In a larp that takes place in a starship, one of the most important things it that the players must feel like they are really flying one. There are three elements we are planning on using to create that feeling. The first are the surroundings. Having the milieu, props, and general atmosphere that gives the just the right image and feeling that you are really in space. The second being sound and lighting, which should further enhance the idea of being in a vulnerable tin can flying through the void. And the third is the technology used to steer the said tin can. We will address all of these elements in our blog, starting with the third, as it is also the one we needed to start planning very early on.
We went through a couple of existing software solutions that could immerse the players into life on a bridge of a starship, and played around with the idea of creating our own bridge simulation software. From very early on, our strongest candidate was the Spaceship simulation Empty Epsilon, a customizable open source software in which adjustments and integrations could be made on the fly. We started running tests on Empty Epsilon in May with a few limited scenarios, concentrating on control schemes and the stability of the software. The basic scenarios were successful: the software worked well in stress tests, and we felt that already existing the controls and functions fit our needs very well.
In the basic setup for Empty Epsilon, there are five crew positions and a main view (the captains station): Helm (navigation tasks), Weapons (controlling the ship weaponry and shields), Science (anomalies and scanning), Relay (communications and hacking enemy ships), and Engineering (power distribution for weapons, engines and shields, as well as damage control and repairs).
We decided to keep Helm, Weapons, and Science pretty much as they are. There are some very nice mechanics for scanning and hacking enemy ships already present in the Empty Epsilon software, and it is possible to fly different ships within the same scenario, which makes it possible for the main ship to have fighters that can communicate with each other to target enemies and to execute maneuvers. The biggest issue we encountered was when you added a lot of ships into the same scenario, it started to slow down and eventually became impossible to play. This is an issue which we are currently looking into.
Relay, Engineering, and the Captain’s View are the stations we are planning to customize the most – or more precisely to add to. In Relay, we will probably keep pretty much everything that is there already, but will include more communication options via voice commands. The same goes for the captains view. The Captain will be given all the information that can be relayed through the software, but also information from integrated external systems. In Engineering, we decided to keep the option to boost certain functions and handle the cooling, but we will remove repair as an automated software process, instead transferring it into a manual ingame process by the engineering unit of player characters and controlled through a different interface in the engine room (though integrated into Empty Epsilon to provide data flows between engineering and the bridge). In addition, we will be adding a sixth position on the bridge for jumps, long range scans, and planet scans.
If you are interested on Empty Epsilon, feel free to go check it out and give it a go! http://daid.github.io/EmptyEpsilon
Laura, Producer of Odysseus