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cyric74

Generation Ship: Good idea, hard implementation?

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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).

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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]

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