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

Gratuitous Campaign

In amongst everything else, work continues on the campaign mode for a future expansion / game / whatever for GSB.

Here is what the map currently looks like (very work-in-progress).

Originally I had planned to just string together a bunch of scenarios (new ones) and have them play out like a very simple singleplayer campaign. The big difference, and what made this worth playing, was that you kept the same fleet, so for the first time you had to design fleets that were all-rounders, rather than tailored to a specific enemy. This would make the game more strategic, and elss trial-and-error, and would be l33t. I still like this, and I’m keeping it.

However, for whatever reason I started thinking bigger than that and I am increasingly linking in the online challenges with the campaign. Now the map is entirely online-integrated. What this means is as follows:

You grab your fleet and move it to planet X. The game tells the server that you have moved to planet X, and it sifts through a list of all possible enemy fleets it has stored that will provide a decent challenge for your current fleet, and one is selected for you. That fleet, together with its orders and deployment gets downloaded and becomes your enemy at planet X. That fleet *might* have been designed by me, or it may have been a fleet extracted from an existing online challenge. In other words, you are playing against someones challenge fleet. (If you dont have expansion pack races, they won’t show up, you will get vanilla enemies.)

That fleet might out-gun you, or maybe you just aren’t equipped to fight against it for whatever reason. If so, you can retreat, and choose a different path. Here is where it gets fun:

if you decide to go back and fight that planet X challenge again, the server remembers, and YOU get the same enemy again. there is no going-around them if you want to go to planet X. Not for 24 hours. Then, then server ‘forgets’ who was there, and you may get a different fleet if you try again. Thats 24 hours in the real world. As in, come back tomorrow.

Everyones fleets will be different, and people will be at different skill levels, so the fleets are not persistent across everyone. Every player has a unique view on the world, its just that the fleets they encounter are player designed.  I’m trying to design this to be ‘massively singeplayer online’, in that you are playing a changing, dynamic, partly player-populated world, but without the direct competition or griefing that can ruin most MMOs.

All of this stuff is in and working. It’s the other 99% I still need to code :D. I have grand plans for the ‘point’ of the campaign game. I want a freeform universe for you to explore and conquer with your fleet, and need to add some capabilities to different worlds to encourage you to move your fleet around. Plus achievements and so on. There is a ton to do, I want it to be l33t. In the meantime, there will be another new race coming to the game.

Yoru thoughts on how this stuff will work, are most welcome.

16 thoughts on Gratuitous Campaign

  1. I really like this idea, the only thing that I think needs clarification is the 24 hour countdown. When does this countdown begin from? The first time I play against that fleet or the most recent time?
    If I can play this game between 5 and 7pm every day, will I still get the same fleet to fight the next day because only 22 hours had passed since I last played?

    You don’t mention this, but I think that automatically feeding in enemy fleets from whichever races you have access to is a fantastic way to get more downloads. I avoided buying the order pack for a while because I was already aware it doesn’t really fit in with the way I kit out my force but adding them in as a different enemy is a good incentive to pick up the expansions whether you plan to use them or not.

  2. I love this idea. GSB in on my “to-play list” and though I have bought the expansions. However, I have postponed playing through it exactly because I feel the whole thing is very much trial-and-error, for which feedback is slowly given back through the battle simulation. However, this campaign mode gives a wholly different feeling to the game, as you try to make your way throughout the galaxy by taking on fleets that you think you can beat.

    My question: will the existing single-player get integrated into some really-single-player campaign, or will the campaign mode be reserved to dynamically downloaded challenge fleets? In the former case, assigning single-player fleets to fixed star systems yield some narrative to the sequence of battles, the sort of which I enjoy as I make up some space-opera story in my mind. It also allows to choose paths, and therefore lends some nonlinearity in the single-player game progression. I will pay for the expansion either way, but putting the single-player levels in a campaign will also bump up the game on my to-play list.

  3. Will damage and casualties inflicted on your fleet be carried through between battles? If it does that seems to quickly lead to a “the only victory is one where you don’t lose a man/woman/robot” situation.

  4. damage does, but non-destroyed ships can be repaired. Plus I’m toying with the idea of certain planets having shipbuilding facilities too.
    The enemy fleets scale to match your current fleet, so you wont end up with a single ship and unable to beat any enemies.

  5. Sounds great except for the 24hr timer, and I’d also like to know how resupply of ships will work.

    Like if I hit a fleet that I find interesting, but overwhelming, am I just going to have to go around or wait for it to cycle out, meaning I never have a chance of actually trying to overcome that fleet ever? Or I can’t say “cool, I’ll just grab some extra to outfit my ships with and come back when I have time tomorrow” because I can’t buy new weapons or face the same challenge tomorrow?

    I’m not saying it’s be some terrible deal breaker, I’m just saying that it strikes me as not that great.

  6. One feature that could be really cool is if the person who designed the fleet you are fighting was able to see the results – so when you fight Bob’s fleet in the single player game, Bob can log in and see the fleet that fought / retreated from his fleet.

    Not sure if that’s in the works for your campaign already, but it wasn’t specifically mentioned. Also, there might be the beginnings of an alternate campaign in there based on setting up the “defenses” of a particular star system and letting them fight while you are at work, then come home and see how you’re doing and make adjustments.

    Also, I love that you post this kind of stuff here. Makes for really interesting reading.

  7. I like this. A longer scale challenge is just what’s called for, in my opinion.

    In practice, I suspect there may be balance difficulties if the planetary fleets can be specialised, but you have to fight them with a generalised fleet…

  8. This mode looks awesome, and it will definitely get me back into playing the game. And I might have to pick up the expansions so I can have a little more enemy variety.

  9. It’s really great that you’re putting in a single player campaign. I’ve been waiting for this. I’m not self-motivated enough to have a use for sandboxy things. I need to have a reason to get going. Finally my investment in your ongoing work with the game will start to pay play dividends for players like me.

  10. You could get some simple/basic ideas from the game “Flotilla”, the unlock system in that game is a little addictive. I guess in GSB you will have a credit system where you will unlock new toys.

    Everyonce in a while you could be receiving attacks from the “Server”, you could leave a fleet orbiting a planet for defense propourses and have the system choose a random challenge, that could be attacker.

    Don’t know if that’s possible or is within your purpose with the campaing.

  11. any chance we could see Admirals with their own effects to their flagships and fleetwide bonuses


    I still think away-team/redshirt crew decks for boarding or Pilot quaters for extra fighter pilots would be cool.

    But this SP thingy looks v.good.

    Check out the Sins Plus mod for SOASE about planetary bonuses based on planet type.

    for example high tourisim or capital city planets would give crew or credit bonuses, or spaship graveyards for parts

    oh ..

    the scope for ideas, upgrades ect, yet alone the refinement to orders/fighter mechanics and repairs and other weps means this game is going to get better and better.

  12. That’s excellent! In fact, it’s quite similar to the suggestion I made a month and a bit ago. Traveling across the galaxy with a persistent fleet.

    HOWEVER! Currently challenges require a specific fleet size for each. So the player will have to resize his fleet for every engagement? And what about challenges that have supply limits? It would ruin the gameplay to carefully design your persistent fleet to find that you can’t use it due to player imposed supply limits. No shields, no armour, no weapons except for one type etc, all in one challenge would make a farce of the game mode.

    Wouldn’t it be better to randomly encounter other players’ persistent fleets as you travel? If the game uploads snapshots of the fleet every so often, then the player may encounter damaged fleets, early game fleets, late game fleets. All of which are tailored to the game mode. Then add a general modifier like ‘-10% hit points’ to the enemy fleet based on the player’s current progress through the campaign. Thus your very first battle at the start of the campaign could be ‘-50% Hit points and -50% damage’ modifier on the enemy fleet. That would make for a very easy battle to start the player off.

  13. This is very similar to what I am doing. As well as extracting fleets from existing challenegs, the campaign also uploads your current fleet from the campaign for use as other peoples enemies.
    Supply limits are not being used in the campaign at the moment, although that may change as it gets more involved. What I am doing is resizing the battle to match the enemy fleets deployment, which works pretty well.

    There is a ton of work to do to get it right, but I’d rather take another 3-6 months on this and make it good than rush it out.

  14. 1. Worlds
    Each world could be defended by race specific fleets, gives it a territorial feel. Stringing racial territory together will give a map.

    2. Play balance
    That point about generalized attackers vs specialized defenders is a good one. As an attacker I’d need to expect anything across multiple challenges and pay the price for failure. As a defender I can deploy anything (garbage or gold) for a single fight, consequence free.

    Defender challenge fleets should be drawn from attacker fleets?

    Depending on how far you take balance, attacker and defender fleets should be matched on win/loss record as well as fleet size? Slight advantage being given to the defender selection on both scores (goal being a challenged attacker).

    This has got me very excited!

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