IBIS: a survival mod for Battlescape

#1

To quote a journalist this is a “vapourware dreams” thread, it follows on from this topic posted earlier this week. Its purpose is to provide a place for people like me who enjoy brainstorming, debating, and throwing wild ideas around. The long term goal is to come up with a plan for a survival mod for Infinity: Battlescape.

I’m starting the ball rolling but I’m happy for this to be a community project, consensus on good ideas can be achieved through discussion. I’m happy to summarise what gets decided in this post and act as a project manager. I’m a games programmer and hope to begin work on this mod in two or three years time, depending on I-Novae making modding tools available. Hopefully a some other coders, dabblers, hackers and artists will join me and we can form a small development team.

I’m not sure what is going to happen here considering there isn’t even a game to base this mod on, never mind any modding tools for it.

Update 10 Dec 2015

All design suggestions for IBIS will be based upon the version and features of Battlescape that is currently available. The current updates will be based upon the press preview that was available during the Kickstarter campaign. Future updates will initially be based upon the developer access builds as they are released to developer level backers.

Some assumptions need to be made as to the level of modding that may be available when modding support is eventually added to Battlescape.

Assumptions

  1. There will be a mechanism for replacing assets in the game with alternative assets as needed by the IBIS mod.

  2. There will be some sort of basic inventory system available within Battlescape. This will be needed for altering the weapon and equipment loadouts for ships in the game. Until the inventory management system is revealed further I will be assuming only that there will be slots and hardpoints on ships to which equipment can be assigned.

  3. Custom scripting will be possible based upon event hooks on the game that can then modify the results of those events. An example would be a hook that allowed a custom script to run when equipment was collected that allowed an update to be sent to a remote item server.

  4. Modding tools will allow basic user interface feedback to a player. At the most basic level we would need the ability to display text messages on the player’s HUD. Ideally I’d like the ability to add entirely new HUD display elements.

  5. Scripting to control NPC AI will be available. This only needs to be advanced enough to allow primitive patterns such as patrol, attack and escape.

Design doc

Any new updates to the design document below will be highlighted in bold.


Infinity Battlescape Interplanetary Survival (IBIS)


Overview
The mod will follow the normal structure for the survival genre, examples which will be used for inspiration being DayZ, Ark, Rust and Minecraft. The player will start with nothing but a basic spaceship and survive for as long as they can by gathering resources and (possibly crafting) equipment to defend themselves. The mod will communicate with a central item server which will maintain persistence of a character’s inventory between game servers.

Project Schedule
2016 - Talk about scope and features.
2017 - Infinity: Battlescape released
2018 - IBIS alpha

Gameplay
Survival in Ibis will require that the player maintain life support on their ship and avoid being killed by external means such as environmental hazards or by other players in the game.

Setting
This mod takes place just after a superintelligent AI attack on human civilisation. All interstellar communication has stopped and, in the star system where the game is set, the last remaining humans are fighting for survival in the ruins. The AI employs dumb hunter killer drones to sweep through the star system in search of surviving sentient life.

Life support
The maintenance of levels of oxygen, water, food and energy. A good reference here is the book (or film) “The Martian”. The actual resources that need to be found could be simplified, e.g. oxygen and hydrogen could be split from water by the ship. All ships may have a fusion reactor which may or may not need fuel. Lots to discuss here.

For the initial design I suggest we will simply have “energy” as a single dimension to measure a player’s ability to maintain life support. Energy will gradually diminish and will be able to be replenished at facilities. There may also be items that can provide energy without needing to visit a facility.

Other resources
Players will be able to accumulate resources in a similar way to that which is planned in the main Battlescape game. As a preference, IBIS will probably not have NPC ships taking resources from mining facilities to refineries for processing in to credits as this would not fit the setting of the game. Ideally we will be able to allow the player to pick up ore as a resource from facilities and use this directly to make new equipment at other facilities.

Source of resources
The primary source of resources will be facilities. The current Battlescape build has a number of facility types that could be used as resource centers by the IBIS mod. These include asteroid base, wrecked space station, large space station, small space station, ground factory.

Water could be harvested from comets and icy or watery worlds. Food could perhaps be found in stations, facilities and wrecks. Small outposts could be low risk and low reward with only food and low grade equipment to be found. Facilities might have crafting resources and tools. Stations and wrecks could have weapons and high grade equipment but have the risk of being guarded by well equipped characters. How this could work is open for discussion.

External hazards
The primary external hazard are hunter killer drones that will seek out and attempt to destroy the player. These drones are deployed from motherships which move from planet to planet and then perform a sweep in the area destroying any humans they find. Players will receive an alert when a mothership enters orbit around a planet where they are located. In this context “planet” may refer to either a planet or a moon.

A potential problem with implementing the HK drones in IBIS will be the need to have some sort of terrain avoidance algorithms. An initial solution to this problem may be to limit the lower altitude of the drones so that collision with terrain becomes unlikely.

There’s scope for other external hazards to be added in to the mod.

Equipment
This will be defined largely by what equipment and inventory options are available in the official Infinity: Battlescape game. Additional equipment that might need to be added for this mod could be some form of food ration packs. Alternatively food (if it even exists as a survival resource) could be abstracted away to a “hunger level” that gets reset when locations where food is available are visited.

Changing ships
Could be possible at larger stations, this implies some sort of trading system is in place at stations. How could this work?

Capital ships
Are they appropriate for a survival mod? Could a high level end game work in Ibis where players own capital ships? Do cap ships get spawned in certain locations fully operational to first player that comes along? Do they begin as non operational hulks that need to be repaired to a state where they work? Perhaps they need to be constructed from scratch at a space station by gathering resources? How cap ships are gained in the official Battlescape game will also guide what is possible here.

5 Likes
#2

Don’t know how feasible this is, but I do like brainstorming.

For enemies, I believe the classic enemies in space games are aliens, pirates and AIs.

You could go for zombies or some zombie-like virus, like that enemy from that Homeworld 1 expansion.

Or you could have the player actually be an outlaw or a rebel or a pirate or a spy in a civilized system, making this a “No John, you are the demons” game, where you try to evade the law, hide, raid for resources/equipment and survive. Then again, that might end up being too similar to Cop chases in GTA or Just Cause.

#3

You guys are missing out on the greatest potential of this game mode.

Survival against angry Hucks and space whales!

1 Like
#4

Reavers.

Tack on a few ship modules. I assume you want to stick with the junkyard look to ships and never get away from that. So I might be flying a ship that looked sleek once, but is now a piece of junk with a habitation module welded to its structure so I have more living space. I might add a cargo module by grabbing something from a wreck and loading it with solid fuel. That fuel becomes a convenience and a hazard to my ship’s operation. And so on.

Adopting new ships should be an issue of tradeoffs. I’ve got a ship that allows me to attach lots of modules and run power all over, but it’s a mess to maintain. In contrast, if I just go with something that’s a bit more intact, but has fewer capabilities, I can lower my maintenance workload.

2 Likes
#5

The biggest feature of the survival games you mentioned, other than dayz, is construction. Its a bit early to say but i think battlescape has some potential for a different kind of construction. rather than individual walls, roofing, doors, we’ll probably want infrastructure like power plants, mining nodes, defense turrets. A good modular station building model set would be good for this and is probably feasible with all the talent in this community.

As for external hazards, people like to tell you that it’s zombies or dinosaurs or whatever, but the real threat is always other players. If NPC pirates arent an option then we can probably make do with resource requirements for survival as well as some solar storm type effects.

I think the most important barrier here is what people will actually be spending their time doing, and making that fun. That’s always a good place to focus your design effort, most AAA games take it too far but i’ve seen games go too far in the other direction (ex elite dangerous). Will players be going around and finding special nodes/points of interest? WIll they be manually mining? Hunting NPCs? exploring and getting pickups? Scouting for other players to prey on, etc etc.

Next, is when players log off. This is something most survival games fail entirely, especially survival mods, and i think infinity’s engine gives us the perfect chance to remedy this. Security through obscurity is the name of the game, the play area is huge enough that we can simply not broadcast the locations of not-in-use structures to other players, its extremely unlikely other players will be able to stumble on them. So, if you want to find a base to raid, you’ll have to find one thats online. Bases should have sensor ranges higher than scout ships so that you always know when your base has been found and can relocate before you log off if neccasarry so you dont just get attacked offline later, but relocating shouldnt be too fast, you need to allow the offensive force a little time to organize and go for the attack.

#6

Humm, didn’t DayZ or other survival games also feature farming? (or gardening if you so will)

I think basic base-building is mandatory for any survival game. You might not be able to craft op weapons, but you should be able to get to a point where some of your basic needs can be satisfied in your base. Maybe not water, but I can easily see a base that produces energy (via solar panels for example) and food (space gardening).
This gives players (well at least those who prefer this playstyle) a starting point for their scavenge runs, a place where they can actually meet with their pals to coordinate.

#7

Among the few survival games I’ve tested, the only game where farms are really anywhere useful is in “Don’t Starve” and “Banished”. For the moment, farming and hunting are ridiculous in “Dayz”. In “Ark” the farms are only used to better tame a Dino, “Rust” is more about combat and “Minecraft” is more of a sandbox.

Speaking of which, not every survival game should gravitate around base building as its biggest feature. Sure, having a base is always nice, but for instance in “Don’t starve” it’s only a resting place, a mean to explore the map. That is the real biggest feature in this game, along with escaping the current plan you’ve fallen into.

When I hear a “space survival”, I imagine it either as a combat-oriented survival, or a exploring-orientated survival. If you make a construction-oriented survival, you’ll quickly fall under the “sandbox” categorization and become closer to a “space engineers”.

So I think @Crayfish should define the mod’s orientation: what’s the final purpose of it all? Join back civilization? Discover alien wonders through artifacts and puzzles?

#8

Need to make a mental note to bump this thread in January 2018. :wink:

1 Like
#9

I might’ve been influenced by project zomboid a lot, a game I would describe as ‘zombie survival done right’

It’s not that base-building should be the focus of the mod, but rather a viable option. Humans gravitate towards building groups, even the most dystopian depiction of our future has groups of people in it, who then rule over a speck of land from their base. It ishould be the players decision, if he wants to be a lone wolf that goes from one place to another, or someone who builds towards supreme ruling over an asteroid. Giving the possibility of base-building doesn’t magically turn a survival game into a sandbox, as survival games by their very own nature already are sandbox/open world games at base. What turns them into survival is the need to actively keep yourself alive and the danger of losing everything at every moment. None of these change when you erect a base.

#10

If it’s episodically PvP and PvE, then it might be pretty interesting.

PvE phase: Really nasty Somethings show up and try to salvage everything they can find. Perhaps, by analogy, a swarm of locusts passing through. It falls to the players to band together and fight them off because no single player can hope to take down a Something solo.

PvP phase: The Somethings have left and now everyone is back to searching for and claiming the best stuff for themselves.

One twist would be that the better the player’s gear, the more likely the Somethings are to come after him. Being the best at the PvP side of the game is a detriment in the PvE side, and vice versa.

Having the cycle also could mean that base building could be something that players do when they realize that Somethings are coming, and then they tear apart their bases for personal use when the Somethings have left.

Assume that an episode is long enough to allow players to spend time completing the transition from PvP to PvE (or vice versa) and then experiencing that episode.

Note that the game is always PvP, but when the Somethings arrive, only a fool tries to go solo. Players may betray an ally to the Somethings so they can get away, but it’s supposed to be a ‘cooperate or get salvaged’ sort of deal.

2 Likes
#11

I really like the idea of something washing over the whole system (assuming that it is ‘just’ a system) every now and then. However maybe make it so that you can also decide to hide away? Hope that the borgs dont find you?

#12

On a more serious note, I would like to suggest a global external hazard.

Radiation, the system the player is stuck in is a supernova system, the star goes through cycles of intense radiation pulses. The player has dropped out of hyper-space into a very dangerous supernova system and because of the star’s effects it’s essentially a prison system, no ships can leave it. This theory provides for a constant danger and all the other inhabitants of the system being permanently stuck in there. There could be times when all the inhabitants of the system need to get into cover behind a planet, this offers a cooking pot situation when the different players must be in vicinity. It also provides a reason for the system being so scarce in resources and scarcity is somewhat a core of a survival game.

My thoughts for now.

2 Likes
#13

Heh, I also thought this.

One thing I’ve noticed about survival games is they tend to work best when gear is not necessarily tiered. This would fit an I:B mod neatly, with specialised components better at some things, but the player loses something elsewhere. (E.g. big oxygen tanks reduces space for fuel… or whatever).

Some games fall into the trap of players being able to build an equipment set which makes it very easy to survive. There should always be threat. It’s what drives survival!

1 Like
#14

[quote=“dekaku, post:11, topic:1480, full:true”]
I really like the idea of something washing over the whole system (assuming that it is ‘just’ a system) every now and then. However maybe make it so that you can also decide to hide away? Hope that the borgs dont find you?[/quote]

It doesn’t matter if its a single system or a whole galaxy. They show up and they take. They also wouldn’t show up every now and then, but regularly. The goal would be to keep players thinking about what they’re going to do when the Somethings show up. The more they cripple their competition in PvP, the more they cripple the group’s ability to resist in PvE.

As for hiding, the gameplay would be structured to make it largely impractical. The goal is not to let players PvP and hide (a standard solo PvP game), but to alternate PvP and cooperative PvE (a very different psychological structure). The more you cripple your opponents in PvP, the more you cripple the group for PvE.

Making it easy to survive would constitute a win condition in my book. So a game could be set up such that the goal is to get to the point of doing something that ensures the survival of your character, and then it is taken out of the game. That’s a win for you, and you keep score by the number of characters you’ve gotten back to civilization. Ideally, there would be no standard “leveling up” path that a player could follow over and over again to crank out ‘wins’.

The taking out of a character would be something like building a teleportation device that vaults you back to civilization, which is what everyone is trying to do. The act of using the teleporter completely vaporizes the teleportation device, which requires essentially all of your high tech supplies. The act of teleporting triggers an obvious flash to everyone, and they’ll quickly descend like vultures to pick over the low tech remains.

Throw into the mix that teleportation can be attempted on the cheap or on the ritz. If done on the cheap, the odds of a successful teleport is reduced - and the teleportation device vaporizes anyway, leaving you without any of your high tech components.

2 Likes
#15

Just brainstorming here… How about if you start out restricted to a planet’s atmosphere? Your ship isn’t space worthy and can only do short hops. You scavenge parts from wrecks on the surface until you can repair your ship to do longer hops and then make it space worthy.

This sort of thing increases the difference in gameplay experience between the first days and the end game and provides more progression/sense of achievement which I think is one of the core tenets of the survival genre.

4 Likes
#16

If so then maybe limit the maximum velocity during that stage? Give the player the feeling of being on a really big planet, which takes maybe hours to get from one wreck to another, just to then increase the speed further and further, until interstellar travel is a matter of minutes?

#17

In the same vein, perhaps lava planets require strong armor, gas giants strong shielding, etc. Each has one ore more unique resources required to obtain new technology.

I would not suggest a linear “lava planet then gas giant” type progression, for an example of how to do progression absolutely wrong, look at starbound, each planet type is the same as the last just with slightly different number scaling.

2 Likes
#18

I actually quite like this idea. It would certainly give you something to aim for early on. Then it would be a matter of improving your ship for different conditions, as mentioned by mattk50.

What about random/usage-based system failures? You’re flying to somewhere when suddenly, BAM, you have limited drive power and have to do something to make repairs. Slowly losing cabin pressure between planets would certainly make you panic and head for the nearest atmosphere…

#19

I agree, having initial fuel/thrust restrictions would probably give the most sense of low grade gear.

#20

Imagine this: you’re flying towards a planet when suddenly your engine upgrade explodes, completely disabling your engines. Now you have to rush and either scrap other upgrades to get enough materials to sloppily repair your engines or dump enough weight and detach enough modules to make your ship light and aerodynamic to allow you to glide towards the surface of the planet and hopefully use your RCS to avoid taking too much damage during your crash landing. Once you land and shut down your power, you can work on better, more extensive and cheaper repairs.

It would especially make sense if you allow the player to get out of the ship to perform better repairs, thus making landing on planets and upgrading EVA suits things that could happen more often. It would be fun if EVA was extremely dangerous, something pilots would dread. Outside of your ship you have no armour, no sensors, limited radiation shielding, limited air and limited supplies you can carry. EVA weapons, if you’ve wasted enough materials to acquire them, are pretty much useless unless you target other pilots doing EVA, which should be pretty rare unless you’re either cooperating with someone and then decide to betray them or happen to try to salvage something at the same time. One wrong move, one enemy you failed to spot, one booby trapped ship and all your effort is gone in a second. Sure, you can upgrade your suit, but never enough to make you feel safe.

Although you could stick to “ships only” and have those things be abstracted. Have it be “You landed on the planet and shut down your reactor. Now you can do X and Y because your pilot can get out of his ship, even though you can’t see him or actually get out of the ship.”