This doc is actively under development and is not fully complete. Things may change!
Here we go into more detail about each of SS14’s Core Desgin Pillars breaking them down further into design principles. Once again these are not hard requirements, but expect to recieve heavy scruitiny on your design if you aren’t following these.
The inherent complexity of Space station 14’s sandbox combined with the unpredictabiltiy of human players creates a truely chaotic environment where anything can happen. This should be embraced when designing mechanics to fit SS14, especially with regards to giving players opertunities to cause mischief.
One key mantra to use when making new mechanics is “nothing is perfect”, conceptually this means that your mechanic should not allow for “perfect” solutions. Make sure to sprinkle plently of opertunities for players to intentionally or unintentionally screw up while interacting with your mechanic.
It’s also important to differentiate between potential chaos and guarunteed chaos. Mechanics should generally introduce potential chaos in the form of the choices players make while interacting with them. Mechanics that guaruntee a chaotic situation will always occur should be avoid since this negatively impacts player agency.
New mechanics should also be integrated with existing mechanics when possible, to further increase variety in the potential outcomes players have when interacting with them.
SS14 at it’s heart is a horror comedy: on one hand you have a souless megacorp that cares nothing of its employees while exposing them to the horrific dangers of unknown space, while on the other you have clowns and incompetent assistants causing all sorts of hilarious disasters.
The situations that regularly happen in SS14 are absolutely unhinged yet players generally take them seriously. When you are creating content or mechanics, you should lean into this dissonance and embrace the fact that something can be silly and serious at the same time.
When creating a new mechanic try to introduce ways that things can go horribly, horribly and hilariously wrong (or right depending on who you ask). Try to create situations that would be hilarious to hear told as a story but would be terrifying to be in as a player.
The environment of a SS14 round is as much a character as the players, and can dramatically change over the course of a round. Players have the complete freedom to shape the gameworld the way they wish whether by building, destroying or changing things on the station.
SS14 is a game where it should be possible for players to decide to “make their own station with blackjack and hookers”, and go do just that, or continue playing a round and rebuild the station after it was sliced in half (Both of these have occured multiple times in the history of SS13 and SS14).
Because of this, Mechanics cannot be location specific or require items that cannot be obtained after roundstart. The decision to call the shuttle should never be made due to losing an uncraftable item or being unable to rebuild something required for a game mechanic.
If SS14’s heart is being a horror comedy, then SS14’s soul is simulation. SS13/14 has come a long way from the simple atmospherics simulator that Exadv1 wrote all those ages ago, yet at its Core SS14 features indepth atmospheric and power simulation.
Part of the unique experience of Spacestation 14 is interacting with its indepth simulation gameplay while dealing with the chaos that comes from antagonists and random events. SS14’s indepth simulation and numerous inter-system interactions work for the average player because “They just make sense”.
Realism is not important and may end up causing gameplay/readability issues for players. It’s far more important that a Mechanic/Simulation is Intuitive than Realistic. If a system completely realisticly models a subject but requires someone with a PHD to understand how it works, that is a major problem.
Any simulation-based mechanic or interaction should be easy to learn from in-game information alone and not require wiki, or textbook, diving to understand.
When designing simulation-based mechanics try to think of the different ways that existing systems/mechanic will interact with them. Inter-connected systems also help create more opertunties for players to create unique situations stemming from how those systems interact.
Mechanics should seek to be pro-social and encourage interacting with other players. These interactions need not be strictly cooperative or competitive in nature. Humans are chaotic by nature, and provide depth and replayability to games that cannot fully be achieved through programmed mechanics alone. Thus, we should utilize that power to drive gameplay.
Mechanics which incentivize players to do them entirely alone, or mechanics that are not affected by events that occur in a round and/or the actions taken by other players, will very likely not be added to SS14.
These mechanics detract from the overall game by segmenting players into their own separate regions of play. Mechanics which are “simpler” but reward social gameplay will always be preferred to mechanics which are “deep” but are single-player.
Parts of a whole gameplay loop or mechanic may be achievable by a single player. It’s obviously not feasible to have everything forcibly involve multiple people, but care should be taken to try and incentivize social gameplay above singleplayer gameplay, even if something can be completed solo.
An addendum to this principle is that, if a mechanic involves perceived NPCs or AI mobs, you should always try to find ways to put real humans in their place. For example, offering ghost roles to hostile mobs, or crafting an economy system that is player-motivated rather than externally-motivated.
Players should always feel like they have the ability to choose what they should do in response to a situation or interaction. In some cases the effects of this choice may be minimal, but the important thing is that the player still feels like they have agency over the situation.
When you design a mechanic, you should be very conscious of the choices and information you are giving players. If your choices are too simple or you give too much information to players, your choices become a “false choice” where there is only one “correct” answer.
Another word for this is Metagame (Meta for short), or where a particular choice, item, ability, etc. becomes the best possible option and all others are ignored in favor of getting the best advantage. Avoid designing mechanics in a way where a “Meta” may be developed.
Care should also be taken to make sure that player interactions do not overly limit other player’s agency, especially when conflict is involved. If your mechanic involves conflict both players should always be given some counterplay options, ideally in a way that can be learned as a skill.
This also goes for non-combat interactions as well, avoid creating situations where players are “Railroaded” into a specific action either mechanically or by the metagame. A player should never feel like they have no options in their situation.