Thursday, 24 October 2013

How far will VoidSpace go? What will we eventually be able to do in it?



VoidSpace will have nearly everything that the original Universe Project survival-planet game is planned to

have. We're doing it this way on purpose so that the Universe Engine that powers the whole thing will be ready and tested by the time we start on the survival- planet game. On top of this, most of the code will already be written since the vast majority of code required to run the survival-planet game will come from the Universe Engine itself (developed for VoidSpace AND for the survival planet game).


You'll have the same option to spawn near civilization, far from civilization, or beside friends. But for example sake, lets say you picked the option to spawn near civilization.

When you start out in VoidSpace, you'll have nothing but whatever came along with you on your ship before it entered the wormhole. So this means some basic weaponry and defenses, your ship, some other random entry-level devices, and you. From there you'll be able to scan the area and see what is about, and begin to explore.

You might happen across an owned territory and you'll be able to try to communicate with these people (provided they are online). Any messages sent to them will popup as a notification (like a chat message) on their real-life phones if they have notifications turned on, so they could reply to you even if they're not playing.

Scenario 1: You enter their territory and this particular territory is configured to destroy unwanted visitors.

Your will be given a warning about the fact that you are breaking the law and are advised to leave the territory immediately. At this point, the AI controlled ships of the players who are offline would have been dispatched to your location (provided they are in range). The players who are online will have been notified of your presense in their territory and your location on the map. What happens next, well who knows.

Scenario 2: You enter their territory and this particular territory is configured to be friendly to visitors.

You enter the territory and you'll likely be greeted with a welcome message of some kind, offering some advise and maybe highlighting some key laws of the area. Once you reach the center of the territory where the structures and other player's characters are, you'll be able to check out each of the structures to see what is available. Some might allow you to build things at a cost of credits (the universal currency) or some other player-made currency (like xBod03Bucks) or trade item (like metal). There will be a certain amount of automation, especially when it comes to things like store-fronts and "renting" existing equipment/buildings. You might be greeted by actual players who are willing to negotiate.
Perhaps one of the players offers you a piece of mining equipment in exchange for x amount of metal at a nearby asteroid field, offering that you keep the equipment in exchange for this metal. Of course, the player making the offer probably doesn't want to you to just take off with the equipment so he might have some special tracking drone that he targets your ship with to follow you around so he can see where you are. Perhaps the asteroid field is dangerous and he also offers some defensive drones to keep you safe, who knows, anything is possible.

Scenario 3: You attack the guy who offers you the job, just because you can.

So lets say you attack this guy. As soon as you do, the patrols in the area would descend upon you like mad dogs and you probably wouldn't last against them (especially because you're new). However, lets say you managed to destroy your opponent before being destroyed yourself.

As for the guy you killed, there are few possibilities for him:
1. The guy is a real player, but he has been playing for a while and has an escape pod to get away before you manage to destory his ship.
2. The guy's ship is disabled, but the guards who destroyed your ship come back to revive him (this is probably the likely case).
3. If the guy escapes (either with his escape pod or just his spacesuit) he could then self-destruct his own ship to make sure you don't get much from it's contents. Note: If he is in his spacesuit, it is pretty difficult to hit a guy floating around in space (though not impossible). The guy could also have a drone come and pick him up only to whisk him away to a safe place (which he may even have nearby).

Now you're dead.

As for you, without any supporting infrastructure, you'll have no choice but to start over. Forced to make a new character and you will definitely not be allowed to spawn in the same area again (at least for a day or more), even if you choose to "spawn near friends". There will certainly be players who choose to play the game simply by creating new characters and seeing how much damage they can do in a single run, but seeing how they are starting with only entry-level equipment, they wont end up being very dangerous against even mildly established players in the area. If course, players need to always be on their guard. So here are some fun tips:

1. Dont venture out alone unless you've got enough firepower to fend yourself against 1 or 2 entry-level guys. Bring a friend at least.
2. Try to establish a plan for when your ship is destroyed. Do you have supporting infrastructure nearby? Do you have an escape pod? Do you have rescue drones?
(I'm sure players could also create a business around rescuing other players, privatized ambulance style, the possibilities are virtually endless [no pun intended])

There are some differences between the survival-planet game and this one, I'll try to go over them now

1. Food is not nearly as complicated. VoidSpace will require that you keep your ship's energy stores up (just like eating food in survival-planet), but it wont be as complicated. Energy is energy, and thats about it.
2. There wont be as vast an array of character-level skills to acquire. For the most part, it will be about creating or acquiring the schematics for a building or piece of equipment. Though not as numerous, there will be SOME skills that your actual character will have (like discovering the ability to modify a ship's engine to act as a piece of communication equipment).
3. The environment is not nearly as complicated (it is not 3D, and mostly empty to start with) and doesn't contain so many variations of materials.
4. It wont take so long to create things. Conceptually, it just makes sense that the manufacturing process is already pretty well automated and efficient in a futuristic sci-fi world such as this one(certainly moreso than trying to craft something with your bare hands).

This barely scratches the surface, but hopefully it provides some insight into what it would be like to actually play VoidSpace.

TL;DR VoidSpace will be exactly like the survival-planet game. But a handful of mechanics and aspects will be simplified.




Update 1...

A QUESTION WAS ASKED ON REDDIT...

chaosfire235 2 points 2 hours ago
Interesting. But I'm guessing things like automated defenses (AI ships) wouldn't be present in a lower tech setting? Or have I misunderstood?
Also would this be what the kickstarter will launch with. If you don't mind me asking, when could we see this vision of VoidSpace for real?

AND THE ANSWER...

Drone ships will be available fairly early, but they will still need to be created by the characters in-game, they wont simply be available.
AI control over your ship when you are offline will be available immediately. It is a fundamental aspect of the game and is what allows players to have their characters online all the time, while offering defenses in group settings.
What I was describing is a finished product. This stuff will actually be made sooner than later though. I have yet to estimate how much time it will take to create a finished product though, I will need to setup a timeline for the kickstarter for sure.
However if I were to estimate, probably within the first 2 months post-kickstarter, you would start seeing some real MMO-like elements (like the ones I've described here). We already have some major components working in our development tests (like trading between players, and moving cargo around).

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

How does this space game (VoidSpace) relate to the survival-planet idea?

The space game is being used as a testing platform which is a big win on at least 2 major fronts. First, a real-time space shooter will provide much needed stress testing of the Game Elements Networking Framework. Without this kind of testing, we may find bugs much further down the road because the Universe Project is going to be a much slower paced game at the start, and testing the networking in a fast paced environment will really put the framework through the wringer. The second big win has to do with the fact that we're donation funded. The space game (for lack of a better term) will allow us to showcase progress on the foundational frameworks much sooner, allowing gamers to get their hands on something fun to test and play before the Universe Project is ready.

We will be developing it further to reflect more of the Universe Project philosophy. It will serve as a test platform for nearly every component of the Universe Project, while providing backers some great fun along the way. More specifically, we will include the ability to build bases, discover and invent new technology, and turn the whole game into a single game world operating on a seamless cluster of servers. We may even test a 3D version of the game, in combination with the 2D clients, when WebGL is ready for prime-time.

All of the technology being developed for the space game will be used in the primary survival-planet Universe Project that was first described in the video. There will be no wasted work! Any game engine development that goes into the space game translates directly into work done in the survival-planet game.

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Frequently Asked Questions


I just need to thank everyone for their participation this past weekend in getting the word out on the Universe Project, it has indeed been a crazy ride! Because of all of you, the video got nearly 100,000 views and almost 6000 signups within the first 24 hours. Well done indeed!

I need to address an issue people have been having regarding their referrals. First of all, your referrals are working! I can see the database is full of referrals and every person that I've individually checked had all their referrals intact. The only problem is that you cannot view your referral count yourself. This problem will be rectified in the future. I'm working with the launchrock.com guys to get that issue sorted out.

To watch the video about the game, go to http://universeprojects.com

You can also find us on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Google Plus.

Is there permanent death in the game?

There will likely be two modes available to players -- permanent-death and non-permanent-death. There are a few suggested systems for balancing the two player types in the same world. The top runner is a system where players who choose the "perma-death" option, would see accelerated character improvement. This means that players who don't choose permanent death will take longer to advance the strengths of their character, but they would eventually hit the same level. There would be a time and place for both styles.
Additionally, if a perma-death character is killed, but he was part of a strong social support system. His new character could very well get all his "stuff" back, except for physical attributes that are earned.
Both systems will be tested together and at some point, testing will likely take place with perma-death-only. There is quite a bit invested in a character in this game, more so than other games. Especially when a character makes a new discovery or invention, it could be like winning the lottery in some rare cases. Of course, these discoveries/inventions can be passed on to other characters which would make it less disastrous to be killed.


Will a character die from old age?

As the character ages, it will be more difficult to maintain certain physical attributes while intellectual attributes remain. The character will never die from old age though. But there will certainly be some semblance a "prime" age in a character's life, but it will be less extreme when compared to real life.

But I think a game about life is boring...

Everyone plays games for different reasons because everyone gets a kick out of different things in life. There's no reason why one game can't satisfy all, and the best way to accomplish that is by creating a game based on the one environment we know _can_ be enjoyed by all personality types -- real life. Of course, not that everyone _does_ enjoy life, those who generally dislike everything have other issues and probably wont like this game either. :p

The game will be interesting and fun to play because it plays on our most fundamental human desires.
  • To create/invent
  • To acquire wealth
  • To socialize
  • To help others
  • To acquire fame
  • To explore new things/environments and learn
  • To conquer and compete with others
  • To create and enforce law and order

The majority of us enjoy one or more of the things in this list, a lot. To the point where it could be classified as a human need once our basic needs are met (being able to eat, drink, breath, have shelter..etc). So to answer the question of how will the game be fun? It depends on your fundamental motivational tastes.

But these things are fun in real life, not in a game!

Computer games can't always deliver the satisfaction we desire from accomplishing the goals mentioned above because there is the sense that it's "not real", it's "just a game". Most of the games we play now result in in-game points that have very little value compared to the results of accomplishment in real-life. But the Universe Project won't suffer from this kind of irrelevance. Nearly anything you do in the game will have a real impact on other players in the present and future. The game itself is a simulation of human civilization, created by the players themselves. Even if all you want to do is grow some food Farmville style, your crops will go to other players who need it to eat and survive, so they can go off and do what _they_ want to do in the game, without worrying about food. There is much more value in this game and in the actions you take because it affects other players in a way few other mainstream games have managed to accomplish. 

But what you're proposing is impossible! You would need 1 million servers and 1 million man-hours to make it! HOAX!

This seems to be the most popular misconception about the project. People seem to think we're proposing to literally re-create the universe at the molecular level, or something similar. The game is a simulation of humanity, the way we generally perceive actions, results, and requirements. A player's character needs to know how to make something before he can go about doing it. Characters learn skills, be crafting a hammer, a bow, some boots, or even martial arts. Characters learn skills the same way we do in real life, they are either taught it by another character, or they come up with an idea, and develop the skill until it is usable and re-producible. 
As for the the millions of servers, every time you play Minecraft, you're playing in an infinite world, and yet it is generated on a single computer. It will be a feat to scale the game to be able to handle millions of players, but its the player count that will determine how much we need to scale the infrastructure, not the size of the world. 
Finally, regarding the millions of man-hours to create the game. It's not as difficult as you might think. To begin with, there is no need to create every permunation of skill available in the world today for the first release. Skills will be added to the game over time (years even). Players wont even notice when new skills are added to the game because they will be discovering new skills arbitrarily. As far as they are concerned, they wont even notice when there is a new release (unless the UI changes or there are gameplay tweaks).  There is no need to get all the content into the game at once, players will have enough to do even with a very small fraction of what is planned. 
People are also saying that it takes hundreds of developers/artists years to create even a tiny fraction of the game world we're claiming to be capable of creating (like assassin's creed, or grand theft auto). But remember, the artists are creating a word that resembles our own. We're simply creating a world full of plant-life and animals. There is no human infrastructure whatsoever. The players create the infrastructure, and yes, it will take a million man-hours to do so, but imagine what a million players could do in an hour.

Will there be real money transactions?

Yes, there will. And the very first thing people tend to think is that this will break the game. The real money transactions will only be for goods or services purchased from another real player. The other player will have had to acquire the goods or perform the services the old fashioned way. There will be no such thing as buying goods "out of thin air" to gain an advantage over other players. Furthermore, there will be no "global auction house". Transactions happen in-person, 1 on 1. Furthermore, there is no reason why anyone "needs" to use real money, and if you opt to not use real money, there is no loss for you. Depending on the reason why you play, you might even have a better game experience. Those who don't use real money also stand a good chance of making money in the game from those two do.

What about all the "gold farmers"! They'll break the game!

Let them! Those who want to farm to make money make it so other players don't have to and it allows them to buy materials for cheap to create their civilizations. The economy in the game will be based on the local needs and supplies of the players. Inflation wont be a problem, it will be a natural part of the game. If you have too much of one resource, then ship it off to some other location in the world that would pay a high price for the same resource.

How will time progress? Are the first people in the game going to be playing in a primitive era, and people who join later on (2+ years down the line) playing in a high tech future world?

Yes, essentially. Although "high-tech" likely wouldn't happen for more like 10 years, maybe more. And if you think that is a long time, consider how long we've been getting expansions for World of Warcraft.

Will there be wars or large scale battles?

Mechanics would be in place to assist with the organizing of players to make large scale wars possible. Wars at the beginning, before technology advances, will be somewhat awkward though, since communication and transportation is limited (not unlike war in ancient times).

The video offers no indication that you're capable of making something like this. How can we know that you're capable of it?

You're right, the purpose of the video is to garner interest in the concept while the game is still in development. We're releasing this video as a means to find those interested in such a game early so that when we have something more to show in a year or so, we'll be in a much better position. By itself, it does nothing to prove that we're capable of creating such a game. As development continues, we will be revealing more about the game as well as a semi-public technical proof-of-concept that will prove that it really can be done, and that we're capable of doing it. 
We truly believe the time is now for this type of game. Only now is there the perfect storm of technology coming together to enable a game of this magnitude. Let our work be the indicator as to whether or not our vision is the right one.

Will it be possible to setup an empire? Will there be politics?

Yes, politics and government will play a very important role in ensuring safety. There will be game mechanics put in place specifically to manage that aspect.

If you are the leader of an Empire/Tribe and you are killed/usurped, does that person then take control of that Empire?

Not necessarily, the same rules would apply as they apply in real life, you need to get control of key players or the people before you have control over everything. There will be no "handing" control over like in other games, it would have to be acquired in a logical way, the way you might expect to take control of something in real life. The same goes for many of the other aspects of people control. There will be no "faking it" that games of today tend to do. If you want to get something of this magnitude done, you'll have to go through the same steps as you would in real life. Remember, there are no NPCs. These are real people you are attempting to assume control over. It is probably best that you get them to like you first.

What will the game look like?

Top view, Isometric (Diablo style), and later fully 3D first person. All three game styles will be playable together during the transition to 3D so the world doesn't have to be fragmented. Here are two concept screenshots from the most recent graphics version...
Isometric view. Landscape will appear to be 3D in this view.
The actual technical Html5 demo has the 3D terrain.

Top-down view (for slower devices). Landscape is still sloped but you can't see it. This mode
will be reserved for slower devices that have a hard time rendering the isometric view.

The fully 3D version will come after the game has been released at which point more funding will be available to do it right. 3D is actually easier to manage, with 2D graphics, you have to rely on tricks to make it look seamless, so the move to 3D is an inevitable one.
3D clients will have the option to continue with the top-down view or first person (whatever the player is more comfortable with). This will allow players who are not comfortable with the first-person mode to play the game easily.

What about marriage? Could you 'adopt' a child character and raise it? How do these characters develop? 

Actually yes, raising a child will be implemented (but some experimentation will be required to see how well the system is accepted as it would be something new for everyone). Certain bonuses to your character will be attained by being "born" into the game as a child. This would also be one way to join your friends and their clan/group/guild.


Is it a leveling system or an age based system?

It is definitely not a traditional leveling based system, age comes into play and learning is modeled after the human experience; doing something over and over again makes you better, doing something similar will make you better at other things that are related.

But the game world will be so huge! No one will ever see each other.

Earth didn't always have billions and billions of people on it. People stick together because they need each other. Humans are strong because they act as a group, not as individuals. The same will go for this game. People will start near each other, and in many cases, near their friends so they can play together. It is certainly possible to play the game by yourself in your own corner of the world though, which would be very interesting indeed...a subculture somewhere on an island, not exposed to the main land, and having to come up with their own technology. I'm sure it will happen.

What about the time scale? Will an in-game hour last a real-life hour?

Walking about will be 1:1 with real life. But learning new things, building things, gathering resources, they will occur at a faster rate. Some skills/resource gathering will happen in real-time while others will be faster. Most of the "sped up" skills/actions will be sped up at a set rate (like perhaps x10) relative to how long it takes to do the same thing in real life. The precise rate will be determined through play-testing.

If I wanted to, could I invent firearms and vehicles?

Eventually, but don't count on it happening soon. The world will be starting out with no technology whatsoever (other than possibly being able to start a fire and a few simple things). The speed at which technology progresses will roughly model how real-world technology progressed since the beginning of the human species. The first tools will be simple ones, likely made of bone, wood, and stone (depending on the material available in the area). Eventually, infrastructure, discoveries, and inventions will pave the way to more complex inventions like firearms and vehicles, eventually even space vehicles.

What's stopping people from killing every player for no other reason than the fact that they can?

As for griefing early in the game, players that band together immediately be able to build up defenses against that sort of thing. There will always be a measure of danger, but how much danger depends entirely on the social system you make yourself a part of.
A character's power over another character will be modeled to mirror that which people are capable of today. If you go 1 to 1 against another player, you better be ready for a fight because most characters are going to be fairly evenly matched. In modern MMOs, most of the time, if a level 1 faces off against a level 60, the level 1 character will do no damage whatsoever, this will not be the case in this game. 
Technology will play the biggest part in who has the power. But it is in the best interests of those supplying the technology to sell it, make a profit, to as many players as possible. Players with an advantageous technology wont keep their advantage for too long. It will eventually get out.

How will building things work? Will it be like minecraft?

No, not really. You're not given blocks to put together necessarily (although building large structures may have a certain level of freedom of form). Most things you build in the game are quite small anyway or very specific (like a boat, tool, weapon...etc). Structures will range from small and static, to large and very customizable. But you will essentially have the option of placing walls where you want and shaping particularly large buildings. The rest will be built through what essentially amounts to formulas. The system for building things is meant to model how you might build something in real life. 
How would you build a hammer in real life? In reality, you can use nearly anything as a hammer, and that too will be modeled in the game. Some hammers are better than others, some are prone to break, some are not suited for certain types of hammering (based on hardness). To a degree, these things will be modeled as well. Not everything tool/object created is equal, in fact, very few things will be "exactly" the same. Even if you use the same materials to build it.
Later on, assembly lines will be invented to try to standardize building and make objects more-or-less the same.

Why can't I invent firearms right off the bat?

Same reason why cavemen couldn't do it. They didn't know how. There will be a progression of technology and the speed at which it progresses will be determined by the players of the game itself and their ability to invent, progress, and discover. Many of the things that hindered technological progression through our history will be the same things that hinder progression in this game.

So the game is the size of Earth, but will it be Earth?

We want a fresh planet so exploration is that much more meaningful. We also don't want to have to get everything "just right". Having a new planet also gives us the opportunity to customize the terrain to make it more interesting for players. The downside to this is players wont be able to feel like they "found' a place they know, and they wont be able to travel to "where they live", to see it in the game world. As fun as that might be, it would actually be detrimental to have players trying to spread out and find various locations. Players need to stick together, explore, and discover. This way, the only reason for travel will be because of real needs of the player/character.

Will the "nations" be run by all players wanting to run the nation? How will that work?

It would work very much like it works today. No gimmicks, and not much in the way of mechanics either. There will be special mechanics for being able to control other players under certain circumstances. But running a nation will be a whole other level that would require the cooperation of a number of players and the implementation of social systems (just like a real government). 
It may sound like it would be too complicated, but keep in mind that a nation will form naturally as population grows. Ideally, whoever was in charge while the nation was but a small town will be taking small steps to handle population growth until they realize they have the first Universe Project nation. 
There will however be a way to mark territory and the ability to communicate the rules of a particular territory. This could be considered a mechanic for the building of a nation, but it would also be used on a much smaller scale. More likely, nations will form as a cooperation of towns and cities, which would be governed by different people. 

You said there are no NPCs in this game, but what about animals?

You're right. Animals will be run on AI. When I say NPCs, I mean human characters. Infact, there will be some AI automation in real players as well. But there will be no "vendors" or "quest givers" or any human characters that are not connected to a player.

When do you think the kickstarter will be? What sort of time are you looking before release?

At the moment, the answers to these questions are in flux and I cannot even offer a ballpark right now. The most pivotal factor will be funding and we are working on that. I can say that it wont be the 5-100 years people have speculated. Before a kickstarter, we need to have a working prototype. At this point we have the complete game design, technology overview, and a series of technical demos. We need to turn the technical demos into a single proof-of-concept. At that point, we will begin the Kickstarter campaign. 
I want to help more, what can I do?
  1. Be active in the community! Answer questions that come up on the youtube site, facebook page, on twitter and reddit. Redirecting people to this page would help too.
  1. Get the word out, put up your referral link on forums (make your post signature have the link, you can use the banner ad at the bottom of this section too if you'd like).
  1. If you already have all the referrals you need, or if you don't care about the referral rewards, then feel free to use the http://universeprojects.com link instead. It will help to drive search engine traffic to our site.
  1. If you're really itchin, feel free to use some online promotion services from fiverr.com too. For 5 bucks, you can generate a lot of traffic for your referral link or for the site itself. This might also be a good way to get referrals but I'm not sure about it. (Please note that I've never used this service for lead/traffic generation before and I can't speak to it's legitimacy)
Here is the banner ad you can use for your forum signatures.
The HUGE one 760x140 pixels.
The smaller one 468x86 pixels.

I'd like to interview you and/or your team

Get a hold of Nik at support@universeprojects.com or use the twitter account or facebook page to message him directly.

I want to donate and I can't wait for Kickstarter!
I want to become a business partner/investor

If you have that kind of faith at this early stage, you can get a hold of Nik at support@universeprojects.com or use the twitter account or facebook page to message him directly.




Feel free to comment and ask questions that have not been answered here. I will answer them as much as I can. Please note however that I wont be able to go into detail on many aspects of the game as it is too early in development and a good portion of the game, how it works, and how we plan to overcome obstacles must remain a secret.

We realize this is an awkward time, but hope you're willing to give us the benefit of the doubt. Let our work be the indicator as to whether or not our vision is the right one.