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Wavinator

Indirect Interaction in Multiplayer Space Trading?

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How satisfying would it be to act indirectly against rivals you may never see? Consider the typical space trader with multiplayer for up to 8 people and a faction system for building up alliances. You start in a tiny ship and try to make it in a big galaxy, but other players can affect you along the way. An Example: Let's say you take off from Earth and decide to stop at the Moon. There are five ports, four of which have sky high fees for docking because they're controlled by rival players. You choose the fifth to avoid the fees, but because your security sucks a saboteur sabotages your engines when you refuel. Repairs are expensive and you decide to pick up some cargo and fix them later. Now you limp to Mars. On the way, you're ambushed by a squadron of mercs sent by another rival. Luckily, you pick them off, scavenge the debris, and come away with a downed pilot. He reveals which rival attacked you, and using special inventory items ("a loyalty virus") temporarily turn him to your side. At Mars, a friendly NPC informs you that she's found a treasure trove of alien artifacts. You have agents nearby who can drop in on it, or you can try to get it yourself. You go yourself, but upon arrival hit a mine left by another player. It's possible that it was randomly left behind. Or was your friendly NPC a double agent? The Point? The point here: You're not really playing against other players unless you happen to encounter them on the map. How hard should I work to make players face each other directly? Should you ever be able to be ruined by players who get to the goods before you, set traps, and use equipment and false information to foil you? If you think it's vital that players be forced to act directly, what do you think might do this? I've thought of special bonus opportunities, like a fire sale for cheap goods or multiplayer competitive missions (one defends, another assaults for instance) but how do you make something like this balanced and fair when players, due to their own efforts, could be at varying levels of speed or strength? EDIT: Forgot to note, the whole reason I'm asking relates to the size of the game map and whether or not you should somehow always be able to see where your rivals are. I have misgivings about going through the work to provide multiplayer when you might only rarely directly interact because there are so many systems to travel to.

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In a large game universe, how likely is it that the players will be even be operating indirectly against each other? In a three player game, if Player One is conducting missions on Mars while Player Two is shuttling passengers between Venus and Saturn and Player Three is mining the moons of Neptune, then there isn't really a reason for any of them to interact with each other. You'll most likely need some kind of method for wanting the players to interact with each other in some way, such as competing for some prize.

For your actual question: I don't particular mind indirect interaction over direct. That was pretty much the whole point of trading games such as Machiavelli the Prince, and it worked well for that genre.

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I know in Sins of a Solar Empire (a real-time 4X game) you can put bounties on other player's heads which would persuade neutral-faction pirates and mercenaries of the map (which includes many stars, many planets) to attempt to become hostile against you. It is sort of implied that players will compete against each other in that game as they are on opposing sides; as such, the game allows you to bribe various NPC factions into attacking your enemies if you choose to.

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I do not believe that you will need to force players to seek each other out. All you need to do is provide that option, and an incentive to pursue it. That incentive need not be more than the satisfaction of besting them to encourage a significant number of players to do so. It is well observed in all 'MMO' environments that some players enjoy raining on the parades of others and testing their metal in combat.

More importantly, however, this fact will force less 'outgoing' players to prepare for such a consequence or act to prevent it. Players engaging in activities which may irk others might wish to ensure the loyalty of their followers, cover their tracks or prepare strong defences. They may also consider pre-emptive strikes on their rivals before entering new territory.

What I think will be hardest to balance is the difficulty in tracking down one's foes. Make it too easy and it will become a game of seek and destroy. Too difficult and players may lose interest.

In addition, the mechanics involved will depend greatly on the number of players, as well as their level of maturity.

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Quote:
Original post by Wavinator
How satisfying would it be to act indirectly against rivals you may never see?

Imagine a game where you can place a minefield. If I just got an in-game message that says "Your minefield on the bridge/warpgate just blew up" that could be very interesting.

Does mining out the resources near the enemy camp count as indirect combat?

What about a "race" for control of a choke point? The enemy might not even be aware there is a choke point.

[Edited by - AngleWyrm on July 18, 2008 4:46:30 AM]

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