How does the player make money?
In both Starflight and Star Control II, the player makes the majority of their money by mining planets. There is no trading, and you don’t gain much in the way of money from fighting enemies. Mining and finding special planets (colonizable planets in Starflight and rainbow planets in Star Control II) is your main source of income.
And mining is pretty boring. It’s very boring in Starflight, and while it’s dressed up in more of an arcadey format in Star Control II, it’s still not very fun. To the point that when I start a new game of Star Control II, I use the landing craft trick to give myself a ton of money so I can jump right into the plot and skip the boring early part. More of Tycho’s masochism.
How can I avoid this?
I can avoid it by giving the player multiple ways to make money, and making sure all of them are nominally fun. I want the player to be able to make money with trade routes, by killing pirates for bounties, and by mining. Gambling and a stock market might also be interesting things to include.
I’m not sure how I can make mining fun when you’re basically just running around and picking stuff up…perhaps instead of just telling the player where every ore spot is on the map, the player must discern them using a hot/cold meter?
Killing pirates for bounties will be fun if the combat system is fun.
Trade routes…well, I’ve never found trade routes fun, but I know other people do. I need to avoid “spicing up” trade routes by putting lots of pirates on the routes, because that could just get frustrating for people who just want to fly around finding profitable routes. Perhaps I could help players out in this regard by putting icons next to planets representing what resources have the highest and lowest price…
But the real thing I need to do is start dishing out plot points early on and not require the player to get uber before he can find the plot.
Update: And I just realized why Starflight and Star Control II had no trading. Fuel in both games is incredibly expensive, and running out of fuel in deep space basically means “game over”. Games like Elite and Privateer that did have trading typically did not have a “run out of fuel in deep space” mechanic. I must think about this.