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Re: Interstellar Travel, Wormholes, and Jump Drives

#16
Gazz wrote:X3 may be an extreme example but it's a very good example of how to screw up with the best intentions. It's space isn't small at all. There are 200+ sectors! But when every point in the universe is maybe 30 seconds of travel (real)time away, the universe is tiny.
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The mini game I proposed puts some scale back into the universe. The autopilot gets you there if you have something better to do in the meantime but you do have the option of flying yourself if you're in a hurry like if you want to intercept or outrun a ship.
Of course it is simplistic but it scales well without up-scaling the involved micromanagement!
I would like to cite Jabblewok: Bear in mind this is a game, not a simulation.

Anything that takes (valuable) player time looses quickly its interest, however well done it is. Typically how often do you look at the (often artfully realized) splash screens when you open a game? You probably as well click through as fast as possible, even if they are cool, because you've seen them already. Even a funny "jump" effect should not last more than 1-2 seconds before becoming boring the 1000th time (you jump around a lot in a space exploration game).

While adding as you propose a small "game in the game" can add to gameplay (as an option to "beat" the normal dureation of a trip), and is therefore a valuable addition to the game, you must have the option to cut it short. I will not be investing my gaming time to wait in front of my screen that a minutes-long trip comes to an end.
There are other options: make (simulation) time pass: in a blink of an eye, the calendar is now 3 weeks later than before. It impacts on your goods with a limited storability, with mission schedules, many other things may have happened while you were traveling (goodness, somebody just attacked my target system and my customer is gone).
Thus the scale is given by the fact that making side trips is wasting (simulated) time and may cost you. It does give a scale for all practical purposes.
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Re: Interstellar Travel, Wormholes, and Jump Drives

#17
I would argue that X3 feels small not because of the jump drives (I've never actually played long enough to get one, and it still feels small to me), but rather more generally because of a lack of depth and variety. The individual sectors are all relatively small in area and have basically the same structure, there aren't that many people around, the feels of the different species and their trade goods are pretty much the same, and of course there are no planets involved.

So I'd say that the best way of making the game universe feel big would be giving the player a sense of potential and opportunity, of actually being part of a wide-spread and diverse galactic civilisation. I think it's a question of diversity in how things like systems and their planets, ships and stations, factions and NPCs are designed, of the scope of missions and opportunites, and importantly also of the way that flavour text and other types of feedback to the player are put together.
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Re: Interstellar Travel, Wormholes, and Jump Drives

#18
CSE wrote:While adding as you propose a small "game in the game" can add to gameplay (as an option to "beat" the normal dureation of a trip), and is therefore a valuable addition to the game, you must have the option to cut it short.
Time acceleration is currently in the game so game time and real time are two different things. I'm only saying that travel should require game time.

In case of X3, if one of your ships or factories is under attack, you can get to the sector in 10 seconds and to the battle scene in maybe 20 more.
Using time acceleration, this takes maybe 10-15 seconds of reatime (incl. loading time) but that's not the point.
During those 30 seconds of game time your asset may not be in too great of a danger of being destroyed.

If space is big - regardless of how much realtime the traveling takes - you have to actually escort your traders and protect your factories because you couldn't just keep 1 "killer stack" and jump it into every hotspot, overwhelming any kind of resistance.
You literally couldn't be everywhere instantly!
There is no "I" in Tea. That would be gross.
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Re: Interstellar Travel, Wormholes, and Jump Drives

#19
I agree with @Gazz that the X series makes interstellar travel far too easy. However, I recognise they must have been faced with the same dilemma:

a) make interstellar travel slow and difficult, but 'fast gamers' lose interest because of the delay
b) make interstellar travel fast and easy, but 'realist' players lose their sense of immersion

There are ways around this, but they're all compromises to some extent. Here's my punt:

1) Options menu - realistic or fast travel. That way it's up to the player to choose what befits them. Maybe a slider to fine tune it.
2) Starting conditions - smaller or larger ship. This is separate from any "accelerated start" options which may need to be unlocked.

A smaller ship can only just get to the nearest star system at slowest speed, while a larger ship can do it more quickly but expensively.

I'd suggest that the engine/fuel relationship means you can go more quickly (interstellar) by using more fuel, so this will be a trade off against range and cost. It should also be non-linear so that doubling the speed more than doubles the fuel requirement. Maybe like the upper end of a relativistic Lorentz curve. Range vs. fuel use should probably be linear.

For the larger ship there will be more fuel available so a faster run is possible, but that increases the cost. The larger ship should also be able to house a bigger, more efficient engine for when the player can afford it. I'd even suggest that engine size could be an interesting balancing factor, where you can get smaller advanced engines too but the miniaturisation means they're very expensive.

So, the smaller ship can get to at least one nearby star but only if 95% of the payload bay is filled with fuel, and it takes a long time. However, the initial system should have a number of inhabited worlds & stations so there's plenty to see and do locally. Money can be made. A ferry/acceleration gate route should be available to at least one other star system.

The larger ship would have the same engine but more room for fuel, so will get there faster or with more spare cargo capacity.

As for actual time taken, I think that can only be settled on during the testing phase as we'd need a proper 'feel' for the game. While time acceleration is in the game, I'd also like to see some sort of limit for interstellar use.


So, for initial starts:

Easy: Larger ship + 200 credits
Standard: Smaller ship + 50 credits
Hard: Slightly leaky spacesuit and an overdraft :)
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Re: Interstellar Travel, Wormholes, and Jump Drives

#20
A smaller ship can only just get to the nearest star system at slowest speed, while a larger ship can do it more quickly but expensively.

I'd suggest that the engine/fuel relationship means you can go more quickly (interstellar) by using more fuel, so this will be a trade off against range and cost. It should also be non-linear so that doubling the speed more than doubles the fuel requirement. Maybe like the upper end of a relativistic Lorentz curve. Range vs. fuel use should probably be linear.

For the larger ship there will be more fuel available so a faster run is possible, but that increases the cost. The larger ship should also be able to house a bigger, more efficient engine for when the player can afford it. I'd even suggest that engine size could be an interesting balancing factor, where you can get smaller advanced engines too but the miniaturisation means they're very expensive.
Let me once again reiterate:
If owning a larger ship brings nothing but benefits, then you're nixing any reason for small ships to exist in the first place. This is to be avoided at all cost!
If anything, the benefit of a larger ship would be the enhanced cargo capacity, allowing more goods to be transported, while the benefits of a small ship would be increased speed and less fuel costs, at the price of having only a fraction of the cargo space and probably worse combat performance. One makes you a better trader. The other makes you a better scout/courier. Both are viable choices. If picking the small ship is basically "hard mode", then something is terribly wrong with both design and scaling.
Hardenberg was my name
And Terra was my nation
Deep space is my dwelling place
The stars my destination
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Re: Interstellar Travel, Wormholes, and Jump Drives

#22
Hardenberg wrote: Let me once again reiterate:
If owning a larger ship brings nothing but benefits, then you're nixing any reason for small ships to exist in the first place. This is to be avoided at all cost!
I'm not saying that at all, as this topic has no mention of the capabilities of ships other than travel.

For example in real life, a single-engine Cessna has less range and payload than a larger Twin Otter, but is cheaper to run. A fighter jet may be of similar size to the Twin Otter, but it's faster and capable of dogfighting, though more expensive to run and much less useful for transport. A Jumbo has most range and most payload capacity, but can't fight. Size isn't everything!

Perhaps I should have been more explicit; I'm suggesting a start position of two roughly similar technology ships with identical engines. The smaller ship may be more manoeuvrable and faster in sub-FTL, assuming that sub-FTL and FTL use different technologies. However it has less capability of doing FTL jumps than the larger ship simply because of the fuel capacity. I'm not saying they should be unarmed either, simply that one has greater FTL capability than the other for an easier start.
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Re: Interstellar Travel, Wormholes, and Jump Drives

#23
Lanfranc wrote:I would argue that X3 feels small not because of the jump drives (I've never actually played long enough to get one, and it still feels small to me), but rather more generally because of a lack of depth and variety. The individual sectors are all relatively small in area and have basically the same structure, there aren't that many people around, the feels of the different species and their trade goods are pretty much the same, and of course there are no planets involved.

So I'd say that the best way of making the game universe feel big would be giving the player a sense of potential and opportunity, of actually being part of a wide-spread and diverse galactic civilisation. I think it's a question of diversity in how things like systems and their planets, ships and stations, factions and NPCs are designed, of the scope of missions and opportunites, and importantly also of the way that flavour text and other types of feedback to the player are put together.
I coincide with your viewpoint Lanfranc and I appreciate how well you conveyed it.

Give worth to the player with a part of the universe and they may be enticed to stick around. Do this enough and they may be delighted at how much there is.

Systems that do not have worth probably will be perceived as trivial. Increasing the travel time between systems, as I understand, is an attempt to give significance to the systems that otherwise bear little; increased travel time becomes a disincentive to move from one system to another, encouraging the player to stay where they are for longer -- by way of the stick.

If the system is worth being in, the inter-system travel is less relevant. If the system is not worth being in, and the player is discouraged from moving to another system, how will they feel? How will the player react to the game if this situation recurs frequently?

The travel minigame, in my opinion, attempts to dampen the discouraging effect of the travel time -- perhaps to the extent that it is enjoyable. Maybe the minigame is entertaining and thus players will actually want to travel. Should the travelling minigame compete for the player's attention? They may spend less time discovering what a system has hidden. Maybe that is okay. Does the travelling minigame speak to the core and theme of the game?
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Re: Interstellar Travel, Wormholes, and Jump Drives

#24
Wow, this is a tough thread. I've tried multiple times to try and get my thoughts across in a post but it hasn't been the easiest.

I can see the sides of the argument quite well, and this is probably going to be one of the major pieces that will never quite jive with everyone on how it is done.

First, whether or not the universe feeling 'small' is completely by perception. What someone believes to be small may be by different reasons than another person. For example, some people would believe Hyrule on N64 (Ocarina of Time, Majora's Mask) felt large because it took time to traverse while others just thought it added inflated playtime by making it as large as they did.

Most of my experience with games like LT have been mostly from Wing Commander, Privateer, Freespace, and then finally Freelancer. With those games, the universe felt large, or at the very least, they didn't feel small.

I do honestly feel as though being able to jump as soon as you get in-system will make the universe feel smaller. Privateer allowed this. You just set your course, and then basically keep jumping (unless there were hostiles in the system) and I didn't get the grandeur of scale with that. Freelancer however did the what I felt was the opposite and it felt quite large. I believe this was due to how much was in each system. Yes, there was the sporadic system that was nearly empty, but that just added to the vastness of the universe.

And as Hardenberg stated;
Hardenberg wrote:If owning a larger ship brings nothing but benefits, then you're nixing any reason for small ships to exist in the first place.
Normally only larger ships would have intra-system jumping abilities without the need for using warpgates or what have you, but then you negate the need for smaller ships later on.

Lanfranc, you said that it is what to do in a system that makes it feel less small, but I can tell you right now, when I play, I'm probably going to be more of a trader, going between planets in different systems, and thus this point is completely different for me. If I am able to just jump between systems, then that means I can make a full cargo run in under a minute, repeat ad infinum and I'll have enough money for a pretty big ship in under an hour. Repeat with that ship with its larger hold and I can have a fleet in another hour.

In minecraft, enable single player cheats and warp between two points any distance away and the game will still feel huge. Is it because of how much there is in between the two points? How much to see? In space, you can't exactly have as much between two planets as there is say, between two forests in MC. Is this what makes it large? You have to admit that there isn't really anything extra you can do between those forests that you couldn't do from your starting point (unless you need some of the odds and ends like specific wood types or sand).

I honestly don't know how one would handle this. @Jabblewok and @Lanfranc; did either of you play Freelancer? I felt this was the best balance between the different ideas that have been put forth. If you did, what was your opinion on the way interstellar travel was handled in that game? Your thoughts on pros and cons.
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Early Spring - 1055: Well, I made it to Boatmurdered, and my initial impressions can be set forth in three words: What. The. F*ck.
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Re: Interstellar Travel, Wormholes, and Jump Drives

#25
DWMagus wrote:Wow, this is a tough thread
Ah, it's just productive brainstorming to work through a tricky problem!
I honestly don't know how one would handle this. @Jabblewok and @Lanfranc; did either of you play Freelancer? I felt this was the best balance between the different ideas that have been put forth. If you did, what was your opinion on the way interstellar travel was handled in that game? Your thoughts on pros and cons.
Yep - I had very mixed feelings about it, even apart from its reality vs. pre-release hype.

On one hand the travel gates gave a good sense of distance as it took some time to get somewhere accompanied by a 'rushing through space' feeling, but on the other hand it still felt like going through a doorway to another room, like the X universe. I think that ruined the 'suspended disbelief' a bit, so it gave more a sense of long corridors between giant rooms rather than space being big.

I actually preferred Elite Frontier's method of jumps between stars followed by a long journey in to the planets, even though the jump part was effectively instantaneous. The slower sub-FTL part improved the balance, I think, as it enhanced the sense of time taken. The navigation felt much more like 3-D space travel than wandering through rooms.

So Freelancer had a better sense of 'big', while Frontier had a better sense 'space'. If I could have my own way, I'd have Frontier-style jumps that take time, with a bit of surreal hyperspace visuals to give that 'rushing' feel. I'd quite happily have gates, but I'd prefer them to be more like a predefined jump route rather than a corridor you fly along. A star system should still feel more like a region of continuous 'space' than a distinct 'room'.
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Re: Interstellar Travel, Wormholes, and Jump Drives

#26
I once designed an RPG game (that never went anywhere) that was space based. In it there were several modes of "travel" around the universe.

Orbital Engines. Basically enough power to get you from ground to orbit and to hand maneuvers in slow space (docking, ship to ship combat, etc)

"Tachyon Drive" - Engines that operated at high speed up to fairly close to the speed of light (C). A ship that could TD at, say, .2C was much cheaper than a high end ship that might have a max speed of .8C. Why this type? because it's really dang far between things, and if you wanted to fly from Earth to Mars, you don't want to take 10 months to do it. Heck it took Apollo 4 days to go to the moon and that is 250k miles. With a .5C engine you'd have travel time of maybe 30 to 120 minutes to Mars. Basically, almost all ships had some kind of Tachyon drive, unless they were super short range - like maintenance ships, some combat ships attached to a carrier/base, etc. THis kind of drive is useless for the most part for interstellar travel - it's about 4 years at lightspeed to the next star, twice as long if your ship is limited to .5C. That's a pretty boring gameplay :)

Jump Drive. Large and expensive, but would open a wormhole between two points. Designed for fairly long-range travel (minimum distance of several AU). You could use this to go from Earth to Saturn for example, but more importantly from Sol to Alpha Centauri. Really, only large ships had these because of power and space requirements, or specialized tugboats that were basically a hull with a jump cannon that would open a wormhole and several ships would then go through together. (Driving a tugboat could be lucrative). Jump Drives had a consumable (a very rare refined mineral) to build an economy around, and the larger and farther the jump, the more consumed.

Jump Gates. Large stations that maintain static permanent wormholes between two fixed points to travel between systems or at least very-far-distances within a system. Tolls would have to be paid to use them, and there would always be politics about who controlled them. Usually gates were also large trading/social/population hubs, etc. Think the Babylon stations.

Anyway, where I was going with this is the need to understand the different distance references you have to deal with in a semi realistic travel game. Within LT, applying the above as an example, we'd spend most of our time in "Orbital mode" or using the "Tachyon" mode to travel (either manually or with an autopilot. Early only we'd be locked into using jumpgates, putting us at the mercy of the politics, factions and TOLLS required for their use. Eventually, we'd get ships large enough to outfit with a jump drive and then, as long as we can get jump crystals (the consumable) we'd be able to do our own thing.

Anyways, just a couple random thoughts.
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Re: Interstellar Travel, Wormholes, and Jump Drives

#27
@DWMagus- I should have added: I agree the initial inability to travel far is another reason the universe seems big - getting that ability then seems like a major achievement. I like a game with a challenge and becoming able to travel further is one of those challenges. However I accept that it's personal taste and others will not want such initial restrictions; hence I suggested different start positions with different abilities for interstellar travel.

@Nerfherder- I agree - we'll usually spend most of our time buzzing about planet-laden systems, and interstellar jumps would be more occasional. I also like the idea that jumpgates will not be free, so that adds to the complexity of figuring out the fastest/cheapest/most convenient way to get about with any particular ship. Jump gates may well be pricier than using a jump engine, but it's more convenient or faster depending on your ship technology. If you're trying to avoid the authorities or others likely to use the gates, then self-jumping would be the better option anyway.
Last edited by JabbleWok on Fri Jan 04, 2013 9:57 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Interstellar Travel, Wormholes, and Jump Drives

#28
In theory, a jump gate, because it's "always on" would be cheaper even with tolls, but because it's in a static location, and only goes TO a static location, is not terribly convenient. Add in politics, factions, and evil asshats hanging around waiting to blast you away, and it may not be a great solution.

On the other hand, running your own anywhere-to-anywhere jump drive system is expensive, power hungry, and requires either a large or specialized ship to do it. You trade off cost for convenience.

Of course, that's the natural progression of these types of games - start small with nothing, and build up to whatever you dream of - including jumping to any point in the know universe.
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Re: Interstellar Travel, Wormholes, and Jump Drives

#29
Nerfherder wrote:In theory, a jump gate, because it's "always on" would be cheaper even with tolls
Ah, here's an idea - it's NOT always on! It could be that a jump gate works by sending a 'bubble' of spacetime to the far end, and all ships travelling have to be in that bubble. That would mean a) queueing until the bubble is ready to be sent, and b) only one bubble can be in transit at a time. Thus there are regular departures, possibly with a set timetable, and perhaps it shuts down for maintenance several hours a day and on public holidays!

While busy routes would have dual-track gates, quieter routes may be single-track so that you have to wait for any incoming bubble before polarity is switched and your bubble can be sent.

It would be an excuse to have various services at the gate area so you can do useful things while waiting. This would all add to the sense of it being a significant journey, and to the feel of space being big.
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Re: Interstellar Travel, Wormholes, and Jump Drives

#30
Okay, playing devil's advocate here now.

Say we take Hardenberg's assertation that when owning a larger ship brings nothing but benefits, you're nixing the reason that smaller ships exist later on in the game.

So, why would you want a smaller ship then if a larger ship is more capable in each regard? (This is taking into consideration the argument that larger ships have a further range and higher cargo/fuel capacity) At least, how can it be made that the player will want to continue using a smaller ship even if they have a larger one in their fleet? At least, without using artificial restrictions making the player feel like they were slapped on for that sole purpose.
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