Game Journal – Elite: Dangerous

Title: Elite: Dangerous

Developer: Frontier Developments

Original Release Date: December 16, 2014

Location: https://www.elitedangerous.com/

Mechanics and Explanation

Elite: Dangerous is a space adventure exploration game where the player is free to explore scale replica of the Milky Way galaxy consisting of 400 billion unique star systems. The game doesn’t have much of a story to speak of but that is fine because it quite frankly doesn’t need one. Players have 100% freedom in the game and may fight, trade, or explore to their heart’s content. What little story there is mainly consists of space station requests taking the player to new star systems resulting in them learning about the current system and the previous system through the messages they receive from NPCs they encounter while on their travels. Player pilot a ship through space seeking combat, exploring star systems, completing missions for space stations, and trading for profit. The player is also free to engage in military operations and pirating if they so desire. The ships are controlled using a somewhat complicated set of key and mouse inputs thought the player is provided with the option to use a flight stick if they desire. The cockpit of the ship presents the player with myriad information. Type6_CockpitMoving from left to right, top to bottom, the player is first presented with their communication panel (closed in this picture) and then their information panel (again closed in this image. They are then presented with their target data next to a target image (the small blue planet). Next to the target data is a small circle with a white dot in it. That is an orientation gauge that helps the player align with their target in 3D space. In the center of the screen is the radar. It displays all contacts in 3D space within sensor range. On the left side of the radar is the player ship’s heat gauge. To the right of the radar is the throttle and speed indicator. To the right of that is the players shield and hull display. The blue rings are the players shield and the orange bar below it is their hull integrity. The three vertical orange bars to the right of the player ship status display is the ship power settings. The power settings consist of System, Engine, and Weapons in that order. Finally to the far right is the player’s fuel gauge and their cargo, landing gear, and mag lock indicators. All of this is just the basic interface the player uses on an ongoing basis. Additional panels are found on the far left and far right of the main screen which contain much greater detail and functionality for the player. A major part of the game is managing and mastering the dozens of systems involved with controlling the player ship. 447493610A secondary goal of the game is mastering the flight controls of the ships in the game. Each ship handles differently from the next. The game also allows players to choose from two methods of flight. Assisted flight aids the player in controlling the ship by forcing it to handle similar to an airplane. Unassisted flight allows the player to fly their ship with 6 axis – 360 degree freedom. While unassisted the player ship will retain all momentum applied to it just as a true spacecraft would. Unassisted flight allows the pilot with some freedom that assisted mode does not such as rotating 180 degrees while maintaining forward momentum. Control of the player ship is a core mechanic of the game. In Elite: Dangerous if a player’s ship is destroyed it is gone forever. Players must use the credits they earned while playing to either re-purchase a similar ship or settle for the starting ship which is available for free but is not great at any specific task. Players are also given the option of taking out a loan with the game to purchase a ship similar to their destroyed ship. The player will have a fee deducted from their earnings automatically every time they are LEGALLY paid. Another very interesting mechanic of the game is the bounty system. Player who engage in hostile actions against other players earn wanted status. Wanted status makes system authorities hostile to the player until they have either paid off their debt or they have been destroyed. The interesting thing is that players can see the wanted board while they are in a space station and they are informed of the player’s current bounty and their last known location in space. This leads to some intense player vs player combat situations.

Player Decisions

Elite-Dangerous-Loadout-Eagle-02Elite: Dangerous is almost completely decision based. The amount of decisions available to the player are almost endless. The player sets their own goals in the game. They determine if they want to participate in the universe in a legal and respectable manner or in an illegal hostile manner. After making that decision players need to determine what they need to do to reach those goals. Typically this starts out with making money to purchase a different ship and then outfitting that ship with the proper equipment for the task. elite_dangerous_05062015_8After a player has determined what they want to do in the game they typically search for a sector in the galaxy that allows them to engage in their preferred method of play with impunity. Determining a solar system or solar systems to operate out of is a major decision. Most of the sectors are controlled by a major governmental faction that polices its sectors vigilantly. Players who engage in unauthorized combat in protected sectors run the risk of being intercepted by the authorities in the area. Because of this, players who decide to engage in pirating typically hang out in sectors that are out of the jurisdiction of the major powers.

 

Elite_Dangerous32_2015_04_22_23_03_44_39Players are responsible for starting their ships, managing power, managing weapon systems, landing, docking, equipping, upgrading, painting and flying their ships, choosing a faction, associating with a government, engaging with an interstellar allegiance, increasing or decreasing their influence, managing their state affiliation and handling relationships with all of the major and minor entities within the game. Players also have to choose a ship that is appropriate for their intentions. Some ships are better for combat while others are good for transporting large amounts of goods. One more decision to be made by players thatUnique is of merit is the type of influence they wish to have on the galaxy. If players decide to spend their time exploring the galaxy they will be rewarded with credits from the Universal Cartographers for their exploration data. If the player is the first one to ever visit a solar system, explore it, and return the data to a space station that accepts cartographic data then they are also provided with a unique reward. Their name becomes permanently associated with the systems they discovered.

Pacing, Flow, and Interest Curves

Because the game’s pace is largely determined by the player’s actions it is tough to decipher and translate it into a quantifiable value. Therefore I used my own experiences with the game to determine the values for the chart below. Due to the nature of the game the chart only reflects my experience and will likely be invalid for almost any other player. Some players will see peaks in their interest for things like trading or exploring but I prefer combat situations.

Interest is initially provoked by the startup of the game. The player is introduced to the cockpit and its many controls via a short tutorial during which time the player runs systems checks on their ship, powers it up, and launches from the docking bay for the very first time. Player interest quickly drops as they begin learning the complicated and varied controls for their ship. The steep learning curve associated with the controls is not quite enough to force a player to quit but it can be very frustrating. Interest slowly increases as the player becomes comfortable with the basic controls and begins flying for the first time. As the player begins exploring and engages their frame shit drive for the first time their interest begins to quickly rise. newdockThe player is being bombarded by some amazing visuals, the vastness of the universe, and some very delicious music during their first exploratory flight. After learning the basic flight and exploration controls the player is introduced to combat. Interest in the game peaks for a player like me here since combat is the pinnacle of fun. After the player has successfully dispatched their first foe they have a greater understanding of the controls of their ship and their own abilities. The player is then faced with the task of docking their ship, on their own. The final task is difficult enough to keep the player’s interest high enough that they are willing to embark again on another adventure through the Milky Way.

The learning curve of the game starts out fairly steep. It then levels out for a while and again rises when the player experiences combat for the first time. The difficulty increases yet again as the player learns to dock, which in itself can be daunting the first time a player attempts it since the player can and will die if they do not dock properly.

Since the game in its current state does not have a true storyline it is difficult to determine the pace of the game. The pace in the chart above is equivalent to my perceived pace of the game during a typical play session.

EDCharts

 

The flow of the game follows a very well defined flow channel. The ship controls initially increase difficulty followed by another slight increase in difficulty when the player begins flying the ship. When traveling to the next location the player activates their frame shift drive. The game takes over for a short period of time allowing the player to relax. Before boredom sets in the player reaches their destination and begins manually flying again increasing difficulty and allowing the player to practice the skills they have mastered. The player will always travel to a new area when seeking combat resulting in a period of relaxation before they are incited by combat.

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Game Journal – TitanFall

Designer/Developer: Respawn Entertainment

Platform: Xbox One, Xbox 360, PC

Date: May 23, 2014

 

Explanation

Titanfall is a FPS in which players battle each other in multiple game types. This includes CTF, Hard Point Domination, Pilot Hunter, Attrition, and Last Titan Standing. Players engage each other in teams of up to, but no more than 6 vs. 6. Killing enemies or NPC’s provides the player with a discount to the time required to call in a Titan. Once players have killed enough enemy units or they have waited out the titanfall timer they may call in a titan, a vertical mechanized tank, to enter and pilot. Once in a titan any enemy units a player kills reduces the titan’s ability core. Ability cores boost a titan’s shields, damage, or movement capabilities depending on the type of titan the player is using. There are three types of titans: Ogre – Slow heavily armored titan with the shield core ability (increases defense), Strider – Fast lightly armored titan with the dash core ability (increases mobility), and the Atlas – Medium speed, medium armored with the damage core ability (increased damage). The titans can be personalized by selecting weapons, abilities, kits, and artillery. Just like titans pilots can also be personalized. The game employs a combination of genres into to create its unique feel. The genres are military shooter, mech combat, and parkour style movement mechanics.

 

 

Mechanics

Spatial Awareness

Twitch Reaction

Evasion

Combat Strategy

 

 

Screenshot

TitanFall Screenshot 1

Figure 1. The view from inside a Titan

Titanfall, like many fast paced combat shooters, has a lot of data that needs to be managed at any given time. Starting with Figure 1 we can see the mini-map in the upper left corner. The mini-map functionality is similar to Battlefield in that, players and enemies are not visible unless they are firing their weapon. This is combined with the Halo style mini-map for the NPCs which are always shown and are more obvious when they are moving. In the upper center of the screen we can see the titan life bar. Notice the six thick sections below the six thin sections. The thinner part represents the titan’s outer shield. The shield discharges before the titan begins taking physical damage, which is represented by the six thicker bars. If the six thicker bars are depleted the entire indicator will become a black and yellow striped bar, this is known as doom. Just under the health meter there is a small orange bar, this is the enemy health meter, it only shows up when a titan is targeted and will remain until a new titan is targeted. On the right side of the screen you can see the orange, white, and teal text. This text is the player death data. It reads from left to right [This Player – Used this Weapon – To Kill This Player]. The color of the text identifies whether the players are enemies or friendlies. Enemies are always in orange text and teammates are always in teal text. On the bottom right corner of the screen you see a hexagon with a couple of broken up rings circling a smaller hexagon. This is the titan’s core ability meter. It counts down like a clock until it can be activated. Directly to the left of the ability core we can see the currently equipped weapon and the ammo available in it. Slightly to the left of the weapon we see a small white bar and the letter F, this is the titans Artillery slot, when the white bar is full the artillery is ready to fire, otherwise it is red and will slowly recharge. Moving further to the left we see a small shield with another white bar below it, this is the titan’s activated defense ability. This can change depending on the load out a pilot chooses for their titan. Finally in the far left corner we see the game timer and team scores. Again the enemy team is represented by the orange bar and the friendly team is blue/teal. The bars fill up as the goal for the round is completed; first team to fill the bar wins. Figure 2 shows a pilot performing parkour maneuvers with the assistance of his belt rockets. When a player utilizes his belt rockets they become increasingly visible to enemy titans and players. The jet exhaust is like a fingerprint that other players look for and can be a pilot’s saving grace or their downfall.   Figure 3 shows the game from the view of a pilot. Again the mini-map is located top left, but this time there is no health bar in the center. Pilots are informed of their health by the color of the edges of the screen. If a pilot is injured they become cloudy and red until the pilot recovers. The bottom

TitanFall Screenshot 2

Figure 2. A pilot using his belt boosters for parkour.

TitanFall Screenshot 3

 Figure 3. A titan waiting to be embarked.

right corner shows the pilot’s titan’s cooldown instead of “core ability”. To the left is the weapon currently equipped and then the pilot’s explosives represented by a small white grenade and the letter F. Continuing to the left is the pilot’s active ability shown with a small white bar and the letter Q, and finally the game information counter in the bottom left exactly as it was in the titan. In this image the center targeting reticle for the player’s weapon is more obvious and exists in the same position regardless of whether the player is controlling a pilot or titan.

Strategy

  • Players can utilize stealth to evade enemy titans and assault enemy players and NPCs.
  • Grenades can be utilized to dispatch a camping player or a group of NPCs.
  • Setting up Arc Mines in highly traveled paths can provide a player with a quick free kill while providing the enemy with a headache.
  • Players can grapple walls and hang on them to surprise enemy pilots.
  • Selecting your burn cards immediately before a match can give the player a significant advantage during the match.
  • If an enemy pilot goes invisible, look for their jet exhaust, that, never disappears completely.

Dynamics

  • Because titans come down from the sky they can be used to crush enemies or other titans.
  • Players cannot leave the designated combat area, if they do, they will die after 10 seconds. But, players can sit on the edge of the map and move in and out without dying as long as they are back in the combat area before the timer runs out. This allows for some cheesy gameplay tactics.
  • Because players must wait the same amount of time to call down a titan, almost every player receives their titan at the same time resulting in a sort of pilot heavy – titan heavy – pilot heavy – titan heavy feel to the flow of the game.
  • Because of how powerful titans are if one is called in early (burn cards) it has the capability to heavily skew the balance of the battle toward the team with the titan.

Notes

The game campaign is non-existent. The campaign consists of regular multiplayer games with some added dialogue between rounds. This is extremely disappointing considering that most FPS games have a decent campaign as well as multiplayer combat. Additionally the game is lacking significant dynamic content. There is no destruction in the levels, which makes no sense considering we have titans. There are no dynamic events or scripted events that alter the level or even give the players a sensation that a dynamic event might be locked away somewhere. Some scripting in the campaign intentionally misleads players to believe that there may be some dynamic event that can happen, but it is a farce. The game could use some dynamic mobs, events, or terrain and an actual campaign wouldn’t hurt either.

 

Similar Games

Battlefield

Mech Warrior

Mirrors Edge

 

Design Ideas

  • A RTS style game with unit call-downs like titans.
  • Mech Warrior vs. World of Tanks
  • Terminator style military shooter where people and mechs have to face off against a technologically superior conscience (like a supercomputer hive mind). Think ridiculously advanced AI making gameplay extremely difficult.