From the flurry of 0.22 information over the past couple of days I think I've gathered how the tech tree works: You explore something to earn generic science points, and then you spend those science points to unlock items on the tech tree. You can see what you haven't unlocked and can thereby choose where to spend your acquired points.
While this is a fairly obvious way to implement such a feature, I worry that it turns "science" into "economics". Players will be motivated to find the most efficient way to earn science points quickly, regardless of what that way entails. If anyone has ever played an MMO (I confess I played WoW for a few months) you'll know the drill: find some mechanism that quickly accrues XP, and then farm the ever-loving !%&@ out of that. It's not much fun, but it gets you "maxxed out" rapidly.
I wonder if, perhaps, a more directed approach would be more interesting and rewarding for players.
- If I launch a jet and manage to fly it all the way around kerbin, I should learn something about making jet engines efficient, and unlock technology that reflects this.
- If I manage to take a really heavy plane up to 10,000m, I should learn something about making better wings by doing so. Perhaps this makes all wings slightly stronger, or have slightly more lift, or unlocks a new wing entirely, thus making it easier for me to do the same thing next time, or letting me build an *even bigger* plane next time if I want to.
- If I get a rocket into orbit, I should learn something about how rockets work in a vacuum (and perhaps boost vacuum ISP for all rockets)
As it stands it appears as though I could, say, launch a mission to Duna, earn some generic science currency, then come back and spend it on air intakes - which makes very little sense. Exploitation of the currency mechanics is also a larger concern when trying to use generic "points".
So I guess this is both a suggestion and discussion. My suggestion being: make science more directed. The game already tracks certain "achievements" in the log, and I'm sure it wouldn't be too hard to come up with others, like I have above, that give a sensible, logical reward for achieving certain milestones, which would also encourage players to explore the game and reward them for doing so.