Game updates have been slow over the last few weeks because I am digging into some dedicated server code and theory. I have been working on authentication and databases and protocols, but at the same time I have been forced to actually think about some of the ways that the persistent game world will work. Here are some of my thoughts so far:
FTL travel is first on the list of things to explain, and I had an agenda that it needed to fit. I want ships to travel the map seamlessly instead of moving between nodes, but I still wanted to create high traffic areas where encounters would be more common. I wanted travel to take a long time when exploring, but be very fast and painless when running tedious errands. I want exploration to be interesting, hard, and also rewarding, and I want the quality of your ship to limit your ability to explore further into the void, but I don’t want people flying in groups to be punished for exploring their under-equipped friends. I also wanted hiding to be possible so I can have a secret pirate base carved into the side of a comet flying through a nebula.
My solution as explained in a wall of text, followed by a TLDR:
We all know you can’t move faster than the speed of light. Okay, maybe some of us know it and others have heard it but are not sure they agree with it yet. Suffice to say any Pseudo-science that allows traveling faster than the speed of light would be a bit too Pseudo for me and so there will not be any movement faster than light in the game. Now in the world of Wayward Terran Frontier we do have a lot of technology and from a physics perspective I am okay with really powerful conventional engines and generators that use matter-to-energy conversion to produce practically unlimited energy in the form of plasma. So lets just work under the assumption that ships have unlimited fuel.
If ships have unlimited fuel and crazy powerful engines, they actually can move between stars in a human life span due to the effects of relativity. When the ship begins to approach even a small fraction of the speed of light the crew sees the distance to their destination begin to shrink. The distance never reaches zero, because that can only happen at the speed of light, but if they go fast enough their destination will move so close that they will be able to arrive in a human life span at sub-light speeds. Hell, they could arrive in a few weeks of their perspective time, the issue is actually not from their perspective it is from the perspective of the planet they travel to: When they arrive after traveling for only a few weeks, they find that their destination has experienced a thousand years of history in those few short weeks. That kinda defeats the purpose of trying to get to a specific location at a specific time, and it absolutely can not happen in a multiplayer game.
Now, to understand my solution to this problem, you first should understand the interpretation of relativity that I will be basing my game on and that is the Photonic Theory of matter. Photonic theory states that all matter in the universe is just made out of interacting electromagnetic waves propagating through space at the speed of light. i.e. a meson is a wave and a quark is 3 waves interacting in 4 dimensions and reinforcing each other, charged particles are the result of being constructed from asymmetric waves etc. In a photonic universe the reason time stops for objects moving at the speed of light is because the objects are made of waves of light. If all the waves making up an object were to move in the same direction then those waves would stop moving relative to each other. It really does a decent job of explaining the issue of relativity.
The second part of my solution to the problem is the more Pseudo of the 2 parts, but still has some basis in reality. Dark matter makes up a very decent percentage of the universe by mass, and supposedly the stuff is everywhere. Furthermore Heisenberg and Bohr would probably agree with me if I were to point out that a particle of dark matter (being completely non-interactive) should occupy a super-position that has been growing in size since the beginning of the universe. Dark matter literally permeates space with individual particles being spread probabilistically across entire galaxies. If a particle of the stuff never interacts, then it doesn’t matter where it is, it remains a wave form that can occupy all spaces simultaneously. (Some reading material)
So here is where I start making up rules that are outside of the speculation allowed by modern science and fuzzy reasoning: The dark matter increases the optical density of space and slows down the speed of light. If you want to move faster than the speed of light, you simply increase the speed of light by moving the dark matter out of the way. And how do you move the dark matter out of the way? Simple: if you detect where the dark matter is you collapse its wave form into a discrete particle with a single position and velocity. Then you can just move around it. So the only device I need to add to a ship in Wayward Terran Frontier to make a ship move faster than the speed of light is a set of sensors capable of detecting dark matter particles and measuring their positions/velocities.
The game world is covered in a fog of dark matter that puts a cap on the max speed of ships traveling through it (the speed of light). By putting dark matter detectors on your ship you can carve a path through the fog and increase the speed of light in a region of space allowing ships to travel faster in that region until the fog returns.
This solves all of my problems:
I also aim to make space travel into a crew-management mini-game so that the distance you can travel is equally limited by space monsters that will kill you in deep space, the speed that your ship can move, and how comfortable your crew are during the journey. If you want your crew to explore deep space and live on the same ship for many months you can either add more equipment to try and go faster, or you can add nicer living quarters and a recreation center so your crew doesn’t go insane and murder you. Either way the effect will be similar to a loot grinder where better gear allows you to progress farther, and progressing farther gets you better gear, except instead of right clicking on demons forever you are exploring a galaxy full of unknown goodies. Maybe sometimes we can still right click on demons, I do enjoy right clicking on demons.