Hyperspace Topography

I’m not sure where to start with this, exactly, because this is something that pulls together a bunch of different systems, using the “Event” infrastructure (introduced in the previous blog post) to tie it all together. So, let’s just start… in HYPERSPACE!

Primarily, this is a system that interacts with slipstreams. In brief, those are temporary passages in hyperspace that can make travel much, much faster and enormously more fuel-efficient. One of the problems, though, is that it can be a little hard to plan for – there are some general indicators of where they are and where they might take you (i.e. the direction they travel in is seasonal, you can use the Neutrino Detector ability to find them, and so on), but I think for a lot of players, that doesn’t quite add up to being “enough” to make slipstreams as useful as I’d like them to be.

The second goal here is to tie colonies into it. Making different industries and structures you build have some gameplay meaning aside from just influencing colony stats is sort of an on-going backburner project. (See, for example, Commerce adding an independent bounty to your system, from the previous blog post.) In addition, I’d like various mechanics to encourage the player to spread their colonies around, making their location matter more than finding the “ideal” system with mutually-supporting military bases.  (See: hostile activity changes, in the same previous blog post, adjusting some of the related incentives.)

With all of this in mind, let’s dive into the details, and hopefully it’ll be clear how everything connects up!

There’s a Hyperspace Topography “event” – basically, the player does stuff, a progress bar fills up, and different effects are unlocked along the way. Unlike the Hostile Activity event, all of the factors here are one-offs for something the player did, there aren’t any monthly contributing factors. Let’s start with the effects.

Slipstream navigation
This one is pretty quick to unlock, and reduces fuel use while in a slipstream by a further 50%. It’s a useful early bonus, even before you have colonies.

Slipstream detection
This is the big one – Spaceports constructed at your colonies will reveal nearby slipstreams on the map. Constructing a few sensor arrays nearby will increase the detection radius, as will colony growth. This both gives a Spaceport a neat in-game effect (not that it *needed* one – you’re always going to build one at a colony, but it’s still nice to have that).

This also makes the location of the colony matter more; you’re naturally encouraged to spread them out a bit to get a better view of the slipstream network. And, there’s a bit of a “explore the surroundings and build up the area you’ve colonized” feel to it from the sensor array bonus.

Hyperfield optimization
The last major effect, this grants a flat +3 maximum burn while in hyperspace. Not slipstream-related, but in the same “things that make travel through hyperspace easier” vein.

Topographic data
And, finally, when you get to the end of the progress bar, you get a “topographic data” item that you can sell for a reasonable but not excessive profit. Once you get the item, the bar is reset to slightly above the points required for “hyperfield optimization”, and you get another data chip when the bar is filled up again, etc.

The point of this is so that doing things that move event progress forward still has some value and doesn’t just feel pointless once all of the effects are unlocked. The data is not valuable enough that you’d really feel forced to prioritize doing these things, so hopefully it won’t bend play patterns much.

So, what can the player actually do to move this along? There are a bunch of assorted things (finding data in derelicts, using an Active Sensor Burst at interesting locations – such as near a black hole – and so on).

One of the core ones is using a sensor array to “emit a neutrino burst into hyperspace”. This 1) requires a bunch of Volatiles, 2) gives you progress points for the event, and 3) reveals nearby slipstreams. The action can’t be quickly repeated in the same area, so it’s not something you can e.g. just grab a bunch of Volatiles and farm up.

You can also talk to a scavenger to get this data, with a similar effect – the result is weaker (less reveal range, and fewer points), but it costs credits instead of volatiles and is generally cheaper.

And, finally, you get more topographic data for time spent traveling very quickly (i.e. at a burn level above 20) in hyperspace.

Taking a step back, this “hyperspace topography” is similar to a different take on skills. It’s closer to, say, the way the Elder Scrolls games approach skills – a progress bar (in one form or another), that goes up as the player does stuff.

This is a bit of a warning sign – that sort of skill system can encourage interesting player behaviors such as standing in a fire, jumping up and down, and casting healing spells on yourself to level a whole bunch of things up at once.

I think we should be mostly safe, though, because the factors are not easily grindable, so – aside from going through slipstreams really fast – there isn’t much the player can do to repeat an action that gives them event progress. And all of these ultimately take up resources – fuel, supplies, and so on – so something like a “let’s visit all the black holes and other interesting space phenomena” tour would be expensive. You’d be better off doing other things along the way, at which point it’s just something that’s spicing up the normal gameplay a bit.

Worst-case scenario, some of the factors turn out to be more grindable than I think they’ll be – but even then, this isn’t something where you need a long time to unlock the most meaningful bonuses. And once you’re in the stage where the only benefit is periodically getting a “topographic data” item, that’s not worth enough to specifically aim for.

Still, this is worth keeping in mind when looking at this sort of system, and events in general.

Why do it this way?
Another valid question/concern is why do this as an event? You could imagine a setup where Spaceport just has the reveal-slipstreams effect out of the box, and slipstream travel costs less fuel to begin with. You could still use sensor arrays to scan for nearby slipstreams, buy this info from scavengers, and so on. The “event” structure is not really required, and there is no definitive, clear-cut reason to do it this way.

However, there are some less-definitive ones! First off, it spices up exploration – when you find something neat and scan it, the game will acknowledge that. Second, it’s a good way to introduce and explain these mechanics. And, finally – this isn’t really a reason for you the player, but it’s a reason for me – it’s an opportunity to experiment with the event system and get a better feel for what it’s good for and how things that use it can shape up. And I don’t think doing it this way actually hurts anything – the one argument that I can see against it would be “clutter”, which, fair enough, but there’s really not much of it – a single intel item (importantly: one that doesn’t need periodic checking-on!), and occasional notifications when you do something and the event progresses. Overall I think it’s worth doing this way!


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