I R SRS Games Designer. Here R SRS suggestions!!!


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Ok, I don't want to be all "I'm a games designer, don't you know" but yeah I've been working in the industry for a while and Astroneer has really exercised my brain (instead of the usual mobile-match-three stuff that comes across my desk :) ).

Here are some thoughts that I hope help you guys/gals. Sorry that they are in dry GD terms rather than "make me a cooool spaceship pew pew pew" but that's probably more helpful to you in the long run.

1. Agency.

Agency (for those that don't know) is the feeling that your player has a say in their own outcome. That their actions had impact. Chess has a lot of agency, slot machines have none. Astroneer has quite a bit but one area suffers in this regard and that's Research. Its a lottery and it can really mess with a game if it doesn't go the way of the player at least occasionally. As your list of stuff grows, the variance (the possibility of odd outcomes) grows and the random selection mechanic will become worse and worse with less and less agency. A better system might be to assign a random number of research points for each research pod and the let the players spend them as they see fit. You get to control the "price" of research and there is still some random variance but the player gets a sense that they are developing a strategy and will have to pick between ooooh, that generator or aaaah that space shuttle.... this adds more agency and depth to the game.

2. Loop vs Arc... the loop is the thing players do repeatedly. In astroneer that's collect resources so they can build stuff. The arc is the longer term goal. As a pre-alpha, you don't really have an arc and that's cool. You do need to think about it though... Do you want to drive the player onwards (some sort of ticking time bomb of an apocalypse ala FTL) or are you happy to have them fulfil it whenever they like? What compels the player to further themselves along the arc... new discoveries (right now planets are quite similar to the starting planet.. if they had something that WASNT on the home planet then they can become part of the arc). Some of the arc can help with economy and resource sinks...

3. Speaking of economy... Astroneer's needs a bit of love. As a pre alpha game this is an area that is going to hugely change over time as you introduce new resources and fiddle with rarities. Two general things jump to mind. You should (and I hope you are!) gather data from player games to see how much of everything everyone is gathering and using. This will help you fine tune things (its also basically what I do for a living so if you need further help on this, let me know). Secondly you need some serious sinks in the game. Right now after a few hours I'm basically wading through resources I just dump on the ground. I have plenty of everything more or less and no stress or pressure in that regard. In a survival game that shouldn't be the case, I should be cheering every unusual resource find! Obviously the first answer can be "make things more expensive"... but that's only going to get you so far. Making things rarer can lead to player frustration because they don't have the resources they need. Trade is a good option for this as a pressure-release mechanism but right now its far far too cheap and easy imho. Make it more expensive, make it take a little while (say 5-10 minutes).

4. Variety. You have done an *amazing* job with the plant life variety and the biomes etc. But the planets pretty much all have very similar resources it seems (albeit much reduced on non-starting planets). It would be good for game play as well as agency to make some planets distinctly more likely to have resource A vs B... perhaps exclusively so. As a player I now have to decide if I want to go route A or B... this improves the arc (I'm going to want to go to both in time) and the economy (some resources will be rare, I'll have to trade for them which is a resource sink).

5. Anti-Fun... where I work we always try to combat Anti-Fun... this is the thing that makes players go "this isn't fun" basically. Its amazing how many games designers wilfully put this stuff into their game to pad it out and make it seem bigger. You know the kind of thing "go fetch me 35 fried basilisk urethras and I will give you magic pants!". Its work fare and not fun. Be ruthless about removing anti-fun. spending time scripting one decent interaction is worth 10 cloned work-fare "quests". Ask yourself, what makes Astroneer *fun* and do more of that. What makes it not fun? Remove it. Ruthlessly.

Hey, I hope this helps, I'm not telling you gospel here but hopefully just throwing some things into the mix and see if it helps you make a great game even better!

 

Edited by Wyvyrias
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This is a pretty good post, and im glad the Wyvy saw it (at least to edit it) because these things are all extremely important in the development in a game. Especially that first point, and with the research. Then the resource pool should be a little more rare to a fix might be that resource spawn rates stay the same and you get less resource from each, this would balance it because you can still find it easy but you're not getting a wealth of it.

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Thank you, its just my 2c :)

Specifically on the research: At the moment there are about 20 things? maybe 30 that can be Slot-Machined up and so there aren't too many combinations that are frustrating (tho personally my first game I didn't get a shuttle or ship until almost the end!)... when that number becomes 70...100... that's going to be a LOT of variance and unpredictability in the games design.

Being able to unlock elements on various "trees" of options gives me several positives as a player. I feel more agency. I feel like I'm not just repeating the loop all the time, and that there is a long term goal (say.. getting the spaceship finally), ensures that the player is getting the stuff they need up front when they need it, and giving them a sense of strategy ie: this game I'm going straight for drill/truck combo... or I'm going to rush space travel and get to those lovely rare-resource planets.

The ship itself should be a big arc end, ie: the player should have to work for it. And hard. Its a monumental point in the game and it should cost more than 2 units of stuff. I'd make it cost 10 resin, 5 aluminium, 15 compound, 2 titanium etc.... this is a good sink for all that extra resource lying about and also makes it feel like a major goal to work towards (and a major achievement). Other arc-ends could be a space-station, a galactic ship, a biosphere dome etc. Its good for players to feel that there are stages and markers of achievement or they tire of the loop quickly.

 

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1 hour ago, DeVore said:

...giving them a sense of strategy ie: this game I'm going straight for drill/truck combo... or I'm going to rush space travel and get to those lovely rare-resource planets.

The ship itself should be a big arc end, ie: the player should have to work for it. And hard. Its a monumental point in the game and it should cost more than 2 units of stuff. I'd make it cost 10 resin, 5 aluminium, 15 compound, 2 titanium etc.... this is a good sink for all that extra resource lying about and also makes it feel like a major goal to work towards (and a major achievement). Other arc-ends could be a space-station, a galactic ship, a biosphere dome etc.

Totally agree!

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