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Shadow
11-10-2011, 11:27 AM
Today I'm going to talk a little bit more about ship components (see part 1 (http://www.soldak.com/Blogs/Steven/Spaceship-components.html)) in our upcoming space action RPG, Drox Operative.

Components are your skills:

I mentioned this in my last component blog, but components really are your skills. There isn't a tractor beam skill. You either have a tractor beam component installed or you don't. This actually changes things quite a bit.

You can't just add a skill point to get a better tractor beam. You need to actually find and obtain a better tractor beam. You also need to make sure your ship is capable of using the higher tech tractor beam (power and crew requirements). Since you rely on finding your "skills", your tactics constantly evolve based on what components you find. This is especially true since not all component types are available at all levels. Another interesting thing is that getting a new "skill" is no longer tied to leveling up and can be obtained at any time. A new awesome component might drop during the next fight. And the last nice thing about components as skills is that you can easily remove any component and add a new one any time you want with no penalty. On the flip side though you only have a limited space to install components, although this grows as you gain bigger ships.

Types:

Like many fantasy games there are different basic types of components: passive, active, and consumable.

Passive components are ones that are always working and require no input from the player. Some examples of these are Plasma Drive, Deflectors, Composite Armor, Stabilized Weapon Mounts, and Beam Amplification.

Active components are ones that the player has to initiate the usage each time but you can use them as many times as needed (there are reuse times though). Some examples are Ion Cannon, Helical Railgun, Anti-Matter Torpedo, Nanomite Bomb, Fighter Bay, Flares, Magnetar, Emergency Power, and Jamming Spike.

Consumable components are ones that the player has to purposely use, but unlike active items you only get one use per component. The nice part about consumable items is that they don't need to be equipped to use; you can use them straight from your cargo hold. Some examples are Emergency Nanite Repair and Energy Spike.

There is also a special category of consumable items that I would like to mention because they are fun: Doomsday Weapons. You only get one use from a Doomsday Weapon just like normal consumable components, but they have a much bigger impact. There are several different Doomsday Weapons that work in various ways but they all have one thing in common: they are by far the most powerful weapons at their technology level. They are so powerful and dangerous they can destroy your allies or even your own ship. Using them also pisses off all of the races. In other words, handle with care! Some examples are Grey Goo, Planet Killer, and Temporal Rip.

Any thoughts?

gornova
11-10-2011, 11:59 AM
Finally some news on Drox :D

I like idea to "find" components than get only with Xp, but player must be informed where find them. For example if some of my crew members can hint for new good components on planet X ? This can help in building a good ship than just "hope" for a good drop. I assume that not every component is findable everywhere, right?

I wonder how you can control components and level requirements, maybe beta can help that (for example keep record of battles and send automatically to you as with my ship and components?), could be an hard task, expecially on high levels.

Components will turn Drox into a "grind" game, where player must repeat combats many times for a good drop of components?

bonus: there are rarity for components, unique sets and so on ?

Bluddy
11-10-2011, 05:12 PM
In general I think the idea is great, and pretty much what you'd expect from a spaceship game.

I'm trying to think of the pitfalls though. The most important thing is the balance. If one set of components is the most powerful, everyone will aim to get that set, and the huge variety of components will be for naught. The best way I think to do this is to follow rock-paper-scissors guidelines, so that each set of components is only advantageous against specific enemies.

Still, while it may be possible to see the imbalances on an individual level, it'd be much harder to predict the imbalances of sets. This is similar to what happened in Puzzle Quest: Galactrix, where certain combinations of items made the player essentially invulnerable -- balancing potential sets of items is where things get quite difficult.

The second problem is that of variability. In DC, each time you play you'll probably choose a different character, because of its different skill tree. If you can switch between all items (assuming that you find them), then you get the entire playing experience with one play-through. This isn't necessarily a bad thing -- one of the down sides of DC is that you're locked down with one character for 100 long levels. But maybe there should still be some kind of permanent mark on your captain's character that specializes every game. You could switch to different tactics, but once you do, you lose the advantage until you build it up again.

For example, ion cannons would be enabled by crew requirements (as they are currently) but use them long enough (ie. for enough levels) and with enough success, and your 'ion skill' will improve. This gives you an incentive to keep using ion cannons for the whole game. You could choose to switch to something else -- say, laser. But your skill level in laser is low so you'll miss more. Eventually, if you stick with laser long enough, you'll get good at it, but your ion skill will decrease to the point that you're not so good at it. And if you keep switching stuff around, you won't ever get amazing at anything.

I'm just suggesting a conservatism mechanic to counter the 'gee whiz I've got to try out this new gadget' factor that could end up making each game identical.

gornova
11-10-2011, 06:59 PM
I agree with Bluddy, not every ship components foundable in one play. More on that, certain quests, unique for every game, could open special components or sets that anyone could use!

keith.lamothe
11-14-2011, 12:48 PM
Having "find it" be the primary gating of "skills" does seem like a good move. Personally I'd prefer there to be some skill-point/xp based skills (I'm thinking of Space Rangers 2, where the skills weren't required for new components but gave more general bonuses like +x% to damage or to-hit, etc).

Also, it would be nice to have some way for the player to deliberately pursue "get component X" (or "get a better component in category Y") by spending resources, doing a galaxy-wide shop-search (again, thinking of SR2), etc. The idea would be for the "focused" methods to be less efficient in terms of how-much-loot and how-good-loot than "simply kill the most powerful enemies I dare to face", but would be a bit of a relief valve from feeling like that's the only way to do it. Unless of course you already have other plans to provide that :)

Shadow
11-14-2011, 01:43 PM
Having "find it" be the primary gating of "skills" does seem like a good move. Personally I'd prefer there to be some skill-point/xp based skills (I'm thinking of Space Rangers 2, where the skills weren't required for new components but gave more general bonuses like +x% to damage or to-hit, etc).

There are "attributes" that do add +damage, +attack, +defense, etc.

keith.lamothe
11-14-2011, 01:53 PM
There are "attributes" that do add +damage, +attack, +defense, etc.Sweet :) Sorry if I just missed that from earlier, I haven't seen all the posts on Drox as I rely overmuch on my rss reader and the Soldak feed I had seems to be partial. Just subscribed again and it seems to have the Drox posts too.

Rathag
11-21-2011, 04:12 PM
I really like where this is going. Based on Gornova's comments, I think one thing that'd be really interesting would be to have certain kinds of parts only available from certain ships/in certain parts of space. Generally, I like it in games when you can pick up the things that were used by the thing that dropped them. This makes it seem more like salvage. (I'm thinking Mech Commander 2 or Freelancer type salvage.) Thus, if you want a good weapon, you have to defeat the ship that uses the weapon, and hope you don't destroy it in the process. That way, if somehow through good use of tactics, you defeat a powerful enemy, you might get some good equipment. Thus, I like that you can use the equipment without being level dependent. The consequence of this would be that a weapon/equip of a particular race would only be available from salvage by defeating that race's ships. Otherwise you have to make friends with that race and then buy it when they trust you enough (again, Freelancer's reputation system, while not quite balanced well, is something that might be worth a look at--to buy powerful equipment from a faction you needed to be liked by them).

I disagree with Gornova, that you should not be able to find everything in one "play". I may have misunderstood the comments, however, so let me clarify. I think any one character (ship) should be able to find any and all equipment. I think that if you keep the system from DoP and DC where you can use the same character (ship) from game-instance to game-instance, then I am ok with having differences in the instances. I also like the idea of having a shared stash between characters! Frankly, however, I liked the setup in DoP where, at least with my playstyle, you ran into limits in how much you could do in the world because the progressive maps got progressively harder, so even if you kept playing after you "won", you still got to a point where you had to give up, and start again. BTW, I really like that about DoP, that you can keep playing after you "win".

I'm not sure what "winning" would be like in Drox, i.e., if it's something like Mount & Blade where it's hard to do and need not happen for the game to stay interesting (and you need not stop playing even after), or something like the Elder Scrolls (Morrowind, Skyrim) where you can beat the main quest but there's still so much to do in the world that you're never really done, or if there are more specific "ends" like one race conquers the galaxy, you create galactic peace, etc. But I'd love to be able to keep my character going in that game until I decide to start that character a new game.

Also, I play your games with my son, and we share a computer, so being able to have multiple games in progress (unlike DoP) would be great.

Um, that got a little off-topic. Sorry.

jureidinim
11-21-2011, 05:23 PM
In general I think the idea is great, and pretty much what you'd expect from a spaceship game.

...... snip ....

I'm just suggesting a conservatism mechanic to counter the 'gee whiz I've got to try out this new gadget' factor that could end up making each game identical.

I agree here. If everything is available and switchable on the fly, then its only the Random roll that distinguishes one game from another - otherwise the player will more than likely follow the exact same path in ship construction.

The different classes in DC/DOP as well as multiple race power trees within each class really ramped up the replayability of those games - your game experience would be so different just by choosing a different class/set of powers.

Different things that could be used to give some more choices for players in Drox and get away from too generic:
1) As Bluddy suggested - small bonuses for constant usage or using a "set" from the same component group/type. So a player is rewarded for his own playstyle.
2) Some buffs from components or crew during the game can be only for a specific group. So all crew members would not only be example, a "generic" Gunner 20, but some could also be a specialist in say - Disruptor weaponary giving a buff to their recharge rate or damage. This would make players tailor their crew to their weapons, or vice versa.
3) Make some components race specific. So maybe certain power plants are built only by a certain race. The better the player relationship is with a race, the more items he can purchase (if purchasing is in the game) from that race.
Also, some components may only work with a specific race(s) equipment only.
This actually would even impact a players decision to help a particular race if he knows they have some gadget he wants that only that race produces, which would normally be a very rare drop from battles, so a good relations with them may make it easier to obtain.

In all of that - yes there would still be a good amount of generic interchangeable parts (based on available slots) to use.