We live in an age where developers actually brag about creating random quests as if that’s a good thing.
In an age of gigabytes of memory the challenge isn’t in how many worlds you have, it is how to make those worlds compelling.
In Star Control: Origins, there are no random missions.
No episode of Star Trek ever ended with Captain Kirk receiving 14 Dilithium crystals for his troubles. Star Control is about telling stories in which you are the central character.
Each mission is designed to tell a story. While we don’t forbid missions from giving the player some sort of tangible reward, most of them simply alter the universe in some, subtle way. It is the journey, not the destination we care about.
Consider the popular HBO series, Westworld®. In that series, guests travel to Westworld and interact with “hosts” that are AI-driven beings with scripts. In no episode is it suggested that guests leave with some sort of monetary benefit. Instead, the world is designed for visitors to learn a little bit more about themselves.
While the central narrative (spoiler alert – not really) is that you must save the human race from certain annihilation, there is one way to accomplish that task. Far be it from us to get in the way of a voyage of self discovery. You have a goal (save all life on Earth from terrible murder aliens). How you do that is none of our business. We just hope you do it. You know, so that we don’t…well…die. Living is our favorite state of existence.
Building a rich, living universe
So you might ask yourself, if you’re not going to resort to randomly generated quests where the player does X to get Y, how are you going to have enough content to make the world feel truly alive?
The answer, my friends, is that you make it easy for creators to tell stories.
Consider for a moment the user interface presented in Westworld:
Now, to be fair, this system is far too complex for the authors we are seeking out to use. Our answer is Adventure Studo, a new major application we are working on. This app alone is as big as one of our major software projects. Its purpose is to make it possible for us to recruit Sci-Fi authors to easily create their own stories in Star Control.
Like many of you, we love to tell stories. Stories that don’t necessarily end with the protagonist gaining 5 quadroons of space-gold. And the way you make that happen is to make it easy for creators to do their thing.
At GDC, we’ll be showing off Adventure Studio. To my knowledge, no one has ever tried to do something like this (though I want to give props to the Never Winter Nights team for doing a lot of pioneering in this area).
Feel free to ask questions in the comments.