Author Topic: The Player's Path Through the Game  (Read 2789 times)

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The Player's Path Through the Game
« on: January 03, 2015, 07:00:34 PM »
So I'm just throwing words at paper here (so to speak) based on my musings from playing version 1 and from what I've seen here.

We've seen Hyper write about how he envisions version 2 to be more of a game and less of a simulation. This is a legitimate goal, but the reasons someone plays a simulation are of course different from a more pure game. Hand in hand with that, the cues the game presents to the player to perform various actions are different as well.

With a simulation, where a player goes in the world presented and what that player does there often is a direct representation of the reality being simulated. You're on Mars, and you want to live, so you must meet basic survival needs. You need air, water, and food, so the player uses the mechanics for air, water, and food. These mechanics are tied into power and (when things break down) fabrication, which is tied into geology. Each mechanic is daisy chained to others, unobtrusively leading the player through all of the simulation features and mechanics. The challenge, and hence the pleasure, is balancing everything in such as way as to meet all of the needs.

In a more traditional game, you can't rely on the challenge of "...and then you die" providing the pleasure of playing the game. You need other hooks, such as compelling story or a form of competition. From what little Hyper has written about, the end goal of each 'round' is a sort of economic survival of the fittest. You use the game mechanics to earn value and to deny the same to your opponents. Competition it is!

But how do you go from a lonely astronaut to a Martian Mogul? Where do you start? What steps lead you along this journey from rover to riches?

There are two ways I can imagine this working out, off of the top of my head. I call them the short game and the long game.

The short game is intended to be no longer than a few hours, tops. Similar in length to a game of Monopoly or a fast game of Civilization. In this version, player teams are either set up in a pre-game area or the server places you in such a way as to balance the teams. There are clear goals to be met, and meeting these goals either A) causes your team to win the game or B) each goal provides something that helps you win the game or that hinders the opposing team(s). The mechanics of the game are tied into these goals. An example of this would be Natural Selection (the game, not the science). While veiled in combat, at its heart the game is one of economics: gather more resources, get better stuff. Deny resources to your opponent and your better stuff will prevail over their cheaper stuff.

The long game will probably be played over the course of days. I picture this similar to Rust. You start with almost nothing (just a single Martian rock, go!  ;D) and have to slowly build your way up. Early game its every player for themselves; maybe you do a few missions for Ares Base to slowly build up some credits to purchase the equipment you need to safely establish a base, or maybe you grab a sampler and a rover and race off into the red-tinged sunset hoping to strike it rich on Martian paydirt. At middle game, some bases have been built and players start to gravitate to each one, forming teams. Now rather than scratching out a living going from meal to meal, players are trying to form solid foundations for economic success: maybe one base has invested heavily in greenhouses and plans to corner the market on food, while another has located a number of valuable ores and is processing them into advanced equipment. Finally, the late game has each base more or less self-sufficient and are now focusing on knocking each other out, somehow. I know we're not going down the combat route here, so this could be either meeting some high economic bar or even a simplified stock market where each base tries to buy the other out. Who knows?

These are by no means the only ways version 2 could possibly go, just the ramblings of a bored person on the Internet. I know Hyper and team have at least a rough plan on how they want this to play out, but I'm also curious to hear what others think. Given the requirement of an economic based competition, how would you sketch out the early, mid, and late game for a player? How long do you imagine your game would take, or does it even have a specific ending?
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