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In our monthly news issue we describe what it's like to build an browser based MMO. This time: Gameplay mechanics, simulation details and and update on the design

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It has been quite a while since the last newsletter but don't worry, that's just because we are working so much on making the game happen :)

So what's new since last time?

Gameplay

Since sending spacecraft from one planet to another planet or star system is such a vital part of the game we started working early on this mechanic. The work is done for now, but we will revisit it once we implement other gameplay mechanics.

Spaceflight consists of two parts. The first part is called STL (slower than light) and is used to fly within a single star system. It uses some modern fuel in a chemical reaction to produce thrust. The typical flight path between two planets is an ellipse with the sun in one of the foci. To travel to other star systems the ships need to have a FTL (faster than light) drive which will consume a different kind of fuel. The route to a star far away will consist of several jumps in between which the engine has to be recharged.

Simulation

Almost everything in Prosperous Universe is generated and managed by the players and there is only one big exception to this rule: the populations of the planets.

Although we have not finished working on the populations quite yet, we still made some significant progress. Populations have needs (food, medical supplies, entertainment, etc.) they try to fulfill at the local commodity exchange by submitting buy orders. If the players sell enough goods and the population is happy it will grow in numbers as well as in their ability to provide workforce for the player's industrial facilities.

Communication

Every online game needs to have a decent chat system of some sort. We implemented our own, after carefully reviewing the systems that are available on the market right now. Players can now chat with each other in one-on-one channels, group channels and public channels. Every message is persisted and players are notified of new incoming messages. We finished working on this feature for now, but we still accept suggestions for implementation of your favorite chat feature :)

Design

Our first User Interface prototype had a big 3D star map in the background and was using windows to display information. While this looked very nice, the screen got cluttered pretty fast and the organization of windows (resizing, moving, opening, closing) got in the way of playing fast.

Therefore we developed a second UI prototype that we are currently testing. It is tile-based and fully customizable by the player. A tile can hold an information panel (like the list of ships, the contents of a storage, the star map, a stock exchange, etc.). It can be subdivided into smaller tiles to make room for more panels or two tiles can be combined into one larger tile. The panels can be dragged and dropped from one tile to another and the tiles itself can be resized.

With the second prototype came a change to how we handle the data flow on the client side and we are sill working on smoothing out things and porting all existing windows from the first prototype to the current UI design.

Operations

So far, Prosperous Universe has only ever run on our local development machines. This means it is not possible to (easily) grant access to the game to other people besides ourselves. But since we will eventually have to test the game under real-world conditions, this needs to change.

Making this happen (and streamlining our development and testing processes while we're at it) is one of our primary development goals for the coming weeks. The idea is that we will open up an initial test world and to gradually give access to more players over time, essentially running a very limited closed alpha test. Once we are ready to do this we will reach out to our community and ask for volunteers. So stay tuned!

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