2019-06-09 04:30:24

Hey Folks,
  I've been working on a sequel game to StarLanes on the Amazon Alexa. The working title is StarTrade, and it is, surprise surprise, focused on running a merchant space ship. I've just cut a teaser trailer demonstrating the mechanics for hiring and firing crew. You can hear it here on YouTube: https://youtu.be/VYUgQVk840Q

There are some obvious bugs there and several more major features to go. But it is starting to come together. Feel free to post any input here. We're aiming to be available on Amazon Alexa and Google Home. But I could also possibly do a telnet like text adventure like interface, if there was demand for it.

The first question I have is about the name. I've been frequently getting misfires with Alexa launching "Star Trek" instead of "Star Trade". So I'm considering if I should release it as "Trade Lanes", or even "Merchant of Venus".



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2019-06-09 04:58:48

Sounds similar to star traders.

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2019-06-09 06:49:40

I am absolutely interested in a tellnet-interface!

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2019-06-09 11:09:38

Yeah I would also be interested in a telnet interface if it can be done!  Especially if it can have sound triggers but either way it'd be cool!

As for the name, you could always go with broker, merchant, dealer, entrepreneur, or, courier, trucker, or hauler, and or replace star with stellar, space, galactic, or cosmic,.

Buy the worlds greatest machine gun. It's about 50 inches in length, It's huge! & it can shoot really far, &, it's cheap!
Lets demonstrate this: stand still Thom...
Okay ma.aaa!
Oh! crap!

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2019-06-09 12:44:27

so what features does this game have? is it linked to star lanes like it was meant to be?

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2019-06-09 15:31:22

I hadn't see Star Traders before. From the Wikipedia description, yep, it's probably going to be pretty similar.

The mechanics for the game are mostly based on Cepheus Engine, which is an open source version of the classic Traveller Role Playing game. From the trailer you can see how this plays into crew creation. They are fully fledged RPG characters. Many people considered the character creation process of Traveller a mini-game in and of itself (since you could die during it). At some point I may open that part up and let you roll up your own characters.

The next feature I am working on is system navigation, followed by stellar navigation. Ports are on planets in fully expanded star systems. Most systems just have one port, but some systems may have several. So you can fly around the system visiting other ports or worlds. Initially there won't be a lot of reasons to fly around systems if you are just trading. So most people will focus on stellar travel, which will let you move between entire star systems.

After that, I'll implement trade. So you can buy and sell cargo in each port. At that point we'll have a playable game and I'll do the first release.

Features beyond that will be allowing you to upgrade your ship. I have fully implemented the Cepheus ship design system, so, literally, any sort of ship could be made. Like with character generation, however, I'll probably start off with various stock types. But since many Traveller players just play it to create ships, I have kept up the ability to create custom ships.

Of course at some point there has to be ship-to-ship combat. And since the basic mechanics are there, it could eventually support character-to-character combat (like Six Swords). I'd like to put in upgradable scanners, and allow exploration for zero-volume information cargo, to make the rest of star systems relevant.

The original aim for Star Lanes was to create three more companion games: Star Squad, Star Scout and Star Trade. The audio interface for Star Lanes got too complicated to add additional features so the adaption was to split it into separate, but related games dealing with strategic combat, tactical combat, exploration, and trade. I got some way into the project, with Star Squad getting the closest to being playable. But the code got complex, existing Star Lanes players started to complain about the mechanics being perturbed, and it just kind of fell apart. So I shelved the project and wrote Six Swords from the ground up.

I've learned a lot making Six Swords. Enough that I have new techniques for audio interfaces to deal with the problem of too many features. As you can see from the teaser trailer, functionality is activated by going to places in the physical geography. So more functionality can be added by expanding the physical geography, rather than the linguistic complexity. This gets a little cumbersome, but a new technique is that you can switch your point of view between characters, giving you the ability to "bookmark" certain locations by leaving a character there.

We may still hit a playability barrier at some point of complexity. But at least I now have the technical structure to add in all the features I wanted in the original Star Lanes concept.

Currently the game is linked to Star Lanes solely in terms that it shares the same geography. Star Lanes is purely strategic, and so you could only see the main port in each star, and could not see the stars with no ports. Star Trade gives you more visibility into the entire system, but the gameplay is not currently linked. The original idea was that you could join the same factions in Star Trade and your trading could influence the supply of raw materials available for strategic play in Star Lanes. I will see how the game grows and decide a little further down the road if I'll link them up in that way, or else migrate the strategic game play to Star Trade.

All opinions welcome!

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2019-06-09 18:48:26

Oh, cool. I've had a soft spot for Traveller, in all its permutations, for years.

Have you looked into the Zozer Games Solo system? It's an add-on for the pen and paper game which might offer some inspiration for things like character backstories if nothing else, though it's aimed at procedurally generating an RPG storyline rather than anything game-able directly. I really need to try that properly at some point…

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2019-06-09 22:16:54

so is the universe going to be an expanding universe? or is it going to be a fixed size? will we be able to control fleets and instalations?

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2019-06-10 03:27:00

Looks like Solo is specifically written for Cepheus Engine. I'll have to see if the budget covers it!

The universe is a galaxy roughly the same size as the Milky Way. The settings is based on one that I've used for several of my novels. It's about 100,000 years in the future, and humanity as spread, more or less, everywhere. However galactic empires rise and fall. Currently it fell apart several hundred years or so ago. A local pocket has started to get things together again and is called "The 40 Worlds".

Right now I haven't enforced a local pocket of civilization surrounded by outlands. But I may get to that. People explored far further than I expected in StarLanes though. Maybe I had better put in a function to create multiple pockets throughout the galaxy!

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2019-06-12 13:30:44


I've wrapped an experimental telnet interface around the development version of StarTrade. It probably lacks a lot of the features you expect from a text adventure game. Since it was designed for voice, it isn't abbreviation friendly.

I've only used it with the command line telnet in Windows. I'm not familiar with what telnet based text adventure game clients are popular these days. I'd really appreciate it if anyone wants to try it out with different clients and make suggestions. On the back side I've tried to do it in such a way that I can easily enable most of the other games I've released for Alexa/Home.

Server: api-staging.111george.com
Port: 65500

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2019-06-12 13:52:59

Thats realy realy great! I logged in and it worked fine for now. Could you give a little first-step-tutorial what to do and where to do and how to do it? So i could test it all out? For now it was just stumbling arround. But the main part is working.

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2019-06-14 13:50:58

I got system and star movement working. So you can explore the area. I'll try to get buying and selling cargo working next. Then there will be actually something you can play and actually do something.

The style of the app is something I've developed for audio games, where discovery is very hard. The functionality of the game is conveyed through geography. So you find out what the game can do by exploring. So stumbling around is perfect!

But I can see how right now that's a bit frustrating. There are other mechanics that aren't there yet to make that easier. I just turned on reprompting. Which means that after a few seconds, if you haven't typed anything, it will suggest a command. The other thing I have to add is contextual prompting. E.g. when you pass a fellow crewman in the corridor, there should be a chance it tells you about the "select" command.

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2019-06-14 23:44:05

Maybe this is just a Mac issue, but I got a null pointer exception when I tried to connect just now, after logging in.

Connection closed by foreign host.

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2019-06-15 00:44:33

Thanks for the stack trace. Between that and the error logs I was able to replicate it on my Windows machine. It is one of those "this should never happen" errors. But when I turned on the extra debugging I have, it went away. Shrug.
Give it a go again and I think it should be OK.

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2019-06-15 02:27:51

It works, thanks! smile I'm really excited to see where this goes.

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2019-06-15 18:05:46

Well, you are inspiring me. I put some time aside last night to see if it was practical to wrap the same sort of interface around StarLanes, since it's an already running multi-player game. I got basic connectivity going, but it doesn't seem to recognize anything said. So it needs more work. (You can try it on port 65501, but you can't really see more than the intro.)

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2019-06-15 20:03:20

It would be so great if you could work first on the interface of your allready running complete game. This would make it a lot easier to help you out with sugestions and so on.

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2019-06-16 04:06:17

Sounds sensible. StarLanes could certainly use the players, since it's a team based game. I'll focus on that then.

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2019-06-16 04:49:28

OK. New version of StarLanes posted on api-staging.111george.com, port 65501. At least some commands are now parsing.

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2019-06-16 12:56:28

are people still playing star lanes?

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2019-06-16 16:09:10

There is still a cadre of die-hard players. QXQ has taken over Futatsu and made great inroads against Hitotsu. But Hitotsu is still ahead in conquered systems with 641 to 398. But Futatsu is considerably ahead with factories. If they can leverage that production capability and move those drones out to the front, they could turn the tide.

On voice there's an average of only about 10 active users a day, but, collectively, they clock up about 1500 exchanges a day. Additional telnet players won't boost the voice numbers. But it will make the game more interesting for everyone.

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2019-07-09 01:43:04

Based on your suggestion I've focused on increasing the breadth of availability for StarLanes and I'll come back to StarTrade after that. I've been moving it to my modern code base which will be better for telnet support, but it also gives Google Assistant support. I'm close to being ready to roll it out for Google Assistant. If anyone would like to beta test it drop me a line with the e-mail you sign into either Google Home or Google Assistant on your phone.

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