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Author Topic: Writing Starsector  (Read 15546 times)

Tartiflette

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Re: Writing Starsector
« Reply #45 on: December 22, 2020, 11:22:45 AM »

Right! This is about where we got to when we boiled down the idea of strongly engaging with the skill tree in dialog. The questions from this point are basically:
  • Does the player know that there are alternative options?
  • Do you tell them explicitly via greyed out text w/ tooltips?
  • Do you offer 5+ options per decision point (one to match each skill + one neutral or negative) or a lesser or greater set? (This may center every decision around the skill categories - is that desired? Or only use it when applicable? Is that too few opportunities and too specific to be good value vs. dev time?
  • Do you open dialog options by ranking skill category choices proportionately (ie. what the player has most of), or by absolute number of skills (which demands a certain min. player level for an option?) Does a low level player get nothing vs. a high level player getting all options vs. does it not matter?

There's a lot of smaller questions here, and they have to be answered with a surprising amount of dialog infrastructure as well as content. Question is, is all of that worth what would be gained? Better yet, do the options the skill categories suggest make sense in terms of the story being told - maybe skill-driven dialog works well for engaging with already existing game mechanics type things in the world, but maybe not with what the narrative dialogs are doing.

With all of this, I hope to explain some of the reticence we eventually came to after exploring this area of the design. (And, while I love Disco Elysium's super granular skill-driven dialogs - not that you're suggesting that, I just got excited about it when I played that game - I realized pretty quickly that we couldn't possibly take their approach.)

Oh no doubts there are many questions and issues from adding "skill-amount checks", and I'm not saying that you should absolutely do it! What I do like as an idea is to replay a string of missions and suddenly discover some very light branching I didn't expected (that's also why I would probably keep those options hidden when unavailable, also it avoid the frustration from not having the right skills). Otherwise I fear things could become stale real fast unless you have a huge amount of those mission dialogs. And I do understand some of the constraints of writing missions for an open world game such as Starsector: when I started writing some simple quest that had a couple of outcomes I ended up with hundreds of nodes in my logic tree. So I wouldn't rule out it's not worth the effort to add more complexity myself.

Speaking of text interactions, I starter playing the game "Between the Stars" that includes hundreds of small written encounters and random "crew interaction" events. Those really do a great job at livening up the otherwise barren world (especially the ongoing events that act as some sort of secondary passive quests), and I particularly love how they do text-based wreck exploration and boarding. It's a shame that the game is otherwise not great due to a terrible UI, camera and controls, but those encounters are what is keeping me invested. It's probably worth a look if only to get some inspiration.
« Last Edit: December 22, 2020, 11:25:25 AM by Tartiflette »
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Linnis

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Re: Writing Starsector
« Reply #46 on: December 22, 2020, 11:24:43 PM »

...
Speaking of text interactions, I starter playing the game "Between the Stars" that includes hundreds of small written encounters and random "crew interaction" events. Those really do a great job at livening up the otherwise barren world (especially the ongoing events that act as some sort of secondary passive quests), and I particularly love how they do text-based wreck exploration and boarding. It's a shame that the game is otherwise not great due to a terrible UI, camera and controls, but those encounters are what is keeping me invested. It's probably worth a look if only to get some inspiration.

I do have to agree with this sentiment. Recently I played Crying Sun and even though the story is quite lite. It's the constant little amounts of text that appear really immerse the player. With videogames, I think immersion is a requirement for having a great story. But for me, I personally don't care much about the story as in "events that happen".

A writing tip that I always hear editors throw around is that create a grand story, a mythology, one that spans multiple life times, with many characters and events that happen. Now create your POVs, multiple or singular, only getting to access a slice of that grand story. That is only two layers, more layers the better. Stuff we all know like LOTR, GOT, STARWARS, all have great stories because there is multiple layers in the writing, thus it is more engaging.
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cerapa

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Re: Writing Starsector
« Reply #47 on: December 25, 2020, 05:27:10 PM »

Looking forward to seeing if my particular playstyle is represented in the story choices. Apparently that playstyle is smuggling huge quantities of weaponry, soldier and drugs to terrorists and black marketeers for money. And then using that money to fund expeditions into outlying stars to scavenge dangerous and prohibited technology. I honestly failed to realize I'm a sci-fi bad guy.

Have you considered having an equivalent to white checks for skill checks? Means you wouldn't have that nasty problem of people having to powerlevel before doing the quests so they can see all the dialogue and stuff. Think it could add a bit of character to the skills even if it would maybe only reveal a bit of lore or something.
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RedHellion

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Re: Writing Starsector
« Reply #48 on: December 29, 2020, 03:11:44 AM »

Love it! Really looking forward to seeing how this gets implemented.

I also want to throw my own weight behind the previous comments re: having clear and balanced narrative decisions made by gp0923 and Sundog, with that Alpha Core decision as an example. Essentially being forced into an optimal decision which is against how you want to play the character because the alternative is objectively worse by a large margin (e.g. no gain, or gain an Alpha Core), or realizing later that you've missed out on things due to your in-character narrative decisions which put you objectively worse off than a player who made different decisions, doesn't feel good (all options which are within the bounds of role-playing should be equally "right"/"valid" and provide similar if different benefits). Balance between decision rewards doesn't even have to be immediate: one decision could have an immediate benefit, while the other could provide a benefit or opportunity of its own shortly after. Consequences don't necessarily have to be clear at the time of the decision, but the player should be able to trust that they can role-play their decisions for the most part without making themselves objectively worse off.

Jamplier (and others) also made what I feel to be an interesting/valuable suggestion regarding allowing skill checks (summed up into skill category totals rather than individual skill checks) but making it so that there's always a way for the player to progress (including not making any of the checks), and the rewards for each different skill check option are at least roughly equivalent if not exactly the same.

Looking forward to seeing if my particular playstyle is represented in the story choices. Apparently that playstyle is smuggling huge quantities of weaponry, soldier and drugs to terrorists and black marketeers for money. And then using that money to fund expeditions into outlying stars to scavenge dangerous and prohibited technology. I honestly failed to realize I'm a sci-fi bad guy.

So... what I'm hearing is that you're Jean-Baptiste Emanuel Zorg from The Fifth Element?
« Last Edit: December 29, 2020, 03:20:55 AM by RedHellion »
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Wyvern

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Re: Writing Starsector
« Reply #49 on: December 29, 2020, 11:00:02 AM »

Oh, and the Alpha Core decision is actually worse than that: your options are A) gain an alpha core, or B) spawn a large pirate fleet that will try to hunt you down.

My suggestion would be to change that pirate fleet to a pirate-flagged scavenger fleet that, critically, actually has some scavenged loot already in its holds that you can get if you beat it. Then you'd have a choice between an alpha core versus a chance at additional random blueprints.
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RedHellion

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Re: Writing Starsector
« Reply #50 on: December 29, 2020, 01:54:21 PM »

My suggestion would be to change that pirate fleet to a pirate-flagged scavenger fleet that, critically, actually has some scavenged loot already in its holds that you can get if you beat it. Then you'd have a choice between an alpha core versus a chance at additional random blueprints.

That's still an objectively worse option to send it back than just keeping it, though, since you would have to fight the fleet to get those rewards at what is generally still an early-game point in time (unless you mean that in addition to being just a scavenger fleet, it's also not that large) while keeping the Alpha Core has no additional challenge/downside. My suggestions instead for this example would be either:

a) Keeping the Alpha Core now also spawns a fleet that will try to hunt you down (but it's Tri-Tachyon instead of pirate) to balance out the fact you got a free Alpha Core. And sending the Alpha Core back means the rep rewards you with some random blueprints (maybe specifically Tri-Tachyon ones) or something else high-value, to balance out being hunted by the pirate fleet.

b) Neither option causes the player to be hunted by a fleet: keeping the core just means you get a free Alpha Core, sending the core back means you just get some free blueprints or other high-value loot from the rep.
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Wyvern

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Re: Writing Starsector
« Reply #51 on: December 29, 2020, 02:56:42 PM »

That's still an objectively worse option to send it back than just keeping it, though, since you would have to fight the fleet to get those rewards at what is generally still an early-game point in time (unless you mean that in addition to being just a scavenger fleet, it's also not that large) while keeping the Alpha Core has no additional challenge/downside.
...Early game? The fleet guarding the cache can spawn with [REDACTED] battleships.

Sure, sometimes it doesn't - I've seen it as small as a single cruiser with supporting destroyers/frigates - but even a [REDACTED] cruiser isn't exactly a pushover.

...Actually, that said, my suggestion doesn't actually fix the issue of the choice not really telling you what you're choosing between. Hm.
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RedHellion

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Re: Writing Starsector
« Reply #52 on: December 29, 2020, 07:11:23 PM »

...Early game? The fleet guarding the cache can spawn with [REDACTED] battleships.

Sure, sometimes it doesn't - I've seen it as small as a single cruiser with supporting destroyers/frigates - but even a [REDACTED] cruiser isn't exactly a pushover.

Maybe I just got lucky, I don't think I ever encountered more than some destroyer-sized [REDACTED] with escorts. The couple of playthroughs I did on the latest version I went out to grab that quite early in my career, with a mid-sized survey/salvage fleet with at most a cruiser for myself and some escorting destroyers and frigates in case I ran into hostile scavengers or a bigger [REDACTED] presence than expected. Granted I could be mis-remembering, I haven't booted up SS in months since I finished my last playthrough.

I assumed it was a set difficulty of fleet (or one that scales with the player's progress like bounties) meant to be an early-mid-game quest to give you an opportunity to either get in with Tri-Tachyon or get an early jump on a colony with the Alpha Core.
« Last Edit: December 29, 2020, 07:13:24 PM by RedHellion »
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Deshara

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Re: Writing Starsector
« Reply #53 on: January 09, 2021, 02:07:12 PM »

Quote
I feel no small amount of trepidation because this is both a change and it is a particular story about particular characters in a way the pure sandbox certainly isn’t. This necessarily constrains your – the player’s – experience of the game-fantasy and the meta-game fantasy of an “unfinished game” which has the potential to become everyone’s dreams in a free-floating quantum state… until you see it for real and it turns out it isn’t quite what you dreamed.

this reminds me of the flash text-based
Spoiler
fetish erotica
[close]
game
Spoiler
corruption of champions
[close]
which ran into the issue of the game creator's specific tastes for what they want to see in the fantasy world not being exactly like anything other people wanted to see in their fantasy game, so what they wound up doing was just focusing on building the bones of the base game without much focus on adding content and allowing people to submit writing prompts to the creator of the game & they'd add them into the game to flesh out the content, & wound up with one of the most expansive games of that particular genre I've ever seen with a ridiculously broad reach. They left the ending of the game off & just kept expanding it as content came in, and once the writing prompts stopped flowing they just capped the game off with an ending where the story was left and started a sequel. The result was a game that could vary wildly in tone, like a choose your own adventure book where you also get to choose your own author while remaining within the same story & universe

One of the things that made it work as well as it did tho was that any content you weren't interested in you could just hit the continue button at the bottom of the screen to skip those paragraphs of content and what u didn't read was basically guaranteed to not matter unless u wanted it to (basically anything that could have a lasting impact on the game was in the form of an item that got added into your inventory & needed the player to use it to have affect, even when it doesn't make sense in-universe), and then once you knew what triggered that content you could just choose to not go back to it if it isn't your flavor. Genuinely the most innovative thing I've ever seen in that particular genre and nobody else seems to have taken note -- not even the ppl who made that darn game itself bc they're making another game and a sequel and neither of them really does the same things.

It's fascinating to me, like seeing someone strike gold then throw it back into the hole and go somewhere else. Basically it's like tapping the modding community to be co-writers and it feels like theres so much potential to the concept that there has to be a really good reason not to do it since nobody else is lol
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DatonKallandor

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Re: Writing Starsector
« Reply #54 on: January 11, 2021, 04:06:28 AM »

That sounds absolutely godawful. Story not only by committee, but story by disconnected writers with no interaction or common style. "If you don't like it, skip it" as game design. That's dystopian as hell.
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Deshara

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Re: Writing Starsector
« Reply #55 on: January 11, 2021, 09:08:50 PM »

it is of course quality-controlled & filtered thru the actual maker of the game. I never found it jarring, though I could see how it could have been.
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dgchessman2

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Re: Writing Starsector
« Reply #56 on: January 12, 2021, 12:21:50 PM »

I certainly like the idea of story, like anyone else.  But honestly?  I think the insertion of narrative into this kind of game is VERY well displayed in Star Traders: Frontiers.
You've got a star map, a character that IS an officer, ship battles, and interactions with planets and ports that are very, very similar.  Hell, even skill checks.
There's a lot to be gleaned from those guys.  And it's only the two brothers.  That game presents a real opportunity to parallel something successful, without the need to reinvent the wheel.

~ ~ ~

That aside, it does seem like the FRAMEWORK for story/missions is just as important as the story itself.
Because mods.

Let's face it, this is more or less a Bethesda Game (TM) in terms of the necessity of mods.  They add a FREAKISH amount of content.  And more story would be welcome.
... but without a solid framework, I'd be afraid of the whims of individual writers.

~ ~ ~

Can the story update and shift towards narrative ALSO come with other game mechanic updates?

Like the ability to have more than 12 buildings in a colony?
Diplomacy mechanics that are a bit more tangible?
Fleet / Faction deployments that don't come out of the Player's pocket?
The ability to get even a rough 'view' of what is happening in a sector you have a presence in?

Hell, there's even room in there somewhere for:
Engine / Armor / Structure / EW sockets in ships.  Why would one faction's armor not be superior/inferior to another's?  That opens up more reasons to Trade, etc.

~ ~ ~

Every new building type opens up opportunities to go on a quest to help/hurt.
And if you really want to go the extra mile?  Epochs.  Periods of the timeline where power / technology shift  considerably.  Global modifiers to certain kinds of action.  Suddenly Warp Storms are 10x more damaging for a period of years, and everyone has to very carefully pick their way through clear lanes.  Or a series of 5 years or so where AI fleets are circling the space AROUND the fringes, aggressively cleansing / repelling, forcing you to hide in the core.  5 years of Trade Disputes, and tax rates skyrocket.  So piracy and Black Market skyrocket, and diplomacy plummets.

There's a lot of room for story MECHANICS that don't necessarily need a lot of words put on pages.

Just some humble thoughts for consideration.
I'd definitely love to see more storytelling.
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Solya

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Re: Writing Starsector
« Reply #57 on: January 13, 2021, 03:48:46 AM »

Alright, I've read every post and I haven't seen this option, so here I go.
No matter what you decide to do with skill options (I will be fine with any, really. I've spent more than 100 hours+ in Starsector already, and the dialog options are the only thing missing for me), why not give us something extra for the cost of reputation? Something more... Chaotic, instead of trained professional.

Some quick example:
1) I took a contract to hunt down a pirate officer of certain name and bring him/her to justice (Alive, this time!).
2) I managed to do it and now i'm on my way to hand this officer over to the authorities for some sweet pay check.
3) Except I decided not to. And now I want to keep this officer for myself. So when the dialog starts I will go with the "F**k u, corpoman! Muh boy is staying with me!" (-20 Rep with following faction) kinda dialog option.
This type of option may help the player to feel more... Influential in some scenarios. Especially if other options will be locked for some reason or just "not you style".

Another fun way to project players influence on the game though the dialog is when NPC acknowledge you as a threat. Mount & Blade kinda style. Not because you did something very wrong (its a fun option too, though), but because your personal fleet contains battleships for some reason. Pirates no longer raiding newborn colonies... Because you ate them. And now you are expecting some tribute.

That went dark pretty quick, huh. Anyway, the point has been made.
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Deshara

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Re: Writing Starsector
« Reply #58 on: January 16, 2021, 01:13:34 PM »

Arguably these kind of flavor options are even less deserving of Dev time since there is no actual gameplay impact, but sometimes it's the little details which help to elevate the whole. Also when doing this you are not obliged to implement a whole system but can just add a little dialogue when it feels appropriate. Or not ;D   

There are times when the possibility of doing little details like this is too good to let pass by. Sometimes it gets pretty indulgent, and Alex or I will put in rather more effort than seems entirely responsible to make some detail work.

tbh the most memorable moment of all of starsector that still sticks out to me to this day was going to a star system pre-procgen (I think it was Penelope & was removed with the procgen update & now I can't find a single mention of it online) & finding the planet that was inhabited but destroyed by superweapons & is torn apart visibly from orbit. It (and the star system as a whole) has 0 gameplay affects, but this big swathe of empty space devoid of gameplay surrounding a dead planet and its star system makes the rest of the setting work. The game is about sector cut off & in desperate times, on the brink of collapse -- a, not only dead but killed star system sets the stakes. If every system is either inhabited or never-colonized then it kind of kills the whole "humanity is on the brink of collapse here" thing the setting is going for bc there's no player-visible evidence of what it would look like if thinks went bad for the rest of the sector. I know there are planets there that mention that the collapse stopped them from colonizing but meeting someone in new york in the 1800's who says "I was gonna move out west but then didn't" doesn't have nearly the same emotional impact as going out west and one day stumbling upon the ruins of a town full of abandoned, rotting buildings & skeletons laying in the dust without a single soul around.
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SafariJohn

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Re: Writing Starsector
« Reply #59 on: January 16, 2021, 04:55:30 PM »

Are you talking about Hanan Pacha in the Yma system? It is still there.
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