Lately I've been spending time with an apple 2e emulator so I can spend some time with the games that really inspired me to write this game. In particular I've been playing through Ultima 4, for like the 100th time. Oddly, I've never solved the game.
I think the reason is simple, the solution doesn't interest me but the combat and exploration does. I hope I'm not alone since my game sort of relies on that also being of interest.
Part of the reason I play is to find the things I like about the game interface versus things I don't like. I tend to consider both Ultima 3 and 4 as the best in interface design for that style of game. If you're not familiar, i'm referring to the setup where you have a game window on the left and then a readout of stats you need right away on the right. Then using various keystrokes you can get more info, bear in mind that these style games were mostly played on computers that did not have a mouse.
So then I adapted some of the GUI stuff to my game to see how it worked. Cool thing is that it turns out that the general concept of action on the left and info on the right feels natural. Other cool thing is that with the windows forms style of game, players can move the stuff around wherever they want, for the most part.
But the main reason I am playing specifically Ultima 4 has to do with the opening segment. It's mostly a guided tour through the current world where you end up at a carnival and go inside a little building. You then answer a series of questions and depending on how you answer, your in game character is a fighter, paladin, wizard, etc. The game being built on virtues, it makes a lot of sense. Some parts get annoying. Like in Ultima 3 it was fun to steal, but in Ultima 4 it was frowned upon.
So then I consider games like Star Wars Galaxies with the fairly involved system of factions as well as the rebellion and the empire.
Where I think I've ended up is that I would like to develop the game so that it has the same faction style system but add on top of it, some form of alignment system. So you may start out completely neutral but could move your way towards the lawful good or evil side of the scale depending on how you play.
I find that in Ultima 4, your alignment was not as transparent as players would have liked. So how many chests could I rob before I lose too much honesty? I see it more as a meter, show me in real time, am I good or am I evil? Will one or the other immediately affect my faction standing? If I become too evil then there are certainly some factions that won't want me and vice versa.
But then I struggle with how to indicate faction and alignment to make the game play work. I'm sure plenty of people have passed serial killers on the street not knowing that the person was evil. So it's not like I can put some sort of radio beacon on a player with an arrow pointing at them that flashes: evil evil evil...But I can do that for faction.
So my plan is fairly simple, at least in my head.
The bulk of the solar systems in the starting area are all part of a confederation and pretty heavily guarded. This means as a new player you will be pretty safe from pirates or at least massive packs of pirates. But when flying in confederation ruled solar systems your ship must be outfitted with a beacon which basically broadcasts your standing with different factions.
This is what would cause you to be able to drift past one group of pirates but not another. Since these public transmissions can be read by any player and you can read all the others, you will be able to either rush in for an attack, know you can pass by safely or prepare for an escape before they become interested in your being there.
Turning off the beacon in confederation space being illegal, you risk being shot down or boarded should you turn it off. But when not in space run by the confederation, it's up to you whether or not to broadcast what you are.
As for the size of the confederation, well that changes over time. It will grow and shrink without much player control over it. It's just a natural change in the game. But there are many different confederations in the galaxy, some may not allow any outsiders in, others may charge a fee for safe passage.
To take this a step further, with the right amount of faction and military rank, you can start your own army and begin your own confederation.
But is the faction beacon a realistic thing or just a cheap way to make the game work? I think it could be a little realistic but for the most part, I admit that it is a cheap way to implement something to make the game play work.