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Numsgil

Getting You to the Fringes

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Although I'm gong to speak in terms of my own game, I think this is applicable to every game with a map for the player to explore. How do you encourage the player to go to the fringes? In my space game, that means how do you balance out the fact that most stars are in the center of the galaxy. The player is trying to find stars with intelligent life. I was thinking about something like: 1. Life is more likely to form in the fringes. I think I like this one the best, since you can say something about the increased radiation from neighboring stars creating free radicals that disrupt the development of life in the core. 2. Empires are judged in terms of geographic size instead of number of stars. This is fairly artificial IMO. 3. Don't do anything. Players will spend most of their time in the main center, and only rarely venture into the fringes. 4. Stars at the fringe are more likely to have uber items that are of value, since they rarely get looted. I could see a similar problem popping up in a free roaming RPG. How do you get the player to venture into the areas which are less dense in areas of interest? What is the most natural way? I remember in the Ultima series, they'd hide Easter Eggs in the wilderness (like the software pirate in Ultima 7 part 2). Doing nothing about it means that the player will stick to the denser areas, such as towns in RPG's and galactic centers in space games, which may not be a problem if you don't mind that no one will see that land in the middle of nowhere.

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Sounds like a story/level design issue, mostly. Player who want to explore will sour every inch if he/she realizes there may be something valuable. You know: "There is said to be a fountain of youth and a sea of gold on some oddball planet in the farthest reaches of space...bah-blah-blah".

Maybe stars that are further out tend to be of a certain age, while the core worlds tend to be younger. That could lead to having ancient treasures spread out around the fringes, modern worlds closer in, and relatively new worlds/civilizations closer in. (With exceptions of course.)

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I don't really know a lot about what you're planning, but it would be a bit dull if you didn't leave an area which had some mystery about it. I would leave most of the fringes boring enough that the player wouldn't want to waste their time with them, but send the player out from time to time on quests to discover the hidden things, or unlock new areas they didn't know about before.

Mark this up as 3+4 :)

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If you are trying to force the players to explore the fringes, just make some nonsense about how the black hole at the center of the milky way is growing stronger, the closest stars are falling in, etc.

Also, the planets in the center are the ones with the most people, right? So the systems farther from the center would be wilderness, which gets stronger the farther away it is.

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Lots of possibilities here.

1. If your empire gets big enough, you'll need to expand fringeward anyway.

2. Maybe you have to go out in the boonies to get around the empire of some aliens you don't get along with very well.

3. Fringe planets could have tradable resources either different from other planets, or in higher quantity. (Think spice in Dune.)

4. That's where Big Powerful Aliens Who Blew Themselves Up lived, and discovering bits of their tech is a big old quest type thingy. There could also be a mystery about why they died that you can try to learn the answer to, to keep your people from doing the same thing.

5. Occasional reports of someone else's lost colony ships that were headed that way but were never heard from again. So you'd be trying to find out if they were alive or not...if not, you might be able to salvage their supplies, if so, you might be able to set up trades of resources or knowledge with them.

6. Scientific anomalies like wormholes or quasars or something that you'd want info about. (It worked for Star Trek anyway...heck, you could use just about every method of exploration from Star Trek, because no one can deny that they explored a hell of a lot of places. :P)

I really think that you don't need to do a whole lot of this though. If the goal of finding intelligent life is integral enough and important enough, most players would explore everywhere they possibly could in hopes of finding another civilization. How are you doing the aliens anyway? I'd think a ton of alien races would be best, because (a) there's a lot of space and (b) the more variety in what you can find, the more interesting it'll be to try to find it.

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Quote:
Original post by Numsgil
How do you get the player to venture into the areas which are less dense in areas of interest?


Lots of good suggestions but I'd consider tackling the assumption here directly: These areas must be "as dense" in terms of interest. If in the middle or center you have some sort of interaction ratio of one event rewarded for every three to five minutes of movement / management in other game areas, you should endeavor to maintain this in the fringe as well. So although the stars / points of interaction are farther apart, there is either intervening gameplay of the movement delay is shorter (you could borrow a page from Vernor Vinge and suggest that due to gravitational density, starship drives move faster in the fringe than closer to the core)


RPGs often handle this by placing more monsters in the hinterlands. The areas then become dual function: Civilization to restore and deal with plots and intrigue; wilderness for hack & slash. You may have some sort of similar split in gameplay that could apply.

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Okay, let me categorize what everyone has suggested, for clarity.

1. People will expand into every nook and cranny anyway.

Probably won't work in my game, my universe is just too big. But this is a definate possibility in classic 4x games.

2. Hide amazing treasure in the fringes.

This is easy enough to justify, since the fringes are less traveled (kind of like the north pole). Perhaps traveling in the fringes is more dangerous somehow.

3. The fringe is 99% worthless.

The player stays away from it, but every now and then thye learn of something incredible. This is like #2, but taken to an extreme, so that random exploration of the fringe would probably be pointless.

4. The fringe is fundamentally wilderness

So it acts like the dungeons and the galactic core acts as towns. This would work really well in a space opera game, but for something harder, it seems a little artificial IMO.

5. Fringe worlds are better

Fringe worlds are better, ie: more productive, better resources, etc. This seems artificial too. Perhaps you could say the core worlds have all been mined over the millions of years by one race after another. Then core worlds become like Europe during the Middle Ages. Unable to really grow. So going into the fringes is alot like Portugal and Spain sending out explorers.

6. The fringe offers places/things that the core lacks.

The fringe is fundamentally different from the core, such that many crucial or lucrative things can only be gathered there.

7. Trade

This is in many ways a subset of #6. Since the two have different characteristics, there'll be many lucrative trade possibilites.

8. No difference

The difference in distance is equalized, so the fringes are not different from the core at all. Wavinators idea of faster travel at the fringes levels the playing field, making the fringes only less dense spatially.

Some of these overlap in areas, but I did my best to differentiate them.

I think I'm partial to #2 and #6. I can have some incredible ruins at the edge of the galaxy, balancing it with more alive empires at the core. Then depending on what the player wants to do, they can go further outward, to be alone, or further inward, to develop diplomacy.

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Personally, I like 2, 4, and 6. There is tons of good stuff hidden, but its hard to get to because all the outlaws etc hang out in fringe space/on fringe worlds where the law cant/doesnt get to them. Some of the 'good stuff' could be resources that are more likely to form undisturbed or in less radioactive areas ('dead suns?') or even just haven't been mined yet because no miners will go there to do so with the hazard of the criminal kind.
Because cliches say so, the outlaws don't know how great all the stuff they're sitting on is =-) Or it is too hard for them to sell it because if they get close enough to trade, they'll be going to prison. Maybe the player could choose to work for them, trading their goods for a cut or alternately to capture/kill the outlaws and just take the goods.

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