We have quite a few things to solve here, and a lot to translate. Unlike the original, for this one we will need a game world that:
– Can accommodate many players, be persistent and offer different stages of experience to different players at all times.
– Can do away with the original division between Geoscape and Tactical Combat.
– Is structured in a way that can support many different avenues of play.
– Is able to be instanced and portioned, as required.
– Is a dynamic entity that can be transformed as the overall gameplay evolves.
First order of business is actually deciding what to do with the issue of the Geoscape and Tactical Combat. There were a few options (not many that I could think of, though), but I think by far the most effective and elegant at the same time is doing away with the Geoscape entirely. Instead, we will consider the game world itself to be the “new Geoscape”.
In other words: Players will not be staring for half the game at the Geoscape as it happened in the original (although that can be snuck in, if needed – the old Geoscape could perfectly become the new game’s “map” function). It is just too restrictive and this will be one of the major departures we will take. Players shouldn’t be staring at a map of the game world for half the game, but instead they should be surrounded by that world at all times.
In order to do this, the best way I could think was to begin to consider the world in a nested structure, such as:
Location -> Zone -> Region -> World
Locations: The smallest units of playable space. Player bases, cities to visit, generated missions and playable encounters (such as city attack/defense) are all locations.
Zones: A larger territory in which locations are placed. Zones will be not necessarily based on the current political borders between countries. Zones will hold the entirety of generated missions (interceptions always happen in zones and not in cities). This nested level is the one that will call on the majority of assets, in order to reproduce geographical diversity.
Regions: Are essentially abstracted groups of zones that we will use as large geographical “blocs”, for purposes of assessing squad money stipends, relative performance and reputations and contribution to the overall state of the game world. Think North America, the European Union, Asia, etc.
World: The world itself comprehends all regions and we will use it simply to display the overall progress of the game in terms of zones gained and lost as well as other parameters of interest such as overall reputation, conquest/defense progress via map and filter options.
Moving through the world:
Every player base is a point of departure from which they can travel (via ship) any other location in the world that can receive them. This includes:
– Other player bases, depending on permissions set by the base’s owner.
– Location cities in the world designed as social, recreation and trade spaces.
– Any active encounter on the map. This is an offensive action.
Players can only select the travel destination, not the length of the trip or to stop it once it’s ongoing. Travel can only be performed between locations. Not, for example, from a base to a random, non-encounter spot on the map, nor can trips have an unspecified destination.
Players can only enter enemy territory if:
– A location is known inside enemy territory (ex., a captured large city remains on the map, no matter who the territorial owner is. Its location is known to both factions and will exist there regardless of ownership)
– A generated encounter is located inside enemy territory (ex., a spacecraft downed in enemy territory)
– A location is discovered (ex., discovery of an enemy base location on the map by any means)
Travel times are absolute in relation to game world distances. For example, if it takes one real time minute to fly to an encounter location 200 game miles away, reaching another encounter location situated 1,000 game miles away will take five real time minutes. Players will have the option, as the game progresses, to acquire different crafts for their squads, with different characteristics in order to shorten flight times.
Zones are essentially unconnected to each other, and travel between them is not possible. They only form a cohesive structure and are visually next to each other on the game map. Travel by foot from zone to zone or from location to location is impossible (although there is the option to design structured, multi-location zones that would allow travel by foot). Travel to different zones can only be started from an appropriate point of departure.
This way of structuring the world naturally makes it look very fragmented; instead of a world, as a mere collection of points of interest existing separate from each other. In order to soften this and create a more tangible ‘whole’, travel should be visual at all times. We do want players to see and feel that whole as they travel, even if they cannot stop the trip and physically access it, because this lends a strong sense of continuity to the world. To allow instant travel between locations would finish shattering any illusion of a ‘whole’ world.