A sci-fi staple is the idea that we can’t simply drive out into the universe to get to where we’re going. We need to take shortcuts because no one lives forever, and traveling the vast distance between stars means we either have to consign ourselves to never seeing the outside of a spacecraft again in our lifetime, or we have to find a way to cut corners.
Two ways that visionaries have suggested we might travel in the future is by jumpgates or jumpdrives. Gates are like toll-booths that travelers have to pass through, and which shoot the traveler to a specific destination faster than the speed of light. Drives, on the other hand, are contained within the spacecraft itself, allowing travelers to pop in and out of a star system at will.
In designing Project Universe, traveling between star systems is a Big Deal. It’s one part exploration, one part scope, and as such players will need to take one of these shortcuts between locations. The question I have for you, dear reader, is which method would you prefer to see in a game? I’ve included a few off-the-top-of-my-head pros and cons of each, but feel free to consider your own from the point of view of having to work with one or the other in a game.
From a game mechanic perspective, gates allow players to have definite point of interest locations in the game world that they can travel to and interact with. Seeing a jumpgate on the horizon breaks up a monotony of traveling through space, and can serve as a waypoint in an otherwise empty solar system.
However, not everyone wants to spend time traveling though the length of several systems to reach a far flung destination, especially when they’ve been through those systems several times before. Also, operating a jumpgate isn’t cheap: many may require fees to use, and their accessibility and fee structure may be subject to the relationship between the owning faction, the player, and other factions.
Jumpdrives are the ultimate in convenience, allowing pilots to move quickly between systems at the push of a button. When under the gun to reach a destination, a jumpdrive can help get you there quickly and efficiently.
Still, they’re not without their drawbacks. Each pilot is responsible for the maintenance and upkeep of his own jumpdrive. That means upgrades, fuel, and repair costs come out of any profits made. Add to that the fact that zipping in and out of systems removes the need to sight-see and discover the universe.