Feature Request: Exploration mechanics for next universe

Hi there!
I saw that there was brief mention of implementing an exploration mechanic next universe, and totally understand if things are already pretty baked, but here were some of my thoughts on a possible scheme regarding exploration. Exploration if done right is a huge draw to a big portion of the gamerbase (a lot of 4X people love the exploration phase most), so I’m proposing my framework (threw in initial numbers which I’m sure will change) and would love further discussion.

  1. All white systems will have planet location and basic composition known (rocky or gaseous, high/low temp, pressure, grav) but no resources or fertility known. This way, exact fuel amounts to travel to, land/take-off are known in advance.

  2. Start everyone with a third ship, an exploration ship. As a rough draft, I’d make this ship have:

  • 500 FTL, 1000 STL fuel tank, and 100/100 cargo capacity
  • Travel at 1/5 the speed of regular ships, but take 1/4 of the fuel and 1/2 the damage
  • Have specialized survey equipment
    These attributes hopefully make the ship infeasible as a third cargo runner unless in dire straits, but well suited for landing/taking off of planets.
  1. Tie survey programs to the faction itself, with the following characteristics
  • Clicking an unexplored planet will show whether a) the faction already has it surveyed, in which case data can be purchased or b) the amount the faction is willing to pay for exploration of the planet
  • The base survey purchase cost will be 1000 credits.
  • The base exploration fee will be purely 5,000 credits plus the one-way cost of fuel to the planet from the closest CX and also to land and take off, with the reimbursement amount set to 10 for both FTL and STL at minimum speed.
  • Other members of the faction, however, may “pre-order” a planetary survey dataset at a 20% discount to the 1000 credit price, which will also have the affect of boosting the reward amount for surveying the planet by 500 and the base cost of buying the survey by 10. In other words, the second person to pre-order will pay 808, third 816, etc.
  • Other factions will pay just half the base amount, etc. for the same survey data to discourage espionage. (Also the planets tend to be farther away so would be easy money).
  1. As for the survey itself, the following order of operations will take place in case a player may decide to abort the process early with incomplete information:
    *6 hours to set up camp / dispatch survey drones
    *1 hr to check fertility or not
    *6 hr to check fertility level
    This will be a toggle, either check concentration upon each resource discovery, or check all resources first and then check concentration in order of most “rare” resource:
    *102 hr to run an exhaustive resource scan (34 resource types * 3hr each)
    *12hr per resource to check the concentration threshold

  2. For those who have a COMPLETE planetary survey, players may then choose to either sell their survey data or keep it to themselves for the time being - however once someone ELSE sells the survey data, that option will no longer exist!

While I think this will create an interesting exploration mechanic in the next universe of the game, I probably left out things. Thoughts?

The fundamental issue that’s making exploration a problem, as I understand it, is that you can’t really have knowledge be valuable, since somebody will for sure put all the planet stats on a wiki for everybody to read. So you are forced to create a different system of value, in your case dangerduck you are making knowledge of the planet be global once unlocked, while creating incentives to “unlock” the knowledge. It’s not a bad idea.

It does run into the problem that after a while pretty much all planets within realistic reach of the player populated parts of the universe will be fully explored. Exploration will fizzle out to the outer rim planets that few players care about.

I feel there needs to be something else to keep this from happening.

My very primitive idea would be to make it so that each player needs to buy the knowledge of a planet’s resources to be able to utilize it, if you don’t know about the water you can’t exact it. This knowledge represents precise geographical data, which is why casual rumors (from players chat or a wiki) wouldn’t let you extract the water.

However, to buy this knowledge, you need somebody to sell it to you. The only people who can sell this knowledge are those who have sent their exploration ship to a planet to survey it. You can’t resell the knowledge after buying it, you’d have to set your own ship to survey if you wanted to sell it as well. This means there is incentive to explore a planet that’s already been explored by other players, as you are building up your bank of info to sell to other players as a sort of exploration business.

That way, even 3 years in the future, the exploration profession will still work in PU. And with constant new players joining, or old players looking for good planets for their extra bases, you still have new customers too.

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I do think the suggestion of having complete survey data in order to build a base is a good one, but it may not be enough “money” if you will to justify the full exploration. I will say a few other things:

  1. I don’t think exploration necessarily needs to be a permanent profession, it makes sense that low hanging fruit gets picked
  2. That said, for new players, I see why that third ship becomes useless. In that vein, I then think there should be “jackpot” specialist planets that are further out, and hopefully the bidding system incentivizes outer reaches enough. That is another thread in itself though, in terms of clustering viable expansion areas that might have new CXs built. My hope is that the funding system just feeds enough money into exploration such that the opportunity at least always exists (as well as the whole low fuel cost thing). In addtition, I’m hoping that new CXs mean new launching points, though that’s a bit optimistic.
  3. Perhaps factions can also have “exploration stations” that have more narrow MM for fuel that get built as more and more of the universe is explored. Players can choose to get ferried to any station for free (but at an even slower pace than the exploration ship goes, maybe 1/10 normal speed). That way, there will always be launching points for further discovery.

Ulitmately, a lot can be done through fine tuning #s, but am hoping mechanically it’s promising.

Thanks!

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My basic idea for fleshing out exploration was that it’s a community goal with bounties being payed out by local governments for doing it. Thus, it takes a lot of players to do exploration in any reasonable amount of time: dozens to survey a planet in a week. And those players only get payed for doing so if there’s a nearby government to pay them for it. Sure you could spend large amounts of resources and ship time to survey a planet, but if you’re doing it on your own you’re going to be there for months and get nothing out of it.

All exploration data has to be public once it’s unlocked, there really is no other way to do it.

The other big part of my exploration idea is that you also have to survey jump points, and that exploration ships can be used to do asteroid mining during down times. Systems get depleted for asteroids over time, so explorers also benefit from surveying new systems since that also gives them access to fresh asteroids to mine while they wait for the next gold rush of exploration to become available once a new government gets situated.

EDIT: Exploration and asteroid mining would also cost special resources that can only be produced on planets. Planets with different settling conditions require different materials that become available to make at the same time as those settling mats. So surveying a cold planet requires materials that require the same tech level and similar buildings as INS to make.

I like.

I have suggestions:


Make Exploration Phased:

  1. Discovery - A system is discovered and listed on the MU for the first time.
  2. Incorporation - Travel Paths to the system are discovered and populate on the MU
  3. Survey - Information on the system is discovered such as planets and their environmental conditions
  4. Exploration - On ‘foot’ planetary surveys to determine fertility, resources, and resource abundance.
  5. Colonization - Everything is in place for the first base to be put down, Somebody just needs to do it.

Exploration Ship: Love this idea, I think it’s DOA, but I love it. Buy my ships!

I suggest making this a stowable STL-only ship (star trek shuttles come to mind) that has to stay in-system to survey and stay landed to explore. Also can’t relay it’s findings unless another ship (or comms buoy) is in the same system.


Meaningful Knowledge/Permanent Exploration:
@Rubicate’s very primitive idea is rock solid.
I think it solves the following issues cleanly:


Information Bounties:
I like @TwilightSentinel’s crowdsource/bounty board idea. I think a survey or an exploration should only be able to come away with 1 piece of information for the planet/system. A single survey only reveals one planet, an single exploration only reveals the fertility, etc. Might need to solve for some weirdness between this section and the previous one.

Information will leak outside of the game, but the concept that you need to know information in game to be able to use that information in game will generate activity to learn the information in game.

This can also apply to sending a ship to a location. You need the navigation charts to get there. Buy the knowledge in game, or use the exploration mechanism in game to learn it yourself.

You cannot jump directly to a star system without having the data in your navigation system. Purchase it or survey the system (may require you to be within a certain range and have appropriate survey equipment). Navigating in system to the planet will require a system survey (so you know the planet’s orbit and where to head to). Landing on the planet requires a planet survey.

The player may know that system X has planet Y with resource Z, but they need to acquire this knowledge in game to be able to benefit from this knowledge.

I don’t see any of these ideas working as intended.

The game already has a problem that the first few players to join a new universe instance have massive advantages. Spreads are highest at the start. If you’re the first person to produce EXO, you can charge whatever you like for it. If you’re the 200th person to produce EXO, you have to engage in penny wars to try to sell it above cost.

Any mechanism that allows players to unlock knowledge and then sell it to other players will have this same problem. If you’re the first person to survey a good planet, you can sell that info many times over. If you’re the 200th person, nobody cares.

Also it’s kind of demoralising to join the game and find that all the fun parts of the exploration mechanic have already been completed.

So we’re left with the proposal that each player has to individually explore planets before building bases, even if they know what the planet contains. But what is fun about that? It’s just an extra step in the base building process. I load up my ship with the goods to build a base, fly out there, click the “Survey” button, wait 24 hours for results that I actually know ahead of time, and then I can click the “Build base” button. What does this add?

One way to expand on this even further would be to have unique plots with survey mechanics such that players can survey multiple plots on a world, and get back different results each time. For example I could survey Etherwind 3 times, get 2 plots that have next to no resources and a third plot that is really rich with Water. You could survey Etherwind as well and find a rich deposit of SIO and a couple of mediocre water deposits. A third player could make a really rare or lucky discovery of an AUO deposit on the same planet. We could then choose which plot to settle after exploring our options, and even sell plots to other players on an exchange as well. This could allow players to specialize in exploration, and make money by selling really unique or valuable plots to other players.

The obvious exception to this survey mechanic would be atmospheric resources, which should of course be standardized across all plots. Perhaps they could have some variation, but I think it makes the most sense for gases to be diffused evenly across the planet’s surface.

Overall I would say it is extremely unlikely that we will get mechanics like this as it would be complicated to implement, but if it were possible it would add a whole new layer of complexity and interesting choices to the game.

Edit: I should add that this idea assumes that the limited plots per planet system is abolished, and that planets have effectively “infinite” space. From the perspective of realism, this makes sense if we assume that Earth is an average sized planet. Earth has 510 million square kilometers, and if you assume that a “plot” is 1 square kilometer then you definitely aren’t running out of plots any time soon.

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I would leave that for asteroid mining unless these resources deplete over time. If not, it will turn into a Diablo loot farm where you farm exploration plots. The very best ones will be sold for insane amounts because they’ll provide a permanent material output.

For example, I find a plot with 5 more H2O than the next best plot. That’s a 100 per day per rig profit, which could amount to 2K-3K, forever. It would be worth hundreds of thousands.

The rest would become worthless, which degenerates exploration into playing the lottery. New players would get priced out and be unable to compete, kind of the real estate market.

With limited total resources, there’s a fixed amount of profit and value would be much lower. If there’s only enough for 120 days, then its value will be tens of thousands only. It would be the extra profit minus opportunity costs. That would also make exploration a stable business.

Thinking through it more, I think the best use for “newcomers” of the exploration ship would be a utilizing an undiscovered deposit feature that works as follows, that works a bit like a lottery system:

  1. The exploration ship can set to scan for any of the 34 resource types (or all). Each takes 6hr instead of 3hr since it’s a “deep dive” for tiny limited deposits
  2. Once a deposit is identified, the exploration ship can be set to extract it into its 100/100 cargo bay - this will take 12hr for a random amount (depending on value of the ore, the equivalent of around 1k to 5k credits thereabouts)
  3. If the cargo bay actuall fills up, the total quantity remaining of that resource is disclosed and available ONLY to the player, and the exploration ship can return at any time if it was not fully extracted.

This is purely to solve the first comer/low hanging fruit issue and give the exploration ship a secondary purpose for super late joiners of the universe.

I’m thinking that instead of players selling survey data directly, it is bought from the discoverer by a central (maybe faction specific) exploration agency rather than sold directly by players. The discoverer (or contriburers) recieve a cash payout or a bonus in some form tied to the discovery.

The central agency then provides this data to everyone else for a service or fee.

  • I’m liking the concept of jump routes needing to be explored before a new system can be accessed

  • From there we have the system exploration which will take a serious amount of player activity and time to find planets and their orbits, it shouldn’t be an arrive in system and ‘Oh look 4 planets’

  • Next stage is planet investgation to unlock the general planet data

  • Finally the player must perform a personal survey of a plot before being able to build a Core Module, this would determine the exact quantities of resorces available at that location

  • To colonize a planet the player must have the jump route data, general system data, planet data and done a personal survey of the plot they wish to land on. (This allows for the data to available externally that the planet has the resorces they want but they still have to gain the in-game knowledge)

  • even after a system has been colonized there would still be need to run system surveys to discover depletable asteroid fields or comets or other feature that are added in a randomly, depending on the feature they may be personal unlocks or once discovered available to buy from the central agaency.

There should be a limit of jump points from a colonized system that can be explored so that we don’t have a few people mapping every jump point in the universe before anyone else has left the central systems. Initially I’d class a colonized system as one where the total of all planets have a minimum of x bases or population threshhold.

This would slow the expansion of the discovered systems and ensure that planets are being colonized as the population expands

Stopping a small number of players from mapping everything is why I suggested it be a massive community project. Like one player can add 1% progress to mapping a jump lane per day by having their ship survey that one route. It’s totally impractical for a small number of players to map the galaxy. On top of that, I put a limit on the bounties payed out for doing so to only the areas around colonized space. So there’s no financial incentive to map out everything at once.

I’d tie it to the system scan as well, make impossible to search for a new jump route until the system scan is complete. That scan is going to take serious hours to complete only being reduced by having lots of pilots contributing dividing the total hours needed per system (which is set by the dev’s as not all systems are the same size)

It also follows the current game logic as all FTL jumps are done from ‘orbit’ so to establish the FLT orbit of the system needs it to be fully mapped. So the only valid jump route until the system is full mapped is the entry route, locking all exit routes as unplottable until the scan is complete.

I’m thinking a 3-6 month period (real time) for a system survey isn’t unreasonable for a single pilot, as with production jobs that time can be reduced a lot by more pilots running the survey and depending on mechanics a further time reduction through space infrastructure could giving a boost to survey efficiency.

We don’t want this galaxy survey to be a race and be complete within a year or two it should be as permanent a feature as possible without having to exponentially expand the universe although that would be interesting to discover and lead to some interesting times as new CX have to be built around new colonization hubs have to be built when the travel times got too long for existing trade routes.

Space storms and the like could periodicly sever jump connections forcing a new wave of jump route scanning as alternate routes are located shaking up the logistics, or add elements to an existing system like the previosly mentioned depletable resorces that would require a new scan to locate and use.

Infinite plots, or at least a truly huge number dependent on planet size, but finite resources per plot.
Once mined out, you need to replace it meaning exploration is always necessary.

Exploration games can be fun, but I think the mechanics are fundamentally at odds with the current ethos of this game, which is at heart a planning game. It attracts people who make enormous spreadsheets to calculate exact production yields and plan out growth strategies on different known planets. There is currently no randomness or unpredictability involved.

A lot of the suggestions in this thread seem to be turning the game into a different sort of game entirely. If people want to play a space exploration game, there are others out there already. Similarly if they wanted a game with random pirate attacks, those exist too. But I’d say Prosperous Universe isn’t about those things. I’d prefer the devs to add more trading and logistics elements, to make the planning more intricate and the recipe and building trees larger.

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2 Ideas to make exploration something permanent:

a) The resource bar on planets decays every time something was extracted. With exploration you can increase the resource bar again (to it’s normal maximum). That would mean exploration is actually surveying and as resources are extracted from known deposits, new deposits have to be discovered.

b) Turn exploration into a consumable commodity with a market. Building a base or even building an extractor/rig/collector requires 1 deposit survey/location. Every planet has a market where deposit surveys are sold and players can underbid each other. Maybe every month the deposit is depleted and you have to buy a new one. That also requires people permanently searching for new deposit locations.

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For avoidance of doubt, my impression was that the devs had exploration as something they wanted to implement for the next uni, so I’m trying to formulate a method that isn’t at odds with current mechanics.

For sure the game at its heart is a planning game and I think it still will be. That said, I don’t think having one part of it being unknown resources to be had in unexplored territory with a financial incentive to venture out would necessarily be counter to that.

It is on the list and as the game is still in development, mechanics can change. People are posting ideas for what form exploration could take, once an area has been explored then the resorces will be known and things will proceed more or less as they do currently … unless the dev’s add in some of the twists that have been suggested.

There will be people that are happy trading in the explored universe with know sytems and material deposits but there are also people that would take up the challenge of locating better deposits and opening new trade routes.

Implementing exploration would be a reset event so this is for a future universe.