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The Geth

Ocean liner game concept

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I've had this idea for quite a while, so it's rather extensive. Hopefully not too much of a bore to read through.


General summary:

A transportation simulator featuring the various historical ocean liner designs of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The player can own several ships at a time, and can personally assume control of any one as they so choose. Form a shipping company, manage your assets and finances, set up complex shipping routes for your fleet, and simply enjoy steaming across the world's oceans in a host of iconic steamships.


Progression mechanics:

The player would start the game off with enough cash to purchase a single ship ca. 1885 or thereabouts. A few different models would be available, including some steam-barques and other wooden-hulled ships. Each model would have a unique capacity for cargo space and passenger space. This would be a customizable ratio to some degree, so the player could choose to convert certain "optional" compartments from cargo space to passenger accomodations, or vice-versa. This cannot be done on-demand, though; the player would either have to specify this ratio in the initial order for the ship at purchase, or they would have to take the ship to a proper shipyard later to have this work done as an aftermarket conversion.

Once the player has chosen a ship, they would start by running cargo/passengers. Some starting steamships would be better-suited to long-distance journeys, while others would be more profitable in island-hopping. For example, the player might start the game by purchasing a fast, shallow-draft coastal steam-barque, which would allow you to quickly run smaller amounts of on-demand cargo between Caribbean ports for a high profit. Or they might instead decide to purchase a higher-capacity blue-water tramp steamer, which would be better at running larger amounts of cargo and passengers between major ports up and down the Americas, or maybe even transatlantic runs.

Once the player has acquired a ship of substantial value, they will be approached by some of the major shipping companies of the era (White Star, Cunard, Leyland, HAPAG, NDL, etc.) with contracting offers. These companies will pay the player a relatively small initial fee to fly their pennant aboard the ship, which will give the player certain bonuses for carrying certain types of cargo between certain ports. The ship will also fly the flag of the nation in which that shipping company has its headquarters (no real gameplay effect from this, just cosmetic). For example, if the player signs on with Hamburg-Amerika Linie, their ship will fly the HAPAG pennant from the mainmast and the Schwarz-Weiß-Rot of the German Empire from the jackstaff.

Eventually, once the player accrues enough funds, the option to form a shipping company will become available. This will cause the player to leave their current historical company if they are part of one, and they will be able to name and select an emblem/flag for their new company. Once created, they will then be able to purchase additional ships and begin assigning them to routes of their own design. Players will have to balance profitability with turnover and throughput, as well as risk management.

The finances of the company will include stock market trading, and players may compete to buy out each other's companies. A player's success in the shipping business is as much dependent on their business prowess as it is their knowledge of all things maritime.

For players who just enjoy steaming about and would rather not bother with such added complexities, the option to keep working for a major historical company remains. This can be profitable in its own way, though a player-run company will always have greater potential (and higher risk). Players can also opt to join player-made companies as associates, much like a clan, though they cannot do so while in charge of their own company.


Open world and resource generation:

The world would be a massive-scale recreation of all the world's oceans and waterways, in a scale not unlike Naval Action's. Most of these waterways are navigable, though very few of the ships in the game can manage to travel up rivers, as this requires a very shallow-draft vessel.

The resource generation is specific based on region: different ports around the world will provide different goods to trade. Each unique kind of good would have certain kinds of ports where it would sell better. For example, food (fruit, cured meats, crops) would sell fairly well in most every port, but the maximum profit for these common cargoes would not be particularly high. More specialized cargo, like precious metals, would sell for a profit in only a few ports around the world, but it would be extremely profitable if the player could make such a journey with a substantial amount of said cargo.

Passengers would work somewhat similarly, generating according to a port's size and affluence. A small port, for instance, would generate a relatively small number of passengers, suitable for a tramp steamer or perhaps a large schooner/steam yacht. But to remain profitable in a larger ship, the player would be forced to frequent the larger ports. Filling passenger berths as often as possible assists considerably in offsetting the operating costs of most any ship.

The player would also have to consider the average affluence of a port. The way passengers board a ship works according to their wealth: if a port is more affluent, a larger percentage of the available passengers will purchase second and first-class tickets. If the port is less affluent, more will settle for the default steerage (third class) accomodations.

This also means that when the player orders/outfits their ship, they should consider what ratio of accomodations to fit it with. If they take a smaller steam-yacht, perhaps they plan on being hired out for private cruises by the super-rich. A larger tramp steamer would be able to carry more passengers, but it would be locked to steerage and second-class compartments (again, each ship has unique outfitting abilities. Only ship classes that historically had first-class accomodations can have them in the game). A very large liner would be able to carry all types of passengers, but the player would still have to decide on the ratios of passenger accomodations and the ratio of overall passenger space to cargo space during the fitting-out process.


Ship selection:

Available ships would span the period 1885-1913. Multiple classes of different sizes and purposes would be available. Ships would be available only at ports with shipyards, which would only be a relative few around the world (maybe ~100 or so ports out of the thousands available in the world).

Each shipyard would have a unique selection of ship designs available, analogous to the historical ships that shipyard actually constructed. For example, the Kaiser-class liner would be unique to Vulcan Stettin AG.

Various upgrades may be available based on the ship design chosen: extra/motorised lifeboat davits, wireless systems, engine overhauls, etc.


Multiplayer time-passage mechanics:

Because the world is so large, 1:1-scale time wouldn't make any sense at all for even a relatively short journey (much like in Naval Action). For this reason, time passes much more quickly than during docking or encounters with other vessels. This is accomplished differently than in Naval Action, however: while time passes much faster away from ports (on open sea), it slows to almost real time as players approach the docks. Final approach to a dock should be supervised in almost real time, with the player remaining at the helm until tugs are sent out to guide the ship into its berth.

At sea, while in-game time passes much faster, the physics and handling of the ship still take place in real-time. A transatlantic journey might take only 30 minutes of real time, but the player at the helm will control their ship in simulated 1:1 time for the duration of those 30 minutes. For reference, this system is very similar to the time mechanics in the game UBOAT.

Day-night cycles would also be universal, so all players would have the same terminator line displayed across their respective globes.



The game's controls would be simple. Not too sim-like, though the ships themselves would handle very realistically. The engines would be controlled by engine telegraph: 5 forward speeds and 5 reverse speeds. Rudder would be much the same: 5 notches to the left and 5 to the right.


Communication in multiplayer:

Chat in multiplayer would be through wireless telegraph, which would work as a form of proximity chat. The range at which a player's signals could be heard would be based on the range of their ship's telegraph system, which would differ depending on the ship. Large liners with extremely long radio aerials would be capable of telegraph communication over hundreds of miles, while smaller vessels would have much shorter ranges. This could lead to situations in which a player may send out a signal, but no audible reply is heard even though such a reply has been sent by another player.

Shore-based telegraph installations would exist as signal-boosting waypoints for ships. A player could "connect" to such an installation once within range, and use its incredibly powerful transmitter to relay messages over much greater distances than otherwise possible. Even large liners would not be able to match the signal strength of such these shore-based telegraph stations.


Graphics expectations:

The game would be played in third-person. The player would be able to use a free camera to move around their ship, and possibly even underwater to view the submerged parts of the hull.

The graphics would be extremely detailed: individual rivets would be visible on the ship hulls. Waves, smoke and steam would be generated dynamically (prow waves would be larger when a ship goes faster; larger ships would leave larger wakes; larger, more powerful engines would leave more frothing water behind their screws; the wind conditions would cause the water surface to look different, would change the consistency of smoke coming from a funnel, etc.).

Weather and day-night cycles would be fully modeled. Storms would leave exposed decks glistening with rainwater and sea-spray, and ships would pitch in the higher-than-normal waves accordingly. Lightning might appear in the skybox, dynamically lighting the scene and your ship from that direction.

A ship's exterior and main interior lights would turn on as night falls. After dusk, the ship's passenger berth portholes would be lit (the number of lit compartments would depend on the number of passengers aboard). A large liner might look like a well-lit, floating hotel by sunset.



A ship's top speed and handling would be somewhat reduced in rough weather. Storms with large waves would slow a ship substantially.

Damage modelling would also be present. If a ship collided with another, the ships would display appropriate damage for the situation: a ship plowing into a stationary one would have its bow crushed in, while the stationary ship would have a gash cut in its side. Collision with a reef would cause jagged cuts below the waterline, and beaching a ship would cause the bottom to warp inwards slightly in addition to some minor cracks.

Screws could be thrown on rare occasion. The chance of this happening would depend on the last time the player had their ship examined in drydock, which should optimally be done after a certain cumulative distance has been traveled. The game would keep track of a ship's total mileage, telling the player when it's time for a service checkup. If the player goes over the scheduled checkup mile-count without getting their ship into drydock, each mile further increases the likelihood of a screw being thrown.



I've long hoped that this concept would become reality, and I do believe Game-Labs is the right developer for the job. Discussion and feedback on the concept is definitely welcome below!

Edited by The Geth

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42 minutes ago, Mr. Doran said:

Could we have it arena-based instead? 

Actually... 😏

Could always have an alternate arena mode of sorts with auxiliary cruisers/merchant raiders. I don't foresee it being any more than a separate minigame, but it's definitely a possibility!

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