Monday, November 7, 2011

In Profunds ideas: Flags

So here's something big that I'm playing around with....

In Profundis gives you a limited inventory for carrying around equipment. You tend to use up resources while you're exploring the game world, placing pitons, hanging ropes, and so on. Eventually you have to travel back to base and resupply.

A concern that I have for the game is that this travel back and forth, between base and the frontier of exploration, could get annoying, or worse, boring. But the resource and time costs of getting around the game world are the primary obstacle to exploration. How do I reconcile the two?

My idea is a special inventory item: flags.

After you explore for a while and figure it's time to return to base to resupply/get some rest/buy new stuff, what you can do is plant a flag at a place you'd like to return to later.

After this is done, the challenge is this: return to base without using any other items in your inventory, in order to "establish" the flag. It's like a mini-game in a way. It is okay to use items you've already placed, so you can sort of pave the way for your return trip. If you're forced to use an inventory item the only thing lost is the establishment run. In that case the flag remains where it is, and you can try it again just by returning to it.

The reason this has to be done is because the game is recording how long it takes the player to do it, in order to figure out a realistic travel time, and using resources along the way that might not be available later would spoil the experiment. (It's possible that this might just be "shallow travel" equipment, like jetpacks, rather than things that change the game world to make it easier to traverse, like pitons and spanners.)

After you've established the route, you can later "instantly" warp between base and the flag. Instantly is in quotes because this is only immediate to the player -- the game clock is set ahead by the amount of time it took to make the trip. Since the expedition is charged rocketship rental by the amount of time spent on the planet, this is a substantive cost, but it's your character who has to pay it, not you. The character is still making the trip, in effect, on autopilot. (In fact, I'd like there to be a "montage" of still shots of the trip, that takes a few seconds to play out, whenever warping.)

Continuity of the game world is very important I think. The problem with teleporters is that they basically make a mockery of the spatial extent of the world. I consider this bad because, as the player makes longer and longer expeditions, the increasing time required to get from base to the exploration frontier is, itself, an increase in difficulty. Exploring the other side of the map takes more time, which incurs more spaceship rental costs, which means the player can't afford to waste as much time.

Some of you are no doubt reading this and thinking something along the lines of: WTF? I think I can understand that. But I look at it this way: I've played hundreds, if not thousands, of video and computer games, and I've never known a game to do something like this. Maybe there's a reason for that. But it's a very interesting game mechanic to think about, and I think that will transfer to play. What do you think?


  1. This is actually a really intriguing idea...A good compromise between realism and convenience. I think it's certainly worth trying to see how it works in actual play.

  2. It sounds like a very good idea indeed! Gameplay-wise it seems perfect, really the ideal solution to the problem. And the montage-type transition would be pretty nice. I wonder how hard this is to implement, but it sounds great anyway.

  3. The montage can be handled by simply sampling player coordinates while timing the trip, and saving a few of them when the trip is successful. Then, just show the player at the locations for a couple of seconds each. Store the coordinates in a data structure tied to the flag tool.

  4. It's a great idea. Go for it. :)

  5. Why not allow construction of some kind of forward supply base? It could provide some basic amenities and storage and thereby eliminate the majority of trips back home. Any significant operations might still require a trek back, and the base itself might incur some kind of upkeep cost while operational.
    Just an alternate thought :) I like the flag idea too.

  6. That's a neat idea! It made me think of a “Record” button that lets you record a path and a “Play” button that lets you replay it.

    Gameplay wise, I think you're helping to keep the novelty-per-minute metric high. The first time you go back to base, there's novelty there. The second time there's probably still some novelty. But after a few times, the novelty decreases and the minutes stay the same. Your approach improves novelty-per-minute for later runs by decreasing the minutes.

    Vaguely related: in programming, there's the Rule of Three ( The first few times you do something, it's new and different; then it becomes a pattern that you should abstract out so that you don't have to do it again.

  7. In fact, advance bases are also planned, at least in the sense of items you leave in the wold stay put until you return for them.

  8. Definitely something to prototype and test out !

  9. "(In fact, I'd like there to be a "montage" of still shots of the trip, that takes a few seconds to play out, whenever warping.)"

    This sounds really neat and I'm looking forward to seeing how that plays out.

    Overall, I think the idea is good for a simulation game.

    Following up on Amit's comment though, some people may not mind the trip. In other exploration games, finding my way back to the base is a really satisfying experience. I'd love it if this idea would allow the player to actually make the trip back to base (or back to the flag) themselves in an attempt to decrease the automatic travel time (since eventually, it will almost certainly get boring).

    Also, I didn't read this above, but I wonder if you could simulate some sort of 'variability' effect in the auto-travel. The more times you make a particular trip, the faster you can make the auto-travel.