Having some kind of hacking in Starmourn is important to us, mainly because a lot of people have mentioned wanting something involving it. It is, however, much tougher than it may sound like to pull off well in an open-world multiplayer game. There are a few problems, from my perspective:
- We need a hacking system that doesn’t require custom work on our end for everything that can be hacked. Functionally, this means that it’s going to be pretty easily scriptable. Therefore, there’s not much point in a complicated system when players will just download a script, hit a button, and either succeed or fail. I think doing this well is so complex that to achieve any kind of ‘true’ hacking feeling, you need to go the direction of something like Hackmud, which is literally all about hacking.
- Along those same lines, the system can’t impose a lot of extra content creation. We don’t have the bandwidth to do lots of content creation for a single type of activity in the game.
- It can’t allow you to do material damage to other players who don’t consent to it. That includes things like reading someone’s private messages, where info might exist that is very private indeed, or hacking into someone’s currency account and draining it (trivial amounts might be another story….the sci-fi equivalent of minor pickpocketing.)
- It can’t require players to constantly hack to open doors (a common suggestion, actually). That will get annoying in about 10 minutes. It’s the kind of thing that has to be used only occasionally, and mostly for flavor or as part of quests.
I think I’ve got some interesting possibilities though (keep in mind: possibilities only right now), including things like hacking into surveillance systems, allowing you to locate everybody in an area or on a planet, alarm systems that have to be hacked into and shut down before they summon reinforcements, automated defense systems that have to be hacked into before they blow your group to bits, bots that can be hacked to help you in combat, NPC spacecraft that can be boarded and hacked into to take control, and so on. There are a couple other interesting uses for them, but they involve spilling the details on some combat systems we’re not ready to do that with yet.
One thing we’re probably not going to do is make hacker a class, much as I know some of you would love that. It’s likely to be something everybody can learn how to do, just because of the realities of the population sizes of our games. Things like doors that need hacking into are annoying if you can’t find a hacker online that has the skill to get into the system controlling access to the door, as an example. What we may do instead is have some kind of regular ‘hacking’ be something anyone can learn to a medium level, while some particularly powerful combat-appropriate applications could be reserved for a tech-oriented class.
Anyway, just wanted to make a quick post about hacking as I’ve been working on the design problems around it this afternoon. Feel free to leave suggestions for how you’d like to hacking implemented in the comments!
(Note: Since then I’ve designed a hacking system that’s fits the above requirements!)