Essays about game development, thinking and books

Concept document for a space exploration MMO en ru

The expected poster for the game. (c) DALL-E

The expected poster for the game. (c) DALL-E

As a hobby, I write concept documents for games. This is first in English. I have a few more in Russian and will eventually translate them.

One more concept for The Tale 2.0.


Lords Captains MMO

Yep, it's a rip-off from Warhammer 40k and Rogue Trader, but it will do for the concept.


Explore the infinite universe on a starship with millions of souls on board, unite and develop abandoned worlds.


Browsers, mobile.


Exploration-driven trade-political MMO PVE sandbox.

Closest analogs

EVE, Sim City, Crusader Kings, 4X games, Rogue Trader.


Rusty decadent sci-fi in deep space in the distant millennium. Black humor, sarcasm, pathos.

Due to the catastrophe, the infinite space empire collapsed. Interstellar paths were destroyed, connections between systems were lost, knowledge and technologies were irretrievably forgotten. In an attempt to restore the former greatness, expeditions are sent into the unknown. Huge ships, assembled from the remains of technologies, populated by millions of beings, look for lost star systems, breaking through the dangers of space.


Minimalistic. Rusty sci-fi, images and text as in old text consoles on CRT monitors.

Most of the information is presented in text, pictograms, icons.

Complex control elements are displayed as mnemonic diagrams.

For illustrations, low-detail pixel art or "old cheap 3D" is used.


  • Slow-paced gameplay for adults.
  • The player manages a giant starship — a flying city.
  • Exploration, research, study are the main player activities.
  • Cartridges with information are the basic value in the economy.
  • Crafting is the only source of items.
  • Living player-driven procedural world.

Slow-paced gameplay for adults

  • Short sessions, unhurried asynchronous play without harsh deadlines.
  • PvP, where the attacker risks more than the defender.
  • Infinite skill progression — the player sleeps while the captain levels up. Skills for every action.
  • Deep complex progression: available actions and their effectiveness depend on the components of the ship, the crew, connected cartridges, and character skills.

The player manages a giant starship — a flying city

  • The player controls a ship the size of a city, inhabited by millions of beings.
  • For the ship to work effectively, the player should control its equipment, population, and command staff — officers.
  • To do this, the player can upgrade/repair/replace compartments, appoint and dismiss officers, distribute the population among compartments, conduct propaganda, expel people from the ship, and recruit new on planets.
  • Equipment, crew, and population periodically create events that affect the state of the ship and provide a diverse background for the player's adventures.

Exploration, research, study are the main player activity

  • Search for lost places and objects: star systems, asteroids, space bases, laboratories, resource deposits, technologies.
  • Study properties of places and objects: distribution of minerals on the planet, dangers threatening when visiting the system, culture of the planet's population, features of the found technology.
  • Lay safe routes between star systems, establish trade routes.

Cartridges with information are the basic value in the economy

  • Cartridges with information are non-copyable commodities: exchangeable, tradable, take up space in the hold, spoil. It is impossible to make a copy of a cartridge.
  • All actions in the game depend on the availability of cartridges with the necessary information.
  • Cartridges can contain: parts of the player's nickname, coordinates of star systems, information about equipment, crafting recipes, protocols of communication with planets and players, combat algorithms for the starship, contacts of players in the real world, etc.
  • Some cartridges can be created by players (coordinates of star systems), some can only be found (crafting recipes).

Crafting is the only source of items.

  • Everything in the game is made by players: from crew equipment to stargates and stations.
  • Crafting recipes are on cartridges that players can exchange.
  • Crafting is possible only on planets. What and how the player can produce depends on the structures on the planet, the culture of the population, and the available cartridges.

Living player-driven procedural world

  • Single persistent server.
  • All objects are procedurally generated: from crafting recipes to star systems, social groups, and races.
  • Public opinion and culture are simulated for the ship's crew and population of systems, which determine events and parameters of inhabited objects.
  • Culture transfer between population groups in systems, on planets, stations, and even in ship crew.
  • Simulation of the economy of settlements (planets, space stations, ships) and trade between them.
  • Flows of resources and products between settlements are controlled by players.
  • Development of planets and systems is managed by players.


The player is the captain of a giant starship.

The captain uses the ship to influence the outside world and, simultaniosly, manages the state of the ship and its crew, including the multimillion population.

The player explores space in search of information and resources that help him develop the ship and change the world in a fun way.

The main player's interest is in creating an exciting story of the universe in collaboration or in competition with other players.

To do this, the player can help or hinder the development of star settlements, change trade routes between them, manipulate public opinion and culture of their population.

Diversity of gameplay is achieved with the help of:

  • Conflicts of interest between players.
  • Global simulation of economy and culture, which complicates game strategy optimization but does not violate game fairness.
  • Procedural generation of adventures, events, and objects.


The player can perform many operations in the game, but all of them will follow a common pattern:

  1. Form a team to complete the task.
  2. Send the team to complete the quest — a nonlinear sequence of trials — in semi-automatic mode.
  3. Make decisions / spend resources at key points of the quest.
  4. Review the quest results, distribute resources, make decisions about further actions.

The example of laying a new path between star systems:

  1. Prepare the ship for a journey to a new star system.
  2. Choose the direction of travel.
  3. The course of the quest:
    • At the beginning of the journey, resolve the morale crisis in the engine room.
    • In the middle of the journey, choose between the costly but safe and the cheap but dangerous path.
  4. After arrival, save the path on a cartridge, repair the ship, explore the new star system.

The example of building a factory on a planet:

  1. Choose a cartridge with the factory blueprints.
  2. Form a team of officers to lead the construction.
  3. The course of the quest:
    • At the beginning of the construction, decide how to solve the sabotage problem at the construction site.
    • At the end of the construction, decide whether the factory will produce more expensive but higher-quality products or cheaper but lower-quality products.
  4. After the construction, load the products on board or lay a trade route to another planet.


The player's goal on the meta-level is to create an interesting situation in the galaxy and see what happens next.

To achieve this, the player can:

  • Explore the world: search for star systems, settlements, technologies.
  • Track changes in the properties of entities in the part of the universe that interests them.
  • Push the world towards the necessary changes: pave star routes, develop settlements, manipulate public opinion.
  • Improve relationships with other players.
  • Improve the ship: its team, population, equipment.


The monetization strategy should focus on building a sustainable and growing community of subscribers for a monopoly product.

Therefore, the following are assumed:

  • Monetization is allowed only through subscriptions.
  • Limited free-to-play access — only basic gameplay "to see how it fills".
  • Ban on pay-to-win mechanics.

To increase the monetization of players with high income, a gradation of subscriptions will be introduced with a limitation: all the bonuses that the subscription gives are distributed to all subscribers or to the entire server.

Hypothetical example of subscription gradation:

  • 5$/month — basic subscription — just access to the game.
  • 15$/month — subscription +1 — the same as basic, plus allows access to the game for three free-to-play players.
  • 50$/month — subscription +2 — the same as +1, plus increases the size of the universe by 100 systems.
  • 200$/month — subscription +3 — the same as +2, plus increases the speed of ship fuel regeneration by 1 per hour for all subscribers.


The marketing strategy, like monetization, should be aimed at creating a long-playing growing community.

Target audience

  • Adults looking for slow-paced multiplayer: "I want to play an MMO, but I don't have time for raids".
  • Groups of friends who want to do something together and find another topic for communication.
  • Fans of exploration gameplay.
  • Fans of optimization gameplay.
  • Fans of sci-fi.

Players acquisition

It makes sense to focus on the following areas:

  • Players of The Tale, as the first users.
  • Advertising in semi-professional communities of MMORPG and strategy players.
  • Advertising among fans of big sci-fi: StarTrack, StarWars, Warhammer 40k, Dune.
  • Advertising among fans of indie colony sim games and roguelike: RimWorld, Dwarf Fortress, etc.
  • Advertising among fans of sci-fi CRPG: MassEffect, Rogue Trader, Space Rangers.
  • Advertising among fans of "fabricators": Factorio, Satisfactory, Dyson Sphere Program.


  1. It may be impossible to create a universe topology that allows for infinite discovery of new star systems. Before proceeding to full development, a prototype of the universe generation rules is required.
  2. Due to the large set of original mechanics, many mistakes can be made if everything is done at once. A spiral development plan is needed from a minimal prototype.
  3. Due to the abundance of parameters and entities, the game can turn into a spreadsheet simulator. It is necessary to closely interact with the community to analyze user experience and improve the interface.
  4. It will not be possible to make procedural generation interesting enough. It is necessary to maximize the speed of feedback from the community and introduce metrics of quality of generation.
  5. The game economy will become uncontrollable. It is necessary to introduce each element of the game with the addition of metrics and tools for its analysis.
  6. The necessary computational resources will be too large to pay off by a niche game. It is necessary to focus on asynchronous mechanics and control metrics to identify problems in time.

Minimum Viable Product

  1. Players registration.
  2. Players travel through the procedural universe.
    • Space map.
    • Generation of new systems.
    • Movement between systems.
  3. Nonlinear quest system for:
    • laying routes in space;
    • researching a star system;
    • exploring the "dungeon" on a planet.
  4. Inhabited planets with basic economy.
  5. Ship compartments.
  6. Cartridges with information:
    • routes in space;
    • maps of star systems;
    • algorithms for ship compartments;
    • parts of player nicknames;
    • contacts of players in real life.
  7. Exchange between players.
  8. Building factories on planets and producing goods.