A little while ago, an update to the patch notes revealed hyperspace and multiple star systems as some of the features that will be in the next release. Patch notes being what they are, there wasn’t much detail, so I thought I’d write a post about how hyperspace works.
First, perhaps obviously, hyperspace is a means of moving from one star system to another.
The way it works is a ship transitions to hyperspace using a jump point, travels to its destination (another jump point, whether it’s naturally-occurring one or artifical), and then transitions back to normal space. Movement and combat in hyperspace work just the same way they do inside a star system.
Well, not exactly the same. Movement in hyperspace also consumes fuel, based on the ships in the player’s fleet. For now, in the absence of an economy and only having two star systems, fuel is plentiful and cheap. Ultimately, it should become a significant limitation. For example, to explore distant star systems, the player might go out and create an outpost to stash fuel and supplies. They could then use a smaller, fuel-efficient fleet to poke around in the nearby star systems, resupplying as needed.
What happens when a fleet runs out of fuel, you ask? It’s a good question, and one with serious ramifications; the answer might determine whether it’s possible for the player to be totally stranded somewhere, without a way to get out or get more fuel. Before figuring out how to handle it, I had to decide whether I was ok with that happening. The answer is yes, provided that there are measures the player can take to attempt to deal with it (though not necessarily succeed).
With that in mind, an out-of-fuel fleet drifts towards the nearest large gravity well – generally that’ll be a star – and falls right in. Or, if they’re in luck, it’s a gas giant, and they don’t get crisped. The system they find themselves in… well, that’s going to determine their options. Can they acquire more fuel somehow? Perhaps there’s a resource cache there, or a fleet transiting through. Perhaps not; then the player can take the more drastic step of scuttling some of their ships (this now yields a small amount of fuel, in addition to supplies). If all of these fail, then, well, that’s very unfortunate, and also time to load the last save. Unless they’re playing in iron mode (no save-scumming!), in which case it’s just very unfortunate.
All in all, it’s a pretty straightforward system, and, if you’ve played Star Control II, a pretty familiar one. It’s also not fully fleshed out, but I’m excited enough about the potential to build it out to actually talk about ideas, rather than concrete things that are already done. So, be warned – the stuff below isn’t exactly “planned”, it’s just things that I’m thinking about. It could very well go the way of munitions ships, which even have graphics, but are very much Not Happening. With that out of the way…
Items or skills required to use certain jump points: Actually, using a star’s gravity well to jump into normal space already requires a high Navigation skill, unless you’re out of fuel and helplessly hurtling through. Using items is a natural extension of that – perhaps a jump point next to a Hegemony military base requires an authorization chip plugged into your fleet’s nav system.
Building on the mechanics for out-of-fuel fleets, there definitely needs to be some penalty for falling out of hyperspace next to a star. That is to say, the aforementioned “crisping” needs to be more than conceptual. Combat readiness seems like a nice fit here; perhaps an CR-loss-over-time-while-near-a-star might fit the bill. Depending on how things work, distress signals could work both as a means to get out of no-fuel situations, and a way to lure other fleets into traps (or of being lured into one!)
A way to enter hyperspace w/o a jump point (perhaps at a fuel cost?); a way to create a jump point (perhaps by deploying a beacon, or a building at an outpost).
Well, then. I think I’m getting a little carried away here, so I’ll wrap this up and get back to working through the remaining items for the 0.6a release.
Comment thread here.