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Wavinator

Enhancing Tile-based Procedural Planets

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What elements / gameplay would you add to make procedural planets interesting and worthwhile to visit? I've got a prototype for a procedural planet generator up and working and I'm trying to decide what approach to take. Since it's a 2D tile-based single-player game I don't think immersion's really a selling point so I've decided to focus on some combination of action and strategy. The three areas I'm looking at right now are mining, environmental hazards and dealing with native life. One approach I could take would be abstract and strategy heavy. The tiles would essentially be a giant puzzle, with movement through tiles restricted or coming at some cost. You'd first need a flat place to land. You'd then need a terrain vehicle with the range to get to the regions you cared about. Mountains would contain minerals but be costly to find a path through. Weather could change tiles (erasing a mountain pass, for instance) as well as directly damage the vehicle. Each tile would have a time cost with time jumping in increments each step. Another approach could emphasize a more "arcade-y" approach. Want to land directly in the mountains? Then you switch to a lunar lander mode and try to set down a flying vehicle on a 2d side-view mountain ledge. Collecting or fighting animals might be a top down tank game. I've also thought of building, but I want to keep pulling / tempting the player to uncover more and more planets, and I want the nature of the planets to feature prominently in how the player plays. So an ice planet would be different from an island dominated planet, for instance. Thoughts?

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My fisrst thought was, sounds a little like exploring planets in Starflight.

My second thought was, motivation to get people to explore would be money. Get people to explore a planet to find stuff like various minerals, life forms, planets for terraforming, and settlement sites. Maybe keep it to that sort of stuff and give the player a time limit (of a lifetime) to see how much money he can make.

My third thought was that it'd be cool to cross Starflight with X-Com. Find a site to land, load up the ATV with gear and head out, arrive at destination, do some resource collection using ATV, disembark from ATV for resource collection that requires a more "delicate touch". I remember trying to stun aliens in X-com to bring them back for research. I'm thinking you could get the player to do missions like that targeting specific life forms. Or find other reasons to get the PCs to leave the comfort of the ATV.

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My third thought was that it'd be cool to cross Starflight with X-Com. Find a site to land, load up the ATV with gear and head out, arrive at destination, do some resource collection using ATV, disembark from ATV for resource collection that requires a more "delicate touch". I remember trying to stun aliens in X-com to bring them back for research. I'm thinking you could get the player to do missions like that targeting specific life forms. Or find other reasons to get the PCs to leave the comfort of the ATV.


Hmm, my first thought was something like Dune 2, where you harvest Spice on the sand and have to keep close to the rocks lest the native Sand Worms devour your equipment. That and how your buildings always seemed to decay over time (presumably because of the corroding effects of the sand).

You could make the mineral deposits small, encouraging the player to pack up and leave after a short time, much like mining in StarControl 2.

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Use the same formula which Blizzard and most other additive games use. Lots of monotony punctuated with cool stuff spread out just enough to keep them playing.

Perhaps you have to mine these planets, fight off hostile wildlife and occasionally undercover hidden gems or artifacts (also quest related clues).

The only compelling reason to visit these planets is the meta game surrounding them, ie u visit them to collect minerals which u sell on the galactic market so u can upgrade your equipmenet and stuff, or maybe ur searching for the lost treasure of the ancients and have to collect the 4 pieces of a key scattered across the universe?

Without a compelling meta-game, whichever setting you choose for the planet themselves is secondary (be it turn based tile game or realtime top down shooter or first person mining ). Create a compelling meta game ( perhaps your an intergalactic mining baron in competition with your peers to corner the market for this sector ).

Look at Elite for example, even though they didn't have u mining the planets directly, there was a compelling reason to visit other planets ( it was a space pilot sim, where you played the role of a space trader or pirate basically ). The feedback loop of getting a good haul and upgrading your ship which in turn allowed you to get even more loot was addictive then as it is now.

Good Luck!

-ddn

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Original post by kseh
My fisrst thought was, sounds a little like exploring planets in Starflight.


[smile] Yup, that's my influence. Funny enough, I replayed through Starflight recently and although I still love the game I was struck by how empty planets felt. Once you mine them enough and collect the quest specific artifacts there's not a lot to exploring the environment itself. So I've been trying to put more gameplay into the act of actually roving the terrain.

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My second thought was, motivation to get people to explore would be money. Get people to explore a planet to find stuff like various minerals, life forms, planets for terraforming, and settlement sites. Maybe keep it to that sort of stuff and give the player a time limit (of a lifetime) to see how much money he can make.
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A time limit is one approach I'm leaning toward, but I think even with money the gameplay for exploring needs to be more robust than just a scavenger hunt. I think my problem becomes trying to make sure that the exploration is an end unto its own, rather than just a (typically tedious) phase you have to get to so you can play the game in a way that's more fun. In Starflight once you find the right planet, if you have the stomach for it you can make all the money you need, after which you have the strength to take on the enemy ships and go almost anywhere you please.

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My third thought was that it'd be cool to cross Starflight with X-Com. Find a site to land, load up the ATV with gear and head out, arrive at destination, do some resource collection using ATV, disembark from ATV for resource collection that requires a more "delicate touch". I remember trying to stun aliens in X-com to bring them back for research. I'm thinking you could get the player to do missions like that targeting specific life forms. Or find other reasons to get the PCs to leave the comfort of the ATV.


Okay, as far as getting the player's party out, what do you think about impassible regions that have to be scouted before they can be moved through? A dense forest or jungle, for instance, would be impervious to ATV traffic (or I could say that the time cost to move through is tripled or whatever).

By itself that's not enough of a challenge, but if it's mixed with hostile life or treacherous terrain, it *might* be enough while you're on your way to either accomplish some mission, collect something or get to some site.



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Original post by Gyrthok
Hmm, my first thought was something like Dune 2, where you harvest Spice on the sand and have to keep close to the rocks lest the native Sand Worms devour your equipment.


Hmmm... I wonder how far this could be expanded. You wouldn't want sandworms on every planet, but it would be interesting if I had some overall threat that was consistent from planet to planet that was similar, sort of a dumber Zerg or something like the bugs in Starship Troopers.

I don't think I'd like to do this everywhere, though, because I don't want to just focus on combat. But maybe combining something like this with weather effects or some consistent force that had to be opposed might work.

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You could make the mineral deposits small, encouraging the player to pack up and leave after a short time, much like mining in StarControl 2.


Yes I was thinking about breaking mining into surface, which would be easy both collect and exhaust, and subsurface, which would require a full blown mining operation that potentially has to be supported and defended.

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Original post by ddn3
Use the same formula which Blizzard and most other additive games use. Lots of monotony punctuated with cool stuff spread out just enough to keep them playing.


Ouch. I get the spirit of what you're saying, but I don't play those types of games because of the monotony. I like the cool stuff part, though.

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The only compelling reason to visit these planets is the meta game surrounding them, ie u visit them to collect minerals which u sell on the galactic market so u can upgrade your equipmenet and stuff, or maybe ur searching for the lost treasure of the ancients and have to collect the 4 pieces of a key scattered across the universe?


I agree with the idea of having the meta game, which draws you to the location for a larger, more abstract region (collecting what you need to level, for instance). What I really hate is the idea that the activity itself has to be tedious.

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Create a compelling meta game ( perhaps your an intergalactic mining baron in competition with your peers to corner the market for this sector ).


I can see meta gameplay in terms of leveling and changing the larger game universe in ways that help you with your ultimate goals (expansion to some degree).

But what I'm realizing is that I need to somehow build gameplay into the actual geography itself. If I don't, then what's the difference between any two locations? If there are dozens of frozen ice planets, for instance, and you're going there for meta-game purposes, why go to one over another?

It seems to me that they need to have some sort of meaningful variance. The random way that the tiles have assembled on the map needs to impose some sort of consideration onto the player's goals and strategies. That you come across a planet that's filled with islands, for instance, versus one that features a landlocked sea surrounded by mountains should mean something. (Heh, I just have to figure out what that something actually is).

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Original post by ROBERTREAD1
I plan on "Drop automated (minerals = (Log(time)) mining gear and defend it". For my game.


I think that's a good formula. I'd like to use it myself but don't want to rely only on it because then mining is really serving only the purpose of war.

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Original post by Wavinator
I think my problem becomes trying to make sure that the exploration is an end unto its own, rather than just a (typically tedious) phase you have to get to so you can play the game in a way that's more fun.


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Okay, as far as getting the player's party out, what do you think about impassible regions that have to be scouted before they can be moved through? A dense forest or jungle, for instance, would be impervious to ATV traffic (or I could say that the time cost to move through is tripled or whatever).

By itself that's not enough of a challenge, but if it's mixed with hostile life or treacherous terrain, it *might* be enough while you're on your way to either accomplish some mission, collect something or get to some site.


I'm pondering how a big part of the fun of a rougelike is drinking an unknown potion or reading an unknown scroll. What if you could put together a bunch of ingredients to get another unknown potion. What if you consulted the spirits and they suggested that if you want a potion to make yourself stronger you should seek out a mushroom that grows in a high altitude in a high gravity environment (or maybe that was advice from a ship's autodoc). Perhaps you need a remedy for that posionous mushroom that you recklessly ate. You notice a bunch of critters eat those things all the time and think (or are advised) they might have an immunity that you can examine to find a cure. Go catch one.

Usually you'd take a risk on a potion in a rougelike because you were desperate. Whether it was from a lack of food or you're about to be thrashed by numerous enemies. You'd use the potion hoping for the best and then deal with the effects and concequences. Perhaps what you want to do is make resources relatively scarce galaxy wide. Though I doubt the effects of making ship/vehical repairs with an unknown metal would be as interesting as a crew member eating an unknown fruit.

The best reason I can think of for getting the crew to leave the ATV is so they can perform operations that require a more refined touch than that of the ATV lazer cannon. If there were significant threats then it might be desirable to have the crew spread out so their guns can support the ATV's cannon or for a wider sensor sweep. It does make sense that people might be able to go certain places more effectively than the ATV but I think you need to be sure the player has a reason to deploy the crew in any terrain and not just for certain types. And while venturing out into the jungle on foot might be fun and suspensful, demolishing a path for the ATV would probably get tedious after the first few times.

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Original post by kseh
Usually you'd take a risk on a potion in a rougelike because you were desperate. Whether it was from a lack of food or you're about to be thrashed by numerous enemies. You'd use the potion hoping for the best and then deal with the effects and concequences. Perhaps what you want to do is make resources relatively scarce galaxy wide. Though I doubt the effects of making ship/vehical repairs with an unknown metal would be as interesting as a crew member eating an unknown fruit.


You know that's a cool idea. It's funny how easily all of this can be translated from fantasy to SF, especially if you're willing to tolerate a bit of science fantasy. Your spirits are AIs, your potions are complex serums or genetic concoctions. That unknown metal needs to be highly reactive (maybe some sort of nanotech or even more advanced attotech?).

The biggest problem I've always had is that as an explorer you're expected to pretty much be buttoned up in self-contained environmental gear unlike some hapless rogue wandering through a swamp. So logically why the heck are you taking off your suit to get stung by strange bees or to inhale psychotropic poisons? Doesn't make sense. My science fantasy answer involving miniature wormholes allowing stuff to pass through your protection likely makes even less sense, but I haven't come up with anything better.

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It does make sense that people might be able to go certain places more effectively than the ATV but I think you need to be sure the player has a reason to deploy the crew in any terrain and not just for certain types.


You're right about this, but it may be that I end up creating modes corresponding to terrain. If it's flat, dull and easy to cross you can't get out. You can only get out at blockages, like jungles or alien ruins. It doesn't make a heck of a lot of sense but sometimes a game has to protect the player from doing things that would be boring.

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And while venturing out into the jungle on foot might be fun and suspensful, demolishing a path for the ATV would probably get tedious after the first few times.


Good point. Darn these ideas sound good at first brush but I can see this being even more tedious than wading through mobs of monsters (which at least fight back) In games where you need to find a path (maze gameplay essentially) it's often a real-time pressure that makes the experience more interesting, and it doesn't make sense to apply that pressure in all environments-- for instance, on an earth like world if you run out of gas you're just out of gas.

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Original post by Wavinator
The biggest problem I've always had is that as an explorer you're expected to pretty much be buttoned up in self-contained environmental gear unlike some hapless rogue wandering through a swamp. So logically why the heck are you taking off your suit to get stung by strange bees or to inhale psychotropic poisons? Doesn't make sense. My science fantasy answer involving miniature wormholes allowing stuff to pass through your protection likely makes even less sense, but I haven't come up with anything better.


Right, I forgot that there should be plenty of tools to prevent accidents and foolishness. I was thinking food might be the answer. If I'm starving or thirsty I might take off the EV suit or otherwise expose myself to eat or drink. But even if that were the case I'd still probably have a scanner of some kind to tell me that the mushrooms are poisonous or the fruit is crawling with microscopic parasites. I'm running low on ideas. A few quick thoughts would be to throw it back to resources being scarce. It keeps coming to my mind anyway.

Maybe the squad is equiped with some sort of hitchhiker's guide rather than a medical tricorder. It could tell you that mushrooms are frequently poisonous, but it doesn't know for certain if this particular one is (unless maybe encountered before). Keep the high powered nano-scope and other lab equipment back on the ship. Should I take the risk now eating this unknown food and be able to keep exploring or do I head back to the ship and determine if it's safe?

When it comes to exposing the crew to directly to other lifeforms, There's always the classic where the decon biofilters didn't recognise the new lifeforms. After the first infection, it could be properly cataloged so the crew is protected from that particular virus/insect/whatever. Perhaps an expensive software upgrade with new lifeform detection algorythms would decrease this risk in the future.

I was also thinking that the EV suits might allow some kind of puncture damage like from a bee sting or animal bite. The attack would get through because the suit needs to be flexible and light but instead of leaving a gaping hole in the suit, self repairing nano-fibers fix the hole. It might be possible to sell that idea but a quick search on modern chainmail suggests that it can effectively protect against something like a shark bite. I would figure advanced nano-fiber mail might provide similar protection with less weight so I'm thinking that idea isn't that great.




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Original post by kseh
I was also thinking that the EV suits might allow some kind of puncture damage like from a bee sting or animal bite. The attack would get through because the suit needs to be flexible and light but instead of leaving a gaping hole in the suit, self repairing nano-fibers fix the hole. It might be possible to sell that idea but a quick search on modern chainmail suggests that it can effectively protect against something like a shark bite. I would figure advanced nano-fiber mail might provide similar protection with less weight so I'm thinking that idea isn't that great.


Ha, yes, you're right. But it's still a cool idea that could be framed in terms not of what should be the tech but what market forces have created. For instance you'd think that remote controlled robotics could be used extensively in Iraq to protect against IEDs and that the troops should be decked out with the most advanced stuff possible. Yet we know this isn't the case due to a complex web of politics, engineering and business.

So maybe the military has the nano-fiber, which costs 150k a suit, but poor wildcatting civvies have to deal with second hand junk.

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Original post by BLiTZWiNG
Don't forget good old Star Trek "phase shifting" as a way for things to pass through your suit!


That's exactly my bs excuse.[smile] That and two races are vying to colonize the galaxy (or at least prevent it's colonization) by weaponizing life at the biomolecular level. So if you run across rhinos with psionics or bears with near monofilament grade claws, you'll know who caused it.

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Some interesting stuff going on. I'd say take a look at some excellent classics like alpha centauri and
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sid_Meier%27s_Alpha_Centauri
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fragile_Allegiance

Both excellent scifi planet building games with a wicked META-game. Alpha Centauri's approach to the native life forms you are trying to make is especially interesting. They a sort of mind worms that are part of the planet and react to how you build on it, certain society types or buildings make an impact on the activeness of these. There is also a very interesting victory condition that is most easily pursued by the tree-loving faction the gaians to merge with these liveforms and become a part of the planet, very scifi haha.

Problem with this game is the huge time the gameplay takes in the late midgame turns. There are ways to automate things, but they are less than ideal. I think a good way for you to explore would be to expand upon automatically maintaining colonies so you can concentrate on the META game.

Off course the META-game of alpha centauri is in the diplomatics and it's highly polar factions. Which is a nice property of scifi, you can play with possible future social systems.

Fragile allegiance is more centered around little chunks of rock that you chuck full of mining buildings and transport all its minerals to your main base to build the biggest fleet. hehe in a nutshell then. Also serves to illustrate the point that as said befoer that the metagame is in fact the interesting selling point should you go for strategy. Interesting points with fragile allegiance are the contacts with alien factions and the black market, you can indeed make a pretty penny with the fully functional fluctuating trade market. Or withhold your puny neighbours from medicine by buying up everything and releasing some deadly diseases with secret agents.

Hehe so I guess those are two old great games that might help to identify some strong and weak points of scifi strategy games that still count today.

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This a very interesting and challenging topic! I've read this thread a few times, but have only "marinated" over it until now.

One question I have is what kind of overall game mechanics you plan on implementing. Most generally, what do you want the goal(s) to be for the game? I remember you talking along the lines of trading in other threads, which would make maximizing money the overall goal. Basically, the game's goal(s) should determine the mechanics -- but I'm sure you already know this. :P

Another question is what POV the game will be played from. First-person, third-person, bird's-eye? I suspect that the third option is what you're going with, but I could be wrong.

Anyways, I definitely think that you shouldn't reveal the entire planet at once. Make a distinction between the planet's general features, which you can see from orbit, and what can be seen on the surface. This is like the "fog of war" in RTS games. Eliminating the fog of war basically requires expansion (building/travelling) and overcoming barriers (travelling/demolition/combat). Only by doing these things can more of the planet's detailed surface (and potentially more goodies) be revealed.

Hope this helps! Let me know what you think.

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Original post by Wavinator
What elements / gameplay would you add to make procedural planets interesting and worthwhile to visit?

Space Rangers 2 had an interesting phenomenon that may relate. When shopping at each world's NPC vendor, the ship upgrade stuff for sale varied in tech, stats, and price.

Visiting a world gave the same type of experience as an RPG loot drop. Maybe that same sense of opening a box with a surprise gift inside could be conveyed when travelling to a new tile?

If there are terrain types, they could differentiate prize tables, so that a player could expect to go to the mountains to find Dylithium or Diamonds.

[Edited by - AngleWyrm on June 17, 2009 2:03:56 PM]

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Original post by StJoris
Alpha Centauri's approach to the native life forms you are trying to make is especially interesting. They a sort of mind worms that are part of the planet and react to how you build on it, certain society types or buildings make an impact on the activeness of these. There is also a very interesting victory condition that is most easily pursued by the tree-loving faction the gaians to merge with these liveforms and become a part of the planet, very scifi haha.


I'm a really big fan of SMAC and Crossfire. The idea of the planet being a networked consciousness is REALLY cool, but I'm not sure that it works as anything other than a theme for one or a handful of planets. You might be able to expand the concept so that every planet you come across is an interlocking ecology that exhibits threat and character, but IIRC the mindworms of AC used psionic attacks to give them some parity with the humans' weapons, so I'd have to do something similar. (Hmmm... that might be interesting, tho' likely repetitive...)


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Off course the META-game of alpha centauri is in the diplomatics and it's highly polar factions. Which is a nice property of scifi, you can play with possible future social systems.


The meta game is something I've been trying to work out. Diplomacy is a good one, and maybe something like resource management and capture of alien lifeforms, which would vary from planet to planet, would make an interesting metagame. Maybe the two drive technology (even different branches of technology) and you're in the role of being something of a broker / kingmaker between factions.

This is sort of how it was as a civ in AC, except that in a case where your character is a ship rather than a civilization you'd expect the factions to be more granular. I've toyed with making this a driver for the different future cultures you mentioned, which is an area I'm really interested in but haven't yet been able to integrate into the game in a meaningful way.

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Fragile allegiance is more centered around little chunks of rock that you chuck full of mining buildings and transport all its minerals to your main base to build the biggest fleet.


I regret never getting into this game all that much as I hear it had lots of little interesting tradeoffs, especially with being a legitimate trader or going with the black market.

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Hehe so I guess those are two old great games that might help to identify some strong and weak points of scifi strategy games that still count today.


Thanks those are very good reminders!

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Original post by RobAU78
This a very interesting and challenging topic! I've read this thread a few times, but have only "marinated" over it until now.


Thanks for the input RobAU78. I'm starting to see why this sort of thing isn't tackled more often-- gaming expectations have changed so much that creating a large, open ended universe has become a considerable challenge. If a game universe has tons of places to explore, I think we've come to expect each to be more varied, detailed and meaningful than in the past (when a game like Starflight, one of the only few that tried this idea, could get away with massive, mostly empty worlds).

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One question I have is what kind of overall game mechanics you plan on implementing. Most generally, what do you want the goal(s) to be for the game?


Meh-- having a hard time with this one, as usual. It's easy to come up with lots of interesting mechanics but hard for me to lock onto a definitive game goal that ties them all together.

I've been wondering what hell I'll catch for not providing an overall goal. I've talked a bit elsewhere about giving the player a time limit (a "lifespan") and throwing shifting threats at them. This would imply a kind of persistent single player world (similar to Dwarf Fortress as I've heard it described). So you'd decide you want to be the richest trader, or stop a deadly faction from coming to power or try to colonize as many worlds as possible and you'd have a limited time to make it happen.


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Another question is what POV the game will be played from. First-person, third-person, bird's-eye? I suspect that the third option is what you're going with, but I could be wrong.


I'm doing a mix of 3rd person 3d and 2d, however as I'm not happy with the quality of planets at the moment I may switch to top down for them.


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Anyways, I definitely think that you shouldn't reveal the entire planet at once. Make a distinction between the planet's general features, which you can see from orbit, and what can be seen on the surface. This is like the "fog of war" in RTS games. Eliminating the fog of war basically requires expansion (building/travelling) and overcoming barriers (travelling/demolition/combat). Only by doing these things can more of the planet's detailed surface (and potentially more goodies) be revealed.


Yes, very much agreed. Exploration has to be challenging, and combat can only serve as part of the challenge because you can't expect monsters / enemies on EVERY planet (that just sounds senseless).

I may have a problem with pacing, however. Maybe you have some thoughts on this:

Let's say some planets are effectively randomly generated mazes. You've got rich minerals you want to get to in the mountains, but you can't land in the mountains. Maybe jungles, boulder fields and canyons surround it. So to get around you need to deploy charges, temporary bridges and heck maybe even giant saws that come out of your terrain vehicle but wear down or use up terrain vehicle fuel or whatever.

Depending on how many other details I throw in travel and exploration now become more of a challenge. However, the gameplay to get to the planet and the pace of exploring space is considerably faster. So is this slowed down gameplay a welcome change of pace or a real drag?

Put another way, you've just spent 10 minutes blasting aliens and whipping around planets like in a game of Escape Velocity or Star Control. Now you're crawling around planets at a bug's pace. These two extremes may sabotage each other.

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Hope this helps!


Big time! Thanks for the input, I thought this topic was close to dead.

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Original post by AngleWyrm
Visiting a world gave the same type of experience as an RPG loot drop. Maybe that same sense of opening a box with a surprise gift inside could be conveyed when travelling to a new tile?


Hey, you know this is a really good way to think about it AngleWyrm. Maybe I should not only have finds based on the world type, but concentrations based on location. I was sort of doing this loosely following the old Starflight idea of "life in the lowlands, minerals in the mountains" even if that's not entirely accurate.

The greatest variation comes from life bearing planets, though. Without life, there's really only 3 variations of terrain: Mountains, hilly/uneven terrain and flatlands. Temperature adds another modifier, with ice probably being the greatest plausible danger outside temperatures that could melt lead, which would affect any tile. And if you can find what you're looking for without dealing with jungles and such, why land on life-bearing planets?

I think the idea's really good, but I until I can make exploring a relatively flat, icy moon interesting this idea is going to have problems.



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Original post by Wavinator
I may have a problem with pacing, however. Maybe you have some thoughts on this...

Put another way, you've just spent 10 minutes blasting aliens and whipping around planets like in a game of Escape Velocity or Star Control. Now you're crawling around planets at a bug's pace. These two extremes may sabotage each other.
Reduced pace can be offset by increased breadth - consider adding multiple things for the player to keep track of when exploring.

As a simple example, give the player a fast, short-range probe, and a slower parent-vehicle, each of which has different vulnerabilities. Just the need to watch the status of both vehicles, and give them differing commands, can give the illusion of much greater pace.
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Hey, you know this is a really good way to think about it AngleWyrm. Maybe I should not only have finds based on the world type, but concentrations based on location. I was sort of doing this loosely following the old Starflight idea of "life in the lowlands, minerals in the mountains" even if that's not entirely accurate.

The greatest variation comes from life bearing planets, though. Without life, there's really only 3 variations of terrain: Mountains, hilly/uneven terrain and flatlands. Temperature adds another modifier, with ice probably being the greatest plausible danger outside temperatures that could melt lead, which would affect any tile. And if you can find what you're looking for without dealing with jungles and such, why land on life-bearing planets?

I think the idea's really good, but I until I can make exploring a relatively flat, icy moon interesting this idea is going to have problems.
Do you need to make icy moons interesting to explore? I mean, interesting things do tend to come from life-bearing planets.

How about increasing the stakes? Make icy moons very dangerous to explore, and with very little of interest - but add a higher chance of very valuable alien artefacts?

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Original post by loom_weaver
Your two possibilities are not mutually exclusive. You can have an arcade sequence to land on the planet and then can move to a top-view tile-based exploration game.


How do you tell when these two elements are in conflict? Likely you have to play it to see it, but my worry is that I like so many types of games that I won't notice the problem. Making it optional might be one possibility, but then I'd have to offset that option with some cost.

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Original post by swiftcoder
As a simple example, give the player a fast, short-range probe, and a slower parent-vehicle, each of which has different vulnerabilities. Just the need to watch the status of both vehicles, and give them differing commands, can give the illusion of much greater pace.


That's an interesting idea. You're right, the feeling of having to divide your attention makes you think that more's going on than there is because you're only able to focus on one thing at a time AND you can always switch.

I think it also might work to be able two timed operations in two places at different times. That way, part of the gameplay becomes time optimization because you naturally don't want to leave something idle. (I've been thinking about multiple terrain vehicles, some robotic, others manned, for this reason)

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Do you need to make icy moons interesting to explore? I mean, interesting things do tend to come from life-bearing planets.


Well, technically, no. But I think the game player blames the game, not where they choose to travel, when there's really no content. Icy moons should be far more common than life-bearing planets, so this would be a problem.

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How about increasing the stakes? Make icy moons very dangerous to explore, and with very little of interest - but add a higher chance of very valuable alien artefacts?


Hmmm... this might work. Actually I was reading that explorers of worlds like Pluto might have to worry about how hot their equipment was, so in a sort of science fantasy way I could take this danger and make it into something far more compelling. Maybe such worlds are more prone to explosive geysers or cracked ice as your (comparatively) boiling hot terrain vehicle crawls the surface?

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