Sign in to follow this  
cyric74

Generation Ship: Good idea, hard implementation?

Recommended Posts

Now that I'm done with my 4E4 project, I'm starting to look towards other ideas as a pet project to develop over the next few months. One idea that has always interested me is The Generation Ship. Basically the idea is that for humans to ever reach new solar systems, assuming we can't get the hang of faster-than-light travel, we'll need to exile small, diverse populations of colonists on large ships that take hundreds of years to reach their final destination. Depending on the length of the journey, many generations of colonists will live, breed, and die knowing only the inside of their ship. This concept seems like it would make an amazing game idea, IF it could be implemented in an entertaining manner. So my question to you is: How would you approach the general implementation of a game like this? My feeling is that a "The Sims"-like game environment could work, except with all the facets introduced by the Generation Ship: Upkeep of the ship, inbreeding creating human defects over many generations, small-scale wars that break out among various ship factions.. Basically the player would be a god-like observer watching over the passengers, manipulating things here and there, then seeing how their adjustments change the resulting generations. Game ends when your population self-destructs, or reach their home planet. Could even create an expansion of the game where you import your population into a "Sim City" game to see how they do after landing. What do you think? Lame idea, or potential?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Quote:
Original post by cyric74
So my question to you is: How would you approach the general implementation of a game like this?

My feeling is that a "The Sims"-like game environment could work, except with all the facets introduced by the Generation Ship: Upkeep of the ship, inbreeding creating human defects over many generations, small-scale wars that break out among various ship factions.. Basically the player would be a god-like observer watching over the passengers, manipulating things here and there, then seeing how their adjustments change the resulting generations.

Game ends when your population self-destructs, or reach their home planet. Could even create an expansion of the game where you import your population into a "Sim City" game to see how they do after landing.

What do you think? Lame idea, or potential?

How you implement it is your own design problem. Do it well and you can make a bajillion dollars. Otherwise you die in squallor. [grin]

That single idea is not enough to make the game. You will need thousands of fun ideas, throw out most of them, and what's left will hopefully be fun.

The generation ship has other problems to address, such as where the descendants of the original crew have known no other life and will probably want to stay on the ship. There are also a whole bunch of social and psychological problems, which might be fun to play with. Except I don't think it would be.

All major Sim games rely on the theory of basically unlimited natural resources. A generation ship will have a fixed set of resources. They can't just stop for supplies and take off again. Your population size needs to remain approximately fixed. A generational ship has a lot of constraints for supplies, space, maximum populations, roles and jobs, and so on.

So all by itself, I'd say lame idea. If you have a few thousand ideas to go along with it, the idea might have some potential.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Quote:
Original post by frob
So all by itself, I'd say lame idea. If you have a few thousand ideas to go along with it, the idea might have some potential.


I agree. The goal of such a game seems to be just maintaining the wellbeing of the population, not growing it, not trying to achieve any specific goal besides simple survival. I think you'd need to throw in some extra goals to make it interesting to play.

On the other hand, the Generation Ship might make a good setting for some other type of game, like an adventure or RPG.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I think this is a good idea (possibly because there's aspects similar to a game idea I've been toying with [wink]). I agree with the other repliers that you'll need to figure out exactly what sort of gameplay you want to put in there. However, as the central idea that binds everything together what you've currently got has the potential to be really good.

You've got a good environmental limitation for your population size, which will make implementation feasible. There's also a number of ways you can take the idea. There's the resources issue for strategy; your ship-dwellers are going to have to have there own hydroponic farms for food, water purifiers, oxygen scrubbers, power supplies etc. There's also the human relation issues if you want to go down a Sims path (the idea actually sounds similar to Creatures 3, which had the Norns on a spaceship). The balance between these will depend a bit on your inclination towards character A.I. (which is somewhat tricky) and the type of game you want to make (or the players you want to market to).

Personally, I wouldn't go too deeply into the pyschological problems or severe resource management issues, unless you are wanting to make a hardcore strategy sci-fi game. Pick your target market and shape the gameplay accordingly.

So yes, I think this is a potential winner, as long as you stay focused on which particular aspects of life on-board a spaceship you really want to model.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
There was an interesting game Called Startopia, where you managed a space station. You only ever saw the inside of the station, but you had to deal with aliens that showed up and did trade, attacked and the like.
Though not quite what you were thinking of, i think there are some ideas for management that you could draw from it.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
A lot of good comments--already helping me develop a more solid idea of where I'd like to take this.

Perhaps something with a less Sims approach, but more RTS--sort of like Dungeon Keeper. The ship could have an anti-grav scoop that allowed collection of space debris in front of it, and the player channels that raw resource into the expansion of the ship while in flight. The player would place markers where they want specific devices, modules, habitats, etc. to be constructed, and the crew will go about building them, and getting it activated.

The different modules would have various effects on the ship and its crew--some good and some bad. Too many bad variables, mixed with poor crew management, could cause outbreaks of fighting, disease, mutations etc.

Each crew could have traits that made them better workers in some areas, and worse in others. I wouldn't want detailed crew management, as they will probably live and die rather quickly as the game progressed.

Thanks for the book recommendation, Caitlin. I'm going to see if I can track it down tomorrow.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Just to let you know this ahead of time, the first book in the series doesn't address the problems that the spacecraft dwellers had, thats addressed later in the series. The first book only introduces the ship and its systems, The Garden of Rama might be the one you want (if I remember correctly).

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
This is an dea I have been looking at for over 2 years now as a game conceptand have actually called for interested parties to team up for its development.
Imagine if you will, the moon as just such a ship.
A dyson sphere concept with its own sun simulator, continents and oceans, weather system and ecology.
Habitation would naturally be equatorial to benefit from centripedal gravity but other activities could occure at polar regions.
The scope of such a game can take any direction from crew gods to ghost ship.

The direction I am taking is that of cultural evolution where disparate races are gathered then given the task of unifying by design or need.

Be interested to see your final formulations.

EDIT*
Sorry I missed the thrust of your post.
I would go about implementation based upon the scenario I settled on.
EG, take Freelancer for example, here the implementation followed the premise that the generation ship was a 'sleeper' and that a civilisation arose 800 years after planetfall.A storyline is still available for the maintanance crew during the flight, exploration of a system and landfall.
My original concept was that a semi futuristic earth discovered problems that resulted in a hero figure journeying to the earths center only to find it hollow but occupied and finally resolving the overall mystery by landing in the moon, a generation ship for our 'gods'.
This ment several games following each from the other, too huge to undertake on a solo basis.

[Edited by - SilentShaman on November 4, 2005 2:58:36 AM]

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Quote:
Original post by SilentShaman
...The scope of such a game can take any direction from crew gods to ghost ship.
The direction I am taking is that of cultural evolution...

That is why I like the basic foundational premise of the Generation Ship. There are so many possible directions to take it, both for game mechanics and plot; but oddly enough this area of sci fi has been largely unexplored in video games.

I think as humanity advances further into this century, practical concepts of deep space exploration will become more and more popular. There are too many "Wing Commander" space games based on hyperspace, wormholes, warp drives and such. Too much Star Wars, and not enough thought about how our future in space may actually be.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Also read Genesis Quest and Second Genesis by Donald Moffeit. The second book is most likely to interest you as it revolves around the lives of humans and an alien race living on a space-tree.

I sounds a bit odd, but the books are great and it might just give you some ideas.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Quote:
Original post by cyric74
There are too many "Wing Commander" space games based on hyperspace, wormholes, warp drives and such. Too much Star Wars, and not enough thought about how our future in space may actually be.


Yes, the 'Star Wars' type are a bit overdone but give me a good simulation as a lone pilot and I'll jump right in there.

And yet, the challange of applying known Newtonian limitations can produce worthy epics.
Personally, I wonder if it is feasible to use only tin cans on such voyages as the human physique was born in a set rotational pattern with set cosmic influences which no amount of economy based sheilding could adequatly filter.
This leads me to wonder if human systemic failure would prevail if we travelled beyond our 'sphere of influence' and if so, how would we then appeoach leaving those boundaries behind.
Would a huge rock hollowed out help at all by blocking or filtering different patterns.
I make this observation based on some native plants here in NZ.
They die if removed from their habitat without preparation and maintaining their growth orientation in relation to the sun.(Perhaps that happens everywhere).

Then we need to look at the physics of moving such a vehicle and the application of time dilation.
Perhaps thats why 'Star Warsy' games are so prolific, reality can be reinvented.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Well, using this Generation Ship idea would make more of an excellent story to a game versus being a game type so to say. A sim game would make you experience the boredom of such a thing, while lets say a dramatic first person with an interesting story intro would seem a lot more interesting.

But I don't think you could make a game that is based solely on that - more particularly using the story of Generation Ship, and focusing in on some huge event that could potentially destroy the mission.

"We have been boarded by aliens!" and then like millions of kids get slaughtered, and blah blah blah - it could be a bad thing, oxygen supply runs low, plants have been killed, etc...

The whole point of the game could be you avoiding the aliens, boarding the alien ship, blowing it up, and then, end game.

Also for some reason this idea makes me think it should be a female with the lead role.


Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I like the setting. A lot.
Which genres would work with it is trickier though.
I wouldn't rule out a Sims-style game. It might actually address one of the problems a lot of people had with The Sims. You get bored after a few days, because it's just a big sandbox with no limitations and no direction.
True, that's what attracts some people to the game, but it's also what makes others get tired of it soon after.

I think it could work. Basically, it'd be The Sims, where the environment and the people as a whole matters, rather than just your chosen few individuals.

Quote:

The ship could have an anti-grav scoop that allowed collection of space debris in front of it, and the player channels that raw resource into the expansion of the ship while in flight

Bleargh, that sounds lame. [wink]
Repairing/refining/expanding the ship in-flight is a nice idea, but I think the entire point is that the ship is self-contained. You don't have people popping outside to admire the view, or visit the nearest planet to pick up supplies, so you don't have a big vacuum cleaner attached to the front either, sucking up handy building materials.

Anyway, plenty of other genres would be possible. It could make for an amazing RPG or adventure game. Or maybe SimCity? You could even squeeze in a FPS.

And finally, it would give you the perfect opportunity for a sequel. When they finally reach their destination, you have a perfect setting for a new game. A couple of hundred people to whom planets are some distant legend, whose culture is bound to be way different from what we know (population control would be a damn big factor aboard the ship, and privacy would probably have suffered badly, for example). And what's more, their level of technology might have deteriorated, making colony-building a challenge. Plus of course, they're bound to run up against a ton of limitations because Earth originally failed to plan for some emergency or obstacle.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest Anonymous Poster
Quote:
Original post by cyric74
Now that I'm done with my 4E4 project, I'm starting to look towards other ideas as a pet project to develop over the next few months. One idea that has always interested me is The Generation Ship.

Basically the idea is that for humans to ever reach new solar systems, assuming we can't get the hang of faster-than-light travel, we'll need to exile small, diverse populations of colonists on large ships that take hundreds of years to reach their final destination. Depending on the length of the journey, many generations of colonists will live, breed, and die knowing only the inside of their ship.

This concept seems like it would make an amazing game idea, IF it could be implemented in an entertaining manner.

So my question to you is: How would you approach the general implementation of a game like this?

My feeling is that a "The Sims"-like game environment could work, except with all the facets introduced by the Generation Ship: Upkeep of the ship, inbreeding creating human defects over many generations, small-scale wars that break out among various ship factions.. Basically the player would be a god-like observer watching over the passengers, manipulating things here and there, then seeing how their adjustments change the resulting generations.

Game ends when your population self-destructs, or reach their home planet. Could even create an expansion of the game where you import your population into a "Sim City" game to see how they do after landing.

What do you think? Lame idea, or potential?





Cute idea -- Instead of the player being 'God' he/she/it would be the ships Computer (Holy Turnabout Batman!!!) and would guide the Ships wellbeing and carry out actions for the inhabitants 'own good'......


The Mission is All.





Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Because this idea is so wide open with possibility, one thing I'd really concentrate on at the start is what kind of aesthetic sense you're trying to capture. Is the environment the focus (the compelling nature of the ship and how it works)? Is the story the focus? Is the survival simulation such an environment implies important (consummables, weather patterns, gravitational rotation)? Or is strategy and planning, military or civic, the focus? You might even be trying to capture the sense of evolving culture, and what happens to the mindset of the people.

Once you figure out the aesthetic sense you're going for I think you'll be better able to narrow down what gameplay elements to include. Here are some off the wall ideas, some based on books I've read or heard about:

Lakeside The Long Sun: You could have a generation ship gone wrong where the crew have become posthuman/extinct, the colonists have regressed to near digital illiteracy (even worshipping tech), and a single character has to somehow save the day. This would be more a puzzle/action game on a huge scale in a very strange environment.

Civ meets Master of Orion with Greg Bear's Eon for spice: The generation ship could be massive enough to be its own mobile cylindrical planet. The interior could be partly manmade, partly bound to a wormhole which creates an infinite Way stretching through spacetime. You'd gather materials in space in order to pave / terraform the Way. But because its a wormhole linked throughout spacetime, enemy forces could pop into your terraformed land at specific points.

A thousand eyes, ten thousand mouths Don't remember the title of this book, but I read a weird generation ship story where the main character was conned into volunteering for a project which turned him into a brain in a jar. He found himself running the ship, and at first was angry and mistreated the colonists. This caused their tech and social development to decline to the point where they were a danger to the ship. He then had to war with them until, generations later, he managed to make peace. Throughout the voyage he kept having to give them goals, place pressures on them so that they wouldn't decline, aggressively take out socially cancerous elements (like a Satanist terrorist cell), and even hide or defend against hostile alien boarders. As a game, I could see this being a blend of personal interaction and Sim-cultural development, with some RTS combat thrown in for good measure. Might be fun.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I think the same as most responses here:

Good story. Great potential. Need game design.

A sandbox game can be nice, a strategic game too. Depend of what you want. A story is a background: dont define a game.

But I could think of cool ideas to keep in mind when designing the game (some already said, but ill put here anyway):
- limited resources (oxygen, food, maintenance materials)
- fragile environment (need to cultivate plants, maintenance of the ship, rest workers and train them phisically, etc)
- random events (aliens, black holes, generator core leak, etc... Just watch Star Trek :P)
- individuality and plotline (each character with desires and a story of himself)
- internal divergences (factions trying to take over, terrorist group, alien spy, etc...)
- Central computer, helping the player and/or creating troubles (could be the player).
- psicological and physical problems to its habitants.
- variables to each char (stress, loyalty, radiation, weakness, etc...)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

Sign in to follow this