Saturday, February 14, 2015


Development has been moving quickly. I've reached a point where I will be providing less updates through this blog and will begin to migrate to the use of a Wiki being setup at The plan is to use the new wiki for game documentation.

Now available:

Saturday, December 6, 2014


I've actually been playing around with this so much I don't know why I haven't posted an image. So here it is:

There's a lot more going on than it might seem,

The map on the right shows, within the yellow ring, the stellar systems that are accessible from the current planet. The image is scaled so some colors may not be obvious, I'm currently located at Nelson's Folly, the orange planet in the center. To the lower right there are two possible destinations. But one of them is blue because it is not available in the next 10 shuttles out of this system.

The system in red is one I purchased a ticket for and I am lined up for travel on the next departure. Departures are run server side, so if I was to exit the game and come back later, I would still arrive in the system as planned.

Status of the shuttles is something that happens on a random basis. Most flights will be On Time. But there are some that will be Delayed, Canceled and in some unfortunate cases, Missing. While canceled can be annoying, the maximum time you will spend waiting on the next shuttle is 14 minutes. But most shuttles come at a frequency of less than six minutes. However, I find that the pace of shuttles can be a little too fast. Most of the time I have not even gotten all the cargo I plan to take with me together in the typical 3 minute window and worse, I haven't even traded some currency. The currency markets are very active and with 8 different currencies to trade I find that I make more money staying put than trying to travel around selling raw materials.

Distance between systems is measured in light years. The public transportation is designed to take passengers up to 400 light years in a single jump. A different way to look at it is that the public transportation uses a fairly new type of engine called Parsec Drive which has a maximum radius of 125 Parsecs or roughly 478 light years. The government agency responsible for public transportation has not yet released the details of Parsec drive and there are a number of pirates that hijack shuttles to steal the new engines for reverse engineering purposes. So far, nobody has been able to reproduce or even retrofit one of these engines for use on their space ships. It is just a matter of time, though. I suspect in a year or two at the most, Parsec drive will be all the rage and available for all space craft.

Yes, more lore than code to support, but at least you have an idea of what is going on in the game. The times delivered and the shuttle list are served from the server. Even the time above the map is derived from the server using server time. It refreshes each minute to make sure the game client is in sync with the server, but it ticks to the second so you have an idea when your next departure will happen. There's another screen that exists on top of this one, it is too early to show shots of that screen so for now, just use your imagination that in game navigation and additional information will appear above this screen.

There are also a few interesting concepts on display in this shot, taxes, tariffs and ticket prices are presented as things that will happen. You can also purchase a ticket but if you choose to cancel a ticket there will be some penalties, so don't expect a 100% refund. But more interesting about this concept is the taxes, reduced refund and tariffs. The money collected goes to the stellar system economy. This potentially substantial amount of money being collected could go to the good of the planets in the system, or some crafty players will figure out that there are ways to filter this cash flow into their bank accounts.

This ties into the original title of the game, Fortune. Yes, there will be money sinks, taxes, tariffs and ticket prices are just one form. But at the same time, there will be players that figure out ways to navigate around the money sinks. Most players in the game will be poor, meaning they exist in a somewhat day to day cash flow predicament. They will be rich and care free one day and flat broke another. But for about 3% of the population, they will live without cash flow problems at all. In fact, their actions will actually impact the other 97% on an almost minute by minute basis. Think you are doing well in currency trades? guess again, there is likely a fat cat manipulating the markets and while you are making millions in trades, they are making tens of billions of dollars and are not even logged into the game.

So when people ask me the point in playing this game, the point is to become the wealthiest, most powerful player in the game. You will know your rank and you will know the ranks of the elite players.

Friday, December 5, 2014

catching up

Ok, it's been quite a while since I've posted. The latest development have mostly been with travel. I plan to post screen shots of this in the next few days, but basically intergalactic travel via public transportation is now up and running. Planets maintain schedules and there are a number of other factors to consider such as taxes, tariffs if you are transporting goods and how long you want to wait to get away from the planet you are on.

One of the biggest challenges I've faced in this part of programming is actually a somewhat trivial issue. When traveling, you are presented with a starmap of the neighboring stellar systems that are within reach of the public transportation system. But in the database that runs this, the stellar systems are not named, the planet that hosts a spaceport is named. So are you traveling to the planet or the stellar system? Did I mistakenly name the planets and not the stars they orbit?

I'm actually still struggling with this and believe I came up with a creative work around.

Players will be able to take over planets. That's been the plan from the start. So the player base will have the ability to name the stellar system. Travel will be based on this name. But planets within a stellar system can also be named. The stellar system will basically have one of the planet names promoted to be the name that represents the stellar system. So in theory you could have competing players owning planets in the same stellar system. Devising the manner in which they will handle who gets naming rights is simple, whose player association is bigger? Whose planet has more players selecting it as their "home" planet?

To make it a little more complex, very few planets actually reside in the "habitable zone" around their respective star. Players wishing to take over planets that are not habitable due to extreme temperatures or other reasonable excuses to avoid regular visitation of these potentially deadly planets could end up giving a habitable planet little competition in naming of a stellar system.

So how would the underdog win? Simple, get some friends together and blow up the other planet.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Recent Development

Since posting my note about my break I have spent a lot of time working on planet creation. The main galaxy has about 10,000 planets. Of that, 160 are in a habitable zone and will be open for ground exploration. Over time, more planets will be added that allow ground exploration. But as it stands now I have to manually generate each planet. The randomizer is pretty good but the design of the planets is intentionally simple, the only real purpose in exploring a planet is for the sake of mining for raw materials.

I had not intended to launch the game with planet exploration but it started to bug me so I put some time to make it possible.

With the planet stuff off my mind, I've started to revisit the main game panels. These have gone through many concepts starting with a style based on the Star Trek LCARS stuff, then I moved in a slightly different direction that based them a little more on control panels from the Apollo space crafts but I've finally settled on screens that are largely based on the PDP family of computers from DIGITAL Equipment Corporation. But even with this major shift in design inspiration, the game panels have gone through numerous changes. I've finally settled on what I consider the main status area which appears at the top of every game screen for easy access. My next post will show some concept art that improves on previously released artwork from the game.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Another break

I'm taking a break, the programming is going very well as I continue working through creation of raw materials and creating a galaxy based on them. But the things that I would write about at this time would give away secrets of the game.

My plans are to continue with the blog once I have the first stages of a playable game ready or as I produce more artwork for the game panels.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Raw Materials

I've been spending a significant amount of time on the crafting aspects of the game, specifically raw materials. As I've talked a little in the past, crafting will play a significant role in the game and also offer a level of complexity I have not yet seen in a game.

Raw materials are purely fictional. Originally I intended to use some common names like gold, iron, aluminum, copper, etc. I abandoned this because it was much more difficult to randomize the attributes when the names were common. It wouldn't make sense if gold contained attributes not possible for gold. In the end, I've settled on a list of attributes that each raw material will contain:
(not listed in any particular order)
surface tension
half life
particle size
potential energy
decay potential
decay rate
boiling point
freezing point
ionization point
danger Solid
danger Liquid
danger Vapor
danger Plasma

An important thing to point out is the last seven attributes. Raw materials will exist in one of four natural states, liquid, solid, gas and plasma. I left out the state "condensate" on purpose, mostly to keep things a little simple. Each state will have different attribute values. There are a large number of factors that go into the difference an attribute may have from one state to another. Every attribute is randomized but there are relationships made between many causing the code for calculating the attributes for a single raw material to contain 2400 lines of math, logic and randomization.

All raw materials, with the exception of organics which I will cover in the future, are categorized into the following:
liquid - toxic
liquid - non toxic
liquid - anomalous
liquid - unknown
mineral - native
mineral - sulfide
mineral - oxide
mineral - halide
mineral - carbonate
mineral - sulfate
mineral - phosphate
mineral - organic
mineral - silicate
mineral - anomalous
mineral - ore
mineral - unknown
rare - cosmic dust
rare - stardust
rare - dark matter
rare - anti-matter
rare - unknown
gas - toxic
gas - non toxic
gas - anomalous
gas - unknown
Though this list is subject to change.

The distinction between a toxic liquid and toxic gas is not trivial. Since all gases could become liquids and vice versa, these classifications also imply the natural state of raw materials.

On the crafting side, things get a little tricky. Recipes are used to craft various things in the game. Many are straightforward, if you are crafting the hull of a ship, you would expect to be using a lot of minerals. But as crafters advance in their profession, they will find that there are ways to improve the objects they create by experimenting with the temperature of the raw materials. That is to say that there may be cases where a recipe calls for a very stable metal with some specific attribute levels. The crafter may have the ideal material in their inventory but in its solid form, it is very dangerous to use but in liquid form it is much more stable. The skill of the crafter will determine their ability to craft in this sort of complex scenario where materials change attributes when placed in certain conditions: temperature and atmospheric pressure.

Crafting itself is simple. The intention behind the setup of crafting is to make it as approachable as possible. I've played games where crafting was so complex it was boring. My goal is to setup a crafting portion of the game that is simple enough to appeal to casual crafters and complex enough to keep the serious crafters interested.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Economics, crafting and trade

When I set out to build this game, trade was the most significant goal for gameplay. But what is trade?

The main game which inspired trade is Taipan! In this context trade was simple yet elegant, you could trade general goods, arms, silk and opium. The obvious goal of buy low sell high applied and there was very little strategy required. Randomly goods would be sold for incredibly low prices and other times the goods would sell for many times the average price. This was a great system for a simple game. Another game that did it well was Drugwars. Similar in nature but gave you a limited amount of time to make trades.

In the case of Taipan! the game was fun but only playable until you've reached the point where the game couldn't render how large your bank account became without using exponents. In the case of Drugwars, the game ended too quickly. But in both cases, there was the ability to shop around without costing more than time or a possible attack.

As I build this game out, there's a general theme that you will be able to stockpile a ton of goods in your ship and travel around to sell for the best price. The downsides include time to travel and cost of fuel to transport the goods around. In some cases goods will decay over time, so making quick trades is important.

But there are other ways to trade. What if you want to profit on goods that are sold without dealing in them at all? There's several paths.

Commodities markets will exist that allow you to trade in the form of stock. Buying and selling stock can be very profitable but also destroy your savings if you don't know when to escape a loss. You can also trade on indexes that pool many types of commodities together. The ability to make bets on the market in the form of futures also exists. But in some cases, futures can be the quickest way to drain your bank account if you make bad bets.

Professions also exist around trade. Delivery being a significant one. A typical ship can transport goods from one side of the galaxy to the other in about 4 hours. If you use shuttles instead of your own ship you can move around a little quicker if the shuttles are arriving and departing in your favor. But if you needed to transport some materials in just a few minutes, you would need to hire someone that specializes in high speed delivery. The ships used for this are very specialized and cannot be equipped for combat. Players that are very advanced in the delivery professions can do interesting things, like deliver a fleet of combat ships to a particular place in the galaxy.

You can also be a producer of goods without dealing with selling them at all. Should you decide to create a farm, mining outpost or factory, you can also join a trade federation that will pay you based on predetermined contracts. You won't get quite the same amount as if you sold it on your own but you won't have to trek around trying to make money on it either. You may still have the ability to take a portion and sell it on your own but depending how large you grow your operation, you may be focused more on the management of the installations and working more on profit per hour modifications and focus very little on the individual items you produce.

Similar to the above, you could run a trade federation and basically be a distributor or another way to view it, importer/exporter. The scale you choose to do this on has a lot of dependencies.

Another avenue of profit is running storage facilities. While many mining, farming and other installations will have their own warehouses, there will be times when traders need to stockpile large quantities of goods. Being in the position to provide ample security and protect against the decay rates of rare materials takes special skills acquired in the profession. Combined with delivery services, sometimes the fastest way to profit is by just providing services.

Finally, crafting will have significant impact on trade in the game. While the early phases of trade will focus largely on trading resources and commodities, player crafted items will end up being where the vast amount of wealth will be generated in trade. Everything in the universe can be crafted by players. Even planets but that's a different discussion topic. In some cases players may which to turn their small crafting operations into corporations and even have their stock traded on the markets.

The economy will be largely based on the main commodity markets. A planet's worth is based on the current supply of raw materials and its ability to purchase. This being the main thing to swing the markets. Players can have impacts on the markets but the bulk of the fluctuation in market prices will be non player entity driven. The concept being that while players make up the bulk of gameplay, NPCs outnumber players significantly.

As I stands, I've completed the creation of the main commodities. There are 6 classes and 35 different commodities in all. Within each commodity there are hundreds, if not thousands of possible options for trade. What this means is that a commodity class would be radioactive minerals and within that, there could be thousands of types of radioactive minerals. At the commodity market level, you are trading against the market shifts of all radioactive minerals but a miner may specialize in just a few and trade them specifically.