Flight Management System

Hey Folks! Finally decided to get back to the space prototype today. With Tiago working on the UI zoom feature, the web team working on the first functioning site draft, and a game title that is still (fingers crossed!) viable, I figured I'd turn my attention to the neglected prototype.

First order of business was to figure out where I left off. Some devlog digging reminded me that I figured out how to connect functional UIs to interactive objects, so we're starting to get player control over ship systems through control panels the AI uses. Also, after adding that feature, I broke AIs' ability to open doors without player intervention.

As a quick warm-up, I decided to tackle that AI regression bug, and a little while later, AI was opening doors again. (And a related null pointer bug squashed as a bonus.)

Then, I decided to take a step back and assess things. My main questions was, "how can I get this prototype from it's current state to something enjoyable in the shortest number of steps?" It's not a game yet, so why is that? And what things can I add to at least make a minimum viable game loop?

After a bit of brainstorming, I think there are two areas I could tackle: navigation and ship design.

Navigation means making the ship go places. Right now, the ship is just a hunk of tiles with crew running around on it. It doesn't go anywhere. It uses no fuel. It is not subjected to space hazards like temperature or radiation or micrometeoroids. It doesn't visit a planet or asteroid, nor dock with a station. If I could get some UI in place to make the ship go places, I could start tying-in other things like making sure the ship has enough supplies for long trips, ample shielding against radiation and ballistics, and other voyage needs. Players could at least start enjoying prepping for a journey, plotting a course, and seeing if they survive the trip.

Ship design means making enough ship systems such that their interplay is interesting to balance. Like in NEO Scavenger, if there are enough related systems with inputs and outputs, it can be fun to design and optimize the collection of systems to work efficiently. In NEO Scavenger, this meant keeping Philip warm, fed, rested, hydrated, and meeting his other physiological needs. Often, satisfying one need meant detracting from others, so it became a game of choosing the right combination and order of operations to keep him alive given the constraints of what was available.

Similarly, each ship system is going to have certain input and output needs, and their performance is going to affect the health and happiness of the crew. Optimizing the available systems to some viable configuration and watching it go can be a game in itself.

Ultimately, both of these "games" are part of the bigger game I have in mind. So if I can tackle one or both of these ASAP, maybe people can start to play it?

For now, I've decided on the former: navigation. I have an old orbital navigation prototype I whipped up in Haxe, and I think I can port it to Unity and start working from there. It should at least allow me to see orbital positions of things and control the position of the ship among them. I'll probably rig this up to a ship control panel, just like the HVAC switches from before. And then, the player can assign an AI to use the panel, and the player starts using buttons and knobs to fly around the system. Maybe they can resupply power, atmo, food, water, and other things at each dock? And maybe this can dovetail into the second game loop above?

Seems pretty reasonable!


spacecowboy's picture

The whole navigation thing might be interesting, and if you add combat into the game, I think it would be kinda interesting to see it play out. Since space is different from what movies would show after all, you'd probably have to orbit something or wait until you can get into the right position before firing, since it would be pretty bad to let the rocket/missile just go off into deep space without hitting the target.

Also, planning for the trip. I like management things like that so I think I'd have good plenty fun with that kinda thing. Plus, it would make for some very interesting scenarios like having to choose between food or something else if they didn't say...have enough whatever currency space has and yeah.

matsy's picture

Just hurry up, so you can take my money!

Do you plan to do a similar vote feature when you buy the game as with NEO Scavenger? I really liked the idea but I found it slight let down as I came late in the day so those votes were pretty locked down. Maybe you could do a monthly vote on four potential features that new buyers could vote on, and existing owners could spend some £££ tto vote on...

ra1's picture

I know you've mentioned the desire to stick to more "realistic" physics for interplanetary travel. However, with the slightly meta-physical storyline of NEO Scavenger, and the as-yet unknown effects of traveling at near-relativistic speeds (over 0.2c), feel free to give yourself some artistic latitude when coming up with creative phenomena and side-effects of space travel :)

Malacodor's picture

I don't see a reason why travel speed should have an effect of any kind. Speed is relative anyways. In fact we ARE already moving at near-relativistic speeds in many reference frames. In former times some physicians believed that travel speeds above 30 km/h were harmful.

Ran around with a clown mask before it was cool

dcfedor's picture

@spacemedic, it'll be interesting to see. I'm expecting combat to be a lot of positioning, posturing, and analysis, followed by a few seconds of lightning-fast actions. And even then, high-energy weapons aren't going to slow down a whole lot when passing through a hull or two :)

@matsy, I'm hurrying! And yes, I think the feature voting might be worth doing again. The last time I did it, it really helped gauge the interest of paying customers, and not just throwaway accounts. Whenever someone said "I want X!" I could point to the voting page and say "but the majority wants Y!"

And also like last time, the features will all be things I want to do anyway, so there are no wrong answers.

@ra1 and Malacodor, the plan is for just enough metaphysics to bend physics towards fun without seeming too fantastic. Last time I looked into it, I think I was cruising at 1G (with 5Gs in emergencies for short periods), and this resulted in nice cross-system trips on the order of days or weeks. Accelerate halfway there and decelerate the rest, allowing for "gravity" most of the trip, and not having to worry too much about orbital planning (mostly straight or near-direct travel paths).

At the above rates, I don't think my simulations ever reached near-C speeds. Though, given enough time (1-2 years of constant 1G acceleration) they probably could. In that case, I might have to fudge things a bit to compensate for time and space relativistic effects.

Dan Fedor - Founder, Blue Bottle Games