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  #1  
Old 06-25-2012, 05:51 PM
Bluddy Bluddy is offline
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Default Why parts of Drox feel more like a toy

The 4x parts of Drox currently feel more like a toy to me than a game. Why is that? The easiest way to illustrate it is by referring to DC and DoP. Imagine you were playing DC, but the losing condition was removed. If you lost the town (or the 3 major quest givers, to be precise), you could just wait around until new quest-givers showed up, and you could always win, even with an empty town. What would this little change do? I would cause you not to care about the quests anymore. You could play around and try to have the Bosses demolish the town, see what happens when a town is destroyed (ie. experiment), but you wouldn't care about it, and it would quickly stop to be as engaging.

In DoP's case, imagine that losing your covenant didn't cause you to lose the game -- you'd just switch into the role of another one of the playing covenants. You could play to your heart's content with the system with no danger of losing. It would become a sandbox, but your level of engagement would decrease dramatically.

And that's what's happening in Drox. Both the victory and loss conditions, as minor as they seem, create a game where experimentation rules, but engagement is much lower than in the previous games. In a game, each layer or mechanic (or game atom, in Raph Koster's theory) needs to challenge the player. The more game atoms you have in parallel, the 'deeper' a game seems. Drox has the fighting atom of ARGPS, it has the loot atom, but the 4x atom from DoP, albeit more developed, is currently oriented not so much towards challenging the player as much as giving the player a free area in which to experiment. It doesn't matter which faction wins and which loses, or what exactly the quest system generates. All of this stuff is just a playground for your experimentation (and it's also a playground that tends to drag on for too long given the victory conditions). The only time you need to worry is if you have no allies, and that's a situation that's rare and generally easy to rectify.

While there's nothing wrong with allowing experimentation, I really feel more could be done to make the 4x more of a challenge (and a game) rather than a toy. The main idea I've though of so far is to make some kind of Drox base -- perhaps one which moves automatically (to mine asteroids or for whatever reason). You'd be tasked with defending this base, and you'd be dependent on the races currently in the sector to help you protect it. Loyalty to your most important clients would also be a good way to make the 4x and quest system have more 'teeth'.
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  #2  
Old 06-25-2012, 07:28 PM
Valgor Valgor is offline
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I don't really like the idea of having a tangible base. Instead, what about having the player's progress towards stable conditions within a sector evaluated by their superiors in regular intervals,
similar to the monthly council reports in X-Com? They'd look at a player's achievements, their standing with all active races and the general state of affairs (unrest, emergencies, wars, etc.)
and then give a rating. If the player's performance doesn't meet their expectations, they'd issue a warning. Should the player fail to improve, the sector is lost.
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  #3  
Old 06-25-2012, 08:53 PM
Flim Flim is offline
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I find that I lack any drive in this game as well. Both in development of ship and in victory condition. I don't have much sense of gaining power or strength/progress because my success is so wrapped up in farming relation. If the game is not centered around me and is instead around hinging on how an AI or multiple AI's perceive me the game can only be as engaging as the complexity of the AI. Not necessarily well explained but I don't feel like I'm playing for myself.

Along what you two were saying, instead of a tangible and fixed asset to defend or report card I have another idea.

In the relations screen and similar to DoP there are faction strength meters representing regional power balance. Drox currently is not on there for obvious reasons. Giving us one could be the non fixed yet perceivable quantification of success and relative strength or bargaining power within the sector.

Call it our Reputation or leave it as "power" or whatever it is labelled now. For Drox is represents the regions faction's view and respect for Drox Operatives power and influence. There are a number of ways it could be tied in and or explained. The more times a faction declares "war" on you or comes after you without repercussion could reduce your standing. Every quest and faction job you do could reinforce the sectors awareness that yes, the Drox Operatives are a player within this sector etc..

Again not really well flushed out explanation but I don't have time atm. As it stands I hope there are a couple fundamental changes coming and this is something that I agree should be rethought.
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  #4  
Old 06-25-2012, 09:20 PM
Bluddy Bluddy is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Flim View Post
I find that I lack any drive in this game as well. Both in development of ship and in victory condition. I don't have much sense of gaining power or strength/progress because my success is so wrapped up in farming relation. If the game is not centered around me and is instead around hinging on how an AI or multiple AI's perceive me the game can only be as engaging as the complexity of the AI. Not necessarily well explained but I don't feel like I'm playing for myself.

Along what you two were saying, instead of a tangible and fixed asset to defend or report card I have another idea.

In the relations screen and similar to DoP there are faction strength meters representing regional power balance. Drox currently is not on there for obvious reasons. Giving us one could be the non fixed yet perceivable quantification of success and relative strength or bargaining power within the sector.

Call it our Reputation or leave it as "power" or whatever it is labelled now. For Drox is represents the regions faction's view and respect for Drox Operatives power and influence. There are a number of ways it could be tied in and or explained. The more times a faction declares "war" on you or comes after you without repercussion could reduce your standing. Every quest and faction job you do could reinforce the sectors awareness that yes, the Drox Operatives are a player within this sector etc..

Again not really well flushed out explanation but I don't have time atm. As it stands I hope there are a couple fundamental changes coming and this is something that I agree should be rethought.
Interestingly, I was going to post something along the same lines.

I keep coming back to the point that the Drox are mercenaries. What matters to mercenaries? Money and... their reputation. If you don't have your reputation, you have nothing. I've struggled with various ideas of how to handle this concept of reputation, and I think I'm coming up with some ideas that are converging. This would be, as you say, a global reputation in the sector. The Drox live and die by their reputation. High reputation allows them to be offered the most exclusive contracts -- races will trust them with anything, including espionage and their own welfare (defend against attacks). Low reputation is the end of the Drox. They'd be offered only menial jobs and races will start declaring war on them since they seem so weak -- even allied races.

So how should this reputation be gained/lost? The model of quests from DC and DoP doesn't really allow for this to work. In DC, all quests are optional. Failing a quest is not a huge deal from a 'contract' point of view, because failing a quest in itself has severe repercussions. Fail to kill the boss, and he'll spawn uprisings etc. But the natural consequences of failing quests doesn't have much impact on a mercenary who's not involved in the action. At the same time, if you fail a quest in DC, there's often a reputation penalty, because you failed to uphold your duty towards the town. That's not really fair to do in Drox -- there are too many quests to handle them all in time, and you're not really tasked with the protection of any particular race.

So what we need instead is for quests to be non-optional. This would really be breaking away from the previous games and going for a different experience. When you take a quest upon yourself, you really take it upon yourself. You're committing to finish that quest. If you fail, your global reputation, as well as your relationship with the race you disappointed, suffers, not to mention the fact that you don't get paid.

This changes the dynamic of the game significantly. You have to filter through the quests for those you're certain you can do, or for the most profitable quests (that also earn you the most reputation). If you mess up, it's on your head. This is much more like what being a mercenary would be like.

Additionally, once you have an alliance, it has real meaning. If your ally has a big job for you, he doesn't expect you to say no. Alliances mean forging a strong bond with another race, and as part of that bond, you don't get to say no. So if the ally tells you that you need to destroy a boss -- you better destroy that boss, or your relation and reputation will suffer severely.

What this means is that maintaining more than one alliance is really difficult for the Drox. Alliance is something the Drox love to have, because they get the best, most lucrative jobs, but it's also a commitment.

This setup suggests different losing and victory conditions. A victory would be reaching a certain reputation level (say 10) or reaching level 9 with one alliance, or reaching level 7 with two alliances or more. Loss is now very simple: it's the result of reaching reputation level 0, or being at war with every race. Mess up enough times, and you'll reach that reputation level pretty quickly.

Last edited by Bluddy : 06-27-2012 at 01:24 PM.
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  #5  
Old 06-25-2012, 10:27 PM
Waffles Waffles is offline
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I've been heavily contemplating the directionless feel that the game tends to have myself. I think the reputation thing is a great idea. Also that making you stick to your guns with quests is a great idea too (A complication is: do you/how much do you reward players for completing quests that they did not accept? I would think somewhere in the neighborhood of 'half to none'). Also, with high reputation, races wouldn't screw with you unless you hit them first, and would try to make peace. Have them treat it as your overall power in the sector.

Something that I have been thinking could make each sector much more interesting and add a clear sense of purpose would be to have a superboss monster in each sector with minions and a doomsday device. If you don't disrupt his plans/stop his recon/kill his minions, he will destroy star systems (and make them uncolonizable) one by one. This would devastate races/relation/reputation. He would be strong enough that you'd have to enlist the help of at least one race with a halfway decent military to defeat him. Strong victories would be having high enough reputation/leading the charge against the superboss, weak victories would be the boss defeated but you are wimpy and unhelpful, and losses would be loss of reputation/at war with everyone/everybody died.

Something else that would go hand in hand with this, is user initiated quests. Races that trust you would let you initiate research for them, colonize planets, make systems safer, deliver supplies, wage wars, etc. This would allow a player to play a very active hand in helping one race grow and become more powerful. It would be mighty satisfying to make a strong alliance with the Drakk, help them to research and build a powerful fleet, and marshal it to victory over all the hippies of the universe.

An additional feature I would like to see is allowing players to commission components from their allies - This would help you to get equipment that you need that isn't dropping randomly/showing up in trade. This would initiate a questline, of do research/gather parts/supplies/whatever, and finally give you approximately the part of your choosing with some rarity. Races that like you somewhat would commision normals and commons, whereas for a trusted ally they would go so far as to make rares/very rares, albeit as extended quests. Menu would go through something like "Rarity -> Weapons -> Missiles -> Missile Type -> Tier" It would near a crafting system but within the constraints of the game. Races could only build components for you that they have the technology for - unless you helped them research that technology.

Something else that I would really enjoy is a persistent sense of 'what have i done for the galaxy'. As you complete/abandon sectors, it would add them to a galaxy map, and you could hover over/click on them for some statistics. "Sector won, accomplishments, quests, most powerful race, reputation", as well as have overall statistics, like "domination of the galaxy by race", "grand total player reputation", "sector win/loss/abandon rate". I know I would be more likely to complete sectors if there was a statistic that would mock me for not doing so, as well as seeing a bunch of uncompleted sectors on the galaxy map. (Maybe these sectors could be revisited? They would be generated from scratch again).

Maybe not all of these are great, but I know I would enjoy every one of them.
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  #6  
Old 06-26-2012, 07:46 AM
longshot longshot is offline
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I think that the directionless feel comes mostly just from having an ambiguous winning condition. In DQ, the winning condition was very concrete. You have to save the town. Either the town is left standing, or it isn't.

In DO, you just need to be allied with all the races, doesn't matter who, doesn't matter how many races are left, and it is easy enough to exterminate races, that it doesn't really matter if they declare war on you.

I think one avenue that might work, would be to have bonus winning conditions. You still win even if there only one race left and you are allied, but there could be added incentives, like ensuring race X survives, or race X is destroyed, or have galactic peace between 3 or more races. Optional, but with corresponding rewards if you manage to pull the conditions off.
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Old 06-26-2012, 09:30 AM
Bluddy Bluddy is offline
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Waffles, I think all of your ideas here are good and worthy of discussion. I'll just focus on the ones that I feel suit this thread the most. Feel free to copy the others into another thread.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Waffles View Post
A complication is: do you/how much do you reward players for completing quests that they did not accept? I would think somewhere in the neighborhood of 'half to none'
This is an excellent point. I think that if you do quests accidentally, the reward should be almost nothing. From the race's point of view, they got a 'freebie'. Perhaps it would change your relationship with them, without giving you either XP or reputation. Otherwise, you're setting up a strong incentive for players not to commit to quests -- even if you gain only half the rewards, you'd still have no negative consequences from not finishing the quest, so it'd be worth not committing to anything. This is why the rewards for accidental quests should be close to zero.

Quote:
Something that I have been thinking could make each sector much more interesting and add a clear sense of purpose would be to have a superboss monster in each sector with minions and a doomsday device. If you don't disrupt his plans/stop his recon/kill his minions, he will destroy star systems (and make them uncolonizable) one by one. This would devastate races/relation/reputation. He would be strong enough that you'd have to enlist the help of at least one race with a halfway decent military to defeat him. Strong victories would be having high enough reputation/leading the charge against the superboss, weak victories would be the boss defeated but you are wimpy and unhelpful, and losses would be loss of reputation/at war with everyone/everybody died.
Bringing in an imminent threat (even if it's only once in a while) is definitely something that can spice things up, but it's also a way to have independent goals. If you need to prepare each sector for taking on the big boss, then that really changes the dynamics of gameplay and it also gives you victory/loss conditions. This is why Space Rangers 2, a very open-ended game, had the invasion of the Dominators -- it gave the game direction and victory/loss conditions. I just think this would reduce the focus a lot from helping factions fight each other. You'd want to unite the factions as soon as you can, which would make for more repetitive gameplay IMO.
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  #8  
Old 06-26-2012, 09:34 AM
Bluddy Bluddy is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by longshot View Post
I think that the directionless feel comes mostly just from having an ambiguous winning condition. In DQ, the winning condition was very concrete. You have to save the town. Either the town is left standing, or it isn't.
Right. Notice that it's really a duality though: you had both victory AND loss conditions.

Quote:
In DO, you just need to be allied with all the races, doesn't matter who, doesn't matter how many races are left, and it is easy enough to exterminate races, that it doesn't really matter if they declare war on you.
Yep. This thread is basically a rewording of the 'wanted...better victory conditions' thread. I just wanted to give some more justification for it.

Quote:
I think one avenue that might work, would be to have bonus winning conditions. You still win even if there only one race left and you are allied, but there could be added incentives, like ensuring race X survives, or race X is destroyed, or have galactic peace between 3 or more races. Optional, but with corresponding rewards if you manage to pull the conditions off.
The thing about optional victory conditions is that they don't suggest themselves to loss conditions. I would prefer that you had random conditions per sector where, if your mission is to ensure X's survival and you fail, you lose.

Anyway, random victory conditions are my 2nd favorite option. My favorite is still reputation = everything and committing in advance to quests for reputation effects as mentioned above.
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  #9  
Old 06-26-2012, 12:20 PM
spacehog spacehog is offline
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You guys have some neat ideas and have done a great job staying within the space-merc theme, but I figured I'd add my pennies. Not losing is a pretty big incentive for me to finnish the sectors. I've lost a couple times, and the little loss blurb makes me feel pretty wimpy as a Drox Operative. It is far harsher than Din telling me I'm incompetent. Much better to win than to feel like a dweeb of a space pilot. Anyway, keep the ideas flowing 'cause there are some great ones.
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  #10  
Old 06-26-2012, 03:53 PM
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DeathKnight1728 DeathKnight1728 is offline
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-Bluddy

You've hit the nail on the head. I find the game to play just as good as dop for the reason of the end game decision. Losing favor with one side, war, need to make a new ally, quest. Its what you can do in do and get away with in the major quests that make it so wickedly fun.
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