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## Starbase Citadel - minimum viable product

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Posted 20 January 2013 - 04:09 PM

I wanted to get some feedback on what is a decent minimum viable product (feature set) for my game, in terms of initial launch.  In other words, which features are so critical I need to implement them for launch.

The basic game idea is listed here (some of this is out of date but gives the gist of it):

http://www.gamedev.net/topic/630637-snowballing-and-turtling/

I'll start with what I consider the minimum viable product right now:

- 2 races

- each race has 1 free to play ship and 2 paid upgrade ships

- AI starbase and citadel (the citadel doesn't move, but fires weapons)

- basic AI for starships (when they aren't occupied by a live Player)

- 20 players per team

- movement ( turning, thrust)

- basic attacks ( lasers and torpedoes)

- 3 special abilities per starship (2 abilities + 1 ultimate ability)

- death mechanism

- explosions damage nearby ships

- repair facilities and shield regen

- capturing enemy planets

- mining resources on planets

- ping buttons / strategy map

- in-instance item store containing 16 in game items

- victory conditions

- planetary and base defense grids

- server health / admin monitoring

- metaserver (assigns players to particular game instances)

- website with account creation, basic forums

- website with actual store for paid upgrades

- basic leveling mechanism (in-game)

- in-game chat

- pilot masteries

- in-game ping monitoring

- out of game paid upgrades for character profile

- simple economic system with controlled planets generating currency

- simple stats tracking and ranking system

- report player mechanism (trolling etc)

Very rough estimate, doing that is say 1 - 1.5 years away for alpha testing (with a beta to launch probably 3 months later and App Store release another 3 months after that).  I'm over 20% done with this initial phase and am making quite good progress now that a good chunk of the infrastructure including initial networking is done and its mostly about feature development.   Movement and dogfighting is coming along nicely (currently lasers and torps are implemented).   I'm currently working on damage / death mechanics and then planning on spending a good amount of time on the special abilities.

I'm trying to decide is what, if anything, besides that list to support at launch.  I certainly don't mind continuing working on this longer if more features are required for a minimum viable product, as I knew from the outset this would be a multi-year effort.

Here are possible features I was considering to add to the initial launch.

- Admiral interface  3 months.  This is the big one and what I consider the game's most unique mechanism.  This is an entirely separate UI that Admirals use to ping attacks and make simple resource allocation commands.

- 5 races instead of 2.   4 months.  Currently the plan is to start with just 2 races, the Humans and Regelos.

- 50 players per team instead of 20.  2 months.  This isn't as simple as just bumping a constant, it would require some network optimization and server code changes such as implementing quadtrees.

- 6 starships per race instead of 3.  4 months.

- NPC AI "Space Jungle".  4 months.  A few areas where NPC starships guard bases that can be attacked to gain their treasure.

- In-game paid upgrades.  2 months.   Currently the plan for paid upgrades is it will be entirely on the website, which means I'm not allowed to advertise that fact in-game for iOS, but will be allowed to on Android.

There are some really juicy things I'd love to implement as well such as Carrier Groups but that is getting into advanced feature territory, way down the line.

Anything else?

At this point, I'm leaning on launching with the initial feature list, and making the Admiral interface the next big priority after the game is launched.

On the other side of things, I could even prune down the initial feature set, possibly by killing the economic elements, in-game item store, pilot masteries, and game stats for example to get this out faster.   The nice thing about a tiny feature set for launch is it gets the game out much faster, resulting in more immediate feedback from players.  The downside is there may be so few features that the game doesn't have enough depth to be that fun.

### #2SinisterPride  Members

Posted 20 January 2013 - 06:16 PM

I have read everything offered and have a decent grasp of what your attempting to creat within SBT. The only point I'm not clear on (and I have a feeling I know why) is how the team aspect goes into play.

From what I understand there will be open uncontrolled territory which can be claimed and colonized in a sense. Understandable within itself but where the confusion strikes is in how the team mechanic comes into play. I'm assuming each server, for instance, would be considered a galaxy of sorts (possibly multiple but for arguments sake I'll keep it at that). This in turn means the galaxy is a constant, always active/online. Things such as resources which are being mined or accrued through planet ownership/control are building even when you are not actively playing. This also means your colonized planets have their defenses (orbiting ships possibly armadas/satelite weaponry later) on guard at all times. The only difference would be more strategic attack patterns, decisions and reactions when you are actually online/in control/actively playing.

If all my assumptions thus far have been close or accurate here is where my confusion lies:

Do teams equate alliances such as clans?

If so, are they restricted to only allying with other colonies (players) of their own race?

This model seemed unlikely given what I know so far but it was withing my range of thoughts.

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

If I was wrong with my first assumption (which I'm almost certain I was) and the servers are not a constant (dedicated servers are expensive as far as I understand it) then the alternate proposal is instance based gameplay. This line of thought was more conducive to what I understand of SBC thus far.

With instance based gaming being the model proposed the match set ups would go something along the lines of this. Teams are matched up at the start of a match, a random galaxy is generated (with neutral camps as you said) and you say "have at it".  I had considered this in my thoughts originally when I posed the two questions. For other reasons the second of the two questions still applies.

Another part of my "I think I know why comment" is that, if I'm not mistaken, victory conditions haven't been implemented into the equation. I can see why, there are tons of rammifications for each proposed Victory condition. Each victory condition I considered had implications which could cause desired as well as undesired effects (turtling/stalemates as you mentioned). All planets in the sector/galaxy being controlled by your team was one. Another was all offensive units and means of creating said units destroyed on opposing teams. The third wasn't as conventional but had some quirks to it. Reaching a set goal (for each team to try and reach together within their allied collective) of production/prosperity grants an automatic victory to which ever team/allies. This last one could lead to a interesting gameplay pattern in which people who dont wish to be violent and prefer to play defensive (like they would rather focus on resource/economic aspect) have their method of winning with their strengths. My general suggestion is that you implement something along the lines of all three at once. This way everyone can have their cake and eat it too

So, there you go. You essentially asked which features you should focus on. I'm not sure if I answered or helped with what you asked now that I think about it lol.. I reached for all the points I saw as possible loose ends while mainly trying to absorb/grasp what your concept is.

At the very least, you can be happy knowing that your thoughts are well iterated and coherent enough for someone to grasp them to the extent I'd like to believe I have.

I hope it proves atleast somewhat useful,

Sin ←§•ɸ◦§→

Edited by SinisterPride, 20 January 2013 - 06:20 PM.

Posted 20 January 2013 - 09:24 PM

Hi again Sin!   Thanks for your feedback!

Here is a bit more about the higher level design:  That thread I referred to earlier is a bit confusing since I was intermingling several different versions of the game in terms of where to ultimately take its design.  But, for the initial release, it is much simpler and several of those issues don't yet apply.  For the following points, this all pertains to just the initial release:

* The game is primarily inspired by my 2 favorite games: League of Legends and a relatively unknown, older game called Netrek.

* The world is a non-persistant, partially randomly generated instance; it is a MOBA with each game expected to last about an hour on average.

* Victory conditions are as follows:  the first team to destroy the other team's Starbase as well as Citadel (in either order) wins the game.

* When a victory condition is reached in any particular game instance, the instance will then be reset / re-randomized back to a clean slate and players will be placed back to the metaserver lobby (to either queue for a new game instance or quit).

* While colonizing/capturing planets for your team doesn't directly grant you victory, indirectly it does help a great deal.   The team winning the battle of numbers for planet control will have greater supply lines and logistical support in terms of refuel and repair.  Additionally, once the version with the economics system is released, planets will contribute to a team's income.  The players on the team with the higher income will have greater opportunity to purchase advanced equipment than players on the other team.

* In terms of hardware, I have a few VPS instances running the game for development purposes which are sufficient to handle the alpha test.   I'll be able to run multiple game instances on a single VPS or dedicated server.  I am self-funding the first several of these instances, but if the game gets popular, indeed the cost for dedicated servers would be too high for me to continue to self-fund.  Hopefully, revenues from players electing to purchase upgrades (purchasing a nicer starship than the free-to-play one) will be sufficient to cover costs.

* For the initial launch, each instance will contain 2 races, with each race having 20 starship slots.

* All starships are automatically on the same team as every other starship, planet, or base from the same race.  Your weapons don't cause friendly fire, though your ship exploding does.  Starships, planets, and bases of the other race are marked as enemies.

* As long as even a single player is in a particular game instance, it will be active and playable, with all other unoccupied starship slots being controlled by AI.

* Game instances that contain no players will be frozen / sleeping until at least 1 player joins that instance.

* The metaserver will assign players wishing to Queue for a game in priority of filling up a game instance.  For example, if there are 10 game instances, all empty of players except instance A with 4 players and instance D with 30 players, players will be assigned to instance D until it reaches a full game (of 40 players).   Then they will be assigned to instance A until it is full, etc.

* Players can enter or leave a game instance freely, quickly (I'm targeting 5 seconds or less), and without penalty.  The only exception is if all slots for all game instances are full; in that case players are in a Queue and have to wait for players to quit playing to join.

* Players will not be able to choose which instance they are assigned to.  It is all automatically handled for them by the metaserver.

=======

The points above are purely in terms of the initial version.

In future advanced versions, things get more complex and shall we say interesting from a strategic level     Future versions will bring in concepts of the board game Diplomacy.  This pertains to some of your alliance-related questions and feedback which is helpful.  There, you will have more than 2 races (5 in total) for each instance.  You will have alliances and backstabs, and these will be encouraged with game-mechanics.   I may even actively encourage a deep metagame ( I know this is controversial as some players believe a game is unfair if there is any metagame, but I believe it can add an exciting dimension as long it doesn't overwhelm meritocracy aspects).

In future advanced versions, victory conditions will probably be more complex too where you perhaps could win either through military means or through economic advancement (possibly involving teamwork/alliances as you suggest which gives it a whole new dimension).

There may be elements where sub-teams can queue together, and perhaps there will be a Draft Mode similar to in League of Legends but where Admirals take turns picking from available sub-teams.

### #4SinisterPride  Members

Posted 21 January 2013 - 01:05 AM

Heh, a fellow LoLer, not surprised nowadays.

A few of the mechanics to handle player DCs and mid match queue-ins remind me of DoTA/DoTA2/HoN. I'm glad you took that into account seeing as it is one of the most frustrating things within the MOBA genre.

Now that you've clarified a lot and have laid out other things, my wonder leans more towards unit control.

First off, I wanna verify a few things:

Resources (aside from being used for in game items) are required for?

To pay for hull repairs/shield regen?

I know its customary to have those sort of features happen for free at the equivalent to or near the Starbase/Citadel in a MOBA but I was just curious as it was mentioned.

This would lean towards an upkeep/consistant demand of resource which remindeds me of some of my favorite maps I had designed during my WC3 and SC editor days.

- I'm presuming that people will have to assign/fall into roles.

By this I mean something along the lines of:

A mining squad to go gather resources for their race.

A scout party to explorer and begin colonizing neighboring planets.

A raid group to attacking lightly colonized planets which are poorly defended/focus on the neutral mobs and their treasures.

and finally...

A military fleet meant for all out offense and tactical strikes on vital points such as squads, heavily defended planets and eventually paving the way to move in on the Starbase/Citadel.

Keeps getting clearer and clearer.

Maybe I'll be able to give some constructive feedback soon lol...

After I grasp a bit more I'll stop feeling like I'm making assumptions to what you proposed.

At this point I'll be able to analyze things from a realistically unbiased perspective and point things out/purposely suggest things instead of stumbling upon them by misunderstanding lol

Keep up the good work,

Sin  ←§•ɸ◦§→

Edited by SinisterPride, 21 January 2013 - 01:07 AM.

Posted 21 January 2013 - 07:59 AM

Heh, a fellow LoLer, not surprised nowadays.

My main is jungle warwick, though I feel a little lost now that they removed my favorite weapon, Ionic Spark.

A few of the mechanics to handle player DCs and mid match queue-ins remind me of DoTA/DoTA2/HoN. I'm glad you took that into account seeing as it is one of the most frustrating things within the MOBA genre.

Thanks!  I actually haven't played those.. I really need to check them out but I've been so entranced by LoL.    But yeah, the first LoL game I played in a while there was a disconnect a few minutes into the game.   I agree, it is pretty frustrating.

Resources (aside from being used for in game items) are required for?

To pay for hull repairs/shield regen?
I know its customary to have those sort of features happen for free at the equivalent to or near the Starbase/Citadel in a MOBA but I was just curious as it was mentioned.

This would lean towards an upkeep/consistant demand of resource which remindeds me of some of my favorite maps I had designed during my WC3 and SC editor days.

You are correct, rapid shield regen / hull repairs / energy regen happen for free at the Starbase/Citadel.  Shields regen and energy regen happen on their own too though slower (while hull damage requires repair at a base).

However, with enough resources, you will be able to upgrade a planet you control to install a repair facility on it, which will grant you the same fast regen rates for shields/hull/energy that you get at the Starbase/Citadel.  Additionally, you can install a planetary defense grid.   I wasn't initially thinking either repair facilities or defense grids would have an upkeep resource cost, but I'll consider it, thanks for the idea.

- I'm presuming that people will have to assign/fall into roles.

By this I mean something along the lines of:

A mining squad to go gather resources for their race.

A scout party to explorer and begin colonizing neighboring planets.

A raid group to attacking lightly colonized planets which are poorly defended/focus on the neutral mobs and their treasures.

and finally...

A military fleet meant for all out offense and tactical strikes on vital points such as squads, heavily defended planets and eventually paving the way to move in on the Starbase/Citadel.

Yes, you are understanding it

In addition, you will have traditional roles within groups.  For example, your raid group might consist of a relatively speedy attack ships along with some speedy support ships.   Your military fleet might also have that same breakdown of attack ships and support ships but they would have better combat capabilities at the expense of speed.

Much like Team Fortress 2 has some very important, non-front line roles such as Engineer, Medic, and Spy, I want to make these support / spy / tech roles distinct and important.

It may be that only an Engineering/Tech class starship can upgrade planets (in addition to being able to place smaller versions of these anywhere).

Some support starships will be like healers, where they can target a friendly starship to increase that starships shields and shield regen rate.

Back to the resource aspects.. this is one area of game design is very underdeveloped.

Planets will have different mineral resource potential, some with have none, others gas, others minerals, a few both.  However one major decision yet to be made is to what extent will there be AI ships for mining?    On the one hand, I like the idea of having some mining NPC ships, as it sounds like it could be too boring just mining a nearby planet and bringing that to base.  My analogy is nobody would want to play a Starcraft2 style SCV, even though minerals/gas are critical

So a few ideas here:

- mining/gas extraction could be automatic:  when you own a mineral/gas planet, the resource is automatically periodically added to your team's resource count

- players do in fact have to mine/extract gas, including spending a little time orbiting the planet and physically picking up the resources, and ferrying them back to nearest Starbase or Citadel.  To make this more interesting, resources could pop only relatively rarely but in huge quantity, and the player successfully bringing them back to base could get a nice bonus personal income (to thus use for upgrading their equipment etc).  On top of this, any players in the process of ferrying resources who are destroyed drop their cargo and the enemy can pick it up.

- NPC AI Mining Ships exist and automatically mine resources and ferry them to the nearest Starbase/Citadel.  In this case, unlike the above, resource "pops" would be more frequent but smaller in quantity, so this would be like a constant activity.   Players can still significantly affect their teams resource gathering rate by capturing more planets and by securing supply lines.  In other words, enemies could sit right in the middle of a supply route, and get points for destroying the AI Mining Ships which prevent them from gathering resources.

Right now I'm strongly leaning on the first option (automatic extraction) just because it requires by far less work than the others.  But in terms of down the road, I'm a bit torn between the 2nd option, 3rd option, or even a combination (where typically resources pop in small quantities, and you can just let your AI Mining Ships gather them but occasionally a big node pops and you might want to personally mine it).

Thanks again

### #6Dan Violet Sagmiller  Members

Posted 22 January 2013 - 08:27 AM

I wanted to get some feedback on what is a decent minimum viable product (feature set) for my game, in terms of initial launch.

I skimmed through your list, which has quite a lot, and I think it might be better to think of what is the minimum needed to be playable.  Not a complete game, but to start showing something at all.  I.e. 2 races, 1 unit for each race, 1 race controlled by AI, one race controlled by player, can fly around in an area, and try to take out the opponent.  Then add another unit.

If you build it in this fashion, you can decide, once that's clean, what your next feature/unit/effect is going to be.  This will give you more flexibility for it as you go, and start building up your followers, as you begin to see what is available.  Then, you can post the demo online for others to try, even in an infant state.

I would also get a UserVoice account, which is a free system that lets players suggest ideas and vote on them, which will tell you in larger scale what is important to the players, and how they view the game over all and its direction.  (Each player gets 10 points, and can add 1, 2 or 3 points to any idea, including ones they propose.  You could throw your own ideas out there as well, and see how they fair.

The point is, select what the quickest and stablest part of your design might be that can lead you to some part of this that you expect to be fun, even in a minimized form.  Perhaps its just a construction rig that builds a space station. your next step could be having the space station produce a small battle ship and then moving the ship.  (taking into account to move around other ships and other obstacles)  but that is at least 3 demo releases.

Edited by hpdvs2, 22 January 2013 - 08:30 AM.

Moltar - "Do you even know how to use that?"

Space Ghost - “Moltar, I have a giant brain that is able to reduce any complex machine into a simple yes or no answer."

Dan - "Best Description of AI ever."

### #7Stormynature  GDNet+

Posted 22 January 2013 - 10:28 AM

One piece of advice I would give is re-edit your list so that you separate them into subgroups and features associated eg:

Player

Unit (ship) etc.

At the moment reading through the list it skips back and forth in the types of features and what they would be associated with. Furthermore as you divide them up it is more likely that a feature that isn't there but should be can be identified.

Edited by Stormynature, 22 January 2013 - 10:29 AM.

Posted 23 January 2013 - 07:32 AM

I skimmed through your list, which has quite a lot, and I think it might be better to think of what is the minimum needed to be playable.  Not a complete game, but to start showing something at all.  I.e. 2 races, 1 unit for each race, 1 race controlled by AI, one race controlled by player, can fly around in an area, and try to take out the opponent.  Then add another unit.

Thanks!   Yeah, I am realizing even my initial target plan was a little daunting.  I've broken it down into a much-reduced initial version with just 2 starship types (1 for each of the 2 initial races) with a single ability (besides the built-in lasers and torps that all ships get).   The goal for this release is an internal early Alpha version; a fully playable game suitable for a small group of alpha testers to play.

One piece of advice I would give is re-edit your list so that you separate them into subgroups and features associated eg:

Player
Unit (ship) etc.

At the moment reading through the list it skips back and forth in the types of features and what they would be associated with. Furthermore as you divide them up it is more likely that a feature that isn't there but should be can be identified.

Good points, I've organized it a little better and you are right, that made it more obvious I had missed several necessary features.

I would also get a UserVoice account, which is a free system that lets players suggest ideas and vote on them, which will tell you in larger scale what is important to the players, and how they view the game over all and its direction.  (Each player gets 10 points, and can add 1, 2 or 3 points to any idea, including ones they propose.  You could throw your own ideas out there as well, and see how they fair.

I checked it out and it looks like a great way to provide a feedback mechanism.  Thanks!

Alpha I Version

Human Frigate

•  Torpedoes: collision detection / damage
•  Ability: Shield Flare
•  AI

Regelos Destroyer

• Ability: Repeat Laser Blast
• AI

Bases: Art + AI for each of the following

•  Human Starbase
•  Regelos Starbase

Energy

•  Add energy indicator to main screen
•  Subtract more energy for faster movement as well as laser use
•  Disallow lasers or fast movement when out of energy, shields max at half

General Gameplay

• Friendly versus Enemy (no friendly fire), display team color
• Stats: Display these small icons around each ship on tactical map:  Hull, Shield, Energy
• Display remaining game objects on strategic window
• Add borders to game world / fix size

Planets

• capturing enemy planets mechanism
• seeding planets: assign ownership of planets at game start
• display team ownership of each planet on tactical and strategy map
• defense grid
• repair/fuel stations

Player Slot Management

• 20 players per team
• victory conditions (server reset)
• players entering / leaving game conversions with AI
• quit button

Edited by starbasecitadel, 23 January 2013 - 07:33 AM.

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