Making a Travel System for Tarkin

Tarkin 2.0: A Unique Star Wars Experience

With any customized experience based upon an emulator project, there are always going to be things about the default game that just don’t jibe with the customizations. When it comes to Tarkin, a SWGEmu based Star Wars experience, the changes Kinshi (the project admin) made to allow player cities to exist within the nicely detailed NPC cities caused problems with the travel system. The workarounds to ensure that the travel system functioned proved to be a pain to maintain when pulling in new updates from SWGEmu and they also caused funky issues related to need a second shuttle spawned at the various locations.

So rather than continuing to deal with that, Kinshi asked me if I would create a new stand alone travel system for Tarkin, so he could go ahead and disable to default SWG travel system for good.

We chatted about what playing on Tarkin is all about and where Kinshi wanted to take the project moving forward. His goal for Tarkin is not be yet another flavor of SWG, but to be a unique Star Wars experience designed to be enjoyed by a small group of players. This small group should be able to log in and have fun playing solo whenever they feel like, while also being able to use our calendar to plan “group play nights” that akin to getting together with one’s table top role play group and playing some D&D. As much as possible, we admins try to be around for scheduled events so we can offer GM roleplay services. However, much of the time folks in our community hop on, play by themselves for a while, chat with whomever else happens to be on, and then log off. To accommodate this time proven play pattern, Kinshi decided to make the city of Theed on Naboo the center of the Tarkin universe; New players will start in Theed and most player businesses and activity were already in Theed.

For the travel system, Kinshi wanted to break travel down like so,

  1. Theed is the center of the universe. Players can travel to any planet from Theed and must return back to Theed before heading to another planet.
  2. Travel away from Theed is a pricey “money sink”.
  3. Travel back to Theed is cheap.
  4. Each planet has a local shuttle port system that inexpensive to use.
  5. Imperials have their own network of free destinations, called the Zephyr system.
  6. Rebels have their own network of free destinations, called the Zephyr system.
  7. Coronet acts as a convenient travel hub directly to and from the various dungeons in the galaxy.
  8. The concepts of waiting for a shuttle and buying tickets are no more. Choose your destination, go there. Life is short!

The primary objective was to encourage players to be in and around Theed as much as possible, so as to increase the likelihood they will see and interact with each other. That’s why it’s costly to go away from Theed, yet cheap to return. It’s also why you must return to Theed before going from one planet to the next rather than just going directly from one planet to the next. Additionally, with the way we have the faction system on Tarkin, where you are either on leave (not taking part) or on active duty (Rebel/Imperial NPCs and players can attack you), we wanted to give players more incentive to take part in the Galactic Civil War. They don’t need to be on active duty to use the free travel networks, but they do at least have to pick a side. Finally, the dungeon travel hub was put in place to cut down on the time it takes for a group to get into the action, because far too often the process of just getting TO the freaking dungeon was a long, boring affair that ate up most or all of the player’s game time. Kinshi wanted the dungeon travel to be convenient, but costly given the great rewards that are given in Tarkin’s custom dungeons.

And with all that in mind, I set out on making first a temporary system of free clicky terminals to connect the planets and later the complete system you can experience on Tarkin right now. All of the work I did on the final version of the travel system was tracked in the travelSystem branch on my Github. Check it out for all the details if you’d like. Here’s an overview of how the system is organized,

  • Travel FROM Theed has its own screenplay, character (mobile), and conversation. One conversation is used for several randomized NPC pilots who the player can find in the Theed Starport hangar.
  • Travel TO Theed has its own screenplay, character (mobile), and conversation. A droid stands at one starport per planet who will send the player back to Theed.
  • Each planet has its own screenplay, character (mobile), and conversation that handles the shuttleport travel. The same character (randomly male or female) is spawned at the shuttleports around the planet and can fly to every shuttleport on the planet. For simplicity, they indeed can travel to where they happen to already be standing. I figured it wasn’t worth the added complexity in code to remove the destination they are already standing at, as it was complex to implement and wouldn’t be fun for someone else to maintain or change later on.
  • Dungeon travel works the same as the Theed travel, just with different locations, and characters.
  • The Zephyr systems are the old style “clicky terminals” that Kinshi has been using for a long time. They were originally spread out through many city screenplays, so I consolidated them into their own easier to manage screenplays and added a few extra links here and there.

Code wise, the system works and that’s good enough for me. Occasionally the conversation will stop responding after the player chooses a destination, but give that the player is not charged the travel fee and they can start over and have it work the next time, no harm, no foul in my books. Kinshi is happy with the results and apart from some gripes about high travel prices (come on folks, everything else on Tarkin is way cheaper than it was in default SWG lol!), it seems to be working well for our community.

The Tarkin Travel System may not look like much, but she’s got it where it counts, kid. I’ve made a lot of special modifications myself and she’ll do point five past light speed!