Thursday, coding progress was marvelous. I revamped the structure of my universe into a special set of nav objects that fairly trivialize finding out exactly where in the universe you are at any one time and should would great for caching and uncaching assets. I've got a new 4.0x skin interface that looks quite promising in its power and clarity, though I'm not quite ready to show it off just yet.
Ascii Sector, another free-roaming Roguelike Sci-Fi game, has been showing me how it's done. Geez, I hope they don't get sued for borrowing so heavily from Wing Commander:Privateer.
... I've a tendency to fall for cool-sounding red herrings, and that was one of them. Realistic NPC behavior is all very cool for a small scale game, but likely to fail on a larger one like a persistent universe. I may well keep the engine and use it anyway, albeit with significantly less factors.
Today, a really cool idea I had was to tie permadeath to a karma measure. Then that karma measure determines the power of the thing you'll be able to reincarnate as. Get enough karma, and maybe you could make actual changes to the universe, like spawning planets or space empires...
... A very novel idea but, on second blush, I decided I didn't want to go with the idea of karma and direct modifications to the universe. I wanted the players to have the cohesive experience of being a character in a changing universe, not be Gods. It loses a certain something in terms of roleplay.
Ultimately, I was trying to duck the essential question of, "where does the player character start in the game" by answering it with, "in the shoes of any NPC already in the game." Cool spin on character generation, but it doesn't really answer the question, as those NPCs had to be there for a reason too.
There's many good possibilities, but the answer is something I haven't really decided yet. Starting the player off with a ship and crew in the middle of nowhere like in Ascii Sector or Prospector carries a certain set of problems in a persistent online environment. I need to introduce a certain level of accountability.
Prospector, another Space-Exploring Sci-FI Roguelike, also shows me how it's done. Of course, both Prospector and Ascii Sector do things differently here and there than I would. For starters, they're finished enough to be playable. ;)
For example, what if I took a combat scenario from Ultima V, switched the mechanic from turn-based to real time, allowed the player to define an intelligent set of actions on his individual party members in a manner similar to FFXII Gambits or Dragon Age Tactics? Then all I'd have to do is tell their party members where to stand and watch the action unfold while preserving a great deal of the awesome of the original Ultima V combat mechanic.
Sounds cool, but clearly I still have some decisions to make.