STARL Metaverse and Warp Nexus
We have heard your call for greater transparency from the community and development teams. Moving forward, we aim to provide many avenues for everyone, content for all types, whether it’s Q+A’s, structured game updates/changes, or something a little lighter.
Today we have for you a more relaxed and impromptu long-form conversation between members of the community team and Wyrmbyte games developers, Scott Brown and Markus Krichel. Kind enough to step away from their work on the STARL Metaverse and Warp Nexus game, they gave a sneak peek behind the scenes of what they have been working on.
With a combined five decades of experience in video game design and production, the two were eager to share Warp Nexus game mechanics, their opinions on the modern gaming landscape, and discuss some of the challenges they face as these maestros of the MMO genre aim to make their mark in the blockchain gaming space.
Quick introduction, if I may: I am Markus. I am the Design Lead at Wyrmbyte, developers of Warp Nexus. I am looking forward to chatting with you about all that’s happening in the world of blockchain games, NFTs, and, of course, Warp Nexus.
A pleasure to make your acquaintance Markus. I’m Obie; nothing special of note in my resume; I can’t wait to see what you and the team are cooking up.
Now that we have you here, what has been the consensus from the Wyrmbyte team on Crypto culture, blockchain tech, and blockchain gaming so far?
The most obvious one is that we have a hell of a lot to learn about these things. The second one is excitement about taking on a new challenge. I am specifically coming on board to try to find ways to create a “Goldilocks State” where the needs of core gamers, investors, and developers are met and form a symbiotic relationship. To make it short: Fun for all and financial success in the process.
The blockchain world is so new that it’s often hard to realize what is and isn’t possible. I love your philosophy on Dev/consumer relationships. I have played too many MMOs that lose sight of gamer needs in favor of profit or time-wasting/gating systems in order to artificially pad user metrics.
That’s the thing, Obie. If we find a way to develop mechanics that drive the economy organically through FUN gameplay and create a sense of ownership and goodwill between them, that would be the key to success. In my opinion, of course.
Spot on! The comfort that comes from knowing the Dev team is on the side of creating something uniquely ours with an emphasis on user benefit is out of this world.
If only we could translate that into easily digestible media for others that just see another Metaverse project.
I thought about this example: A station owner (investor player) sends out a call to all players to deliver commodities to him to upgrade his station. Players will be compensated, and the value of the station may increase as a result. The investor player pays in StarL tokens for the contract, the player fulfills it through their work and gets rewarded with an item that they can either use or sell.
Contract work for the modern-day gamer. I love it.
Needs work, but this is a mechanic that creates meaningful gameplay, encourages the use of tokens, and has longevity and motivation.
That of course could scale depending on the level of investor or player. Planet owner, Landowner, shipowner, NFT owner. Even player to player, “I don’t have the gear to farm this item, I’ll set up a contract for someone else to do it”.
This is already in place through the mission terminal in the hub.
I can already see people with a fleet of ships, renting them out to others for a cut of their goods.
They wouldn’t even have to rent them out, just let them use them. There are only positive effects for the NFT owner and the renter/user gets a cut or a cool item in return. You could have a fleet that is sustained simply by letting others use your ships.
That is too cool. Do you have any recommended resources or info to get a better grasp on in-game economies?
Scott: I can answer questions about the economy, Obie.
Let’s see, let me do my best to break down how the in-game economy (non Starl/NFT) works and basically drives most of what happens in the game.
There are a few types of items in the game used in recipes to build other items.
So, there are raw elements like iron, carbon, helium that are mined, these are combined and built into components like conduit, refined metal, and battery. Those together are what can be used to craft an item like a laser gun, engine, or even a ship.
What kind of mechanisms will be used to discover recipes?
There is not a discovery mechanism right now but it’s a cool idea.
So each station has specific types of things it can build, and the game tries every so often to build those items. If a station does not have what it needs to build it creates missions asking those objects to be brought to it. This also slowly drives up the price that stations will pay for those components.
Oh, that’s cool, so the game provides more of a base element in times when less of the item that requires it is being made?
Each time a player does a mission there is combat and, in that combat, ships are destroyed. When a ship is destroyed the game goes through and removes all the parts from the economy needed to make those ships and the equipment on them. Thus, by players playing missions, they are also constantly consuming items keeping the economy going.
As an example when I click on something it tells me: where it’s made, what parts it needs, and where those can be found.
It also shows what items need that part (shield and capacitor in this example) items can also be dropped from fighting other ships in combat but those need to be repaired (using the same parts)
For example, The items also have a Diablo style random range on each stat, in this gun you can see the red stats are worse than what I have equipped and the green better.
I’m trying hard to avoid hiding information, making you have a website loaded to get what you need. I try to tell you everything you need on the items themselves.
True that; I’m coming at this as a naive PvP/dungeon MMO player, how do you determine how much of a material to take out of the economy each time? like, how do you find that balance, is it trial and error?
So, the goal of the economy is that the game is never the same from one play session to another. Each time you log in, different items may be in demand and the trade route that made you kill yesterday is worthless today.
Also, I love playing MMOs where you actually make a difference. vs a game like WoW where everyone does the same boss fight a million times and nothing changes, in Warp Nexus the economy is dynamic and whether you are playing single player or PvP the results of your missions will have effects on the economy.
I’m excited to see this in action. I agree that the biggest example of game development gone wrong is World of Warcraft, where if you played casual, it basically became a game of chores doing the ever-increasing minimum required tasks to remain up to date.
So, another example, if someone buys up all the iron and loads it into a huge freighter and gets destroyed the price of Iron is going to go up. And the players mining it will be very happy. Now, of course, the change is all slow so the actions of one player won’t have a massive instant effect but everyone playing is changing the universe all the time.
Also, the base stations (likely say 15 or so of these) will only make the first tier of items. Player stations can add modules to create their own items in-game so you can fly to and from those for missions and build the best items as well.
Will player decisions have an effect on the direction a station grows and evolves?
They will control their station 100%
Just as an aside, other than the player-owned stations tech, all of this is built and working now. We are redesigning the stations and the various parts but that is all just data entry to change what is made and where.
Also, at least right now, no stations have equipment players can buy in their inventory (they have to repair ships though) so everything you want to improve your ship with you either has to craft or get from other players.
I think in our next build where you are working around in the Metaverse and you see the entrance to the game it should make a lot more sense for everyone.
Anything about the economy I missed or did not answer what you were looking for?
As I said earlier I’ve always been mostly on the PvP/dungeon side of games, destruction and all that. So, making money and taking part in the economy of sorts has always taken a back step. My main question so far is: Does there need to be a minimum size player base for the economy to flourish?
The economy works no matter what players do. I made the whole system fill in roles with AI whenever players don’t. So if a station makes a mission to request Iron after enough time of a player not taking the mission, the AI will.
And there it is! The missing piece of the puzzle!
Same with PvP, Co-op, etc. If you start up a mission to be PvP and say it has 10 slots for players, it will fill in the spots that players don’t. I want players to be able to play how they like.
Ultimately this is key, it’s awkward to want to shoehorn people into roles or tasks that they otherwise wouldn’t participate in.
A BIG difference in our design vs other space games is that we are instanced which has pros and cons.
The biggest pro of course is that I can force combat interactions. Where in another game with a massive space map you might never see another player, in our game if you take a mission to attack a transport you will get to attack one.
Open world has its limitations, mainly when it’s empty, something that occurs all too often with older MMOs is starting or low-level zones that may as well no longer exist because no one uses them…unless they are ganking noobs.
Space games can be boring with lots of flying in a straight line with nothing happening, I wanted to build one without that.
You will never have something like an open-world MMO with players camping for mission kills.
You always have your own map. Also, the design is to have basically one Jumpgate (the Warp Nexus) vs most space games that are the big spider web of stars.
This means instead of having to wait an hour for your friend to get to you, you are always one jump away.
Is the same concept going to be applied to the Metaverse in a way? I see this same problem with Decentraland. It’s huge and there is so much to do. But it makes it look empty. But how do you instance a Metaverse?
It should be the same, yeah.
The code is basically a balancer that keeps instances running, if player count drops it slowly moves players together and closes empty maps. If lots of players sign in, it creates more on the fly. Modern tech lets us start a map in seconds.
Could it be like a server selection screen, you could see which areas are populated before loading in? and then choose to either go to where the people are or a quiet spot to meet with friends.
With friends, we force you to the same map.
So maps have a soft player limit but we go over to keep friends together.
Another big advantage of instanced is no server selection at all. Everyone is in the same universe.
I hate having one group of friends on one server and another on a different one.
Like WoW PvP mode, if you have it on, you can’t see your friends that have it off, even on the same server.
So how PvP works here is basically you flag that you are interested in PvP and if a player creates a PvP mission that you would be eligible for you to get a popup to join. Once it’s filled (or a timer goes off) the mission starts and everyone is just pulled into it.
So the player creating the mission chooses between single-player, Co-op, and PvP.
Again, play the way you want.
So yet another advantage of instanced, no mobs of elite players destroying noobs.
Very cool idea, and once again, if the target number of players isn’t reached, AI joins the party at timers end?
Yep AI just fills in. I’m trying to make it super simple.
How sophisticated is the AI?
I think it’s pretty good but it certainly will need adjusting. The hard part with AI is it’s easy to make them unstoppable, it’s harder to make them more “human”. It’s honestly still a bit too good to me but we will get it dialed in.
What about an internal MMR rank-like system where the AI meets the average of the players in the mission?
I don’t have an AI difficulty slider type thing but it’s a good idea.
Right now it’s more that it matches the equipment power, so they are doing similar damage as you basically.
Okay, that’s pretty much the same idea.
Yeah, it’s just not quite as cool as what you were saying where if you are an amazing pilot the AI does more complex maneuvers or something like that.
The code is basically creating a look at vectors from their ship to the target vs a straight-ahead vector. Normalize those, do the dot product, and then take the arc cos of that result and you get an offset angle of the ship to its target. Then I have guessed at what seems to be a good offset and the ships fly slightly imperfectly towards that. I use standard ideas like taking the mod of the ship’s ID to pick different spots to aim so every AI ship is not aiming at the same offsets.
Okay, you lost me with that last part, that’s a bit outside of my wheelhouse.
The AI just basically says what is the optimal range for my weapons and tries to stay at that range while aiming at the player and avoiding obstacles like asteroids and other ships.
So that is how I program it to miss.
It was also overwhelming for the AI to just lock onto you and never stop firing so I make them every so many seconds (I think it’s 3–8 right now) veer off and find another approach.
That being said, you can see all types of players in games, could there be a random profile generator for the AI? Maybe one that flies head-on and chews through ammo, then another in the squad takes a more tact approach?
The AI bases what it does on its load out right now only. Would be fun to add some “behavior profiles” or something later, yeah. Like kamikaze vs scared.
Honestly, it’s once you guys all get in and start playing that it will get better based on feedback.
Most of these numbers are all trivial to change so we can try lots of iterations on it all.
Combat right now is very basic though. It needs more rock, paper, scissors mechanics. Like if they have one weapon type but you have the right shields it’s either super-powered or underpowered and you get player strategies of the best combinations of equipment come into play.
Hard counters will probably always exist, but as the game expands they will be harder and harder to predict load-outs.
Yeah, it’s not actually looking at the items per se, rather the combination of the values of the items. So more powerful weapons are given priority in how the ship attacks/aims. So a ship with powerful beam weapons will get close and stay on, vs a ship with powerful ammo ranged weapons will try and stay away.
Ships also switch firing groups based on what is best at that distance.
Does that mean that the player doesn’t always get to decide which weapon to use and when?
Right now I have 3 groups and you can assign weapons to as many groups as you like, then you toggle between the groups.
So, if you had 2 lasers and 2 ammo weapons you would likely put the lasers in group 1, ammo in 2, and maybe all 4 in 3.
and you cycle through which weapons fire when you press the button.
Does that make sense?
Also, different weapons are better for armor vs shields so you may want to use one set of weapons while you burn down their shields and then switch when the shields drop.
I get it now, pre-selected loadout options for different styles of combat you expect to face in the mission.
So when you are assembling a team, do you want everyone generic or some specialized to do different attacks.
There are also turrets on larger ships but you don’t fire those. They just fire automatically at any enemy in range.
And then back to the AI, could you prefill or choose the role of AI, or would it recognize what your team is missing and fill?
Great question, it has no concept of that right now. It just tries to match the equipment.
Maybe that is for the best, it gives more incentive to form a team instead of relying on AI to fill gaps.
But that would help with the rock, paper, scissors stuff. Like maybe you get lucky and they are all energy weapons and your ship is built to be crazy resistant to that.
Could just have the AI pick randomly.
I want every mission to feel as different as it can, so that is a good thing that could help vary it up as well.
I appreciate the time you’ve given me today to pick your brain, I think these sorts of talks are valuable from all angles. Eventually, we should find a way to collate and distribute some of these ideas so the broader community can share in the excitement and possibly pitch in other ideas that no one has thought of.
Yeah, that is where we will need to lean on the skills of the community team to make sure we are listening and players feel listened to. As soon as people even think you stop listening they go away. It’s a tough task.
That’s the most exciting part, it feels very blank slate with limitless potential moving forward.
A blank slate is a great description of the game. Very functional, very little meat. But that is changing quickly.