Designing the perfect space exploration MMO – Dealing with travel

Moving on lets talk some more about the problems we have with are overly large, complicated game world. Scale is going to cause problems that are difficult to overcome, namely..

  • Distances are going to vary hugely from each other, as in real life. Interaction between players will be difficult in these large empty spaces. (we want to promote interaction as much as possible, either friendly or hostile)
  • Object sizes will be hugely different (Ships, Planets, Stars etc)
  • Among others..

So how do we allow players to travel in a properly scaled world while promoting interaction? Well lets tackle the distance issue first. There is of course the Mass effect-like solution to space travel which was essentially designed to solve the interaction problem. The reapers created the relays for the sake of ensuring species could easily travel large differences and be drawn towards a central point of interaction. I personally don’t like this approach because you are limiting exploration to specific paths, our galaxy has some 300 Billion stars. So lets look at solving these 2 problems separately, starting with distance.

Travel system

When your looking at making a travel system that works with real scales the only real solution that makes sense is zoned speed limits. Players near a body in space move more slowly the closer they move to said body, Simple yet effective. Travel between systems is best done in phase jump form similar to Sins of a solar empire. Players travel on a system by system basis, although dramatically faster than intra-system travel this process still takes time purely because of the distance between systems (we might place the average phase jump time at 15s, a player wishing to jump to a system 5 systems away would wait around 1m 15s). Keep in mind that although a player is technically travelling via many systems they are not entering these systems (less loading time). So that’s the basic travel system, but we are still going to have issues with players being spread out.

Shortcuts – Intergalactic subway

I’m sure if your interested enough to be reading this you probably know what a wormhole is. If you don’t well lets just say this is our quick-travel system, in this game world we are able to create stable ones. Here are my proposed wormhole game properties, on a basic level at least..

  • Initially placed wormholes connect major game hubs (home worlds)
  • Player are capable of constructing stations or gates that generate an exit
  • Exits can be changed to connect to other wormholes, given time.
  • Travel is not instant but is significantly faster (possibly constant with distant)

Quite simple on a basic level, but lets add some properties to make this interesting.

  • Uni and Bi-directional
  • Sizes to allow the passage of specific ships
  • Speed to decrease travel time
  • Locking system to allow for tolling and exclusivity

Now we have the potential for interesting social interaction centered around wormholes. Commerce, hostility and cooperation among others are all now likely to occur. Players will create their own road system around the universe, given more construction ability you may even see something vaguely resembling ownership among groups of players focused in a single zone.

Anyway that’s my travel solution (although still under-developed), next time ill talk about my solution to interaction.

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