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Exploration in space 4X (boring & tedious)


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#1 Acharis   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 3877

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Posted 29 July 2014 - 06:18 AM

It goes like this, you build a scout ship, then send it to a nearest unexplored planet/system, then build another one and send in another direction. Finally you build several of scout ships and tick "auto explore" option...

 

You know, maybe it's me, but I find it tedious :D I understand there needs to be some exploration is such games, if nothing else just for the thrill of discovering what is where. But does it have to be so boring and pointless? Or, if it can't be made exciting, maybe exploration should be automatic from the beginning?

 

Ideas?


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#2 Orymus3   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 9938

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Posted 29 July 2014 - 08:03 AM

In my game, the scout ships play double duty as fast interceptors as well, so they sometimes have to switch roles between lurking over unknown planets and hunting down freighters. Sometimes even, they just ferry ordnance, etc.

I actually like playing with the scouts!

 

Plus, auto-explore is pretty boring. It just seeks to look at planets you haven't seen, it isn't making an educated guess as to where your enemies may lurk.

I've also got 'other means' to identify what planets may be rich/poor without having to send a scout that far (I mean, we already do that from Earth up to thousands of light years away, and we only send rovers to Mars to determine whether there WAS water at some point...)



#3 TechnoGoth   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 2787

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Posted 29 July 2014 - 08:50 AM

Well if space is empty and boring then exploration is boring.  What do you find? Planets you may or may not want to colonize, and other races.

 

You could ditch all that and have everything in sensor/fuel range known.  So if you can reach another star system you know what its planets are like. You could then replace exploration with archaeology.

 

Archaeology would allow you send to research vessels to long dead worlds or strange locations to try and find ancient relics, wealth, and technology.  Archaeology takes time and those research ships can be plundered on their way back.  So if you find 10,000 gold in an alien vault you still need to get it back to you home world before you get the credits.  Pirates and other players could attack the ship and if its undefended it instantly surrenders and switches sides.

 

Relics might provide permanent bonuses but have long term costs which are unknown so its up to the player to decide if they want to use them or not.  The intelligence booster might give you a 20% research bonus but it will be a few decades before people realize its halved your populations growth rate.  The bliss computer net might make everyone happy in the empire but each turn there is small but growing chance it will try and take over.



#4 Thaumaturge   Members   -  Reputation: 1481

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Posted 29 July 2014 - 09:17 AM

To take a different direction (appropriately to the topic :P), why have unexplored space be safe? Fill empty space with roving horrors and marauding space pirates, any of which could all too easily eat/possess/raid your little exploration ship, and all of which are invisible until you're all but on top of them, and exploration becomes a dangerous proposition.

 

Is it worth sending a scout to that little planet out there? It might have useful resources, and you don't want the enemy to reach it, but you don't have a warp gate set up near to it, meaning that you have to fly the most of the way. Your warships are already stretched thin holding and expanding your empire--maybe you could spare one or two as an escort... but is that likely to be enough...?

 

Perhaps you won't encounter anything. Perhaps you can run from anything that you do encounter. Perhaps not.


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#5 Acharis   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 3877

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Posted 29 July 2014 - 09:52 AM

Archaeology

Yes... I was thinking about archeology too, but first we need to solve the problem of simply exploring new planets (first visit), for an overall geological survey (poor/rich) and to check if there is an enemy colony already. That's the thing we have to deal with first.

 

 

 


To take a different direction (appropriately to the topic tongue.png), why have unexplored space be safe? Fill empty space with roving horrors and marauding space pirates, any of which could all too easily eat/possess/raid your little exploration ship, and all of which are invisible until you're all but on top of them, and exploration becomes a dangerous proposition.

That's standard smile.png In every single game (space 4x) I send these small ships and they are eaten by something sooner or later smile.png Exploration always is dangerous but it makes no practical sense (just statistics, you sent 8 ships, 4 are eaten, 2 destryoed by other races, 2 return). There is no thirll, no choice, no nothing...

 

 

 

Is it worth sending a scout to that little planet out there?

Yes smile.png Scout ships are cheap, it's no brainer.

Besides, you HAVE TO visit that little planet at least once to check if there is an enemy, or if there is some wormhole or anything. So, making scout ships expensive would not solve anything really (plus then you would send cheap frigates or whatever you have).


Edited by Acharis, 29 July 2014 - 09:53 AM.

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#6 Stainless   Members   -  Reputation: 1014

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Posted 29 July 2014 - 10:03 AM

Thousands of years before you have the capability to visit a nearby star, you will have seen it. Astronomers will have measured it, worked out it's mass, worked out the probability of planets, probability of life, etc. etc. etc.

 

So you shouldn't just be sending out scouts at random, you should have data available to make value estimations and informed decisions.

 

This is a part of the game design developers should consider and implement. I hate the black map syndrome. Makes no sense to me.

 

Then I think developers should start allowing technology to aid you. Deep space probes, space telescopes, gravitic anomoly detectors, etc. Probably a lot more expensive to develop and deploy than a few scouts, but cover larger areas of space.

 

Then there are the hidden suprises that make the exploring worthwhile, the ancient human head in the sands of a desert planet. The crashed alien space craft full of really nice toys, .... or really horrible face hugging aliens.



#7 GameCreator   Members   -  Reputation: 771

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Posted 29 July 2014 - 11:11 AM

Yes smile.png Scout ships are cheap, it's no brainer.

Besides, you HAVE TO visit that little planet at least once to check if there is an enemy, or if there is some wormhole or anything. So, making scout ships expensive would not solve anything really (plus then you would send cheap frigates or whatever you have).

 

 

That's exactly it.  Scout ships should be neither cheap nor expensive.  There's a middle ground where you should debate whether it's worth spending a few turns to build one on a new planet, or one or two turns on a productive one.



#8 ferrous   Members   -  Reputation: 2073

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Posted 29 July 2014 - 11:14 AM

What makes exploration in non-space games interesting?  The only thing that came to mind was games like Heroes of Might and Magic and Age of Wonders.  And the big thing there is that you explore with heroes, who gain experience and items (as well as encounter danger, etc)  I think this helps place a sense of attachment to the scouts, as well as a risk reward mechanic.

 

Perhaps you can take some of that, you mentioned earlier about having everything be in fleets, so you could have fleet commanders who gain experience / levels / artifacts.  Granted in the beginning the fleet commander would be uh, commanding a single scout.  (or perhaps do away with small cheap scout ships, and instead go with the Enterprise and it's five year turn mission to explore new worlds.)



#9 Navyman   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 4049

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Posted 29 July 2014 - 11:22 AM

First, I would like to say that you are doing a great job of questioning many of the 'standard' 4X mechanics or styles of play. It is always a good thing to question why.

 

Second, in a game I was working on about 2 years ago scouting was more of a mini game. All of the systems and planets are viewable, but the exact data of the planet required the player to buy it (through contacts) or scan it.

 

If you wanted to remove the need for scouts change the way 'scout ships' have to function. Change scout ships from a ship that must move from its creation point to a point of exploration to a ship that can build probe and launch them. The catch would be that only a scout ship can receive the probes data. 

 

@TechnoGoth The archeology idea is inline with the mechanic / mini-game that I created.


Edited by Navyman, 29 July 2014 - 11:29 AM.

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#10 Acharis   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 3877

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Posted 29 July 2014 - 11:35 AM

I think we need to distinguish two types of exploration:

* charting space & probing for enemies (to find routes to planets and enemy colonies)

* survey (to find out what's on the planet)

 

 


Thousands of years before you have the capability to visit a nearby star, you will have seen it. Astronomers will have measured it, worked out it's mass, worked out the probability of planets, probability of life, etc. etc. etc.

So you shouldn't just be sending out scouts at random, you should have data available to make value estimations and informed decisions.
Yes... I feel it could be an answer...

 


This is a part of the game design developers should consider and implement. I hate the black map syndrome. Makes no sense to me.
Actually, in most/all games I have seen you see all the systems from the start (that they exist and colour of the star). So, there is no black map. You need to scout the systems for exact planets, what is on the planets, routes to the planets (if the games uses paths) and if there is an enemy/monster.

 


That's exactly it. Scout ships should be neither cheap nor expensive. There's a middle ground where you should debate whether it's worth spending a few turns to build one on a new planet, or one or two turns on a productive one.
I disagree :) You have to scan ALL nearby systems for security if nothing else. Actually, losing a scout ship is the best outcome (that's what you look for), it means the system has a space monster or that you encountered another empire (which is the most valuable information, far more important than if the planet is good for colonization).

 


What makes exploration in non-space games interesting?
Yeah, I think expolration is not fun in itself. And probably it does not have to be. The whole point is that you don't know everything from the start, that you don't know the whole setup, that there are surprises waiting (and people LOVE surprises :))

 


First, I would like to say that you are doing a great job of questioning many of the 'standard' 4X mechanics or styles of play. It is always a good thing to question why.
Yes, I love this form of procastration :) It's so much easier to question things than to implement them :D

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#11 TechnoGoth   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 2787

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Posted 29 July 2014 - 11:44 AM

Well your science level should eliminate the need to actual visit nearby planets to scout them.  Even our current level of technology allows astronomers to find distant planets calculate their size, mass, and their atmospheric composition, and make predictions on other features like that planet is a gas giant, that one is a mineral planet, that one could be made of diamond.  If you can travel across interstellar space in reasonable time then you should have at least enough physics knowledge to identify what will be there when you arrive.  Alien hyperspace radio signals would let you know that it was occupied.

 

You could have a send probe button.  Essentially you paid small cost to send a scout drone to a system and it will provide a full account of all planets.  Thus eliminating the need for scouts instead you pay the cost directly for each system you want to know about. The same approach could also be used to recon enemy worlds later on in the game.

 

 

On the flip side why not make explorer class ships super expensive?  An explorer class ship would be one the biggest ships in your fleet able to operate far beyond your normal range with no support requirements. You might only build a couple of explorer class ships in a game.  There purpose is to explore deep space and build new warp gates to add to your hyperspace network. They can travel in deep space and are not limited to normal travel lanes. As such isolated system off the normal travel lanes can only be reached and added to your empire by sending an explorer class ship there to build gate. They also can't be included in any fleets as other ships are unable to operate in places the explorers travel.



#12 Acharis   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 3877

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Posted 29 July 2014 - 11:52 AM


You could have a send probe button. Essentially you paid small cost to send a scout drone to a system and it will provide a full account of all planets. Thus eliminating the need for scouts instead you pay the cost directly for each system you want to know about. The same approach could also be used to recon enemy worlds later on in the game.

On the flip side why not make explorer class ships super expensive? An explorer class ship would be one the biggest ships in your fleet able to operate far beyond your normal range with no support requirements. You might only build a couple of explorer class ships in a game. There purpose is to explore deep space and build new warp gates to add to your hyperspace network. They can travel in deep space and are not limited to normal travel lanes. As such isolated system off the normal travel lanes can only be reached and added to your empire by sending an explorer class ship there to build gate. They also can't be included in any fleets as other ships are unable to operate in places the explorers travel.
Yes. Except one little "problem" :) The player can just send regular fleet there :) So, scouting can't be more expensive that using regular fleet (or no one will use that option).

Yes, players do wreak the most elegant design solutions :D Those bastards! :D

 

BTW, I love the "send probe button", it's so... cute and easy and elegant :D Only if I knew how to use it with regual fleets (that HAVE TO have an option to explore since they are physically entering the orbit of a planet).


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#13 TechnoGoth   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 2787

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Posted 29 July 2014 - 12:33 PM


Yes. Except one little "problem" The player can just send regular fleet there So, scouting can't be more expensive that using regular fleet (or no one will use that option).
Yes, players do wreak the most elegant design solutions Those bastards!

 

What I was thinking is that you have either or a combination of range and travel lanes.  So your maximum fleet range is say 10 light years you can't send a ship beyond that unless you improve your fuel tech or build a colony which would then provide a 10 light year range around itself(standard 4x stuff)  An explorer ship though has range of 10 or 20 times your maximum range. You can send one to investigate and chart worlds 200 light years a way and if they find a interesting planet you could plan your expansion to reach that world or invest in building a two way warp gate connecting that distant world to the warp gate network.  Once in place you or any other race can reach your homeworld from that planet or any other planet in gate system. So you better make sure its not within range of any brain parasite planets if you can't guard the entrance.

 


BTW, I love the "send probe button", it's so... cute and easy and elegant Only if I knew how to use it with regual fleets (that HAVE TO have an option to explore since they are physically entering the orbit of a planet).

 

Glad you like it.  What about not letting them explore?  If a ship has a science lab it can survey any planet in a system for free or even does it automatically when it arrives. But fleets without science labs are simply unequipped to survey planets, and you can't colonize an unsurveyed planet.  After all anything could be down there.



#14 Acharis   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 3877

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Posted 29 July 2014 - 01:45 PM


An explorer ship though has range of 10 or 20 times your maximum range. You can send one to investigate and chart worlds 200 light years a way and if they find a interesting planet you could plan your expansion to reach that world or invest in building a two way warp gate connecting that distant world to the warp gate network. Once in place you or any other race can reach your homeworld from that planet or any other planet in gate system. So you better make sure its not within range of any brain parasite planets if you can't guard the entrance.
Warpgates are really game changing. I don't think I would implement warpgates just so exploration can work :D Besides... in practice, wouldn't you rather colonize rich nearby planets? Proximity is proximity, you already have to defend the part of space near your homeworld (via invasion from nearby races that do not require any warpgate). As a player, I think distant colonization is a suicide (it's not about travel, it's about more hostile races you will be neighbouring).

 


But fleets without science labs are simply unequipped to survey planets, and you can't colonize an unsurveyed planet.
Who cares? Surveying planets is secondary. The primary is danger evaluation and routes mapping. You want to survey planets near your homeworld anyway.  Unless you have different habits as a player?

 

The primary feature is that you move ships/fleets between systems/planets. And when they enter such system you get some information (planet size, enemies, warp paths/lines). And... we can't remove this feature :) It would be confusing and annoying (like "no ship can enter a system that was not surveyed").

 

Plus, once you have the fleet/ship dragged to the system/planet, do you really want to click some button to make additional survey of the planet? I would not :D I feel, while I really like the "send probe button", I would not enjoy it as a player (first my fleet was moved there and now I have to probe the planet? it's basicly double work!)

 

I don't know, I'm kind of sceptical if there is an answer/solution to my question :)


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#15 TechnoGoth   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 2787

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Posted 29 July 2014 - 03:11 PM


The primary feature is that you move ships/fleets between systems/planets. And when they enter such system you get some information (planet size, enemies, warp paths/lines).

 

Why do you need to send a fleet there?  Why not just give all that to player for free for all system in range?  

 

Sending fleets to find out what's nearby is so 1492.  :)

 

If the player can reach a star then they should know basic planet info, if any enemies have claimed part of the system, and what space lanes connect to it with out the need to send a scout ship.  You might not know about the deadly space monster currently living there, or that there are ruins on the third moon of one of the planets, or if any planets are suitable for colonization but that's what probes are for.

 


Warpgates are really game changing. I don't think I would implement warpgates just so exploration can work Besides... in practice, wouldn't you rather colonize rich nearby planets? Proximity is proximity, you already have to defend the part of space near your homeworld (via invasion from nearby races that do not require any warpgate). As a player, I think distant colonization is a suicide (it's not about travel, it's about more hostile races you will be neighbouring).

 

It depends on your game set up.  If stars are clustered into groups with large distances between clusters then Explorer class ships would act as a bridge allowing you to reach the nearby clusters which would otherwise be impossible without significantly upgrading your fuel technology.

 

Also explorers would be important if habitable worlds are uncommon or rare. At the start of the game you might only be able to colonize 1-5% of planets in the galaxy. On the rest the best you could do is build an outpost.  In that way finding worlds to expand to is part of the early game challenge. There might only be one planet in range you can expand to from your homeworld there might not be any.  

 

This also adds an interesting dynamic if different alien races have different habit requirements. Human's might by only able to colonize earth like planets at the start.  But the Egon's can colonize Jupiter, Neptune, and Uranus, do you let them form colonies on otherwise worthless worlds to you?  Do you place tariffs on them? Exchange cultures, share technology, enslave them with your fleet. 



#16 Thaumaturge   Members   -  Reputation: 1481

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Posted 29 July 2014 - 03:51 PM

I don't have much to add, but do want to respond to one point:
 

 

What makes exploration in non-space games interesting? ...

 
Yeah, I think expolration is not fun in itself.

 


On this I strongly disagree: while I'm not sure about the fun of exploration in space games, I love exploration in other types of game: new vistas to see, new environments to explore and navigate and new discoveries to be made.

 

To give an example, while I was at university one little pass-time that I had was exploring some of the campus buildings that I didn't usually have much cause to go into. I loved seeing the various odd layouts, discovering what was to be found where, and so on.

 

I won't say that enjoyment of exploration is universal, simply because I doubt that there is a great proportion of experiences that do have a truly universal response, but I do think that for a significant number of people--myself included--exploration in and of itself can be a lot of fun.

 

Hmm... Thinking about that, perhaps a "black map" scenario might be better for exploration of star systems than the "fully revealed" options that have been suggested, with undiscovered planets and their potential resources and dangers being amongst the risks and rewards of exploration. It would probably also help if space weren't as... well... empty as it can seem, in order to encourage thoughts like "I wonder what's over that hill", or "what's that odd thing over there"--perhaps odd sensor readings might provike that sense of curiosity: "Commander, we're picking up anomalous neutrino bursts in that dead system over there! Should we investigate? It could be precursor technology activating--or it could be the local space monsters preparing for their next meal..." However, as has been pointed out, a black map might call for some serious handwaving in order to explain just why the map is black.


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#17 Acharis   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 3877

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Posted 29 July 2014 - 05:00 PM

Sending fleets to find out what's nearby is so 1492.
LOL, how true :)

 

Why not just give all that to player for free for all system in range?
Yes... I like it a lot...

 

You are to see all planet types, routes/space lanes, fleets present, allegiance of all planets/systems in scanning range of your colonies & outposts (and maybe in scanning range of fleets too). It also updates as long as within range (what if you lose a colony?)

 

But I have some problem with "range", I mean the fleet range. I was hoping for a mechanic where you are free to roam the galaxy far away from your colonies... So range would make no sense here. Ideas?

 

 

 

There would be also a second step, the "survey". Sending a team on the planet to dig around (to find artifacts, examine plants & animals, minerals survey, etc). You are not able to colonize a planet unless it was surveyed.

Let's say you have one imperial survey team only, normally they go around randomly (nearest planets first), unless you give a specific order "survey this planet".

And/or make 3 levels of survey (Basic (allows colonization, access to common minerals), Detailed (chance for artifacts and rare minerals), Thorough (shows everything))?

 


while I was at university one little pass-time that I had was exploring some of the campus buildings
Let me guess, you didn't have to build and manage small scout ships every turn to do so :D It's a different experience :)

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#18 Thaumaturge   Members   -  Reputation: 1481

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Posted 29 July 2014 - 05:37 PM

 

Let me guess, you didn't have to build and manage small scout ships every turn to do so biggrin.png It's a different experience smile.png

True, but the question was of what made exploration fun in non-space games, and your answer seemed to be a statement that exploration wasn't fun in general; it was that latter, general statement that I was answering. :P

 

(Although it is amusing to imagine gathering first-year students to go out and explore for me, bringing back reports of their wanderings, and what hazards--angry lecturers, eldritch floorplans, and so on--they encountered on the way. Of course, not all return; and there are some places from which none return, leaving the question of whether to go oneself, or leave that place to whatever dark deadliness claimed so many first-years... ;P


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#19 valrus   Members   -  Reputation: 741

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Posted 29 July 2014 - 06:53 PM

You could have wumpuses of a sort: major enemies that scout ships can sense from adjacent systems.  But you don't want to send a scout ship *into* them to test where they are, because after feeding they move invisibly to an adjacent system.  Instead, you want to use your scouts to triangulate what system they're in, and then avoid going there. (Or, if you know there's a planet there that's important to you, sacrifice a scout to get them *out* of that system.)



#20 Stainless   Members   -  Reputation: 1014

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Posted 30 July 2014 - 02:49 AM

I like a duel level movement system.

 

Yes you can just leave orbit, start the engines and go somewhere, but to do that you have to have "warp drives" or equivalent.

 

For general transport you use something like a star gate, a point to point transport system that doesn't require a warp drive.

 

This makes exploration and exploitation of planets a key game mechanic.

 

You send a scout to Cygnis Alpha III and find it has massive gold deposits, so you build an engineering fleet and send it to the planet. Eventually it gets there and they build a warp gate. Once that is operational you have fast transit and can use none warp equiped space craft to get there.

 

At this point the game player can kind of ignore Cygnis Alpha III and move his attention to the next likely target, until something goes wrong of course :>

 

When it comes to the military side of things, these fast transit routes can move troops and spacecraft about quickly, and you can have none warp equiped warships. Of course if the warp gate is destroyed, they are pretty well screwed.

 

So you get a reward for good exploration, and a game mechanic that is simple to implement and can have massive gameplay effect.






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