Your First Ship

Hey Folks! More work on the career history UI today. I've nearly got the structure in place, enough for a first draft anyway. And I hope to get it live with data soon.

In today's screenshot, you can see two important screens from the process: the career details choice page, and the career detail results page.

Once you choose a potential career from yesterday's screenshot, you're taken to the choice page above. And there, you can learn more about the career in question. What are the requirements to join? How many skills can you choose? And which ones are available? You'll also be able to choose secondary activities (a.k.a. hobbies), and see which credentials the career imparts (e.g. "diploma").

Assuming you pass the requirements, you can then choose skills from the list, and either cancel (returning to the career list), or confirm. Confirming locks that career choice into your history, and then shows the detail results page, seen at the bottom of today's screenshot.

The detail results page is two things. First, it's a summary of what you chose. No real surprises there.

Second, it shows special events that happen during that career. When you "confirm" your selections in the top screen, the game "rolls" for random events relevant to that career. You might have a windfall, accident, make a friend, enemy, or even find a ship.

In this case, the screen says we caused someone to die through our action or inaction. We're a shipbreaker, so maybe we failed to rescue a colleague from a collapsing ship wreck. Or maybe one of our tools went astray and ruptured their suit. Whatever the case, someone died because of us.

We also see we gained an enemy. Chang, a civil pilot from K-Leg (where we are a shipbreaker). Perhaps it was Chang's buddy that died in the accident? Or worse, his family? Whatever the case, he hates us now. And not just "I don't like this guy," but he's a sworn enemy. Probably planning vengeance or tracking us.

And then there's the third event, and this is a very special one. We found a ship. And Not just any ship, but something we think we can use. As a shipbreaker, we see a lot of hulks dragged in to be broken down. But on rare occasions, someone drags in a hulk that isn't exactly junk. In fact, it might even be spaceworthy. With some elbow grease and "borrowed" parts from elsewhere in the yard.

And that's where we get a special choice. We can seize the opportunity, or ignore it.

If we choose to ignore it, we simply get back to our job, and take another career to see what else happens. But if we take the ship, our career ends here. This is where our backstory ends, and our "now" story begins. We can walk through the airlock, and we'll proceed to some UI where we either choose a ship from a list, or build it in the editor, and choose that.

And when that's finished, we begin the game! Likely alone, sitting inside an empty ship. Floating in whichever junkyard we chose in character creation. And potentially, with an enemy (Chang) hot on our heels. And in this case, we'll probably gain yet another enemy (K-Leg Harbormaster) when we fire-up the thruster and take-off with the junkyard's property. The junker might not be worth hunting you directly, but he'll have eyes and ears out for you around the System. Another enemy at K-Leg.

Still several details to be worked out here, but hopefully that gives you a slightly better idea of how things will work. You now have a backstory to shape who knows you and where in the System, and probably some things you want to take care of right away.

Tags: Ostranauts

Comments

ra1's picture
ra1

Given the amount of effort you are putting into the "character creation" functionality, you might want to consider it a "first class" part of the game. That is, the game starts when the player begins creating their character, not after they are finished.

dcfedor's picture
dcfedor

Depending on what you mean by this, it might already be the case.

Technically, the game starts before character creation, with the player able to walk around a map and interact with things. However, the only things to interact with are relevant to chargen. E.g. choosing homeworld via a comms kiosk, appearance/gender in the restroom, etc.

Now that I say that, though, maybe you meant being able to walk around a full station and talk to people? I could see that being interesting, though it might not make sense before certain things like appearance, name, and gender. And choosing 4-year career terms seems like it would disrupt the time flow of that section of the game.

On the other hand, if you simply meant first class in that "it is as much fun to play as the rest of the game," that is definitely a goal. I think there's room for adventure and interesting choices to be worked into this phase, as it's practically NEO Scavenger's encounter system with fancier UI.

Dan Fedor - Founder, Blue Bottle Games

spacecowboy's picture
spacecowboy

What about getting a ship under specific contract agreements? Like “you can use this ship ONLY for the listed agreed things (mining, research, trade, ect.,) but if you break contract we have the right to hunt you down and take the ship back?

dcfedor's picture
dcfedor

I like the idea, though implementing game rules to handle it might get tricky.

And in a way, some of the origin stories I'm planning for players' ships go something like this. I.e. they are a hired pilot using a corp's ship for their job, and get the opportunity to steal it.

Also, some of the more legitimate ship-owning paths aren't really that different. Most people cannot afford a ship, so mortgages are common. And if you miss too many mortgage payments... :)

Dan Fedor - Founder, Blue Bottle Games

Rovlad's picture
Rovlad

You might want to take a look at this new game, The Council. It's pretty much a cinematic choose-your-adventure with some RPG elements in there, and they promise that unlike Telltale things will change dramatically depending on your choices. TTG kinda failed at that, this one does it better.

dcfedor's picture
dcfedor

Interesting. I wonder how they're going to deal with content creep as the number of branching options increases. The things they say in their first trailer, about choices that matter and different endings, there are many devs who say the same thing at the beginning of the project.

Mass Effect wanted that right from the start, but couldn't get the diverse endings it implied, and was only a trilogy. Telltale has to keep branching minimized to stay within budget/schedule. Heck, even I said as much when starting NEO Scavenger.

It all sounds perfectly doable before you've done it :)

Dan Fedor - Founder, Blue Bottle Games

Rovlad's picture
Rovlad

Oh yeah it's definitely better to not do completely different paths and endings (unless it's the whole premise of the game, that is); most people won't bother to see all the content one particular game provides anyway, they play it once and move on to the next one.

dcfedor's picture
dcfedor

That's part of the reason I went for this type of systemic game after NEO Scavenger. While a lot of folks really enjoyed the writing in NS, it was exhausted pretty quickly for how long it took to make. Yet the interplay between game systems kept people coming back the longest. I'm hoping that by focusing on those interesting systems, this game will be entertaining for longer.

Dan Fedor - Founder, Blue Bottle Games

Rovlad's picture
Rovlad

In Witcher 2 you got one of two very different midgames content wise depending on a single choice just before it. I remember CDPR citing is as a total mistake considering how much they put into something most people will never see and that also served to make the game shorter overall, which they also got backlash for.

You're obviously not putting in as much cutscenes and voice acting but it's still the same premise. It's probably much better to have solid foundations and delivering better experience overall than depending on people playing it differently and then appreciating how hard it was to make.

Because, well, they probably won't. :)

Jagged Alliance 2 was probably best at it, it just gave you a strategic map, an overall objective and a possibility to acquire resources. The story went on as you liberated the country but was mostly static, only throwing curveballs your way when you're already deep in and probably wouldn't be phased by them. It was more up to you managing the whole thing and less of the game making up rules as it goes.

dcfedor's picture
dcfedor

Yeah, that was one of my bigger frustrations with NEO Scavenger. Finishing the game doesn't take a very long time if you're determined, but seeing all the game's content requires playing it multiple times with significantly different choices (with different character builds).

So whenever I hear someone complain the game doesn't have much content, I'm thinking, "wait, how much content have they seen?" Like, the game has a novel's worth of text, an album's worth of music, over 1000 sprites, 41 illustrations...are they saying that's not enough? Or have they only experienced 20% of that?

Regardless, you're right. Branching content ends up hiding it for a lot of folks. And content is reeeaaally expensive to make :)

Dan Fedor - Founder, Blue Bottle Games

Rovlad's picture
Rovlad

NEO Scavenger's problem was that it was spread too far and wide with content being mostly clumped together, basically I think the map should have been opened right from beginning, or at least somehow pointing out content areas for players right away. Or having it all opened but in fog of war, not total blackness.

It wouldn't make much sense story wise (Philip having an amnesia and all) but honestly I was feeling like I'm blind half the time. I mean, I can see lights from the city the whole map away but not a wolfman a couple of tiles away in broad daylight/open field unless I have eagle eye? Or using a map item which only points out Detroid which I've already seen on the first night. :) Thanks, useful map item! You're stuffing in my makeshift boots now.

What I'm saying is, you probably didn't quite think the scale through. It was risky, unnecessary (from survival standpoint) and outright deadly to go out scouring for things you didn't know if they even were there. Remember that you had to watch a multitude of meters to stay alive too! Either too huge of a map or too much required from the player to uncover it. Should be less of a problem in space though.

And no, I'm not complaining about difficulty, I actually think it was in the right place. I'm talking about people having difficulty finding content, well, you never told them it was there!

dcfedor's picture
dcfedor

It's funny you mention players not finding content, because that was definitely mentioned frequently in tandem with "not enough content" feedback. I wish my data logging system survived, because I suspect a huge proportion of players dropped off after reaching the DMC. (Based on forum comments and reviews.)

Until that point, you've been told where to go and what to do, and you just follow those goals. However, from there, you need to review your clues so far, and decide which lead to follow. It was the first moment in the game where your goals were 100% up to you, and a lot of people interpreted that as "no more goals/content."

There are definitely those out there who thrive in such a game. They make their own goals, and enjoy the agency provided by a game that doesn't hand-hold. And ultimately, that's my niche.

However, in this game, a lot of what I'm tackling right now is to address this problem. You leave character creation with definite goals, or at least forces pushing/pulling you in certain directions. (Avoiding enemies, making mortgage payments on the ship, looking for the next paydirt, seeking revenge for chargen events, etc.)

And with any luck, those forces will never disappear, but rather just evolve over time.

Dan Fedor - Founder, Blue Bottle Games