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Wavinator

Level editing to solve environmental challenges?

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Imagine that you're building a colony from scratch in a hostile world filled with monsters, bandits, flashfloods and hurricanes... from a personal, RPG-like perspective. Would it be interesting to solve these and other environmental problems with "lego" like building pieces? What I'm specifically thinking about is the ability to "spray" material in order to build structures from a third person perspective. This would aid you in solving environmental challenges, both that you face personally (in terms of navigating a level) and that a community of NPCs might face. Introducing The Construction Cannon The construction cannon would "spray" a level item into existence based on nanites and your library of templates. If you were in a ruined city, for instance, and needed to get across a chasm, you could "spray" a bridge into existence. If you needed to get to an open door high up on a wall, you could spray a ramp to the location. Or, if you were being hounded by enemies, you could spray a wall into existence. You could customize the template to stretch, scale or transform the object through specially articulated points (creating, for instance, and arched bridge to bear more weight, or curved bridge to round corners). The speed at which the item was sprayed in would depend on its complexity, size and the quality of the cannon. Solving Community Problems Your ability to spray objects into existence wouldn't stop with your own personal needs. More expensive construction cannon, mounted onto vehicles, could spray buildings, walls and bridges into existence. If you found a town that was trapped on an island due to a washed out bridge, for instance, you could create one. The bridge could either be an automated toll bridge, or you could give it to the town, thus improving your reputation. Obviously, if this feature existed in game, the game world would have to be providing continuous environmental challenges. But I'm imagining an Earth ravaged by climate instability and rogue nanotech. So you'd have monsoons near England, for example, massive windstorms near Tokyo, or roaming constructs and bandits haunting the outskirts of an armored Los Angeles. Plenty to do, IOW [smile] Thoughts?

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Im working on a game that has little to do with this - it's a 3D RPG that has a level style with fairly basic geometric shapes (I am paying homage to my 2D tiled roots) - part of my inspiration was from the SimCity 3000 Building Architect tool, which features an array of basic geometric shapes that can be used to construct all manner of buildings.

Even if the shape of your models is more detailed than the basic geometric shapes, you can still use the geometric model for the underlying cost relationship. By controlling both cost and material availability you have a pretty decent resource conservation problem.

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I like the idea, but it would be a little bit like the Gravity Gun. Once people figure out how versatile it is, they'll never want to use anything else. They'll be building kennels around their enemies, erecting transmission towers to crash helicopters, and conjuring armies of robots to fight for them.

Obviously, it's a terrific problem-solving dynamic, but it should be carefully restricted to keep it from drawing attention away from the other parts of your game. Half-Life 2 had a lot going for it, but everyone always just talks about the freaking gravity gun (which isn't as cool as the psionic powers in Psi-Ops, which aren't as cool as the psychic powers and superb story of Second Sight).

Make sure it doesn't feel like magic. Require resources to be around. If you want to build a suspension bridge, you'll need tons of steel and concrete. These nanites can't be creating matter out there. In fact, the best situation in which to use the little guys would be for repair. If you want to build some scaffolding, the best place to do it would be where there's already some busted scaffolding. You already know that all the materials are there, and the nanites can just reconfigure them into a functioning piece of hardware.

If you actually want to build a structure from scratch, you'll need to bring the "scratch" with you. You could truck in ingots of platinum and granite and iron and tungsten (possibly harvested by nanites in another area) and turn the cannon on them to reconfigure the matter into something useful, but you won't be building a steel bunker in the middle of the desert. There's no iron there.

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Original post by wildhalcyon
Even if the shape of your models is more detailed than the basic geometric shapes, you can still use the geometric model for the underlying cost relationship. By controlling both cost and material availability you have a pretty decent resource conservation problem.


Actually, on geometry, I wonder how people would take to the idea of very plainly modeled, slightly glowing primitives that stack? Sort of like an origami concept, but with nano objects can stretch.


Definitely needs some careful thought.

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Original post by Iron Chef Carnage
I like the idea, but it would be a little bit like the Gravity Gun.


Argh! I haven't gotten a chance yet to play HL2! But you're right, I've heard again and again about that gun.

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Obviously, it's a terrific problem-solving dynamic, but it should be carefully restricted to keep it from drawing attention away from the other parts of your game.


Alright, I see this as a balance issue between combat & stealth. A construction cannon won't affect social interactions, and can even be limited or outlawed in civilized environments. So what if it becomes the swiss army knife of exploration? You can keep it from unbalancing combat (I think) by making the created structures fragile until completely assembled, which could take hours but be immediately usable. So if you try to wall someone in, they punch or blast through the forming cloud that's forming the wall.

It could become too dominant, but maybe it's a great way to simplify?

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Make sure it doesn't feel like magic. Require resources to be around. If you want to build a suspension bridge, you'll need tons of steel and concrete. These nanites can't be creating matter out there. In fact, the best situation in which to use the little guys would be for repair. If you want to build some scaffolding, the best place to do it would be where there's already some busted scaffolding. You already know that all the materials are there, and the nanites can just reconfigure them into a functioning piece of hardware.


I assumed that the tanks you hook the nanites to would be chunks of powdered or liquified building material mixed with the nanites. So a small footbridge might take a flamethrower-sized tank, whereas a small vehicle bridge might take a tanker truck?

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but you won't be building a steel bunker in the middle of the desert. There's no iron there.


Generally agreed, but this does depend on the level of tech. If you've got enough energy, you can reorganize molecules. (Course, I'd steadfastly refrain from "enough energy" and tech in all but the cool uber-items).

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Well, you seem to have a good grasp on what this thing will be capable of. I think it's a terrific idea, and I can't wait to see it in action. I had imagined a pocket-sized device that conjures buildings out of nothing. Making it a more industrial process improves it considerably in my eyes. Rock on.

Will these little guys depend on schematics, or will they be objective-driven? I just played "Clonk Planet", which is basically Lemmings on steroids. The build a structure, you choose a template and a location, and the little Clonks run over there, grab some rocks and lay a foundation, and then start dashing to nearby warehouses and natural resource locations to assemble the needed goods. Then they stand there and hammer on it until it's a building. It's more fun that I'd like to admit, especially when they start beating each other up, but there's no real way to "fix" a terrain problem, lik one lousy pixel of dirt that you can't "dig" but will stop your lumberjacks from bringing a tree to the sawmill.

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I agree with Iron Chef in that the construction cannon would cloud other more subtle features of your game, and that players would find more uses for it than you originaly intended it for.

But the thing that worries me the most is that, this basically means that factories are useless, because everything can be assembled on location - so no economy for you. Plus, it would destroy a lot of gameplay that players expect, like time being a valuable resource for construction, and having to make sure all the other resources are available. It would be a much cooler game if you chose some blueprints and a place for the building, but had to wait until your engineers built it - in the meanwhile, the guys transporting concrete from the nearest factory would start being attacked by an opposing faction. Just depending on factories would vary gameplay a lot, since a small village would have to import everything from far away locations, or rely on local resources. Even if you assume all resources are present, construction is not as simple as throwing a big chunk of metal over a terrain, realistically there are tons of issues involved, and that's why engineers are needed, instead of just some people carrying bricks to the right places.

There's also the problem that the presence of such a machine in any community would present: do you think that the big bosses would just let you mess around with their city at will? I mean, who should have the sole power of building everything there is in any community? It's a lot of responsability. What about if there were more people with the same device, and they thought things should be built differently?

It also kinda destroys the immersion. It starts feeling like a magic world instead of a technology-based world. That's the stuff sci-fi fans like about wasteland worlds, making due with what you have, instead of having everything handed to you in a platter and being told it was "constructed by nano".

I think this cannon would present more problems than it solves. In my opinion, it's the sort of black box you should avoid at all costs.

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Original post by Iron Chef Carnage
I had imagined a pocket-sized device that conjures buildings out of nothing.


[grin] Yeah, that would scream IMBALANCE ALERT!

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Making it a more industrial process improves it considerably in my eyes. Rock on.


[cool] If it turns out to be a feasbile idea worth investing the time in, it could improve the survival and community building aspect the game has settled around. (Oh, and the whole reason I suggested it at the lower level was to make it uniform-- I've taken your warnings on hijacks VERY SERIOUSLY!)

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Will these little guys depend on schematics, or will they be objective-driven?


The game world has "fabricators" which are driven by templates that you either win the right to buy (like EV:Nova's licenses) or invent yourself (via skilling up). So I guess I'm saying "both."

Do you think one is more better than another?

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I just played "Clonk Planet", which is basically Lemmings on steroids.


I loved Lemmings. Thanks for the heads up, I'm going to have to check this out!

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Original post by Jotaf
I agree with Iron Chef in that the construction cannon would cloud other more subtle features of your game, and that players would find more uses for it than you originaly intended it for.


You're right, a feature like this would need to be seriously balanced. But I have to wonder: Does it seem so risky because we mainly think of succeeding by fighting, and thus this tool looks like an uber-weapon? (What I mean is that it can only be serioulsy unbalancing if it wildly tips obstacles to the goal of the game out of the way.)

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But the thing that worries me the most is that, this basically means that factories are useless, because everything can be assembled on location - so no economy for you.


Partly true, but keep in mind that not all fabricators are created equal and there are, as part of gameplay and story, things that limit what you can build.

You're right, however, that in this scenario much of the modern world's distributed production infrastructure centralizes. But that's a real prediction of the future! As things become more efficient, the futurists (like the guy who advised for Minority Report) say that the cities will pull in and become more compact.

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Plus, it would destroy a lot of gameplay that players expect, like time being a valuable resource for construction, and having to make sure all the other resources are available.


Why? Are you thinking that this INSTANTLY happens? Because that's not it at all. And there's the issue with getting the right nanite-resource construction solution, or the mining material.

Maybe I'm misunderstanding here, but I'd think that we would expect things to be easier in the future.

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It would be a much cooler game if you chose some blueprints and a place for the building, but had to wait until your engineers built it - in the meanwhile, the guys transporting concrete from the nearest factory would start being attacked by an opposing faction.


What if this sort of thing could still happen? Try not to imagine the present just projected into the future. In ths future, the engineers would have solved the problems and paired with the programmers to create the micromachinery that analyzes and creates the foundation. Then other firms would have consolidated the nanite construction infrastructures. It doesn't have to be handwaving magic, as far as story is concerned (but it does need to be easy for gameplay).

Factions could still attack the construction cannon, or resupply tanks, or put a virus in the template, or steal it, etc., etc.


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Even if you assume all resources are present, construction is not as simple as throwing a big chunk of metal over a terrain, realistically there are tons of issues involved, and that's why engineers are needed, instead of just some people carrying bricks to the right places.


If I understand you right, you're saying that it would be more interesting for construction to have strategic dependencies? If so, I'm not against that, but they just need to be simple enough to be modeled and so that the player can understand them.

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There's also the problem that the presence of such a machine in any community would present: do you think that the big bosses would just let you mess around with their city at will? I mean, who should have the sole power of building everything there is in any community? It's a lot of responsability. What about if there were more people with the same device, and they thought things should be built differently?


This is where the community aspect of gameplay could come in handy, with social moods and politics determining how people react to your building. Heck, maybe they could even tear it down!

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It also kinda destroys the immersion. It starts feeling like a magic world instead of a technology-based world. That's the stuff sci-fi fans like about wasteland worlds, making due with what you have, instead of having everything handed to you in a platter and being told it was "constructed by nano".


I do want to respect this. I think that wastelands and colonies should have a lot more of what you're talking about (if I understand it right) in terms of resource dependencies that create strategy with a frontier feel.

The challenge is how to do it while keeping it RPG-like. RTS complexity would be too much.

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This would be a fun tool in an RTS-type game; it wouldn't really be that un-balancing as long as you still need limited resources and energy for it. Total Annihilation's build system worked kinda like this; your fabber-bots could wander around and squirt buildings into existance wherever you wanted, as long as you had the energy and metal to do so.

In an RPG-ish game... hmm. It still depends heavily on resources; you could simply have it so that you don't use it to build a wall around each enemy because that would cost too much. You could simply restrict access to how large and how fast you could make things; sure, your little man-portable hand-fabber can build a building, but do you really want to sit around for a year? Or maybe it can't build a building without some major upgrades or a better model of fabber, or maybe it's on-board memory isn't large enough to hold plans for a building.

Still, if you're looking for some way to make it in the category of "handy tool" instead of "central solution to everything"... Well, the idea of limited resources may still be useful. "Hey, I could use my fabber-gun to build a bridge across this chasm, but it would use 10 units of Fuel Goop and I only have 20 left, and I'm only half way through the dungeon; maybe I should look around for another way." That way you can't simply use it to brute-force your way through every problem, but have to try to apply it where a little bit will go a long way (instead of building a wall around an enemy, have it chase you into a hallway, then skip past and fuse the door shut behind it).

As for how this would affect the overall shape of the world... Well:
1) Either everyone has fabbers and can use them to build more fabbers, or they're heavily restricted by some government/corperation/something else. If you have such a powerful tool, there's going to be people who don't want everyone to have them.
2) Physical resources would cease to be as much of a concern, except for certain rare and important things. You could build a nuclear reactor in your back yard, but you still can't fuel it without uranium.
3) Building things like this would probably take massive amounts of energy, which means massive amounts of infrastructure. Someone has to control that infrastructure. And in the chaotic world you seem to be thinking of, finding enough energy for large fabbers would be hard to do.

"Grey goo" may be another problem in the world: nano-disassemblers, that take everything apart and build more nano-disassemblers. Now, this is either a problem that can be solved trivially by nano-disassembler-disassemblers, or a major scourge that threatens humanity as a whole. It might be interesting to have battles fought with such tools, and to counter them you need to have the correct templates and combinations for your fabber...

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Original post by Icefox
This would be a fun tool in an RTS-type game
...
your fabber-bots could wander around and squirt buildings into existance wherever you wanted, as long as you had the energy and metal to do so.


Actually, this is EXACTLY how Total Annihilation worked. Construction bots stood in one place spraying things into existence.

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In an RPG-ish game... hmm. It still depends heavily on resources; you could simply have it so that you don't use it to build a wall around each enemy because that would cost too much.


How about this: I see a cloud forming a lattice (the glowing outline of the shape); then the shape begins to fill in. What if there's a very simple rule that if the object you're building takes damage, the whole structure is destabelized? So you not only have to get the right stuff to build, you have to guard it.

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You could simply restrict access to how large and how fast you could make things


Agreed. Yes, the handheld units wouldn't even have the processing power to accomodate building-sized templates, so that should be an easy and natural restriction. If you're building buildings, you've got at least a tank-sized constructor and a half-dozen resource-goop trucks connecting to it.

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"Hey, I could use my fabber-gun to build a bridge across this chasm, but it would use 10 units of Fuel Goop and I only have 20 left, and I'm only half way through the dungeon; maybe I should look around for another way."


Okay, if you're given something like this, do you ever think the player should be allowed to paint themselves into a corner with it? That is, they cross a chasm with it, the bridge gets destroyed somehow, and now they're out of resources for it and stuck on the other side. (You can't die in this design, so at worst it would result in some loss scenario where you lose time or resources you care about.)

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1) Either everyone has fabbers and can use them to build more fabbers, or they're heavily restricted by some government/corperation/something else. If you have such a powerful tool, there's going to be people who don't want everyone to have them.


I think the fab technology isn't restricted, but the building plans technology is heavily regulated & licensed. So you either have illegal duplication, open-source duplication, or per-creation fee duplication.

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2) Physical resources would cease to be as much of a concern, except for certain rare and important things. You could build a nuclear reactor in your back yard, but you still can't fuel it without uranium.


Good point. It might be interesting to bring some of the "special resources for unit/building X" philosophy of RTS games into an RPG.

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3) Building things like this would probably take massive amounts of energy, which means massive amounts of infrastructure. Someone has to control that infrastructure. And in the chaotic world you seem to be thinking of, finding enough energy for large fabbers would be hard to do.


Exactly as I see it. Either you're in civilization where they have loads of power (fusion), but strong laws, or you're in either the wasteland or the frontier, which is always hurting for power/resources/etc.

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"Grey goo" may be another problem in the world: nano-disassemblers, that take everything apart and build more nano-disassemblers. Now, this is either a problem that can be solved trivially by nano-disassembler-disassemblers, or a major scourge that threatens humanity as a whole. It might be interesting to have battles fought with such tools, and to counter them you need to have the correct templates and combinations for your fabber...


Yes! What if the dangerous parts of the world were plagued by flying black storms of "deconstructors" that looked like this:


or this:


These would be post-war nanite clouds originally used by the US & China, now out of control.

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Since the danger of rouge nanotech should be a pretty big concern in the futuristic would, wouldn't the companies making the Construction Cannon try to limit the danger of their nanobots?

For example, suppose they make Constructor nanites so they can't break down local material to use in construction(thus eliminating the danger of them going grey-goo on everyone). So whatever material that would be used in building the structure would have to be specialy treated in order for the nanites to use it.

Introducing compressed-matter.

Raw material is gathered from local mines and garbage dumps to safely controlled facilities where it is broken down by dissasembler nanites and then reduced into tiny pellets through futuristic shrinking technology. The compressed matter can then be loaded into the Construction Cannon and sprayed along with the nanites to wherever you need it. The nanites then can unshrink the matter and use it to build the structure.

Also the matter has varying degrees of purity, the cheap stuff is only suitable for building crude structures while the pellets of pure silicon, gold, titanium, plastic, etc... can be used to build robots or electronics.

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This puts a few bearable limitations on the construction cannon:
1. The player has to buy all the material they use so they need to use their resources wisely.
2. The colony might not have the facilities to produce high-quality material to build all the robots or machinery the player wants at first.
3. There could be a limitation to how much material they can carry around at once.


Ways it can affect gameplay

1. Since the local material-refinery is responsible for producing most of the players "building ammo" they have to take an interest in its development. Make sure they have the facilities to produce enough material or get the equipment to produce high-quality material.

2. Since refineries are the safe way to aquire material, you could have bands of leechers who create hacked versions of the Construction Cannon along with Leecher Cannons. They either try stealing valuable material from structures, or produce structures using nanites that use local resources (which colonists fear might go rouge and businesses dislike because that means they don't get money).


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Original post by Wavinator
How about this: I see a cloud forming a lattice (the glowing outline of the shape); then the shape begins to fill in. What if there's a very simple rule that if the object you're building takes damage, the whole structure is destabelized? So you not only have to get the right stuff to build, you have to guard it.


Hmm, that was how it worked in TA... buildings were a lot easier to damage while they were being built, and you could even shoot into factories to blow away whatever unit is being constructed before it was done.
However, in an RPG-ish game, this would seriously limit the fabber's application during battle. You're in trouble, you fab up a wall to hide behind... it takes a hit and disintegrates, wasting resources. I think it would require a balance; simple items like walls would probably be a lot more durable while being built than complex ones like, say, handguns. So yes, that sounds like a good idea, but make sure it doesn't gimp the battle-usefulness of the fabber in general. It should be a matter of "This could work if I plan it right" rather than "Gah, I can't do anything fun 'cause they keep destroying my stuff!"

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"Hey, I could use my fabber-gun to build a bridge across this chasm, but it would use 10 units of Fuel Goop and I only have 20 left, and I'm only half way through the dungeon; maybe I should look around for another way."


Okay, if you're given something like this, do you ever think the player should be allowed to paint themselves into a corner with it? That is, they cross a chasm with it, the bridge gets destroyed somehow, and now they're out of resources for it and stuck on the other side. (You can't die in this design, so at worst it would result in some loss scenario where you lose time or resources you care about.)


Of course! My idea was that the bridge isn't NECESSARY, but it's CONVENIENT. If the bridge gets destroyed, the player thinks "Oh smeg, now I have to go around anyway... maybe I should have built a stronger bridge, or something to defend it". Now, if a player digs a hole that's deliberately impossible for her to get out of, that's their problem, but every non-pathological problem should have some way of getting out of it.

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1) Either everyone has fabbers and can use them to build more fabbers, or they're heavily restricted by some government/corperation/something else. If you have such a powerful tool, there's going to be people who don't want everyone to have them.


I think the fab technology isn't restricted, but the building plans technology is heavily regulated & licensed. So you either have illegal duplication, open-source duplication, or per-creation fee duplication.

And, of course, the attendant quality-control issues in knockoffs, and the possibility of the regulators rigging their plan files not to work with non-licensed fabbers, and so on...

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"Grey goo" may be another problem in the world: nano-disassemblers, that take everything apart and build more nano-disassemblers. Now, this is either a problem that can be solved trivially by nano-disassembler-disassemblers, or a major scourge that threatens humanity as a whole. It might be interesting to have battles fought with such tools, and to counter them you need to have the correct templates and combinations for your fabber...


Yes! What if the dangerous parts of the world were plagued by flying black storms of "deconstructors" that looked like this: (images)


Ooo, pretty. That would be a great plot-tool to set all sorts of things in motion; evacuations, wars, treaties, trade-routes, and discoveries of ancient technology could all be catalyzed by one of these sweeping through. And one might end up having certain natural borders like oceans and mountains... Looking at a map of wind currents might be interesting. Of course, if nanites take a lot of power, you'd have to have some way for these things to be powered too. Old automatic military satellites? That would be another fun plot-toy to play with...

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Original post by The Shadow Nose
Since the danger of rouge nanotech should be a pretty big concern in the futuristic would, wouldn't the companies making the Construction Cannon try to limit the danger of their nanobots?

For example, suppose they make Constructor nanites so they can't break down local material to use in construction(thus eliminating the danger of them going grey-goo on everyone). So whatever material that would be used in building the structure would have to be specialy treated in order for the nanites to use it.


I think you got it. Clouds of rogue nano would pretty much destroy any planet very quickly, they wouldn't just roam the planet looking for something to eat -- they would literally eat the planet. Hey, that's cool: a planet completely disassembled by nanites, so now it's a huuuge trap for travellers! Like a black hole.

So this restriction makes sure this doesn't happen too often. However, there are still clouds of rogue nanites: completely uncontrollable ones, that devour entire planets (for background story only, they wouldn't actually "exist" as nano in the game), and rogue nano that still obeys the rule of only messing with compressed matter -- so instead of destroying a settlement, they would destroy its compressed matter stockpiles! It's still a serious matter to suddenly be out of resources.

I also thought about another restriction, nano could be active only around a field generated by special machinery, so it only works around a specific area. Turn off the field generator and the nano is deactivated. Could be a good plot device!

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Though in the case of Compressed Matter, it wouldn't just be running out of resources. Imagine going to the store and buying ten tons of steel that had been reduced into a portable canister that you can carry confortably in your pants pocket. Then a swarm of rouge nanites come and start dissasembling it.

Now, while the nanites can't technically hurt you, they are messing with the Compressed Matter and if they decide to de-compress it then the steel change from being a convenient hand-held canister to ten tons of steel ingots... which really isn't something you want to carry around in your pants pocket :P.


Of course, it that was a problem then the company that sells Compressed Matter could design their canisters so that rouge nanites can't get inside of them. The Canister would have to be inside a Construction Cannon or a similar device before the contents can get out.

========

Also, when an object is being constructed and somebody attacks it... wouldn't the nanites try repairing the damage since they are already building it? So when an enemy destroys an object that's being built, the nanites will either keep trying to build it (if it's destroyed completly) or they will try to repair it. They will keep trying to do so until they run out of energy.

So if you wanted to make a wall... the Cannon could determine how much material the wall would use and then how much time it would take to build it in a best case scenario, the Cannon gives the nanites enough energy to last TWICE as long and sends them to do the job.

Instantly, the nanites build an incomplete wall with a small percentage of the complete walls hit points. As they build it, the wall gets more HP until it's complete. If somebody destroys it before then, the nanites will keep start over with whatever material they have left and if they run out of material (and they can use local materials) they cannabalise the broken remains of the destroyed wall. They only stop if the wall is complete or they run out of energy (read time).

So, with this system. When you order the nanites to build something, you're going to get something. It could be what you want (if the nanites can finish it in the amount of time) it could be an incomplete object (if the enemy can stall the nanites long enough) or it could be a pile of rubble (if the enemy stands there all day blasting the structure faster than the nanites can build it).

I think this would work good with walls because even a semi-complete wall is better than nothing... but if you get an incomplete robot or weapon then you'd have to give it another dose of nanites too complete it before you could get it to do anything usefull.

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Original post by Jotaf
[...]rogue nano that still obeys the rule of only messing with compressed matter -- so instead of destroying a settlement, they would destroy its compressed matter stockpiles! [...]
Brilliant. What if nano could only consume objects made of compressed matter? You land on a planet with minimal tech readings, nano dissolves your landing craft, your guns, and all your comms gear, and you're taken hostage by spear wielding natives, who may or may not be distant descendants of a colony that was wiped out with nano. Can anyone say un-neutron bomb?

Edit: Can anyone say thread hijack? Sorry Wavinator.

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Original post by The Shadow Nose
Introducing compressed-matter.


Compressed matter?!?! o_O Wait a second, weren't you warning me away from magical nanotech, or was that someone else? [grin]

It's a cool idea, but I think it kills a bit of the science in science fiction. Having enough matter to build a bridge in your back pocket would surely violate conservation of mass, unless you're dragging around several thousand tons.

I do like the idea of landfills and mines being raided by nano, though, as well as having varying degrees of resource purity. But if you kept the limit closer to realistic physics, it would make things like power armor, aircraft and ATVs all the more important as resource transports.

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This puts a few bearable limitations on the construction cannon:
1. The player has to buy all the material they use so they need to use their resources wisely.
2. The colony might not have the facilities to produce high-quality material to build all the robots or machinery the player wants at first.
3. There could be a limitation to how much material they can carry around at once.


Do you think this can be achieved with normal blocks of matter that you have to carry around? You would basically have a vehicle convoy on normal land, with the need to protect resource carriers. Or you'd have a shuttle or aircraft dropping things in.

The only problem I see is not having enough access to material when you're in some dungeon base or whatever. Then there might be lots of back & forth to your ATV or vehicle outside.

The convoy MIGHT be applicable to robot porters if the indoor pathing and ordering problems can be solved, though. But I've really only seen one game where you accrued a bunch of allies from a 3rd / 1st person perspective, and it was cumbersome to manage.

Maybe this could be fudged like automatic travel. If there are no enemies / obstacles between you and your vehicle, then you're simply said to automatically be connected to the inventory of your vehicles? It's sort of montage handwaving like we see in the movies.

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1. Since the local material-refinery is responsible for producing most of the players "building ammo" they have to take an interest in its development. Make sure they have the facilities to produce enough material or get the equipment to produce high-quality material.


Again, using normal matter, you could do this, and it would be very cool. In fact, you could be responsible for spawning recycling centers and whatnot near the ruins of cities. Maybe automated scavengers build up stuff while you're away.

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2. Since refineries are the safe way to aquire material, you could have bands of leechers who create hacked versions of the Construction Cannon along with Leecher Cannons.


Hahaha! Good one! I didn't even think of the reverse. I like it.

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Original post by Icefox
However, in an RPG-ish game, this would seriously limit the fabber's application during battle. You're in trouble, you fab up a wall to hide behind... it takes a hit and disintegrates, wasting resources.


I seriously need to think of how this should affect combat, but wouldn't your example place more emphasis on pre-battle planning? For instance, you spawn a bunker before going over the hill.

This, OTOH, could lead to wasted resources... so I'm not really sure.

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I think it would require a balance; simple items like walls would probably be a lot more durable while being built than complex ones like, say, handguns. So yes, that sounds like a good idea, but make sure it doesn't gimp the battle-usefulness of the fabber in general. It should be a matter of "This could work if I plan it right" rather than "Gah, I can't do anything fun 'cause they keep destroying my stuff!"


The wall issue is especially tricky because I've seen games ruined by having "autoblocking" defenses. Either the enemy has some huge kite shield-like defense, or you do, and so a lot of the game then turns on splash damage and timing.

You also don't want to get into a pathfinding/AI nightmare. It might be better to balance the CC toward building, rather than fighting (with some trap laying as an inevitable result). So it might be best to intentially gimpit for battle.

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Of course! My idea was that the bridge isn't NECESSARY, but it's CONVENIENT. If the bridge gets destroyed, the player thinks "Oh smeg, now I have to go around anyway... maybe I should have built a stronger bridge, or something to defend it". Now, if a player digs a hole that's deliberately impossible for her to get out of, that's their problem, but every non-pathological problem should have some way of getting out of it.


I meant to be more specific about this: Do you think that there should ever be a solution which is completely equipment dependent? Or do you think that there should always be a way to cross a chasm or whatever using the most basic, default outfitting that you have? (i.e., practically naked)

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Yes! What if the dangerous parts of the world were plagued by flying black storms of "deconstructors" that looked like this: (images)


Ooo, pretty. That would be a great plot-tool to set all sorts of things in motion; evacuations, wars, treaties, trade-routes, and discoveries of ancient technology could all be catalyzed by one of these sweeping through. And one might end up having certain natural borders like oceans and mountains... Looking at a map of wind currents might be interesting. Of course, if nanites take a lot of power, you'd have to have some way for these things to be powered too. Old automatic military satellites? That would be another fun plot-toy to play with...


I think the bordering by mountains and ocean is just perfect, and the power source could even be solar or thermal, with this stuff settling into the ground at night and taking off in the morning. That way, you have a kind of exploration rhythm in the deconstructor plagued areas. You would explore by night, then try to get back to the safety of your camp or vehicle by day.

Or I could reverse it, making night more ominous. Maybe a stealth feature of deconstructors is that by sundown they start taking the energy that's radiating from the earth as fuel to form their huge storm clouds. So you've got to get out of dodge by nightfall? (It doesn't have to be perfect from a science point of view, just reasonable).

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Original post by Jotaf
Clouds of rogue nano would pretty much destroy any planet very quickly, they wouldn't just roam the planet looking for something to eat -- they would literally eat the planet.


Whoa, this gives me a mid-game stage plot idea. However, I've got enough questions to drag this severely off-topic, so I'd better make (another!) new thread.

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Original post by The Shadow Nose
Also, when an object is being constructed and somebody attacks it... wouldn't the nanites try repairing the damage since they are already building it? So when an enemy destroys an object that's being built, the nanites will either keep trying to build it (if it's destroyed completly) or they will try to repair it. They will keep trying to do so until they run out of energy.


I think you could make an argument either way, so the balance comes down to whether you want the focus to be on preplanning or RTS style "build while attacking." You could easily say that to build a structure requires construction of several stages of sub-machinery and even monomolecular work lattices which attacks can throw out of wack.

It depends on if RTS style gameplay fits the pacing of an RPG-like game. Unfortunately, I'm not sure, given the genre ghettos we insist on staying in, that it does.

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Instantly, the nanites build an incomplete wall with a small percentage of the complete walls hit points. As they build it, the wall gets more HP until it's complete. If somebody destroys it before then, the nanites will keep start over with whatever material they have left and if they run out of material (and they can use local materials) they cannabalise the broken remains of the destroyed wall. They only stop if the wall is complete or they run out of energy (read time).


Hmmm... you could get into some sort of race condition where an enemy could deplete you just by attacking the wall every once in awhile. That would then foster micromanagement.

I don't mind you recovering the remains, btw. I just think it might be better to force the player to plan ahead and keep this a non-battle tool. (If it were an RTS like TA, though, I'd say otherwise.)

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Original post by Iron Chef Carnage
What if nano could only consume objects made of compressed matter? You land on a planet with minimal tech readings, nano dissolves your landing craft, your guns, and all your comms gear, and you're taken hostage by spear wielding natives, who may or may not be distant descendants of a colony that was wiped out with nano. Can anyone say un-neutron bomb?

Edit: Can anyone say thread hijack? Sorry Wavinator.


Hey! Aren't you the guy who's been warning me about wild swings of unexpected possibility? [lol]

If you did have that scenario (which is just waaaaaay cool, btw) I'd say "should have had a ship in orbit with a few EMP weapons ready!" [smile]

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