Docking System

Hey Folks! Hope everyone had a good weekend. Pretty mundane here, though I did get my hands dirty yesterday, lugging clay and gravel around to level some depressions along the house. It actually felt nice to be outside and exerting myself. I really need to get out more.

Back at the office, I quickly took care of a few emails and such before diving into my next task: docking systems.

When I left off last week, I had just figured out how to get a rudimentary course-plot for rendez-vous with other bodies in the system. And from here, there were a few directions I could've gone. More in-flight stuff, for one thing. Trips will get boring fast without some more dramatic cues.

Some sort of propulsion would be another approach. Currently, there isn't anything in the game to propel the ship, power it, or otherwise make it an actual ship instead of an air-sealed can.

But a thought gradually occurred to me over the weekend: I think the most important missing thing right now are places to go. There's almost no point to the game without destinations to reach. Nowhere for the player to originate, nowhere for them to resupply, no place to make profit or avoid due to wanted status. It might as well be a bunker simulation if there's no outside contact.

And the sooner I can get the ship to dock with something, the sooner we can start to generate interesting stories. A place for our crew to call home. Where their family lives (or lived). Where their employer operates. Where their rival operates.

We can also likely use the same system whether it's docking with a station or another ship, so exploring derelicts, boarding, and trading become possible.

So far, I've just finished creating a basic docking system object. It's much like the door I already have, except it has some hardware on one side to connect to another ship. I roughly based it on the current designs for international docking standards put forth by the ESA, and (mostly) adopted by all space-faring nations. An "androgynous" (a.k.a. non-gendered) docking ring that does a "soft capture" when the vessels first connect, then a "hard capture" to create a seal and allow passage to the other vessel.

It's already in-game (see image above), and can open/close just like a door. But the next trick will be seeing if I can load another ship object into the scene and get it aligned such that the docking systems interlock. And then, we see if we can get crew to walk between the ships?

Of course, there's a ton of stuff implied in such a system. Things like ownership/tresspassing, AI recognizing the other ship and its resources as reachable, crew cohesion (they should ideally stick together unless on shore leave or something)...But then, nothing would ever get done if I tried to plan all this out in advance. So here I go, diving into the deep end, and we'll see how it plays out :)


spacemedic's picture

Speaking of locations, starting and going, and games like Rimworld, that makes me wonder some things. Like, for example, in Rimworld you can choose a place to start and a scenario. Will there be scenarios where you can start at with a set about of people, personality traits, resources, ect., and a place to start at (such as anywhere close to major stations near Mars or somewhere remote like Pluto or Haumea)?

Also, I'm curious about the docking system. Can it have the possibility of going wrong? You know, docking clamp gets stuck, rejection due to ship problems, or being wanted and docking with a station that is notified of enforcement wanting you?

dcfedor's picture

For the starting scenarios, sort of. I have an idea I'd like to try that's kind of a mix of what you're describing, the Traveller RPG character creation process, and a bit of Shadowrun. I want to see if I can use the character creation process to define not just skills and abilities, but also origin story, complete with loved ones, rivals, and contacts.

The hope is that this will immediately create some tension and inertia for the player, such as being on the run from someone they double-crossed during char gen. Starting location, ship, and other things would be determined by choices in char gen, too.

As for docking failure, that'd be nice, and it fits with the design goal of the game. Things are supposed to break down and cause tension/suspense to keep the game interesting. So introducing (plausible) chances of failure will be a big part of the game!

Dan Fedor - Founder, Blue Bottle Games