Space Pirates and Zombies 2

Space Pirates and Zombies 2

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Blorf  [developer] Jun 6, 2014 @ 9:31pm
Captains, Bandits, and Zombies oh My! (The Classes in SPAZ 2)
Hi Everyone,

Well, I have been working on the metagame pretty much solidly for the last month and now it is finally time to come up for air and talk a bit. I had been meaning to do this for a while but I was stuck in a mode thrashing between excitement and horror as the metagame AI slowly formed. Now they are all (mostly) happily working away so the needle is firmly pointing at excited and I will talk again :)

At a high level: SPAZ 2 is like a zombie movie. We have both been watching as much as we can of them (Thanks Netflix) and here's the idea. Zombie movies are about the people and how they face the apocalypse, not so much the zombies themselves. The zombies are really an environmental hazard that brings people into conflict. So for SPAZ 2 the real major interaction is Captain to Captain. That is why there are 200 of them and they each have a unique personality and face and can do everything you can do. There are rarely heroes in a zombie movie, just bands of survivors, who usually end up having to turn on each other. You are meant to get to know at least some of them, love them, hate them and feel bad or good when you see them as a zombie. So Captains are the Characters we get to know.

Next there are the Bandits. There are always faceless bandits it seems. The lawless groups who never really form a faction, make a lot of noise and generally are horrible people. Now don't get me wrong, some of the Captains are equally horrible, about 33% of them right now, but those guys have a plan at least. Bandits just take and take and really end up making it easier for the zombies in the long run. The Bandits of course end up becoming fodder first and swell the zombie ranks.

Then there are the zombies. Zombies really aren't that bad. They are instinctual and can even be used if you understand their behavior. We see the zombies in SPAZ 2 as part of the eco system. Not a part we really are happy is there, but it is the reality so how do we form an equilibrium with them or at least stay healthy and out of their way.

So now we have a total eco system on the Starmap with 3 classes. Captains, Bandits and Zombies.

I will write a post about each of these so this overview doesn't get too long as well.

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Blorf  [developer] Jun 6, 2014 @ 9:50pm 

There are 200 Captains that can do everything you will be able to do. They are also not even aware of who the player is. Everyone is equal and has the same inputs and outputs to keep things fair.

The most important thing was to make these captains feel and act uniquely so we are giving each of them their own unique portrait. We commissioned a full 200 portraits which are just getting finished now. We have been receiving 25 a month.

Each captain also has A unique set of personality traits and hierarchy of needs. I will explain these. The personality traits are things live Bravery, or Altruism, or Bloodthirstyness, these influence how fast needs gain importance. Needs are things like safety, leveling up, rez, goons, scrap, battle, building starbases, exploration etc etc... The needs are hierarchical so that earlier needs trump later ones. Beyond that, if say there is a need like "Get Rez" a lot of who a Captain is comes down to how they fulfill that need. Will they trade, mine, or kill to get it. Well really they will try all of these, but which will they prefer.

Captains drive the advancement in the Galaxy and are a force for civilization, but this doesn't mean they are all "good guys" by any means. They are just organized and try to build a society or at least in the case of explorers and loners, know how to deal with society to get what they want.

The flow of the game is driven by the Captains. Aside from the low level starting parts that exist on galaxy creation, no part will ever come into existence that was not built by one of these 200 captains. Locations become mines which feed starbases, which attract traders, thieves and conquerers, this in turn attracts zombies. Everything will be an emergent event based on how these captains interact. In this living universe, it will be important not to be left behind, or at least to make strong friends. All flow will be based on the galaxy unfolding as it will and the Captains trying to Survive.

Captains have by far the most complex brains to write and each will behave differently, unlike zombies and bandits who are more environmental hazards that you can rely on to behave a certain way. Each Captain will try to preserve its life but in the end, some personalities will be ill suited to the apocalypse and they will end up merging with stronger factions, or becoming zombie food. Already certain personalities are doing quite well (The Altruistic Loners are quite successful right now) Once Faction building gets fleshed out and starbase building becomes more than just something I do to seed civilization, I expect more personalities to begin to shine.

Because of the Scope of the Captain brains, they are really the least functional right now. They are good at following their morality rules and exploring and evading trouble spots, but they still need to build starbases on their own and begin to trade and form dynamic factions. There is still a lot of work to do with these guys and once they are fully online expect another post about them (probably a video too)
Blorf  [developer] Jun 6, 2014 @ 9:52pm 

The faceless jerks who mess everything up, make too much noise, and end up attracting the zombies, then getting eaten of course... making more zombies.

Though bandits do not have the same brains as the Captains, they do perform a fairly important role. They scavenge and scavenge well (but loudly). Now when I say loudly, I probably need to explain this being space and all. In SPAZ 2 there is sound. Call it scanning whatever, we have no name for it yet, but doing stuff makes noise and noise lets people and zombies know where you are, and people knowing where you are is usually not a good thing. Stealth will be pretty important on the Starmap. In combat let er rip full guns blazing though if you want since that is really really fun.

So in all horror and survival someone drops a vase and then the poop hits the fan. We wanted this too and the tension around stealth and staying quiet so "sound" is a major mechanic on the starmap and bandits, being bandits, make noise. Think of them as the ones in the loud trucks and motorcycles in the zombie movies enjoying the apocalypse far too much.

Where do bandits come from. The 200 captains are there when the galaxy generates, but the bandits are a little different. They are castoffs from battles. After battles there will be a scavenge field created, full of pods, scrap, parts rez and everything to make a just barely space-worthy vessel. These will all be parts from the ship that was destroyed in combat and some of its inventory (so no magic parts being created here either, it is recycling at its best!)

Anyhow, so these poor souls who are never picked up become bitter and make a fleet of their own with beer and hookers and off they go to cause trouble for everyone. (Note: if the scav node is being harvested they wont form, instead being rescued and become part of the not entirely voluntary labor force of whoever found them)

Now Bandits aren't all bad. They do keep the galaxy clean, so battle fields are not littered everywhere being fodder for the zombies growth. When the bandit fleet forms, it slooowly harvests whats left of the scav node and then starts flying around, evading zombies and looking for trouble, like a mobile treasure trove.

Bandits can also sort of work together. Weak bandit fleets will merge and if one bandit fleet is much more powerful than its neighbor, the weaker will be absorbed with all of its yummy new parts.

Another neat side effect of the bandits noise is that if they DO find a rez, goon or scrap node you are sure to "hear" them harvesting and can travel that direction to find it, instead of aimlessly wandering the fog looking for your own. Bandits are cowards if you are stronger than them and can be pushed aside easily if you are bigger. They are kind of like bullies, only strong in groups and if you stand up to them they run off.

The other great thing about bandits. They're slow and easy to find when you need to get a zombie off your tail. This will become important when I talk about zombies and travel speeds.
Last edited by Blorf; Jun 6, 2014 @ 10:19pm
Blorf  [developer] Jun 6, 2014 @ 9:52pm 

I can't explain exactly where zombies come from in SPAZ 2 since it is something you need to figure out as our main plot point. They are part of the ecosystem though and that is very important to us. They too fulfill a role and if you understand it, you can use it.

First off, I want to go into zombie behavior. It is really solid now and likely won't change too much after watching apocalypse after apocalypse unfold at 10X speed over the last few days. As with most zombie movies, it will all start with one unlucky person. Those 200 captains by the end of the game will be 200 zombies, pretty much guaranteed. The apocalypse 2.0 if SPAZ 2 unfolds quite innocently at first as well. It remains fairly contained for a long while but will eventually just spill out and be everywhere. All infection happens according to a set of rules as well and no one gets infected randomly. It is all captain choice based on greed or desperation or sometimes stupidity.

I also mentioned travel modes. This is probably important to understand first. In SPAZ 2, travel requires Rez. Just a little bit, since there is so little left. Without Rez you can move but it is just a crawl. So Rez is gas now. Think of a zombie movie here too. If you have a car with gas, safe, without gas dead unless very quiet and sneaky.

Flight modes:
Conserve - Quietly crawl around making very little noise. This is all you can do when out of rez and if someone is chasing you, you're caught.

Normal - Fly around using a little bit of Rez. You are faster than zombies that aren't flat out sprinting (boosting) after you. It makes a little noise but not too bad

Boost - Fly around with the engine wide open. Only someone with faster boost can catch you, and zombies can never boost that fast. You make an absolute ton of noise and burn rez like crazy. Burn all your rez and you are in conserve mode with an army of zombies on your tail. Not smart.

Notes: Bandits can't boost This means that they are prime decoys for zombies and cannot catch you if you have rez and are willing to boost.

Now I will explain FINALLY Zombie behavior and why it is scary will become maybe apparent. The why's of it all is plot related so I can't get into that.

Physically zombies are slightly slower and have poor vision. This means you will see them before they see you. BUT they have good hearing. Since flying around creates these sound bubbles, zombies will tend to hear you coming and want to investigate if not otherwise engaged having morning tea or somesuch.

Their #1 goal is to infect others and fight. If they SEE something to kill they will pick the weakest most wounded target and set upon it like a pack of wolves. When they see a target they also begin to scream making a huge sound bubble attracting any other zombies in the area from all directions, swarming the target. Zombies only Boost and Scream when they see an enemy. Their boost is slower than the Captains, BUT they can boost forever. So if a zombie sees you, you need to fly near a more tempting target or boost out of their sight range. If out of their sight range they return to normal mode but will still follow your sound until they can no longer hear it (go to crawl mode turn left and hope they pass by)

Their #2 goal is to eat. Think of this like when you see packs of zombies on body piles in the movies feasting away. The zombies have very limited memories and can even return to nearby locations. (Captains can remember everything they have ever seen, zombies get the last 3 locations only) Now if a zombie is feasting away (having tea as above) and they hear a loud engine noise, they don't care. This is important. An eating zombie is quite reliably safe if you just stay out of its vision range. This means that you can also attract them safely if you have enough rez to boost and stay ahead of them. Just get close to them, wiggle your juicy brain and then lead the herd where you want them. (cough enemy starbase cough) One important thing about their eating (harvesting) is that they are REALLY good at it. They are slow, but they can really pick a scrap field clean. If you are patient you can use this as well. They also eat (harvest) quietly so it is really easy to stumble upon huge hordes happily munching a huge scavenge field.

Goal #3 Well I'm not eating but what was that noise. If a zombie hears something, they will investigate at normal speed (this is slower than a captain's speed but faster than a bandits speed... poor noisy slow bandits) At normal speed zombies make about the same noise as anyone else and you can usually hear them coming.

Goal #4 Shamble and moan. If the zombies have nothing to kill, eat or investigate, they go into conserve mode and sloooowly shamble around making almost no noise just waiting for someone to run into them.

Note: every zombie in the game was once a captain. bandits and harvesting makes zombie fleets bigger, but captains make more zombies.

The zombies have one more trick up their sleeves but I will leave that for a future installment.
Last edited by Blorf; Jun 6, 2014 @ 11:05pm
Nasty Peep Jun 6, 2014 @ 10:10pm 
EvilNinjadude Jun 6, 2014 @ 10:21pm 
Mind if I cross-post this to the SPAZ forums? Unless you want to do it yourself, of course.
Blorf  [developer] Jun 6, 2014 @ 10:25pm 
Oh, I was going to throw a blog post in there with this text when completed actually. Man you are fast! If I forget after I write the zombies portion then please do though. I am writing all this stream of consciousness but caffeinated so I am not sure how long it will take.
Last edited by Blorf; Jun 6, 2014 @ 11:09pm
EvilNinjadude Jun 6, 2014 @ 10:28pm 
No problemo. I might not do it immediately, since I have to go somewhere, but this is something I'll be able to remember.
whoiii Jun 7, 2014 @ 12:28am 
Glad to see the meatgame froming up and it sounds intresting and complex. Plus being able to use Zombies as a weapon on your more powerful neihbor is just plian Nasty.
I think this game can honestly be a contender for Game of the Year after reading that... Fantastic job!
Neme Jun 7, 2014 @ 1:28am 
Damn it, im 3 hours late to this party lol :/

Begins reading blorf's little write up :)
Last edited by Neme; Jun 7, 2014 @ 1:31am
trance_llama Jun 7, 2014 @ 4:32am 
HI Blorf, big fan of the first Spaz can't wait for the 2nd one.. one thing instead of mentioning sound I would say that the FTL drive of the craft cause ripples in space time or the hyperspace they go into amplyfies thought as space is more or less vaccum sound wouldn't be around.. sorry that sounded nit picky other than that a really good picture of the overall state of the game
Markgrave Jun 7, 2014 @ 6:04am 
This is an amazing post! Thanks a lot. I am in awe of the cogs and wheels turning inside your head to make a functional system based on all the above data you mentioned:)
Neme Jun 7, 2014 @ 7:14am 
Originally posted by trance_llama:
HI Blorf, big fan of the first Spaz can't wait for the 2nd one.. one thing instead of mentioning sound I would say that the FTL drive of the craft cause ripples in space time or the hyperspace they go into amplyfies thought as space is more or less vaccum sound wouldn't be around.. sorry that sounded nit picky other than that a really good picture of the overall state of the game

Hmm I actually like that idea myself with the ripples in space and time.. Kind of like when you drop a stone into a pond with it causing ripples in the water..

You could kind of have the zombie ships being able to detect these ripples from the engines from the ship you are useing..

Stronger / more power you put into engines / the faster you go the larger the ripples in space and time .. The engines can act kind of like sound, so to speak, and the scanners on the zombie ships can pretty much be the ears in detecting the ripples that end attracts the zombie ships...

Something like gravitational waves: ripples in the fabric of space-time that the engines cause when activating or are in use..

something like this after a quick google
Last edited by Neme; Jun 7, 2014 @ 7:22am
Blorf  [developer] Jun 7, 2014 @ 8:06am 
Most excellent insert trek speak here trance_llama and Neme, SOLD! We will likely explain it similarly to this in the final game. Sound is just what we use internally to describe it in zombie movie terms :)
Neme Jun 7, 2014 @ 8:33am 
Originally posted by blorf:
Most excellent insert trek speak here trance_llama and Neme, SOLD! We will likely explain it similarly to this in the final game. Sound is just what we use internally to describe it in zombie movie terms :)

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