These are ideas I've had for making the server more multi-player focused without having to draft a whole rulebook of what players are not allowed to do as some servers focus on. I always prefer to have less rules, but more balance, that is to say that you can do what you want but within a framework that encourages and rewards player interaction.
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One major issue this game has is the lag created by player activity, which in itself can kill off servers if they don't act to limit player activity before the simspeed drops to unplayable levels. Too many restrictions, however, can result in empty servers as players avoid the tedious grind of hardcore survival settings where simply building your first refinery takes hours. Between these two extremes are the majority of typical servers, where gameplay is nothing more than just singleplayer, using default game settings, but with more lag and a chat window:
_Player joins, flies out to a remote area of space, starts building without any interaction of others outside their faction, local resources are unlimited so no need to land on planet/moon or trade or attack or explore, lag server as construction and mining gets bigger, repeat for each player joining._
I think there can be an alternative where the server is set up with changes and restrictions specifically to avoid lag, provide a multiplayer experience and give players the freedom to act as they want.
## Server Settings
Players start in an escape pod that contains basic tools but no weapons in space above the planet. This pod would contain all the materials needed to build a basic base on the surface but only has a single hydrogen thruster and limited fuel. The thruster is enough for you to decide roughly where you want to land or even to escape the planet's atmosphere, but little else. The pod has a parachute to ensure a safe landing (and to limit voxel changes from crash landing). Since the pods do not contain anything of real value there's no need to heavily restrict their spawning. Nothing containing Uranium, Magnesium, Platinum or Gold would be available from the start.
Block limits are low for active systems that causes lag, but grid sizes can be large. This means players can still build large structures, but if you want to build past the low individual limit of refineries, turrets, etc then you must build as a team.
Attacking structures for offline players is allowed. The reasons for allowing this are below and because the less rules there are, the less they need to be enforced. Having strict rules means you need strict enforcement, which will only happen after the rules have been broken. Better to simply let players act how they want to act, but reduce any potential reward from low risk actions.
Asteroids do not contain Uranium, Magnesium, Platinum or Gold.
The reason for this is provide the trade off for unlimited mining in infinite space, away from any danger. If you want to stay in space away from everyone else and never visit the planet then you still can, but you'll have to do so without reactors, ammo, explosives, ion engines and jump drives. If you want those things then you'll have to earn them along with the other players on the planet, either by exploring for deposits, trading, or fighting.
Multiplayer implies player interaction which adds depth to the game, either co-operatively or competitively. Limited resources are more valuable and some may prefer to fight for them rather than explore or trade. To deny this is to deny a choice of gameplay which can potentially limit player interaction. Griefing, however, should be strongly discouraged, without imposing rules on players that restrict too much of what they want to do. You can tell people not to attack property of offline players all you want, but it's going to happen so it should be discouraged instead.
This can be achieved with a combination of changes.
First is to disable hacking (player grinding of enemy owned blocks). Since you can respawn an infinite times and build infinite tools there is simply no way to prevent someone determined enough from taking apart your base while you're offline, whatever rules are set. You can build turrets but they will run out of ammo eventually, shooting someone who has infinite respawns or can build infinite decoys.
Second, with hacking disabled there is only one way to steal someone's blocks, and that is by damaging them enough to reset ownership. Since magnesium is rare, so too are explosives and ammo, especially missiles which means you may well use more value in resources trying to access a container by using weapons than you gain from what is stored. The cheaper way is to build a vehicle capable of damaging other structures, but then you still have to build it, power it and control it, which is your time against a likely very fortified base. Risk vs Reward. If you want to be a pirate you can, but being a profitable one will be difficult and time consuming.
These are pre-built bases, one in space, one on the planet surface that all players can spawn at. The bases themselves would be admin owned and marked as invulnerable so safe from outside attack and somewhere players can meet and trade at peacefully.
Inside these bases can be some cargo containers that players can claim (one per player) where they can store whatever they want, secure from anyone else (unless they share it). Players who don't log in for a long time will have their ownership removed (reset to nobody).
The bases can also have a few hangars where players can store vehicles safely while repairing, building or trading (and recharge them while docked). Since the number of hangars is limited the ownership of the doors would have to be assigned by an admin, unless there's a better way, possibly requiring some kind of payment or reputation for use.
There are some very well made custom planets available, my suggestion is to use them over the default designs which are unfriendly to wheeled vehicles and have no logic to the resource distribution which is just a generic ore pattern tiled over the surface. Custom worlds may have resources more/less common in different regions or altitudes, terrain surface that isn't so random, dogs or spiders only spawning in specific areas and a whole range of atmosphere and lighting changes.
As for numbers and placement, I would suggest a single large planet as the start location, perhaps a desert style planet which is easier to drive around with ice at the poles and underground and a few mountain ranges with more resources, with oxygen in the atmosphere.
A moon, either an ice or rock one with deeper ore deposits around the main planet, an early goal for space adventurers looking to build larger vessels without the need for atmospheric flight.
Very far out a second, smaller planet could provide easy access to resources, but with hostile alien life. This planet could maybe be the only source of a specific ore type which provides the reward for the associated risk and effort required to mine there. Perhaps the only (large quantity) source of uranium?
To provide some further interest to players there can be occasional admin led events. These can be created by the server admin, either as something for explorers to find, or a PvE encounter that players must fight together, or a no rules race to get to valuable cargo.
* Damaged ships placed as crash sites around the planet as salvage for explorers.
* A ship spawned in the atmosphere with a distress signal that actually does burn up and crash land somewhere for players to investigate, or fight over.
* Temporary enabling of meteor showers. Meteors can be configured to deposit certain ore types.
* Ancient ruins -may be empty, might containing treasure and dangerous enemies.
* Small enemy robots (like NPC pirates, but better designed and not so random, possibly guarding cargo).
* Boss battles - admin spawns a blueprint of their choice and challenges a player alliance to a battle.
Each of these have a risk associated with the potential reward and can encourage either co-operative or competitive gameplay among players. The admin also gets to cause chaos and interact with the players.
I've always preferred to have as few mods as possible, that said no mod that adds value to gameplay, either as changes or additions should be ignored just for the sake of keeping the server as clean as possible. Here is a list of possible additions that I feel add to the game.
### Battle Cannon and Turrets - Ammo may become rare, but choice of weapon to use it doesn't need to be
### Wing blocks - A whole new gameplay mechanic
### Cockpits as cryo pods
As far as I know this mod doesn't exist, but might be possible for me to make. Small ships are always a risk to use as if you disconnect while piloting one you won't log back in to it. If the cockpit was also a cryo pod then this problem is solved and small ships would be worth using.
___These are simply suggestions of mine, but I've tried to provide reasoning behind them to explain the potential benefit to the server.___