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Exploration in space 4X (boring & tedious)


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#21 LorenzoGatti   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 2762

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Posted 30 July 2014 - 04:47 AM

Why "scout" ships? Hundreds of Star Trek episodes have proved that even a very powerful flagship like the USS Enterprise can be seriously challenged by "routine" exploration and search missions: a state of the art expensive and very strong ship should be the bare minimum for venturing in unexplored or dangerous space, with powerful groups of ships preferable and cheap small ships completely out of the question except as the numerous payload of an aircraft carrier.

 

Reasonable (and fun) exploration should consist of going there and kicking ass, conquering new territories and clearing them of threats; probes and instruments are a small addition to a primarily military activity. The difference with a military campaign is that exploration happens in "wild" places rather than in well known places that belong to the enemy.

Long range sensors can give a good indication of where to send the exploration duty fleets (or what important planets are going to be fought over when the enemy reaches them too) without yielding anything concretely useful.


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#22 Acharis   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 3973

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Posted 30 July 2014 - 05:19 AM


This makes exploration and exploitation of planets a key game mechanic.
I definitely don't want this. We are talking about 4X, exploration is only a small part of the game, not the key one. If one wants to focus on exploration he should choose another genre (like Elite style space exploration adventure thing).

 

Exploration is just a small subsystem of 4X. It's the servant mechanic, not the master.

 


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.
Warp gates are too heavy restiction. I would not gof for these just for exploration. Also, I don't think warpgates fit 4X in general (it messes control of the territory, which is the key mechanic in these games)...

 

I mean, let's look at the bigger picture. It's 4X game (not a game about exploration). The question is how to make exploration less boring without destroying/changing the rest of the game completely. It's not about how to make exploration fun, it's about how to make an exploration subsystem that would fit a 4X game.

 

Why "scout" ships? Hundreds of Star Trek episodes have proved
Start Trek is not real life, MOO is :D

Plus, not this scale, in 4X you are some sort of emperor/president, you don't deal with what's going on inside a ship.


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#23 Stainless   Members   -  Reputation: 1065

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Posted 30 July 2014 - 06:17 AM


4X is a genre of strategy-based video and board games in which players control an empire and "eXplore, eXpand, eXploit, and eXterminate".

 

So in your view explore, and exploit are not part of a 4X game? wacko.png

 

I don't really understand what your view of a 4X game is.

 

Explain exactly what your definition of a 4X game is please, you seem to want ... well a 2X game?

 

Warp gates do not mess with control of a territory, in fact they could be a key part in control of a territory. Once you have a warp gate in place, you can expand your influence around it much quicker than having to use slow interstellar travel. Loss of a warp gate due to enemy action would be a major problem and could cause you to lose control of whole regions of space. A key nexus in your warp gate mesh falling to enemy action could easily lose you the game.

 

I'm really not sure what you are after anymore



#24 Orymus3   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 10626

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Posted 30 July 2014 - 06:51 AM

eXploration is critical imho. Though deep scans can provide a lot of info about things very far, there's nothing like seeing it for yourself.

That being said, if you look into StarTrek, you'll notice that the Galaxy Class isn't small by any means. It is deployed with specific intentions, and gear to tackle other missions as well. 'To Boldly Go' doesn't meant to take the smallest possible craft, it means to be ready to face anything.

Thus, larger ships should have larger sweeping ranges to deter players from building just smaller ships. Small ships tend to have little to no room for 'extra' systems. They're good at one thing and one thing only, most often, interception.



#25 Acharis   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 3973

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Posted 30 July 2014 - 07:10 AM


So in your view explore, and exploit are not part of a 4X game? wacko.png

I don't really understand what your view of a 4X game is.

Explain exactly what your definition of a 4X game is please, you seem to want ... well a 2X game?

Well... A good point... I think it might be personal, I'm not so fond of this exploration thing and I'm not sure I fully understand why it need to be there... OK, I know why it's needed as a *slave* to other parts of the game, but I never saw it as a feature fun on its own... So, yeah, it might be personal.

 

OK, let's look around then, do you find traditional space exploration fun? Do you like sending these small scout ships? I'm asking about existing games you played (not about how would you like it to work - I try to determine if anyone likes the exploration in 4X space empire games and possibly why they like it).


Edited by Acharis, 30 July 2014 - 07:12 AM.

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#26 Thaumaturge   Members   -  Reputation: 1559

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Posted 30 July 2014 - 08:44 AM

I have a slightly ironic question to ask, given my position on exploration: why do you feel that exploration does have to be included?

 

I'm a big fan of the adage "make the game that you want to play"; while I, personally, love exploration, you've said that you don't, and have indicated that you find it superfluous--so why include it in your game? You're not building it for me, after all.

 

Even aside from the idea that you'll likely be more invested in and more passionate about a game built to your liking, there are likely to be others who feel as you do. In all fairness, how big a market they constitute is another question, and market concerns may well be a reason to go against your preference, depending on your goals for your game.

 

What does your game look like if you simply drop exploration entirely: all planets are already known to the player (via starmap, scanner and database)?

 

Perhaps think about the elements that you love in space strategy games, and put some thought into making those elements the core of the experience.


Edited by Thaumaturge, 30 July 2014 - 08:46 AM.

MWAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!


#27 Acharis   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 3973

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Posted 30 July 2014 - 10:26 AM


I have a slightly ironic question to ask, given my position on exploration: why do you feel that exploration does have to be included?

smile.png

 

1) Players will complain that it's 3X and not 4X smile.png OK, that one is minor and not so important, still worth to mention.

2) Information overload. If there are 100-200 systems I do not want to know details about every single one from the start. It will burn my mind with computation requests. I prefer this information to be given to me in chunks over time.

3) It's hidden information and surprise. Let's face it, strategies are pretty predictable games. You know the tech tree, you more or less know possible enemy races, you know the buildings, you know what ships you will design. An unknown (or partially unknown) map is great because you don't know a lot of critical factors from the start (enemies placement, good planets placement, space lanes between planets/systems).

4) Replayability. Sure, you could say if the map is random and you see it from the start it's the same replayability. But I don't think so smile.png Hidden map is, well, hidden. Even if you ended up on a similar map next time you play, you will not know it till the end and will still enjoy it and be on your toes.

5) Ancient ruins, artifacts, anomalies, singularities - these are great, but... only if given successively on the way, not all at once (I would be unable to even read all their descriptions if these were revealed at the start!)

 

So... I don't like exploration on its own, but it has many benefits to the game as a whole (replayability, hidden information, dosage of rewards, prevents infodump, etc)

 

 

 

 


What does your game look like if you simply drop exploration entirely: all planets are already known to the player (via starmap, scanner and database)?

Perhaps think about the elements that you love in space strategy games, and put some thought into making those elements the core of the experience.

I like the way you think smile.png

 

Actually, I wouldn't mind to give much more information about the map from the start (for the particular game I'm making, overall it would be bad I guess) and/or grant cheap/early exploration. But still... if nothing else, the info overload is unacceptable (I would need to really simplify these planets). Also, some information should be revealed later (OK, I could use events for this, but... come on, digging out an ancient artifact from a planet is far more cool biggrin.png)

 

I definitely don't want to make exploration the core experience (I don't like it THAT much), yet, I like it enough (I suppose) to include it... I think smile.png Unless there is an important reason to exclude it, I could go for it then smile.png


Edited by Acharis, 30 July 2014 - 10:26 AM.

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#28 Thaumaturge   Members   -  Reputation: 1559

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Posted 30 July 2014 - 10:38 AM

Aah, fair enough.

 

In that case, one more suggestion (and my apologies if this has already been suggested--I think that I skimmed some parts of this thread ^^; ): a very lightweight exploration mechanic: at the cost of some resource (ship-building parts, time; whatever seems appropriate in your game--in particular a "cooldown" period might be useful) allow the player to designate a region of space to be charted. There might be specifics to this--investing more resources to increase the size of the region, or the speed at which charting is completed, but at the cost of becoming less resource-efficient, for example. After this, the exploration is performed automatically--it's a little like casting an area-of-effect spell, in essence--a period of time passes, and then the "explored" region becomes visible to the player.

 

This would provide decisions for the player to make--is it worth it given the current state of my resources? Where should I explore? Should I put in a little extra in order to explore a little further, thus exploring at a higher rate, or be patient and explore more efficiently, at the cost of exploration taking longer, and of providing more time for nasty surprises to emerge from uncharted space. It also means that you can start the player with only a few planets to deal with, and allow them to increase that at more or less their own pace.


Edited by Thaumaturge, 30 July 2014 - 10:39 AM.

MWAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!


#29 Acharis   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 3973

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Posted 30 July 2014 - 10:59 AM


allow the player to designate a region of space to be charted. There might be specifics to this--investing more resources to increase the size of the region, or the speed at which charting is completed, but at the cost of becoming less resource-efficient, for example. After this, the exploration is performed automatically--it's a little like casting an area-of-effect spell, in essence--a period of time passes, and then the "explored" region becomes visible to the player.
Hmmm, how about this:

 

You designate a planet (in your range and already explored) as a "base of explorations". From that planet each turn there will be auto exploration of nearby planets launched. So, it's like you tell where your imperial survey squadron is to be based. It shows an icon over that planet.

 

You could have like 3 such survey squadrons maybe? Based on exploration budget? Or on technologies (unlocks additional survey squadron)? Or allocate some budget to say how many planets per turn are auto surveyed?

 

 

Of course you still can use your regular fleet (at least for a basic survey), otherwise it would not make sense...

 

 

 

Also (I can't get this off my mind :)), second expoloration layer, the Imperial Archeologists. The standard survey uncovers alien artifacts, ruins, etc. Then you can manually send Imperial Archeologists to that planet to investigate further (and reveal the secret of such structure), it would require one time payment (money) and then you wait X turns for results. Even if failed (there was nothing there) your archeologists still get a permanent bonus to efficiency (or, they get achievement "understood alien language" which would make further archologist excavations faster).


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#30 Orymus3   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 10626

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Posted 31 July 2014 - 05:40 AM


3) It's hidden information and surprise. Let's face it, strategies are pretty predictable games. You know the tech tree, you more or less know possible enemy races, you know the buildings, you know what ships you will design. An unknown (or partially unknown) map is great because you don't know a lot of critical factors from the start (enemies placement, good planets placement, space lanes between planets/systems).

 

Though you know your possibilities, you don't have a preset path along that trail (if you do, you're ultimately bound to lose in a competitive environment).

The best strategy games force you to reconsider your strategy often.

What I'd say is that, not knowing what your opponent is up to is a risk you can't take: he might be doing exactly that which defeats your own strategy.

Removing eXploration from a 4X is essentially turning the game into a 'watch and adapt' type of game as opposed to actual strategy.

The need for information is counter-balanced by the cost to attain such information. Some players will lose games only because their fear is too high (they explore too often).



#31 Luckless   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 1883

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Posted 31 July 2014 - 05:45 AM

I prefer a slightly more hands off exploration mechanic than is often used. I don't want to spend part of every turn scrolling around the map looking for the different units of my scout fleet, or forget to move something for a turn. 

 

I want big marker icons "Current missions: X% complete". I want to pick the region that I'm interested in learning more about, and decide how important it is, which in turn decides how many resources can be devoted to completing the project, which then affect how many turns it takes before I get my next bit of detailed info on it.

 

For a strategy game like this I would rather have a good idea of the layout and some probabilities of what a star system has from the get go. (Just seems odd that I don't even know about a star a few lightyears away, let alone not having a clue if it has any kind of planets or anything.)

 

 

I say keep exploration, but keep it to budgets, targets, and technology decisions. If I'm the emperor then it really isn't my job to say if S-108 'Victoria' is sent on the mission, or if S-109 'Intrepid' goes. A ship, a few ships, or a lot of ships is what I want to choose, and I don't care where they come from, but I would assume my admirals would pick the most logical ships to allocate to the project. 


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#32 Acharis   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 3973

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Posted 31 July 2014 - 07:58 AM


What I'd say is that, not knowing what your opponent is up to is a risk you can't take: he might be doing exactly that which defeats your own strategy.

Removing eXploration from a 4X is essentially turning the game into a 'watch and adapt' type of game as opposed to actual strategy.
Emmm, I would say it's "recon", not "exploration" (going where you have never been before).

 


I say keep exploration, but keep it to budgets, targets, and technology decisions. If I'm the emperor then it really isn't my job to say if S-108 'Victoria' is sent on the mission, or if S-109 'Intrepid' goes.
Exactly, exactly :) It's below the emperor to deal with such things.

 

What worries me are military fleets. If they can explore the player will obviously send them to exploration (which means a lot of stupid micromanagement).

So... how about disallowing non exploration units to enter unexplored systems? Like an error when you try to move fleets there "survey the star lane for safe warp passage first" or "your supersticious space sailors think there is a space monster that will eat the ship, send scout ship to prove they are wrong".

 

Another thing, if it is budget/research thing, how the player can affect it? I mean the player needs to have a saying which part of the galaxy to explore next, right?

(there were some ideas for this in the topic already)


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#33 TechnoGoth   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 2797

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Posted 31 July 2014 - 09:10 AM

To pull another mechanic out of Europe Univeralis IV in that at the start you can't explore or colonize empty provinces.   In order to explore you first need to unlock the second idea in the exploration idea group.  This idea lets you hire explorers to command your fleets or armies.  Only forces led by an explorer can travel into uncharted territory. It doesn't matter if you have a thriving province adjacent to an uncharted province you can't go there or speak to the country that owns it until its been explored. Over time areas explored by other nations will be revealed to you but it a slow process.

 

Colonization on the other hand requires colonists which are a special resource? Depending on the ideas you've unlocked and the country you are playing you can have at most 4 colonists.  Colonists are sent to empty provinces and setup a colony which slowly attracts settlers and over the course of a few years builds it up a city.  Provided it doesn't get destroyed by natives or other players.

 

You could have something similar maybe instead of colonists its survey teams or science vessels.  You need them to get colonies started or make a region safe for your ships to travel. It all depends on how you want to go with your game. Europe Univerallis IV is all about limiting what the player can do any one time, MOO was all about getting the player to expand as fast as possible.



#34 Acharis   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 3973

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Posted 12 August 2014 - 01:50 PM

Probably I will use something like this:

 

 

You see all systems in the galaxy from the start but know nothing about them and don't know the star lanes (paths between systems).

 

 

Scouting:

- a fleet can not travel to the system/planet that was not scouted (the space lane was not explored so they can't synchronize their warp engines), so you can't use military units for exploration

- you can send scouts to a system (must be neighbour to the system you already scouted), you do so by clicking a button "send scout" on the unexplored system, next turn that system is scouted [this involves some cost, not sure what/how]

- if you create a colony it automaticly and for free scouts all neighbour systems the next turn after creation

- ocassionally you get an event "adventurer scouted a new system" and you get free scout on some random system (but not too far from your scouted ones)

 

Once scouted you get access to the star lane (path), know basic info about the planet, and always know about enemy fleets there.

 

 

Surveying:

- once planet was scouted you can survey it (to examine if there are ruins, relics, artifacts, technology, rare resources, etc), you do so by sending there imperial archeologists team (button on the planet) [this involves some cost, not sure what/how]

 

Once surveyed a planet can be colonized and have access to rare resource/ancient structures.


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#35 jefferytitan   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 2242

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Posted 12 August 2014 - 03:48 PM

I think scout ships can be useful if their purpose is targeted and it makes economic sense. For example if scout ships are cheap, more plentiful than war ships, possibly faster. It particularly makes sense if some systems/planets are just more trouble than they're worth, so sending military ships would be a drain on resources. Personally I would also like the mystery of "all scout ships in sector 8 were killed by an unknown opponent... investigate?".



#36 valrus   Members   -  Reputation: 771

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Posted 12 August 2014 - 07:14 PM

To promote exploration (even beyond the bounds of your intended empire) you could have your survey teams discover clues about the nature of the extragalactic threat.  If your threat differs randomly each time you play (comes from a different direction, uses different weaponry, uses different strategy, wants different resources, etc.), and you can figure this out in advance by scouting planets, that's a strong reason to want to survey.  

 

It's common premise in SF to have extragalactic "leveler" baddies be cyclical: humans discover that the reason alien civilizations haven't already taken over the galaxy is because civilizations are periodically wiped out by a mysterious threat... that will soon return DAH DAH DUMMMMM.



#37 Acharis   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 3973

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Posted 16 August 2014 - 09:02 AM


It's common premise in SF to have extragalactic "leveler" baddies be cyclical: humans discover that the reason alien civilizations haven't already taken over the galaxy is because civilizations are periodically wiped out by a mysterious threat... that will soon return DAH DAH DUMMMMM.
Yeah :D

 

The "clues" part seems nice as well...

 

 

 

Anyway, what you think overall of the splitting exploration to scouting and surveying?


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#38 valrus   Members   -  Reputation: 771

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Posted 18 August 2014 - 08:15 PM

Anyway, what you think overall of the splitting exploration to scouting and surveying?

 

Yeah, that division makes sense.  

 

If you want to avoid having another class of ships (survey ships) you could treat surveying something that happens after a few turns once you've built a research center or sent a research ship.  






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