Names of Products and Materials


#1

If you’ve read the devlog over the past few weeks you probably know that both Michi and myself have been working on the material and world editor for PU for quite some time now. Once this is finished, we’ll get started on preparing the final material tree for the game.

While the structure of this tree is something that will be guided by game design goals and validated in closed and public alpha tests, the naming of the products is something that falls firmly into the creative department.

The universe of the game is strictly based on “hard’ish sci-fi” and the setting is intended to be down-to-earth. That means we want to avoid arbitrary technobabble as much as possible. At the same time, this is a sci-fi game, so we will definitely have things that simply don’t exist in the real world and we also want to extrapolate from the status quo and come up with plausible products that might exist in a not-so-distant future.

A very good example for this dilemma are the needs of the populations (although it extends to other areas as well, of course):

  1. Should the products they consume just be something everyone knows and that makes sense (even in the future), like “meat”, “fruit”, “beer”, “clothing” etc.?
  2. Should the products be futuristic but still plausible, like “Nutritional Gel” or “In-Vitro Meat Replacement” (just some ideas off the top of my head)?
  3. Or should we even use artificial “brand names” that don’t necessarily have to hint at what the product actually is at all?

I know that Elite Dangerous uses the first approach, our current test data uses a mix of approach 2 and 3. But what do you think? What would feel right to you?


#2

Although you already know my opinion @martin, I’ll write it down, so others can see it too!

When considering products that are consumed by populations or intermediary products in production processes I strongly vote for option 2, with the occasional brand name from option 3 thrown in. Here is why:

  1. When using real names (option 1) for everything, we eventually will run into the problem that there are no real world equivalents for the products we want to use in the game. It start right there with the fuel the engines use and will probably occur when naming future computer, system or ship module parts.
  2. Personally I find using the real names a bit boring
  3. Suspension of disbelief: When using real names players will (unconsciously) use their previous experiences with the products and it is a bit harder to use them in arbitrary quantities, for example the needs of populations. I also think that using made up materials helps creating the setting and feeling of the world we build.

On the other hand I suggest using real world names for the basic resources like metals, ores, gasses and so on.


#3

I’d prefer a combination of alternative 2. & 3. as well.
Having said that, using real names combined with artificial names or properties does not seem wrong to me.
For example: Beer has been in our cultures quite a while and even in a futuristic Sci-Fi environment I wouldn’t be surprised to find it.
I could imagine a bottle of “Zharga beer” where Zharga is a plant similar to hop and produces greenish beer.


#4

There’s always the option to leave the branding thing to the players … and open an entire can of modeling brand value. On the plus side, that would be a nice entry into marketing which we never really figured out for AirlineSim.


#5

We have something along these lines planned for spaceships (where you can give names to blueprints), but I worry that brandnames won’t work with the system we have in place for commodities. There we have a fixed set of materials/products that are the same everywhere. That’s the only way a general commodity exchange can work. At the moment, we also don’t have simulated populations anymore that act as a buyer on any b2c-style market where such a system could be used.


#6

I think a mix of both makes sense. Raw materials would do well with mostly real-world equivalents, while manufactured goods could make good use of a mix of Sci-Fi and real-world items.

Thus you might have things like Water, Oxygen, Iron, Titanium, Gold for the first (raw) goods, while manufactured goods might include things like consumer electronics, processed food, holovids, and Venecian agribots.


#7

Oh right. In an old SciFi tradition, you have to prefix every good, particularly agricultural products, with the name of the planet they (originally) come from.


#8

…which, in our case, is actually Earth in most cases :wink:

Keep in mind that our background story let’s the game begin shortly after the generation ships arrive in the new systems and after the establishment of the first colonies. Not too much of a timespan to come up with local specialities :wink:


#9

Was there life already on those colonized planets or at least some of them?


#10

Nope, no aliens where we’re going!