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 Some thoughts on the future of TW 
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Joined: Sat Jun 05, 2021 8:48 pm
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Unread post Some thoughts on the future of TW
Hello everyone,

Long time BBS'er and TW player here. I've played off and on since the early 90s, and am well acquainted with the game although never a serious, dedicated player. Recently I've been playing in a 1000 turn "stock" game to pass the time, building up some sectors, preparing to harass a three player corp. Might end up getting my 4$$ kicked before it's over with. These guys are pretty built up but aren't aggressive in searching me out just yet, so I have a chance to get established and put up a good fight at least.

It's interesting to see that BBS'ing and TW are still going all these years later. The statistics at the top of this forum show a surprising number of people playing, although they're scattered all over the place with only a few players in any given game. Seems like there's twice as many games as actual players, with many games completely empty.

This is the first I've played since 2015. I'm looking at TW with a critical eye and noticing that in general, it seems to have more than its fair share of design flaws.

It always been buggy since the v1.x days, of course. There are many little quirks and annoyances, for example when you're picking up product/colonists from a planet, the prompt defaults to the number of free holds you have available, rather than the actual amount available to be picked up. I don't like the "avoids" management system. I don't like the messaging system. There are many parts of the UI where obvious improvements could be made, but just never were.

Then there's larger problems with the design such as most of the ships being worthless, most of the planet types being worthless, etc. Many aspects of this game are completely pointless and only there as window dressing, such as aliens, alien derelicts, etc. These should have been expanded upon, tweaked and adjusted long ago, but the game crystallized into its current state and major needed improvements stopped being made.

I don't like how in a serious game, it's practically impossible for a less than hardcore player to even get a foot in the door. A few hours delay in signing up or one unlucky accident could set one back too far to recover. Enemies can set up fighter screens, run Ptorp scripts, and do all kinds of nasty things to keep other players down and out.

Then there's the alignment system which is incredibly flawed IMO. Another player or corporation having much more or much less alignment than oneself makes them practically untouchable, as you lose or gain tons of alignment just by attacking their fighters. I hate this aspect of TW.

The more I think about it, the more problems I see with TW2002. I think it's horribly unbalanced and in need of a major overhaul.

So I got to fantasizing about what I would do to fix the problems with this game. Little tweaks here and there just aren't enough, although it would be welcome. Maybe it would be best to write a new game from scratch which is *inspired* by TW, but with major differences in design. This may be crazy talk. Just kicking around ideas here, and wondering what you all think.

For those of you are familiar with EVE Online, that's a MMO space game which was inspired by TW, but has a lot more depth to it. Of course it's a graphical game, only suited for desktop play, and it's a major time sink. I think lack of depth is a major problem with TW. It's too flat and boring, compared to a rich and detailed universe like EVE.

Another game you old schoolers may be familiar with is VGA Planets, which people are still playing also. That's a "play by email" turn based space game which also has some interesting ideas. It's more of a larger scale, slower paced game.

Then there are games like Ultimate Universe, which was an interesting TW-like game but too complicated IMO to ever really take off, and Planets TEOS whose advantages and disadvantages I'm not familiar with as I never really played it. Maybe you can give some input on positive aspects of those games that you like.

So my crazy idea would be a new text based space game, combining the most interesting ideas from TW, EVE, VGA planets, UU, Planets TEOS, Master of Orion, etc. It would be a persistent universe, with the idea being to build up one's stellar empire and maintain it over the long term, with the game balanced so that it would get progressively harder to stay on top as one's empire grows. All players would be centrally hosted on one server in one universe, with one fixed (and balanced) set of rules, rather than spread out in a thousand different universes as they are in TW. There would be a lot more depth to it than TW, while retaining the emphasis on short and long term strategy, politics, etc.

The very idea of making it a text based game might be ridiculous, but then again I thought BBS's and TW would have long vanished by now, and they haven't. I'd only be interested in doing this if I could build something that could attract hundreds or even thousands of players; something that I could actually make a little money off of, charging say $1-$3/month for unlimited access. A game that someone could kill time playing on a tablet while on the bus, subway, etc, and have fun with it, rather than having to dedicate their life in front of a PC. No pay to win BS either.

I'm probably just dreaming. Not taking myself too seriously here. Who will pay to play such a game? I don't know. If it were interesting enough, and well marketed, perhaps a market exists for this, or maybe it doesn't. Maybe I will end up writing such a game, or maybe someone else will read this and be inspired to do it themself. Whatever. I like TW, but would like to see some real advancements in the genre, and bring the magic of this game to a new generation.

I think in this new game the universe, rather than being generated once and fixed in size, would expand automatically as new players join. A newbie would get "his" own section of space added to the universe, say a 500-1000 sector buffer zone, with the algorithm placing him closer to others of similar experience/talent and further away from the stronger players. If someone gets overrun and destroyed he can restart in a different area. There would be no zero turn mapping; courses can only be plotted to sectors that have already been explored. It would be a game you could slowly explore and discover and stay hidden for a while in some obscure place, rather than everyone knowing all the nooks and crannies and coming at you from day one.

Instead of centralized locations like Terra or Stardock which can be blockaded, it would be more like VGA Planets or EVE where you manufacture things on your own planets, ports, space stations, etc. Ships would be modular and customizable, so that a person could build their own custom ship designs within a certain framework that keeps things balanced, but also unique and interesting.

There wouldn't be any grinding like there is in TW, with lots of tedious activity like hauling colonists, port trading, etc, with external helpers needed to be competitive. All of this could be automated with scripting built into the game as a sort of advanced macro system, with database/mapping features also. Instead of manually grinding ports for example, you would build a ship and assign it to automatically perform that task, according to your own algorithm or one you were given. The player's focus would be kept on larger aspects of strategy rather than on boring tedium.

Honestly, I'm not really in a good place to work on such a project right now. Maybe in a year or three when I could have some spare time to work on it without having to think about making a profit. It wouldn't be right to charge for a game in "alpha" state anyhow. Just generating ideas, putting these thoughts out there to the community and see what your opinions might be.

All feedback, positive or negative, is welcome. What cool ideas do you have that would be incorporated into such a game?


Sat Jun 05, 2021 11:12 pm
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