I’ve always been a fan of space trading games. Fly your humble ship between space colonies, buying low, selling high and battling pirates along the way. I love RPGs, especially leveling up skills and getting better equipment. I’m also really into mobile games right now, so that’s where I’m focusing my efforts. (Although the more this project develops, the more I think PC should be designed for as well.)
There are a few space traders on the Android market, including clones of some classics. But I don’t want to make a mobile clone of Elite. Most mobile users don’t have the time to master 3D spaceflight touch-controls and line up the perfect shot in a real-time battle.
But economies, that’s something I can do, something I enjoy. Supply and demand, market forces, emergent properties of complex systems.
So now I’m in the planning stages of a space trader RPG whose major feature is a persistent MMO economy. The game world will evolve with the players, because of the players. If you buy up all the food on Mirandala, the prices will go up, and other players will rush to sell food there.
And another huge decision: Prices Will Be Visible! In the other space trading games I’ve played, you’re always supposed to remember what the price of ore was on Timbukthri. Well I think in the future, you could probably have a computer do that for you. Wait, they can do it NOW?! So yeah, no more trying to remember where and what that price was… But then, if a price changes while you’re in transit, well, yes, that can happen 😉
What It Is And Is Not:
The game will involve flying a spaceship between a cluster of space colonies, trading, exploring, fighting, and smuggling. You’ll pick a starter ship and some skills to match your play style. You’ll have lots of options for how to make money, and you’ll need to, because owning a spaceship isn’t cheap.
The game won’t involve any fancy flying or twitch-based combat. Everything will be up to stats. There will certainly be PvE combat, but PvP will not be a central design point. That’s not to say that at some point there can’t be a holographic battle arena to see who has the best ship in galaxy 😉
Most of the player’s actions will take place on a star map. Tap a planet, see some options, pick an option, get a menu, etc.
The main feature of the game will be the persistent multi-player trade economy. The game universe will be the same for all players. Everyone will see the same events and shortages, and race to be the first to take advantage of changing prices.
The Next Step: Game World!
Once the design is finalized, the first thing I’ll actually program is a map editor. Most of the time, I use procedural generation for my game worlds. But since this universe needs to be the same for all players, I’ll need to create it.
Here’s an incomplete sketch of the galaxy so far:
It’s fun for me to create a hand-crafted world. There’s a trio of starter planets at the center of the map, with more dangerous worlds being further out for a steady difficulty progression. There are some asteroid fields and unexplored planets too.
But something that is really exciting is that the universe I design, once released, will be changed by the players. Depending on their actions, other planets might become more suitable as starting locations for new players, and the central world might become a haven for criminals and pirates! We’ll have to wait and see…