Game Design, Programming and running a one-man games business…


This is the current challenge list screen (click to enlarge). It’s not exactly an MMO quality on-line browser, but it’s what there is right now, at this beta stage of the game. (BTW I’m aiming for pre+orders + beta for pre-order customers as of next Monday).

There are basically 3 types of challenge. Automatic ones, open to all, which get uploaded whenever you beat an AI fleet from the game (these come from ‘auto’), open challenges where a player has posted up an open invite to beat their fleet (sent to ‘all’) or personal challenges sent to another GSB player by username.

Only the target player will see personal challenges you upload. I’d imagine 90% of challenges people play will be the personal or ‘all’ ones, the auto ones are just there to ensure some challenge population is available. I will also be developing some kickass fleets for you all to lose against :D

The browser downloads a list of all the challenges, and you can then filter them using those top buttons. Every time you attempt to fight against a challenge, the ‘Attempts’ is incremented globally. Every time you beat a challenge, it’s ‘Victory’ will go up. You click the download button to grab the challenge from the server and play against it. From then on, that challenge is a local downloaded one you can revisit easily.

I haven’t done the code yet that means only one victory per challenge, per person can happen… must do that!

I must also add a button to only show *your* challenges, so you can check on how many attempts your fleet has had, and how many people have beaten it. Ideally there would be TONS of community based features like this, it really does depend how well the game does, and if people enjoy this sort of thing. The minute there are some pre-order buyers playing the game, I’ll have a decent idea as to where to direct my energy in terms of development.


27 thoughts on Challenge!

  1. I would suggest you consider some kind of rating system, or some other way to filter well thought out and interesting challenges from 10,000 half arsed attempts. One thing i’ve noticed in the past is that pretty much any gaming community produces a very low signal to noise ratio whenever they have the chance to be ‘creative’.

    And also, if there’s any way (no matter how complicated or arcane) that you can arrange a battlefleet to spell out the word ‘penis’ then you can guarantee that some wag will do it. Repeatedly. LOL PENIS LOL.

    And obviously the larger your community becomes the worse the problem gets. So obviously you kind of *want* this to be a problem. But you need a way to keep the list usable.

  2. Yes this is so true. tbh, I’m not really going to even take part in that war against players typing rude words. Ultimately, I can just go and delete / freeze the account of any bright spark who abuses it like that, so there isn’t much incentive to do so. You can’t upload a challenge without a valid serial number for the game, so I assume it shouldn’t be a common problem.

    The filtering is definitely something that will become necessary, but it’s also something I can work on once everything else works fine, and I have real people playing the game. It would be really good to get player feedback and suggestions having a big influence on the design of that side of things.

  3. to be able to browse other challenges a specific person’s done – to see other good fleets like you just killed, to see their record of win/lose, if you can – a ‘hardness’ where the algorithm takes a mix of player-rankings and how fast they beat a challenge to determine its hardness.
    obviously the rating system – might be worth smearing that over author/fleet so if someone whos fleets *everyone* fights comes out with a new one – it’s relatively well ranked to start with.

  4. As a method of filtering, how about a method of community-based feedback filtering?
    Example: Have 2 buttons available on each fleet, “rate as cool” and “rate as junk”. If a fleet has more junk ratings than cool ratings, or some other ratio, remove it from the global list.

  5. A quick question: is it possible to design challenges exclusively for offline single-player? Does the game *require* a net connection, or can you play it offline, and get new challenges in some offline way without updating any online ratings?

  6. you need to download the challenges, and the game will try and update the status of those challenges when you play them or beat them, but you could theoretically download them, disconnect and play against them offline. The game will not record your victories that way, but you can always save a victorious fleet and cross your fingers that it wins again next time you are online :D

  7. hmmm. i was hoping there’d be an “upload challenge results” button – for those who play on laptops while travelling for example. if it’s not network-mediated while playing, does it matter whether the result is uploaded when the last missile hits, or an hour later when you’re back home?

  8. Aside from the quality filtering, it might also be useful to be able to sort by difficulty (i.e. win/loss attempt ratio), fleet size/cost (sometimes you want an epic battle, sometimes just a quick blast).

    It might also be good to be given more info on the fleet before you download/play, e.g. click on the entry and expands slightly to show some idea of fleet composition, i.e. how many of each ship class there are, what race is used, more detailed notes provided by the creator etc.

    Another thought, how about fleets to the fleets that beat them? So if someone else has beaten a fleet that youve created (or just beaten yourself) then you can easily challenge *that* fleet. And then play a fleet that has already beaten *that*. Kind of like how you start reading a wikipedia article about 8086 assembly language and a couple of links later youre reading about spanish architechture with no idea how you got there.

    One other thing, when you upload a fleet, will there be some way to limit what other players can bring to the fight? Some things that spring to mind: total cost of the fleet, limits of numbers of each ship class, excluding certain techs and weapons. Might allow you to make up some intersting challenges, and force people out of their ‘safety zone’ if they have a preference for certain fleet compositions.

  9. Edit: sorry, that 3rd para above should read “how about *linking* fleets to the fleets that beat them”

  10. I actually really like daveybaby’s linking idea. I think it could really help people find the really good fleets that haven’t risen to prominence. I don’t know how hard it would be to implement, but ideas like this which allow you in some limited degree directly query the “victory graph” seem to me to be a good idea.

  11. Was wondering if theres any kind of chat or messaging functions built in. So if you like someones fleet you can congratulate them or something. Also something like the Spore system where you can subscribe to particular peoples fleets or compilations of fleets and then be notified or have them downloaded automatically would be good too.

    Also apologies for being of topic but is it possible to instal the game onto more than one computer without paying twice?

  12. I think daveybaby’s suggestion about customizable match conditions is SUPER important. Everyone will have a different opinion about what weapons and defense conditions will cause a strategic battle. Some people will want battles with full on shields and sci-fi whatchamahoozits, some …eh, might not. :)

    This might especially help if there *happen* to be any gameplay imbalances, players will be able to filter out weapons that you may have (intentionally or unintentionally) created to be too powerful.

  13. It would be truly awesome to have a system where people could configure a challenge that disabled certain weapons if they became unbalanced or annoying. This is something on my ‘would be nice’ list,. alongside 500 other things.
    I really hope this game does well enough to justify me just keeping working on it and improving it, because there is a lot of potential with that stuff.

  14. There are a couple of things that we will assume are standard. We will want a “friends” list, so we can tag our friends/favorite challengers, then expect a pop-up when someone on our friend list posts a challenge. On the opposite side of the coin, a ban list, to block people who DO spell PENIS.

    A “rating” for each challenge would be very helpful, then we could say filter “I only want to see challenges with a rating of 3 or above.” Don’t let the rating show until it has 100 ratings, otherwise a single bad rating early on blocks it for everyone.

    I am assuming that we will be able to set custom rules for our challenges. “You don’t get to use shields” or “all your ships start at 50% health” or “You only have half the money of the other guy.” More specific rules would also be neat, but probably hard to do unless you write an editor. “Laser weapons have a 50% chance to misfire, and when they do they have a small chance of damaging you.” or “Missiles move at double speed.” or “Every 30 seconds, all your ships shut down for 5 seconds.” could make it interesting.

    Do a leaderboard. I don’t care about leaderboards, but they are practically expected by now. Give people points for defeating a challenge based on how hard it is, so the people who beat the hardest challenges are on top instead of the people who beat a million easy ones.

    One last one: Chaining challenges. Is this possible? For example, I write a scenario where you have to fight 5 consecutive waves of ships. It takes your ships from the end of the first wave and imports them into the second, so you dont get a chance to repair/rearm etc.

  15. These things you assume ‘as standard’ are standard on triple-A games that take 100 people 3 years to make and sell for $50.
    I’ll do my best, but this isn’t an MMO! There is one programmer doing EVERYTHING. It’s not vaguely possible to do all the stuff people have in starcraft or steam, and release the game before 2011.

  16. A friends list would be cool, since I’ll probably be using the challenge system mostly for private battles between me and my friends.

    Leaderboards are pointless. I always look at the leaders with more pity than admiration. And if they rub their score in during a battle I just get pissed off.

    I don’t care much for rating systems. In any game I have played where a ratings system for user content was implemented, it has, with alarming frequency, been abused to hell.

    Difficulty, as suggested before, would probably be good enough if you just had a total win/loss ratio.

    Fleet size and/or composition info would be good too. As with the poster before I also like to know how big of a ****storm I’m getting into. ;)

    Weapon disabling could simply be done through encouragement in the description.
    Aka. “… blah blah blah and for an added challenge/fun try it without [name here] module/weapon blah blah blah…”

    Anyone who cares enough to try such specialized challenges would *probably* do it, and anyone who doesn’t care enough would *probably* get fed up with it a couple tries in if you enforced it using code anyway (or simply avoid it.)

    ~ simpleDvorak()

  17. will it also be possible to export a challenge into a file – which’ll contain the challenge, a record of attempts on it, a copy of any winning fleets etc. so then you could email/sneakernet challenges to people?

    (just been in the middle of somerset with about 15 friends playing lan games for a week – which is why the thought [no internets])

    this’d also allow people to have their own website with their good challenges – instead of trying to somehow describe the set of filters you need to find it.

  18. How dare you announce the price but you dont let us buy a pre-order! Shame on you and your teasing! :P

  19. so is this going to use some kind of points-based system for fleets, a la warhammer/40k? so that there is some way to guage the strength of a fleet and match them appropriately? im still not entirely clear on how that part works… do all fleets operate under the same arbitrary cap?

    sorry if this was covered in an earlier blog post, i try to keep up with them all but im sure ive missed some…

  20. I’d suggest making the data available over HTTP to people making GET requests (ie REST for read). This lets people repurpose the data for interesting things, and process it in interesting ways.

    You’ll find that excited users do a much better job of presenting the data than you have time to do. :)

  21. I second David Dunwoody’s suggestion… I may be motivated enough to contribute with some tracking website/app if such an API is available.

  22. i third the suggestion… id be down for contributing some coding effort to the cause…

  23. These things you assume ‘as standard’ are standard on triple-A games that take 100 people 3 years to make and sell for $50.

    Of course you can’t do all of them. I am just stating what people will expect. People are more apt to complain than they are to praise, so when the game comes out (for real, not for the frothing pre-orderers like us who want in on the beta) I think people will be likely to say “what, no friends list? LAME”. Then someone else who was going to buy the game sees that post on a message board, and doesn’t buy it.

    I could care less about a leaderboard. Any kind of customizability you could give us for challenges would be appreciated. I am the kind of guy that messes with the editor, so the ability to say “No lasers in this challenge” makes me happy. If the game does not have a friends list, I will not recommend it to friends, because I don’t want to have to do a search every time I want to talk to my buddy. I will still buy it.

  24. Some of your other games are on Stardock’s Impulse store, will GSB be on Impulse as well? If it is then you have my $20 when the pre-order shows up!^_^

  25. Here’s a recent comment from cliffski on Twitter:

    “stardock, gamersgate, direct2drive. Thats three. Three is a good number. Plus direct of course, direct is best.”

    I think that means that GSB should come out on Impulse.

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