission objective in some way, it''d help keep your focus. Even if it''s something like the distressed ship fleeing a disaster on the planet you''re flying to. It''d help keep it relevant to your mission and maybe even help fuel your enthusiasm to complete your main objectives.

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quote:
Original post by AnonymousPosterChild
I''m going to be completely honest. As I read through your posts here, and through the rest of the forum, it looks like you''re really just making the Escape Velocity series with a few minor gameplay tweaks. I mean, the space combat, free roaming gameplay, random factors, all of them are pretty much contained in the latest iteration of Escape Velocity. I''m just curious as to what it is that you are doing differently.





Thanks APC, this kind of feedback actually IS very useful, believe it or not. EV players would be part of my target market, but here''s the core gameplay I''m hoping to go for to distinguish this game:


  • Stealth is a form of standalone gameplay, meaning it''s as interesting as combat to steal, sneak around, scan targets, and track or lose pursuers
  • Ditto for trade: In EV, it''s flat out boring. Two cures for this will be free trade, which has a race to port component and volatile goods and prices; and contract trade, which has a E-bay style mini-game for bidding for contracts and the risk of putting up collateral
  • Ground mode: Hopefully using the same engine for space gameplay, vehicle & person interaction with NPCs that have hidden needs revealed through conversation contests
  • Changing the gameworld by affecting key objects or NPCs
  • Morale and loyalty development of crew


Admittedly this is alot, and some of this stuff is going to get cut (heh, always easier to cut features than to add). But as addictive as I find EV, it doesn''t go in this direction. I''m trying more for the EV meets Master of Orion approach, with a dash of Sims.

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Just waiting for the mothership...

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quote:
Original post by serratemplar
A "telepathic cloak"? So we have to have telepaths on staff to defend ourselves now? =) Our are there going to be telepathic machines? That''s scary indeed.



Would you settle for telepathic monsters and a playable race that mostly only uses psionics? A big feature in the game are Siegers, space monsters big as a ship that devour civilizations. The cloak is for them, and the Zelenae, the psionics only race.

quote:

I''m a huge fan of random events interrupting missions. The more non-linearity the better. =)


I very much agree! This is great for players who like to find their own way.


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Just waiting for the mothership...

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quote:
Original post by downgraded
I think random elements are good, if they''re not too far out of the way of the normal mission. So you''re travelling to your next objective and get a distress call. If this distress call could actually refer to the mission objective in some way, it''d help keep your focus. Even if it''s something like the distressed ship fleeing a disaster on the planet you''re flying to. It''d help keep it relevant to your mission and maybe even help fuel your enthusiasm to complete your main objectives.


Okay, this is a great idea, and it should occur naturally with what I have in mind (the map determines the events, so they''re "semi-random").

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Just waiting for the mothership...

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Okay, just don''t base the game entirely on purely generated missions - they get very repetative (see X-Wing vs. Tie).

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Holy crap.

Wavinator. I am so excited by this I don''t know what to say. :D

I am looking forward to a psionic race as an opponent. Moreover, fighting space monsters is a nice reminder of MOO2. Bring em on.

*this coder is dancing!*

(There is no constructive criticism in this post. Just happiness.)

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Hmmm, random events

Generally, my opinion on that stuff is that it is great, but only for so long. The FedEx point is very valid. Have a look at the Privateer and Freelancer games as an example, or if you want a very negative example, take the X series. In those games, you have literally no choice but to FedEx through large parts of the game, only because you need to make money to buy a suitable ship for the next stage of the game. (OK, in the first Privateer you basically just traded and flew random missions until you had a maxed-out Centurion). By doing this, you lose those people who just want to get through the storyline without interruption or at least as quickly as possible, be it due to limited time to spend on the game or personal style. IMHO, those necessary downtimes are just a sign of missing content.

A potential problem with "interrupting events" is a loss of "realism". It just is not right when you are on a story mission that requires your presence to save someone from an attack and then head off to save some bozo who couldn''t steer around an asteroid. This should not be possible if the current story mission is "time critical". You don''t even actually need a timer, just make it very clear to the player that not directly going for the mission waypoints will be loss of mission, and perhaps suppress random events for that duration (a possible explanation would be "limited battlegroup communications" or something).

Oh, and make sure to get the quantities right. If you get a distress call every 5 minutes, you''d probably quickly come to the conclusion that there must be a "dumb pilots" faction with a very large base somewhere. Well, such a thing might actually be useful for some low-paying tutorial rescue missions, in a MMO version this would be placed near the Newbie Nebula along with the space bunnies and rats

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quote:
Original post by Pxtl
Okay, just don''t base the game entirely on purely generated missions - they get very repetative (see X-Wing vs. Tie).


Can you explain this a bit. I''ve played XW vs. TF, but only a bit (gave up due to the ridiculous difficulty rampup that seems to be in all of Lucas Arts'' space games).

I''ve got a pretty long list of atomic mission actions, you know the standard rescue, interdict, catch, chase, destroy, defend, etc.

I plan to throw in mutators, such as time limits (always generous!), stealth, resource limits, and terrain limits that reduce / enhance your stats.

The last thing I want to be able to do is chain strings of missions together so that states stay similar-- you build a base, the base is still there next mission, you take out a base, the base is gone next mission.

But I don''t plan to hand craft missions at all. Do you see this as a major problem?

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Just waiting for the mothership...

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quote:
Original post by serratemplar
(There is no constructive criticism in this post. Just happiness.)


Okay, but don''t jinx it now!


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quote:
Original post by Shadowdancer
Generally, my opinion on that stuff is that it is great, but only for so long. The FedEx point is very valid. Have a look at the Privateer and Freelancer games as an example, or if you want a very negative example, take the X series. In those games, you have literally no choice but to FedEx through large parts of the game, only because you need to make money to buy a suitable ship for the next stage of the game.



Okay, having played these games, I have to ask: Why is there so little gameplay that the only thing you have to look forward to is a cool ship in order to fight? Why can’t you fight right out of the gate? Why isn’t there a need for shuttles with cheap guns to fight skirmishes among miners, squabbling homesteaders and up and coming gangs?

And why isn’t trade interesting enough to nearly stand on its own? Why can’t there be treasure hunting? Waypoint based ship racing? Rewards for scanning dangerous areas in the midst of tumultous anomalies?

The thing I hate is that we get this choice between a super-scripted, non-replayable game like Tachyon, where you can’t even leave the base without missions holding your hand, or huge empty worlds without meaning because there’s no story placing you at the center of the universe.

There has got to be a better way.


quote:

(OK, in the first Privateer you basically just traded and flew random missions until you had a maxed-out Centurion).



Hah, I always went for the fighters loaded with lasers versus those evil Retros!

quote:

A potential problem with "interrupting events" is a loss of "realism".



But this goes both ways. If a region is pirate infested and generates alot of pirate encounters, will you find it odd that they’re suddenly quiet everytime you get a mission?

Worse, yet, you could easily use this system to powermax: Take a mission you have no intention of finishing just to get to a lucrative trade area. In pirate infested communities, prices would be sky high due to scarcity. So you just take a mission, the game quiets the encounters, and then you make a killing without any risk—which becomes VERY boring.

quote:

It just is not right when you are on a story mission that requires your presence to save someone from an attack and then head off to save some bozo who couldn't steer around an asteroid.



Right there I see that as a problem: By creating a bozo who couldn’t steer mission, you lose respect for the other NPCs. But what about someone who’s been disabled in a system filled with dangerous fast moving gas and dust? I’ve changed the situation only to see if that makes any difference in how you feel.

quote:

This should not be possible if the current story mission is "time critical". You don't even actually need a timer, just make it very clear to the player that not directly going for the mission waypoints will be loss of mission, and perhaps suppress random events for that duration (a possible explanation would be "limited battlegroup communications" or something).


What if the game told you there would be a tradeoff via dialog / NPCs. For instance, you get a mission to disable a jumpgate before a main invasion force gets through. Skirmishes already dot the system, though. Your mission giver says to you, “Don’t get distracted out there. If you don’t disable that gate in time, this system is lost.” And it would be, the system would change hands if you failed.


quote:

Oh, and make sure to get the quantities right. If you get a distress call every 5 minutes, you'd probably quickly come to the conclusion that there must be a "dumb pilots" faction with a very large base somewhere.


I agree pacing is important, but I can’t not see making allowances for large-scale situations like war and disaster. But otherwise, I think you’re right.


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

[edited by - Wavinator on June 10, 2004 12:49:49 AM]

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I agree with the dialogue thing, and was about to post it myself. But, don''t just tell the player when the get the first mission, but also tell them when the get the distracting mission: "Sir, we have recieved a distress call from a ship under atack. Should we continue to the jumpgate or rescue the ship captain? We probably only have time for one."

--------------------------------------
I am the master of stories.....
If only I could just write them down...

I just saw this quote and had to put it here, "Just look at 99% of entertainment, it''s all in your face detritus."

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quote:
Original post by Wavinator
Thanks APC, this kind of feedback actually IS very useful, believe it or not.



Just trying ot break free of the loung

quote:

Stealth is a form of standalone gameplay, meaning it's as interesting as combat to steal, sneak around, scan targets, and track or lose pursuers



I have to do this a lot, albeit on a less complex scale, in EV:Nova. Seems I pissed off the Geese dudes and now they're trying to kill me, so if they are about to warp into the system, I better run.

quote:

Ditto for trade: In EV, it's flat out boring. Two cures for this will be free trade, which has a race to port component and volatile goods and prices; and contract trade, which has a E-bay style mini-game for bidding for contracts and the risk of putting up collateral



Also similar to EV:Nova, but I do like the idea of an eBay like minigame. Also, Some sort of system where I could go out by foot and seek out better paying customers would be interesting.

quote:

Ground mode: Hopefully using the same engine for space gameplay, vehicle & person interaction with NPCs that have hidden needs revealed through conversation contests



Now THIS I like. EV kinda pissed me off in the sense that landing was little more than a series of menus. Seemed like a cop out, all things considered.
There's going to be a black market, right? I needs my black market.

quote:

Changing the gameworld by affecting key objects or NPCs
Morale and loyalty development of crew



I see this as being the hardest to implement/potentially annoying. Crew morale will seem good if its high, but if they all jump ship and you're stranded, it'll be more annoying than anything.



New and improved! Yet still under construction.

[edited by - AnonymousPosterChild on June 11, 2004 2:20:26 AM]

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I think interrupting missions would be great. One way to look at it is when someone asks for something while the player is on another mission that is just more information for the player.

When someone asks you for help you''ll know of a certain event that happened and you may be able to use that somehow to your advantage on your current mission or later on.

Also, maybe you could have a game mechanic made just for this sort of situation. Maybe there could be a way to ask the person the severity of the issue and how long you can wait to take care of it for them.

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quote:
Original post by Wavinator
Okay, having played these games, I have to ask: Why is there so little gameplay that the only thing you have to look forward to is a cool ship in order to fight? Why can’t you fight right out of the gate? Why isn’t there a need for shuttles with cheap guns to fight skirmishes among miners, squabbling homesteaders and up and coming gangs?



Judging from two short psychology lectures, I''d say this is due to a natural human need to feel improvement. Most players just won''t be satisfied by flying a cheap one-laser shuttle killing cheap stuff for weeks on end. Granted, there are people who actually want to do this, but I guess the majority doesn''t. This way, you can avoid a lot of actual gameplay by giving the plaer rewards like bigger ships, better weapons and more explosions.

quote:

And why isn’t trade interesting enough to nearly stand on its own? Why can’t there be treasure hunting? Waypoint based ship racing? Rewards for scanning dangerous areas in the midst of tumultous anomalies?

The thing I hate is that we get this choice between a super-scripted, non-replayable game like Tachyon, where you can’t even leave the base without missions holding your hand, or huge empty worlds without meaning because there’s no story placing you at the center of the universe.



The first step to make trade interesting would be to make a working economy system that is fast enough to actually display a natural looking behaviour, but still slow enough for the player. Some examples:

- Privateer 1 and 2 had some kind of pseudo-random economy that actually worked quite well, the player had the chance to know where to buy and sell stuff at reasonable prices. The price spans were specific to the base types, so there always was a chance at profit. Privateer 2 improved on that with public, not mission-bound events like crop disease that would influence price in a predictable way and gave you a reasonable amout of time to react.

- X2 has a full-blown economy system, but it is waaaay to fast. Large quantities of goods are bought and sold so quickly that the player has little chance of making a good deal. Prices are literally ruined while you''re looking at the menus.

- Patrician has a great dynamic game economy. You have to be on your toes, but it is not as frustrating as X2 because trade volumes are smaller. Also, there are many "side-quests" like multi-part treasure maps, pirate hunts, etc. to keep the player busy. This is probably something you''ll want to have a look at.


quote:

But this goes both ways. If a region is pirate infested and generates alot of pirate encounters, will you find it odd that they’re suddenly quiet everytime you get a mission?

Worse, yet, you could easily use this system to powermax: Take a mission you have no intention of finishing just to get to a lucrative trade area. In pirate infested communities, prices would be sky high due to scarcity. So you just take a mission, the game quiets the encounters, and then you make a killing without any risk—which becomes VERY boring.



That''s exactly the problem I thought of when writing the "time critical" special case. There may be story missions that need not be finished anytime soon. During those missions, it''d actually be OK to have any interruptions possible. E.g. if your "mission" is just something along the lines of "talk to A at station X", there is just no reason to decativate the rest of the universe.

quote:

quote:

It just is not right when you are on a story mission that requires your presence to save someone from an attack and then head off to save some bozo who couldn''t steer around an asteroid.



Right there I see that as a problem: By creating a bozo who couldn’t steer mission, you lose respect for the other NPCs. But what about someone who’s been disabled in a system filled with dangerous fast moving gas and dust? I’ve changed the situation only to see if that makes any difference in how you feel.

 [...]

What if the game told you there would be a tradeoff [fulfilling a mission vs. a random event] via dialog / NPCs. For instance, you get a mission to disable a jumpgate before a main invasion force gets through. Skirmishes already dot the system, though. Your mission giver says to you, “Don’t get distracted out there. If you don’t disable that gate in time, this system is lost.” And it would be, the system would change hands if you failed.



The bozo part was just an exaggeration to clarify the situation. If your story design would allow for the loss of "key objectives", then everything goes. But if you have critical missions, you''ll have to signal that to the player, or (s)he will get pissed. However, don''t you think there would be a metric buttload of distress calls in a war area anyway? The whole concept of event filtering is to prevent uncontrolled "the player has left the storyline" situations.

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