however, what i don't really understand, is how, with galaxies of hundred and thousands of starships, swapping out the computer ai for a human ai on a few of them somehow makes it "not oolite"?
It's not the AI that would be the problem - it's the other compromises needed for an MMO-style game. As I said, Elite: Dangerous gives a good idea of what some of them are, if you watch its development.
- all time must be synchronised, so hyperspace jumps and equipment fitting must be near instant. This takes away a lot of "race against time" possibilities, the strategy of making several short jumps rather than a single long jump, a lot of the suspense in the contract market "do I have time to get my shields repaired?", etc.
- OXPs would have to be extremely tightly regulated for multiplayer - basically limited to purely visual changes: HUDs, textures, etc. and maybe not even that.
- The current "if you die, you just reload" set up would need highly controversial adjustment.
- Most of the current core missions would have to go. "The Naval Research Centre at Xeer has had a whole fleet of its prototype 'Constrictor' craft stolen in the fifth embarrassing break-in of this nature this year. Rumours that they are intentionally letting the ships be stolen to get cheap combat testing have been denied by the base commander."
And so on. I'm not saying it wouldn't be a good game at the end of it - I expect I will get a lot of enjoyment out of Elite: Dangerous, after all - but it would be a very different game to Oolite.
As I said, none of these are really a problem for the "primary-secondary" multiplayer mode, which is "simply" a matter of writing the server and networking programs, and an OXP to interface between those programs and Oolite.
Why would it have to be near instant? instant warp is player convenient and unrealistic. neither of which fit the spirit of the game. just leave the time factor in place. maybe, put in a time dilation factor 1ly=1minute or something. and adjust the contract times accordingly. they can see ghostly things to entertain them while waiting in warp. include an auto-pilot for those long travel times in normal space, and it gives off a loud warning and flashes the screen - maybe even let it send out a text message via internet connection when something happens like getting attacked. and for fittingtimes, allow the player to rent a ship (in-the-shop-insurance), allow them to have multiple ships, have station-based events, shuttles which can move your character to different places - such as the planet for trading and so forth, while you are waiting for your ship to be fitted. or you can even become a character advertising a transport!
ship-board interfaces might be limited to things like 'gambling with the crew' or 'trading informational nuggets for value' or 'pirate attack you've been captured and enslaved' or 'repel boarders'... even without much in the way of graphics, you could use the station-based oxp as the base for text-based interaction.
as another warp option - have energy artifacts that have to be piloted around within warp - give witchspace two layers, an i'm-traveling-between-systems layer and a i-got-stuck-out-here layer. be more fun if you had to use piloting skill in warp, or risk being destroyed and becoming a witchspace ghost! and, might as well put the ninth witchspace galaxy back in place as the origin point of the thargoids while one is at it.
speaking of which, there is already a station-based oxp out there... could use the same format for planets, and even use it to include games and whatnot. shouldn't really force oxp regulation.
advanced tech systems can provide cloning technology. for a fee. you die, your clone wakes up. no clone, you die, start over. and if there are both sp/mp modes, then you can allow the reload bit in sp mode, but require clones in mp mode or start a new character. add insurance on ships to the game, so that even if you die, you can get some sort of ship back.
instead of removing the core missions, use the seed number to generate types and categories of missions in different governmental systems. track which missions happened where/when, and have some kinds of missions be repeatable within certain parameters, but other kinds of missions be a one time event for a given system that meets the criteria. some small thought given to syncing the kinds of resources available in a given system with the types of installations that will procedurally generate in said system would lend much verisimilitude. so, for the navy mission mentioned above, the mission could only generate in systems that have a military base / shipyard, and maybe limit it further to certain types of government, for example.
in line with that, planets and various kinds of installations should be assigned values based on the seed number to generate certain types of resources over a given period of time, which should be factored into the economic model. then you can have events such as asteroid impacts and famines changing those values, and word of them spreading across the news channels (timing determined by ships traveling between systems) which would then also generate procedural missions from systems that are high in the now missing resources towards the planets where the event(s) happened. this would also allow things like news reports even in systems where the resources don't match; advertising when an event occurred and that there is a potential need which ship captains can now scramble for, or decide that since it took x amount of time for the news to arrive, the news is so old that other captains would have acted upon it and it is a bad risk....
actually, that last right there would make an excellent oxp all by itself.
just some thoughts from a gamer.
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