The Daily Grind: What do you want out of a space sim MMO?

    
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It’s a good time to be a yearning space pilot, as Elite: Dangerous is already on the field and titles like Star Citizen and Dual Universe are on the way. Yet as I’ve been looking for a space sim to scratch my particular itch for adventure and exploration, I’ve run into problems that fall under the categories of “complexity” and “inaccessibility.”

For example, I’ve struggled with Elite’s tutorial series every time I’ve tried to break into that game. I simply can’t get a hang of the combat, and that frustrates me. What I want is an easy-to-control vessel that I can make better through a combination of combat, exploration, mining, and cargo runs. Really, I just want Freelancer done right, but I don’t quite see it out in the field yet.

Assuming that you do want to play these kinds of games, what do you want to get out of space sims? What’s the appeal and the purpose for you? And have you found a game to meet those needs yet?

Every morning, the Massively Overpowered writers team up with mascot Mo to ask MMORPG players pointed questions about the massively multiplayer online roleplaying genre. Grab a mug of your preferred beverage and take a stab at answering the question posed in today’s Daily Grind!
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Fenrir Wolf

Thank you! Gosh, where to even begin?

First of all, the most important part of anything set out in space is the discovery. I would want lots in the way of long dead alien worlds, mysterious forgotten technology, and lots of hidden secrets. Mystery is one of the most important aspects of any space setting.

The next thing I would desire is very diverse aliens that don’t just look like putty lumps configured into slightly different shapes. Star Control II being the most seminal example, here, though the races of Sword of the Stars aren’t too shabby, either.

The next point is something of a bugbear for me, a pet peeve, an irritation that irks and annoys. I’d want to see more transhumanism. I mean, if we’re at a point where we have spaceships, it’d be unlikely we’d still be wandering around in 21st century bodies, with 21st century outfits, and 21st century hairstyles.

At a bare minimum, I’d want to see bleeding edge Iron Man-style outfits with lots of augments. At best, I’d want the minds of the crew uploaded into the ship to be a part of it, piloting drone bodies whenever the need arises. The romantic idea of being the ship, of knowing space with your sensors as you know the earth today with your human senses, is a very compelling one.

The next one’s a big one for me, personally, though most players wouldn’t care.

No. Windows.

I suppose I should expand upon that one. Even if we went five hundred years into the future, it’s unlikely we’d ever find a transparent material that’s as durable and light as opaque materials. An opaque material is far, far better.

“I can see space with my eyeballs!” isn’t really a good excuse.

I mean, no one’s ever really considered that if space fights were all about ‘eyeballing it’ through glass windows, the best weapon for space combat would be a paintball cannon. Something that shoots globs of luridly coloured glue.

If you’re hit with a glob of that, well, how well do you think you’re going to eyeball it then? It’s ludicrous to have windows.

By removing transparent materials, it makes lifting off from planetary atmospheres so much easier, and you can concentrate all the free weight capacity you now have into extra armour capacity instead. You can be tankier and lighter.

How does one see? Okay, what do we have today? Right now. As in right now? We have 3D printers. In the future, it wouldn’t be unreasonable to think that a ship might have an on-board factory capable of producing microscopic camera swarms at an incredible pace.

EMP? No problem! More cameras! The power required for EMPs wouldn’t be able to keep up with the energy efficient dispersal of very tiny, spaced out cameras.

This is why camera drones make so much more sense than windows.

And we could get fully three dimensional displays from within the ship, these are the kinds of sensors that could provide us with a truly unique perspective.

It’s important to consider that we’ve already started off down that road. There’s a jet fighter in production today that’s planning to do away with windows and replace them with cameras along the jet’s hull, fed into a VR helmet with a panoptic display.

I just want space that doesn’t feel like flying archaic, ’60s jet fighters in space. I’m not a young person and even I’m very sick of the genre’s over-reliance on woefully outdated technology. In many space games I even see CRT screens still present. I’m amazed we don’t have rotary phones for inter-ship communications.

This is where nostalgia is toxic and doesn’t allow for a truly futuristic experience. That’s one of the most important things, for me, is that it really feels like the future. How many games have represented something even close to approaching the Singularity, let alone surpassing it?

I mean, I’m not even pushing for morphological freedom to be represented in a future setting (even though in the future that’s absolutely an inevitability, Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom covered that one fairly well).

Just… more futuristic, please! And with lots to explore.

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PhoenixDfire

So far Elite:Dangerous ticks most of my boxes as far as this is concerned. It has the best ship to ship combat since Freespace 2 and X-wing Alliance. I know it’s not perfect but it needs a few more things before it matches what I want it to be in my head, which is Traveller in Elite form or either of the Elite RPGs ( E.D.R.P.G or Elite Encounters)

  1. End Game Content – The present powerplay needs another development pass to have something to attract players to use it
  2. More Planet Based Content – We’ve been driving around in the same SRVs for more than 3 years now. We need more SRV types and more to do than just raid bases and kill skimmers.
  3. Some Bounty Hunting/ Piracy Enhancements – Put in some way for players to hunt griefers and Seal clubbers and Make Piracy Pay.
  4. Combat Logging – Got no idea how they can sort this one out but it does need looking at.
  5. Base Building – Some way to create a home base, build it up and defend it.
  6. Atmospheric Landings – Landing on non airless planets and exploring them
  7. Elite Feet or Space Legs – Walking around the ship, stations, visiting bars, cities, boarding other ships, etc

People will say that you can get most of that in No Man Sky, which I quite like the walking around bits, but the Space Flight feels too arcady for me, which is quite important for the Space Sim side of things

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NeoWolf

I guess as many others at this point have said I want a bit of everything. I do not want a game that just gives me a characters view or just a ships view, I want both. I want to find and hire my crew and improve and interact with them. I want to be able to go where I want and do what I want from explore unknown space and catalog new worlds and species to travel well known space lines and involve myself in the factional politics and ancient mysteries.
I’d want aliens, and robots and everything inbetween. I’d want rogue a.i and sentient planets.. I’d want catastrophies and invasions from beyond. I’d want to prospect, trade, pirate, freelance or even join the military. I’d want to be able to buy, modify and fly everything from a fighter upto a capital ship and maybe even command fleets (be it for war, trade or colonisation).
I’d want to be able to settle worlds, asteroids and planetoids, building bases and colonies that can make me money and provide me work.
I’d want to be able to fight, move and explore on land, air and sea as well as space and for there to be things of interest in them all.

So if we take Star Ctizen, Elite Dangerous, Eve Online, SWG, Wing Commander Series, and more of my favourite i.p settings than you can shake a stick at.. cherry pick the best and most interesting of it all and mush it together.. I want that. :)

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Peregrine Falcon

I want Traveller the MMO, that I can play with my friends without having to deal with forced PvP. For those of you who don’t know the Traveller RPG, think Firefly with a little less of the wild-west flavor.

I’m hoping that Star Citizen will hit close to the mark. Fingers crossed.

camren_rooke
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camren_rooke

I remember Traveller.

You want to be able to die in character creation?

:P

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NeoWolf

lol I thought the exact same thing.. Literally one of the only RPG’s your character could die before you even got to play it.

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Peregrine Falcon

“You want to be able to die in character creation?”

OMG. I’d forgotten about that. Mostly because, while my friends and I played a lot in the Third Imperium universe, we haven’t used the classic game system in decades now.

P.S. I also don’t want my 100-Ton Scout ship to have a 4-Ton mainframe computer that has less computing power than my cell phone. :)

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NeoWolf

It certainly had a nice setting although the time period for when its set would be a matter for debate.
Personallly I liked it during the “long Night” once everything had been cut off and a lot of tech lost and space travel between systems was difficult and thier were wierd roving AI ships out trying to kill you.
It had much more mystique rather than high sci fi feel and it was all about exploration and recovering what was lost and trying to find and reconnect with the lost sectors and civilisations once more.

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tiltowait

Agreed. I don’t roleplay space-ships. I want a space-based mmorpg. Spaceship flying totally optional. Then all my other desires in an mmo (eve/archeage like economy, trade packs (real profit by moving resources NOT BASED ON SELLING STUFF TO OTHER PLAYERS, pvp that makes sense, non-instanced houseing).

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Annoyed badger

Jumped back into elite a short time ago, really enjoying it, they’ve come so far from launch and more is planned for this year, and the community is amazing.

Andy McAdams
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Andy McAdams

I just want to be able to like Mal and the rest of the Firefly. Cowboys in space

MilitiaMasterV
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MilitiaMasterV

Too much to bother writing a novel about it. Seriously I read so many Sci-Fi novels/played so many games over the years I’d love to smash all types of ideas together into something beautiful. I mean when I was growing up, I got to play a sci-fi time based murder mystery adventure type game (The Journeyman Project)…with all kinds of fun to it. It seems simplistic nowadays, but the hours of joy I had from trying all sorts of various ideas with that game…

As for those wanting X-wing/TIE fighter type stuff, the reason that stuff worked was because they put you down as a stock image type of fighter, and the variability was purely in weaponry/speed. There wasn’t really much individuality in those types of games. When you start trying to paste stickers all over your X-wing/TIE fighter or modify it to not be an X wing/TIE fighter anymore, you’ve basically lost the simplistic feel of it.

Also, when you start putting in stuff you put time/effort into the ship for…and then throw it in PvP and have it get blown away, it bothers you even more. That’s where I’d personally be fine with it…setup easy load-outs that you constantly play with, and even I’d probably hop in PvP with those if I didn’t have to sit there through a bunch of menus…then I could just hop in and start the PEW PEW PEW that we all remember as the fun. Problem is, nowadays, they’d just charge you RL money for each ship usage, and you’d just want to tell them to go bleep themselves…

MurderHobo
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MurderHobo

I want everything.

I want a world simulator, and I’m perfectly happy if I can lose myself for hours flying from A to B. I want mining, trading, medical, manufacturing, exploration, info-running, prospecting, FPS combat and space combat with hardcore simulation elements. I do NOT want a bunch of quest paths. I do not want dumbed-down simplified mechanics.

In short, want what Star Citizen promised, and then I’m certain I’ll have another list of things that aren’t good enough yet.

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Tobasco da Gama

In general, I want people to stop reinventing Freelancer and start reinventing Freespace instead. In other words, I want campaign-driven single-player combat games. Or, if you must be an MMO, then commit fully to being a game about combat instead of trying to entice laid-back “space trucker” players into being food for the PvPers. (But most PvPers are just going to quit without the easy meals.)

Although actually I really want space trucker games, too, I just want them to be different than the blast-’em-up games.

In specific, I want games where navigation is interesting and important, for interplanetary as well as interstellar travel.

E:D makes interstellar navigation slightly more interesting this with route plotting and tight fuel capacities restricting most ships to 4-5 jumps at a time, but fuel scooping undercuts the mechanic quite a bit. I’m not sure I’ve ever used “efficient” route plotting on the galaxy map more than once or twice. Similarly, the E:D makes interplanetary navigation slightly more interesting with gravity wells and the possibility to overshoot your target, but that’s generally restricted to the last 30 seconds or so of a multi-minute supercruise jaunt.

“Space is big” should mean something more than just traveling in straight lines for a really long time, but none of the current space games have made a serious stab at solving that problem yet.

Godnaz
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Godnaz

Or, if you must be an MMO, then commit fully to being a game about combat instead of trying to entice laid-back “space trucker” players into being food for the PvPers. (But most PvPers are just going to quit without the easy meals.)

Although actually I really want space trucker games, too, I just want them to be different than the blast-’em-up games.

Assuming your talking about Star Citizen/E:D, your right, it’s boring as hell after a few hours regardless of how stunning it looks. Even with cargo, exploration, refuel and mining implemented. There is no risk to your reward. There is little consequence to putting yourself or your ship on the line. Without combat, it becomes stagnant. You already attest to this in your statement.

There are no other opportunities to open up necessary occupations that provide more interest and incentive for more people to play if there is no combat. However, single player AI is no where up to the task at providing provocative, intuitive and creative experiences like a person behind a mouse and keyboard can.

Sure, you can trade and gather but who’s going to protect you? Sure, you can explore but what good is the data with no interested profession to sell it to? Opposition and opportunists make the experience more interesting and more rewarding in the end. Just like life, the politics, negotiation and diplomacy create the dynamics to make use of those commodities. One job tacks on so many other ways to provide for it and Combat (PvP) provides the thrill and risk/reward to drive the interest for those occupations and experiences.

I am no PvPer. I am hoewever, a business man who loves to create product or provide services to make money from it. I love creating a living in games. I’ve never had a more exciting experience from a game like I did in Archeage because of its ecomonics system and I want to relive that with a reason to keep logging in with a game like Star Citizen.

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rafael12104

In a nutshell, for me, it’s what I don’t want that is important: Boredom.

Please, don’t try to prove you’re a real space sim by making it an over-procedural nightmare.

I don’t want to spend large swaths of time sitting in a cockpit admiring little pinholes of light masquerading as stars while I travel someplace.

No, I don’t want to pretend to be a rocket scientist when trying to decide how to upgrade my ship.

Yes, space is fun and it certainly should not be a hyperzone battle every minute. But I don’t need to be part of the overdramatized inaction.

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Dug From The Earth

unfortunately, boredom and procedural are 2 main design elements for devs that make a large scale space mmorpg easier to design.

Hand crafted things, that arent boring, is a lot more work.

But then, if people are paying for it, is it really too much to ask for that?

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rafael12104

A personal preference. I’m sure what I consider boring some consider interesting and vice versa.

BUT, I don’t think crafting or spending time doing things to create something is boring. And yet, I’ve played games where the complexity is over the top and simple things become too laborious to continue. And the complicated so intricate that it becomes nonsense.

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Annoyed badger

translation: I dont want a space sim in my space sim MMO….

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rafael12104

Lol. Maybe not to the detriment of the MMO. Does a space MMO require it? Some aspects, sure. Procedural over abundance, no.