Dev Diary #17 - Everything Does Not Stay the Same

One of the original goals for ORG was for it to be a truly evolving environment.

I've spoken about the importance of designer agency before on my personal blog, and there's a critically important analog as well in the form of player agency.

Players like to feel that their actions are meaningful. Video games these days are pretty good about giving players the ability to impact and change their character in a game, but as an industry we've been a lot less consistent about giving players the ability to impact and change their character's world, particularly in multi-player games.

For ORG, I really wanted to build a system from the ground up that could accommodate this goal, at least to a better extent than is usually done. For ORG, we wanted history to matter, for things not to stay the same. Sometimes the players would be the ones affecting this, sometimes the players would be at the mercy of other players, sometimes the players would all be at the mercy of greater historical forces, consigned to adapt and evolve to new conditions and new assumptions.

How, then, do we expect this to work in actual practice?

The Player Impacts Themselves
First and most obviously, there are the traditional ways that a player can impact their own experience:

  • Influence gained will result in a player gaining advantages based on their percentile ranking by category, region, and timespan. These advantages will be substantial, but because they are based as well on timespan, an advantage not cultivated will eventually fail before the onslaught of newer, insurgent player orgs...
  • Expertise gained will decay, but must be cultivated to maintain access to certain advanced tasks allowing to refining, manufacturing, and assembly of rare resources and technologically advanced equipment.
  • Resources gained represent not only Solars, the common currency of the 25th century solar system, but also the raw materials, assembled products, commercial goods and even data that can be used both to build other resources, or as currencies in their own right.
  • Minions including ships, agents, and facilities are the reusable slotted inputs of ORG, and gaining new ones, adding effective traits to the ones you have, and increasing the quality of them through use and training will in turn allow a player to leverage ever more successful results.
  • Reputation is gained in respect to each player for each national polity. As different polities have different political arrangements with each other, doing something to please one will anger another. Players with a high reputation among certain polities may gain access to special resources and unique tasks.

The Player Impacts The Market
As a player gains resources and specializes in tasks, there is the opportunity to turn outward rather than inward, to engage in the game of trade.

Monopolization of resources, domination of vertical and horizontal monopolies, establishment of transport networks, recruitment agencies, and more are not simply a case of buying low and selling high, but of cultivating alliances and political aggregate advantages to sway the policies of the various national polities and orbital mandates to favor your own enterprises and damage those of your would-be competitors.

The Alliance Impacts The Orbit
Players can join together in voluntary alliances, which can in turn gain Influence in each of the five categories - Commercial, Cultural, Military, Political, Research - in each orbit individually. As Influence is gained, so too will the power of the alliance rise in defining what the dominant orbital mandate for each orbit is.

These orbital mandates will affect the inputs or outputs of all activities of that type in that orbit for so long as the mandate is active. This can be a powerful tool for maximizing your alliance's gains, not to mention your personal gains.

The Players Impact The Polities
Players can also impact the national polities' policies. Where the player-created alliances vote on the special mandates that are in effect for each orbit, the aggregate of all player actions in various regions can affect the national polities themselves.

Sometimes these effects are internal to the polity - increasing or reducing taxes on certain endeavors - but other times the effects are inter-polity, and can start or stop wars, declare peace or ruin it for years. If a large number of players assist peace efforts, the resulting declaration of peace may remove some tasks for all players in those regions governed by that polity - and add tasks as well. Peace may bring with it opportunities for cooperation and research, but war may offer opportunities for privateering and war profiteering.

History Impacts The Players
The final, critical layer to all of the above is the impact of history itself.

Hundreds of years of history have led from our own present day to the 25th century solar system of ORG, but players playing will not stop that. Time will march forth at a rate of about one in-game year for every three months of real world time. Every year brings with it the changing tides and favors of polities, wars, economic developments, archaeological discoveries, and exotic new research.

A region that begins as controlled by one polity may well change hands to another, and players will have to adapt to this or not as they are able to. For some ventures, perhaps the politics will be irrelevant, but for other players, the political winds may deeply affect their operations. Reputation that was once useful in a region may suddenly become a detriment as the original polity's control has slipped.

New ship classes may be developed. New equipment. New specializations in this rapidly changing solar system of strife.

Even new polities themselves may appear - or be dashed forever. The existence of a polity now does not assure that that polity may always be there, and players are advised to pay close attention to the news reports to discern what fate may be in store for whichever polities they might have yoked their futures to.