Space Engine is one of my favorite programs of all time because it captures my imagination like no other program before it. It is the perfect environment for my dream game Today I finally sat down and started putting into words the game I have been searching far and wide for years, all the while with Space Engine in mind as the game's foundation. I wrote this out and then thought to post it here, and noticed Space Engineer has a writeup with some similar concepts. This is a dream wish-list for my ultimate space game. Here is my writeup so far.
Capital Ship Management, Space Exploration, Survival and Colonization game.
Player controls a capital ship with abilities to have a picket fleet of specialized ships, also to deploy a variety of probes and landers. The fleet will specialize in exploration, or colonization or an alternative mission or some combination. Players will explore space strategically, utilizing ship functions, landers and equipment to draw resources from the natural environment to power and maintain the ships, provide for fuel, food and air and conduct scientific experiments and research new technologies. Fleets will be able to deploy and build settlements, bases, stations and mining facilities on and around planets and other celestial bodies like moons, asteroids, comets and nebula. Challenges will occur on the ships and in the fleet between crew members and with on board systems and may be situationally dependent. Ships must be managed and the crew kept busy, from mechanical concerns to medical and psychological. Ships can be modular with certain wings, segments and facilities available to build if the right research level and resources requirements are met. Attributes like speed, utility and range can be affected by research levels and available resources or faction kits. The game camera will have several modes, including interior bridge, corridor, observation decks that create an immersive feel beyond the normal bird's eye and tactical modes.
Not a combat game: This game would not be focused on combat, although military elements could be incorporated into the game for flavor or needed excitement, it would not be the central focus of development or feature.
The game will not be a FPS: The camera angles and interactive modes will be designed with immersion and perspective and atmosphere in mind. There may not even be a first person view or the ability to walk through ships (although that would be ideal), but instead a series of interactive presentations of cross-section interiors with relevant options in a UI as the scene unfolds in real time. Time will be able to be paused freely in time sensitive situations for thoughtful decision making and micro management.
Physics: will be Newtonian with some effects available by fictional advanced technology such as warp drives and extremely efficient fuel consumption rates or building capabilities. Celestial bodies and events will have gravitational and radiation affects on the fleet, ships and crew depending on available technology. Famously dangerous bodies like black holes and dense stars will present potentially catastrophic situations to those wandering too close. Certain life support operations such as greenhouses may be affected by radiation or light traits of a system being explored or planet being colonized without the right technology and expertise on hand to mitigate issues.
Science Modules: There can be scientific modes in the game corresponding to their in-game module or ship component. A wide range of sensor sweeps, probe command, experiments and studies can be done in this mode, depending on the kind and capabilities of the science module(s) on board the ship, within the fleet, on the station, or in the colony. This is where the wealth of scientific information in space engine's procedural formulas can really shine and many quandaries and interesting discoveries can be made from this mode while observing the surrounding stars and their systems, or observing the chemical makeup of an atmosphere, or the geography of a moon's surface, etc. This information should affect the surrounding resulting gameplay - for example that planet may have a lot of the element we really need right now, but it's gravitational pull means we will be spending a significant amount of thruster fuel to conduct the operation, creating a new shortage where we gain in, say, food production which has been a problem. The information is not static - it plugs into the rest of what is going on and therefore each system will be unique in it's requirements and challenges. Some system may not be feasible to visit at all, depending on the loadout of the fleet.
Navigation modules (Bridge?): Each ship will have a navigation module and a corresponding game mode in which, depending on the ship or module's capabilities, routes can be plotted from star to star and maps and diagrams of the surrounding systems can be observed with tactical information easily available and organized.
Orbital operations modules: All stations and some ships will feature an orbital operations module in which, depending on it's capabilities, deployment of probes and landing craft to the surface, as well as the operation and managements of some facilities placed or built on the surface for the purposes of scientific research, experiments, exploration, resource discovery and acquisition, initial colonization efforts, etc.
Crew Management mode: Manage the day to day operations of the ship, fleet, station, vehicle command crew, mining operation, settlement. Meet needs such as water, food, entertainment, psychological and medical health. Assign ranks, and create a command structure. Manage individual crew expertise, scientific specialization, skill set and knowledge, academic degrees, etc. Develop the right people for the kinds of operations you intend to undertake. Manage crisis with command options, such as fire crews, mechanical teams, medical emergencies. Create and manage a research facility and scientists who work tirelessly for their next breakthrough for the fleet. In the case of cryogenic stasis, most of crew may be asleep and automated robots or computers or a select few crew members are all that is needed to operate the ship until it arrives at its destination.
Time periods and technology levels and architectural styles/factions/aliens: It would be possible to create "kits" of ships, stations, landers, probes, modules, settlement structures and building tools as well as limitations and thematic elements to plug and play into the game. It'd be work, but it could be done. Community development tools would be made available to this end for players to try their hand at developing and then publishing kits. The best kits would see the most use.
The game will lend itself to picturesque, unique scenery and photo opportunities as the fleet explores the depths of procedural space. The beauty of the procedurally generated terrain and the graphics engine will be leveraged for relaxing moments of tranquil gameplay in a land vehicle or starship observation lounge if desired, with the ability to pan out and take control of the larger operations of a fleet and its peoples. New ships and equipment and addons can be developed by both the dev team and the community. The game would be a science fiction starship sandbox, with the ability to purposefully explore, colonize or create the ultimate home. To the extend possible, building and design elements and tools would be available to players to customize or even create from whole cloth their imagination's desire. From models of living facilities on a remote world to starships of their own. The game would not be an MMO, but would incorporate multiplayer elements such as cooperative play in a fleet, or competitive play in a specific instance with a limited amount of connected players. Ships and ship components and crew members will be able to be named and described. Colonization could be a whole game unto itself with different buildings and facilities becoming available depending on which technologies are employed to taking advantage of local resources. Multiplayer potential is here as well. The layout and design of a colony could be an immersive and rewarding form of gameplay as you create a functional but fantastical science fiction settlement out of your favorite geographical discovery, and then show it off to your friends with screenshots or an in-game tour.
Crisis: Events will occur, either randomly or through informed chance due to circumstances surrounding in game choices. For example, the hull of the flagship may be ruptured by unexpected debris shortly after exiting warp speed at it's new destination. Crew or robots or drones must be chosen (possible pre-chosen for such an event if prepared for) and deployed to the exterior for an ETA, and the ship must be repaired. Or a viral outbreak. Or a navigational error. Or a riot breaks out in a settlement. Or two scientists become bitter rivals, causing drama in the research labs. These events must be dealt with effectively by the choices and preparation and management of the crew by the player, or they will fester into larger more difficult issue and potentially even game ending, fatal or mission failing scenarios.
Time: - the time scope of the game could be vast, using time in a unique way to depict the challenges of space travel. The method of travel such as cryogenic sleep or generation ship or warp drive might play an important factor in the way a crew is managed. Colonization ships may have to have a thriving community on board already functioning and well managed before even reaching their destination world or they could all be asleep awaiting the pre-determined time to wake up and prepare. Reaching a distant star could mean 100 years or 6 months travel time and the resulting gameplay of such an endeavor could be unique to the situation. Time could be paused or fast forwarded, and perhaps in a limited way to avoid exploits, reversed as well.
The scope of perspective of the game can be zoomed in the to personal, individual level of a crew member or the captain, or pulled out to see the bigger picture, or zoomed out even more to see the really, really bigger picture, seeing not just the day to day affairs of a crew, but also their entire careers, and successions, and perhaps even generations of crews over vast swaths of travel time.