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.
Howdy Viridian, Long time viewer, first time poser 🙂 Your design so far reminds me a bit of Trade Wars, which gave me an idea for you. Allow the player to purchase small automated ships (kind of like workers in Civ) that can transfer units from place-to-place. That way, the player has to search for the trade route, but can have the actual trading done automatically. The player can also be notified if a pirate attacks or kills the automated ship so they would have to track down the pirate to secure the trade route again. Just my $0.02 for consideration.
That’s a distinct possibility…allowing the player to automate a trade route and simply reap part of the benefit would take a lot of the “work” out of trade routes. I don’t want the player to have to just drive around planets mining for hours…but I also don’t want them flying back and forth between two planets buying and selling the same things over and over.
Automating trade routes and mining a la an RTS economy might be the way to go. Essentially, on uninhabited planets, you could drop a robotic mining colony down. They produce a certain number of credits at a time by mining and trading along a route you’ve established. If the route gets attacked, you get a flag about increased piracy and it spawns a pirate hunting mission.
They could be mission based. Instead of mining, you get a prospector mission to take a mining outpost, find the appropriate planet and establish mining. Then you get a percentage of the rewards.
And that kind of fits in with what kind of game world I’m looking for here. In both Starflight and Star Control II, humans had a star-spanning civilization but lost it due to war and thus were rediscovering the galaxy. While I want there to be unexplored wilds in Star Revolution, I also want there to be an existing system of colonized planets with a high tech level, making stuff like what you’re suggesting plausible, Dave.
Also, it occurs to me that you’ve got a lot on your plate 40 hour wise. It might be prudent to set this up as 3 40 hour projects. Ideally, it’s 40 hours of code, 40 hours of design and 40 hours of art. Now you’ve already done some preliminary design, so I think I’m just speaking about story, data, dialogue and mission creation.
No, really? You think so? 🙂
Yeah, I don’t think I’m going to do this as a 40 hour project. I think I want this game to be as good as I can make it, so I think I’m going to lift that restriction.
If that’s the case, you may want to consider what you can do with a console controller as an input device instead of a mouse and keyboard. I only say this because lately I’m overly jazzed about Xbox Live Arcade as a method for independent games distribution, although I don’t know anything about it, really.