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erdbernd

An Elite-like multiplayer game

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Hello@all, I think everyone remembers the game called ''Elite'', hours after hours of spaceflight, finding the best trade routes, shooting pirates or becoming one, the joy of advancement in the ranking, and finally becoming one of the most-feared, bad-ass spacecowboyz around, an ELITE fighter. This was even surpassed by Elite''s successor, Frontier, with several added game elements: two empires hostile to one another, added options to gain money (courier- and wetwork), additional honors to be gained and so on. (By the way: all that matched on one disk. Yes, floppy disk.) Both games took substantial amounts of my free time. Looking back, I miss just one element: other ''real people'' flying through space. Elements that are part of many games today. Another great game I like to remember and play is the the Discworld MUD. A text-based game where more than hundred players play characters of different occupations in the discworld setting, exploring the world, solving lots of quests and occasionally being sold CMOT Dibbler''s (in)famous hot sausages. This game, though text-based and simple, fascinates me because it has, most important, one element any single-player game misses: interaction with real people. Not in the way of trading bullets for rockets, which can be fun, too, but in the normal way. Speaking, trading, founding clubs and families, occasionally even at the point of the sword. Why do I mention both of these games in one post? Because the second has got what the first misses. Tackling Elite is a task in itself, but I had this idea of combining elements of both: a sci-fi-setting with lots of space to explore, different careers to be followed, interaction with real people, a 3-D user frontend, and many more. I want to implement this idea, but I''m lacking many things to do it on my own, most notably time. To be true, I''m still developing the idea, that''s why I posted here. I''d like to to start a discussion on this idea. Here''s what came into my mind: - It should be an online multiplayer game that incorporates concepts of Elite and MUDs - The player is presented a 3-D, real-time representation of the happenings in the game world - The characters abilities grow with experience, as in RPGs - Making a huge pile of money shouldn''t be the only possible goal: different careers are possible, for example miner, soldier, explorer (famous example for the last two: captain Kirk), pirate, the list goes on, without having the career written in stone - Different races that provide different sets of abilities and different hooks to start adventuring - Different playing areas, like the eight galaxies in Elite or the quadrants in Star Trek - If communicating in character, different species could experience language barriers - A gameworld with relics of lost races to discover, clashing empires, nasty trading corporations who want to sell weapons in wars they caused, extradimensional traders with obscure abilities (OK, I''m getting weird ... does anybody know the Phase World setting for Palladium Rifts?) I already made some thoughts about how to implement this, but it''s way too early to talk about that. As I said, this are just unsorted ideas that came into my mind. Any suggestions are welcome, critics are appreciated, and I apologize for any trademark violations above (hey, your product was mentioned somewhere). Thank you for any replies.

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quote:
Original post by erdbernd
I think everyone remembers the game called ''Elite'', hours after hours of spaceflight, finding the best trade routes, shooting pirates or becoming one, the joy of advancement in the ranking, and finally becoming one of the most-feared, bad-ass spacecowboyz around, an ELITE fighter.


Mmm, Elite.
quote:

This was even surpassed by Elite''s successor, Frontier, with several added game elements: two empires hostile to one another, added options to gain money (courier- and wetwork), additional honors to be gained and so on. (By the way: all that matched on one disk. Yes, floppy disk.)


Mmm, Frontier. There was also Frontier: First Encounters, which had improved graphics but was otherwise much the same as Frontier.
quote:

- It should be an online multiplayer game that incorporates concepts of Elite and MUDs
- The player is presented a 3-D, real-time representation of the happenings in the game world


Herein lies the problem. I''ve thought about a multiplayer Elite for some time, but you can''t do it without boring your players.

Basically, the problem is this: time. In Elite, you must obey the laws of physics. It takes you upwards of nine hours of game-time to get from Earth to Pluto because that''s how far away it is.

At normal speed, you would actually be staring at the screen for nine hours. Of course, you don''t do that: instead you speed up the clock. In a multiplayer game, you can''t speed up the clock, because the other players would be irritated.

Either you''d need a superdrive that allows a player to move from planet to planet in a few minutes (you might modify the hyperdrive nav system to allow intrasystem jumps), or you''d have a series of warp-gates between planets.

There are other strategic features of Elite that couldn''t be represented in multiplayer. For example, if you jump to another system, a pirate with a better drive can follow you - and arrive before you do - even though the jump is instantaneous from your perspective.
quote:

- The characters abilities grow with experience, as in RPGs


Cool. What would this translate to in space? Aim? Mechanical ability (fine tuning your engine for better acceleration)? Evasion tactics?
quote:

- Making a huge pile of money shouldn''t be the only possible goal: different careers are possible, for example miner, soldier, explorer (famous example for the last two: captain Kirk), pirate, the list goes on, without having the career written in stone


The lack of any storyline in Elite and Frontier is one of the things I find lacking in it.
quote:

- Different races that provide different sets of abilities and different hooks to start adventuring


For real. Beware, a lot of games just have Warrior/Researcher/Diplomat/Average races. It''s highly unlikely that a warrior race with no research or diplomacy abilities could become a space-faring empire, so you need to make sure that the differences are more subtle.
quote:

- Different playing areas, like the eight galaxies in Elite or the quadrants in Star Trek


Star Trek also has fluidic space, an idea I feel they didn''t explore sufficiently. If you''re going to have different playing areas, you might also consider space/nebulae/atmosphere distinctions: lasers might be okay in space, but in a nebulae they could ignite a fusion reaction, and in an atmosphere they would be refracted by the air (which would probably be ignited as well).
quote:

- If communicating in character, different species could experience language barriers


Possibly. Although it seems likely that your computer would be able to translate between well-known languages.
quote:

- A gameworld with relics of lost races to discover,


Mmm. Relics.
quote:

nasty trading corporations who want to sell weapons in wars they caused


Much like real-life, then?
quote:

extradimensional traders with obscure abilities (OK, I''m getting weird ... does anybody know the Phase World setting for Palladium Rifts?)


Nothin'' weird about extradimensional traders. Although they needn''t necessarily have obscure abilities. You might have warring dimensions rather than warring parts of the galaxy. I''ll take this opportunity to plug Doctor Who (the greatest sci-fi series of all time) and say that in the books, his people are at war with beings from other ''quantum worlds'': a device was created which allowed the worlds to exist, and it''s basically a fight to become the ''most real'' world before destroying the device (its a quantum probablity thing).

All your bases belong to us

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Thank you for replying to my post.

You touched some of the issues that need to be addressed before work continues. Here are my suggestions on that issues:

quote:
Original post by Mayrel
Herein lies the problem. I''ve thought about a multiplayer Elite for some time, but you can''t do it without boring your players.

Basically, the problem is this: time. In Elite, you must obey the laws of physics. It takes you upwards of nine hours of game-time to get from Earth to Pluto because that''s how far away it is.

At normal speed, you would actually be staring at the screen for nine hours. Of course, you don''t do that: instead you speed up the clock. In a multiplayer game, you can''t speed up the clock, because the other players would be irritated.

Either you''d need a superdrive that allows a player to move from planet to planet in a few minutes (you might modify the hyperdrive nav system to allow intrasystem jumps), or you''d have a series of warp-gates between planets.



Actually, you''re already aware of the solution to this. We''re already in the realm of science fiction, so we don''t need to build a superdrive, we just need to believably explain and provide it. Let''s say there''s a jumppoint (taken from Battle Tech) 3 billion miles off the planet. This are roughly 16000 light seconds. We wish to span this distance in 5 minutes top, which are 300 seconds. To make that possible, we need an ftl factor of 16000/300=53.3. Allow your players to use a slow ftl drive in systems (as long as there''s no heavy object detected), and the boredom problem is solved.

quote:
Original post by Mayrel
There are other strategic features of Elite that couldn''t be represented in multiplayer. For example, if you jump to another system, a pirate with a better drive can follow you - and arrive before you do - even though the jump is instantaneous from your perspective.



Interstellar Travel needs not to be instantaneous. Do you know the Perry Rhodan series? Starting with no. 100, they used a ftl drive that''s cabable of ftl factors of 10 - 20 million. That gives a pirate with a stronger drive system time to overtake.

Another point on that: what happens in the game during interstellar travel? A new set of system informations is loaded (or at least invoked), new object are instantiated ... this limits the speed of ftl travel in a very mundane way and helps to create believable time gaps.

quote:
Original post by Mayrel
Cool. What would this translate to in space? Aim? Mechanical ability (fine tuning your engine for better acceleration)? Evasion tactics?



That''s already implemented numerous times in different RPG''s. Implenting it into a real-time 3-D world is another matter, of course, but that''s possible to solve.

quote:
Original post by Mayrel
The lack of any storyline in Elite and Frontier is one of the things I find lacking in it.



Oh, yes. A storyline has advantages and disadvantages. It binds things together and creates more atmosphere, on the other hand, it consumes disk space (not a prob today, but back in ''92 a great issue) and it ends at sime point, leaving great memories and a hole to be filled.

quote:
Original post by Mayrel
For real. Beware, a lot of games just have Warrior/Researcher/Diplomat/Average races. It''s highly unlikely that a warrior race with no research or diplomacy abilities could become a space-faring empire, so you need to make sure that the differences are more subtle.



Right you are. Every species evolving into space age must be assumed to have a history of trial and error, thereby developing a set of species skills that every member inherits to some degree. No species is to be displayed as one-dimensional. Of course, that doesn''t disallow differences.

quote:
Original post by Mayrel
Star Trek also has fluidic space, an idea I feel they didn''t explore sufficiently. If you''re going to have different playing areas, you might also consider space/nebulae/atmosphere distinctions: lasers might be okay in space, but in a nebulae they could ignite a fusion reaction, and in an atmosphere they would be refracted by the air (which would probably be ignited as well).



I rather meaned to create different ''game universes'' with different flavours, but this is an interesting point, too. Perhaps my point fits better with your last point.

quote:
Original post by Mayrel
Possibly. Although it seems likely that your computer would be able to translate between well-known languages.



Yes, right, but in this case, too much realism might be boring. By the way, translating languages is a major problem for computers (I''m not an expert on this, but sometimes I shake my head on the results from Altavista''s Babelfish.

quote:
Original post by Mayrel
Mmm. Relics.



Do you know Masters of Orion II?

quote:
Original post by Mayrel
Much like real-life, then?



Another fun part: if players can recognize parts of the world from their day-to-day-experience, they''ll be less alienated by it.

quote:
Original post by Mayrel
Nothin'' weird about extradimensional traders. Although they needn''t necessarily have obscure abilities. You might have warring dimensions rather than warring parts of the galaxy. I''ll take this opportunity to plug Doctor Who (the greatest sci-fi series of all time) and say that in the books, his people are at war with beings from other ''quantum worlds'': a device was created which allowed the worlds to exist, and it''s basically a fight to become the ''most real'' world before destroying the device (its a quantum probablity thing).



Simply a great idea. I think I''ll have to get my hands on that.

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Didnt read your entire post, but you might wanna take a look at Jumpgate. Its a MMORPG based in an Elite-like universe.

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Didnt read your entire post, but you might wanna take a look at Jumpgate. Its a MMORPG based in an Elite-like universe.

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Simply LOVE IT! I liked Elite a lot (have only played Elite 3 for a while though) and I really think it is possible to be played in multiplay.
Elite can be played for days on end and you can save.
In your game it would be cool if you''d have the possibility to save. On a planet for example. Then for all other players you''re just resting on that planet, leaving your ship in a hangar or so.
It would be quite cool to define your own galaxies so one server will radically differ from another. (Don''t know if it is possible or if you want this though)

Hmm I''m not too inspired right now (mind''s gone numb from listening colleges) but it sure has great potential!

---
Allow me to clear my head for once...
Stop polluting the air!

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I''m also working on a similar game called : hypernovae.


-* So many things to do, so little time to spend. *-

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Hi there,
You have read my mind. I have been thinking about getting some people together to have a go at designing a networked version of Elite for a few months. However, I''m a beginning programmer and decided to wait until the end of my course until I started.
I think my idea was slightly differnt though. The idea was to host the game on a local server, running it continiuosly for, I dunno, a month or so at a time. The problem with that is that players have to be free to enter and leave the game as and when they please, also, how many players can the game cope with? How ''close to home'' does the server need to be? When players leave the game should their ship/character be taken over by AI, or dissapear from the gaming area, or be considered to be in ''hyperspace'', or what? Where are character changes saved- should the character details be kept by the host, or by the game players'' computer (in which case no doubt some people will be able to fiddle their characters)?
In any case, there are an interesting set of problems associated with this that I was going to have a think about over the next few months, and try and come up with some ideas for.
Keep us posted on how youre doing..
Jon

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I can''t remember the link, but there is a group out there that is ''cloning'' the original Elite for DirectX.

Have you talked to them?

D.V.

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