Space Game Design

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Hi. I’m creating a multiplayer space adventure game and I need a little help with it. I’m not a great designer, so that’s why I need YOUR help.
What I’m aiming for is a game where you just fly around space, maybe do a few quests, shoot enemies, ect. The typical stuff. However, I don’t think I want it to be exactly like that. What makes that kind of game so unique? How would it be fun? Well, to be honest… I don’t know. Maybe it could be the exploration, but how is exploring space fun when all there is is stars?
I also had an idea of being able to dock onto different planets in which the view perspective changes into a 2d platformer style and you can mine inside your machine to get different minerals.

I think I have the potential to make something pretty cool, but my design is just so boring and typical (in my opinion). Would love some ideas/changes (:

Edit: Also any game idea would be greatly appreciated as long as it’s within the space theme.

 
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Feffers, Feffers, Feffers…y u no ask me?
But really, I gtg sleep. Tell you later my ideas.

 
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How much experience have you had, even reading the deconstructions of other space-based multiplayers? Even studying the design of space-based singleplayers like the Elite and Freespace series would help. Gain an idea of what worked for others, and why. Then you can look at what aspects you like, what aspects you don’t like, and go from there.

Design of any moderately-complex system is going to take a while, and a MMO definitely fits into that category. So, you have time to study other attempts in detail, and make long lists of features you like, to start whittling down into a design from there.

 
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But in space there are so many interesting things! we got black holes, solar flares, man made/alien stations
I do think the key is making each sector different, some are safer, some are harder to go through. some offer you cookies as you fly by, thich will get stomped by the big mean bad guy

All this and boobs. add boobs. always add boobs

 
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Adding to that list: Pulsars, nebulae, gas giants, twin stars, unstable neutron stars, cosmic dragons, unimaginable cosmic horrors, lost alien civilization relics, anomalies & singularities (read: pretty much whatever you want to make up), wormholes, space pirates, space marines, Ark ships, forbidden solar systems, asteroid fields, Dyson rings, Supernova generators, traders, miners & prospectors, megalomaniac supervillains hellbent on galactic conquest, distress beacons, herrings on skateboards, quantum field disturbances, inhabitable planets for varying values of ‘inhabitable’, lost colonies, alien nemeses, eddies in the continuum, and so, so many others.

Just because real space is basically filler, except it’s empty,* doesn’t mean that game space should be. Look at other space games that have been made. All of them take liberties with Physics, and I’m not even talking about FTL travel. Distances are shortened, scales are fudged, space combat looks like air combat, etc… It doesn’t matter. You don’t know the proper physics? Wing it. Fudge it. Make it up. Just make it look interesting.

Think about the kind of experience you want to create for the player, the kind of Universe that would actually enable and facilitate such experience, and the roles the players could fulfill. Go from there.

*: Cue one of my favorite quotes: “Space is big. You just won’t believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it’s a long way down the road to the chemist’s, but that’s just peanuts to space.” — Douglas Adams

 
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I second the motion for cosmic horror. It would be awesome to play a game that seems to start out as the standard badass space pirate only to accidentally provoke a mind boggling cosmic horror and spend the rest of the game running for your life as it devours civilizations while following your trail.

 
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Correct me if I’m wrong, but haven’t there been a handful of racing games set in space? Something along those lines, or something along the lines of 1NSANE would work well. You cannot get more off-road than a jamboree in a hazardous asteroid belt, or one in a nebula in the ‘Freespace 2’ style – where the nebula gets randomly so intense that the EM fields blast your electronics to pieces and you are stuck relying on manual for unknown periods at a time.

 
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Thanks for all the ideas. Also, I will go play some space themed games and gather some ideas there. :D

Originally posted by Epsellis:

All this and boobs. add boobs. always add boobs

I’d love to. ;D That’s if I get an artist, though.

 
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A horror multiplayer game set in space? Awesome.

 
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I like the idea but I just can’t really imagine it. I can imagine a platformer horror where you’re in a space station and that’s a horror, but from a birds eye perspective, I can’t really visualise a horror space game. :/

 
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Here’s a bit of inspiration.

Horror in space has been quite a recurring theme, but from a bird’s eye perspective, yeah, it’s pretty hard. You need all sorts of stuff, the stuff Outpost Haven incorporated.
Playing around with lighting and stuff suddenly coming out of nowhere/the dark isn’t too hard. Stuff suddenly appearing closer to you than they really are is a bit more complex.

Horror is typically based on things not appearing as they would normally seem. Really, I see horror and schizophrenia as not being too far off. I mean, in one case, you’re considered by everyone else as being nuts. But in another case, we assume you are not nuts, and these things are happening in a realistic setting. The same things happen, but they happen in two totally different concepts.

Also, you can’t really emulate horror. Horror is all about unpredictability. Soldiers that come out of wars may have this condition (most people have heard of it) called shell-shock. Well, when you’re in a war, you could get killed anywhere, by anyone, anytime. Soldiers in major wars feel that 24-7 and at some point, their nerves shatter. That’s what horror is, being placed in the setting where things can happen. Suddenly. Things can change, quickly. You may never notice them either, until it’s too late. Why do horror movies use darkness? Because you can’t see anything when everything’s dark. Horror is easy when you have limited sight. But when you’re watching and seeing everything from above? That’s hard. Things can become a little bit more predictable. Limited sight and not seeing things until later is a big concept in horror movies. When you see everything, try to keep sight limited. It helps. Do a couple of things in the dark areas too. That also helps. I wish you luck. :D

 
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Oh, and…

I’d love to [draw boobs]. ;D That’s if I get an artist, though.

You don’t need an artist to draw boobs. → (.)(.)

Unless you want to draw good boobs. Then you might want an artist. But everyone knows where to find boobs given the right context, so why get one? ;D

 
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Maybe I’m misreading Feffers, but I think the problem was not horror itself but multiplayer horror. You see, horror works on fear, and it’s much easier to scare one isolated person than a group. It’s also part of the horror genre tropes: horror movies happen is isolated locales, with little or no communication with the outside world. People who get separated from the group have bad things happen to them is another aspect of the same isolation component. Add to that that horror is all about elimination. Systematic elimination of protagonists, one after another, until only one (or two, if there’s a cat) is left. Multiplayer games are based on the principle that the more, the merrier.

So the components of horror and multiplayer are directly in conflict. When I think ‘horror in space’ I immediately think of Ridley Scott’s movie Alien. Which is convenient because it allows me to directly imagine what multiplayer horror in space would look like: Aliens, the sequel, which is emphatically not a horror movie!

 
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Yeah, that’s the problem. I don’t really see how getting a birds eye perspective space shooter with groups of people around can turn into a really scary game. I could just go and make it horror themed (because I really do want to make a horror game), but I don’t know if it’ll match that perspective and gameplay. :/

 
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Why not make it work similar to left for dead, instead of zombies have traps and things that can isolate a player or two, maybe having shadows and stuff moving around whenever you get to a new place or even moving around behind the players. Also its not so much about the visual, get a good soundtrack to it and you will have people terrified. It was just an idea but ant the end of the day, it’s your game so making it what you want and try out as many different ideas as possible. Looking forward to seeing the finished project and good luck with it.

 
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Originally posted by draganviper:

I second the motion for cosmic horror. It would be awesome to play a game that seems to start out as the standard badass space pirate only to accidentally provoke a mind boggling cosmic horror and spend the rest of the game running for your life as it devours civilizations while following your trail.

In an episode of Dr. Who they even find the devil on some rock in space. People love to run from cosmic horrors.

 
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I’ve thought about it a lot and I think what I’m going to do is have different kinds of planets in orbit somewhere in space. You can depart onto these planets and then you’ll go into a birds eye view shooter. Search around for resources and other things. The planet might be really dark so there’s very little dark, so you’ll have to use a torchlight. There also might be monsters or survivors on the planet. I want to make it that you can find buildings too with different things inside them. What do you think of this idea? (: You still fly around in space but when you want to go on land, you can.

 
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Sounds good, and it’s been done before. Silmaris’ Starblade, for instance, which you may or may not be able to find on abandonware sites (it’s from 1990). Try also The Kristal for another game based on the same principle. Note: On planets these games use a side view, not a top-down view, but the principle remains the same.

It is worth noting that you’ll likely end up with two core mechanics: one for space travel and one for planetary exploration, which will double your workload. That is, unless space travel is simply choosing your next destination on a map a warping to it, as it too often is. I guess the game would be more interesting if you have a space exploration component in it as well. Ideally, if you can generate surface content for the planets procedurally you could let the player land wherever they want on a planet and still find something to do, but you could also have special coordinates that correspond to particular points where the player can pick up the storyline.

If you’re old enough to remember Captain Blood, you’ll know what I’m talking about. If not, here’s a quick summary: In that game, you are the captain of a ship scouring the galaxy for five of your clones. The galaxy map is a picture, about 300×200 if I recall, which was pretty much full-screen at the time. Clicking on any pixel on the map takes you to the planet at those coordinates, which you can then ‘explore’ (read ‘play the planetary defense minigame on’). But here’s the twist: only a small (64, if I recall) number of planets actually has a storyline character on it. You would interact with those aliens via the very innovative communication interface that was the highlight of the game, and try to get them to give you the coordinates of other aliens. Following these threads you would eventually reach your clones, and kill them. So you could go anywhere, and anywhere you went you could play, but to make the story progress you had to actually interact with the characters.

Another way to proceed, if you can generate content procedurally, is to have the story follow the player. When the player goes to a random location on a random planet it just so happens that this place is where the guy they’re supposed to meet next resides. Crash landed on a desert world, hyperdrive wrecked? Not to worry, it just so happens that the ruins of an advanced civilization are nearby, and there might be a spare hyperdrive stored away under their heavily trapped pyramid. And which way to the pyramid? Whatever way it is you are exploring, of course! Although it stretches the suspension of disbelief, it does so in a good way, because the only thing your player will object to is that a Universe that exists only for the convenience of their character is unrealistic, but dang if it isn’t nice to experience, for a change!

 
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I would question how much content can be generated procedurally. if you are trying to make a compelling game with depth of play using modern graphical capabilities. It’s not real easy to generate procedutral content that looks good, en masse. Yes, you can use it for terrain extremely effectively, but as the complexity of the environment increases, so do the number of procedures and the rules to govern them.

In theory, you could create an entire vibrant world from procedural content. In practice, you’d need a large team to develop the rules, and a petaflop computer to run it on.

 
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It’s not real easy to generate procedutral content that looks good, en masse.

But when you do… it save A LOT of processing. But that all comes down to what you’re generating.

In the model, imagine: there would be hundreds of millions of stars. A hell of a lot, if not that. That galaxy is procedurally generated, and TBH, it’d have to be, because you couldn’t save hundreds of millions of stars in a giant array for a computer to process at 60 FPS.

So if you think it’d look awesome to procedurally generate something, make sure it’s worth it first, because there’s really no point in doing it unless you’re going to interact with it on a regular basis.

 
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Multiplayer horror – isolating/splitup traps/scenarios/missions, make players think ‘Oh shit I need to get back to the group’.

You stick together or you die….and then force them to split up. No chat when you’re not close to other players, no indication anyone else is online unless they’re nearby.

I think cooperative line of sight might be good, so when a player is on their own their vision is severely limited. Melee enemies which’re normally no threat can now ambush you.

 
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Sorry for not replying for so long >.>

@Ace_Blue I tried to get Starblade working, but not really sure how to use the DOSBox emulator. I also couldn’t get The Kristal to work with 64 bit Windows 7. Couldn’t find any videos on youtube about both games either.

In space there will be fighting enemies in space, shops, possible quests (might only be on land), ect. I don’t really want to do do map warping so I realise how much work I’m going to have to go through. I’m not going to be generating worlds and such procedurally, though. Making players land where they want to is a good idea, though. Just like in Star Control 2.

That sounds like an awesome game. The thing with that having a linear storyline in a multiplayer game doesn’t really match up. I could definitely do something like that, but with multiple story lines and I’ll just call them quests.

All this sounds good for a singleplayer game but since it’s multiplayer, it’s much more difficult. If 1 player accepts a quest to find a guy, goes to the next planet and finds him, another player might go to another planet to find the same guy. Player 1 then asks where Player 2 found that same guy and he says on “Planet xxxxxxxx” when Player 1 found him on a different planet. Do you get what I’m saying? I’m not good at explaining things. :D Nice thought though.
However, if you accept a quest on a planet I could always make a quest helper that points you to the planet you need to fly towards to complete the quest.

I’m not going to be generating things procedurally. Well, I don’t think I’m going to. I don’t see how it would work in a MMO. :/

@Amibtious Oh yes, I could make it that if you’re travelling around with a group on land and then walk away from the group, hide all players and chat making the player think “where has everyone gone?!”. I’m definitely going to be adding limited vision on some planets and enemies that pop out of the dark from no where.

I think most of the “horror” parts are going to be on land.
Thanks for all the ideas everyone! x3

 
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^ procedural quests were done in Anarchy Online to great effect. It brings a lot to the table and solves your problem of ‘but my friend found him over there’.

 
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I’ll download the game and check how it resolves the issue. Thanks for mentioning it (: