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Old September 6th, 2010, 04:01 PM

jRides jRides is offline
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Default Re: High level design thoughts

As for flavor text, that really depends on how much time we have to write that stuff!
Why don't you ask the community Ed? Set up a few posts, cherry pick the ones that suit? I'm sure you'll get a few responses.
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Old September 6th, 2010, 05:21 PM

Cosian Cosian is offline
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Default Re: High level design thoughts

While making it open and moddable goes without saying, I would caution against releasing something largely dependent on the mod community to 'finish the project'. I beta tested Star Rulers recently...a lot of really cool stuff under the hood including some of the things others are talking about here .....like ship design of any size along with some other novel ideas. However, the game just didn't feel complete to me and since I am not a modder, I never purchased it.

The concept of the huge universe versus increased detail at the solar system level really makes no difference to me. At the end of the day you will be trying to strike the right level of 'things to control' and 'things to manage'. In my mind what is important is how the user manages the empire ... whatever that may consist of. So many games seem to fail on this point, while the kings of the genre have done a good job in this area. Though not perfect, Gal Civ2 and Sword of The Stars have done a good job in this area. An out of genre example of a decent management interface is Dominions 3. Star Rulers provides a rich and detailed empire...it simply forgot to code a good interface.. I think this is an important point because if its difficult to get to where you need to be issue builds, orders, etc... you lose potential market right up front no matter how cool things are 'under the hood'.

On Tech, I like the idea of RP and EP. It's along the lines of what Hearts of Iron 3 did with it practical knowledge versus theoretical knowledge. It makes sense. That coupled with a somewhat randomized tech tree works for me. I liked what Sword of the Stars did. Here you have all races being able to research basic tech, but as you go up a particular tree you have a percentage chance of being able to research the next item in the tree....each races percentage chance is different. So Race 1 may have a 90% chance of getting the next level in a tree, while race 2 may only have a 40% chance. So though you have a general path that works better for your race, each game is different because you might not get that whiz bang tech you depend on. I also like the idea of a series of techs that are outside a standard tree but may discovered randomly under certain conditions...kind of an unplanned breakthrough.

On combat .... I am torn. Regardless of which way you go, it has got be physics based combat where ship components, placement, and overall design become meaningful. I like the concept of Gratuitous Space Battles where you setup AI and the fleets fight it out, but it might not work well for a large scale empire game where you have tons of fleets to manage. Unless....interfaces for putting together AI 'scripts' and attaching them to ships and fleets was easy. Barring that, the turn based strategy and real time combat of Sword of the Stars is a winner in my book.

On ship design .... I love it and look for this to be a well thought out and unique experience that results in lots of meaningful variation.

While I would like to see the emphasis on ship building and combat, you might give some thought to have some rare strategic resources that are only found in certain systems and required to build certain components or perhaps even to allow discovery of certain techs.. I find many games in the genre, though they have different resource levels and possibly vary in how easy to colonize, look pretty much the same once terraformed and industrialized. I like the concept of somewhat unique systems where controlling that system .... and the SPICE it produces becomes a key system to fight over.

On officers and leaders ... They seem better suited for colony and system management than as fleet commanders. While we can all appreciate having a James T Kirk, how much impact will the man have on future space battles which will effectively be fought by computers and systems. Maybe the Fleet AI Programmer gains in level and can code more advanaced routines?

Anyway, my 2 cents...Good luck lads!
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Old October 4th, 2010, 06:25 PM

dumbluck dumbluck is offline
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Default Re: High level design thoughts

Cosian has brought up a good point. Don't be like Aaron and ship the game with only a half thought out mod as your "stock" game. A quick and dirty way to get a semi well-balanced mod might be to mimic one (or even *gasp* a FEW) of the strong mods out there right now in the SE universe. HOPEFULLY, it would just be a matter of a few quick conversions to SL's unit measurements, and a few beta tests to yield a decent "stock".

As for the leaders, that is kind of a neat idea. Don't just have Combat leaders. Have a mine boss that increases a planets resource production by a couple of %, or an Albert Einstein that boosts research on a planet by a couple of %. a few points, though.
  • A. Leaders should have a limited lifespan.

    B. Leaders that practice will gain % bonus, while leaders that don't will lose %. (Stick Albert Einstein on a research planet, and his bonus will slowly increase. stick him on a mining world, and it will slowly decrease.

    C. Leaders should spawn on planets without regard for their proficiencies. (Einstein was the son of a salesman, after all).

    D. I have no idea why A is the only item to get a bullet in this list.

I'm not personally a fan of the "rare resource" paradigm.
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Old December 15th, 2010, 12:44 AM

pydna pydna is offline
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Default Re: High level design thoughts

I've been away for a while her I am again.

I've tried to give these musings a little structure but really they are just popping out of my head.

Thinking about high game design I guess first and foremost what I like to see is there is NO perfect path to power. That is there should be multiples strategies involving economics, race design, research, military power (possibly more).

Economies - These could be a pure resource model, measured in cash resources and minerals mined. Could be an information economy, players can gain resources by trading information on other empires or technology?

Race Design - Definitely customising a players race is a must, things like Temperature, Gravity, Radiation, Atmosphere preference etc. Are important, does the race trade off research capabilities for economic growth? Or does the player go for a race that can live on a wide number of worlds but has slow population growth? The possibilities should be many but again their shouldn't be one perfect solution.

Research - I'd like to some sort of tech tree, also I'd like to tech trading between species...either through trade or conquest.

Military Combat - I think battles should not be realtime...or if they are groups of ships should be issued orders/tactics before the battle commences. Again tactics should have some bearing on the outcome of a battle.

Technology combined with tactics should give victory, but there should be some cross over. Smart tactics and average tech should be a match for dumb tactics and slightly better tech. If you want more examples I go into detail but then it wouldn't be high level.

Personally I think crew experience would count for very little in space combat, especially if your turn cycle is yearly the average crew turnover would be every 4 - 5 years. But really I don't care so long as it doesn't become a crutch for poor player tactics.

Ship Design - One my personal bugbears is classifying ships. We all fall back to wet water navy designations (I'm guilty of it too). Really, why is a destroyer called a destroyer...because wet water times it was designed for torpedo runs against Battleships. Cruisers were built to deal with the destroyers etc etc

What I would love to see is a modular system (a friend of mine and I designed one as a pen and paper test bed). But bascially each HULL is a collection of boxes the players clip together in a designer, each box can contain ship items. Obviously the more boxes you need the bigger the ships become.

It's a simple idea that could yield complex outcomes and total player flexibility, with players coming up with designs (and counter designs) that the developers didn't forsee.

Anyway enough ranting, I'm sure you guys will develop a great game. Here's hoping.
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Old December 17th, 2010, 03:01 PM
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Ed Kolis Ed Kolis is offline
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Default Re: High level design thoughts

I'll touch on ship design... Yeah, I always wanted to have a "Lego-ships" or "Tetris-ships" game, but that would probably be a bit involved for a 4X... For a tactics game along the lines of Begin, Vectac, or even Gratuitous Space Battles that would be awesome though!

What we're doing with ship design is basically a simple list of components, sort of like Space Empires IV... We MIGHT have "component layers" a la SE3; I'm not sure about that at the moment... or we might be able to implement something akin to "layers" in a more flexible way using something like SE4's mount system - say, a component with an "Exterior Mount" might have 10x the chance to be hit when the ship is damaged, while a component with a "Core Mount" might have one-tenth the normal chance, or something...

One game I really want to try sometime is Star Ruler, though... I've heard that that game has an interesting ship design system - from what I can tell, it's sort of like the "layer mount" system I described above, only instead of discrete "layers" or "mounts", you just drag the components around, and the ones in front are more likely to get hit when your ship gets hit from the front, and the ones on the outside are more likely to get hit in general, etc. Never played the game though, so I'l just guessing based on screenshots and what I've heard! But it sounds an awful lot like what SE5's system would be like if it were done RIGHT!

Oh, right, no arbitrary hullsize limits! Make a ship with 1000 missile launchers if you want - just, how are you going to move that ship around? You'll need a LOT of engines! Check out the latest beta version of Gritty Galaxy Mod for SE5 if you want to see that sort of system finagled into the mechanics of SE5 - it's made by SJ, who's one of the team members for SL

Oh, I guess one other area I could tell you about is combat... We've had all sorts of ideas about combat, but I think the one that we're sort of leaning towards is automated combat which is continuous with the normal spacetime continuum. By this I mean that battles will be autoresolved (like GSB, or multiplayer SE5) and you'll get a replay on your turn - but instead of ships being effectively "teleported to an arena" like in many other games, they actually engage in combat in the same spacetime as other objects, and if other ships happen to intercept, then they will be drawn into combat as well!

Hmm, research... We're going for a "continuous" tech tree, much along the lines of the continuous combat system. This means that instead of having "levels" of some tech, you instead just have "points accumulated", and various items like components are unlocked at various points along the way - say, Laser Guns might require 100 points into Physics, or something! The advantage here is that you can have auto-upgrading designs with formulas: if you have 150 points into Physics, then that next laser you build will be somewhat better than the laser you built when lasers were brand new, and you don't even have to "upgrade" your design to higher-level components - the game will just grab the "current" laser stats and apply them to your ship!

Trading tech is rather cheesy, at least in the minds of many of the SL developers... both from a gameplay perspective (cookie cutter empires/designs) and from a realism perspective (yeah, let's analyze that alien bugazoid thingy we've never seen before) so its effect will likely be minimized, at least in the stock game...

Well, looks like I wrote about more topics than I'd originally intended!
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Old January 5th, 2011, 01:23 PM

Skavian Skavian is offline
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Default Re: High level design thoughts


This is my first post on the forum, and I came here actually to talk specifically about this topic! I am an avid player of Dominions 3, and most strategy games, and I decided to do a search for a "Dominions 3 space game." Someone mentioned somewhere in the interwebs about Star Legacy being a project in development by Shrapnel, so I checked this discussion group out.

I have some suggestions, and I am on lunch break, so I will have to come back to this thread with an edit or a reply in a couple of hours when I have some time to compose my thoughts. I may be walking in a completely different direction than most people, but this is a wish list so I am going to do just that

Seeya all in a couple of hours!
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Old January 5th, 2011, 04:15 PM

Skavian Skavian is offline
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Default Re: High level design thoughts

So, in reference to my post above, here is my actual post with actual thoughts!

Space fiction vs. space science
I haven't seen many games in the vein of Emperor of the Fading Suns in quite some time. Maybe I'm ignorant of the games out there like it, but for those of you who aren't aware EoFS is a PC strategy game from the 90's. It has a bizarre baroque and dark-aged flavored sci-fi setting, and was nominally about playing a faction in a shattered empire seeking to control a galactic throne. I see this more as a "space fiction" game based on the flavor and tone, whereas most games I have played recently (and this is just my feeling) tend to be more "space science." There is more focus on ship building, and less about the flavor of the universe.

I've played Sword of the Stars, Space Empires, Armada, Hegemonia, Galactic Civ 2, MOO2, Homeworld series, Gratuitous Space Battles and even Sins of a Solar Empire and I think by and large a lot of them have some focus more on building large fleets, sliding sliders around for perfect economies on mostly cut and copy worlds, and usually have some sort of combat system simulating realistic space battles. Not all of them have it, but there is a general theme around those things. There are elements of all of these games I like, but I started to think about what I wanted in a game derived from Dominions 3. I want the fiction. Dominions 3 is wildly creative and I am hoping for a space themed game very similar to it. The idea of creating a race and developing some sort of customized planetary theme is vastly interesting, and less so than landing on some "suitable habitable" planet just to have another place to build more ships or crank research. I am unaware, as of yet, of a sci-fi strategy game that does just that, but there are a fair number of fantasy themed games that handle it more intensely.

Stylistics are a big thing I think with a game, especially sci-fi. I think offering different looks and flavors would be a huge bonus to the game's appeal. Most space games tend to have an almost cookie-cutter modern sci-fi look to them, but I enjoy the mixture of Gothic architecture with space ships, or perhaps a sleek retro-Golden Age rocket feel. That is part of that fiction element that I mentioned. I tend to play a game like Dominions 3 because of the ridiculous stories that come with creating a god and slotting him into a race. It's much more of an "RPG" take to things, but with a larger than life scaling that you just don't get with an RPG. If a space game worked in those elements I think it would be really unique in the milieu of 4X's.

The above being said as to the stylistic elements that are interesting, combat is the next big thing. I would say that out of the games I've played, Hegemonia was the most interesting. The development of crew, the hiring of special characters to man the ships, and the targetable areas of the ship were all pretty fascinating. I prefer turn-based over RTS, and I think Dominions 3 is a pretty good model for where a space based game could go. Setting up your fleets intimately might be more interesting in a space game provided there is not a unit overload. I am in favor of fewer ships, but the mention of scalability is appropriate I think, with possibly massive space battles and intimate smaller ones represented in the game. I'll branch out to something like the Warhammer 40K universe with its massive Gothic battleships when I think of the sort of combat that would be interesting. To have titanic battleships with hundreds of thousands of people on them floating about doing port side barrages: that's interesting stuff I think.

Then there's another portion that often gets left out: planetary invasions. To have the invasions actually play a factor in the combat system would be pretty fun as well. Maybe you play a race that specializes in guerilla take-overs of planets, sneaking a ship onto the surface so that commandos can run wild. Or maybe you're just about brute force, or incredible defense on a barricaded planet. Planetary combat should be interesting, involved, and as much of a part of the game as anything else. Maybe it could even take into account that worlds are big places and that a planet could have more than one faction on it battling it out on different continents (assuming there are only so many habitable worlds out there, therefore making every habitable planet a thing to covet).

Hope this was helpful, and maybe could offer some additional perspective! Excited to see what comes of this in any case since I love Shrapnel Games
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Old January 7th, 2011, 12:21 PM

MarcoPolo MarcoPolo is offline
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Default Re: High level design thoughts

Very well said sir, I think you are onto something by mentioning more attention to the fiction and resilience of a good story as well as an RPG element to the game universe.

I too am not swayed so heavily into playing cookie cutter 4X space games. They all seem so tedious in the long run. There is no real purpose to any of it after a while. And you nailed it with your description of cut and paste worlds. I am a big supporter of having each world quite unique in its own right, a world can share many similarities to others, but must have some uniqueness in order for a player not to become bored. My suggestion is to offer a multi-tiered system of planet resources, some being uniquely able to be utilised by certain races. There needs to be alot of flavour text style descriptions to each planet... maybe a little history on each system to get the player inspired to discovering more worlds in the Star Legacy Universe.

Ultimately I am still hoping for an extensive solar system UI, that makes just looking at your empire a wholly immersive and satisfying experience. I liked Hegemonia's way of displaying worlds... I think Armada was very lazy in this regard. And Sins just focuses on combat, so its not a good example either.

To have worlds that have realistic star classifications and orbits, has not been done properly since God knows when. Even Spore is a poor mans version, of what could be. I think so far Nexus Jupiter Incident offers the most accurate stellar and planet cartology. For now I wait with bated breath for the next Sword of the Stars, which boasts extensive solar system terrain for micromanagement and waging interesting battles in.
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Old February 26th, 2011, 01:16 PM

klausD klausD is offline
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Default Re: High level design thoughts

I agree, Empire of the Fading Suns was one of the greatest Wargames ever on the PC along with Moo2 and SEIV.

It had the focus on planetary developement AND planetary combat, while space combat was just abstract. And it had absolutely no real time element which I prefer. I am wondering why noone has programmed a modern remake of this cult game.

Regarding using "naval classes" (destroyer, frigate etc., intestingly the designer only use the names to differentiate sizes, but not the operational task of these naval classes. It would be interesting to see a game where destroyers are built to attack the space equivalent of a submarine and escorts are really built to protect space freighters) instead of just a sandbox construction system with unlimited hulls, I would prefer the latter. In contrary to some opinions here, I dont think that such a construction system is "too much" for a 4x game. Its quite the opposite. 4x games are the only games which unlimited hull construction instead of the old boring naval classes would be a great enhancement. IMO, the greater problem is to develope good game rules for such a modular high end system and maybe this is the real reason why noone dares to bother with it.

While the majority of resources in capital and manpower concentrates on programming the game (and grafics), IMO only a small part of the resources are used for developing and playtesting good game rules. In most boardgames good, elegant rules are a must. Not so in the world of computer games. Only very few PC games are good enough to be convincing in programming AND game rule design. EotfS was definately one of them.

ATM I am not very convinced of the "Star Legacy" game project. IMO there are too many people involved in the creation which dont mind producing a RT game, pausable RT game or one of those boring "battle watching" pseudo-games like "Gratitious Space..." whatever. (if I want to observe a space battle I am watching Babylon 5) Instead of concentrating to recreate classical true mechanism like those we find in SEIV and MOO2, GC2 or CIV, we probably will see another clone of the newer generation of so called "4x games" like Sword of the Stars, SEV, Distant Worlds, Armada 2526 or another one of those uninspiring turnbased/realtime hybrids.

Last edited by klausD; February 26th, 2011 at 01:30 PM..
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Old May 1st, 2011, 06:57 PM

MattII MattII is offline
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Default Re: High level design thoughts

New poster here (lorq13 pointed me onto this place), and I have to say that some of there ideas are rather interesting, particularly the stuff about technology. Now I have a few ideas of my own regarding technology:
In most games, the price-per-level of a technology increases as the level does, but this runs contrary to how life actually works, so what I'd like to see is that various technologies start off expensive, but get cheaper with each level, maybe a 20% price drop for easy 10% for medium, and no drop for hard.
Now I can't say I like tech-levels overmuch, but they are convenient. Now the issue here is that in most games levels have set costs, which I also don't like, so I'd like to propose that we ditch fixed levels and come up with a sort of chance thing, where you can see the resources you need to give for a 50% chance of getting the next level, but you can invest as little or as much as you want, with the chances being:
- less than the 50% price - 0.5*3)(x^2) [half the 3rd root of the square of the value]
- more than the 50% price - 1-0.5*3)((1/x)^2) [1 less half the 3rd root of the inverse-square of the value]
This gives a ~19.8% chance for an input of 1/4 the 50% value, a ~31.4% chance for an input of half the 50% value, a ~68.5% chance for an input of twice the 50% value, and an ~80.2% chance for an input of 4 times the 50% value.
There'd also have to be a per-unrequited-turn method of shortening the odds, but I'm not sure how to go about that yet.
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