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Re: Mining Gameplay Ideas Refined

#91
I just had a quick play of the Motherlode flash game ThymineC linked to, and it is indeed a lot of fun in the way that good flash games have a tendency to be.

I'm going to be negative nancy for a bit though and point out some (potential) downsides of implementing a similar thing.

First - this isn't a voxel game. We know this. We know LT2 probably will be, so things like this will be trivial to implement on a timescale of, I dunno, 3 years ish? As it stands though, giving each asteroid a 3D space map of deposit strengths and some way to navigate between them isn't a trivial problem. Not that complex, but non-trivial, and likely to present scaling issues as you generate many thousands of asteroids all with individual 3D interiors. Josh can, of course, come in here and say I'm wrong about how I'm interpreting what he's posted, but it appears as if any 3D characteristics are simplified and distributed across the 2D surface. Implementing ore deposits and layers might end up producing more work for the engine than it needs to.

Second - as many people have pointed out, if "mining" is going to be the way you go in the game, you're not likely to want to spend that long in your one ship sitting in front of an asteroid, filling up your one hold, trekking all the way back to the station, selling stuff, and trekking all the way back. You're going to be aiming to build up systems that increase your yield by dividing the work between specialised units from pretty early on in the game. Thus, while a "minigame" where you control a probe digging its way through an asteroid isn't bad, it's worth also considering that the time spent developing such a system is likely to have pretty limited exposure in any playthrough - it's "early game" only, and will likely be abandoned and never touched again as you start building up your mining systems and pipelines. Thus it's worth asking, seriously, how much of the finite resource "dev time" it's worth Josh devoting to a system that replicates voxel-like behaviour in a non-voxel game in order for players to abandon it after a decahour or two of playtime, especially given that if it works well the actual playtime of an LT universe will be multiple kilohours.

These are not insurmountable issues, but they should be considered.
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Re: Mining Gameplay Ideas Refined

#92
McDuff wrote:I just had a quick play of the Motherlode flash game ThymineC linked to, and it is indeed a lot of fun in the way that good flash games have a tendency to be.

I'm going to be negative nancy for a bit though and point out some (potential) downsides of implementing a similar thing.

First - this isn't a voxel game. We know this. We know LT2 probably will be, so things like this will be trivial to implement on a timescale of, I dunno, 3 years ish? As it stands though, giving each asteroid a 3D space map of deposit strengths and some way to navigate between them isn't a trivial problem. Not that complex, but non-trivial, and likely to present scaling issues as you generate many thousands of asteroids all with individual 3D interiors. Josh can, of course, come in here and say I'm wrong about how I'm interpreting what he's posted, but it appears as if any 3D characteristics are simplified and distributed across the 2D surface. Implementing ore deposits and layers might end up producing more work for the engine than it needs to.
It's got nothing to do with visualising the interiors of asteroids at all. You just have a node-based interface that abstractly represents the interior. I don't think that implementing it would be challenging, but I think it could get expensive trying to keep all the maps in memory (e.g. a 50 by 50 by 50 map of blocks with 100 4-byte unsigned integers for each block to represent the concentration of up to 100 types of ore at values up to 2^32 - 1 units each would require 50 MB of memory/storage; though there has to be way more efficient ways of storing the relevant information than this).
McDuff wrote:Second - as many people have pointed out, if "mining" is going to be the way you go in the game, you're not likely to want to spend that long in your one ship sitting in front of an asteroid, filling up your one hold, trekking all the way back to the station, selling stuff, and trekking all the way back. You're going to be aiming to build up systems that increase your yield by dividing the work between specialised units from pretty early on in the game. Thus, while a "minigame" where you control a probe digging its way through an asteroid isn't bad, it's worth also considering that the time spent developing such a system is likely to have pretty limited exposure in any playthrough - it's "early game" only, and will likely be abandoned and never touched again as you start building up your mining systems and pipelines. Thus it's worth asking, seriously, how much of the finite resource "dev time" it's worth Josh devoting to a system that replicates voxel-like behaviour in a non-voxel game in order for players to abandon it after a decahour or two of playtime, especially given that if it works well the actual playtime of an LT universe will be multiple kilohours.

These are not insurmountable issues, but they should be considered.
Fair point, actually. Maybe the mining system can be designed such that building mining outputs and setting up pipelines doesn't end up being preferable to manual mining in every case.

In fact, I don't think it would be. I see mining stations, etc. as a capital-intensive enterprise that you'd use for systems that you were established in and figured that the profit to be gained was worth the initial investment, whereas manual mining would almost always be better for venturing into new, uncharted territories to get an idea of the ores, ice, etc. to be found in them before you start setting up mining stations.
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Re: Mining Gameplay Ideas Refined

#93
"My mining laser is actually a laser mass spectrometer. Mostly sort of. =P"

Better hope it doesn't cause a resonance cascade...please.

And watch, wouldn't it be hilarious if Josh just copied and pasted Thymine's pictures of what the asteroid could be like into the game? Stunning graphics and then "WTF :wtf: !?"

Joking aside, I think that no matter what he does, it will at least look great, and with all of these ideas bouncing around, it will be at least something remotely close to what we all asked for.

Joking again, let's make it like Runescape. Shoot laser at the asteroid, and maybe randomly you get a shiny DIAMOND!? :shock:
Image "Everyone needs to have their avatar's edited to have afros." -Charley Deallus
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Re: Mining Gameplay Ideas Refined

#94
I think there's something missing from the discussions regarding prospecting, and that's scale.

It's entirely feasible, when just starting the game, to enter a new system and start scanning the nearest asteroids for mineral signatures. This is very much like wildcatting during the early phases of oil exploration and production. It's dominated by small firms, making the most out of what they can find. I reckon this makes for a fun part of the game, because it means we can always branch out into unexplored systems and make some money.

However as soon as we start becoming more tech savvy, and large organisations start applying some scientific rigour to the process, we end up with a completely different approach. This is much more like the modern oil industry, where firms look for hydrocarbon plays at a much larger scale. I reckon we should try and enable this type of gameplay too.

I kind of already wrote about this in the post I re-linked to on the first page. But I'll do it again, for shits and giggles.

There could three stages of the process if you've got the right kit.
  • Stage 1: widescale scan. The kind of thing I'm thinking of here is a scanner that consumes nearly all of your ship's power. This means you need to be stationary to work it, and the longer you stay put - with shields down, of course - the greater the radius over which you scan. The output of such a scan would be a map of asteroid clusters, with probabilities of what you might find (limited by what you know about).
  • Stage 2: asteroid-level scan. This is basically the existing gameplay. After you've navigated over to a high-prob cluster, you start assessing each asteroid individually using the on-board scanner.
  • Stage 3: assay. This is where you fire over probes/drones/whatever they're called to confirm the location of the deposit and its purity/complexity.
This would make the prospecting process accessible at the start, but also possessing enough complexity to keep it interesting as you become more capable.
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Re: Mining Gameplay Ideas Refined

#95
At the start of the game you could go prospecting for NPC miners...

With the beacon system outlined above, you would look for minerals and be paid according to the value of the marked deposits.
A min value may be there so you wouldn't just spam those beacons all over the place for easy money =P

You wouldn't need a lot of infrastructure for that.
There is no "I" in Tea. That would be gross.
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Re: Mining Gameplay Ideas Refined

#96
Yes, Jabblewok talked about selling info gathered from such a process here:
Jabblewok wrote:IMO such scans should give indications, not concrete results, and finding actual deposits should require dropping a survey team on an asteroid to analyse it. Core samples and all that. Maybe there could be a distinction between droid teams and human ones, with the latter being slower and more expensive but getting better results. In terms of visuals, it could take the form of a vehicle which travels across the asteroid's surface, occasionally putting up a drill rig, until 100% surveyed. Again, such information is marketable. It means that there's a potential niche for those who want to make money by surveying, as well as those who wish to mine themselves.
I really like this concept.
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Re: Mining Gameplay Ideas Refined

#97
ThymineC wrote: It's got nothing to do with visualising the interiors of asteroids at all. You just have a node-based interface that abstractly represents the interior. I don't think that implementing it would be challenging, but I think it could get expensive trying to keep all the maps in memory (e.g. a 50 by 50 by 50 map of blocks with 100 4-byte unsigned integers for each block to represent the concentration of up to 100 types of ore at values up to 2^32 - 1 units each would require 50 MB of memory/storage; though there has to be way more efficient ways of storing the relevant information than this).
Hmm, that makes more sense. It should probably be a ball of hexes rather than a square grid, but it would work. And I'm sure there's ways to compress that much smaller than the raw data.
Fair point, actually. Maybe the mining system can be designed such that building mining outputs and setting up pipelines doesn't end up being preferable to manual mining in every case.

In fact, I don't think it would be. I see mining stations, etc. as a capital-intensive enterprise that you'd use for systems that you were established in and figured that the profit to be gained was worth the initial investment, whereas manual mining would almost always be better for venturing into new, uncharted territories to get an idea of the ores, ice, etc. to be found in them before you start setting up mining stations.
Up to a point, yes. But I don't see that people would repeat their whole trajectory from scratch each time. You're more likely to prospect a new asteroid field and then send for a small mining fleet with enough specialist ships to bootstrap your new claim up.
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Re: Mining Gameplay Ideas Refined

#98
Gazz wrote: [...]
There's a few points I'd like to make.

Multiple Views
The first is that I've been thinking and I reckon I would prefer if you could switch between three views: plan (what you suggest), front elevation and side elevation (what I originally suggested): Image You use up/down and left/right to move along the two perpendicular axes to your view direction and the mouse wheel/whatever to move in the parallel axis, through each layer. I think it would just be more convenient to place waypoints/beacons and see the interior of asteroids this way. When you switch between these views, you'll see the nodes of the interface repattern themselves, perhaps in a similar style to what we've seen before.

Mining Transfer Beam Modes
Gazz wrote:It could be... a deep scan mode.
Basically a mining beam with rather low yield which penetrates deeply but has little to no impact on surrounding deposits.
A mining scalpel.
And it tells you what is being mined so you get an idea of what's far beneath the surface.
This brought to mind something you suggested in another post:
Gazz wrote:Ideal point to attach the loose / tight fitting shields feature.

High power to shields: you get wide shields and high recharge speed. The max value for shield points may increase a bit but not by more than 20-30%.
Ideal setting when you have lots of damage incoming. Maybe for missiles that you're not going to evade anyway... but that you want detonating as far from your hull as possible.

Low power to shields: you get tight fitting shields, protecting the ship's soft bits from fighters.
Recharge speed is low .

This way the energy distribution settings are meaningful. There would be a point to lowering the shield power. A decision that you would have to weigh.
In a similar way, I see mining beams behaving differently depending on the power allocation to them:
  • Low power: Mining transfer beams have low yield but high penetration - this means they can simultaneously extract small amounts of ore from a large number of blocks in a column. This makes this mode ideal for prospecting - you get a sample of all the ore within a column (of course, if you find an interesting type of ore in your sample, then you need to find which layers of that column you're digging them up from. But you get an idea of where to look further).
  • High power: Mining transfer beams have high yield but low penetration - they can extract a lot of ore but only from the upper few layers of blocks in the column until they've been fully mined, at which point the beam operates at the next set of layers, and so on.
These aren't binary settings, but run along a whole continuum. You can get a good idea of where a particular type of ore is by raising or lowering the penetration of the beam until it starts or stops picking up samples of that ore.

Mining Frequencies
Gazz wrote: I imagine that the deeper / more focussed you set it, the longer it's spin-up time before it's "through" to the last layer.
If you turn your ship, the beam loses focus again.
Should give a better feeling of "drilling down".
Well, this leads on to what I was originally going to propose. The mining gameplay is getting considerably "rich" at this point. Maybe too rich.

Over in Shield Harmonics, I was thinking of a bunch of different applications that the frequency mechanics proposed in that thread could be applied to. One of them was mining.

Josh has said how you can detect different types of ore based on the frequencies of the signals they emit. I think that not only should shields, weapons and sensors operate on the basis of frequencies but also transfer units, including those used to mine. My idea is that different types of ore have different "resonant frequencies"; your mining transfer beams generate these beams at a certain frequency, and if their frequency matches the resonant frequency of the ore they're digging up, they can extract that type of ore at a faster rate:
Image From the part of the HUD where you can see all of your weapons/modules (like the hi/mid/lo slots from EVE), you can can configure the frequency of your mining beams by clicking their icon to bring up their frequency configuration sub-panel:
Image However, trade-offs will be involved. Different mining beams will have different "bandwidths", different extraction rates, etc. In general, the greater the bandwidth of a mining beam, the lower its extraction rate will be, encouraging specialisation and reinforcing the value of player choice:
  • If the player knows what type of ore they want to mine, they might install mining beams that only have a 10 MHz bandwidth, making them only capable of efficiently extracting a handful of types of ores, including the one they want to mine. However, it will be able to mine that type of ore very well.
  • If the player doesn't know what types of ore to expect, they can install high-bandwidth mining beams, or a number of lower-bandwidth mining beams that focus on different parts of the spectrum. This is the playsafe strategy; they reduce their possible maximum mining rate, but increase their possible minimum.
Furthermore, it will take time for mining transfer beams to change frequencies, same as with shields, sensors, etc. This reinforces the value of forward planning.

This mechanic serves a functionally similar role to that of mining crystals in EVE Online.

Mining Beam Control
In general, you can just shoot a beam at any part of an asteroid to start mining. However, if you do this, you won't have very precise control over which blocks get extracted.

Instead, you can precisely specify which blocks to extract using the mining interface by doing something like this:
Image What this will actually do depends on whether you're in Plan view or Elevation (front or side) view.
  • In plan view, you have a top-down view of the asteroid and that tells the mining beam to mine down through those blocks until it hits the bottom and there's nothing left to mine.
  • In elevation view, it tells the mining beam to mine above the blocks you've selected until it reaches the blocks you selected and then stop.
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Re: Mining Gameplay Ideas Refined

#99
Honestly, I still don't see how the actual act of acquiring resources can be fun. At best you just create a puzzle game with a static puzzle that you have to solve. Even MotherLode, which I concede is good fun for an afternoon, gets old in, well.. an afternoon.

I would propose not even bothering to put any effort into making the act of mining itself fun, and simply make it fast and easy, and focus instead on hunting for minerals, and setting up mining operations. Hunting for them still isn't all *that* fun, but at least it gets you moving around and interacting with the world, with a chance to see things going on and maybe run into pirates or whatever.
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Re: Mining Gameplay Ideas Refined

#100
CutterJohn wrote:Honestly, I still don't see how the actual act of acquiring resources can be fun. At best you just create a puzzle game with a static puzzle that you have to solve. Even MotherLode, which I concede is good fun for an afternoon, gets old in, well.. an afternoon.
I don't know, I think I'd find Motherload-style mining in LT to be continuously fun. Either way, it's optional. I'm also not sure why everyone keeps calling it Motherlode.

Edit: Just played a bit of Motherload again. I don't know why but it's still fun for me, even after I completed the whole thing.
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Re: Mining Gameplay Ideas Refined

#102
I suspect CutterJohn may be right on this one; the act of mining itself may just not be something that needs attention compared to the active process of exploring for minerals.

That said, one more stab at it: what if different resources responded differently to different mining techniques?

Suppose maximizing output required considering the best extraction technique among several for:

1. A particular kind of resource (always the same for a given resource, but could be randomized for each LT universe)
2. A resource's particular configuration among the other things inside an asteroid (unique to each asteroid)

Given those two features, mining becomes a more active, thought-rewarding process. Knowing the best extraction technique for a given resource becomes a starting point, but you'd sometimes want to pick a different technique that minimizes negative effects on other desirable resources in a given asteroid. (Drones vs. mining laser is a very simple example of this kind of choice process.)

Even better, suppose that some resources respond best to a combination of extraction techniques. Now in addition to which techniques to use, you'd also need to consider the order in which those techniques should be applied.

Each extraction technique would need to look and sound different to some extent, so this starts to get expensive in terms of development time. But functionally, the idea of maximizing output by thinking about how to select among multiple mining techniques might allow mining to be fun for some players.
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Re: Mining Gameplay Ideas Refined

#103
Just a quick question.
Would the IA not also be required to play whatever games you are suggesting?

Then the IA will need to know how to play or cheat? Thus either something that Josh doesn't want (cheat) or double programming, once to build the game and once the teach the game to the IA.
For that reason is it not better to leave it as it is now. Fun to find the ore. Quick and boring to get it (just like real life mining).

Ps. Finding or in real life is also quite boring.
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Re: Mining Gameplay Ideas Refined

#104
I wouldn't want the AI to be especially good at it.
The AI's advantage is that... it is many. Ore will be mined.

I have no problem with the player being a smarter miner, using his drones with much greater efficiency... if he manually targets them to "good" spots.
If he does not, his auto-miners will be "dumb", using the AI scanning routine.
Not as efficient but instead of 5 or 10 carefully targeted mining drones, you might have 500 of them. Or 1000.


Medium scale mining could be something like:
  • Find asteroid with good density.
  • Send your mining ships to feeeeeeed!
Large scale mining could be something more stationary.
A full fledged asteroid mine built onto the asteroid (X3 style).
This would be the only way to access all of the ore in an asteroid. Mining drones only chip away at maybe 5-10% of the outer shell.

Mind you, 5% is still a lot of material. A 1 km diameter asteroid made up from mostly silicates weighs in at 1.000.000.000 tons.

This way there is still potential for surprises. An asteroid that shows an overall high mineral content but is "mined out" when scanning the outside.
Ideal spot for building a mine.
These permanent mines would have vastly longer lifetimes than the vagabond mining.
You need some persistence for any kind of economy. =)
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