Feasibility of my Game Idea

I’m not sure where exactly this should be posted since I’m still very new here, but I wanted to hear people’s thoughts on the idea of this project, if it is feasible in the engine I’ve chosen (Inform 7) and what pitfalls I should look out for.

For my first real big project I want to make an unsettling sci-fi game designed to be played over and over, in many ways a roguelike sandbox of sorts.

The main gist is this:

You play as the captain of a space ship stranded in space after a devastating failure of the cryo pods led you and your crew to make up some odd thousand years later than intended.

There are probably not going to be any more than seven or eight crew members not including the player, such as the engineer, the doctor, and so on, exact roles I’m not sure of yet.

Anyway, the main actual goal of the game is to restore the derelict spaceship to working order and return home, something that would be easy except:

Every time you play, random threats may appear in your game to throw a wrench into your plans, with varying degrees of severity, a couple rocks hitting the ship and breaking something isn’t too bad, but your only engineer being a flesh puppet out to kill everyone is a lot worse, these aren’t concrete examples or anything. These could be assigned at the start or mid playthrough events.

The main thing is of course coding these things, the biggest obstacle being the NPCs, the ship itself and its repair system is going to be pretty simple with the main focus being on interesting dynamic NPCs, not exactly through dialogue but through actions, like real people I want to create NPCs that may have their own agenda, and while everyone wants to get home (usually), not everyone comes up with a rational way of making that happen. If they’re normal, they’ll generally do their job and can be relied on, but say one is some sort of traitor, they’ll deliberately sabotage things both in subtle and less subtle ways, misplacing important things, giving you false information, sneakily killing off other members of the crew.

Making this in Inform 7, is this feasible to actually make, what should I watch out for and most importantly, how does this idea sound? Would this be a game you’d want to at least give a try? There’s more of course but I want to stop this post from being too long.

Let me know what you think, thanks!


Welcome to the boards! That definitely sounds like a cool idea, albeit an ambitious one especially if it’s your first game. It is certainly feasible, but it might be more complex to implement this in Inform (or any parser system) than in a choice-based one, depending on how exactly you’re envisioning the gameplay working. Inform tends to be best at exploration – going from area to area and looking carefully at everything you find there – and medium-dry-goods interaction – picking up hand-portable items, pushing things around, and so on.

On the flip side, while Inform can certainly do dialogue and NPC interaction, but these tend to take a little more work. Similarly, roving characters who change the world-state and pursue agendas of their own can be simulated, but it can be tricky to implement and could easily lead to highly-granular gameplay where the player can easily miss important events or information if they happen to be on the wrong side of the map when things go down.

If the way you imagine the game working is for the player to go turn by turn through a complex environment, investigating everything they see, while a clockwork simulation plays out around them, Inform might be a good choice. If your vision is more cinematic, with gameplay less about physical investigation and more about psychological assessment of the various characters, though, a choice-based system like Twine or Ink might wind up better delivering the sort of player experience you’re aiming at. Either way, there are lots of folks on this board with lots of relevant knowledge and experience who can help!


Just some random thoughts…

As separate to the issue of IF system, I’m going to focus on the idea of replayability. I’d like to question:

How worthwhile is this?

I don’t mean to knock the idea, because it has a good angle, but if it were me, id be worried about how much gameplay will be repeated each time. And would it get stale and samey.

For example, the first time through, the ship will be new, shiny and undiscovered, a few games later, it’ll be well trodden and dull. Since one of the elements of gameplay is discovery this would be absent on subsequent plays.

You’re going to have to come up with all sorts of things that can go wrong. A good idea. But how many, and is this open-ended?

What you could do, is take say your five best ideas (or 3 if you want it shorter) and run these sequentially in your story:

So maybe;

  1. fix the drive
  2. fix the nav
  3. fix the life-support


then finally you can go home.

If you later come up with another great idea. For example, aliens taking over the ship, you just add that as another thing to do before you can finish and expand the main game.

Only a suggestion.


That’s certainly one of the biggest concerns yeah, how do I make replaying this same environment interesting?

Ideally I want it to be open ended, you’re told your goals when you awaken, and I’d probably have them vary game by game. I’d like to go for a sort of immersive sim approach, making things generic enough so that you can solve a problem in any multitude of ways, even ways I may not have intended when making the game.

That’s certainly the plan too, I’m going to outline the basics before I really get to work on adding the actual things that can go wrong.

What I don’t want is for things to get familiar to the point where playthroughs are just a waiting game of seeing what new strange event you may encounter. So I’m going to do my best to avoid that as that quickly gets unfun.

As for how worthwhile it is? I couldn’t say, truthfully it’s more of a project I’ve always wanted to make for myself more than anything. If other people like it, that’s awesome of course.

I want becoming familiar with the ship to become a strength, like a tool you get more familiar with to achieve your goals, repairing the ship and navigating the ship isn’t the main focus, it’s the journey to do so.

To summarize though, I have no real idea how I’m going to make it all work just yet as this is a very early in creation project. Still these are very good questions.

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I’m certainly going for the complex environment approach. The characters are going to be generic, personality isn’t the focus it’s more what they actually do. What I want to allow is for it to be reliable enough that a player can say be like:

“So I know if I break this and tell the engineer something is broken, he will be busy and have to go fix it, giving me time to enter his quarters and investigate.”

The missing important information bit is actually something I accounted for, I want to implement some kind of basic radio report system, like say one of the characters happens to see a broken item, they’ll announce on the radio “Hey, this thing is broken.” and then the engineer will go to fix it. Or say a character gets critically injured, they may say over the radio “I’m injured in [the location]” and the characters respond as they should (the doctor going to help them, for example). This is to make sure the player usually has a sense of what is going on, of course a character may neglect to report something if they have less than good intentions. This can allow for anxiety if you do stumble across a scene that mysteriously went unreported, such as the dead body of the security marshal.

It’s meant to be general and logical, so the player can learn what rules they can rely on to survive and what they can’t. As much as I’d love to have complex characters with deep personalities (something I’m sure I’ll make in a project at some point.) for this kind of game it’s best to focus on making them general actors rather than in depth characters.


One of the most replayable types of IF we’ve seen in a while is the “optimization game”, like Sugarlawn or Captain Verdeterre’s Plunder. I haven’t played it yet, but I believe Voyage of the Marigold in the current Spring Thing competition is in this vein. The idea is that any individual playthrough is short, but there are a lot of possibilities to explore, and there’s some variable to optimize for in non-obvious ways.

The predecessor to this is the “accretive PC game”, where each individual playthrough is short, and it takes a lot of playthroughs (starting anew every time) to achieve some victory condition; on the final playthrough, your knowledge of the world finally aligns with the player character’s. The most famous example of this is Varicella, where you’re playing a scheming Renaissance-esque courtier making a bid for the throne, but my favorite is all things devours, where you play a scientist who invented time travel and now has to destroy her work before the military can abuse it and end the world.

To me, the appeal of an optimization game is a lot like the appeal of a roguelike; there doesn’t actually have to be randomization, just enough complexity that it’s hard to predict the consequences of a given action without a lot of experimentation.


This is shameless self-promotion, but I have to recommend a look at my Death on the Stormrider, an Inform murder mystery built around this exact mechanic. A new version of which is hopefully coming within the next two weeks now that Loose Ends is done!


That’s what I’m going with for sure, you experiment to learn the consequences of your actions. Optimization games do sound quite similar to what I’m going for, so I’m going to be giving those a play.

I’m going to check it out for sure, reading the description is actually sounds like it has a lot of what I’m going for, so thank you for this suggestion.

Is new version like a new update or a straight up revised version of the game?

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Basically a lot of quality-of-life improvements and bugfixes. Nothing is fundamentally changing.


I was going to say, I was getting Death on the Stormrider vibes from this approach too! And Nitche, Daniel’s made the source code for the game available (see link on its IFDB page) so once you’ve played and seen how it works, that could be a good resource for you too.


Oh! That’s really cool actually, I’ll be sure to check out the code after I’ve played through the game, no doubt it’s going to be helpful to me.


I would try to keep everything simple and obvious. Characters who lie to you and subtly sabotage things will be confusing. Even things I think are obvious are usually not obvious to others (or myself 3 months later), so it’s good to make them even more obvious.


I think they’re all worth looking at as comparisons, (maybe Marigold even more so?) but Marigold is more roguelike so I don’t think I’d put it in the same category with Sugarlawn. It’s more (I think) about making your initial choices and then that shapes which random events you’re better and worse at responding to, vs. Sugarlawn and Verdeterre’s fixed map where the complex rules make for a giant possibility space so that you can’t prove which is the optimal path and have to guess.

Marigold is riffing on the Star Trek games from the 80s (?), I think. Pilot your ship through a randomly-generated maze, will you find enemies to fight, or natural hazards, or what?


Ah, great addition! I haven’t played Marigold so I didn’t realize how roguelike it was.

And of course if you’re looking for the most roguelike IF for comparison, you can see Kerkerkruip as an extreme example: just a straight-up roguelike dungeon crawler implemented in Inform 7.


Yeah, Marigold is basically FTL meets the old mainframe Star Trek game, implemented in a choice-based system (Ink) so I think it’s a less useful point of comparison for present purposes. Great fun though!


For sure, if your crew member isn’t some sort of enemy, they’ll always be honest with you about things, you’d really only have to worry about lies from a crew member with less than good intentions. I want things to be pretty simple and clear, characters will speak with pretty simple and direct language about things, get basic info across to you quickly.

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Have you played Seedship? It’s a similar idea, though you are a single AI looking after a colony ship rather than a band of humans out of luck. It’s a really great game and a form of “press your luck”. It takes an abstracted view and you get an implicit story, like your final civilization being dumb as rocks because you choose to shield one too many stray asteroids with your science records.

I think if you want to keep scope tight, use this sort of abstraction rather than get too down in the weeds of dynamic, agenda-driven NPCs. FTL used a similar approach.

If you can pull it off, it sounds very fun!


I’m not sure there is anything inherently wrong with lying or ambiguous stuff - they are tropes in detective style stories. It sounds to me like the main focus of your idea is simulation of the station - maybe something like dwarf fortress or rimworld, though they are focused more on high level construction/management and don’t use any of the standard IF interfaces. It’s always useful to think about what exactly makes your idea good/interesting and really focus on that and figure out the best way to do it.


Everything you’ve described. Everything you’ve elaborated on. Almost all suggestions from others describe…


This is a board game with event cards that potentially cause damage to critical systems all over the ship. Your goal is to get the jump drive back online while trying to survive. You move around to different rooms that access certain systems: engines, bridge, medical, cargo hold, etc. You deal with aliens boarding. You gather knowledge cards and share types of knowledge between characters so the team work aspect is solid. You have science officer, security, medical, engineering roles that have inherent knowledge that reduce the specific types of knowledge cards required to repair a system, research a cure, fire missiles at an enemy ship, etc.

If this idea you have is something that you are really, really invested in, buy this board game and adapt the concepts to your IF game. It’s a great game. Very replayable. Different experiences each time. The mechanics are much like a video game.

The best thing about dissecting this board game is that it incorporates seemingly complex game systems into something so manageable and streamlined. It’s the perfect framework to work off of.


This is a great point for anyone thinking about a game. In this case it could perhaps be addressed by focusing on optimisation and targeting completer/finisher types.

For example I will never go find every collectable in a game, it’s not in my nature. I also give up relatively quickly on puzzles of a non-debugging variety. But a friend, if he digs the game, can’t help but find everything and seek to optimise his routes.

Replayability: finding the optimum approach to recovering the ship and going home — that might appeal to some folks.

Of course that might be at odds with your desire to create a lot of variation around the starting conditions.