The Game World
In my previous blog entry, “Surviving Mid-Development Hell“, I described the process that resulted in the game becoming very different to what I had once envisioned nearly 3 years ago. Despite these differences, the core gameplay idea remain similar, it’s all about a grand adventure in a dynamic sandbox world that you can affect with your choices.
Something unintended from the start, but as the game progressed, it became clear to me that this game’s world gradually became a part of the Star Nomad 2 universe / lore, and that everything fits really well together, in the end.
A major Human Empire fleet was sent to colonize a newly discovered world full of potential for human habitation and resource exploitation. However, tragedy struck the fleet on it’s journey. The jump-drives failed and ejected the fleet at an unknown sector, to a solar system with twin stars and hostile planets. Worse still, the failed warp exit into an intense gravity well caused many ships to break up on entry to the system, exploding into a deadly cloud of debris.
The colony flagship sustained critical damage and gets pulled to a nearby planet, crash landing on what appears to be a mega-crater of harsh desert wasteland surrounded by impassable mountain ranges.
Many of the fleet officers had perished during the crash, without leadership, the emergency program was activated; the flagship’s AI assumed full administrative authority. The primary objective is to establish a colony for the thousands of cryo-sleeping colonists within the flagship’s cargo-hold.
Not long after, the first wave of colonists were ejected from their damaged cryo-chambers, and so begins the arduous work of finding resources to survive, clean water, food, and building shelter. However, the immediate surrounding and as far as the eye could see, was barren sand and rock.
Scouting parties were sent to explore their new world in all directions. Some failed to return, but others report of isolated locations that are fertile, fed by underground springs. More colonists were woken and sent to form outposts at these locations. They would gather the necessary water and food, then send the excess to where the majority of the colony were, besides the flagship wreck.
As the colony managed to survive, the secondary objective was initiated. The survivors had to work and help the main colony create a means to establish contact with the fleet. All had to work towards the greater goal of being rescued from this hostile world. The AI decided the highest possibility to achieve the objective and to minimize social disorder was to segregate people based on their ability and personality.
As waves of colonists awaken, they are given a thorough physical and neural examination. Those already skilled in advanced science or electronics, and those with a high intelligence potential are required to remain at the main colony. They would be most suited to maintaining the flagship’s high-tech facilities, reactors, labs and cryo-chambers.
The others, based on their personality profile, would be sent to different far flung outposts where they labored to gather resources, hunt alien wildlife for food, given training as guards or serve in the caravans that hauled the goods across the wasteland towards the insatiable main colony, which became known as Derelict City.
Over time, as the distant outposts grew in size and influence, becoming major towns, they begun to to expand and form satellite outposts. These smaller outposts would serve to gather vital resources to send to the region’s main town, which provided them with food, water, luxuries and security. Local economies formed, and together contributed to the colony thriving.
However, as the years went by, the failure to achieve contact with the fleet caused many to lose hope of ever being rescued. Without working together towards an objective, those at outposts and towns begun to feel like they were exploited by Derelict City. Despite working long shifts in harsh conditions, they had naught to show for it, while the elite class in Derelict City lived comfortable lives under total security.
The first town to declare their independence from the rule of Derelict City and thus the AI admin were the furthest away. Soon, other towns followed in their revolt.
The AI calculated that it would be harmful to it’s objective to wage war to quell the rebellion. Instead, Derelict City would openly trade goods that it’s advance facilities could create for resources that the other factions would gather or mine.
Decades later, as the colony and factions grew from reproduction and more colonists freed from cryo-sleep, tensions over the limited resources spark conflict between the factions. Skirmishes over hunting grounds and mines were common, eventually leading to full blown warfare. However, while the humans were busy fighting among themselves, the AI ensured that Derelict City remains neutral and open to trade. The resources must flow.
The Game World:
The game will play out on a world map in a similar way as games like Mount & Blade.
Major towns and outposts are represented by the banner of the faction that currently owns it. Units are represented by an icon of the group’s leader along with the faction banner. Line of sight controls what each unit sees and enables their AI reactions.
At the core, the game is a dynamic economic simulation. Each colonist has to consume resources to survive and thrive. If they are workers, they will hunt, gather or mine nearby resources for their outpost.
Trade caravans will distribute the goods between outposts and major towns and other caravans will trade goods to and from Derelict City. In gameplay, caravans will be the most common units players will encounter as they haul goods to and from locations all over the wasteland.
The player’s squad can interact with caravans to ask for trade tips, the situations of outposts they’ve been to, and take on missions to escort them safely to their destination. You could also choose to threaten them to hand over some goods or attack them and there’s consequences for these actions.
The major factions will seek to recruit and train warriors to form militia Warbands that they use to patrol their territory to defend against hostiles, and if required, attack their enemies in the field or siege hostile outposts to conquer new territory.
These warriors require clean water, food and their wages to be paid. They also require armor, weapons and items which comes from production of the major town, which require resources to produce.
The warriors require consumable items and munitions to be effective in battles, and they will often visit town to resupply and drain the economy. If the supply chain is disrupted, they become helpless in combat as their firearms lack munitions to fire and their fighters are weakened by hunger or thirst, overall their morale suffers leading to a quick loss.
Each warrior that falls in battle matters, as its one less population for the faction, but also it has to be reinforced with a new recruit which is costly. As the factions gain excess resources and equipment, they will create more active Warbands that places a burden on their economy to sustain. As the economy fluctuates based on the events that happen, player action or in-action, the strength of the faction’s militia is greatly affected.
Players can also interact with these faction Warbands, ask about their conditions and war situation, offer to trade supplies (food, water, munitions) so they can stay active in the field longer, and take hostile actions too.
This world is inhabited by exotic wildlife, many are harmless and provide a source of food and materials, while some are predators that pose deadly threat to colonists. These xeno-predators also provide an opportunity for mercenaries, who can obtain contracts to clear out an infestation.
The alien beasts also provide important materials that are used in crafting items and armors which they player can benefit from, thus, “monster hunting” is a valid and rewarding playstyle.
As you play, you will notice that xeno-predators are lured by combat and bloodshed, so the more fighting that occurs in an area, the more ravenous the local xeno-predators behave.
Another common danger are raiders that frequently roam and attack merchant caravans and travelers. Raiders comprise of men who have been pushed beyond their limit, they are desperate and will attack any targets of opportunity. The presence of raiders will create opportunities for bounty hunters to take out lucrative contracts.
Meanwhile, if raider numbers are allowed to grow, they will cause mayhem for the local colonists by plundering caravans of vital goods. Without which, the locals will riot as thirst, starvation or even lack of booze can drive sane people desperate. These desperate colonists will then resort to joining the raiders to plunder to survive, and so a region can quickly degenerate into chaos.
Another avenue of resources entering the economy is through random resource nodes that players will sometimes encounter on their journey. For example, a spaceship debris in orbit comes crashing down offers an opportunity for scavengers to risk the dangers to find valuable tech or metal alloys.
Because of the lucrative nature of scavenging, there are many other “neutral” NPC scavenging groups that roam the wasteland . They will acquire the resources and sell it at a major town that fetches the best price. As such, they can be considered as competition to the player’s squad.
If a resource node is spotted and unclaimed for a number of days, chances are, another scavenging squad will be heading there to claim it. If they happen to claim a resource node already, the player will have to engage them in combat to be able to take the resources.
NPC Scavenger groups can also trade and hunt xeno-predators and bounty hunt raiders. They are able to influence the world like the player squad in these ways. Especially their ability to trade between towns and Derelict City, as they will find out where some goods are available in large quantity and will buy it for a low price, to sell where its most required.
One other major feature is the random encounters that players will run into on their travels on the world-map, some will have a chain of quests, but many will be an opportunity for some good story-telling and keeping players on their edge.
Because so many things are happening at once in real-time, the world always offers an opportunity for the player’s squad to engage in a meaningful task. Like in Star Nomad 2, where player actions matter, in this world, it matters even more.
To end this blog, a little about the player’s squad…
The player’s squad traverse the world in real-time* (the same as every other unit), through the day & night cycle, each mercenary recruit will need clean water and edible food. Most recruits also demand a daily fee, as the concept of working for free doesn’t go down well. If the recruit’s needs are not met, they become unhappy and it will drastically lower their combat capability.
Importantly, I focused to make not only an immersive sandbox, but I wanted to make each of the characters you recruit on the journey unique and so they all have a story and side-missions that reveal more about each of them.
The main character’s story will be the game’s main plot lines. Through the many missions (optional, but there to lead players onwards), players will discover the cause of the colony fleet’s demise and learn the truth about the colony and world they now inhabit. It is not as it seems…
*There is a time-dilution toggle, because I realize in these types of games, the slow travel pace can be annoying and a time waster.
Thanks for reading and stay tuned for upcoming blog entries on the Squad Management, UI and Combat System.
ps. I had originally planned to finish this game by the end of June 2018. However, early this year we had a happy surprise, a baby girl, which brings the total offspring count to 3. Her name is Aiko.