Recently I have stumbled upon the infinity game engine. The goal of the developers is to create a game which can procedurally generate the entire milky way galaxy. An ambitious project to say the least.
Aside from the visuals, what really got me interested in the game was the control scheme behind how the ships move through such insanely vast distances whilst at least pretending to obey some laws of physics (like max speed=speed of light). I was relieved to find out the approach they are using incorporates "low speed" solar system navigation at speeds up to light and for travel that would require thousands of years, the use of jump drives.
To me, this is copping out and diminishes ones understanding of just how massive the universe really is.
So, being the brave internet person I am (if they actually exist). I wrote up a suggestion for a "better" form of celestial travel on their forums. Where I was greeted with much happiness and support of the idea (at least from people who have been following the program).
The idea goes like this, how about, you simply include relativistic effects.
As you approach the speed of light, time dilation kicks in and you can travel many hundreds of thousands of light years in what would feel like minutes. Just like what real astronauts may one day feel. The hitch however is that you can't have a MMO game where players travel through time. So to keep gameplay, I introduced a second idea. To slow down/stop the ship, the ship includes an inertial damper which converts the ships momentum into energy to create a time portal for the ship. The faster you go, the bigger the time jump.
A couple more details
-Every celestial body in the universe has a different relative velocity, so likewise if you did such a time jump, the amount of energy available would be different... this yields different time zones throughout the galaxy.
-Expanding on the previous idea, traveling away from, and back to a starting point will yield the original local time zone. The idea being that the "net" energy to get back to that initial starting relative velocity would result in the correct time zone.
-Player to player interaction within say a solar system while traveling at speeds with notable time dilation wouldn't be an issue. Since you would simply whip past a player before their computer can even think of rendering them. The only time you would be able to see another player at these speeds, is if you were traveling in tandem.. but in those cases relative time dilation is uniform between the players so it again becomes unnoticeable.
-While a player speeds up, their speedometer slowly approaches 1.0C, meanwhile as time dilating effects take place, a localized clock will start accelerating, and the universe around the player will be simulated at a faster and faster speed. After the time jump however, the universe reverts back to its present state.
If you have any questions/comments on how to make this a more plausible control method, let me hear!