A new direction for Gangs of Space
Recently, we have written quite a lot about our experience showing Gangs of Space at the Tôkyo Game Show, but it has been a few months since we've actually written about the game itself. The reason is pretty simple: after the last Alpha Test session in June, we have started a deep analysis of the current state of the game, its strengths and weaknesses, and thought a lot about the direction we wanted the project to go.
So... Here are the results of our pondering! This will give you a good idea about what to expect from Gangs of Space in the next months...
The purpose of playing a MMO
Since we've started to work on Gangs of Space 3 years ago, we've always had difficulties explaining the goal of the game. We could explain the different features, their complex and subtle interaction, but when asked "why?", we didn't have a definite answer. Many would say that this is an intrinsic property of MMOs and "sandbox" games. But we weren't satisfied with this answer.
This issue kept bothering us in the back of our heads, so we went on adding more and more features, thinking that the answer would emerge from the way our players would approach these features. But this was a classic mistake: mixing up the means (how to do what I want to do?) and the ends (why do what I'm doing?). We ended up with a very complex game that is too much to handle for our 2-person team.
So, we took gathered our courage, and searched for a real goal in Gangs of Space, which we could use to reshape the whole game experience, even if that means putting aside what doesn't directly supports this experience.
The Big Answer
We wanted the goal of Gangs of Space to be "big" enough to fullfill our megalomaniac ambitions (and yours, too!). So we looked for simple objectives with drastic consequences.
Contrary to 99% of the games where you're asked to save your family, your city, your country, your planet, the Universe and the Rest, Gangs of Space will finally ask you to... destroy the Universe!
This goal might seem a bit... drastic. But you will meet many obstacles on the road:
First, you will need to progress in a completely new way to unlock different types of ships, and fight bigger and stronger enemies. And like before, at some point you will need to join or create a Gang to continue to progress and discover new facets of the game.
Then, you will need to work on your Gang's influence toward the other Gangs of your Empire, in order to raise to political domination and reach the rank of Administrator of the Empire.
If you manage to reach and keep this position, you will then have the crushing responsibility of leading your Empire toward more conquests, in order to gather more and more resources and build powerful armies that you will send to fight the other Empires that are also trying to annihilate the Universe first.
So... Will you be up to the challenge?
Destroy the Universe!?!
Destroying the Universe means that if certain conditions are fulfilled, the game server will be shut down, the current galaxy deleted, and a new galaxy generated. Then everyone will be able to start afresh on a brand new play field... or almost afresh, because if the Empires will lose their territories, the players themselves will keep their possessions and most importantly their precious experience of the game!
The practical details of this feature (what will be the conditions? how difficult will they be to fulfil? what will be kept or deleted from one galaxy to another?) will be very crucial points that we will need to test with top priority during the next wave of Alpha Test sessions.
Our goal is that the History of each galaxy be unique, in a sense that it will be remembered as in intense race against time with many many comebacks, and where all the players will have an influence on the outcome.
This is truly a new way to think about MMOs. But who said MMOs can't have a story (or a History?) that can loop, so that each time you can enjoy different variations? (Those of you who played Hordes or Star Sonata know what we are talking about!)
There is still an undecided point: how can we reward those elite players who manage to reach the ultimate goal in a memorable way? We have our little ideas about that, but feel free to suggest anything!
A Dance with Features
In order to realign the game with this new goal, we will have to add and remove many features from Gangs of Space. Here is a summary of the changes we expect to make. But as always, due to our very iterative development process, most of these changes will live or die according to their actual worth when tested "for real".
Online Empire vs Empire (our very own little EvE Online!)
The first, and probably biggest change will be to add multiple opposing Empires. At first, there will be a pre-defined amount of them, but in the long run players will be able to create their own Empire if they manage to gather sufficient political power.
These Empires will be the cornerstone of our new approach to PvP. Instead of fighting from player to player (an approach we've tried with mitigated results...), all the Empires will fight against each other through the systems they own.
In concrete terms, the Empires will - though a form of collective intelligence - conquer systems, develop them, and thus acquire the means to produce armies that they will then send on other Empire's systems in order to annihilate them.
All the players, whatever their level of implication in the game (from the newbie who's just doing missions to the seasoned politician who will be pulling the strings behind the scenes, not mentioning all the traders, miners, mercenaries...), will directly or indirectly participate in the creation of these armies, and in the defence of their Empire territory.
When you create a Gang, you will have to chose which Empire it will be part of. Players who are not members of any Gang will be able to go and switch between all Empires, but their impact in the Empire War will be much lesser.
At the head of each Empire, in control of its armies, will be the Administrator Gang. Like currently, this title will be given every week to the Gang which controls the largest territory. However, each Gang will also have the ability to choose another Gang in the same Empire which will benefit from their territory for this calculation.
This means that a Gang hoping to get and keep the title of Administrator will probably need allies in its quest of power. The political game won't have any limit...
Planets at the heart of war
Another big change: we will abandon the construction of space structures by players. Instead, you will need to develop the planets that are present in the systems conquered by your Gang and your Empire.
These planets are not populated by your Empire, but by NPC factions like the Pirnats or the Vermillons. All the players of the Empire will have access to them, even though the management of the planet will be left in the hands of the Gang that physically controls the sector where the planet is located.
Planets will have multiple roles:
- Get missions that will provide rewards and increase your reputation toward the faction of the planet.
- Generate Production Points which will be used to build EvE armies.
- Access new ship and item technologies, and specific crews.
- Provide a place for trading.
To develop the planets and and improve their commercial offer and production capacity, you will need to meet their needs by accomplishing missions and regularly bringing them various resources.
In return, each planet will bring to the Empire part of its production capacity, while the rest will go to the Gang which owns the planet.
PvE in a more alive environment
Until now, the vast majority of space in Gangs of Space has been pretty... empty. There wasn't much to see in conquered systems.
We will improve that and create an Universe that feels much more alive, with numerous NPC minding their own business: delivering goods between planets, patrolling, exploiting resources, attacking each other... You, the player, will be able to attack all these NPC, but that won't be without consequence on your relationships with their faction.
Indeed, maintaining a good reputation with these factions will give you access to specific equipments, and special missions.
In general, we will re-work the whole "solo" experience so that it will feel more progressive, and so that new players will be more guided when starting the game, until they know enough to participate to the whole Empire War.
Gone also are the automated mineral or gas extractors, which will be replaced by ships specialised in resource exploitation. Mining barges, quantum crushers, gas vessels, refinery platforms, transporters... you will blow the minds of the most hardened Euro Truck Simulator players!
But the guardians of these resources might not look kindly upon this pillage...
Procedural at every step!
Finally, no more map creation live sessions on our official Twitch channel! Introducing the comfort of modern technology... From now on, the systems, spreading of resources, planets, and all the environment will be generated procedurally!
This will allow a quasi-infinite variety of systems, which is quite exciting for the explorers among us! This also means that some systems will be strategically more interesting than others, because of their resources, their planets, or even some secret effects...
We've already talked about them. You want them. We want them. The mega-ships will be on their way! It's still early to talk about them in more details, but this is one of our main medium-term objectives!
Say goodbye to these 1,000s of hours of work...
You would be surprised by the amount of work we had to "throw away" during the 3 years of development of Gangs of Space. This is unfortunately a necessary process for a project to mature, and this is all the more necessary for a MMO in which we have to try the features "on the field" to see how they work when confronted to many players at the same time.
The new direction we are taking with Gangs of Space is of course no exception, so here are the features which will be added on our long list of sacrifices to the Gods of Game Design:
- Research and industry
- Space constructions
- Contracts and medals
- Enemy attack waves
- Combat systems
Some of these features will be recycled in something a bit different, some others might come back later, but for now we will focus on what we feel is the most important: give some sense of progress and a goal to Gangs of Space!
We will make a English-speaking live on Twitch this Sunday (October 19) at 16:00 GMT+2, so if you have any questions or remarks about all of this, we will be there to answer! And in the meantime, see you on the forums!