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Keeping Travel Interesting

I'm wondering what kind of activities a player can get up to while travelling between two points in space so as to avoid boredom. I found this to be a problem in EVE Online, and you could effectively traverse solar systems in a minute in it. How do you keep travel interesting in a game where travelling through a solar system could take a lot longer?

So, while I'm travelling from A to B, what can I be getting on with in the meantime? Some possibilities:
  • Research - can I be involving myself in some way with the acquisition of theoretical knowledge as I'm travelling?
  • Blueprint design - can I be designing new components, systems, software, etc. as I'm travelling?
  • Crew management - if there is crew aboard my vessel, is there anything I can be attending to with regards to managing them?
    • I don't want this LT to become Sims: Space edition, but perhaps some kind of management might be acceptable.
  • Fleet management - coordinating my fleet and producing tactics if I'm travelling as the head of a fleet.
  • Business management - remotely managing my business affairs.
  • Reading the news - I would like for the player to have access to in-game news, which would report things like major events, the share prices of businesses, changes in economic activity, etc.
  • Reading mail - reading mails that I've received from other NPCs.
  • Browsing the market - searching through the in-game market to check out the prices of commodities, components and items, see what kind of stuff I could potentially buy for my ship, etc.
    • This also includes the job market and the contract market where I could search for work to do or find others to do work for me.
  • Listening to the radio - would there be an in-game radio that would allow the player to listen to music? This could help pass the time.
  • Scanning around space - actively scanning the space around me to look for interesting things.
  • Exploring virtual reality - DWMagus came up with a brilliant idea for a "virtual playground" over in In-game ship editor. Having access to a virtual playground could allow the player to experiment with different ship fittings, software installations, crew, etc.
    • This would be useful if - as DWMagus points out - swapping 'fixed' modules of the vessel like its drive or shielding systems costs time and/or credits. You could experiment in a VR playground before committing to the change at a ship fitting facility.
    • This could also be useful if I've gathered intel on hostiles. If I gather data about other ships, I should be able to simulate them in a VR environment. This would allow me to try out different tactics, fittings, software systems, harmonic patterns, etc. against them.
  • Playing board-games - I've had about two dozen game ideas since DWMagus showed me this site. One of them is the idea of a board-game based on spaceship fleet combat that could be played within Limit Theory against NPCs (for fun, credits, exchange of property, etc). I've got ideas for how this board-game would play out. I'll post about it some time in the future. A game within a game, in other words.
  • Fine-tuning my vessel - is there any kind of maintenance or optimisations I could be making to my vessel as I travel? Playing around with my shield, weapon or sensor harmonics is one possibility. This is along the ideas that Flatfinger's had for Star Trek: Online in Engineering Crafting Modes in a Star Trek MMORPG 2.
  • Diplomacy - is there anything I can be doing to change my relations with other factions, corporations or NPCs?
  • Development oversight - somewhat related to business management, but can I oversee the construction of infrastructure and other structures in space as I'm on the fly?
  • Re-evaluating my route - perhaps I'll find that another route from my current location to B would be better to continue on halfway through the journey. Based on Gazz's ideas for "Weber's Wormholes" in Wormholes (in-depth), you naturally get the idea that systems could get "congested" if there's many ships trying to fly through them and the wormholes/jumpgates are drained. If I find that systems along my route are getting congested, I might want to consider travelling through other systems instead.
    • Additionally, agents with a "sensitive" Heisenberg extractor could re-evaluate their route on a more active, continuous basis by making sure they're travelling through regions of space with high vacuum energy accessibility. This would give their H-extractor a boost of power that could be fed to the H-drive for faster motion.
  • Astrometrics - accessing an astrometrics lab on your vessel to get a big-picture view of space as proposed by kspn in Astrometrics.
Anyone have any other ideas?

Re: Keeping Travel Interesting

fatmop wrote:Virtual pets.

Have a little tomagotchi minigame when you set autopilot.
I would love to have a virtual pet to play around with. This might be better suited for LT2 or LT3 where you could have an in-game avatar. I'd love to chart my course, punch it into the navigation computer and then play and look after my pet. :)
Image I can think of no better way to escape the tedium of space travel than through being able to have my own pet.

"It is just this characteristic way in which the brute gives itself up entirely to the present moment that contributes so much to the delight we take in our domestic pets. They are the present moment personified, and in some respects they make us feel the value of every hour that is free from trouble and annoyance, which we, with our thoughts and preoccupations, mostly disregard." -- Arthur Schopenhauer, On the Sufferings of the World

As for how virtual pets could be represented in-game; I think you would need to represent them as an abstract collection of nodes that change in size, colour and relative location based on mood and gesticulation and such, along the same lines as I have suggested for regular NPCs in Atmosphere (and which Josh is thinking along the same lines for).

Could I really learn which pattern of changing nodes represent a dog wagging its tail? Could I really form a genuine attachment to an abstract set of nodes? I'm curious. :ghost:

Re: Keeping Travel Interesting

ThymineC wrote:
  • Playing board-games - I've had about two dozen game ideas since DWMagus showed me this site. One of them is the idea of a board-game based on spaceship fleet combat that could be played within Limit Theory against NPCs (for fun, credits, exchange of property, etc). I've got ideas for how this board-game would play out. I'll post about it some time in the future. A game within a game, in other words.
  • Playing classic video/arcade games, like Pong, Asteroids, or Space Invaders. Just fire up your emulator and play along.
  • Watch your favourite stations/planets. I would be cool if you could watch your favourite/ home station or planet, as if you are watching TV. Switch between different cameras as you like.

Re: Keeping Travel Interesting

I wonder if this is part of the reason why Josh wants to have systems closer together?

Granted, even in Freelancer, there were some barren systems that took time to get through, but not enough to warrant the need for 'gameplay away from gameplay'.

As for your post Thymine, I'm under the impression that you'd be able to do half of those things anyways regardless of whether you're the ship at the head of your fleet or not.

Research, blueprint design, fleet management, business management, reading the news, mail, and market would be dead giveaways and really simple to institute.

Doubtful on crew management because that has already been nix'd by the man himself.

Might want to add "Marveling at the node interface" as an option. :lol:

Expanding on your re-evaluating your route idea though--maybe have the ability to create trade routes or automatic waypoint paths for either you, or your other ships to use. Maybe utilize these routes and 'sell' the 'route' to someone who is looking for safe passage or similar.

Add on 'stockmarket'. This might fall under business management more, but I'd like to see something more specific to economy-driven options for those of us who want to keep a close eye on the price of alloys / ores across the different systems I have outposts in or trade markets.

Edit: Just saw thedamngod's post.

He mentions emulators, or something akin to TV. Wouldn't it make sense (and I'm going out on a limb here) that if there is a need for such distractions, as well as possible time-consuming distractions, then that would mean that the fundamental concept of travel is that flawed? If we need to create 'gameplay within gameplay', that means there was a reason, and thus a problem that it is trying to solve?
Early Spring - 1055: Well, I made it to Boatmurdered, and my initial impressions can be set forth in three words: What. The. F*ck.

Re: Keeping Travel Interesting

fatmop wrote:DWMagus, you hit the nail on the head. If you have to add activities to do inside your game because part of your game is boring, redesign your game.
Not sure what the problem is. This is designing it to be not boring. If travel is fundamentally boring, but you add extra game features to make travel interesting, then what's the problem? At the end of the day, whether the game manages to somehow keep travel engaging on its own merits or whether it manages to keep it interesting by letting you manage other affairs, the game will be interesting whatever the case.

The only way to make it so that travel is not boring in itself is to either make space look really, really pretty or to make travel times shorts. The first is probably already going to be the case, but not suffice (EVE Online had really pretty backdrops); the second will affect the way the game plays. If I can travel between everywhere too quickly, it detracts from the game experience.

Re: Keeping Travel Interesting

I think the problem that is starting to crop up is that travel is boring because there is too much need for it? I.E. If you're having to spend 30 minutes of every hour traveling, then would that be considered too much?

While I agree there shouldn't be an excessive need for traveling, I also accept it as part of the fundamental gameplay.

However, I think we're all assuming that when it comes to how much travel is in the game, that's a decision that Josh makes and some of these suggestions are ways of coping with it for those that would like to.

If you want to set your cruise engines and just watch a nice screensaver for 10 minutes, that's one thing. If you want to pop on the TV or alt-tab to another app, that's another. And if you want to spend your time checking out how the local Spaceball team won their recent match, feel free to do so.
Early Spring - 1055: Well, I made it to Boatmurdered, and my initial impressions can be set forth in three words: What. The. F*ck.

Re: Keeping Travel Interesting

The question of typical travel time seems like the first thing that needs to be known.

If that number is more than a few seconds, then any interstitial content should be designed to fit whatever that typical duration is.

I mean, that's not to say I think Thymine's initial suggestion list isn't excellent -- it is. I'm just not sure how to sensibly discuss those possibilities.

By the way, I can't help but be reminded by this thread of the old chestnut in MMORPG design circles of "fast travel." One of the knocks against fast travel from some people (and I have in the past been one of them) is that fast travel eliminates opportunities for interesting things to happen along the way. That is considered a Bad Thing by these folks because they are the sort naturally inclined to think that what's most important is not the destination, but the journey.

The Achievers who are certain that getting to the destination first with the most toys is the only thing that matters tend to respond unfavorably to such suggestions. A friendly and courteous exchange of views ensues.

Wait... sorry, wrong universe. I meant to say, debate and argument and name-calling ensues because people won't take two seconds to consider the possibility that the game isn't only for them.

Assuming we can be on the side of the angels in this forum (and so far, so good!), what about that question of fast travel as detrimental to appreciating the journey? The view of travel as a an impediment to fun, of defining gameplay as accomplishing extrinsically beneficial actions on a very frequent schedule, is not wrong. But it's not the only valid view. But it's very hard historically to find good ways of satisfying both of those interests. Fast travel and not-fast travel are seen as, and may be, mutually exclusive.

So what should that mean for Limit Theory?

Re: Keeping Travel Interesting

One of the main problems is that Space is Space. No matter how you toss and turn it, you got your starry background, maybe a few colourful nebulae, a few planets and asteroid belts, and a sun. Maybe more. Every other system is just a variation of the theme, without much to distinguish it from the umpteen dozen systems you crossed since you first started the game.

That's quite a big problem; compared to for example the vast colourful and varied landscapes that a Cubeworld can cough up, space is intrinsically boring and samey. So, the sense of wonder will probably not be tickled pink by our journeys.

On the plus side, the universe is infinite; you can always try to find a better/prettier/more suitable system for your needs, and that will probably drive quite a few people onward. There's also the option of finding goodies (rare minerals, new civilizations with new stuff™ to purchase or loot from, an unused system to claim in the name of your empire, etc. pp). The way out is rarely a problem. Issues start with the way back.

Once you have procured your shinies/mapped your unknown system/robbed an unknown civilization blind you're likely to want to return to your waterhole/base/fence. Which means backtracking, probably quite a distance. Fast travel is obviously the easy way out, but opens its own can of worms:

1. It requires time acceleration if you really just "skip" the way back.
2. It robs you of random encounters on your way back, which may or may not be a good thing, but definitely makes for poorer gameplay.

Another option would be the dreaded autopilot. EVE is pretty notorious for this feature...basically, you go AFK and hope your toon arrives while you do something productive, most of the time out of the game. Barely acceptable for a MMO. Utterly ridiculous for a single player game, as it wastes time that should be spent playing, not twiddling thumbs.

I believe we had a framework for jumpdrives/jumpbridges established as a late-game backtracking option, in which case you could trade resources for quick transit to a place you have already been. But that's a patch on a much deeper problem: boredom. If nothing happens during the trip, then the player gets bored. Implementing the stuff listed in the OP merely dresses up the fact that you're sitting with your thumbs up your *BLEEP* while the autopilot does its job.
Unfortunately, the stuff in the list isn't likely to wait until you have downtime. I can see my research queues ending, NPCs writing me sultry love letters and exiting news happen while I'm just busy surviving an ambush by the local P.E.T.A.* branch office. And, truth to be told, I'm not firing up a space combat and exploration game to play "connect 4" on the board computer.

* = Prospectors Exploiting The Asteroids.

A compromise would be to cut down the travel time in general, which is technically what the highways do, and to keep the player on his toes with random events and attacks. I don't mind having to travel 5 minutes realtime to where the action is. But I do mind having to slog through pacified backwaters for 2 hours of realtime to sell my ore. Dosis Sola Facit Venenum. The dose alone makes the poison.

Screw "Fast Travel". Instead, make traveling fast.
Hardenberg was my name
And Terra was my nation
Deep space is my dwelling place
The stars my destination

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