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Wavinator

Gameplay loop for a hustler/scammer/entrepreneur?

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What kind of gameplay do you think would be fun if your role was that of a scammer / hustler / struggling street entrepreneur? Picture a warren of dingy white corridoors, wide, metal-gray electronica hallways, and broad thoroughfares. You're on the ground floor of a 3 mile tall vertical city. You're nobody, but you want to move up to the highest regions of the tower, where the jet set live the good life. Since you're the antihero type, and refuse to be a corp drone or merc meatshield, you take up being an entrepreneur. So what kind of gameplay would you like?
It's sketchy, but the basic gameplay loop I see goes a bit like this: Basics -You make money two ways: Interact with characters, and capture space to station vendors/scammers/workers who hawk product and services. -Character interaction involves skill tests such as pursuasion or selling to build up someone's trust, or intimidate to scare off competitors. -The "building" aspect starts you off in the areas you can afford. The cheapo starting areas are thinly traveled side-access corridoors. Most expensive (and better regulated) are are the broadways, which are critical because they link huge transit tube arteries. -In a sort of lemmings fashion, different social types flock from transit tubes at different times of the day. You want as many as possible in line of sight of your stuff. Three things stand in your way: Winning the right to be in the territory (from law / competition), keeping your people supplied, and having the right mix of skills & people. Details Character Interaction When you go up to an NPC, you can try to recruit them, sell them on your product or service, or get them to go to a location you own. Recruits come in three flavors: Muscle / defenders, workers and "managers." Muscle: Protects your territory from rivals, scares away other workers and can either accompany you or patrol your territory. Raw firepower is limited by law & corruption, so you may need people with both guns & good conflict skills. Workers: Provide a legal or illegal service (for example, pickpocketing) or product (for example, hallucinogenic nanites). Some need a location to work, such as a kiosk or building. Managers: Required to expand your operation. Each manager has a limit of number of workers, and a set of personality characteristics which work in harmony with workers (or generate events you need to mediate if not).
Transit Tubes & Lemmings The vertical city is shot through with transit tubes of varying sizes (from 10 person quickcars to 1000 person industrial lifts). The tubes correspond to the different districts of the city, and "generate" different classes/groups of people at different times. One might disgorge rough & tumble Shangze asteroid miners who love to drink, fight & take nanite stimulants. Another might open to Nirobian Zen Gnostics fond of relics and ancient art. So as the people spill out of the transit tube like lemmings, you want to station your people and kiosks / strorefronts in their path.
Competition For Wall Sockets & Floorspace Workers benefit from having tech, which enhances their advertising abilities. A "leisure worker," for instance, can run multiple holograms of her/himself and sprinkle them through the crowd to improve the chances of attracting customers to your "leisure club." So the gameplay loop involves scouting a level, looking at wallsockets, and seeing who owns them and what it would take to steal/trade/outbid them. Once you get a socket, you're connected to the city's power grid and processing core, which sets limits on what you can build. You then need to deal with the NPCs that show up as customers, or threats. The biggest win is to get is a door because this gives access to an enclosed space. Enclosures protect your workers and equipment with chokepoints, creates privacy from the law or competitors, and allow you to set down equipment that can't be put in the open (holosuites, or chemlabs, for example). As you expand, your reputation is impacted. This controls how the community of the level interacts with you, whether you get help or hassled, and ultimately what pathways are available in rising to the top.
That's the basics. Does this sound like enough to stand on its own as a form of gameplay (i.e., that you'd do again and again). If not, what does it need?

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sounds like a lot of micro-management would be needed.

I would like to play a game like this but I think if you added a black market element to it as well it would give it a little more. also a market place where anything is sold would be a good place to raise some funds at the start of the game.

how would you assign your staff to thier jobs? would they have a zone? would you have management staff to control all your muscle and leave the player to get on an build it empire? would each property have its own properties that the player could change I.E make it a Bar or a shop etc

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Original post by Themonkster
sounds like a lot of micro-management would be needed.


Yes, trying to be careful to tone this down because I don't want it to turn into a sim.

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I would like to play a game like this but I think if you added a black market element to it as well it would give it a little more.


Good idea. Okay, maybe there are multiple black-markets, which are simply located (hidden) in areas of the map. You need a certain rank/status and alliance to access them, and they go up in quality as you rise in the building. (?)

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also a market place where anything is sold would be a good place to raise some funds at the start of the game.


Yes, I was picturing about 2 or 3 types of kiosks. The cheapest is made by stacking crates, drums and maybe draping cloth (think Down Below of Babylon 5 if you've seen it); this creates a real bazarre. The next is a nice, structured prefab kiosk which origamis into a backpack. The last is a nice booth with smoky glass walls and ceiling that can expand to cover a given area.

These would exist on the map, and you could buy out vendors, get restocked from them, or run them off the level.

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how would you assign your staff to thier jobs?


I think it would be VERY simple: You hire a person who has X skills, then either walk them to a location or tell them to go (a list of locales or map would have to pop up).

I'm really not sure if I want you to be staring at a map, looking at waypoints & what have you. This has to be personal. Maybe you call people up on vidphone and they give you a status, or they call you if there's trouble or they need something.

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would they have a zone?


Yes, definitely, and this would be farely consistant. I don't even think better workers would have a wider zone, this should be set so as to be manageable. If you want wider covers, you'd have to get more workers.

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would you have management staff to control all your muscle and leave the player to get on an build it empire?


I think so: You'd assign a worker to a zone, group zones to managers, and attach muscle to zones or managers. The last is so that you can create chokepoints, otherwise the manager moves them around.

You never see any of this unless you're there, by the way. You only hear reports from your workers, managers or muscle.

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would each property have its own properties that the player could change I.E make it a Bar or a shop etc


The rules for each would be based on the district you're in. If you want to convert a shop to a bar, for instance, you might need to pay a fee or bribe someone (or it might be impossible, say if you're in an Islamic or Neo-Puritan district).

I think that properties should only have a monthly expense to run, and a profit they make. These are then interrupted or enhanced by events, such as being raided by the cops or having an enemy hacker pose as a customer.

What I want is for you to then be free to interact with SPECIFIC characters that are causing the events. The hacker you might hunt down and dispose of; the chief of police you might bribe or buddy up to.

The workers and managers would key you into these people, though I'm not sure if there should be some double-agent dishonesty possible (maybe a leisure worker is in love with the chief of police, and secretly directs you into a fight against the local mob?)

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It strikes me as an idea that could require a lot of micro managements and more suited to hardcore sim. What about simplifying it?


There player access a map screen which is dived into areas which contain zones of different sizes. Each zone can contain a certain number of workers and muscle depending on its size and enhancements. Enhancements are the various objects/building that provider bonus to the workers and muscle working there, so if the zone contains a bar or permanent kiosk those would both be enhancements. A zone also has various stats that effect is value in terms of control and use such as wealth, traffic, and threat level. This could be shown as simple icons on the zone the dollar sign could me medium wealth zone, 5 people in overalls could me it has heavy miner traffic, two police badge and two pistols could indicate medium low police enforcement and criminal activity. Zones could be further colour coded to indicate which faction controls that zone.

Assigning people to a zone would be as simple as clicking on the manage personal tab, then clicking on the zone and moving people to or from your resource people. People could be assigned gear to improve their effectiveness such as the various levels of portable kiosks.

So a peddler with level 1 hawking skill in that zone might be able to make 15 credits an hour (wealth * traffic* hawking skill) give him a level 1 kiosk and that might give him a 50% bonus to traffic increasing his hourly revenue to 24 credits an hour.

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Original post by TechnoGoth
It strikes me as an idea that could require a lot of micro managements and more suited to hardcore sim. What about simplifying it?


Can you give any further details on where you see the micromanagement coming from? I'm a bit confused by the response. Doesn't a micromanagement game have tons of stats to balance and lots of resources to worry about?

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There player access a map screen which is dived into areas which contain zones of different sizes. Each zone can contain a certain number of workers and muscle depending on its size and enhancements. Enhancements are the various objects/building that provider bonus to the workers and muscle working there, so if the zone contains a bar or permanent kiosk those would both be enhancements. A zone also has various stats that effect is value in terms of control and use such as wealth, traffic, and threat level. This could be shown as simple icons on the zone the dollar sign could me medium wealth zone, 5 people in overalls could me it has heavy miner traffic, two police badge and two pistols could indicate medium low police enforcement and criminal activity. Zones could be further colour coded to indicate which faction controls that zone.


The only problem I have with this is that I want you to relate to individual characters, not a map. As soon as you're constantly staring at a map and moving things around, you're not playing an RPG-like game, you're playing a full-on strategy game.

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Assigning people to a zone would be as simple as clicking on the manage personal tab, then clicking on the zone and moving people to or from your resource people. People could be assigned gear to improve their effectiveness such as the various levels of portable kiosks.


And again, I can see maybe having a cell phone like comms system to group workers or muscle under managers, but I don't want you switching to an impersonal management screen to do this.

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So a peddler with level 1 hawking skill in that zone might be able to make 15 credits an hour (wealth * traffic* hawking skill) give him a level 1 kiosk and that might give him a 50% bonus to traffic increasing his hourly revenue to 24 credits an hour.


I don't mind a range of what the workers make (so that you can have some expectations), but if it is as formulaic as this, you'll begin treating the NPCs as objects / tokens to be shuffled. Character interaction needs to be central, even if you're just creating a faction of thieves or scammers.

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Quote:
Original post by Wavinator
Quote:
Original post by TechnoGoth
It strikes me as an idea that could require a lot of micro managements and more suited to hardcore sim. What about simplifying it?


Can you give any further details on where you see the micromanagement coming from? I'm a bit confused by the response. Doesn't a micromanagement game have tons of stats to balance and lots of resources to worry about?


Well lets say I have 3 peddlers, 2 pick pockets, a con artist, a gopher, and a couple of goons. The way you have described this system it sounds as if I would to talk to each indvidually, give them their orders, and then lead them to where I want them. That sounds like a lot of work and would turn me off the system as size of my faction began to grow. My eariler post was describing a way to organize and manage this process so that player can focous on the interactions and not the administration. After all what part what types of interactions do you want the player to focous on? The rumor that one of your old hands was taking a police bribe shortly before your floating craps game was raided. Or getting your pick pocket to the optimial position in a busy transport hub.

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There player access a map screen which is dived into areas which contain zones of different sizes. Each zone can contain a certain number of workers and muscle depending on its size and enhancements. Enhancements are the various objects/building that provider bonus to the workers and muscle working there, so if the zone contains a bar or permanent kiosk those would both be enhancements. A zone also has various stats that effect is value in terms of control and use such as wealth, traffic, and threat level. This could be shown as simple icons on the zone the dollar sign could me medium wealth zone, 5 people in overalls could me it has heavy miner traffic, two police badge and two pistols could indicate medium low police enforcement and criminal activity. Zones could be further colour coded to indicate which faction controls that zone.


The only problem I have with this is that I want you to relate to individual characters, not a map. As soon as you're constantly staring at a map and moving things around, you're not playing an RPG-like game, you're playing a full-on strategy game.
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The map is just for managing your personal. You can then focous on wandering through the transport hub you placed them in and see how things are going.

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Assigning people to a zone would be as simple as clicking on the manage personal tab, then clicking on the zone and moving people to or from your resource people. People could be assigned gear to improve their effectiveness such as the various levels of portable kiosks.


And again, I can see maybe having a cell phone like comms system to group workers or muscle under managers, but I don't want you switching to an impersonal management screen to do this.
[/quote]

Well then I guess the question is what sort of control do you want the player to have on over the NPCs? And how much time and do you want them to spend exersising that control?

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So a peddler with level 1 hawking skill in that zone might be able to make 15 credits an hour (wealth * traffic* hawking skill) give him a level 1 kiosk and that might give him a 50% bonus to traffic increasing his hourly revenue to 24 credits an hour.


I don't mind a range of what the workers make (so that you can have some expectations), but if it is as formulaic as this, you'll begin treating the NPCs as objects / tokens to be shuffled. Character interaction needs to be central, even if you're just creating a faction of thieves or scammers.[/quote]

It can be as complex as you like but what is the player purpose in having the faction? Is it a means to increase power and wealth or is it means to create interesting character interactions?

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Original post by TechnoGoth
Well lets say I have 3 peddlers, 2 pick pockets, a con artist, a gopher, and a couple of goons. The way you have described this system it sounds as if I would to talk to each indvidually, give them their orders, and then lead them to where I want them.


Okay, this is partially correct, but I didn't mean to suggest that you have to lead each one. More importantly, managers are the key to making this scalable. After you recruit one, you give them cash and they recruit others.

Here's the most common scenario I can imagine: You're just starting out, and you approach a character. You play some sort of interaction minigame with them, possibly doing missions to gain their loyalty ("prove your not a cop" or "prove you're tough enough to run this corridoor").

Next for the NPC you negotiate terms, cuts, etc. This will need a bit of complexity, but that's okay because it beefs up two of the four pillars I'd like to build on (trade & interaction). In dialog conversation, you'll agree to where they'll work, how much they get paid, their target goals and what sort of support you'll provide (muscle, resource). Then they start.

If nothing happens, your bank account will simply go up. If you've put him in a territory with lots of challenges, though, your new worker will periodicially call you to report problem or opportunity events. If you ignore the problems, the business will degrade & he may eventually not be able to operate (or will quit). If you ignore opportunities, you just lose out.

You'll do this with maybe 5 or 10 characters. The moment you want more, you'll have to hire a manager. The managers will then group n characters and further generate events.

All of this is FAKE, though, because there's really no economy or factors to micromanage. You may have to deal with insubordination, rivals within your faction, b*tchy NPCs and competition, depending on who you hire and where you put them.




Now you might be right, a map with specific territory stats might work more smoothly. Icons would actually be really smooth (more artwork, but still good for quick situational awareness).

However, I'm strongly concerned about what people start expecting when they see a map with units. I'm deeply paranoid somewhat concerned that people will expect a full-on RTS with fully revealed AI whose every move can be countered. That's WAAAAAAAAY more programming than I want, and AI is notoriously a weakness even on multimillion dollar projects!

So I think your advice is good except for the expectation that it might set. Don't you expect to interact with a screen in detail once a game presents it to you?


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Well then I guess the question is what sort of control do you want the player to have on over the NPCs? And how much time and do you want them to spend exersising that control?


What I want is for there to just the lightest (abstract) touch of managing people except maybe in combat or stealth. When it's peace time, I want you to be focused on finding the right characters to build an alliance with and/or on solving spontaneous missions.

For instance, let's say that you're trying to set up gambling kiosks in Chung Kuo, one of the surviving states of post-apocalyptic China. I want you to first scout the territory and talk to people. Scouting gives you the power & computer outlets and what factions own them. Talking to people tells you who's fighting who, and may give you missions to build relations with one of the factions.

When you hire some people, I want you to go through negotiation, then be able fire & forget them for a while. Money will start coming in. Then, I want the NPCs you've hired to call you up with challenges or opportunities.

So in Chung Kuo, maybe you've hired a game runner named Wei Dai. You've settled terms and he's running an outfit next to a transport tube serving cyborg miners. Maybe you try to hussle customers his way, maybe you go elsewhere. Then you get a call telling you that some thugs from the local Triads keep disrupting the games.

From there, you'll get a link to who you might talk to (or maybe you have to as around, not sure exactly). But you'll also get somewhat scripted events where Triad guys walk out of an elevator over to your game and start hassling the miners or Wei Dai. At that point, you can get into combat, or maybe sneak and follow them, or negotiate to talk to their boss. But if you ignore it, Wei Dai will just report that profits are declining because the games keep getting broken up. Or maybe more dramatic things will happen for you to respond to.

I want the experience to be more rich than just moving pieces on a map, if you get the focus here.


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Is it a means to increase power and wealth or is it means to create interesting character interactions?


Both, one feeds off the other. The more power and wealth, the higher status NPCs you contact. The higher status NPCs, the more lucrative alliances and risky, influence building missions. This goes on and on up the food chain until you're impacting national/global events.

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First of all, this seems like a great idea, and if you manage to work it just right, it could be an extremely fun game. Now, on to comments:

It seems like its a mix between the web game Gang Wars, an RTS, and a little of an RPG (if done right). You seem to be very wary of it becoming an RTS, perhaps a fear of the interactions not working properly? I think you need to combine the positives of RTS' (no tedious manangment - your thoughts on using NPC managers is a very good idea) and the elements of RPGs, the interaction you stated (as well as growth of the character...it seems that the game is leading more toward a strategy game/sim than an RPG...which isn't necessarily a bad thing).

You mentioned stealth/following people as an option to someone breaking up your con, I think its an interesting idea that could lead to sabotage of rival property (and either more problems because they get really upset, or, if you play your cards right, more profit =D

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Original post by themime
You seem to be very wary of it becoming an RTS, perhaps a fear of the interactions not working properly?


My main worry is false expectations. It's an open ended game about building up factions and surviving world events, not winning battles. If you come thinking its an RTS, you'll probably dislike the level of personal interaction I have planned-- characters with divided loyalties, status and reputation gameplay, personal gameplay in critical, world changing missions, etc.

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it seems that the game is leading more toward a strategy game/sim than an RPG...which isn't necessarily a bad thing).


Is there anything in particular that strongly gives you that impression?

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You mentioned stealth/following people as an option to someone breaking up your con, I think its an interesting idea that could lead to sabotage of rival property (and either more problems because they get really upset, or, if you play your cards right, more profit =D


Right, the plan is to keep you involved in the game personally, changing mission outcomes directly rather than just assigning them to units. (This is why I'm puzzled by the thought that this sort of gameplay is more sim, because it's exactly what you'd do in Morrowind.)

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I think the reason that the descriptions are emoting a more RTS feel than you were hoping is the focus of the mechanics you've described.

While I can see it working as an RPG, it takes a bit of a change of perspective.

The problem is that the important mechanics you are describing are for the majority all focused externally to the player character. The main mechanics seem focused towards - managing employees, and what skills the employees have; managing property, and what attributes the properties have; etc.

While these can be an integral and interesting part of an RPG type game, the main thing which seems to be missing from the current description here is character development. It seems from the comments and descriptions that the player character has little impact on the way the player will interact with the game, therefore creating a situation where the feeling is of the player controlling employees (a sim), as opposed to a situation where the player is a controlling a character who happens to have employees.

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