Sunday, February 6, 2022

An Orbital Survey of Nascent SF Projects

I tend to vacillate between deep interest in Fantasy projects, and SF projects. It's difficult to get into the mindset of one or the other, so rarely mix them or easily shift between them. 

I've been deep into an SF phase since my last post. I also find it more difficult to share my SF projects, for no apparent reason. So I thought I might force myself to try.

One after another, I've been tentatively excited about a handful of projects, thinking I might be able to see one to a good state and share it with the world in a playable form. And for each one, in turn, I got distracted by a different one. So it goes.

But since I want to show something to the world, here's a brief survey of those projects, as well as my bigger older unreleased SF projects.

You'll note that most of these are Solitaire-first and not PRGs. During the pandemic I realized I'm much more likely to polish and release a game I can playtest by myself.

I'd love to hear any opinions on which of these sound the most interesting, or the most worthwhile to continue developing.

Recent Projects

 (since last post here, in chronological order)

Aces and Admirals
  • Simple(ish), thematic rules for cinematic space opera battles
  • Type: 2P or Solitaire Tactics Miniature (or token) Wargame
  • Hook: Some unique-to-me mechanics that enforce thematic tactical decisions
  • Inspirations:  Chris McDowell's Project 10, Star Wars Armada (which I haven't played)
  • State: 23 page GDoc, v0.3, a couple of playtests
  • Feel: Lukewarm, slow to playtest, maybe not unique enough to pursue
  • Organize dice that represent different types of cargo in your ship's hold according to restrictions, and strategically choose your trade route
  • Type: Inspiral-like Solitaire Dice-and-One-Page game
  • Inspirations: Inspiral... my own desire for a cargo management game with some physicality 
  • State: one-page GDoc layout, v0.3, multiple playtests
  • Feel: Lukewarm, but it's small, and I think there's something there
SS Hot Mess
  • Follow the relationships between a scrappy crew of a cramped starship as they shift and flare and evolve
  • Type: Solitaire or multiplayer... Inspiral-like Solitaire Dice-and-Board game, probably
  • Inspirations: The Sims, Firefly etc, games where this is an element but not the focus
  • State: No rules, just a Perchance generator for a crew and their interrelationships
  • Feel: Uninterested right now but, cute notion but not sure where to go from here
 Unnamed Starfighter Sim
  • Track enemy fighters with dice, moving them between sectors of a radar display as you maneuver to get a good shot and shake tails and manage power between systems
  • Type: Inspiral-like Solitaire Dice-and-One-Page game
  • Inspirations: Tie Fighter and other space dogfighting sims
  • State: Initial designs
  • Feel: Uninterested right now but might return to flesh it out
TransMars Rail
  • Scan, plan, and build up a planet-wide industrial infrastructure on a printed and folded 3-D icosahedral hex-dot-grid globe
  • Type: Strategic Solitaire Boardgame
  • Inspirations: Real plans for Mars settlement, Slipways, Factorio/Satisfactory, "grease pencil" rail boardgames
  • State: Some notional resource tree and unit stats, generators for icosahedral hex map resources
  • Feel: Long way to go here, not super hopeful, but sated some strong design urges 

 Ever Outward

  • Strategically pilot an Interstellar Diaspora ship across the stars, scanning planets and searching for a place that a contingent of the 4000 settlers you carry in cryostasis can work their entire lives to make a home out of.
  • Type: Inspiral-like Solitaire Dice-and-Board game
  • Inspirations: Real Geoplanetary Science, Seedship
  • State: 8 Page GDoc, some elements playtested 
  • Feel: Hopeful, but there is a lot of balancing work needed, and I'm not sure if mechanics and choices are compelling enough to keep you engaged when the majority of systems are uninhabitable 
 Tungsten Trilemma
  • A light framework for SF RPGs
  • Type: Semi-modular RPG rules/tools
  • Inspirations: Iron Triangles, Various SF RPGs, The Expanse, the worlds of my other SF games
  • State: recent, growing GDoc
  • Feel: IDK, right now just an outlet for some ideas that have built up over very tentative prior attempts at SF RPGs. Might turn into a smallish finished project that I'll probably never run.

Prior Projects

(at least the bigger ones, roughly in chronological order)

  • Type: PbtA RPG
  • Inspirations: Various Hard SF novels
  • State: 50+ page GDoc, incomplete
  • Feel: IDK. Self-aware-ly naive back when I was thrilled by the seeming ease of hacking together PbtA games and also into absorbing existential risk studies and when I actually read novels. Probably too pretentious to attempt to distill metaethics into a game system that people would play.
Fission System Privateers
  • A Tactical Game of Tense Deception and Interplanetary Maneuvers
  • Type: Tactical 2P+ Board-and-Card game 
  • Hook: baking realistic restrictions into rules (orbital mechanics Delta-V, simplified rocket equation, no stealth in space, known/hidden info)
  • Inpirations: Realistic space warfare concepts, Human Reach novels, The Expanse
  • Feel: This is one of multiple attempts at distilling realistic space warfare into a playable analog tactical game, probably my best one, and yet it still feels only somewhat tractable. Still might be something there worth polishing.
  • Type: Rules Light RPG
  • Hook: "Solve, Survive, Save" framework codified into rules, panic rules tweaked to my taste
  • Inspirations: Alien, Cthulhu Dark, Mothership
  • State: 20 page GDoc, v0.7, no playtesting
  • Feel: I mean, there's a million of these now, so........
Unnamed Slipways-like 
  • Build self-reinforcing interstellar trade routes on a randomly pre-generated and printed starmap
  • Type: Solitaire Dice-and-Draw game
  • Inspirations: Slipways
  • State: Starmap generator, v0.4, a few playtests
  • Feel: IDK, went through a few versions of the central mechanic and haven't found a satisfying balance of comprehensibility and legibility of map-marking
Orbital Decay (such an overused name, but I don't think there's been a more suitable game for it)
  • Make tense decisions to survive and escape Jupiter's orbit after a Kepler-Syndrome-like event, by salvaging derelict spacecraft to refuel and maintain your own against accelerating decay
  • Type: Inspiral-like Solitaire Dice-and-Board game
  • Hook: Simplified but realistic orbital maneuvering mechanics, ship systems damage simulation, an undercurrent of cosmic horror
  • Inspirations: Hard SF
  • State: 10 page GDoc, v0.6, multiple playtests
  • Feel: Hopeful - focused scope, but needs more tweaking

An Orbital Survey of Nascent SF Projects

I tend to vacillate between deep interest in Fantasy projects, and SF projects. It's difficult to get into the mindset of one or the oth...