Ideas for mission scripts and scripting system improvements?

Space Nerds in Space (of which I'm the primary author) has a mission scripting system, as does Empty Epsilon and Artemis, and they're all different, but they all have similar goals. I have come up with a few missions for my game, but I'm finding it a bit difficult to come up with compelling scenarios. Maybe some of you have some ideas, but don't have time, inclination, or knowledge to make them come to life. If you have such ideas, I'd like to hear about them, maybe I can implement some of them. Also, if you have ideas about how to improve the scripting system, esp. ideas that might lead to building things that are "more than the sum of the parts", that would be interesting to hear about as well.

Some of the problems I seem to bump into while trying to think of scenarios:

1) Space doesn't have much in the way of terrain. It's mostly wide open, well, space. Makes it hard to hide things, and a bit too easy to explore, and every bit of space tends to look pretty much just like every other bit of space.

2) The different kinds of objects the game knows about tend to be too few in number, and too similar, too generic, and too "hard coded". In general, it'd be nice if each scenario introduces something new and different and interesting for the players to discover, but once they've seen all the different things the game knows how to present, well, it's hard to come up with something very different. Maybe the answer is to go all "dwarf fortress" on the problem and just brute force manually program in metric buttloads of variety.

3) There are limited ways of conveying complex information to the player. In the scenarios I've used so far, I've either used the comms station, transmitting text to the Comms officer, or "the computer", using text to speech to convey information to the players. I also haven't necessarily solved the problem of what to do if the players miss some important information (e.g. did not hear what the computer said... maybe need to implement some sort of "repeat" feature.) I think I need to thnk of some other ways of getting complex information to the players. Maybe a way to extract ship logs from derelicts, and some other things along those lines (like what?).

Anyway, I'd be interested to read anyone's thoughts on these topics, either ideas for particular missions, or ideas about how to improve the mission scripting systems in general.


  • My thoughts on open space, classic films and books always have that hiding behind an asteroid or moon etc.

    When in space visual becomes less apparent as we all know. Then the subject having to relay on passive information and active. Epsilon has a bit with the three color rings. It's a simple effective tool for beyond the sensor range.

    I've played a few games that require passive sensors detecting radio transmissions (both comm and radar) engine flare or ignition via thermal or infared, light reflection from shiny surfaces, scanning against background of space. Active using scopes, radar/lidar etc and other satellite sensors (ee does as well with the probes an awesome feature).

    Where a slight thermal change could be a rock or a ship, it is like hide and seek on a huge scale. I'm a fan of it and mention it often
  • 1) EE's Nebula hides everything in it and behind it. But I understand your problem. I've been pondering planetary landing/exploring. Or small moons/asteroids with caves to fly in. But that doesn't fit EE very well.

    2) I think the only answer here is going all dwarf fortress (or any large Roguelike). If you really need a lot of different things. However, I don't think you need a lot of different things for a nice game where people have fun.
    People have fun on a sense of accomplishment. Discovering something new is an accomplishment. But surviving a difficult scenario is also something. Which is why combat generally works well in any game, you can improve yourself, learn more, get better equipment, and beat more of the game.
    EE works best with a game master for this reason. When I'm behind those buttons, I try to make the game so that it's challenging but not impossible. Adjusting things while people play. Nobody notices that you boosted the shields of that one enemy by 50%. Or gave an enemy extra missiles. But the do notice that they had a tough fight, and manage to pull trough (sometimes with a tiny bit of help from god). Giving them a huge sense of accomplishment.
    So instead of seeking a lot of content, seek a high sense of accomplishment for your players.

    Also, lies, big lies, and more lies. Most players will believe anything that you tell them. A ship is a trading vessel if you tell them it is, or a pirate, or anything else. The game doesn't need to make it to act or look like any of those. If you tell the players something is something, then it is. As the players will find meaning in random actions of the AI.
    Also, you could just watch all of star-trek and get inspiration from that.

    3) This was a huge problem in EE. Relay ignoring things, or clicking it quickly away because he/she was doing other things. Which is why I added the "ships log", so they can always look back at what has been said. This solved this problem quite well, so I highly recommend adding a simple comms log. Even the TTS data could be put in there, maybe with a "replay" button.
    The "Atlantis" mission also uses object descriptions to convey some information. As the objects are always there, you can always take a peek at those descriptions from science.

    Finally, this is my short note list on possible scenario ideas:

    - Asteroid/other things mining/tractor beam
    - Trading with goods (relay?)
    - Science scanning/probing of unknown goods in storage (minigame?)
    - Buying ship upgrades (relay?)
    - Escort ship/convoy
    - Assault base
    - Defend base
    - Capture enemy transport
    - Investigate anomaly
    - Steal supplies from enemy base
    - Events (see FTL)
    - Comms "on screen"
    - "Kobayashi Maru" scenario. Which you cannot lose ;-)
  • 1) Space doesn't have much in the way of terrain.
    I think it is a question of how scientificly accurate you want to be with your world. But a few things you could do to block of certain areas without being too unrelastic
    • impenetrable mine field
    • natural/artificial hazards like a strong radiation that slowly destroys the ship or kills crew
    • an overpowered enemy that attacks if the crew enters their teritory
    • a dense meteor field for obfuscation
    • nebulas as daid mentioned
    • distance: crew needs to find a jump gate / wormhole to travel to an area that is too far away to reach without it
    There are limited ways of conveying complex information to the player
    I think a mission tracker works well as a base for the "go there", "do that" type of missions. I also employed the "annoying caller" that reminds you of your duties by permanently calling in to ask about the progress for the main mission.
    ideas about how to improve the mission scripting systems in general.
    This one is really hard to answer. What I personally like is when the game itself does not stand in the way to much when it comes to scripting/modding. So the more opinionated it is – in terms of races and their interactions, how ships/people react to their environment ("AI"), core game concepts – the more you limit scripters and missions naturaly become more similar. So, for instance, if you decide how inventory management works in your game, you automatically exclude all other possibilities of how an inventory system could work. On the other hand no one wants to play a game where you can't do anything, because no limiting decisions where made. So this is the place where you would need to find balance.

    If you want to build a great API/mission scripting/moddable game there is only one rule: "Eat your own dog food".
    Use your own interfaces to write content for your game. This way you make it changeable for everyone (maybe even the core concepts) and expandable and you know it works because you are using it.
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