Adam – @adam_blahuta
Hey fellow space junkies!
The creative journey of game development is very strange. If your goal is to engage players with novel experiences, design innovation is a powerful tool. The inherent challenge is that it’s difficult to understand a problem in a vacuum. You have to try different approaches and see how they succeed and fail before you start getting an accurate picture. And you never know how deep the rabbit hole goes until you’ve already started falling into it. In order to do justice to the thing you’re trying to build, you have to be willing to see that through to the end. I’m just so happy that we were able to build a team that was willing to take that risk!
When we first got together to discuss Astrobase Command, we knew we wanted to build a space-station-based survival simulation that delivered on the experiences provided by TV shows like Star Trek. We also understood that characters were key to that experience, but we didn’t really know what that meant for the game.
Last week, Dave walked us through a design that not only communicates the character’s personality to the player but also provides the context in which that personality can shine and evolve. The beauty of his approach is in how personality traits are built and communicated to the player. Each one is unique but they often have elements in common, which nicely models how people can have different value systems and still have common ground. They don’t simply translate to some universal game mechanic, like “Brave = +5 to Initiative”. Instead, every other system in the game is designed to challenge that personality in some way.
As a result, personality becomes a key component to a character’s decision making, how they perceive the world around them and how they interact with others. It then becomes the player’s responsibility to decide where each character fits in their crew. Who do you send on dangerous missions when you have specific goals? Who are best suited to work together? Who can bunk together in quarters? How do you best cater to your crew’s needs? How do you break up recurring fights between two crew-members who hate each other?
This lays out a beautiful process of discovery where the player needs to understand personality in order to ensure the survival of their crew. The only way to do this is to get to know the personality traits of each character and see how they act in different situations and how those situations can change them.
As you may have guessed from the wall of text above, I was very excited to start implementing this approach. My week has been entirely consumed by delivering on Dave’s vision for characters at their most fundamental level.
Daniel – @Polygonatron
This week has been one of visual effects for me. I started out working on some text scrolling tech for the datapad and I’m currently in the middle of trying to learn shader programming. Tricky stuff, but fun!
Dave – @Dave_Astrobase
This week I’ve been working on station gameplay, and the correct level of depth in the simulation. In gameplay terms, this essentially corresponds to: “what are the physics rules of this universe.” Also, I’m super excited to see Adam bring the personality system come to life with the magic of code!
Max – @Max_Shields
This last bit is to see if you’re sufficiently dedicated to make it to the bottom of Adam’s wall of text. 😉
I’ve been playing around with the idea of writing some Astrobase Command fiction which could take many forms. It could be a periodic short independent or interconnected short stories published directly to this site, a novella, or even a novel published in electronic format.
Now hold your spacehorses, this isn’t a hard plan, but rather an idea that I’d like to float by you fans to get your opinions. Please leave your thoughts and comments below.