FTL is a pretty darn exciting concept that really expands the possibility of what you can do with the roguelike genre. At the same time, FTL is shaping up to have a very fun ship upgrade / combat gameplay system! The challenge would be to figure out a way to extend this combat system into something fair, balanced and fun in a multiplayer context.
So, let's talk about multiplayer skirmishes. Here's how I think it could work (all multiplayer programming nightmarish debugging aside, of course!).
1. Fire up your local copy of FTL: The Game, and right there on the Main Menu is a selection called Multiplayer. Click on that to open up your server browser, which uses Steamworks (yay?) to find other players who are looking to Skirmish.
2. Find a game, or create your own by specifying tons of different options that you and your soon-to-be adversary can tweak through. There's always a risk of having people futz exhaustively about the different settings possible (No, I don't want you to set the # of scrap gotten per minute above 60, dammit! Don't turn on random events or I'll quit! Etc.), so perhaps a "Random" setting would help ease the pain.
3. Start it up! You and your opponent get to select the ship you want to start out with (either each picks their own, or there's consensus that the hull type should be the same between the two). I'm not sure what Subset Games plans to do with different ships beyond the interior having a different shape.
4. At this stage, both players are given an equal amount of scrap to use for upgrading their ship. All players start out with the basic systems and powerless-subsystems at level 1, what they choose to upgrade is up to them! Players will also pick out crew members, possibly assigning experience points to them or giving them perks. Who knows what Subset Games'll settle with.
5. All good? Let the games begin! Your objective is to destroy the enemy ship by any means necessary while preventing your enemy from doing the same to yours! You can take out the enemy ship by reducing its hull to zero, killing off all the enemy crew members, or perhaps some other tertiary objective (kill the enemy VIP / captain, or something along those lines).
6. Every minute or some other pre-defined time limit, you receive 60 scrap units to spend on upgrades. You can spend your scrap on upgrades at any time. You can also spend scrap to hire new crewmembers, though this shouldn't be a cheap option (losing a crewmember should be a significant blow, but not be a completely unrecoverable loss).
7. Pausing the game is a pretty important part of FTL, to get your bearings straight and issue commands when you're overwhelmed or need to time something closely. In a multiplayer context, it can be difficult to figure out how best to handle this issue. I'd propose the following schemes:
- Chess Clock: Every minute of non-paused gameplay, you get 15 seconds of pause time to use up for whatever purposes.
- Time-outs: Every minute gets you three extra time-outs. You can use a time-out to pause the game for 5 seconds, but when a time-out is used, it is completely used up (can't use half a time-out, for example)
- Unlimited Pauses: Best used in games with friends or learning the subtleties of FTL. I'd personally prefer to play FTL this way, since I value twitch-APM gameplay less so than strategic play. This scheme wouldn't work very well in random pick-up gameplay since it would encourage griefing!
8. Random events could be an option that crops up during a skirmish. These events, which could affect both players or just one or the other, could work out as if a player visited a node in the single-player FTL game; they're presented with a scenario and given options for how to handle it. How they pick'll could alter their current battle in interesting ways. A random event might also include a visit from a shop vendor, who both players can trade with. Another idea is that the rebel ships catch up to both players and launch a drone to attack each player.
9. For those who don't enjoy chance playing a huge factor in their multiplayer games (how the heck did the guy with just a 10% chance to evade consecutively dodged 20 of my last missiles?), we could come up with an alternative to the benefits provided by Engines. Perhaps an increase in engine power reduces the loading time of enemy weapons (harder to lock on), or it could be used as a tertiary objective where the first player to build up a very long-time charging FTL drive (to reach Alpha Centauri, or something) wins the Skirmish.
Multiplayer in FTL would be fun! What do you guys think?