Expanding systemic crafting into a sci-fi game

After looking / watching this: Farlands – Systemic Crafting of Evil Islands so many elements I’ve been struggling with regarding game design for a space game I want to make (struggling for YEARS) finally all clicked, and I wrote things down as fast as I could.

LoveSpace DX


  • ship hulls are comprised of room containers and device containers.
  • engineer can label containers
  • power conduits to containers can be increased with work + materials
  • device containers = shields, weapons, scanners, tractor beams, etc.
  • room containers can be converted to device containers if on outside of hull, or appropriate spot.
  • room containers are for crew quarters, storage, power room, security station, engineering, astrophysics, shuttlebay, rec room, 10 forward, brig, etc
  • bridge is only thing not customizable
  • devices are built from blueprint + components.
  • beam weapon = beam emitter, power battery, power modulator, others.
  • components are a matrix of sizes and types
  • other than some very bare bone requirements, components can be heavily modified. Think transphasic modulation component that could enable a beam weapon to bypass shields entirely.
  • engineer could decide to have lots of extra batteries, so fire could last longer, better beam emitter so it can handle more power, all sorts of modification components to alter behavior.
  • general modification component engineer could make, that then does X modification.
  • power modulators can only handle so much throughput.
  • modification components could be swappable between components. general things like range boost, power boost, recharge boost, efficiency boost
  • finding a derelict ship w/a pulse weapon… maybe it was ineffective but you can deconstruct to get the pulse emitter out of it (and the blueprint if engineering skill good enough), slap it in a weapon container, etc.

component types

  • Beam emitter
  • pulse emitter
  • shield emitter
  • scanner
  • navigation system
  • Propulsion
  • power modulator
  • power source (battery/capacitor)
  • cooling
  • Efficiency enhance
  • distance enhance
  • power enhance
  • speed enhance
  • geographic
  • stellar
  • technological
  • life support
  • transporter buffer
  • tractor beam
  • missile launcher
  • powered plating distribution
  • power converters (for tech types that rely on certain power sources, Lexicorp shield emitters)

component attributes (some do not all apply to all component types)

  • size (a device container can hold X units of components to make the thing up.)
  • do you want 2 smaller power modulators (1 Unit each) in device for redundancy, or build/buy one that is 2 Unit in size, that is more efficient and apparently more reliable, BUT if it goes out, your device ceases to work until repaired.
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I need to go into extreme detail on all these, because it’s all perfect in my head; it all makes sense. THIS RARELY HAPPENS TO ME.

Also, this mechanic could and should be game agnostic, and verily even be OS. The specific types of things people can customize off the mechanic, but we could come up with a good spec that is a great groundwork, with code and tools to quickly flesh your mechanism tree out and export it for a MUD that runs it, or some sweet 2D space game, whatever.

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Yeah, I am down with that! In fact, that might be an important function of our other group thing, creating specs that represent the entirety of a game, factually and mechanically.

Anyhow, we had conversations years ago where you explained the concept of a ship-based game that merged concepts you’d seen in older space sims, and it was based on how we think of a modern ship, and definitely how we think of future ships, where departments of people with specialized skills operate their part of the whole.

Quick aside: there is a Spelljammer-inspired Fate-based game called Aether Sea, which has a chapter on group-based combat, and I recall it being along the lines of each role or whatever performing a static challenge in order to contribute traits for use in a ship-to-ship challenge. It essentially works like normal conflicts between two players, but two teams instead.

I know of a few MUDs that implement a form of ship to ship combat, and they break down the in-game design in a similar way as your first points, because this is room- and object-based text gaming, ya know?

Just last night I was jotting down some ideas about making a MUD similar to City of Heroes, because I actually like the balance of their power sets, and how they formed a power-language to describe comic characters, it appeals to me, ya know?

But then I thought about the base building in that game, and OMFG, I’d love to see an easy to use base-builder interface in a MUD, and then save it as an instance so anyone can make runs on the base for whatever benefits are attached (I am less concerned about rewards at this point).

So I started writing what I recalled of the builder, and jotted down what is essentially a curated builder’s commandlist, which takes into account some kind of tracked budget for placing rooms, while balancing placed objects and power usage…

Well, when I read your list it just replayed in my head as the features I had for this base, which of course in MUD terms is the exact thing from a building standpoint.

What gets me really excited is mixing it with procedural building scripts, and then really building out each sub-system so you can support deep role-playing ops, where a character’s skills actually unlike this whole part of the game.

On the procedural side, imagine setting up groups of rooms that connect with their systems, like energy, air, water, gravity, whatever. We could build out neat exploration puzzles where players encounter underground bases or derelict stations… it goes a long way!

I know I am skipping to the end of the list here, but the idea I got was about reverse engineering a blueprint: I see an opportunity for a mini-game there.

Let’s presume that all devices and systems have a blueprint somewhere. As in, maybe this society existed 50 million years ago in an old galaxy, but back then they had blueprints at the star forges, to build the things.

With this story premise you can proceed with two different and interesting mechanics:

  • blueprints as distribution of new game items
  • blueprints as group assets

Blueprints on a rolling release

Say you want to roll out a new alien species and technology, which uses mental energy, and the “psy” element adds damages and resistances and all that. Eventually it will be “mined”, and everyone will have all the elements they need to make optimized tech from that skill tree.

Instead of just making devices available, introduce partial blueprints that add only small benefits in the new area, but as the new integrations become more common and accessible, the device quality increases for everyone over time.

Some benefits:

  • You get to check for game balance! If “psy” energy destroys a game balance, you have a chance to cap its influence.
  • All players contribute to uncovering the full capacity; you can let players see the development curve, and everyone benefits from people min-maxing.
  • “Blueprints” can be anything, any system introduced can be rolled out by player research.

“Our blueprint archive IS The Company”

This method fits more in with games encouraging groups and competition, as it basically unlocks efficiency for a specific group of players, meaning as a group they exclusively control their blueprints. It gets messy when you consider how membership and access works, but it might be that the inherent points of knowledge are collected in the character, so a group actually needs members to produce items, and a character can take their value elsewhere, meaning maybe those “ticks” (hackers dealing with “psy” energy) in engineering might jump ship if a better offer appears.

So when your psy-tick character is crunching the data on that derelict health capsule, they are increasing their personal stats, which overall contributes to the creation of items back in the ship’s fabricator station, run by the group itself.


  • Makes research a valuable portion of the game for all gamer-types, cementing team mechanics
  • Can be modified by affiliation: maybe a species or Academy-trained characters have inherent bonuses out the gate, crafting supports flavor
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