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[GamePlay-Concept] Stellaris-Like 4X-Lite Meta Gameplay To Feed Mission Context


(PSN)MoRockaPDX
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I finally spent some time with Stellaris and have new thoughts to go along with my previous post on Crusader Kings 3 gameplay and how its emergent gameplay can be a model for creating greater context for Warframe missions. 

Stellaris, is a Paradox Interactive Grand Strategy Space 4x game. Where you control an interstellar empire, explore other stars, encounter space phenomena, aliens, and ultimately grapple with galactic events that can determine the fate of entire civilizations. 

stellaris-federations-title.jpg

It is not my intent to turn Warframe into a giant empire simulator. But, I am suggesting how the emergent story building that occurs in games like; Stellaris, Crusader Kings, and Europa Universalis, can be valuable.

Lately, I looked at the Star Chart and see the various nodes with their static mission types, and slight variants from syndicates, nemesis, nightmare mode, Steel Path, etc. and find the differentiation too subtle. What I crave is greater motivation, and better context for going into these missions. After eight years, we are still conducting these missions based on the need to balance the aggressive nature of the Grineer, Corpus and Infestation. With the Sentients a welcome new foil, but this has been happening at a glacial pace. That is what brings me to the emergent story telling of the above aforementioned games. They run over long stretches of time, and typically build stories based on conditions that are met over the course of many interrelated systems. In Stellaris, for example, you can explore a neighboring star system and discover some strange phenomena. You can choose to scan it safely from a distance and get some benefit or, you can risk an exploratory mission, and possibly get greater rewards. Some of these events can be branching threads that can lead to significant events and rewards. Sort of like, light quests lines. But, things like this are happening all the time. Engaging in diplomacy, trade, or warfare with your interstellar neighbors. Conducting exchanges of knowledge or establishing spy networks. Now, not all of these would have direct appropriate translations for Warframe, and I am not suggesting that the Warframe players move into the strategist role. 

What would be worth drawing from these games is, crafting a living universe that is statistically and dynamically driven. each of the planets/palentoids and their nodes, could be broken up to zones and districts, that have histories, cultures and attributes for their populations. Certain thresholds of pops create NPC, and these NPC are the actors that drive activity throughout the Star Chart. 

For Example, Let's assume whatever happens after the events of the New War, the Tenno become independent contractors. No longer taking contracts exclusively from the Lotus, or Simulated Lotus. Grineer Governor Erd Charpo, administers the region around E Prime on Earth. Indigenous Rebel Pool Toro, Issues contracts to run Extermination missions in E Prime to undermine the Governor. Each extermination run in E Prime increase the chance of trigger a number of possible events. One such event could be a response for Erd Charpo to send a team to capture Pool Toro. Creating a unique rescue mission for the Tenno to extract Pool Toro from a nearby Rescue Node on Earth on Pacific. 

There are so many combinations of NPC, events and interactions that could occur. NPC could be eliminated making room for new actors to the stage to shake things up. Broader events can occur with wider changes to the the NPC and regions. Possible opportunities for chaining missions, or creating loose but objective goals for players to set on their own to say topple a despot or fund and open insurrection. There could even be interesting possibilities of taking on missions from various Grineer and Corpus NPC, who might be more sympathetic to the colonist and the Tenno. Supporting this actor would undermine these despotic regimes. The more you support these NPC's the more powerful and influential they can become. Eventually, leading to wider conflicts, and more impactful events. Some of these NPC's could possibly make cameos in quest cutscenes. 

I'll attempt to update this with more examples of how I think the dynamic, statistically driven background to the Warframe universe could create a regular flow of enjoyable context for the standard gameplay. Let me know what you think.

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The War Table

So, in trying to envision this system, I picture the following. And this probably only works because the game already has a large veteran player base. Each planet (planet/planetoid/base) has a War Table mode or view. This displays the faction map across each of these locations that further breaks down around each node (sector). This view visually represents the factions stats, and major NPC's. For new, players, the missions are picked and managed by the Lotus, as to not overwhelm them. But, either after the Lotus goes on hiatus (spoiler), or sometime after the New War the Tenno have the option to go freelance. This means they can engage with these Sectors/Nodes NPC mission givers. 

The Idea being, the stats of the Sector, and the stats of the NPC's, and the Factions, should creates a system that generates causes and effects over time, and generate context for the mission the Tenno go on. So, now when you go on the exterminate mission for the millionth time, its because it effects the local populace, and its leaders. There can be consequences, for who is backed and how. For example, Selecting missions from a Steel Meridian NPC, who wants to reduce the garrison size in their location, will free them to conduct operations to recruit more Grineer to defect. This in turn will weaken the local Grineer Governor, who retaliates. Generating, more conditions to consider. 

The NPC in this system could leverage the existing Nemesis and Crew system for generating the characters. There could either be bespoke factions/nations sort of like Crusaders Kings or Europa Universalis, or more archetypes with ranges like in Stellaris or Rimworld. The Syndicates, essentially represent large autonomous factions that are spread out across multiple planets. 

The next big shift in the system, in this case almost certainly after the New War, would be the the break down of the big three factions dominance, and open the War Table system to greater shifts in power. For example, the native population of Pacifica could take control of their Sector in the face of a weekend Grineer. However, this new nation, isn't assured to be a positive force. Who the Tenno select missions from can tip the scales in one directions or another.

There might be some moderate reward incentive effects in this system, but generally this is to drive context for existing missions and allow for the emergent story telling that comes from a living world.

 

Edited by (PSN)MoRockaPDX
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This concept is what I like to call 'Living World' Design, effectively a meta system for emergent storytelling and worldbuilding from gameplay.

While I'm not necessarily into making things too scripted, in terms of dialogue or character (at least, significantly), I did always think Warframe was going to move more into this emergent universe method, where the game could be filled with happenstance, most of which predictably occurring from cause-&-effect stimulus, where the player can end up finding things that are happening in it, effectively allowing the game to give the impression of being a 'living world'.

For example, maybe by exploring around a mission, you happen upon a major business dealing going down between the Corpus and a Grineer Commander, and you can capture the Grineer Representative (like a normal capture mission's mechanics) and doing so would unlock a time limited alert on the node chart somewhere, where you can confront the commander and find out what he was up to. Or it could span longer than that, and go through a series of time limited alerts to track this commander down.
Or, perhaps while searching lockers, occasionally a datamass would fall out that could be taken to extraction, which could also create those personal, time-limited alerts.
For example, you may have accidentally intercepted plans by Black Seed Infiltrators in the Corpus to unleash the Infestation on an independent colony, and frame the Corpus, which would lead you on a series of alert missions to find where they're storing their infested samples and to sabotage them. (Or take them for yourself, perhaps rewarding a lump of Mutagen Samples or other Infested materials)

As well, a possibility would be to regularly get these personal, time-limited alerts by completing Capture, Interception, Rescue, Sabotage, and Spy Missions with high efficiency. It could even be used to bait & switch, where doing a Capture Mission would create an Alert Mission that makes you think you're going to access a Vault like a Spy Mission, but successfully hacking the entrance room door, instead of opening, triggers an alarm, life support is cut, and suddenly you're thrust into a Survival mission.

Obviously, there'd be additional or unique rewards to increase the level of excitement for finding these occurrences, like bonus modifiers, cosmetics, equipment variants, resources, boosters, mods, etc. Likewise though, these missions could be uniquely difficult, with challenge modifiers (ie, unpredictable, Enemies having non-standard abilities and equipment, Unique Enemy Units and Factions, etc)

In any case though, I know I would certainly appreciate some more emergent and dynamic occurrences in Warframe.

Edited by Krion112
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2 hours ago, Krion112 said:

This concept is what I like to call 'Living World' Design, effectively a meta system for emergent gameplay.

While I'm not necessarily into making things too scripted, in terms of dialogue or character as you suggest, I did always thought Warframe was going to move more into this emergent universe method, where the game could be filled with happenstance, most of which predictable, where effectively the game represents a world, and the player can end up finding things that are happening in it.

Maybe by exploring around a mission, you find a major business dealing going down between the Corpus and a Grineer Commander, and you can capture the Grineer Representative (like a normal capture mission's mechanics) and it would unlock a time limited alert on the node chart somewhere, where you can confront the commander and find out what he was up to. Or it could span longer than that, and go through a series of time limited alerts to track this commander down.
Or, perhaps while searching lockers, occasionally a datamass could fall out that you could take to extraction, which could also create those personal, time-limited alerts.
For example, you may have accidentally intercepted plans by Black Seed infiltrators in the Corpus to unleash the Infestation on an independent colony, and frame the Corpus, which would lead you on a series of alert missions to find where they're storing their infested samples and to sabotage them.

You could probably even regularly get these personal, time-limited alerts by completing Capture, Sabotage, and Spy Missions with high efficiency. It could even be used to bait & switch, where doing a Grineer Capture Mission would create an Alert where you'll be lead to a Mission where you think you're going to access a Vault like a Spy Mission, but successfully hacking the entrance room door, instead of unlocking, it triggers an alarm, life support is cut, and suddenly you're thrust into a Survival mission.

Obviously, there'd be additional or unique rewards to increase the level of excitement for finding these occurrences, like bonus modifiers, cosmetics, equipment variants, resources, boosters, mods, etc. Likewise though, these missions could be uniquely difficult, with challenge modifiers (ie, unpredictable, Enemies having non-standard abilities and equipment, Unique Enemy Units and Factions, etc)

In any case though, I know I would certainly appreciate some more emergent and dynamic occurrences in Warframe.

I would like it to see your examples too. I think my first goal is to add the visual differentiation experienced with this living world (to borrow you excellent term), into the gameplay feedback loop. So, when you start up Warframe and look at the Star Chart, you see a dynamic layer of essentially nation states, and their leaders. And when playing you influence these leaders and their states, and they in turn influence you. Creating a contextual living feedback loop for your gameplay missions, that go beyond, counter the oppression of monolithic despotic powers is the System.

Edited by (PSN)MoRockaPDX
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Adding an old post I made waaay back, speculating about possible start chart changes. Influenced, from games like the original Dark Sector Concept, that itself was inspired by games like Wing Commander: Privateer, but also I talk about Star Citizen, EVE and others. Much of this would apply to what became RailJack. But, a lot a speculated on are the other aspects of a space simulation universe. Like the more living universe that many of the above games create. 

 

I remember, reading the GameInformer issue that had an early look at the roughly 2005-ish version of Dark Sector. It exploded my imagination, and I would still love to see Warframe evolve into the living universe it teased in those days. Not to say, Warframe isn't an amazing setting. That it is, and I have enjoyed playing in my head cannon over the years. But, it has been a long time, and the industry is making a lot of moves, and I want to see what DE can do next.

 

 

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The War Table

So, in trying to envision this system, I picture the following. And this probably only works because the game already has a large veteran player base. Each planet (planet/planetoid/base) has a War Table mode or view. This displays the faction map across each of these locations that further breaks down around each node (sector). This view visually represents the factions stats, and major NPC's. For new, players, the missions are picked and managed by the Lotus, as to not overwhelm them. But, either after the Lotus goes on hiatus (spoiler), or sometime after the New War the Tenno have the option to go freelance. This means they can engage with these Sectors/Nodes NPC mission givers. 

The Idea being, the stats of the Sector, and the stats of the NPC's, and the Factions, should creates a system that generates causes and effects over time, and generate context for the mission the Tenno go on. So, now when you go on the exterminate mission for the millionth time, its because it effects the local populace, and its leaders. There can be consequences, for who is backed and how. For example, Selecting missions from a Steel Meridian NPC, who wants to reduce the garrison size in their location, will free them to conduct operations to recruit more Grineer to defect. This in turn will weaken the local Grineer Governor, who retaliates. Generating, more conditions to consider. 

The NPC in this system could leverage the existing Nemesis and Crew system for generating the characters. There could either be bespoke factions/nations sort of like Crusaders Kings or Europa Universalis, or more archetypes with ranges like in Stellaris or Rimworld. The Syndicates, essentially represent large autonomous factions that are spread out across multiple planets. 

The next big shift in the system, in this case almost certainly after the New War, would be the the break down of the big three factions dominance, and open the War Table system to greater shifts in power. For example, the native population of Pacifica could take control of their Sector in the face of a weekend Grineer. However, this new nation, isn't assured to be a positive force. Who the Tenno select missions from can tip the scales in one directions or another.

There might be some moderate reward incentive effects in this system, but generally this is to drive context for existing missions and allow for the emergent story telling that comes from a living world.

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