Generation ship Golgossa is an example of a sci-fi setting that shows how game design can support strong player retention accessability and a good community. Read how!
Generation ship Golgossa is a design example in a sci-fi setting. A likewise example in a fantasy setting is the Vortex Worlds.
Table of Contents
The players are inhabitants of a colossal generation spaceship (Golgossa class) heading to an undisclosed destination on a thousands-of-years-long journey.
The ship itself is build of an unknown number of sections, each of enormous dimensions about the size of several kilometers in diameter with the shape of a flattened sphere or torus. Gravity technology draws everything to the wall, so the sections’ inner sides are full-fleshed landscapes.
There is no regular sky, as the inhabitants can see the other side of the walkable wall kilometers above their heads. In some sections, constructions reach from top to bottom. Light comes into the sections in different ways. Some rely on thousands of lamps, others have artificial suns centered to the middle of the section with chains.
Originally each section was devoted to a special purpose like producing wheat, breeding animals, crafting materials, or housing passengers. For security reasons, each section is carefully isolated from the other sections. Only a few highly secured connections exist between sections, and these are strictly forbidden and closed now.
However, a cataclysmic catastrophe has sterilized half the ship and destroyed most parts of the ship’s computer. Knowledge of the origin and purpose of the spaceship is lost. The offspring of the ship’s inhabitants even don´t know about the nature of their home. Most have relapsed into barbarism and life in a stone age. Others have preserved a certain technology level and formed cults that worship misleads AI cores as their gods.
To make things worse, the ship is invaded by an alien race with a technology level similar to today’s earth. The more advanced rest of the original ship’s security robots can hardly hold them back from the command section.
The setting spans a wide technological bridge from the stone age to advanced sci-fi technology. There is no need for magic in a world with such extreme differences. Even the sci-fi weapons are hard-SF. That means they are technically explainable.
Each section of the ship is somehow frozen in a particular age: stone age, medieval age, 18th century, modern-day, a hundred years into the future, and many more. However, these ages are not identical to the historical settings on earth. Rather, it is chimeras of that age and the artificial environment’s influence.
Isolated communities can develop strange and interesting behavior. In Golgossa, there are countless such communities, each frozen in a different age, each with its own strange rules and rites.
So why are they frozen at a particular age? Because communities are small, engaged in the task of pure survival, and regularly eradicated by reactor breaches. Only the children survive in a few radiation-proof bunkers.
Heavily occupied sections are an exception. Most sections are empty, wasted, or abandoned. Players may wander through empty yet perfectly preserved cities, wondering what happened.
The art style of Golgossa should cover these weird feelings of uncanny reality, of a world out of place. Because that’s exactly what Golgossa is. John Harris’s retro sci-fi art and the concept of liminal spaces are perfect examples of how Golgossa is.
The aim of the game is to advance in the sections of Golgossa. Players must repair the ship´s systems to prevent cyclical reactor breaches that kill all unprotected life. Ultimately, players must reach the command section and decide the ship’s fate.
Players can work together on that task. The more powerful and numerous the player characters are, the better they can delay the reactor breaches.
Competition is a strong motivation that is in the focus of most games and MMORPGs. However, human nature is more than just defeating others. Rather, humans are social beings and love cooperation.
Therefore, cooperation is the focus of Generation Ship Golgossa. The more organized the players work together, the faster they can advance. Protecting the world from reactor breaches and reaching higher character levels goes hand in hand.
Players start with stone and club in the Home section. This is the most habitable and biggest section—a paradise where the original settlers’ offspring have found a home.
Players reach other sections via the elevators that surround each section. To open up a new section, players need to find the right keycards.
|Tier 3 |
|Tier 4 |
|typical enemy||crazy cultist||wildlife||mutated wildlife||alien intruder||security robot|
|technology||18th century||iron age||medieval age||current day||sci-fi|
|typical weapon||muzzle loader||club||sword||machine gun||laser gun|
|armor||fabric||leather||plate||kevlar west||force field|
All elevators open up every two hours for five minutes. And all elevators go to the very same section. Which one, is selected by the players.
As described in the Vortex Worlds, player characters progress via items and via experience. Items hold primary attributes, and the character level is the sum of the equipped items’ primary attributes. Similarly, experience is crafted into implants. The equivalent to the rings in the fantasy setting.
The distribution of items and item rarity is similar to the Vortex Worlds.
|Tier 3 |
|Tier 4 |
A lot of item retirement mechanics are in place to feed a never-ending hunger for new items:
- item outdating
- item reset
Therefore, other item retirement mechanics are not implemented:
- no item binding
- no item decay
This combination is both community-friendly and sustainable for a game with an unlimited lifespan despite a fixed maximal level.
The combat system has the sophisticated task to integrate rougly 3.000 years of warfare in a meaningful way that centers on single player and small group combat.
So, still a bow needs strength, a gun dexterity and a flamethrower might need intelligence for maximum effect. Maybe future weapons need charisma to bring them to full effect. So you can base the game on traditional attributes, similar to a fantasy setting. In such settings magic is usually replaced by technology.
A cycle is the time-span between two reactor breaches. Without player intervention cycles last about four weeks. The exact time point of a reactor breach is not predictable for players.
In such an event, each character suffers permadeath. Yet, not everything is lost. Therefore, each cycle is different because the conditions are different. As a consequence, players must adapt their strategies each time. Veterans have a certain advantage over new players. However, both start at the same line.
Fitting the realistic, hard-SF setting of Golgossa, the game implements permadeath. Player characters can die in battle, and when they do, all their items are destroyed. This includes all items in the bank and inventory.
Players can create a new character that keeps the same family name. The new character has the same crafting skills and remembers all the crafting recipes his parent knew. However, the new character starts with zero battle skills.
Items determine the character level. To recover fast, each player is ultimately dependent on the support of the community. Items are not soul bound, so there should be enough floating around to help lower-level players.
A game to finish
When players have mastered the reactor sections, there are no more cycles. However, they learn that the reactor has almost used up all its fuel. They have to reach the command section to find answers.
Generation Ship Golgossa is a game to finish, as described in the design for unlimited lifespan. The game ends when players manage to reach the command section within one year.
That is where they ultimately learn that Golgossa has reached its destination. The behemoth already orbits its target planet. Golgossa´s inhabitants can use landing shuttles to reach a paradise world. Happy ending!
When players don´t reach the command section in time, the ship finally implodes due to a lack of energy. What a pity!
To gain resources and win the game, there are several interrelated options.
Explore ship sections
The ship´s security system heavily isolates each section from the others. However, with the right access cards, it is possible to board the mass storage lifts that cycle through the behemoth’s gigantic supply tunnels. The connection between different sections follows the concept described in the Layer Universe.
Like the Vortex Worlds, the opportunities to travel to other sections are restricted. The lifts only open every two hours for five minutes. The destination is the same for all lifts. Players can choose from the unlocked destinations. The most voted destination is where the lift goes to.
Return to the Home section is always possible via return pods. Apart from the Home section, each section is flooded with radioactive argon isotopes. Staying longer than two hours in a foreign section results in irreparable damage and ultimately permadeath.
The described content channeling mechanisms serve the following purposes:
- channel an arbitrary amount of content so you can have an unlimited number of sections
- prevent splitting of the player base
- reduce organization effort for large-scale group activities because all players that want to play a section have to attend the elevators at the same time
Each section offers tasks in a broad level range to engage players of a similarly broad level range. The tasks include farming, quests, dungeons, raids, and other specific group content.
Design, build and farm dungeons
In the Generation Ship Golgossa, players can create dungeons. The implementation satisfies the checklist on user-created content and is in every way similar to the dungeons in the Vortex Worlds. You may find a more appropriate name for dungeons like shelter, hideout, or rampart.
Almost everything is craftable and tradeable. There is a high demand for crafted equipment because many item retirement mechanics are in place. Crafting usually means combining common materials from the Home section with rare materials from another section.
New recipes are learned by disassembling looted items. A crafting tree implements a progression mechanic.
Each extension of the game adds ship sections of different level ranges. The game’s maximal character level keeps the same, and the player can hardly ever reach it.
Therefore, each extension increases the skin content and leaves the game mechanics intact.
The strong PvE setting emphasizes us against the world. So the player´s fraction is unified against the environment, and all skills are balanced for PvE. Therefore, traditional PvP in the form of battlefields where players´ avatars fight against each other doesn´t fit.
What could fit is when players control the creatures in player-created dungeons. So when a group of five tries to fight through a dungeon, another group of five could control the creatures and defend the dungeon.
Generation Ship Golgossa details novel design ideas for a sci-fi MMORPG.
(Last Updated on April 1, 2021)