Gaming Orbital Margins

jedidia

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Some time ago I started making a game. Then the game didn't come together the way I wanted, so I made a new game. Then,... No wait, this isn't a monty python routine. The second attempt actually produced a result that I'm publishing. Just a proof of concept, far from an actually finished game, but a first step on the way of further development. Or so I hope.

You guys are the first to hear about this, because, well, if there's constructive feedback to be had anywhere on the net, it's right here. Consider this a "showing it off to the family" thing, before I start to go looking for strategic ways to get other people to give it a shot. Also, the game is kind of related to orbiter, though not in the way you might be thinking.

So what's it about? Well, the game's elevator pitch is as follows:
Orbital Margins is a character-driven small-business dicerolling RPG that puts you into the shoes of an independent spacecraft operator in cis-lunar space. Try to survive in the margins of a merciless orbital economy where your most dangerous enemies are propellant costs, mortgages and customs clerks that are having a bad day.

We're not there yet, though. Currently there's not even graphics or sound, just UI. Also, you should know that it's not a simulator. It's a dice roller. It had its beginning in a simulation experience. That is, an orbiter scenario in which I was delivering cargo from station to station and doing some bookkeeping. Then I thought it would be nice if there would be some stuff happening at space stations. So I cobbled together some dice rules and started working with some solo-rpg oracles and encounter tables and stuff to get a bit of atmosphere into my world. And at one point, after finally realising that the slower-than-light space trading thing I had wanted to make just had too many moving parts for an inexperienced game developer, I thought "You know, if you remove the requirement for spending 2 hours doing orbital maneuvers for every delivery and do some actual world building, this might actually be fun for other people as well".

There's no world building yet, obviously. Just a demo for the somewhat brutal core loop that makes it hard to earn money and easy to go screw things up. If you'd give it a whirl and tell me your opinion, I would be much obliged! You can get it from itch.io (for free, obviously, and also without opening an account, I think).

You can go get it here, there's builds for win and linux:
 

Urwumpe

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I'll give it a try later....might be tomorrow. I slept through most of the day. o_O
 

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So, after another round of hibernation, I came around to test it.

Good

The game idea is reasonable realistic and its possible to see where its heading. The UI needs improvements, but once you discovered the dice dragging, it works out.

To be improved

No character development or improving spacecraft.
The plain hauling of cargo might be a bit too limited, a bit more quest diversity is needed.
Fun.

Bad

Not being able to close a quest window while you wait for the quest to actually start



I would suggest looking into certain subquests having more effect, like search for news actually showing you some news and possible leads to new quests. Also a more dynamic world could fit well in the text oriented approach, like the company relations of the players, extension of the industry and infrastructure, disasters, natural or man-made.
 

jedidia

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No character development or improving spacecraft.
The plain hauling of cargo might be a bit too limited, a bit more quest diversity is needed.
Yeah, both were a bit overkill for a first proof of concept. I'm planning on both of those, though.

Not being able to close a quest window while you wait for the quest to actually start
I'm not quite sure what you mean. You can always close the challenge currently in focus by right-clicking it (that is, the left half where the overall description and progress are). I'm aware that this isn't very obvious, but I did add a tutorial item specifically for that. I assume you skipped the tutorial in that case, which I guess is something I should've seen coming... :LOL:
I wanted to but in a button, but couldn't figure out where to put it without disrupting the layout, and didn't want to overhaul the layout so shortly before release. It's definitely something that's going to be addressed, though.

I would suggest looking into certain subquests having more effect, like search for news actually showing you some news and possible leads to new quests. Also a more dynamic world could fit well in the text oriented approach, like the company relations of the players, extension of the industry and infrastructure, disasters, natural or man-made.
Yes, absolutely. That's also planned. To summarize your feedback, you think the mechanical core is fine, but there's just not a lot to it, right? That's kind of what I was hoping for. There isn't a lot to it yet, I'm not expecting anybody to play it for much more than an hour at this point. (In fact, an hour seems plenty for what's on offer). Right now I just want to make sure that people see potential in the core loop before investing a lot of time building on top of it. Easier to change things now than later if they're broken...

In any case, thanks a lot for giving it a go and giving some feedback!
 
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Well, I would have to respect the core game concept, so getting to a clone of ASCII Sector would be no option. ;)

And yes, I tried right click, but somehow it did not work. I even tried a restart in case the tutorial got stuck somewhere.

About the core game loop, I only see some more hints about the game rules as really an improvement. Maybe add some "+" or "-" to give some clue about the TN. The rest is pretty much the lack of "Fun". Its not feeling like a game yet, there are no final or intermediate goals to take. And I prefer more goals than the next "achievement" there. But that is something for the next increment.
 

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Well, I would have to respect the core game concept, so getting to a clone of ASCII Sector would be no option.
Huh, interesting... not a comparison I would have expected. But I guess at this stage it does feel a bit similar.
 

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I really quite like the idea! My one issue is that if you have only high dices you are disincentivized to spend them on preflight checks or checklists. Maybe burns should have a negative modifier to encourage you to use a checklist?
 

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I'm still mulling that over. Mechanically, there is a problem: You have to spend the dice. So it would seem cruel to not have any way to dump the bad ones. I'm thinking about a "push" mechanic as is common in FITD-systems, where you can reroll at the cost of stress, but it's not quite fitting in yet. Any ideas would certainly be appreciated.
 

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I just tried it on Linux and couldn't get past the initial screen. It opens full-screen, and apparently there is some Continue button that I need to click that is rendered off the screen, and I can't move any of the windows to access it.

EDIT: I re-opened it to take a screenshot to post here, but now I can move the windows?
 

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I'm still mulling that over. Mechanically, there is a problem: You have to spend the dice. So it would seem cruel to not have any way to dump the bad ones. I'm thinking about a "push" mechanic as is common in FITD-systems, where you can reroll at the cost of stress, but it's not quite fitting in yet. Any ideas would certainly be appreciated.

What about having some "spontanous" action, that is

  1. worth using the high dice by providing some major advantages
  2. Always available
For example, I could imagine a "Instruct crew" action, that could be used for consuming high dice. Or "Play game". ;)
 

jedidia

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I just tried it on Linux and couldn't get past the initial screen. It opens full-screen, and apparently there is some Continue button that I need to click that is rendered off the screen, and I can't move any of the windows to access it.
What's your desktop resolution?
EDIT: I re-opened it to take a screenshot to post here, but now I can move the windows?
The tutorial windows should be dragable, yes.
 

jedidia

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1366 x 768

Hmmm... that's a 16:9 ratio, so technically that should be fine. Something in the scaling must be handled differently than I'm assuming. Should be fairly easy to reproduce, will have a look at it this evening (now that my head doesn't feel like the ball in a soccer match anymore).

For example, I could imagine a "Instruct crew" action, that could be used for consuming high dice. Or "Play game".
Well, there's no crew yet, and the other option might be a bit too cynical :ROFLMAO:
But something like "relax with a cup of coffee" that potentially lets you recover some drive might work. Question would be what to roll against. Or not roll at all... I could just roll a D12 each time the task spawns. You can always burn a die on it without cost, but if you match the die that's been rolled you get some drive back. Then give it some cooldown so you don't always have it available, and introduce the push mechanic that lets you reroll a die at a stress cost. So there would always be some options available, and they'd still need to be juggled.
Might work. Will have to try and see.
 

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Come on, "Play Orbiter" Would give a +6 bonus on all navigation rolls for the next 24 hours, right. Unless you fail, and are too frustrated and confused to keep on flying. ;)
 

jedidia

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Come on, "Play Orbiter" Would give a +6 bonus on all navigation rolls for the next 24 hours, right. Unless you fail, and are too frustrated and confused to keep on flying. ;)
Oh... Ohhhh, you mean the character in-game plays a game. I though you meant an option that would literally play the game for you for a while. 😆
So, it turns out your suggestion wasn't that far off the relaxation thing that I made out of it. And yes, why not have multiple options available that might provide different bonuses. I'm starting to like the idea, just need to mull over the options for a bit.
 

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Oh... Ohhhh, you mean the character in-game plays a game. I though you meant an option that would literally play the game for you for a while. 😆

I may like some zero click games, but that is really too much.
 

jedidia

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I just tried it on Linux and couldn't get past the initial screen. It opens full-screen, and apparently there is some Continue button that I need to click that is rendered off the screen, and I can't move any of the windows to access it.
Ugh, my bad, sorry. The game currently launches into 1920x1080 even if the desktop resolution is smaller because of a bug in the initialisation code 🤦‍♂️
I guess I best fix this by implementing an actual config menu where resolution can be adjusted. Need to do that anyways, but was too far back on the priority list to make it into the first release.
 

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And at one point, after finally realising that the slower-than-light space trading thing I had wanted to make just had too many moving parts for an inexperienced game developer, I thought "You know, if you remove the requirement for spending 2 hours doing orbital maneuvers for every delivery and do some actual world building, this might actually be fun for other people as well".

One thing I'd rather like to see is a game that presents you with some conservative, algorithmically determined default mission profile (time, propellant requirements, etc.), while allowing you to hand-fly things a la Orbiter or KSP. If you hand-fly a mission, then you've proven that the profile you flew is possible and can use it in the future for missions with similar starting conditions (orbital phases, vehicle, mass, etc.) within a certain tolerance.

I've been thinking more along the lines of an infrastructure/colonization sim, in terms of being able to build up an infrastructure and fly around in the resulting environment, without having to fly every module or fuel delivery to every Mars cycler station, but a similar concept could be interesting for a trading sim.
 

jedidia

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Yeah, that's definitely not what I'm going for, and not really what I'm qualified for. The thing I like most about games is emergent situations and the personal stories that can spontaneously form when dealing with them. Not that the game already has that at this point. I tried starting with that, and then had to realise that I didn't really have the mechanical core to actually make it work, so I'm trying the other way around this time. Will that work? No idea, but it already got me further in less time than the other thing, so I'll take that as a good sign...
 

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Patch 0.4.1 just went up. It fixes the initialisation bug and also provides configuration to run the game in a window rather than in fullscreen if one so prefers.
I realised that I did versioning wrong on itch, so if you installed the game through the itch app, it will not update automatically. You'll need to reinstall it. Since I think I'm doing it right now, I don't expect this to be an issue for future patches.

I just tried it on Linux and couldn't get past the initial screen. It opens full-screen, and apparently there is some Continue button that I need to click that is rendered off the screen, and I can't move any of the windows to access it.
Everything should now be working fine even at lower resolutions.
 
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