Open enrollement for Gravity 101

Discussion in 'Game Design' started by PaulModz, Sep 29, 2006.

  1. PaulModz

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    I’ve been buried in my work for a few months as well, but this forum needs a little fresh meat, so I thought I’d post the latest video from my real-time 4X space simulator that I’ve rambled on about so much in the past.

    I’ve found that most people’s unfamiliarity with the finer points of gravity keeps them from jumping into the game if I’m not there with them the first time they play.

    Since I don’t plan to sell my game as a door-to-door salesman, putting together a good in-game tutorial has been my latest project. To that end, here’s my first rough cut. The following tutorial (or something like it) will be most potential customers’ first impression of my game, and I only get one of those per person.

    Since the tutorials will be more like movies than games most of the time, the fun-to-fact ratio is tricky. Ideally, I’d like the users’ experience to be like watching a short episode of Nova (an excellent public broadcasting science series in the US) that turns into a video game when it’s over so you can play with what you just learned about.

    Any feedback or insights would be much appreciated.

    Anybody here read the Algebraist by Iain M Banks? Remember how the Dwellers made Faasin Taak go through days of spiraling high G maneuvers every time they went somewhere?

    The final 20 seconds of the video isn’t part of the tutorial, but it shows a ship spiraling at over 1 G for almost a month before running out of fuel and shooting out of the system at 5 million kilometers per hour ;) If you look closely at the debug output, you can see acceleration slowly increases from 1.2G to 1.5G because the ship gets lighter as it burns fuel.

    http://www.paulmodz.net/Gravity101.wmv

    FYI - some of the tutorial popups don't stay up long enough to read, and you can't rewind a wmv file until the whole thing is downloaded, so you may want to pause the video when a popup appears.
     
    #1 PaulModz, Sep 29, 2006
    Last edited: Sep 29, 2006
  2. TimS

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    Cool stuff as usual.

    Some of the on-screen action didn't match the tutorial text (talking about the Earth-Sun L1 and having an arrow pointing to the Moon-Earth L1, etc.) and I'd get rid of the Uranus joke mention, but seemed good (and educational) beyond that. May not be necessary to show every planet's Sphere... takes a while without generating much new info or interest. Also perhaps make it a bit more explicit what L2 points ARE like you did for L1.

    I assume the last 20 seconds will be cut off entirely?

    Also also-- when can we PLAY with it? :(

    -Tim
     
  3. stiill

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    I pretty much agree with Tim.

    First off, I didn't know ANY of this stuff before watching the video. Super awesome stuff, and it sounds like a fantastic game mechanic.

    Once I learn about the Earth and Sun Hill Spheres, I want to play with them. Once I learn about Lagrange Points, I want to play with them, too. Your information about the planets is interesting, but it comes up right when I want to play. Personally, I'd love to have that information easily accessible somehow, like with an information menu for the planets and moons or something. Then I could learn it later, and re-learn it when I inevitably forget.

    I pretty much had no clue what was going on at the end. :) There are different ways to move or specify your destination, it looks like, and there are various numbers about the screen, but I don't know what they're all for.

    A long tutorial up front is a hard sell nowadays-- people just downloaded the game, and they want to play. They don't even want epic cutscenes half the time. Another paradigm to look at, instead of "Nova first, then play", is "bit of Nova, play with that until you totally understand it. Another bit of Nova, play with that until you totally understand it." That's the basic theory behind games starting you off with one attack, and then giving you more and more special moves as you progress.

    I know schools are a hard sell-- they're perpetually broke-- but I wonder if you could hook up with an enlightened teacher at some point and get it in front of some students. Even if it teaches nothing beyond what we saw in the tutorial, I'd say that's well worth a couple days of classroom time.

    Final thought: I wasn't at all interested in this game before the tutorial. It looked too complex. Now I'm very excited to check it out.
     
  4. Fabio

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    When talking about Jupiter you wrote "it's" meaning "its". This is IMO the most annoying typing error US Americans do. I would fix it.

    Also, you say that the Moon is the relatively biggest natural satellite we have in our solar system, but there's Charon if I recall well that may be relatively bigger (half the diameter of Pluto, IIRC). Well, Pluto ain't a "planet" anymore, but you call Uranus the 7th planet so you're evidently considering Pluto the 9th in the tutorial. Thus either the first part (about the Moon) is wrong, or you should get rid of Pluto and leave the first part as is. :)

    For the rest, it's (not its :D ) a nice and entertaining tutorial.
     
  5. electronicStar

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    very good stuff, and you are opening your software to new horizons.
    If I were you I'd try to put the maximum info and educational data in there too :)
     
  6. PaulModz

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    Thanks for the great feedback, guys. This tutorial is really the testbed for my interactive scripting tool, which is a fairly complex WinForms GUI that lets me build scripts visually, and then generates the XML (or binary) scenario file. A lot of the glitches were really bugs or problems in the tool.

    I'll post a complete version of the first tutorial scenario in the next day or so (with changes based on feedback), which will cover all the Lagrange points in depth. The last part of the tutorial will load another Solar System which contains actual extra-solar planets recently discovered, to show that the concepts covered are in no way tied to our solar system.

    I agree there should be more interaction mixed in, but there isn't much to build on from a game play perspective here on square one. I think the best bet is to keep this first one as short as possible.

    I've already started mapping out the second tutorial, which will cover ship fuel/energy dynamics in detail, and there will be a lot of ways to let the player experiment in that one. It should be fun to play with ships that have varying levels of solar/fusion power. The cool thing here (from a game play perspective) is that there is no "best" ship at any given time. In other space 4X games, you simply build the biggest ship (with the most powerful engines and weapons) current tech allows. In my game, how (and where) a ship is to be used will determine the design.

    Finally, I'm getting very close to the point where I can (in good conscience) let some of the people here start playing around with the game (weeks not months).

    Send me a private message or email through this site if you're interested.
     

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