Ok folks, so I’ve been churning some of the framework of the mechanics of the game and how it adds to the message. I’ve also been thinking quite a bit about those two subjects in relation to how the player will view these things. While I think we’re definitely moving ahead with some of our ideas, I think others are struggling with keeping up. Particularly the question “Does the player see our message in everything?” I’m going to list some strengths and weaknesses with our current set up, followed by some suggestions that I think would enhance the game, and I want thoughts and feedback.
This is all based around two messages that we want the player to feel. One is that space exploration is exciting and necessary for humanity. Two is that NASA is not being supported nearly enough to complete that task.
Right now we are leaning toward a system of limited resources, the player’s death being included, and people communicating with you from NASA trying to convince you to spend your resources one way or another. Here are some feelings I have about that framework.
- Managing weighted decisions about limited resources can be fun.
- Exploration can still be a large reward, despite a player’s inability to “see it all”. Good replayability.
The weaknesses will all feel like they suffer from a similar symptom, not conveying the message strongly enough.
- Having two narrations of what NASA wants the player to do feel more like they undermine NASA’s abilities, not the powers that impact NASA’s wallet.
- Saying to the player that we barely have enough resources for them to research is highly disjointed with the fact that the player is on Mars in the first place, which having a human mission is extremely inefficient in space exploration.
- Limiting choices for exploration so harshly almost forces replayability (bad), rather than voluntary replayability (good). Specifically, choosing to not explore punishes even playing the game, and kills the player anyway, not good.
- Killing the player may fracture the message into also being about the last moments of someone’s life
Now all is not woeful in my thoughts about this issue, most of these revolve around delivery of our message, not the assets themselves, so the major architecture is still in place. Here is my solution that can add to the player experience:
Instead of having the player on such a tight resource management, we open up the experience a bit. Roughly I was thinking the NASA person you interact with explains that NASA has X money, and you need to decide what tools you want to buy/upgrade. Then a shuttle comes in similar to Batman: Arkham City when the batwing drops new equipment in for you. The player will regularly check in with NASA to see if they can purchase more upgrades as they explore more. At the end of the game, probably when the player makes a huge discover, we layout what they spent, and how that technology influenced earth technology, and show their final budget and time on Mars.
This is when we drop the message of the issues that NASA has, but showing their true budget in comparison to what you spent. Provide links to interesting charts that I was looking at, especially what NASA does for earth. These sites got me going quite a bit. Then, we can offer the player to replay using the budget that NASA actually has (for the people that want a challenge in the replay).
There are two reasons why I personally think going in this direction is stronger:
1) It removes any hint that NASA itself is bad and strengthens how helpful it is economically or technologically.
2) The message that NASA is horribly funded remains intact, but decouples it from the player experience. This causes two sub feelings:
A) The player enjoys the game as its own entity, but understands the plight of NASA.
B) The player sees that NASA doesn’t get to have the fun they just had.
Let me know your thoughts about this, and possibilities of what we could put in as upgrades that they player would want and be fun (jump higher, live longer, drill harder, gather quicker, etc). Also let me know how the direction feels as a whole.