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4 X Economy & Layers


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#1 Orymus3   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 6821

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Posted 17 November 2012 - 01:19 PM

Hi,

I'm currently in the process of designing my own 4X game (Galciv, Master of Orion series, etc).
The end product is to encompass more logistic than warfare, and as a result, I'm faced with the concept of what kind of economy I want to lay down, and how complex it should be.

I've already discarded all abstracted models (Galciv and Master of Orion for example) because they do not emphasize enough on micro-management of resources. I've been looking at a few examples such as Star Knights, and of course, VGA Planets.


VGA PLANETS
On the one hand, VGA Planets uses a very simplistic system based on 4 resources. You mine planets dry, carry the resources you need to your base, and build the components you need.
The resources are as follows:
Neutronium - Fuel (a consumable resource you load onto constructed ship to travel distances).
Tritanium - Mineral employed to build most ships
Duranium - Mineral employed in armors (armored ships) and starbase construction
Molybdenum - Rare superconductive mineral employed for high power / high tech component. Generally speaking, the higher tech the component is, the more Molybdenum it requires, in which case it essentially plays the same role as the Vespene gas in Starcraft.

The idea is that, in varying degrees, you need all of these for your empire to run, and you should avoid a shortage of any given mineral, or else, risk annihilation. In fact, if you're out of Tritanium for instance, it might actually be worthwhile to colonize an otherwise worthless planet that has 'scarce and rare amounts of Tritanium'. It could, in the end, give you that one shipment you need to complete the construction of a large freighter and continue your expanse to the next 'gold mine' planet.

The Pro here is that its relatively easy to manage: you need all of them, the more the better. When you see a number going down, you just keep on the lookout for that specific resource and shift your attention to planets that could give a better output of that resource and invest your supplies there to build more mines. Straightforward and simple.

The Con here is that resources matter more or less. Fuel certainly does, but everything else if a bit bland. Also, it assumes that once you've unearthed the minerals, they are instantly refined and usable. I feel it really takes one layer away from the importance of a strong economy. You essentially have two types of planets: colonies that serve as mining operations, and colonies that serve as 'assembling stations' where you turn these minerals into ships, fully equiped with top of the notch equipment.
This gives the player little reason to spread out or invest massively on the outskirts of his empire unless there is a very rich planet.

While it *works* I feel there is something missing. If you look at VGA Planet 4 (which I haven't played) I know they've brought the idea of refining the minerals. For example, you mine 'ores' which you need to process to actual minerals and then use. It only adds a linear layer (Duranium ore becomes Duranium mineral) but it feels like it adds a little depht. Depending on how this is achieve, you could have planets that specialize into being 'refineries'. Say you've colonized a cluster of 9 planets, there could be 8 mining operations, and one central refinery. Small freighters would bring resources from the mines to the refinery, and a larger freighter would make a convoy to your base. This adds a bit more depth, but it doesn't change the relationship the player has with each mineral type.

STAR KNIGHTS
Star Knights is an altogether different story.
It uses a system where resources are gathered, and then mixed-and-matched into various second-level resources, which in turn are used to produce components, which are part of ship-building.

Here is the breakdown of the resources:
GE Oxide
AI Oxide
Iron
Titanium
Coal
Silicon
Germanium
Gold
Pretroleum
Uranium
Hydrogen

Each of these resources can only be found on certain planet types (iron is generally common to nearly all types, but wetlands are primary sources of GE and AI Oxide, whereas Rock planets are good for gold, etc).
This first layer already forces the player to control different planets, not based on their inherent richness, but on the resources they can produce.

Through various means, the player is able to use the previous resources to assemble into other resources which are generally not naturally found on a planet:

Steel (Iron+Coal assembled at a Foundry with energy)
Aluminum (AI Oxide processed at an electrolysisPlant with a lot of energy)
Germanium (GE Oxide processed at an electrolysis Plant with a lot of energy)
Advanced Chip (Silicon, Germanium, Gold & Energy at an Electronic Plant)
Carbon Fiber (Coal, at a chemistry plant, with some energy)
Electronic Chip (Silicon + Gold with energy at an electronic plant)
Polymer (with Petroleum at a chemistry plant)
Explosives (with Petroleum at a chemistry plant)
Plutonium (using Uranium at a nuclear plant)
SupraConductor (using Titanium and Iron at a Foundry with a lot of energy)

Then, pushing this even further, it is possible to assemble other resources from the previous:

Buiding Structures units (Steel + Aluminum at a Factory)
Ship Structures units (Advanced chips + aluminum + Carbon fiber at a factory)
Component Structures (Carbon Fiber + Electronic Chips at a Factory)
Nanostructures (Polymer at a XMatter Lab)
Powercell (Polymer + Plutonium at an electronic plant)
Anti-matter (Hydrogen at an XMatter Lab)
Magnetic Cell (Supraconductor at an XMatter Lab)

and these components are then used to produce actual ship parts such as follows:
Magnetic cells are used in warpdrives
Anti-matter is used in shields
Power-cells are used in drives
Nanostructures and explosives in missiles
Crystal and diamond is used in lasers
ETC


The economy is thus core to this game. It is actually impossible to expand your fleet without controlling at least a dozen well developed planets, and the delivery of components across all planets can become a pain, but it IS fun, if not perhaps a bit too limiting.

The PRO here is that it adds for a layered economy, not only because you need all the resources, but because not every factory type can be built anywhere. You end up having many planets, of different types, scattered across the universe, just so you can supply your factories will all of the necessary components. The thought pattern for problem solving is actually straightforwards: If I'm lacking Component Structures to do what I want, then I need to look at a planet that produces Component structures and see why. Then I will see there may be a shortage of Carbon fiber. So I need to check places that are set to build carbon fibers, and see whether the problem is that I don't have enough places building carbon fibers, or if there is a shortage down below.
As Carbon fiber production depends solely on Coal and the amount of chemistry plant used to produce it, it can be either that I don't have enough coal-producing planets, or too few chemistry labs producing carbon fiber, etc. The end-result is generally fairly simple: I need a desert planet (a planet type generally rich in coal) is a very simple answer to an otherwise complex problem.

The CON here is that this system feels A - too complex and B - too artificial
A - While it is straightforward to identify the problem, it takes time, and you can't help but feel this system could've been simplified.
B - While the need for 'a desert planet' feels straightforwards, it eliminates the 'omphf' moment when scanning a planet for mineral and realizing this planet solves you problem. It also insures some combinations will never happen: I'll never luckily stumble on a planet that could, theoretically, produce carbon fiber on its own (have coal, ability to build a chemistry plant, etc). It takes away from the player's choice because of issue A.

---

What I'm looking is for a way to be in-between, that is, take advantage of a layered economy, but without it becoming too complex that I need to set arbitrary rules for the players not to get lost.

How many 'basic resources' and 'secondary' resources should there be before actually building components and ship hulls? I'm really looking for numbers/boundaries here so I can better adjust this design to a level that its both interesting but still fun and opened to creativity.
For flavor purposes, the idea of 'refining' appears to me less interesting than the idea of mixing resources to form 2nd level resources which resonate more with their purpose.

Thanks for reading this far if you did!

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#2 Tiblanc   Members   -  Reputation: 556

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Posted 17 November 2012 - 04:07 PM

I would go with quality levels. There would be few resources types, but they would have sub types. For example, Electronics would be a type with silicon chips and superconductors being sub types. When building something, you can use any sub type for a given category. Building a ship could require Metals, Electronics and Fuel. You could build a ship with Steel, Silicon chips and Petroleum or go with Titanium, Superconductors and Elerium. You could also mix and match quality levels.

The point here is to allow different strategies to emerge. The 2 main types are quality and quantity. Depending on the availability of raw materials, you could adapt your economy to optimize your output. If raw materials are abundant, going with a quantity strategy is optimal because it allows you to field more ships in a given amount of time. As materials get rare, it becomes better to invest time to turn them into higher quality components. One key aspect is to allow any sub type to become any other sub type. A low quality iron ore could be worked into a high quality armor, but would require much more time and energy than if you started with a high quality metal.

The advantage is you cannot lack any key resources so economics work at small and large scales.
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#3 Waterlimon   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 2416

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Posted 17 November 2012 - 04:18 PM

If you have a bigset of buildings some resources need to go through to become something like a ship engine, you could provide buildings or areas where there are multiple buildings, so the player can build an "engine building complex" or something instead of a huge array of various buildings.

Doing it manually should of course allow for more efficient design and all.

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#4 BRRGames   Members   -  Reputation: 235

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Posted 17 November 2012 - 04:19 PM

What I'm hearing from you (please correct me if I'm wrong) is to keep the complexity of the raw materials (ie: the requirement for mining planets) and also the complexity of the assembly (ie: requiring a number of components for assembly) whilst doing away with the complexity of the production chain and its inherent logistics issues.

May I suggest abstracting the production chain then?

Maybe you can do away with the need for specific refining planets and just abstract to an overall "empire industrial capacity". So your mining planets stay as is. You colonise a planet with resources, and setup mining facilities. Your assembly planets stay as is. You colonise a planet a setup assembly plants (such as shipyards, construction yards etc). Then at the Empire level have a single industrial capacity. Have your assembly planets able to build the various refineries, and they go into a central Empire pool which is able to refine that resource from any location in the Empire. Then your assembly plants just take the components from the central pool.

What this does is it eliminates that entire layer of shipping materials between various planets on their journey through the production chains, whilst keeping the complexity of colonising and protecting resource planets.

If I can direct your attention to the following screenshot which shows how the Imperialism series (from the 90's) did it:
Posted Image

And I have to admit, it abstracted this well and it really provided for the game. On the question of internal trade and piracy, the game abstracted this level too and you had a central pool of transport ships. As you as you had more transport slots than resources, you had access to the full resource amount. If there was less, you would have to choose which resources were transported, and which were not (see screenshot below). You didn't need to transport refined materials (such as steel). Pirates could blockade your on-map ports (you could have it at the system level) and there was a chance they would intercept those resources. You'd have to send in troops to dislodge the pirates (or enemy ships if at war and they blockaded you). The whole game became a battle between transporting resources from the New World to help industrialise your nation so you could build the ships and troops necessary to defend those resources and expand.

Screenshot showing allocation of transport ships to resources:
Posted Image

#5 TechnoGoth   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 2621

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Posted 17 November 2012 - 07:19 PM

Personally I've never been interested in managing basic resources, especially if I have a couple dozen planets and colonies to control.

What I do think would be really interested is adding rare materials into a 4x game. These rare materials would impact research and ship equipment. For instance using SG-1 as an example lets say you find a a planet with a rare element called Nequdria. Now once you find that you can research Nequdria based hyper drives which then allow you to build hyper drives for your ships that are 1/4 of the normal sizes but require Nequdria. These smaller drivers now give you a tactical advantage over other players who don't have access to Nequdria. The down side being though depending on extraction facilities you only produce 1 ton of Nequdria a turn just enough to build 1 hyper drive. So your fleet construction is limited so you might only use it for the top of the range ships or just limit yourself to 1 ship a turn. It provides new strategic options as well as now it make sense to setup colonies on less useful and more remote worlds. It might be worth building a mining base on a distant planet just to get access to a second source of Nequdria. It also means other players can better plan their attacks by targeting worlds that provide key resources to cripple opponents. Especially if the player never develops non-Nequdria based hyperdrives.

You could even if you wanted make some rare resources have limited amounts on a planet. For instance lets say you addict to you race to rare fungus that makes them completely happy and more productive. But your home world only has enough bliss fungus to last 50 more turns if you don't find another source by then it will riots and anarchy across the empire.

This way the players basic resource management is focuses on the standard production, income, research, food. Plus you have complex higher level resource management, which can tie into all aspects of the game. After all he who controls the spice controls the universe.

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#6 Orymus3   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 6821

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Posted 17 November 2012 - 08:19 PM

@Tiblanc: Your idea could do, but I really want to emphasize shortage and its effect on the game. One of the reasons for this is that I believe a 4X game may tend to go on forever. If you deal a crippling blow to your enemy's economy (by, say, disallowing him permanent or temporary access to ability to produce shields or beam weaponry for example) it should lead to a downfall of that player and shorten the game. Always having alternatives just makes it artificially longer with comebacks, etc. I think keeping it more finite and black&white makes it easier to see the danger of space and plan accordingly. As a result, a player using a single base to mine a specific good will FEEL vulnerable, and so should he.

If you have a bigset of buildings some resources need to go through to become something like a ship engine, you could provide buildings or areas where there are multiple buildings, so the player can build an "engine building complex" or something instead of a huge array of various buildings.

I';m not sure I understand, but that's what I feel I'm rolling with. There would be only few buildings in total, but they would have production queue options. The Armory, for example, could produce pretty much any type of weapon, but if you plan on producing a larger fleet, you'll need to have more than one Armory, and its requirements in terms of power would be so high that you'd need to build the other one offsite (on another planet).

What I'm hearing from you (please correct me if I'm wrong) is to keep the complexity of the raw materials (ie: the requirement for mining planets) and also the complexity of the assembly (ie: requiring a number of components for assembly) whilst doing away with the complexity of the production chain and its inherent logistics issues.

Not quite. I do want to keep the complexity of raw materials, and I do want the complexity of the production chain and its inherent logistics issues. What I want to avoid is to have too many components that feel too narrow and reduce player decisions. I felt like Star Knights had probably one too many layers in their economy:
Layer 1 - Core Resources (Gold, Iron, etc)
Layer 2 - Secondary Resources (Aluminum, Steel)
Layer 3 - Tertiary Resources {With use} (Structure component, ship component)
Layer 4 - Ship components (Laser Array, missile launcher, cargo pod, etc).

I feel like Layer 3 and 4 should be merged. Layers 1 and 2 had too many different products and it quickly became hard to have an understanding of the general economy.
I would cut on materials found in layer 1 (I'm currently messing around with 5 of them only, and see what interesting combos I can mix up for layer 2).
Layer 3 should really be usable items that result in something that is no longer a resource. So, for example, a ship's Beam Canon should be made from components of the layer 2. As a layer 3 resource, it is loaded in a ship design as its weapon. It is no longer considered a resource. Likewise, a construction unit would be consumed to build a new mine, but it wouldn't be transformed into a new resource. Everything that is in layer 3 has a finite use.

What I do think would be really interested is adding rare materials into a 4x game. These rare materials would impact research and ship equipment. For instance using SG-1 as an example lets say you find a a planet with a rare element called Nequdria.

Star Knights does use that. Crystals are a natural-occuring resource you will find on the surface of some planets you explore. Rarely in amounts larger than 5, they can be picked up, but there's simply no harvesting them. High-tech weaponry relies on the use of crystals, so the more you 'find' the better (there's no real other way to acquire them, except when trading with other players through the stock market, but they, too, need to have found it). It brought that sense of rarity. I like how it allows a player to build a 'superior' component in a way that having the largest empire in the world wouldn't buy. If you're lucky, or out-manoeuvre your opponents, you can have a small empire, but defend it with sheer might. It will take larger numbers to overcome ships using crystals, and thus it encourages exploration of faraway lands.

Your concept seems to imply the planet would have this resource as something that can be mined, but at an extreme low efficiency. VGA Planets did that generally with Molybdenum. This was a rare resource, and most of the time, it was 'scattered' (this heavily reduce the rate at which it was harvested) and rare (which reduced the maximum amount of resource you could harvest from the planet in total). Better techs (tech 6+) would have large molybdenum costs, which often meant that you'd value quantity over quality and go with lower techs on more ships. This allowed you to cover more ground, thus, be on the offensive most of the time, but an enemy with a tech 9-10 arsenal would wreck your ships if they attacked, thus you'd be left picking at their undefended planets.

So your idea has put in light that my current intentions are a bit flawed. I have, all things considered, no 'vespene gas' equivalent (high-tier resource).
My initial approach was to specialize each resource in a given field. For example, energy and beam-weaponry are produced through crystalline resources. Missiles through radioactives. I have no 'rare resource' whose sole purpose is to be rare and be a means to empower a tech. Thanks for putting that in light!

#7 BRRGames   Members   -  Reputation: 235

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Posted 17 November 2012 - 10:50 PM

@Orymus3

Ahhh gotcha. If it's just the number of levels in the production chain, you could drop it back to three. In fact, some resources don't even need to be three. There's no rule saying each resource needs to go through those number of steps.

I would say that something needs to be pretty special to have four steps. Maybe only the highest level of ship or defensive space station requires four levels. That way it feels more special as you've put more work into building it. Thus, those two things have been raised in value above the normal stuff.

Edited by BRRGames, 17 November 2012 - 10:53 PM.


#8 Waterlimon   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 2416

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Posted 18 November 2012 - 05:13 AM

I meant that, have a complex economy with a long chain of buildings you need to transform your metal ores and gases into space ship modules.

Now, allow the player to build those buildings individually (perhaps have the buildings be modules, and allow installing those modules on spaceships? would be cool.) which allows optimizing it. But, also add some pre-designed module combinations or something, which contain all the buildings required to transform your ores and gases into something usable.

eg.
Pros would do it 1 by 1, placing every building optimally without any overcapacity.
ores->metals->primitive components->components->module

Not-so-pros would construct a combined module (i dont know, industry module, ______ complex?)
ores->______complex->module


So you have the complex industry, and allow the player to make a complex network with complex logistics to make it as efficient as possible. But, you also have these "pre-designed" setups which you can build to get access to some collection of high-level objects by throwing in a bunch of resources.

Perhaps even allow the players define their own "pre-designed" factory complexes to make them more efficient than the ones provided.

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#9 TechnoGoth   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 2621

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Posted 18 November 2012 - 06:11 AM


What I do think would be really interested is adding rare materials into a 4x game. These rare materials would impact research and ship equipment. For instance using SG-1 as an example lets say you find a a planet with a rare element called Nequdria.

Star Knights does use that. Crystals are a natural-occuring resource you will find on the surface of some planets you explore. Rarely in amounts larger than 5, they can be picked up, but there's simply no harvesting them. High-tech weaponry relies on the use of crystals, so the more you 'find' the better (there's no real other way to acquire them, except when trading with other players through the stock market, but they, too, need to have found it). It brought that sense of rarity. I like how it allows a player to build a 'superior' component in a way that having the largest empire in the world wouldn't buy. If you're lucky, or out-manoeuvre your opponents, you can have a small empire, but defend it with sheer might. It will take larger numbers to overcome ships using crystals, and thus it encourages exploration of faraway lands.

Your concept seems to imply the planet would have this resource as something that can be mined, but at an extreme low efficiency. VGA Planets did that generally with Molybdenum. This was a rare resource, and most of the time, it was 'scattered' (this heavily reduce the rate at which it was harvested) and rare (which reduced the maximum amount of resource you could harvest from the planet in total). Better techs (tech 6+) would have large molybdenum costs, which often meant that you'd value quantity over quality and go with lower techs on more ships. This allowed you to cover more ground, thus, be on the offensive most of the time, but an enemy with a tech 9-10 arsenal would wreck your ships if they attacked, thus you'd be left picking at their undefended planets.

So your idea has put in light that my current intentions are a bit flawed. I have, all things considered, no 'vespene gas' equivalent (high-tier resource).
My initial approach was to specialize each resource in a given field. For example, energy and beam-weaponry are produced through crystalline resources. Missiles through radioactives. I have no 'rare resource' whose sole purpose is to be rare and be a means to empower a tech. Thanks for putting that in light!



I was actually thinking something different what I was thinking that each planet would have say a 10% chance of having a rare resource on it. Most planets wouldn't have any. Rare resources would allow you earlier access to substantially better equipment. So getting access to Nequadria would allow you to build the equivalent of a level 5 hyper drives without the need to even research level 1 hyper drives. You can then continue to research Nequadria based hyper drives to get better and better hyper drives all of which require Nequadria to build. However if you lose access to Nequadria or use all your reserves then you'd have to start research of level 1 basic hyper drives to be able to build any more ships, and those new ships would be significantly less effective then your current fleet. Or seek new sources of Nequadria.

So rather then having higher tier ships require a more rare substance then lower tier ships. What I was thinking of was having rare substances be important strategic assets.

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#10 Acharis   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 3398

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Posted 18 November 2012 - 06:15 AM

Deadlock 2 had a nice quality system. There was iron, steel alloy, elernium (or whatever it was called), elernium allow. These all were the same "metal", you could just use iron all the time, no problem. But higher tier metals were worth more (you could refine iron into steel wich was worth 3 "metal points" as compared to "1 metal point" of iron). The game automaticly used up the highest (most efficient) metal type upon construction. So it was benefitial to make the higher tier metals, but if you forgot there was no problem in the form of stopped production.

As for logistics, I already said why I dislike it in other topic, so I will just add to my thoughts. I like the complex layered production mechanics, I loathe micromanaging every single ship that carry supply of toilet paper to a distant colony of my empire (it's not worthy of my position of the emperor you know :D). So I thought about fully automatic AI controled logistics. Something like Settlers had. You had to build the network (roads), you had to build supply depts (warehouses) and allocate enough resources for freighters (people that carry stuff). It was very interesting because you had to think about logistics in Settlers all the time, and the resources are comlex, yet you had never, ever, manually adjust the logistics (it's a system with heavily impotrant and complex logistics and zero logistics micromanagement, a very unique (and fun) combination).
I was thinking maybe like that. You define sectors (groups of planets) then assign transport ships to the sector (freighers, fuel carriers, passenger liners) and the AI had to manage these. You can see these routes, where each ship go to, what it carries, etc. But you can't change it. You can only adjust global, empire wide, priorities (what to carry first) and decide which sector (or to be more precise a local AI transport company :D) gets how many freighters. I think I would find it quite fun.

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#11 Tiblanc   Members   -  Reputation: 556

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Posted 18 November 2012 - 06:44 AM

@Tiblanc: Your idea could do, but I really want to emphasize shortage and its effect on the game. One of the reasons for this is that I believe a 4X game may tend to go on forever. If you deal a crippling blow to your enemy's economy (by, say, disallowing him permanent or temporary access to ability to produce shields or beam weaponry for example) it should lead to a downfall of that player and shorten the game. Always having alternatives just makes it artificially longer with comebacks, etc. I think keeping it more finite and black&white makes it easier to see the danger of space and plan accordingly. As a result, a player using a single base to mine a specific good will FEEL vulnerable, and so should he.


They would feel vulnerable. If all you do is mine low quality materials, you will get crushed by high tech ships because they can produce them more efficiently. You can still cripple another player by raiding his high quality mines. The difference is you cannot kill a player by capturing a single key planet.
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#12 Orymus3   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 6821

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Posted 18 November 2012 - 02:47 PM

There's no rule saying each resource needs to go through those number of steps.

There isn't, but its simpler to process from the player's perspective if there is a workflow they can relate to.
The idea of having each finite resource as a layer 3 resource is mostly so that a complex economy is easier to understand.
If building a component would require resources from each layer, it would quickly become overwhelming.
The human mind can process up to 7 items in parallel in their memory, so while having 3 layers will clearly exceed 7 different items, if each layer has 7 or fewer items, they can 'set' their minds for a specific task and refer to that specific layer and quickly grasp it all.
Thus, I would refrain from using different layers for the same tasks (building a component for example).

perhaps have the buildings be modules, and allow installing those modules on spaceships? would be cool.)

already part of the plan 'sort-of' for some ships/starbases.
I'm not sure I understood your suggestion overall though. Could you examplify through visual support?

So rather then having higher tier ships require a more rare substance then lower tier ships. What I was thinking of was having rare substances be important strategic assets.

Food for thought. I don't have an immediate feedback for that, but I'll keep that in mind, thanks.

Deadlock 2 had a nice quality system. There was iron, steel alloy, elernium (or whatever it was called), elernium allow. These all were the same "metal", you could just use iron all the time, no problem. But higher tier metals were worth more (you could refine iron into steel wich was worth 3 "metal points" as compared to "1 metal point" of iron). The game automaticly used up the highest (most efficient) metal type upon construction. So it was benefitial to make the higher tier metals, but if you forgot there was no problem in the form of stopped production.

I've actually considered having each resource break down into two different variants. The 'abundant/cheat' one and the 'rare/high quality' one. If you built with the best one, you have better component properties, etc. Here, what you are suggesting is that both of these would do exactly the same, but the yield from 1 'high quality' would be equal to 3 times the yield of a cheap one. It feels a lot like the high-yield minerals in Starcraft 2 right?
I'm trying to understand the proper advantages of such a system. Once I discover a planet, I would, of course, go for the high yield if its available. There wouldn't be any means for me, as a designer, to insure that these planets are always on the battlefront and are harder to defend, therefore, I don't see the risk-management aspect. Perhaps I'm missing something?

As for logistics, I already said why I dislike it in other topic, so I will just add to my thoughts. I like the complex layered production mechanics, I loathe micromanaging every single ship that carry supply of toilet paper to a distant colony of my empire (it's not worthy of my position of the emperor you know ). So I thought about fully automatic AI controled logistics. Something like Settlers had. You had to build the network (roads), you had to build supply depts (warehouses) and allocate enough resources for freighters (people that carry stuff). It was very interesting because you had to think about logistics in Settlers all the time, and the resources are comlex, yet you had never, ever, manually adjust the logistics (it's a system with heavily impotrant and complex logistics and zero logistics micromanagement, a very unique (and fun) combination).

I'm not formally opposed to simplifying this, but I have a few needs I want to cover.
Most games that deal with automated freighters are hard to understand, and more often than not, you just have to build more freighters until you have too many and everything is accounted for.
Also, I want freighters to consume fuel, as other ships do, so that an empire without fuel simply cannot survive. It is the thirst for fuel (much like petroleum on earth) that forces you out of your well-developed planet onto the unknown. It is necessary for everything, thus you 'always' need more. If you could just send 1 explorer, colonize many planets, and freight all the fuel back home, it wouldn't make sense.
Star Knights and MOO series have poor freighter systems.
I like where you're headed with roads and whatnot, but this is space, and well, roads aren't quite possible. I can think of ways to achieve this, such as starports, warpgates, etc.
Lastly, you need to understand how to assign 'needs' to each planets, an export/import system that makes sense. If Planet A needs good 'x', it needs to know from which planet (B) it will get it, and why. Is it because it is the closest 'exporting' planet?
Manual control helps to optimize this process, because you know more about each planet's role in your empire than an AI ever could. I have yet to see a 4X game that comes even close to doing this right. Because I couldn't figure out a better way, I've decide to do it manually.
The other main reason why I like it to be manual is that it doen't make an artificial line between freighters and ships. You *could* theoretically use a warship to move goods. The goods would be more protected. Or you could send warship escorts with your freighters, etc. Also, you could use your freighters for something else. Moving them to fetch fuel, or carry supplies as a support ship for your warfleet. There are a number of new strategies that emanate from having freighters as 'normal ships'.
Also, if the freighters are large enough, the micro-management isn't so bad: you can send 1 freighter every 10 turns with a massive shipment of goods.
If you see any other way to go about it, I'm all ears!

I was thinking maybe like that. You define sectors (groups of planets) then assign transport ships to the sector (freighers, fuel carriers, passenger liners) and the AI had to manage these. You can see these routes, where each ship go to, what it carries, etc. But you can't change it. You can only adjust global, empire wide, priorities (what to carry first) and decide which sector (or to be more precise a local AI transport company ) gets how many freighters. I think I would find it quite fun.

Fun, but you couldn't micro-manage when necessary. If you see your freighter line will get intercepted, you need to move to the closest planet you can and wait for reinforcements. This is part of strategy, and this simplified system really takes away. In the end, your opponent isn't playing you, he's playing the poor AI of the game, and this hurts.
As a reference, imagine in Starcraft: the game would really get boring if you have to manually control each harvester independantly (and I fully agree). But imagine if you could no longer control them when they are harvesting, and they get under attack. A good SC player knows when to move harvesters, and where to move them. He knows when to use them as meatshield, (or in the case of scv, as repairmen). The 'economic' units of good games tend to have a lot of strategies built around them. If you automate freighters, you lose that ability.
Further expanding on starcraft 2: when I was playing actively, I was a diamond level player (top tier). This is a decent level to be at competitively, yet, this isn't master or grandmaster league. I've raked a lot of wins as a Protoss by doing early pushes with Zealots (a lot of players did). Often, the enemy could repel that, but you just had to realize that if you had added 1 additional PROBE to the forward push, you could get away with an easy win. I've done that, a lot of pros have as well. Its just one example where creative use of economical units matters. I guess that's also why I'm hellbent on having freighters behave like normal ships.

They would feel vulnerable. If all you do is mine low quality materials, you will get crushed by high tech ships because they can produce them more efficiently. You can still cripple another player by raiding his high quality mines. The difference is you cannot kill a player by capturing a single key planet.

I would tend to agree, and though the victory is inevitable, it leaves you hoping. One of my main concern with Galactic Civilization is that it allowed this to happen, and it was the most unfun situation I've seen in any 4x games. With a tech tree so vast, you could reach a point in a game where there was no way you could win whatever you did, whichever winning condition you were aiming for, but the game wouldn't let you know that until 10-20 turns later. The aftertaste of that was so bitter that it felt like an utter waste of time. It was frustrating. The opposite also happened a lot: you got simply stronger than everyone else, that one of your ships could probably annihilate all other warfleets in combat without taking a single hit. Yet, the game allowed you to expand at will and play sim city.
I want an environment that's thoroghly balances, where its hard to gain any form of an advantage. Ships, themselves, won't overpower each other that much. It is the resources you have under your control that determines whether you can rebuild a fleet and continue waging war. So if your opponent's strategy is superior (he has intelligence that confirms capturing planet X would cripple your ability to stay in the fight) then so be it, even if his fleet is largely inferior. This means he's taken advantage of the knowledge he has to even the scores. Besides, if you have a 'rich planet' you should definitely put it out of reach. Building starbases on the fore-front is a risk: it can allow your reinforcements to jump straight into the fray and sustain a military push, but it can also be your downfall if its overrun. Think about the Death Star's destruction in Star Wars, and imagine how the empire can recover from that.
Yet, like I said, it shouldn't all be decided on a single planet. Otherwise, this means your are a bad strategist with a poor economy. You need to stretch your empire deep, and then choose the planets you will develop. Sometimes, it means neglecting a faraway rich planet just because it is not within your real area of influence, too far off to really contribute to your economy substancially: it requires more military forces to keep within your area of influence than the resources it yields. That, too, is recognizing good strategy.

#13 Acharis   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 3398

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Posted 18 November 2012 - 03:20 PM

I've actually considered having each resource break down into two different variants. The 'abundant/cheat' one and the 'rare/high quality' one. If you built with the best one, you have better component properties, etc. Here, what you are suggesting is that both of these would do exactly the same, but the yield from 1 'high quality' would be equal to 3 times the yield of a cheap one. It feels a lot like the high-yield minerals in Starcraft 2 right?

I'm trying to understand the proper advantages of such a system. Once I discover a planet, I would, of course, go for the high yield if its available. There wouldn't be any means for me, as a designer, to insure that these planets are always on the battlefront and are harder to defend, therefore, I don't see the risk-management aspect. Perhaps I'm missing something?

Well, the elerium could be considered highyeld minerals, but it's less important. The important one was iron (mineral) and steel (factory product). It was fun changing iron to steel for better efficiency.

As for "risk-management aspect" I don't get it. Why would anyone want to tie resources with risk managemnet? Risk management is for combat or maybe diplomacy, not for economy. Economy is mostly a peaceful activity. I think you try to solve too many things using too many tools that were not meant for this. If you make it so the player needs to worry about intercepting lines and risk each time he tries to produce something his brain will meltdown :)

Further expanding on starcraft 2: when I was playing actively, I was a diamond level player (top tier).

Oh, that explains a lot :) Well, I don't think 4X games have much (or even anything) in common with RTS games. Experience from these probably will do more harm than good.

In RTSes micromanaging is the part of the game, also it never slows the game because it's realtime. But 4X are turn based (at least majority) so micromanagement can kill that kind of game because the turn will take forever.

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#14 BRRGames   Members   -  Reputation: 235

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Posted 18 November 2012 - 03:35 PM

Oh, that explains a lot Posted Image Well, I don't think 4X games have much (or even anything) in common with RTS games. Experience from these probably will do more harm than good.

In RTSes micromanaging is the part of the game, also it never slows the game because it's realtime. But 4X are turn based (at least majority) so micromanagement can kill that kind of game because the turn will take forever.


I disagree. RTS's can be 4X, and can be good 4X games. Think of it logically, in a 4X you explore, expand, exploite and exterminate. There is no way you can convince me that the Age of Empires style of RTS does not fit that classification.

Also, micromangement can work in a TBS. Take a look at Civilization 2 and Civilization 4, the most successful TBS games, and based completely on micromanagement. What helps to control MM is optional automation. For instance, the city governor in Civilization, rally and way points in RTS's, the command hierarchy of Hearts of Iron 3 (where you could automate entire theatres of war or any point down to individual units if you wanted to). Using good automation allows the player to eliminate MM in areas they're not immediately interested in, so they can focus on MMing the areas they are focused on at that point in the game.

#15 Acharis   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 3398

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Posted 18 November 2012 - 04:03 PM

I disagree. RTS's can be 4X, and can be good 4X games. Think of it logically, in a 4X you explore, expand, exploite and exterminate. There is no way you can convince me that the Age of Empires style of RTS does not fit that classification.

Well, maybe this indeed is logical, but it's not how I feel :) I like 4X games, I don't like RTSes (with many exceptions). I would not buy a 4X strategy that was advertised as having any similarities to RTS.
Again, you might be completely correct, I don't see any flaw in your reasoning, but the 4X lover in me can't agree with what you said :)

Also, micromangement can work in a TBS. Take a look at Civilization 2 and Civilization 4, the most successful TBS games, and based completely on micromanagement.

Well, the primary question is about quantity of micromanagement. In Civilization 2 you can have like 10-20 cities (and you are actively discouraged by the game to have more cities), in Stars! you can have like hundreds planets and have no penatlies if you get more. This is a completely different story :) As they say, the difference between a medicine and a poison is in the quantity :)
Besides, take a look at Civilization 4. They completely killed micromanagement whenever they could compared to previous series. Yes, Firaxis defintiely sees micromanagement (even though in Civilization there is not too much of it) as the root of all evil.

What helps to control MM is optional automation.

I don't agree with that one. Master of Orion 3 tried to do it, it was an epic fail. After MOO3 I became convinced that partial (optional) automation in principle is a veeery bad thing. Either make it always manual or always fully AI controled. Maybe it's not always true and it could work but... so far I have seen it do much more harm than good. If it's too much for a player to handle then make it simplier. Don't make tools that will play the game for me. I'm the player and I want to play the game myself. I definitely don't want to decide if I want to do something automatic or manual. The game is supposed to make me do it all manually. If I'm resorting to automation (in a turn based game) it means I'm BORED and that I find the game TROUBLESOME, and these are cardinal sins for a game... Really, as a player I don't find "yeah, the city management is boring, but we make it so you can turn an AI governor to do this chore for you" a valid excuse. If you made these cities then make managing them FUN, so I would never ever want to give away the management of it to the computer. And if there are too many cities to handle then limit the number (whatever way you want, I don't know or care how, I'm a player :D) until I can handle these without resorting to delegating tasks to AI.

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#16 BRRGames   Members   -  Reputation: 235

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Posted 18 November 2012 - 04:20 PM

I disagree. RTS's can be 4X, and can be good 4X games. Think of it logically, in a 4X you explore, expand, exploite and exterminate. There is no way you can convince me that the Age of Empires style of RTS does not fit that classification.

Well, maybe this indeed is logical, but it's not how I feel Posted Image I like 4X games, I don't like RTSes (with many exceptions). I would not buy a 4X strategy that was advertised as having any similarities to RTS.
Again, you might be completely correct, I don't see any flaw in your reasoning, but the 4X lover in me can't agree with what you said Posted Image

Also, micromangement can work in a TBS. Take a look at Civilization 2 and Civilization 4, the most successful TBS games, and based completely on micromanagement.

Well, the primary question is about quantity of micromanagement. In Civilization 2 you can have like 10-20 cities (and you are actively discouraged by the game to have more cities), in Stars! you can have like hundreds planets and have no penatlies if you get more. This is a completely different story Posted Image As they say, the difference between a medicine and a poison is in the quantity Posted Image
Besides, take a look at Civilization 4. They completely killed micromanagement whenever they could compared to previous series. Yes, Firaxis defintiely sees micromanagement (even though in Civilization there is not too much of it) as the root of all evil.

What helps to control MM is optional automation.

I don't agree with that one. Master of Orion 3 tried to do it, it was an epic fail. After MOO3 I became convinced that partial (optional) automation in principle is a veeery bad thing. Either make it always manual or always fully AI controled. Maybe it's not always true and it could work but... so far I have seen it do much more harm than good. If it's too much for a player to handle then make it simplier. Don't make tools that will play the game for me. I'm the player and I want to play the game myself. I definitely don't want to decide if I want to do something automatic or manual. The game is supposed to make me do it all manually. If I'm resorting to automation (in a turn based game) it means I'm BORED and that I find the game TROUBLESOME, and these are cardinal sins for a game... Really, as a player I don't find "yeah, the city management is boring, but we make it so you can turn an AI governor to do this chore for you" a valid excuse. If you made these cities then make managing them FUN, so I would never ever want to give away the management of it to the computer. And if there are too many cities to handle then limit the number (whatever way you want, I don't know or care how, I'm a player Posted Image) until I can handle these without resorting to delegating tasks to AI.


I too am a huge 4x fan. However I don't mind playing a 4x RTS (if it's stelar). I prefer TBS though.

Yes quantity of MM can cause headaches. Again back to Civ2 in the early game it was nothing to manually manage 20 workers. But in the later game when you could have a hundred workers it was an absolute nightmare. Choosing one of the automation commands is what I'm talking about with "optional automation". In the end game you want to focus on anything but workers, so you set and forget about them. (Note here: the quality of the automation should not detract from the actual point of automation, specially in Civ's worker case haha). As a GOOD example of optional automation, look at Colonization's (the original) custom house and wagon links. The player manually transports good via wagon and ship from the New World to Europe. You can set a trade link for a wagon which automatically moves goods from one place to another (ie: from inland to a harbor). Then using a custom house the harbor automatically sells those goods to Europe. This is GOOD optional automation which eliminates mundane boring MM.

Agreed MOO3 was a tank. But one example does not invalidate the hundreds of successful automation examples. ;)

Edited by BRRGames, 18 November 2012 - 04:24 PM.


#17 Acharis   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 3398

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Posted 18 November 2012 - 04:59 PM

Yes quantity of MM can cause headaches. Again back to Civ2 in the early game it was nothing to manually manage 20 workers. But in the later game when you could have a hundred workers it was an absolute nightmare. Choosing one of the automation commands is what I'm talking about with "optional automation". In the end game you want to focus on anything but workers, so you set and forget about them. (Note here: the quality of the automation should not detract from the actual point of automation, specially in Civ's worker case haha). As a GOOD example of optional automation, look at Colonization's (the original) custom house and wagon links. The player manually transports good via wagon and ship from the New World to Europe. You can set a trade link for a wagon which automatically moves goods from one place to another (ie: from inland to a harbor). Then using a custom house the harbor automatically sells those goods to Europe. This is GOOD optional automation which eliminates mundane boring MM.

Well, as a player I never considered defining a trade route or "Go" unit's command as an automation... These are like the basic interface stuff.

Maybe let's divide it like that:
- automated carrying an order WITHOUT any decisions involved - pathfining for a unit, and all forms of setting "source" and "destination" for a unit/transport (colonization's wagon links)
- delegating to AI tasks that involve decisions - city governor, automated worker

If we talk about automating things that do not involve decisions of any kind I fully agree. These are always good, no exceptions.

If we talk about giving to the hands of AI any real decisions, then it's a different story. I would divide these in 2 kinds. Trivial decisions, like worker automation, well, it's the necessary evil, I don't like it, it's a poor design but it does not bother me too much. The second is strategic decisions, like what to build in a city. That's the pure evil. It takes away the decisions I, the player, should make. It means there is something really wrong with the game, it starts playing the game for me. The second one is very hard for me to accept.


As for Civ's workers, I agree with what you said about Civ2, but there is an interesting thing they did with these in Civ4. First, they gave workers movement of 2, which was a brilliant decision. Now you need much fewer workers because you were not wasting time for movement (most of the time workers move on undeveloped high movement cost terrain or need to cover long distances). It made it both faster, more efficient and less troublesome because you could always move and issue an order in the same turn. But even more genious decision is what they did with the terrain improvements. They made making improvements FUN :D In Civ 1-3 you were just building roads and irigation on flatlands and mines in mountains. Not any real decision I would say, just a chore... But in Civ 4 it looks completely different. You actually think what to build on what terrain (well, maybe it's not the most important strategic level decision and maybe it's not that hard decision, but it's still a real and valid decision to make). You click on the city, check what it has, what it needs, on what it specializes and then make a decision. Then once you made up your mind you recall that in 4 turns you will have technology ready that will allow making a certain improvements better, so you go and check techs screen and start thinking if it's worth switching to another improvement type. And finally, once you confirmed and really are ready to go you recall you planned to change an economic policy to "planned economy" which will change yet another improvement, so you go to the internal politics screen and reconsider once again :)
They did a great thing here, they didn't focus on making better automation for workers, they focused on making the decisions involved FUN and meaningful so the player won't WANT to use any automation at all. They haven't cured the symptoms, they stroke in the core of the problem.

Edited by Acharis, 18 November 2012 - 05:04 PM.

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#18 BRRGames   Members   -  Reputation: 235

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Posted 18 November 2012 - 06:03 PM

I disagree with your analysis of Civ4's workers, but that's a design issue rather than any other issue. In Civ4 the decision simply became "can I build a mine? Yes, build it. No, build a farm". ;)

We have strayed far from the topic though now, best we return to the regular scheduled program. :)

Edited by BRRGames, 18 November 2012 - 06:03 PM.


#19 Orymus3   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 6821

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Posted 18 November 2012 - 09:33 PM

As for "risk-management aspect" I don't get it. Why would anyone want to tie resources with risk managemnet? Risk management is for combat or maybe diplomacy, not for economy. Economy is mostly a peaceful activity. I think you try to solve too many things using too many tools that were not meant for this. If you make it so the player needs to worry about intercepting lines and risk each time he tries to produce something his brain will meltdown


Well the vector of Starcraft is resource risk-assesment. You capture a new resource field, knowingly that it could mean your downfall. It brings you nearer to your enemy, and less 'settled'. So is space. Untying them is actually impossible. Your opponent may always opt to take out your richer planets, and most established ones. Choosing to develop planets on the outskirts is thus, a risk, whether you keep it in mind or not.

Oh, that explains a lot Well, I don't think 4X games have much (or even anything) in common with RTS games. Experience from these probably will do more harm than good.

In RTSes micromanaging is the part of the game, also it never slows the game because it's realtime. But 4X are turn based (at least majority) so micromanagement can kill that kind of game because the turn will take forever.

VGA Planets is also very competitive. The fact you have more time to think through your turn and issue commands doesn't make it any less challenging. I want something balanced and challenging as well. This may be different than the majority of 4X games out there, and the niche may be smaller, but I think it merits attention. I haven't seen a serious effort in that direction in decades.

I disagree. RTS's can be 4X, and can be good 4X games. Think of it logically, in a 4X you explore, expand, exploite and exterminate. There is no way you can convince me that the Age of Empires style of RTS does not fit that classification.

Sword of the Stars is even a better example: Real-time, yet, definitely 4X.


As far as the OP is concerned:
I'll try two models: one using layer 1 resources only, and one using 3 layers with few resources.
There's nothing like prototyping it and getting feedback. I think we've gone as far as theory can go. Besides, its clear we're appealing to very different crowds here.

#20 Tiblanc   Members   -  Reputation: 556

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Posted 19 November 2012 - 06:51 AM

I would tend to agree, and though the victory is inevitable, it leaves you hoping. One of my main concern with Galactic Civilization is that it allowed this to happen, and it was the most unfun situation I've seen in any 4x games. With a tech tree so vast, you could reach a point in a game where there was no way you could win whatever you did, whichever winning condition you were aiming for, but the game wouldn't let you know that until 10-20 turns later. The aftertaste of that was so bitter that it felt like an utter waste of time. It was frustrating. The opposite also happened a lot: you got simply stronger than everyone else, that one of your ships could probably annihilate all other warfleets in combat without taking a single hit. Yet, the game allowed you to expand at will and play sim city.
I want an environment that's thoroghly balances, where its hard to gain any form of an advantage. Ships, themselves, won't overpower each other that much. It is the resources you have under your control that determines whether you can rebuild a fleet and continue waging war. So if your opponent's strategy is superior (he has intelligence that confirms capturing planet X would cripple your ability to stay in the fight) then so be it, even if his fleet is largely inferior. This means he's taken advantage of the knowledge he has to even the scores. Besides, if you have a 'rich planet' you should definitely put it out of reach. Building starbases on the fore-front is a risk: it can allow your reinforcements to jump straight into the fray and sustain a military push, but it can also be your downfall if its overrun. Think about the Death Star's destruction in Star Wars, and imagine how the empire can recover from that.
Yet, like I said, it shouldn't all be decided on a single planet. Otherwise, this means your are a bad strategist with a poor economy. You need to stretch your empire deep, and then choose the planets you will develop. Sometimes, it means neglecting a faraway rich planet just because it is not within your real area of influence, too far off to really contribute to your economy substancially: it requires more military forces to keep within your area of influence than the resources it yields. That, too, is recognizing good strategy.


In essence, you want to destroy the slippery slope while allowing fatal blows if the enemy is careless and have a strong focus on economics.

How about associating rare resources to a given counter? You retain the base resources used in every ship. For advanced components, you add a rare resource. Its counter component would require another rare resource.

If creating a new base requires a lot of resources, you end up with a few refining/production bases and lots of mining planets. Players would then target specific planets based on the rare resource mined there. If you're building armored ships, then you could target armor piercing resources to make it harder for your enemy to counter your fleet.

Also, you would be unable to mine everything. Even if you have lots of planets, fuel costs would prevent you from ferrying it all. Choosing which resource to mine, ferry and refine becomes part of your overall military strategy. That will reduce the slippery slope effect.
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