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Wavinator

Space Trading Over 'Eras'

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How do you allow for the dynamic sense of time and advancement when players are wedded to the investments they make in earning things in a game? Weird question, but let me frame it like this: I've been thinking about several ways to advance time in an Escape Velocity like space trading game. Typically, as with RPGs, you're looking to upgrade yourself over time from the weakest starting ship to one that walks through the valley of death fearing no evil. But what if the game had technology 'eras' which caused older ships to slowly become obsolete? For example, when you start playing in the "Near Earth Space Age" era ships look like futuristic NASA spaceplane designs and can't travel past the moon. You then play for X in game years and technology advances to the "Far Earth Space Age." Whatever you'd acquired by that time, even if it was the equivalent of the Battlestar Galactica, would gradually be outclassed by newer ships. If you waited too long to upgrade you might find your aging battlestar ridiculously expensive to repair and little match for "Interstellar Space Age" shuttles with warp drives and photon torpedoes. But what about the investment you've made to get that dreadnought? I don't want to bother with the work of modeling different hulls if players are only going to feel cheated that they have to take a step down to something smaller just because it's more advanced. Retrofitting would work within certain limits, but part of the "feel" of the more futuristic ships is their more futuristic body plans (and I don't have the ability to dynamically update them as I might wish). This becomes even clearer if tech switches are exotic, like switching from ugly asteroid cruisers to svelte organic frigates. So what can you do to create both the sense of advancing time and honor the player's investment? The best idea I have right now is to use a time limit, to actually break the game into "lifespans" that match the eras such that you never carry all (or any?) advancement from one era to the next. I don't like it, but advancement would at least have closure and the game would feel like it spans an epic swath of time. Thoughts?

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This totally doesn't fall in line with realism, but what if everything just degraded over time?

Like if you had something like a system where you upgraded your ship from level 1 to level 2, from level 2 to level 3 etc... maybe that upgrade level was a sliding scale (floating point number) instead of an integer, and as time went on that number ticked down.

might not be the solution you are looking for but it seems to fit the goals mathematically and game play wise :P

Since everyone was degrading at the same rate it would be an even playing field and kind of normalize everyone's tech (and i guess there would be a cieling).

Something else, in line with your idea of eras, is there is this game called Kings of Chaos on the web thats kind of neat but what they do is exactly like you say, end each age and everyone starts again from scratch.

Of course, the winners of an age get prizes and things so it isnt just that "oh great we've lost everything" its just the beginning of a new tournament.

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Thanks for the feedback Atrix256. Breaking the game up into eras/lifespans has an appeal in light of the fact that we keep hearing about how people don't have enough time to finish a traditional game these days. It could be like a longer version of Strange Adventures in Infinite Space, which is supposed to take you a lunch hour to finish if I remember correctly.

Degrading things over time might work otherwise, but I think that'd be more of a money sink problem. If you've made a fortune you could probably afford to keep repairing/maintaining your ship, assuming that such a thing would be possible. The price for doing so could rise exponentially, which is another incentive to chuck old tech. But if you've made it big and have a large ship, I can't see you restarting in an advanced age shuttle, if only for the fact that you should logically be able to afford a top of the line ship depending on how high you made it. If this is the case, then why would late eras even include low end ships?



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Hmm, I see your point. I guess the obvious solution that doesn't really solve the problem is than an upgraded ship will get you lots more money as it becomes a collectors item. This way, when the player is forced to sell their ship due to era shift, they are at least rewarded for crafting an excellent ship. Perhaps you could attach some kind of renown system to this, so a ship which has defeated entire armies would be worth even more.

I suppose the biggest problem is that some players will become attached to their ship. This is true of a lot of games though. Take Forza Motorsport, the first car I got, I spent ages buying upgrades, painting it and fine tuning it. Racing in it was a dream. But by the third car, I would barely touch them, doing the races and moving on. It was never the same.

I guess you could let the player keep their old ships, and use them for more peaceful missions, where the latest tech isn't required and use their fancy ships for the more dangerous missions.

Also, try and make it a gradual shift away from one ship towards another. Don't force the player to drop their dearly beloved in favour of some sleek sterile ship. Instead, make in financially viable to have both ships, letting them use their nice ship, whilst working on the new one.

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Again, this is perhaps a rough and ugly solution but maybe you could do something like "damage / armor inflation"

ie the latest and greatest ships and technology would do progressively more damage, which would in turn require progressively better hulls and shield technology.

Now, to keep those numbers from getting larger and larger ad infinitum, you could normalize those numbers to some maximum.

Thus, in a sense you are degrading the usefulness of existing technology while being able to phase in newer, better technology.

that way, maybe someone could have bragging rights like "i beat you in a dual where you had the latest ship and i used a cargo freighter from 3 seasons ago"

::shrug::

not the most elegant solution but tossin it out there again :P

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A few thoughts:
1. Why would they downgrade to a frigate class ship from an old dreadnought class? Look at it this way: If you've made enough money to afford the old dreadnought, you aught to have made enough money in the time with the dread to afford another ship of equivalent size from the next generation.
2. Now, the latest generation (we'll assume 3 generations of ships are in play at this point) might be expensive, while the second generation could be relatively cheap, while older technology would be more expensive as well (proof: SD-Ram prices or even DDR vs DDR2).
3. Look at it as an inverse bell curve that slides along with the previous generation being the easiest to afford while the older generation ships are not cheap to repair, and the newer generation ships are harder to acquire(cost more).
4. Thus a very successful trader would be able to afford the latest and greatest of ships of a similar size to their current one; less well to do traders would be flying around in second generation ships, and the bad traders would end up (if they wish to upgrade) downsizing to afford the next step up. Which, in a gameplay sense makes sense... specifically the Eve-Online saying of "Don't fly what you can't afford to lose" applies even in a trading game.

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Quote:
Original post by Wavinator
But if you've made it big and have a large ship, I can't see you restarting in an advanced age shuttle, if only for the fact that you should logically be able to afford a top of the line ship depending on how high you made it. If this is the case, then why would late eras even include low end ships?
If we are talking about the Escape Velocity crowd, then they would downgrade just for the hell of it. They would also be prone to spending hours and fortunes upgrading a first-era shuttle to fight against fifth-era battlecruisers... (I recall a friend spending four hours in taking down a carrier group with a single viper) [wink]

As for everyone else, the 'sleek new hull' system might work well enough, especially if you apply a rust shader: nobody likes to fly a run-down ship forever.

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I see two possibilities, one being to have different tech types and levels which determine what technology you can have in a ship. For instance as a rule of thumb technology might only work within 4 versions of each other. So a level 5 hull can’t have any device with tech level higher then 9 in it or lower then 1. Likewise with technology types you might have warp technology and prewarp technology and you can’t have any prewarp device below level 25 in a warp capable ship.

This allows the player to upgrade their ship as much as they want up until a point, at which time they have no choice but to buy a new one entirely if they want access to newest technology.

The other option which I think is more interesting is to have a dynasty system. Divide the game into a number of different eras. At the end of the era the player gets a score card based on whatever factors you want. For example political influence, wealth, plot events completed. The player then gets dynasty points with which to buy bonuses and new features for their family line. For example increasing the level of your starting ship, become a noble, expanding your base of operations. The players old ship gets moth balled and saved so they can look at it whenever they want but at the start of each new era they get a new ship based on their dynasty stats.

The advantage of dividing the game into eras is that you can have more expansive game with large sweepings changes to the game world and map. For instance the first era might start with simple ships that can travel the solar system and ends with creation of the first interstellar engine, while the second era takes place a100 years later at the height of the interstellar colonization program.

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Are players only allowed to own a single ship? Why not allow them to set up freighter runs/routes, and assign ships to them.

This solves a few problems and advances your game.

Early ear ships can be shunted back to lesser routes as you acquire a newer ship to use on your most important/dangerous run, possibly controlling it directly. If a ship gets too old to be productive on any kind of a long run, then maybe it can be useful as a reserve shuttle or something, maybe becoming part of a stationary base you set up, or working as a tug/workhorse shuttle for it.


Another option is just simply highly modular systems. Why do you need a 'hull'? Why not a Frame?

Engineering Bay + Engines
Command and Control Centers
Life Support Systems
Weapon Systems
Energy Grid Systems
Cargo Bays
Cargo Handling Systems
Communications Systems
Navigation Systems
Frame Work
Armour Plate
Shield Systems



Buy your Frame Work, that has hard points to attach other systems to. As your equipment gets out dated, strip it off, sell it for used/scrap, and plop something new in its place. Need to expand? Roll on into the ship yard, pull your equipment off your existing frame, and slap it on a newer frame with more slots and expand your ship.

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Quote:
Original post by TechnoGoth
The other option which I think is more interesting is to have a dynasty system. Divide the game into a number of different eras. At the end of the era the player gets a score card based on whatever factors you want. For example political influence, wealth, plot events completed. The player then gets dynasty points with which to buy bonuses and new features for their family line. For example increasing the level of your starting ship, become a noble, expanding your base of operations. The players old ship gets moth balled and saved so they can look at it whenever they want but at the start of each new era they get a new ship based on their dynasty stats.

The advantage of dividing the game into eras is that you can have more expansive game with large sweepings changes to the game world and map. For instance the first era might start with simple ships that can travel the solar system and ends with creation of the first interstellar engine, while the second era takes place a100 years later at the height of the interstellar colonization program.


I quite like the idea of splitting the game in to distinct chunks. This would be very powerful narratively as it would allow you to advance time by a large amount. I remember in Fable 2, when you go to the jail, time advances dramatically, so that when you return, your children are all grown up. I think this is a really cool way of having dramatic shifts occur within the game.

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