Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Let Me Tell You About the Game I Want (but nobody is making)

I've been rolling this one around in my cerebellum for months now, letting it simmer unconsciously.

Often enough I've said (of a game coming out), "That sounds kinda neat, but because it doesn't do (X), I just can't get interested in it."

So finally, I'm putting some of these thoughts down.

Sci-Fi MMOs... so often I've been halfway interested in them, especially the ones with ship-to-ship combat and a PvP emphasis, but there's never been one that quite delivered what I was looking for. The crux of the matter is I'm looking for a broadband-required Sci-Fi MMO persistent-universe game that treats a ship the way a fantasy MMO treats a group. Instead of looking for dps, tanks, casters, and healers for your group, you'd look for a pilot, weapons officers, defensive operators, and engineers.

Much like a functioning fantasy RPG group has niches to fill that must be performed in order for the group to be a functioning unit, so must a ship. The pilot has to be able to maneuver the ship in a way such that he both avoids damage and yet doesn't make it impossible for the weapons officers to accurately fire, the defensive operators would basically be playing a high-stakes 3D version of pong, trying to focus the shields and other defenses to the point where the incoming fire would strike the ship. The engineers would pretty much be the same whack-a-mole game every RPG healer is used to already.

Small "groups" would be small ships, even down to single-seat fighters, up to 4 or 5 person "corvettes." These ships would be manageable to own by a single player (single seaters would be easily afforded, corvettes would be rather expensive). Larger ships would require the resources of a guild, and require a guild officer or leader to "captain" in addition to the other stations. Capital ships could even have multiple slots for the same type of skill set (IE, multiple weapons officers become turret operators, multiple engineers and defensive coordinators for various areas of the ship).

Of course, voice communications would pretty much be required. Travel to-and-from fights or resource gathering would be darn near instantaneous via "hyperspace" so even if you weren't a pilot, it didn't mean you'd have to sit there for dozens of minutes while the pilot or captain navigated to the "exciting part." As a player, you'd probably have your own personal "stable" of smaller craft (single or 2 seat fighters, small personal transports, one-or-two person mining vessels or freighters for resource gathering, etc), and the larger ships would have to be hangared in a guild-owned space station.

Combat would be more skill based than stat based. Firing weapons would be more similar to a piloting sim or a FPS than dicerolling.

Resources and drops (or salvage, I suppose) would be either sold to NPC vendors, put up on consignment for other players to buy, or auctioned off, the standard MMO fare. Salvage drops could vary from commodities cargo which could be sold for varying prices at various places in the galaxy (water and grain sell for more at desert planets, fertilizer for more at agricultural planets, entertainment goods for more at highly populated planets, etc). Items could be salvaged or manufactured to increase sensor range, weapon accuracy, shield strength, engine power, etc. You could make cash just shipping cargo from market to market if you wanted, or by mining and manufacturing, or by bounty missions, or by piracy, or just straight up blasting things and scooping up the salvage.

The nice thing about spaceships is they can be largely polygonally simple, and that makes way for custom ship designs. Custom decals and insignia to decorate the hull, and for times in spacedock or planetside, a customized appearance for your meatsack self would also be necessary.

There wouldn't be "leveling" per se, and you wouldn't be limited to one "class." You could be a pilot when you felt like it, or a gunner or something else when you felt another way. All on the same character. In fact, there would only be one character per account, because since you aren't limited to a class and you don't gain levels, there's no need for multiple characters.

There would, however, be "faction" levels, like the reputation system in WoW. Doing fetch or "fed ex" missions for one faction would slightly raise your standing with that faction. Some factions would have animosity for one another, and you could do combat missions for a larger reputation boost, but obviously your reputation with the guys you were shooting down would suffer as greatly or more. As your faction level rose past certain milestones, you would gain access to faction-specific gear, ship designs, and perks. As it fell past certain negative milestones, you might find NPC ships and stations shooting at you when you came by for a visit.

And yes, there'd be PvP. In fact, PvP would be just as commonplace as PvE. Attacking a player would adjust your faction levels based upon the faction levels of your victim. If he is aligned with faction A but hostile to faction B, your faction levels would go down with A and up with B. All new players would start "neutral" to all factions (except for pirates and belligerent aliens, of course), and attacking a neutral player would cause a faction hit to all factions that aren't hostile. Well, more specifically, any time you attack a player, your faction goes up with anyone with whom that player has negative (worse than neutral) faction, and down with everyone with whom that player is neutral or higher. Naturally, a player's faction levels would be easily scanned and quickly appraised, so you can tell who are your friends, who are your enemies, and who is a non-aligned noncom.

If, for some reason, someone had multiple accounts, he would be unable to circumvent the faction hits (IE, mining up resources on a character with neutral faction, and then transferring them to one that is hostile with X factions), because trading or giving goods or money to players would cause faction hits with any factions two whom guy was rated hostile, though no positive faction adjustments would be made (IE, you can only hurt a faction levels through trading with a factions hostile to them, but you can't trade your way back up out of the hole). And, naturally, faction-specific gear and ship designs could not be traded at all.

There would be a way to "reset" your factions back to neutral, but it would be prohibitively expensive. Like, soulcrushingly expensive. Something to the order of making a cash donation at a faction's embassy in a neutral starport of an amount equivalent to the price of a really nice capital ship, just for a marginal increase in faction.

When your ship is destroyed, a "rescue vessel" would grab your ejection pod and take you to the nearest friendly station. You would lose the ship you were in, along with any cargo it was carrying, but otherwise suffer no ill effects.

That would be the nuts and bolts of the game. The backdrop would be a galaxy populated mostly by humans, but the humans have fractured into different factions; some benign, some malevolent. As referenced earlier, each player would start out neutral to every faction but pirates and... the invaders. The Invaders would be an extragalactic race making a military incursion into the galaxy with conquest and destruction on its mind. Unlike the factions and even the indiginous aliens, these Invaders would be so foreign, so hostile, and so incompatible in every sense of the word that there would be no reasoning, no communication, no negotiation, no deals and no mercy. They are here to kill us all and take our stuff. But still our petty squabbles among each other continue. In addition to their fights with each other, every faction would also be concerned with dealing with the Invaders. Missions vs Invaders would be instanced content, and sprinkled liberally with scripting, obstacles and problems to puzzle out. They would range from small, easy, single player affairs for newbies up through multiple capital-ship "raid" type encounters with huge fleets smashing into each other.

It'd be an awesome game... I wish somebody would either make it, or give me investment capital to start a company to make it :P

And that's the view from Bandit Camp
...

1 comment:

PPMcBiggs said...

Sounds pretty good. But as someone with a family I would like to add that it would be nice if it were made in such a way that one didnt have to spend every spare moment leveling just to keep up. I know that is kind of the point or idea or whatever, but I cant be tied to anything as long as I have seen some friends attach to a game. Unfortunately I have zero experience with MMORPGs so I have no useful suggestions on how to do this. But it would be cool if I could just pop in every once in a while and meet up with my buddies and not feel like a total fifth wheel.

Or it could have a single player mode. Believe it or not there are still a few people alive that are perfectly fine just playing by themselves or with a _small, select_ group of buddies.