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Deep Space Opera but with Dupes


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Here's an idea: What about we take the concept of spaced out's buildable modular rockets to its natural conclusion, and have a colony ship as an endgoal? Maybe there exists a larger fragment of the original planet left, or we find the wormhole again, or there is a new planet to explore- but we need to get there first, and the small rockets available can't support the journey there. We need something bigger, with more reserves, and room for some self-sustaining processes. We need a colony ship.

These are a pretty well established sci-fi trope that real-life work has gone into exploring the viability of, as the the stars represent the unexplored unknown, the potential hope for humanity, and the way forward... Eventually. Probably not in our lifetimes, but what if we could at least play with the idea?

We get a little of that from our much beloved colony sim, but the portal is a bit of a concession to convenience and simplicity of systems. With an operational ship, maybe that opportunity wouldn't be there- representing a different opportunity for the player, that of a real hardmode, and one that seems perhaps more interesting than hungrier dupes or a lack of psychological care. New challenges could be introduced, hazards that only a space-faring ship might encounter- giving the writing team more freedom to create interesting scenarios (What if there's a black hole? A pulsar? Space fish? An extradimensional duplicate of a duplicant? A meteor shower/comet trail/layman's interpretation of an asteroid field? An extradimensional duplicate of the ship, but no-one is on board and all the clocks are A DAY AHEAD? Space fish?) and the designers to expand on gameplay elements (Need a power sink? Plasma shielding! Powered by space bug plasma! Need a logistics puzzle? The engines can only be built one way, and need a constant supply of fuel and maintenance. Need a crisis? Space fish with guns! Now combat is real!.. or don't, it's not for everyone) and the players would net lots of cool new gizmos to toy with, and more importantly, lots of new experiences with a familiar feel, but a bit of the thrill of something new and unknown.

I'm no programmer, and wouldn't pretend to know the logical underpinnings of how ONI functions, but at first glance it doesn't seem too far-fetched to integrate with the current systems for space exploration, either vanilla or DLC. Both have the idea of a starmap and ship construction- we could simply have a new location shown after a reasonable milestone is met (Research? Time? Productivity metrics? Fish? Dupe count?) and then have the option of starting construction- having to ship enough refined materials there as cargo. Maybe with Spaced Out the player can even travel to and prep the site themselves, having a more direct hand in the ship's construction.

And what a ship it could be- with everything a dupe could need for a long journey. It could even be modular, so the player can make a few interesting strategic choices early on about what to take with them and how to outfit the ship, at least at first. The Room system would likely work with a bit of modification to validate a given module or even the ship as a whole. There could be engine modules that need to be facing the right way and act as a resource sink for processed fuel, or a crisis if something fails. There could be medbays where an alien disease or parasite is revealed. Hangar bays for smaller rockets or landing ships - are we here to explore as well as make it to our new home? Scavenging modules for space wrecks. What loot is out there? A bridge - who's in charge around here? More importantly, do they get a sweet admiral's hat? It's feasible that there's no modules at all- just some components that have to be there, with enough resources in storage, and everything being fully sealed up.

There's huge potential to set up a whole new paradigm for the dupes on the ship (and the player) as well- the ship becomes the new main colony, with different sites taking place of other asteroids (which could still be resource-rich asteroids, conveniently making use of existing generation code), and the starmap changing to reflect the ship seemingly staying still and the other sites moving around it. There could even be a simpler starmap- maybe the dupes' FTL travel requires a sort of hyperlane between star systems, and it behaves like an insterstellar highway- meaning the player can just be presented with procedurally generated choices of how to progress, that can lead to new scenarios or have disastrous consequences if they aren't prepared.

Things could even be styled as a monster of the week scenario generator- perhaps the dupes have spaceborne versions of their cryopods (complete with a need for cryogenic fuel being consumed maybe) and just have to top off their fuel and energy and be sure the ship is fixed up before hitting the big freeze, ready for adventure once again as the ship flashes into hyperdrive. What will they find the next time they thaw? What wonders will they uncover in the vastness of space? Are we there yet? Why does the viewport look like an eyeball?

And if the player is still attached to their old colony, there's no reason why it can't stay and survive- the save system already has systems in place to separate saves between colonies, so it could simply prompt the player to name the ship- and once it leaves, they can just load right back up- minus a few dupes of course. Perhaps there would even be a record of their produced ships' exploits? A one-way message, maybe with short descriptions of events and snapshots of the ship, just like the colony overview image? The player could even write it themselves, like a photo album or a one-way Instagram.

This would also pave the way for smaller bite-sized DLC like scenario packs, or pave the way for modders to introduce their own scenarios or even campaigns, or both. Campaigns! A campaign system would be very interesting to see. The community has always loved the little stories the you tell with your animation;  I wonder - what kind of story would you tell if you had more than the few minutes of a promo video?

Having a standalone ship would lead to all sorts of fun new shenanigans and lots of opportunity for drama and new puzzles to solve - and knowing this community, new mechanics to shamelessly and creatively abuse - and could refresh the experience for many as well as bring in new folks who might want a bit more of an ending to work towards, while still keeping the same style of colony management and just-making-it-by tension that makes the game compelling. And who's to say? Maybe the dupes find their way towards their supposed new home, only to discover that they enjoy the discovery and adventure too much to leave it behind, and decide to continue endlessly exploring the great unknown...

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