Monday, 14 April 2014

Veure Combat

Your Main Character Screen
In my post about the Veure roadmap, I mentioned that combat was one of the features to be added.  I had estimated that it would take about 2 weeks to get done, but my initial merge of the combat code took 35 hours. Not only did I get it done in half the time, it required that I add:
  • Cloning Vats
  • Brigs
  • Sick bays
In short, in just a week, I finished several weeks worth of work. That being said, this is a type of programming that is hard in a different sense from what many developers are used to.

Combat, in games like this which permit combat, is critical. If your 1st level character who signed up yesterday and found a BFG can kill a 50th level character who's been zipping around the galaxy for a couple of years, players are going to be unhappy, even if it's realist that a skinny 15 year-old can kill a trained soldier by putting a gun to his head. Sacrifices for game play are required.

There's also the issue of character death: if it's permanent, why would someone come back? If it has no consequences, why bother to play?

Veure solves this in a couple of ways. First, if you're on a station with a sick bay, no matter how much damage you have taken, the Sufficiently Advanced Technology will revive you, though you'll be held in sick bay until the doctor's OK your release.

Well, that's creepy.
If you're on a station without a sick bay, then you're in trouble. You'll need to remember to go to cloning stations and gestate new clones from time to time. If you are killed, you revert back to your last clone, your stats at the time of that clone, and lose possessions you're carrying (you will always have a basic clone with your original stats, but that could be a long way to fall). In terms of game play, you'll quickly find out why you don't want to gestate your latest clone on a station without a sick bay.

Of course, different stations have different attitudes towards law and watchfulness. If you attack anyone on Lost Dreams Station in the Sol System you'll instantly be tossed in the brig. However, for other stations, they may not be monitoring you too closely, meaning that if you start a fight, you might get away with it. Of course, if you get caught and they are a very strict station, you'll spend more time in the brig.

But who can you attack? That's just the start of where it gets complicated. For example, you might think "you can only attack characters who are in the same area as yourself." OK, that sounds reasonable, but it's not enough and if you get the code wrong you ruin the game. For example, can you attack someone if you're confined to the brig? If they're confined to the brig? If both are confined to the brig? Can you attack yourself? If you're both in the space station's port but they've just boarded their ship, can you attack them?

Oops. Got tossed in the brig (note the background).
The answer to most of these questions is "no", but it might not always be the case. If you have sufficient hacking skills, can you override the airlock on someone's ship, get in and attack them anyway? (hello, Jubal Early)

Some of these issues have to be coded by hand and other issues can be emergent behavior from a cleverly designed system.

In any event, the first pass of combat is now working and merged into the main branch of the code. It also had the side effect of forcing me to develop several other features I had been putting off until later (in particular, the cloning vats were planned for the beta but they couldn't be avoided).

So here's an interesting question I'd like people to ponder: what downsides to more "watchful" stations should there be?

The name "Veure" is from the Catalan verb "to see." Originally I had planned to have a galaxy where different stations would have different levels of "law" and different levels of watchfulness. I thought it would be interesting for people to see the tradeoff between always being under observation and the freedom to do what they will. Much of that has been put aside due to unworkable issues in game play, but for now, the main benefit of the "watchful" stations is that they're safer to be on (though the higher the character's level, the easier it is for them to attack you without getting tossed in the brig).

So what upsides and downsides would make interesting game mechanics here?

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