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  • Results from Game Design Challenge: Making Maps

    [10.15.13]
    - Danny Cowan

  • Matthew Ross, Game Design and Production Management at University of Abertay Dundee, Stellar Cartographer

    In Stellar Cartographer, the player takes the role of a mercenary cartographer in a sci-fi universe who makes a living charting the unknown reaches of space. He or she accepts contracts from various factions to scout and accurately map a procedurally-generated region of space. The player explores the region in their spaceship from a first-person perspective, taking note of various features such as planets, stars, asteroid fields, gas clouds and comets. Players record this information by placing icons on a 3D grid map, denoting what features or hazards are present in that grid space. Additionally, the player can launch survey probes to gather more information about a specific target (For example, to determine the mineral composition of an asteroid or the types of resources on a planet). At any time, the player can choose to leave the region and submit their report to the client. They will then be paid based on the accuracy and completeness of their survey.

    Different clients will pay more for different information. Researchers and universities will be more interested in scientifically interesting phenomena, while mining corporations will be looking for large mineral deposits. However, all factions will want to know about the presence of any dangerous elements, such as electricity storms, radiation fields, and especially hostile pirates or military forces.

    Since the player's ship is equipped for reconnaissance, they cannot engage enemies in combat. Instead they must outsmart their enemies by using stealth to avoid them, and speed to outrun them. Players can use cloaking devices, jam enemy sensors, draw enemies away by hacking their sensors or deploying decoy probes, or even spoof a friendly IFF signal. If spotted, players can disable their enemies' warp drives to escape, and hide in asteroid fields or gas clouds where sensors are weaker. But once the player's presence is known, hostile forces will send patrols to hunt down the cartographer, and increase security around their most valuable assets. The most skilled cartographers will be able to complete their survey without anyone knowing they were ever there.

    By completing contracts for various employers, players earn money which can be used to purchase new equipment, and upgrade components such as engines, shields and sensors. Players will need advanced equipment to undertake more dangerous and rewarding missions, like recording a fleet's military capability for a rival government, or surveying massive stars around the deadly galactic core.

    Players can also compete with each other by participating in a daily challenge, which provides all players with the same procedurally-generated sector to explore and survey. The players who are capable of uncovering all the secrets of a challenge sector while avoiding detection will have their accomplishments recorded by an online leaderboard and global ranking.

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