Approaches To Space Dragons

I like the idea of making a sci-fi game more than a fantasy game.  We’re all familiar with the trappings of fantasy, it’s like mainstream geek folklore.  However, Sci-Fi seems more progressive – magic and swordplay are behind us, lets talk laser beams.

As Yahtzee put in his EVE Online review, the reaches of space are fascinating because they are places mankind has not yet been where we may still find dragons, figuratively speaking.  The final frontier has a sort of infinite wonderment to it.

In that same review, he points out that EVE Online somehow failed to capture this feeling of space dragons.   It was a game of finding floating rocks, converting them into an elaborate spaceship component market, and then using said components to blow up other spaceship components.  Not only were there no dragons to be found, but what was found was a pointless exercise in monotony.

Sci-Fi shouldn’t be boring, so how can one present it as an entertaining game?  Lately, I’ve been seesawing across two approaches, and I haven’t quite decided which one to settle upon, or even if a comprimise could be reached.

On one hand, there’s the approach of the lone space explorers in a strange new world.  There’s reason why the crew of the Enterprise doesn’t conduct their planetary explorations from the safety of their fully-sensor-enabled shuttlecraft or perhaps some kind of Star Trek version of a reinforced battle tank.  It’s to fully expose them to this sense of strange peril, and through them, the viewer.

On the other hand, there’s the approach of a whole organization of space explorers working together to adapt to the strange new world.  This is a feeling you’ll see in a lot of space games, and the reason for this is because it creates the opportunity for meaningful creative content.  An uninhabited planet is pretty much just a big ball of unused elements.  If you inhabit that planet by creatures, eventually leading up to whole galactic civilizations, there’s many more stories to tell.

There’s ups and downs to either approach.  If you take the former approach, you can weave a powerful singular story, but you can’t let the players establish much sovereignty over the environment or the novelty is lost.  If you take the later approach, stories write themselves, but it comes with noticeable downside in that sovereignty is established and the novelty of the elements of the stories are quickly lost.

It’s here I’ve remained stumped for awhile.  Space RPG, or space strategy?  I want both.  Perhaps, with a bit of work, a reasonable medium could be met.  For example, what if we start in a space exploration stage, and end in a civilization stage?  It could be the first game to try to do this, with the closest being Spore.  At that point, the trouble becomes working out the details in a satisfactory manner conductive to good gameplay.

2 Responses

  1. […] you may have noticed, I tend to gravite heavily around space games, and in my 26-years of playing games, there were a few gems I regret missing at the time.  This […]

  2. […] May 11th, I considered how to go about making a space game. […]

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