Designing the perfect space exploration MMO – Object scaling as a means of facilitating a multi-genre experience.

Its been a while since Ive posted anything so here is a little something you may find interesting. Recently Ive been watching a lot of Extra Credits (A series of informative videos related to gaming), most notably Ive taken interest in the “trans-gaming” concept talked in the video below. A quick summary of trans-gaming would be the ability for multiple games or systems of gaming to directly effect each other, or in other words “connected gaming experiences”. Such is the case with the new MMO-FPS Dust 514 which will have a direct impact on players in EVE online.

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Designing the perfect space exploration MMO – Object scaling

We have talked about dealing with size aswell as distances and social interaction but we haven’t gone into object scaling. A 1 man ship approaching a planet would need to deal with it going from the size of a single pixel to potentially a real-world scale where the ship may resemble a car on earth. A task possible with a lot of loading but we want movement within a system to be completely fluid so thats not an option. The simplest way to deal with this would be to display objects differently based on distance. A planet at long range would be rendered as a simple sphere giving off light (just as they look in real life), the closer a player got the more detail would be added until it physically takes shape. Size is also going to mater here so we will allow smaller ships to see finer detail than larger ones. This of course applies to the ships themselves, a small ship would see a large ship in great detail while it would be rendered to the large ships pilot as a simple shape or even a point. Going on with this premise lets look at how I want to scale the game.

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Designing the perfect space exploration MMO – Cooperation in deep space

In this post Ill talk abit about cooperation with of course the obvious starting point being clans/guilds/organizations. Pretty much every MMO to date has had a guild system, its a very straightforward way to cluster players together for cooperation or separate them for conflict. I feel a straight up guild system isnt appropriate here so I decided to come up with a more realistic solution.

Taking my own life as an example its not to hard to see where the graph Im about to show you comes from. I am a student and I reside within multiple groupings that provide different levels of cooperation.

I work within a University, that university is part of a larger grouping of university’s which itself is part of a larger grouping of public facilities provided by the government. Within the University I am part of the School of Computing and Mathematics as well as several clubs and societies. Completely separate from all of this is my allegiance to the BCS(British Computing Society).

After the break is my proposed multi-layered guild system which I will explain in detail.

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Designing the perfect space exploration MMO – Basics of Hostility

When planning how to tackle hostility we have a wide variety of options to choose from. Very few games have a full on FFA system where players can attack anything and anyone, mainly because it doesn’t work. We are trying to avoid a system in which players feel they are at unfair disadvantage against other players, but also promote hostility between factions. Its also best we take into account player online times and the need to defend constructs they have created. So lets establish some basic PVP rules for our space MMOG, for the moment I will avoid talking about the consequences of defeat because that really depends on how are ships will work. Lets go along with the idea that players can freely attack other players or constructs in combat, bar some form of allegiance system (factions, guilds etc). Going along with this premise lets establish some principles..

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Designing the perfect space exploration MMO – Communication

Social interaction is quite a wide topic of discussion so for now I’m going to break it down to a few types communication, hostility and cooperation. In this post Ill talk specifically about communication.

The use of a simple chat system presents an elegantly and simple solution to this problem. I personally don’t like the idea of implementing basic communication this way because it distracts from the realism. If messages can travel instantaneously why cant ships? I’m sure we could make up some hogwash involving miniature wormholes but I prefer not to sidestep the issue. We have the opportunity to create a unique communication system which will make the game stand out above others. So with that all in mind here are some principles to my idea..

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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.

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Designing the perfect space exploration MMO – Dealing with size

So lets start this off by talking about the first major issue that arises from our game. Space is big, very big, so big in fact that the processing power and storage space required to generate it are astronomical. Not to mention the millions of potential planets, asteroids and other objects that may be floating around each system we have in the game. Keeping this in mind here is my theoretical solution to creating and running such a large dynamic world. I call it a Cluster-based game world.

I will ask anyone out there reading this not to laugh, my current knowledge of game development technologies is pretty limited. Technically I may be talking about something already achieved or well out of current scope, anyway moving on swiftly..

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Designing the perfect space exploration MMOG – Introduction

Following on from my interest in the illusive MMOG project Infinity universe I decided to take a stab at designing my own true space exploration based MMOG. As a Sci-Fi obsessed long time MMO player the idea of a proper space based MMOG excites me beyond belief, of course the word proper is subjective so here is what I am referring to.

  • Space is very big, the game world should be as well.
  • Scales in space vary massively, game objects should do as well.
  • No 2 objects are the same, game objects need to be generated dynamically (No 2 planets the same)

Realistically no current MMO space game comes close to fulfilling these requirements (apart from maybe EVE online), not unexpected as a lot of problems arise from attempting to create this kind of game. Stay tuned for a series of articles where I will share my vision and how I believe it is achievable.