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Universe structure

#1
As I started reading through the "Game in LT" thread, I thought of some aspects of universe structure.
I haven't read all of it, let alone the whole Forum, so if I'm just repeating something that was already said a 100 times feel free to delete this post. I figured I should share my thoughts rather than trying to find them somewhere.
So it's about structure.
The LT-universe certainly will have a structure of some kind. But the structure has to be perceivable for the player. Otherwise the motivation to explore will quickly vanish.
Imagine flying through a number of systems in sequence.
1.) Lets say every system is different. We get a huge variety of systems. If we were to explore every single one of them we could write down very specific characteristics. But we are not. We are just traveling. What we perceive is a constant change. After every jump something changed. After only a few jumps that change is perceived as a constant. It's procedural noise. We know that every system is different and that we probably could find every system we can think of. But it doesn't really matter. It's only noise in the end.This seems to be the typical problem of many procedural games and I am sure many here are aware.
2.) Josh already said that he will associate nearby systems with each other. In this case, big change only happens across big distances. As I remember, this was related to NPC traits.
But if we fly through our said set of systems, what do we perceive? Small constant changes in one direction. Better than before - we can know tell the difference between first and last system- but I wouldn't consider it optimal if the whole universe were structured like this.
3.) In many handcrafted games like X or Freelancer, areas owned by factions or races are often separated by some empty sectors. It's a big chance after many little subtle changes. In the real world this also often combines with landmarks like rivers mountains or deserts. In LT this could be big nebulae, a group of inhabitable systems, areas with very few systems, a system that is a bottleneck for traveling because of the way the jump holes ar set up…
Faction areas should not always slowly fade into other areas but also make such hard cuts, preferably at those landmarks the player can recognise.
4.) Make it visible on the map. Coloured zones with borders. Colorgrading to indicate subtle changes or sub factions within a nation. Indicate populated systems (intensity of colour, size of marker or system label…). There should be an info box displaying things like: Owner. Do they like me. Am I allowed to build stations? What items that I own or that my factories produce are illegal?
Special sectors like "This system is owned by XYZ-Mining-Company and therefore is private property. Mining is not allowed for third parties. Entering the system is only allowed with active contract."
Or if a faction looses many ships in one area it could notify ist members about the danger and mark the area on the map (skulls or dark stripes …).

Those zone restrictions would cause the player to adopt to this zone. The player would be aware of being in this zone as soon as he visited the map. He would notice leaving this zone thanks to those landmarks. Also the secondary or tertiary colour of the UI could be bound to the zone.
All of this could greatly enhance the awareness of the universe structure and the ongoing processes. It would also help with making changes visible. The info box could contain a history of changes to this zone/sector (new policies, newly colonized planet, destroyed station …)

As far as I know most of the above is based on AI behaviour that is at least already planned for the finished game. Exposing this information makes the difference between a living universe and noise.

I would love to assume that Josh already thought about all of it ... but that same assumption would have applied to No Man's Sky, so yeah ...

Best Regards
MPX
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Re: Universe structure

#2
So would I be correct in guessing that many of these suggestions are inspired by having played No Man's Sky? ;)

I agree overall that it's important to try to achieve significant variety between systems. I don't think it will be possible to completely eliminate "I have seen every possible variation" -- that's expecting too much from any procedural content generation system. But an effort to delay that conclusion for as long as reasonably possible seems worth trying.

And though you didn't put it this way, I think it's also a good idea for "space" to be varied not just by the physical structure of the game universe and the physical objects in it, but by the social structure as well. How NPCs regard each other, the relationships they have with each other, the organizations they share -- all the characteristics of these structures can be considered part of the "world." So implementing a relatively deep set of social institutions, and building a display system that can overlay this social-world information atop physical-world information, would help to increase the differentness of places that can be presented to players of Limit Theory.

So the power of the user interface to display many layers of many kinds of information will be pretty important for LT, I think. In fact, I feel pretty confident that if LT's early adopters don't think the UI does a good enough job of letting them see the game universe information they want, they won't be shy about saying so. :D
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Re: Universe structure

#3
You're not repeating something that's been said 100 times and talked to death, in fact you're bringing up something that's critically important, avoiding ProcGen sameyness...which frankly hasn't been discussed enough.

I would say that to combat sameyness, there needs to be at least two main design elements in play.

1) Layers of difference which sometimes overlap with each other. The more layers, the better, especially if they can interact with each other in emergent and unexpected ways. The differences can be structural, social, climatological, and so on... There just needs to be multiple layers.

2) Rarity considerations. In a simulation with 100 quintillion "unique" systems, you have to have things that appear in only 1 in 100 systems; 1 in 1000; 1 in 10,000; 1 in 1 million; 1 in 1 billion and so on. The more "rare" these things are, the more profound they should be to encounter/experience.


From those two, you can extrapolate a 3rd principle:

3)Not Every Seed generates every possibility. Assuming you have enough variation with overlapping social/structural ProcGen gradients, and have a good selection of objects/events that are fairly uncommon, then you can increase the possibility-space of exploratory play by ironically cutting out different features from the very beginning. So for example, in some universes, You'll find Giant Space-Pyramids in about 1 in 10,000 systems, but in some universes, Space-Pyramids will never appear at all, because the lines of code which generate them were excluded in those universe's seeds. If your first playthrough is in a universe without space pyramids, no matter how much you explore that universe, you simply won't see everything there is to see. So if there are numerous ProcGen elements which can be excluded from different universes, then there is much greater variety between playthroughs, and it becomes quite difficult to say that you've "seen it all"
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Re: Universe structure

#4
Some questions that come to mind:

So, how many layers are needed for things to feel diverse, along with rarity? What kind of objects should be rare? How rare should each object be? What are the benefits of finding these objects? Are the objects linked to historical generation? If no, how should the placement of these rare objects be defined? Is it just random?

Here are some of my thoughts on the above questions. First, the number of layers isn't set, it's a combination of historical generation and universe generation combined together to create a believable and awe inspiring universe which doesn't get old. This is done through the rise and fall of civilizations and the ability for objects and technologies to be forgotten (both use and location). Legends should exist of these locations and treasure hunters should be able to pursue these stories. Object wise, anything should be possible and very diverse; from nebula which regenerates shields to ghost ships with mysterious alien technologies of immense power. I believe rarity should be based on algorithms and not on some predefined value. However, if there is a working game (text based or otherwise) which proves otherwise I'm willing to change my opinion. The benefit of finding these objects could range from filling in the missing plot to galactic history to using the findings to develop new technologies. The sky really is the limit.

What do you guys think? How should naturally occurring objects work?
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Re: Universe structure

#5
Just some personal opinions:

BFett wrote:
Wed Oct 04, 2017 9:24 pm
What kind of objects should be rare? How rare should each object be? What are the benefits of finding these objects? Are the objects linked to historical generation? If no, how should the placement of these rare objects be defined? Is it just random?

My initial thoughts are two:

1. Object awesomeness should be directly proportional to its rarity. A 1/100 discovery should be pretty neat; a 1 in 10,000 discovery should be amazing; and a one in a million discovery should be absofreakinlutely mindblowingly incredible.

2. The more awesome a thing is, the more it is worthy of and benefits from handcrafting. Procgen is wonderful, yes, and I'm sure Josh and Adam will find ways to minimize the "seen it!" effect in their PCG code... but humans, for the foreseeable future, are going to be vastly better than any code at creating truly imaginative and intellectually/emotionally meaningful content. So for the most rare objects, it makes sense to me that these should be handcrafted for Maximum Awesome. It's also worth pointing out that since there should be only a very few of these most incredible things, that reduces the amount of time that would need to be spent on manual content creation versus PCG magic.

So here then is a question for the crowd: what are some examples of semi-rare, rare, extremely unusual, and unique things that players of LT might (want to) encounter in their exploration?

BFett wrote:
Wed Oct 04, 2017 9:24 pm
the number of layers isn't set, it's a combination of historical generation and universe generation combined together to create a believable and awe inspiring universe which doesn't get old. This is done through the rise and fall of civilizations and the ability for objects and technologies to be forgotten (both use and location). Legends should exist of these locations and treasure hunters should be able to pursue these stories.

I am not exaggerating in the slightest when I say I hope the first thing LT's universe generation does is create a galaxy full of civilizations... and then blow them all up. And then start the player's game just as new civs are forming. (Unless the player yanks the slider over to the "start with lots of advanced civs" setting.)

This hasn't happened and I don't expect it to happen, but if Josh IM'd me and say, "Hey, I'll let you design any one feature of LT you want," I would first glare at him for giving me such a difficult choice. And then, rather than NPC AI, or projects, or exploration, I'd probably have to go with designing the civilization-level simulation, because that can so So Much Impact on the "feel" of the world of LT as a living place.

And part of that design would be to make the starting civs in LT the descendants (whether their members know it or not) of millions of years of previous civilizations that emerged, had their day in the sun, and ended for various reasons. This is in keeping with what I think Josh has expressed as a "everything comes from something" philosophy regarding Stuff in LT, which is such an important conceptual stance to me that it's one of the reasons why I'm still here nearly five years after the Kickstarter.

The idea of myths and legends is a part of my own "Living World" game design. I think it makes reasonable sense that it would be a component of LT if something like the "information economy" that's been bruited about in the past is still being considered. If information has value, then data regarding strange claims from prospectors in backwater star systems could be cheap in cost and enormously profitable when examined... or not. :D

But a lot of this kind of thinking depends on there being backwater star systems, and forgotten worlds, and decayed but not yet worthless objects hidden in these lost places.

Implication: the LTverse created for each player will generally need to be ENORMOUS, so that it can contain both multi-system star empires and vast swaths of terra incognita.
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Re: Universe structure

#6
BFett wrote:
Wed Oct 04, 2017 9:24 pm
how many layers are needed for things to feel diverse?
Well lets puzzle that out.
Structural Layers
Stellar Cluster Density
Asteroid Density
Planet Density
Wormhole Connection Density
Space Phenomenon 1 (Black Holes, Pulsars, etc)
Space Phenomenon n
Sector modifier 1 (5% faster mineral regen, 25% global speed reduction in asteroid zones, etc)
Sector Modifier n

Social Layers
Culture Vector: Curiousity, Aggressiveness, Sociability, etc...
Culture Stability (How quickly do culture vectors change)
Hegemony (Variance from the sector median)
Species
Heritage Nostalgia (How long AI memory of past events lasts in regards to shared history of friendship/war/etc)
Religion (if enabled)
Many More
Sector Modifier 1
Sector Modifier n

There's definitely more, but my brain is farting out on recalling them at the moment :p

What kind of objects should be rare? How rare should each object be? What are the benefits of finding these objects? Are the objects linked to historical generation? If no, how should the placement of these rare objects be defined? Is it just random?
What should be rare? Everything from some kinds of raw materials, neat zone formations, abandoned craft and structures, all the way up to hand-crafted storylines and places. The benefits? depends on what you find, sometimes it may not be beneficial at all, but actually a pandora's box. Are they linked to historical generation? If at all possible, yes. But I think at least sometimes it shouldn't, instead being hand-crafted or placed semi-randomly around a defined area. My thoughts as to rarity is actually for each "spawned" object to have an occurrence and isolation/aggregation range, meaning that "Object X" is defined in the script to occur in between 1 in 80 systems and 1 in 200 depending on that universe's seed, but said object definitely wont be generated if one already exists within 4 jumps, but will be far more likely to spawn if such and such conditions are met.

By having occurrence, Isolation, and Aggregation ranges, modders can define approximately but not invariably how often a player will encounter what they created... So if a player makes a hand-crafted Space-El-Dorado, they can define it to only occur in 1:8k- 1:12k systems, and have an isolation range of 100 jumps. Or they can have Space-Trees that occur in 1:4 - 1:20 systems with an isolation range of 0 jumps, and an aggregation of 3, meaning you're more likely to see space trees if you've already seen space trees in nearby systems.

Flatfingers wrote:Object awesomeness should be directly proportional to its rarity. A 1/100 discovery should be pretty neat; a 1 in 10,000 discovery should be amazing; and a one in a million discovery should be absofreakinlutely mindblowingly incredible.
Yes, I absolutely Agree. But the rarity should be defined in the lua file for said mod, being technically free to be anything, but can be narrowed by a skilled mod balancer for greatest psychological effect :geek:
The more awesome [rare] a thing is, the more it is worthy of and benefits from handcrafting.
YES!!! If there is a way to implement handcrafted objects/ships/structures/systems/scenarios, I think they should have the format where a modder can go "This hand-crafted thing definitely exists somewhere, but not entirely sure where in your game and will occur naturally in 1:20,000 systems, but once the defined storyline is triggered, it will never form again" So While you Might be able to "Discover the Aztecs" and then later "Discover the Inca" you'll only deal with Montezuma and the hand-written storyline with him once.
This is in keeping with what I think Josh has expressed as a "everything comes from something" philosophy regarding Stuff in LT
While I definitely agree that philosophy should hold true for the vast majority of things in LT, I still think there should be the option for modders to define handcrafted and hand-placed elements, or what I refer to as staging . These hand-crafted things could be made to form in relation to the starting system to have the player start in-situ, or form naturally, being generated as another object in the seed that the player may or may not stumble upon.

This way a modder could make the player show up in a rebel alliance, which has a plan in the works to destroy a giant copyrighted not-moon. The Rebels, the Not-moon, the War are all staged within the infinite LT Universe, therere would be a few triggered events that happen regardless of what the player does, and the relationships of the NPC players and factions are pre-defined. However, the player could go against the script and betray the rebels in exchange for a nice bit of coin/power :twisted: or they could ignore the entire story and jump 40 systems away into a region of space outside the defined scenario and be in normal LT "Everything comes from something" space.

Modders could also create the Evil Corporation of Tear-Drinkers that does awful things and seems to get away with it. the corporation exist somewhere in your game, and if you stumble across it, you can go through different hand-crafted quests associated with it, or you could ignore the quests entirely and interact with the Tear-Drinkers however you see fit.

The Rebel Alliance and Tear-Drinkers are not natural, they didn't form from any historical generation and exist only to present a story or opportunity for stories, they are staged. And these "stages" can be treated as objects to be generated like any other star or planet.
So here then is a question for the crowd: what are some examples of semi-rare, rare, extremely unusual, and unique things that players of LT might (want to) encounter in their exploration?
I've been coming up with answers to this question since long before you asked it. I have dozens of ideas, ranging from Matrioshka Brains, White Holes, Hand-crafted station designs, various space-phenomena, and so on... there's also plenty of material in Orion's Arm to be inspired by.
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User: JoshParnell is accountable for this user's actions.
Post

Re: Universe structure

#7
Hyperion wrote:
Fri Oct 06, 2017 6:15 am
Social Layers
Culture Vector: Curiousity, Aggressiveness, Sociability, etc...
Culture Stability (How quickly do culture vectors change)
Hegemony (Variance from the sector median)
Species
Heritage Nostalgia (How long AI memory of past events lasts in regards to shared history of friendship/war/etc)
Religion (if enabled)
Many More
Sector Modifier 1
Sector Modifier n
i'd put those far far away from anything thats set at universe creation time and make them more akin a general "storage" for the engine to calculate relevant influences.

at creation all those layers are set to null, because theres nobody who could create any cultural influences

but at the point where somebody enters the region or builds a colony/station they start adding their own culture to the local culture vector, with a change rate dependent on the difference between the culture vector of the currently present population and the vector of the environment.

the population vector is just a weighted sum of all the population culture vectors in the area. the more pop has a certain culture, the more their culture vector contributes.

and when a new group gets added to the pool due to the differential factor it takes a while until their contribution arrives in the local culture vector.
(or maybe instead of a general accumulating value track which culture group adds which amounts and remove their heritage when they are completely purged? dunno, just ramblin)

also events could directly impart changes on the environmental culture vector.
if theres a lot of fighting the environmental culture vector can be changed to reflect that and thus have whatever effect it has on populations

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