Planetary Governor or Kubernetes

Summary: game idea for SimCity in spaaaaace!!!

Endless Sky is a free space trading sim. You begin with a loan from the bank big enough to pay for a small spaceship, and you earn money by trading, transporting people, delivering shipments, and fighting pirates. (If you’ve played Freelancer, it’s like a free, 2D version of that)

Endless Sky screenshot
Endless Sky – Freighter with an escort

So, while I was playing, there was a group of people I was supposed to be taking to a far corner of the galaxy, but kept being distracted by other things. Weeks later, I finally got around to dropping them off: “You drop off the family, and wish them the best of luck. You’re sure that they will be remembering this trip for years to come.” Oh, you bet. All the side trips, pirate raids, and detours will be hard to forget. The fact that I can just carry around cargo and people for as long as I want, or cancel the mission and dump them in whatever uninhabited part of space that suits me sparked a thought: what if all the planets (and therefore missions) were run by actual people?

Start reading here

Here’s the game pitch:

The setting is a galaxy with 150 or so star systems, each with 0-3 inhabitable planets. When you start a game, you choose a planet to run, like a SimCity scenario. Each planet would have its own set of strengths and weaknesses regarding economy, weather, galactic location, and resources.

Like SimCity, it’s an open game where your goal is to develop your planet as you see fit. You could terraform all the undesirable features away and make your planet a pricey retirement destination. Or welcome the smog clouds that come with mining and the heavy industry that uses those metals. Or embrace the environment in hopes of attracting tourists. Lowering taxes encourages merchants to trade here, which you will need when you can’t produce every resource that you and the populace need to thrive. Of course, traders attract pirates, so you’ll need to provide protection (unless you want to become the space pirate capitol of the galaxy, a worthy goal). Find the right balance to make your planet thrive, or reshape your planet to fit your own purposes.

Two games in one

Here’s where it connects to Endless Sky: every other planet is either run by a real person or a computer player. When you trade with other planets, the resources travel by merchant ships which can also be played by real people. So, someone could hop in and play a space trading game that plays almost exactly like Endless Sky, plenty of fun by itself. The fact that you are dealing with real people would provide a sliver of realism regarding stakes and add a level of social interaction that could potentially ruin the entire experience.

So, the space ship captains would be trying to cut deals with different planetary governers while building their fleet (suddenly it’s becoming a logistics game of trade routes, not a space roaming game), or turning to piracy and waylaying other poor space captains. Meanwhile, the Kubernetes could focus wholly on their own planets, or work together to create a profitable trade route that supplies both planets with mutually scarce resources, or, in the spirit of friendly competition, they could hire pirates to attack shipping lanes of anyone who is trying to export the same resource, effectively creating a monopoly.

The possibilities are limitless, but the technology is not. When I log off, the computer would have to take over my planet and trade routes. In the meantime, anyone else who is on could potentially wreak havoc without consequence. This wouldn’t be a problem on a local server with friends, where you will probably be playing at relatively the same time, but in an anonymous online environment, I have little hope of this game remaining civil and fun to play for long.

Aven Colony is a game that has been described as “SimCity in space” but it isn’t on a planetary scale. Instead, you build a colony, which is all the rage these days, as people look towards colonizing Mars. The older Startopia looks like it is more similar in what you can do (trade resources, fight off bad guys, attract tourists), but is set on a space station. If I were to pursue making Kubernetes, I would play both those games for research purposes. As it is, I’ll stick with strategy games.


— August 29, 2017

What Do You Think?