100 Experience Points
An Adventure in Indie Game Development

Mockups and Campaigns Q&A

In response to my post yesterday with the mockups, I got some really good questions from somebody who has been closely following the development of this game. (I’ll leave out names, in case they don’t want to really be identified.)

I thought it would be worthwhile to answer these questions here in another Q&A.

It’s worth stating that my true purpose in answering these questions here is to both, define the game more clearly for you guys, and also, an attempt to try to turn it into a bit of a discussion. As I’m sure you can probably tell, there’s a lot about this game that even I don’t know how it will/should work, and I welcome any feedback that anybody out there has.

Can hull extensions be blown up?

I’m interpreting “hull extension” as the pieces of your ship that aren’t guns, engines, etc., but just provide more mass (== slower ships) and more surface area to stick things on. These don’t have an official name yet.

While I’ve thought about whether these can be blown up quite a bit, I hadn’t decided for sure. I think it would be kind of cool, but it makes for some interesting side effects that may be both cool and frustrating. In particular, if one blows up, what happens to any of the attached pieces? Do they get destroyed as well? Does it split into two ships? (That’d be crazy.)

The answer is, I don’t know, but probably not. The guns and stuff will, but the ship’s main hull comes and goes as a whole. At least in the first version. But feel free to try to convince me otherwise.

Will the ship automatically be attacking targets until you direct it to attack something?

I’d hope so.

I’ve seen some games where you can set ships to be something like Non-Engaging, Neutral, or Aggressive. Non-Engaging would mean even if an enemy shows up, your crew basically has standing orders to not engage, even if fired upon. Neutral would mean they’re not going to sit there and take it, but they’re not going to move to follow ships or anything. Just shoot at whatever targets are visible/within range/in the line of sight. (Probably randomly.) And Aggressive would mean if a ship comes in to view, your ships will move to attack at closer range, including pursuing them if they try to leave. When I’ve seen this, it has worked pretty effectively.

I’m not saying that’s what’s for sure going to happen. It’s just a thought. I think at a minimum, I’d have ships always just default to the Neutral version: fire on targets that are there, but don’t move the ship or anything.

You can direct the entire ship to attack something, right?

Yes, the plan is that if you select your own ship, then click on an enemy ship, every gun on your ship will target some part of that ship. If you click on your ship, then click on a specific part of an enemy ship, all of your ship’s weapons will target that specific piece if possible. (If not, they’ll choose something else intelligent to shoot at, preferably one that is similar to the one you told it to target.) If you click on a specific part of your own ship, then only that part will be affected by the order. Of course, if you tell your ship to attack an enemy’s engine, then tell your ion cannon to hit their missile launcher, when the missile launcher goes down, the ion cannon will switch over to the enemy’s engine, like the rest of the ship is doing.

I think issuing orders could get pretty complicated, so I want to do it all in a way that is most intuitive for users, even if it means more time in development on it. (And giving up other features.) Giving ships orders shouldn’t be confusing. After all, that’s pretty much what the battle is all about. This means I’ll be wanting additional feedback about this as things progress.

Will ships that are scanning with over a certain amount of “scanning power” not be able to attack other ships, so you need a protection vanguard, or something?

I was thinking no. I think the idea that this question is alluding to here is that perhaps there’s only a certain amount of power available on the ship, and if it’s all sunk into scanning for enemies then it wouldn’t have enough power left over for bringing the guns online. I’ve seen games that have this kind of mechanism, and it can work pretty well. (TIE Fighter, for instance, forced you to choose whether you wanted to direct power to lasers, engines, or shields.)

But I wasn’t planning on going this route in this game. Rather, each part operates independent of all of the other parts. If your ship has radar, it can scan away to its heart’s content. If your ship has guns, it can go blow stuff up. And if it has both, there’s no reason to stop it from doing both at the same time.

However, you’ve only got a certain number of points that you can spend in developing your fleet. (There will be a better name for this than “points” later on, but I’m steering away from calling it “money”.) So if your ship has radar and guns, it’s going to be more expensive, taking away from what other ships in your fleet will have. You may choose to have a dedicated radar-loaded support ship with only a few light guns just in case, and surrounded with a vanguard of ships to keep it safe. Or you may load it on a scout ship that has no weapons, but is fast and can just run away when the battle gets heated.

The bottom line is, it’s up to you as the fleet commander.

Are you going to be able to switch between campaigns and keep your progress, or play one at a time?

Another question I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about. On one hand, it’s not very normal for a real fleet to jump around between campaigns. For the sake of context, I think I’m expecting a single battle to take anywhere from maybe 15 minutes to 45 minutes, and a campaign being composed of 3 to 8 battles. (Actually, there may be more battles than that, but you take different paths depending on whether you won the last battle or not.) So a campaign may take anywhere from 1 to 8 hours of playing time. Long enough that most people won’t play through the whole thing in one sitting.

And I’m planning on there being distinctions between what you can do between campaigns, and what you can do between battles. For instance, when you start a new campaign, all of your ships always have full health. Nothing is destroyed, and nothing is damaged. However, while a campaign is running, if your ships have taken damage, that damage stays there. Ship parts that have been destroyed are missing. Ships that were completely destroyed don’t regenerate. However, between battles, you’re given a certain number of points that can be repaired. So you get to pick the things that you think will be the most useful in the upcoming battle to regenerate. Even destroyed ships can be resurrected, but at a cost. I may choose to not allow you to make changes to the ships themselves between battles. (Only between campaigns.) There’s an argument that can be made for there not being enough resources and time to overhaul a ship in the middle of a campaign. That you build your fleet, and take it to war and see how it fares. When the campaign is over, win or loose, you can go back and make adjustments and try again.

Back to the original question though, because of these differences, it may be strange to have a fleet in the middle of a campaign switch over to a different campaign. In the second campaign, you should definitely start with fresh ships again. (Or should you?) To have two campaigns running simultaneously basically means you’ve got two clones of your fleet running around. I worry just a little that this cloning thing may mean you care less about your ships because you just go clone the whole fleet whenever you want. I don’t know. Probably not a huge deal. But I do need to spend some more time to figure this piece out, and I welcome suggestions or comments on it.

Because you know, on the other hand, if you want to play a campaign against your friend, but your fleet is already tied up in another campaign, it would be stupid to have to say, “Sorry, George, my fleet is tied up at the moment. I can’t play right now.”

Are the campaigns’ missions going to be randomly generated, or are there going to be a limited number of pre-made campaigns?

Yes. To both. I think you will have the ability to play a randomly generated single battle (you get to choose some parameters for this, such as size of the playing field) or randomly generated campaign that will last for several battles. The randomness means there’s theoretically an unlimited number of things to do, so you never get bored.

But additionally, there will be campaigns that are pre-designed, and not random. Realistically, I’m not going to have a ton of time to make these cooler scenarios in the first version, but I’d like to have at least a couple. One that functions as kind of a tutorial campaign, and one that is a little bigger and more involved. Ideally, there’d be dozens of these, but that’s not going to happen right away. Perhaps that’s an area where there’s room for expansions to the game.

And I’d love to take whatever campaign building tools I create and give them out to players for free. Perhaps other people can make their own campaigns and share them with each other through some sort of in-game service. But I don’t want to get carried away here… there’s a ton of stuff to do before this really comes up.

How are you going to do the blueprints?

The thing about your fleet is there’s a limit to the number of ships you have. (Well, technically, that’s not accurate, as it isn’t about limiting the raw number of ships. Just that because of the point system, there’s a limit to what you can keep in your fleet at one time.) So if you have a ship designed that you really like, but just can’t find a place for in your fleet any more, rather than eliminating it completely, you can remove the ship, but save the ship’s blueprints. That frees up space in your fleet, but if you ever want to go back to the old design, you just pull out the blueprints and build a new one.

Blueprints like this would be cool to be able to share with your friends in-game. “Hey, Harry, I made this awesome guided missile cruiser, but I didn’t have room for it in my fleet. I needed fewer gunships and more anti-strikecraft support. But I think it might be just the kind of ship you need to get you through that Mists of Teergoya level that you’ve been stuck on. Let me send it to you, so you can build one if you want.”

(Wow. The potential awesomeness of the community aspect of this game is giving me chills! Here’s to hoping that we can actually get that far some day!)

As always, I’m open to suggestions, feedback, and comments. Go ahead and leave a note if you’ve got something on your mind because of all of this!