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Thread: Designing new gameplay

  1. #1

    Designing new gameplay

    I decided to write this post to illustrate one method of designing engaging gameplay for Elite. Whether or not Frontier will ever have the resources (specifically, key employees) to make these sort of changes to the game is debatable, but the methods here are solid, being drawn from long analysis of many game types throughout many years of the games industry.

    To start, we go right back to the absolute basics.

    At its most basic, we can answer the question “What is Elite?” with the sentence:
    Elite is a game where you fly spaceships.
    Therefore any significant additions to the gameplay of Elite must involve
    a new way to fly your spaceship, and a reason to do it.

    This fundamental statement can be used both as a starting point of creating new gameplay, and as a way of analysing whether a system or feature represents a significant addition to the gameplay.

    To describe what is meant by ways to fly your spaceship:it’s basic types of flying, like: low altitude flying, dogfighting, supercruise, docking, flying through small gaps/tunnels, cargo scooping, etc.

    To describe what is meant bya reason to do it: importantly, “for fun”, is not a reason by itself. Players having to invent and create their own fun is for sandbox games only. What’s needed is a progression-motivated reason to do it. Ideally progression would be things like naval ranks, engineer rep/materials, powerplay rank, system permits, elite ranks, and money last. It’s worth noting here the often proven concept that players will “optimise the fun out of games”, specifically in games where the player can progress by accumulation of items or advancement of ones’ character.

    Designing Gameplay

    One fun thing to do is fly fast through the ring structures that some space stations have. Unfortunately there is no progression-motivated reason to do it. In fact if you are working to progress your CMDR, you are motivated to not do this, as it wastes time in an already time consuming process.




    So, how can we make flying through these rings as quickly as possible something that has progression motivation? There needs to be some mission objective at the other end of the station. Either something to scan, or a landing pad to dock at, or something. To motivate doing it fast we can give an increased reward for quick completion of the mission.



    Another fun way to fly is fast low altitude flying, so we’d need to find a way to motivate players to fly at high speed down canyons. Instead of missions from settlements sending you on “fetch mission” involving a bunch of supercruise, how about the stuff you need to fetch or deliver is to another settlement/outpost that happens to be at the other end of a deep canyon?



    This has the problem that players will “optimise the fun out of it” by not flying down the canyon. So how could we make flying down the canyon be the best approach to the mission? Maybe there are turrets (or NPC ships) that attack you if you fly above a certain altitude? Then the canyon will definitely be the safest choice. This is just an example of how to approach the problem solving to achieve the desired gameplay, I would not consider this an example of a solved problem.



    While we’re on the topic of flying down canyons, racing missions should exist in Elite. Player created races is not good enough. They don’t involve enough of the player base, and they have no progression rewards. This is a huge wasted opportunity to add exciting gameplay to Elite.



    Often when dogfighting in RESs I have wished there were larger structures in the instance so I could fly close to them or through them in a similar way to how the CQC maps work. So what if there were some mission objectives inside the RESs the are centered on a capital ship sized object?



    In order to motivate players to get up close and personal with the structure, it would need objectives on it like turrets to destroy, things to scan, landing pads to dock with, all while under pressure from hostile NPC ships, and/or a time limit (reactor will go critical in 90 seconds… that sort of thing). Giving players a reason to fly through the structure would also be a great addition.




    It’s worth pausing here for a second to point out that there was a lot of great gameplay added to the game with CQC, but unfortunately it somewhat missed the mark when it came to the progression motivation to do it. Elite is in more ways than not an MMORPG, and having isolated instances with few rewards none of which link to the main world was probably destined to fail.

    When fighting in RESs, the asteroids are mostly just there for decoration. Only very occasionally do you have to avoid one. Deliberately flying close to the asteroids is a type of flying that the game is not encouraging you to do, it won’t help with the progression you are there for (kills, bounties). But how about we had some reasons to get close to and interact with the asteroids?



    Perhaps missions to destroy turrets on the asteroids with NPCs defending the turrets. Or shield generators on the surface that boost your shield regen. Anything that encourages a weaving-through-the-asteroids way of flying. Mission objectives on asteroids would probably work best if there were some extremely large, non-rotating asteroids to attach them to.

    Docking is a cool but hardly exciting flying skill, perhaps it would be more exciting under time pressure? Like helping to evacuate a ship outside a station.



    Increased rewards for the more people you can evacuate in a certain time, so there is incentive to dock fast and accurately.

    _______________________________

    These are just a few ideas, but hopefully you can see how it works now. You think up a really fun activity, a fun way to fly your spaceship, and then try to invent a plausible way to attach that activity to progression in the game; you design a mission for it. Currently a lot of the progression is just ferrying items from one starport to another, which means a LOT of time spent in supercruise.

    This leads on to one final point that is extremely important and would make Elite a lot more accessible, without detriment to it’s unique game world.

    Proximity

    As an example, if you look at the way one’s game time is divided when grinding to get the federal corvette in an optimised way, you might see a distribution like this:



    And there are many other unlocks throughout the game the rely equally heavily on missions, and therefore on supercruising around.

    Put simply, the mission objectives in Elite are extremely spaced out, from the mission starting point and from each other. The result is that a lot of a players’ experience of Elite is travelling from one place to another. This gives the galaxy an immense sense of scale, but nobody could argue it’s engaging gameplay. Immersive, sure, engaging, no.

    When you arrive at a station, the objectives from the missions found there should be mostly in same planetary system as the station.



    And on top of that, every single station in the galaxy should have several missions to build rep with that station that take place within the instance of the station itself. Flying through the rings of the station, evacuating nearby ships, races around the station, scanning things on the outside of the station, collecting lost cargo outside the station, etc. Even missions to kill pirates or enemy factions could sometimes take place directly outside the station; it would even make a lot of story sense if they did.

    Localised missions and an immense galaxy don’t need to be mutually exclusive. It’s all very well to argue that Elite is meant to be a slow paced space exploration game with some occasional combat, but there are a lot of players (and potential players/customers) who want to be able to make a dent in their progression in a 30 minute session, and have varied and engaging missions with which to achieve that.


  2. #2
    I wasn't sure if this was the right subforum for this. I'd like to have put it in the focused Feedback forum, but it seems the devs are only taking suggestions about the Engineers at the moment, and this is more broad than that.

    Also, the images in this post come after/below the text that describes them. Let me know if you guys find that weird and I will edit it to be more like the text is an image caption below the image.

  3. #3
    Some neat ideas in there Commander. +Rep for you!

  4. #4
    Originally Posted by Kaitsalt View Post (Source)
    I wasn't sure if this was the right subforum for this. I'd like to have put it in the focused Feedback forum, but it seems the devs are only taking suggestions about the Engineers at the moment, and this is more broad than that.
    You are correct, the Focused Feedback forums are for... feedback focused on a specific aspect of the game. It's Engineers at the moment.

  5. #5
    Excellent post, liking the ideas you have.

  6. #6
    Not sure about the premise but i like the ideas anyway.

  7. #7
    Some good ideas here.
    You need a job at frontier developments. Have a rep!

  8. #8
    Originally Posted by Eidolon-One View Post (Source)
    You need a job at frontier developments. Have a rep!
    What's your C++ like?

    Joking aside - are nice ideas. Your first one, about having a reason to fly to the back of the station, reminds me of the megaships (Beyond Chapter One, livestream 2) and it was actually stated then that it opened up possibilities for putting bays in other locations. I think you found one!

    Repped - if nothing else, for the effort you've made on some great graphics.

  9. #9
    Nice ideas there +1 rep

  10. #10
    I was expecting another Armchair developer to be telling us exactly how easy it it would be for them to fix the games in 20 minutes because Fdev are stupid.

    But was pleasantly surprised that you've put together some nice concepts and ideas for how things could be better without saying "this would be easy to code" or "fdev haven't done this because they hate fun and hate you"

    Rep for a well thought out post.

    It did make me think how you could improve things like travel and I could see this being a good addition to SRV gameplay delivering things around one of the massive bases in your SRV could be a fun addition to the game that could serve to gain rep with the factions or maybe driving between bases because your ship has been impounded or something.

    I hope some of these are taken on board

  11. #11
    Some truly excellent ideas there Kaitsalt, I've added this thread to the Trending section of my "Best of forum" sticky thread.

    Edit: while we wait for FD to put these brilliant suggestions into practice can I direct people to my signature banner which is the latest race from the Buckyball Racing Club - starts on Saturday!

  12. #12
    Nothing to say except

    rep +1

  13. #13
    Originally Posted by Lordxenu View Post (Source)
    I was expecting another Armchair developer to be telling us exactly how easy it it would be for them to fix the games in 20 minutes because Fdev are stupid.

    But was pleasantly surprised that you've put together some nice concepts and ideas for how things could be better without saying "this would be easy to code" or "fdev haven't done this because they hate fun and hate you"
    Thanks. It's all been brewing in my mind for a while. It certainly wouldn't be easy to code, but I think what would be a bigger hurdle to overcome is that Frontier don't appear to have any mission designers that think along the lines of this post.

  14. #14
    +1 for some good ideas.
    With this season or chapters supposedly focused on core-gameplay (and maybe 2019 some of those updates as well), we can hope FD are looking at things like this and ways to get emergent gameplay to be a thing.

    So many good ideas about combat zones and wars have been posted, about integrating PP into the BGS, etc. as well as the core professions.

    I surely hope there are no new features like PP or CQC or multi-crew and FD "stick to the knitting" until the knitting is widely regarded as done or good enough.

  15. #15
    Very cool ideas. If the missions were like this, the game might actually be as exciting as the trailers. :-)

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