I’ve mentioned here and there that I started to work on a small game after UDGJ2 was announced in order to
blatantly cheat test a system of personality traits, relationships and interactions on a small scale, before attempting to implement something like that in my main project. I worked on this for about two weeks, but then I got sidetracked working on the jam entry. I wanted to present my idea here to hopefully motivate myself a bit to continue with this in the future.
As you may have guessed from the title, it’s going to be a space exploration game, my main influences being Star Trek and Firefly. That means exploration, trading and some light combat. Unlike most games in the genre, I want to stay away from roguelike-like elements, make it relatively hard to just die and focus instead on your crew.
Most of the gameplay will take place over three phases:
- You are safely docked. Time to buy upgrades, recruit new crewmembers and take jobs.
- Travel. On your way to your destination (a job site, or just random exploration) you encounter a random event (a star going nova, a trader fending off pirates, a bunch of space-whales) and deal with it.
- Arrival. Additional event you need to deal with - maybe your target planet has an outbreak of a dangerous illness, there’s a blockade going on, or you’re met with customs agents looking for contraband.
In between these phases the crew will interact, form bonds or enmities. Maybe a fight will break out, or perhaps your engineer will decide to improve your engines out of their own initiative.
Over time the crew will gain (and lose) loyalty and respect for both you as their captain and each other based on their personality traits. They may openly question your orders or suggest alternatives, which may score them points with the rest of the crew if your approach turns out to be disastrous. Let’s say you encounter a lightly armed pirate ship and decide to fight them. Maybe your doctor suggests you flee instead, but you don’t take their advice. You end up losing the fight after your gunner fails his attack rolls and the pirates ransack your cargo. Some will blame you and others the gunner. You may gain respect of some for standing by your decision, or the opposite.
If you’re thinking that this calls for a hell of a complex system then… I guess I agree. I plan to add as many options and traits and see what sticks.
As I said, I want to make it difficult to outright lose the game unless you’re completely suicidal. The idea is for the game to treat the player as a benevolent DM in a paper RPG and always try to offer a way out of any situation, as you or your crew messing up should be an intergral part of the gameplay. However, there should still be some threat of failure. That’s where I got the idea to actually frame the whole thing like a TV show. After a set amount of time, a “season” will end and you’ll be graded based on various metrics - conflict generated, dangerous situations, character development, notable events, recurring villains etc. and receive a rating. If it’s good enough, the show gets renewed for additional season and you can play on. Otherwise you get cancelled and that’s it for the run. Ideally this would mean that the game doesn’t get easier as you gain access to more and more expensive equipment. If you get too powerful and spend your time doing safe but well-paid jobs, the viewers will get bored and the game will end, so it will encourage the player to take risks and if you start losing, it will increase your status as a group of misfits with the odds against them, so getting good ratings may actually be easier if things don’t go your way from the gameplay’s perspective!
As you get through more and more seasons, viewer fatigue will set in, so you’ll need to score higher and higher in order to progress. Additionally, with every new season the odds of encountering something outlandish will increase, so the game starts as a relatively realistic sci-fi setting and progresses to a full-blown space opera with strange aliens, dimension hopping and time travel. Maybe. Getting significantly lower ratings than last time may even induce some good old-fashioned executive meddling and you may find your crew and the world in general to suddenly change dramatically.
What I’ve done so far
- I’ve got some crude interface (I hate making interface) in place.
- You can accept missions and then travel to the destination planet (as long as you’ve got a pilot and supplies) to immediately get the payoff.
- When recruiting new crew, you can ask about their motivations and an overview of their skills. I’d like to keep skill levels relatively nebulous rather than straight up giving the player a number. BTW, their competence description also depends on their confidence. If you see someone claiming at least some skill in almost every area, he’s probably lying =P
- Crew have randomized faces. Turns out I really like wasting time on that.
- There are some graphics just thrown in the middle to show them off.