Best Place to Park a Tarsus? (October 20, 2013)

Ijuin

Admiral
I'd be happy to see a game simultaneously implement Frontier's mass limits and Privateer's power consumption limits. For additional chaos, you could have cooling issues as well, which change with proximity to the nearest star and the amount of gear you operate simultaneously.

It seems that Star Citizen will have your acceleration and turning rate calculated from your thrust and mass (with all components, cargo, etc. having mass), so the heavier you load your ship, the more sluggish you will become. It is hinted that this would make it worthwhile to dump low-value cargo in order to lighten your ship and increase maneuvering when battling pirates--let the dumb pirates tractor the cargo in and it becomes THEIR maneuvering penalty, then kill them and tractor it back.
 

Quarto

Unknown Enemy
Incidentally, I too had spent an extraordinarily long time playing the original Pirates! before I experienced Privateer - I take it you're talking about the 1987 version, which for its time was an outstanding demonstration of how an 'open ender' should be, but in itself became one dimensional once you had rescued your sister, found the treasure and conquered the Carribean on behalf of one country.

I feel if Privateer had somehow given you the chance to participate in a broader cause than just the plot missions, say, taking sides in warring factions and making progress in wiping each other out mission-by-mission, the game wouldn't have ended so bleakly and abruptly after the plot missions have ended.
Yes, I am talking about the 1987 version. The 2004 remake is a lot of fun, but inferior in some ways (...and better in others).

If you think about what made Pirates! so great, though, you will understand how difficult to translate into a WC context this would have been. Very few games ever use this mechanic, because it's so tough to combine with storytelling. I am, of course, talking about aging.

In Pirates!, you really couldn't expect to play for longer than about twenty years, and even that was stretching it. Most of the time, you were forced to retire earlier than that, because of old wounds and the like. Better still, Pirates! had a reverse skill improvement mechanic - as you got older, your character got slower, and it became harder to retain fame (which in turn was needed to recruit crew). An old pirate needed to really do spectacular things in order to get people's attention. You were old, and therefore you had to be awesome, or no one would want to sign up with you. These age and health-related factors meant that it wasn't until you'd played the game through several times, spending tens and tens of hours on it, that you were able to really do everything the game had offered. Most players, most of the time, were making hard choices: if you concentrated on building a big force, you couldn't go off and search for your family. On the other hand, searching for your family got in the way of acquiring fame, making recruitment harder and limiting your military options.

One other consequence is that the game was designed to allow you to pick up any of the various story threads any time - the story, as symbollic as it was, had been designed to tolerate gaps. You could find your lost family all in the space of one year, but since they were living in relative safety, it didn't matter if it took you fifteen years instead. The only story element that didn't make sense in this regard (and actually, this is something that never occured to me back then: only now) was the quest for marriage. I understand that history has known some pretty long engagements - but it is downright remarkable that all those governor's daughters you met would last for years without getting married. Given the degree of control parents had over marriage back then, it just seems crazy that all those girls were willing to remain unmarried potentially into their forties. But even this was limited to a significant degree by the periodic change of governors - as new governors arrived, their predecessor's unmarried daughter vanished from our view.

Anyway, how would a game like this work in the WC universe? The kind of stories Wing Commander tells just wouldn't work. It doesn't make sense, for instance, for Palan to remain blocked for a decade or something, or for the Exploratory Corps to wait five years for their explorer to return without trying to figure out where he'd gone off to. Besides - as the story begins in 2669, the end of the war would have to be dealt with..

Of course, some elements could work rather amusingly - just imagine the stories they'd tell throughout Gemini, about the pilot who for years has been followed by the Steltek drone wherever he went :).

Thinking about it, I wish someone would make a game like that. You know, a Privateer game that perhaps starts around 2640 and lasts until the player is too old to fly any more (or too old to get his flying license renewed? :D). Instead of the kind of specific story Privateer had, have generic story elements like in Pirates! - women you can romance, nemeses you can challenge and beat or be beaten by, and all against a backdrop of a growing sector, with planets being colonised, mining bases being established (...and shut down as the ore runs out, or outright destroyed by some Retro or pirate attack), with the strength of the Confed presence changing over time, new ships being introduced, old ships being phased out, and so on. Oh, and instead of being killed when your ship is blown up - you always safely eject, but sometimes you lose an arm, a leg, an eye, whatever - and end up replacing them with inferior bionic equivalents.

Such a game would be sheer and utter awesomeness...
 

-danr-

Vice Admiral
If you think about what made Pirates! so great, though, you will understand how difficult to translate into a WC context this would have been. Very few games ever use this mechanic, because it's so tough to combine with storytelling. I am, of course, talking about aging.

Yes, the sense of a long, branching career in Pirates! was the ace card, the way you'd get older, feather your cap, pick up injuries and raise your profile made for a great longplay experience. It's been so long since I've played, that I'd actually forgotten about the way the game rolls through the years, but as you say, it's hard to equate this into a Wing Commander context, because in Pirates it takes several days to sail from one location to another - the game would also bypass several months if you were marooned or captured. Spaceflight, however, is portrayed as being complete within a matter of minutes, that's not to say it couldn't be worked around though (see bottom quote).

One other consequence is that the game was designed to allow you to pick up any of the various story threads any time - the story, as symbollic as it was, had been designed to tolerate gaps.

It still absolutely baffles me just how complex and well made the engine is for a game from 1987. All those variable threads, storylines and data, crammed into just a couple of MB.

Thinking about it, I wish someone would make a game like that. You know, a Privateer game that perhaps starts around 2640 and lasts until the player is too old to fly any more (or too old to get his flying license renewed? :D).

It would be wonderful experience. I guess from a design point of view, the key would be finding ways to fill out time and pass days in-game. Perhaps a day could pass each time the player lands, autopilot sequences representing several hours of space travel (although I guess this would require more space between planets and bases) and occasionally certain events passing by several weeks or months passing by, e.g. getting wrecked like in Pirates, and waiting for a new ship to come along. I like the idea though.
 

Quarto

Unknown Enemy
It would be wonderful experience. I guess from a design point of view, the key would be finding ways to fill out time and pass days in-game. Perhaps a day could pass each time the player lands, autopilot sequences representing several hours of space travel (although I guess this would require more space between planets and bases) and occasionally certain events passing by several weeks or months passing by, e.g. getting wrecked like in Pirates, and waiting for a new ship to come along. I like the idea though.
More than a few games out there have accelerated time, separating real time from game time just like Pirates did. In Skyrim, a day of game time is probably about ten, twenty minutes of real time - there's a remarkable dissonance in there, with a single sword stroke de facto taking several minutes of game time, but this doesn't actually bother anyone. This kind of time compression is an easily accepted convention. The same can be done here, so that a minute of real time can equal five minutes of game time, or something like that. On top of that, autopilot sequences would also take a certain (variable) amount of game time (essentially, the game would calculate how long it would take you to fly there without autopilot). With that implemented, you'd probably be looking at several days to travel from one end of Gemini to the other. Add to that the layover times (refuelling takes time, rearming takes time, loading and unloading cargo takes time... sleep takes time! You need to sleep periodically, and while you can do it in autopilot, it's probably best to sleep some place safe).

Add in some events like you said, which would take weeks or months, and you're pretty much set. The long events can be various things - from the Pirates!-inspired medical layovers (you eject, someone picks you up and delivers you to hospital, where you take weeks to recover... or you eject, are enslaved, and get freed one way or another after several months) to shorter but still relatively long tasks - for instance, you might spend a couple of days in the orbit of a gas giant to mine gas, like in Frontier, or you might actually be hired to spend x days/weeks monitoring traffic at a particular location (waiting for a Kilrathi fleet to pass through or something). And of course, sometimes you just might get stuck in the middle of nowhere, waiting for your ship to suck enough particles into the fuel tank to get going :).
 

Ijuin

Admiral
Given the size of solar systems and the implication within the WC universe that ships can travel at several percent of the speed of light (but not relativistic speed unless they are almost all fuel tank and engines and burn it all in one go), and given what we see in the narrative, it seems to take anywhere up to a day or two for military-class ships to cross a system from one side to the other to go between jump points or to go from jump point A to a planet and then to jump point B. You jump into a system, and it'll take several hours to reach the planet or a not-too-close jump point if you hurry, or it will take the rest of the day at normal cruising speed.
 

Red Baron

Rear Admiral
I agree that New Detroit definately has the *strongest* atmosphere, but i really like that ass-end-of-nowhere feel the mining stations and refineries are emanating, and only the latter drives that ass-endiness to perfection with the visible starfield.
 
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