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gxaxhx

Space Sim Ship Configuration - Real Time or Paused

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I'm working on the design for a space sim right now. One of the aspects of their ship a player has to manage is power. Conditions that affect power can change real-time while the player is flying through space, engaged in combat, or whatever. But I'm not really sure how I want to tackle this. I could try and develop a very streamlined interface that the player uses while still flying around in real-time. My worry here is that some players would feel too much stress in trying to handle what is going on outside their ship while managing their ship's systems. On the other hand, I could have a screen where they manage these systems and pause the game while they adjust these settings. What I don’t like about this solution is that breaks the immersion. Thoughts on what direction I should take?

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When playing in real time, a player can get overloaded if there are too many things to do.

We see one simplified interface for this is to consider one hand guiding movement and another guiding general tasks. For an FPS or RPG that may essentially be WASD for move and the mouse clicking things on screen for open ended actions. By contrast, a typical RTS might have a mouse for movement and the general tasks are handled with one hand keyboard shortcuts.

Knowing these limits, you can probably answer your question by determining how complex you want to make the movement system. As the movement increases in complexity, your player's ability to manage their energy allocation goes down - they will need a pause in the action if you want energy allocation to be more complex and no pause if it is easier.

Here's a simple example;

Perhaps we say the S key moves the ship forward and W,A,D, and X dive, turn left, turn right, and climb accordingly. This leaves the mouse hand open - a good general tool. So, the energy allocation could perhaps be a series of bars with + and - sliders to add and subtract from them; one bar each for shields, engines, weapons, life support might be one idea. So, with the right hand the player is dynamically able to move the sliders with the mouse... but if it becomes more complex than a few sliders, the player will likely need to pause to be able to hit everything correctly.

Remember that you can offer quick versions of complex tasks with macros. If the player spends time with a complex tool to allocate energy for "combat mode" and for "escape mode", then you could switch to allocations with perhaps a single key or click.

More complexity, more need to pause, in my opinion.

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Real-Time solutions:

1) You could make all of that automatic, and then allow the player to set behavioral conditions beforehand (during downtimes for instance). For example, you could give players the ability to prioritize systems/parts so that power will be automatically distributed during the battle (by for example an artificial intelligence or ship computer) without much player intervention, leaving the player to focus on the battle itself.

OR

2) You could slow down the battles themselves to a point where players are able to control specific things like power and repair commands while the battle is going on. When I mean "slow down", you might take it as the impulse speed of the ships, the firing rate of weapons, and etc. Battles in this style would be sort of the speed of a battle that takes place say in an episode of Star Trek.

[Edited by - Tangireon on October 9, 2008 3:22:48 PM]

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Quote:
Original post by gxaxhxWhat I don’t like about this solution is that breaks the immersion.

Does it? Perhaps, perhaps not. It's not like it encourages you to go and make a cup of coffee before resuming the game. I'd imagine that if the combat gets frenzied enough, you'll go into this screen to fiddle with power settings, and then immediately jump back into the fray, without really being pulled out of the game.

But it's impossible to predict exactly how it's going to feel, or if it's going to be necessary. I'd probably suggest trying to make both possible, so you can switch between the two options without too much trouble. See what works, and choose based on that.

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