Author Topic: Space Tycoon (working title)  (Read 6461 times)

crash2455

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Space Tycoon (working title)
« on: June 04, 2013, 12:53:47 AM »
I'm working on a simulation of sorts for my group.  The short of it is that they will run the space program in a fictitious country, building rockets and other launch systems to explore, and later, exploit space.

I had considered this originally because I realized that in space programs, between all the math and engineering there is real conflict and real emotion.  The space program is in a constant budget struggle to do the most dangerous things with what they have.  There is wonder and beauty in the cosmos, and there is incredible sorrow and doubt in the failure of manned missions.

I detailed a lot of ideas and concerns in this doc

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1kqzrGwG4dMZspX1y60QFksMoPwHq4MtrzzbMfYzALgk/edit?usp=sharing

My main questions are of interest and of feasibility. Am I crazy for thinking this would be an engaging game?  Are there any existing game systems that could take care of a managerial system like this?

clockworkjoe

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Re: Space Tycoon (working title)
« Reply #1 on: June 04, 2013, 01:06:01 AM »
It's definitely a great premise for a game, but the problem comes from actually simulating such a complex and dynamic system - how do you create a solid set of rules to simulate a market? I found out in the Fortunes of War campaign that it is not easily accomplished.


crash2455

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Re: Space Tycoon (working title)
« Reply #2 on: June 04, 2013, 01:10:32 AM »
That is among the problems that I am facing.  To some degree I am considering abstracting the budget and costs of things to "units" so that this doesn't become one huge math problem with some skill rolls.  It would need a lot of playtesting to better understand, and I don't ever imagine that it would or could be fully mastered.

I'm planning on (for the small scale at least) getting out before we get to the idea of Asteroid Mining and how that will completely destabilize economies.

clockworkjoe

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Re: Space Tycoon (working title)
« Reply #3 on: June 04, 2013, 01:22:47 AM »
That is among the problems that I am facing.  To some degree I am considering abstracting the budget and costs of things to "units" so that this doesn't become one huge math problem with some skill rolls.  It would need a lot of playtesting to better understand, and I don't ever imagine that it would or could be fully mastered.

I'm planning on (for the small scale at least) getting out before we get to the idea of Asteroid Mining and how that will completely destabilize economies.

The real issue is figuring out market demand - how do you determine when and how prices rise and fall? How can players predict the changes? How will their actions affect them? How will larger events outside of their control affect them?

crash2455

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Re: Space Tycoon (working title)
« Reply #4 on: June 04, 2013, 01:46:57 AM »
I'm still considering the economics on a broad level.  Part of the idea of abstraction is to avoid a lot of need for small market fluctuations.  Obviously, in the face of mass economic downturn the space program will be among the first that see the axe.  I'm considering placing the time scale of each "turn" in the order of months, and having various random events (maybe set up by a flowchart or FSM) that effect the prices of raw materials, manufacturing and the like.  The players will be somewhere at the top level of management, looking at teams of scientists, controllers, service workers, and perhaps also economists who may be able to predict market trends.

In a similar vein, launch days can be affected by weather, and space exploration can be affected by radiation, micrometeors, solar flares, etc.  Depending on the staff and/or equipment the players have on-hand, they may be able to predict weather both terrestrial and celestial, and also experts to try and predict economic trends (which are even more unpredictable than anything else ever).

For the most part, demand would come from new technologies.  As new things come up that need satellites, people will ask for them.  The military will want spy satellites, cell phone companies need communication satellites, etc.  The government will push to go places to demonstrate to the world that you are the best.  Repeated safe travels will spark space tourists.

That's the high-level at least.  Obviously there is a lot of room for improvement.

clockworkjoe

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Re: Space Tycoon (working title)
« Reply #5 on: June 04, 2013, 02:38:49 AM »
So what are your actual game mechanics to represent all of that? Because I know you can't just handwave it or guess. Well, you can, for a few sessions, but it will collapse sooner or later.

Ezechiel357

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Re: Space Tycoon (working title)
« Reply #6 on: June 04, 2013, 05:53:18 AM »
After reading your notes, it is still unclear to me if you are looking at a kind of boardgame, or if you want to be RpG based, with a kind of Yukon gold-rush feel in space ?

Whatever approach you are targetting, for most of your question, I would abstract or summarize it with several "blackboxes" concept.

For example, to simulate demands for some outer space goods, go with the black box:
"Economy", ranging from "1920 recession style" to "Booming growth" (with as many level in-between you see fit), each them associate with a profit margin (let's say from -70% to +300%). The economy value should only drift by one level (eitherway) between each turn, to prevent from being too random.
This will affect the profit made a "mission". The player having a mission returning home rolls a test of "Business competence" simulating how accurately the manager/player predicted the situation and decide of the most profitable goods to collect. The quality of this results (ranging from "pinpoint accurate" to "abyssmally flawed"), compound by the current economic downturn will determine the final profit (or losses) the mission is making (either a modifier on the "Economy" profit margin value of a double entry table).

You can also add a level of complexity by providing broad categories of mission players have to select when launching their mission:

Ressources gathering (bringing pure cash, very sensible to economic conditions),

Scientific exploration (lower profits, but lower risks as the mission is subsidised by government, industry or university), with the possibility to discover or benefit from new technologies (testing prototype, discovering new alloys, etc), which can then improve the Spacecraft, or even the possibility to find a place to settle a colony (which can translate is a permanent source of income).

Entertainment (whether space camping, space cruise, or shooting the equivalent of "Deadly catch" or "OCC" in space, or even some version of Survivor in a tough space colony/space station) - lower budget required, more successful during bad economical downturn as it "distracts" people from their depressing everyday lifes. This missions differs from the other as they always have a defined duration (people go on holidays for a given duration, not as long as the ship flies  :)).

If you want to add another business complexity, you can allow the possibility to use ressources (cash) to stimulate demands/interest or grants by spending money in communication campaign (advertisement for the latest show/gadget, lobbying for mining rights, promoting new Six-star hotel in the Stars and so on). Skills tests could also be used and again you can be as complex as you want if you want to simulate the various options possible (politics for lobbying, mass marketing for advertisement,...)

This takes care of the "how successful a mission is" part.

Now the shuttle design:
Two parameters can summarise a shuttle construction: ressources & time
Time will determine how many turns/months the team need to wait until it can be used for a mission.
Ressources is how much cash is needed to complete the building process. You can either decide it is a lump sum of money that needs to be put upfront or it is certain amount which need to be paid each turn otherwise the building does not progress (the second model allows more interesting decision making, like starting the building of a shuttle with only half of the money in bank, but betting of a soon returning mission to provide the missing cash).
If investment is turn-based, and that a team for some reason does not want/cannot pay for a month, a certain fees needs to be paid (20% ?) for the maintenance and storage of the half build shuttle.

Now time and ressources will be determined by the design of the spacecraft.
Size: will determine the capacity of the shuttle and should be considering as a modifier for mission which rely on size (mining, transport of goods, settlers or tourists)
Autonomy/speed: length a shuttle can run before returning home or how fast it can reach its destination. Either a straight modifier for determining the success of mission or the number of turns the mission can go on allowing a test each turn to check for mission completion or not. You could consider differentiating autonomy from speed, but then you run into the issue of having to define distance to accomplish mission (otherwise speed does not matter), then defining the benefit of being able to go further and so on. By combining it in a single "blackbox", you simulate that a faster/more autonomous shuttle has simply nmore chance to come back successfull.
Specialisation: going from "jack-of-all-trade" (able to do any job, not very efficiently, basic costs, -25% to profit, but easily refitted between mission), specialised (initially designed for one of the three types of missions - resources gathering, entertainment, scientific research; more expensive (+XX%), more efficient (+25% profit), but cannot easily be reffited (25% of the initial cost), which make it good at that, but not so good at any other; optimised (same as specialised, except it cannot be reffitted, more expensive (+YY%), more efficient (+50%).

Then you can add "options" to increase mission chance of success:
- Probes (3 levels (plus the basic one that equips any ship): improved probes, military grade probes, latest prototype), in increasing order of price & bonus to mission test - should be in absolute value since it is mostly electronics, size of the ship should not matter. It should be the most expensive options since it gives a flat bonus no matter what mission type.
- Quality (3 levels - plus the standard): improve the ship for one type of mission (ressources, entertainment, science), with better tools equipment or luxury suits; price and profit bonus increasing with each level, in % as the bigger the ship the more there is to adapt.
- Multipurpose ship: the ship is designed in such a way that it can accomodate two types of missions at the same time, however the capacity is obviously divided between the two roles. Cost of the designed is significantly increased (+50%), but the ship can take on two different types of mission at a time. The profit is calculated based on the success of each mission, divided by 2 (because only half the capacity of the ship can be dedicated to one mission). This option can only be applied on "Jack-of-all-trade" ship.

The cost to build a ship will be calculated with a formula like: Base value (ship size)+modifiers due to autonomy/speed+modifier due to specialization+modifier for various options, either in % or absolute value.
This gives the base value to build the ship.
If you give that to a standard shipyard, it will take (Cost of the ship/a certain number to be defined) turns to be built.
You can give it to build to more performing shipyard to build, decreasing the building time, but increasing the cost (but not the value of the ship).
It could be possible to buy some predifined type of ship with a rebate, but no possibility to customise it in anyways, with a delivery time of a turn.

Then the sequence of a mission would look like:
- Selection of mission type, possibly to select one with a risk modifier (penalty on the mission check, but increased profit, only available for scientific research and resources gathering mission)
- Take off - same turn as the mission selection (it takes one turn to reach the area of space where the mission can start)
- Mission check - one turn (depending on how details you want to be, you can say that only a "piloting skill test" is needed, simulating that at the end, the most important skill is to find its way into the great void, or you can create a set of skill more or less detailed to cover the various type of mission). The test is modified by the ship equipment. For added complexity, you can add random modifiers (like solar storm jamming sensor; meteor shower reducing the autonomy of the ship (forcing it to return earlier to base), but possibly yielding interesing mineral (bonus for mining mission),...). Based on the marge of success (or failure), the capacity of the ship is more or less filled with mineral/scientific samples & measurement
- As long as the ship autonomy is not reduced to 0, and the cargo not full the mission can go on.
- Landing - one turn.
- Profit and losses - calculated the same turn as the landing using the current Economy situation and the overall success of the mission.

By having take off and return taking one full turn, the shortest mission is three turns. It pushes the player to invest in bigger ships, with more autonomy as it is more profitable. However, the longer a mission, the more risk that it comes back in an unfavorable economy situation. Adding a interesting level of complexity in the decision process.
It leaves you room to add mechanism to control the economy environment -  like lobbying for free trade agreement, triggering a war and so on. Each of this event can be started with either resources expenses (following the equation money = power) or some skills test. Those events might have the possibility to switch the economy by more than one degree. Cooperation of player can haste the process, competition of player can block it.

Regarding the initial start of the game, you will have to decide if the player play single person or a group/corporation.
If it is a single character, you can make the choose if it is the captain, which could give them the option to change a mission on the fly if it can be more beneficial or to have some skills which translate in bonus for the mission test.
If it is the manager, it stays on earth, but it can influence the market with lobbying, advertisement, can command additional ships. The option need to be balance to make sure than each role can equally impact the game.
If each player play a group, then they might have a certain number of point to distribute between various skills.

That's what I could think off on the fly as my experiment is running in my back.

crash2455

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Re: Space Tycoon (working title)
« Reply #7 on: June 04, 2013, 10:40:10 PM »
Thanks for your inputs, guys.

Ross, I understand I have a lot of background mechanics to consider before taking this to any stage where players are involved.

Ezechiel, I think you've come up with a stronger basis for the means by which could abstract certain systems.

In any case, I have a lot of things to think about and a bit of writing to do.

Ezechiel357

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Re: Space Tycoon (working title)
« Reply #8 on: June 05, 2013, 03:29:24 AM »
You're welcome crash.

I had more to say, but I did not want to post such a long wall of text.
Some other suggestions:

Skills in RpG can be handled with % or any other numbering value. However, it can quickly add a lot of rolls during a turn and slowdown the gameflow.
An alternative is a skill give a flat advantage if you have it, no roll required.
Example:
Mechanics: for Pilot, allows to negate a penalty due to an event during a mission
Mechanics: for Shipyard, decrease the base cost of building a ship
Ace pilot: extend the autonomy of any ship by one
Politics: allows to triggers political event influencing Economy status
Marketing; allows to increase profit for entertainement and resources mission
Science: more chance to discover new tech during scientific mission.

That's just some examples
Good luck with your design.

Decimator

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Re: Space Tycoon (working title)
« Reply #9 on: June 05, 2013, 01:35:27 PM »
Some idea fodder:

Realistic space program board game: http://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/47055/high-frontier
The rules for said board game are available for download from the company that makes it: http://www.sierra-madre-games.com/conflict-simulations/downloads

And Winchell Chung's amazing site for when you have a question about the science: http://www.projectrho.com/public_html/rocket/index.php