Erebus - a solo space odyseey

Started by RTigger, September 21, 2016, 08:23:11 AM

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Hey everyone!  Thought I'd jot down some of the notes from one of the few games I'm developing.  I mentioned this briefly in the one meeting I attended two months ago, but now that summer is over I'm hoping to spend a bit more time on it in the coming months.

The game is based around the idea of a mobile game, Out There.  The concept in Out There is that you're the captain of a one-person spacecraft that was just jolted out of cryo-stasis when your craft drifted into an alien structure.  From there you have to gather resources using what little tools your spacecraft has to attempt to travel back to your home system.  The game I'm trying to make captures much of the same "alone in space" feel where you fight against all odds and using what you manage to scavenge from planets and star systems along the way to get to your goal.

The storyline however is a bit different: the plot I'm currently going with is your ship and crew are the sole survivors of an alien onslaught - you were part of an expeditionary fleet heading towards the first sign of alien communication found by your species.  After travelling hundreds of years your ships finally arrives to intersect the signal, where a literal wall of alien craft and technology envelopes the fleet and immediately destroys pretty much everything it comes across.  Once your ship regains its bearings and realizes what happens, you race back towards your home system, hoping to beat the alien force back home so you can give some sort of early warning in an effort to prepare or at least avoid the onslaught.

As you can probably tell this game has a lot of theme and flavour to it, and that's been one of the biggest hang ups of the design - having to write enough copy for the game to make it interesting.  I've recently decided to take a slimmed down approach and build a very basic 30-card system, but I'd love the final product to have a higher number of cards if only to increase the replay value and randomness of the story.

For the actual mechanics: a "game round" consists of a few things.

  • Flip over a "system card" for the sector you're currently in (outer, middle, or inner).  The system card has two main things: an event (which may provide a story choice or some sort of boon or detriment), and the description of the solar system.
  • Resolve the event on the system card.  This either has you gain or lose something, or has you make a decision.  For example: "You find an apparently abandoned craft floating out in the black.  Perhaps a victim of the alien force?  Do you a) Scan for life, b) scavenge the ship for parts, or c) leave it alone to its fate".  The cool thing about the story events: there's basically a 'choose your own adventure' deck that corresponds with the actions you take.  i.e. if you chose option A, you'd look for card 37 in the "consequence deck" and the backside of it will tell you what happens.  Also, it may tell you to shuffle a new event deck into the middle or inner systems that you might encounter later on in the game that's related - maybe if you found a life form and help them their fleet will come to your aid later on in your adventure :)
  • Once you resolve the event, you have the option of visiting any of the planets in the system.  Planets are of 3 types - mineral, gas, and inhabited.  Gas planets are your source of fuel, mineral planets give you resources, and inhabited planets have various alien encounters on them (similar to the story choices).  Visiting a planet costs fuel, and visiting a gas planet also runs the risk of damaging your ship.
  • After you're done with the planets (you can visit each up to once), you need to move onto the next system.  Jumping to a new system costs fuel, the amount of which is determined by what sector you're in (outer, middle, inner).  You can jump as many systems as you can afford the fuel for, but every time you jump the marker representing the alien force moves up one as well.  The game is essentially a race against the alien force marker, so at some point you have to choose to spend more fuel so you can progress faster - but fuel is a precious resource used for pretty much every action in the game, so it needs to be managed well.

A few other things in the game:

  • Your ship has a few stats, namely engines (how much fuel it costs you to jump systems), shields (how much you can mitigate damage), and capacity (how much equipment and/or resources you can store).  There's also an opportunity to get different ships throughout the game if you happen to stumble across them :)
  • There's a tech tree of sorts, where upgrades are "slotted in" with the base equipment you get in the game.  Because the slots are specific to certain upgrades, throughout the game you have to decide which upgrade path you're going to take.  I actually like this component the best out of all the things I've designed so far.

A few things I'm struggling with:

  • As I said, the daunting task of writing a complete universe is a bit overwhelming, but I'm overcoming that by making a "bare minimum" prototype.
  • I feel like the coolest part of the game so far is the events, but it also feels like the planet interactions are a bit boring.  There's definitely an element of risk/reward in the planet mining actions, but when you take the action it's generally out of necessity (i.e. you NEED fuel so you have to take the risk) so it feels more like "I'm getting screwed for something I need to do" than "Oh man that move was worth the risk".
  • I'm going back and forth about this being a solo game.  I've designed ideas for an up-to-4 player game and I think it could work, but I feel like if I want to be true to the original and capture a similar theme it should be a solo game.  Obviously for marketing purposes more players is better, but on the flipside a solo-only game might be unique enough to work - there hasn't really been a 'major' solo game release since Friday (a game by Friedemann Friese, designer of Power Grid and 504)

Anyways, thanks for listening to me vomit my ideas onto a page.  If you guys have any feedback or comments I'd love to hear them!

Here's an imgur album of my components so far:


Sounds interesting
What are the consequences of failing?  or is it more Sandlot format
Solo Game, maybe should be an app like pokomon go


You could make the neccesary function of all the cards and then go back and start doing the details