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Member Since 27 Aug 2003
Offline Last Active Yesterday, 02:51 PM

#5265603 Storyline in a 4X

Posted by on 09 December 2015 - 12:24 PM

Well take it back to the Dune reference. (Writing this up and I'm realizing how long it has been since I actually read the books. Assume that the following contains spoilers and mistakes, but close enough to get the gist for game design.)


At some point the Emperor was faced with Liet Kynes and the decision as to whether or not to allow him to start doing his massive ecological survey. This decision becomes a branching point in the Dune series with various possible outcomes. Allowing him to go unlocks a route that potentially enables Paul to overthrow the Emperor far down the road, but denying the request to start the research might either close that story branch or open a new one where Liet Kynes meets someone at court and and whole other chain of events might start to unfold. Maybe he meets up with a group and an assassination plot begins, or a plot begins and he discovers it and saves you. 


Depending on how you are doing in the strategy side of things then different storyline events may trigger. Have you just failed to suppress a rebellion? Then you've met conditions under which different events may trigger, possibly so and so in a neighbouring sector will rise up and lead another rebellion because he sees that the empire is weak. Or maybe person such and such will rise up in the recently rebelled provinces with a counter-revolution, because your previous story line choices gained favour with her and her family, and she feels that her people are better off being in the fold of the empire rather than on the edge of it.


Your story scripting would ideally include chances with which ways given choices swing, simply to keep it hard from trying to repeat the same game twice in a row.


The core choice you have to make is, how big is your cast? How many factions are there? Do you want "Random" people to come up and be generated at runtime, or do you want to keep the storyline to be tightly focused with a dozen or so 'names' weaving the story around the emperor? 


Also, what story do you want to tell?




As for your random factors, they can be a simple as laying out options in the script. Option A has a 50% chance of firing, B 30%, C 19% and D is 1%. User might see some of the odds when making a choice, or they might have the odds and effect hidden from view. The point of the random factor would be to add some flexibility and surprise into user choices, and some risk/reward. If Choice A always has a more positive out come than Choice B, then you'll want to pick it. But if Choice B usually is worse than A, but has the chance to be far far better on a good dice roll, then maybe you'll take it on some games instead, depending on how things are going for you.

#5265585 Storyline in a 4X

Posted by on 09 December 2015 - 09:11 AM

The base game itself makes very little use of the storyteller function, but it is still something that can easily be built on. There are a number of mods that apparently really step it up in that regard, and I only mentioned it as an existing baseline of how 'story elements' are able to be thrown into what would otherwise be a pure numbers game, and how they built a two way system that feeds between each other in a strategy game.


They are using the system in CK2 to add some random curve balls and blimps to help change up the pace of the game from one session to the next and is generic enough that most of the content can apply to whatever character you choose to start with, but using their concept and scripting style as a foundation would let you build storyline elements that are flexible and as interesting as you want to put the effort into making them.


You may want to pretty the UI aspect up a bit more than what they're using, but Text > Choice Branch > Random Factor > Effect > Loop is a very flexible and workable solution to this kind of thing.

#5265467 Storyline in a 4X

Posted by on 08 December 2015 - 12:27 PM

Have you played Crusader Kings II? (I believe Europa Universalis might do the same, but it has been so long since I played EUIII, and haven't touched EUIV yet.)


They use a system of 'events' that trigger based on various factors and fill in various character names as needed. A handful of them are longer scripted events with some random factors thrown in, which build a tree of a handful of these popups that are linked, but most are just one off popups "So and So had a dispute with This other guy, Side with So and So to make them happy, side with Other Guy to make them happy, or take a middle ground that doesn't make either side upset with you." kind of things.


You could use something like that to string together a sort of "Pick your own adventure" book for a storyline and build a system that feeds into the 4x game (Bonuses, unlocks, rebellions, etc.) which in turn feeds back into the 'story engine' (Doing well putting down a rebellion feeds back in and may trigger event paths that give you choices that can lead to bonuses, or maybe you choose poorly and the rebellion leader becomes a martyr and your empire spirals out of control with rebellions.)

#5263631 Realistic space battles - fun or not?

Posted by on 25 November 2015 - 03:16 PM

"Realistic Space Battles" look rather dull, seeing as they don't exist and therefore don't happen. 


However, since that is an overly boring answer it is better to start looking at how technology could advance and make warfare something remotely worthwhile.


Something that is often overlooked during these conversations is the more "Geo-political" angle. On earth we have conflicts because people with different views and goals are close enough that they can actually "do something about it", which in turn rather frequently results in warfare as the easiest answer. "They can't be right if they're dead!" kind of solutions to problems.


So, Why is there a conflict? Why is anyone so angry at, or scared of, someone else that they're willing to invest the time an energy into trying to kill them when there are several AU or more between each other most of the time? Start with the question of "What could possibly drive us to spend that much time and energy to even try fighting a war", and then look to what technology you might have and want to use to fight that.


Energy, relativity, and Delta-V all start to really matter when it comes to figuring out how to fight a war. And if you develop some kinds of technology, then it is going to really have an impact on how two or more sides are going to duke it out. Highly intelligent nano-bots that are hard to detect? Well why even have a war when you can send a few merchant or diplomatic ships? 


So if you are going to start along the lines of designing a "Realistic" system, you're going to have to define what your realism is and what can be done within it.

#5262252 The Birth of a Lich

Posted by on 16 November 2015 - 08:47 AM

I find that liches are far too often portrayed as vague 'bad guys for the sake of being evil', which I find to be exceptionally boring story wise. What I find to work much better for making the characters interesting is to make them dynamic. Part of the frequent lore on them is that they gain their lich related power through 'unspeakable evil acts of an unspecified nature', but nothing says they have to have started out as purely evil. 


For example: Setting a Good character, probably Neutral Good or Chaotic Good in D&D terms, down a path that leads them to gaining more and more power in their "Big Quest of Goodness!" against evil, which in turn forces them to choose between the good of the many vs the good of the few kind of conflict, may give you far more interesting story options than something along the lines of "Bob is an evil dick, so one day Bob went out and became a Lich, and here we are with Dick Bob the Lich doing his Evil Lich things". 


Do you let the character keep slipping deeper and deeper into evil and shed all humanity and become completely corrupted? Do they fight back and find a way to redeem themselves? Do they kind of balance between the two? 


Game mechanic wise this also offers some interesting options. Do you potentially weaken yourself and head straight for redemption, where some "Do Gooder" might more easily kill you because you haven't gained enough power? Do you try and hedge your bets, sinking 'just a little deeper' into evil to gain more power first, but at the risk of attracting stronger 'Do Gooders" who offset your power gain? Do you just keep sinking down into evil and accept it as your fate?

#5259994 no of ammotypes

Posted by on 01 November 2015 - 10:17 AM

But if you can just plug the "pistol ammo" which is available in thousands of rounds into a machine gun (just because bullets have the same diameter) and wipe the entire level empty, then... well then you've done something wrong.


Logistics would disagree. Actually if you could design a round and set of weapons platforms that let you use the same ammo in your side arm as in your squad support weapon and have them all be effective in combat, then you would have a holy grail of weapons development on your hands. 


However when it comes to 'end of the world' kind of things, then the question becomes 'how wide spread are these rounds, the weapons, and spare parts for them?' 


Do you keep that 5.8-caseless pistol on your hip, because you can use the same ammo for it as you're feeding into your squads 5.8-caseless assault rifles and the fully automatic light machine gun, which everyone loves because of how effective the round is while also saving 15% of the weight on ammo, or do you pick up the 9mm pistol and a few magazines of ammo for it because you hardly ever actually come across any of that amazing 5.8-caseless ammo? 


So you've run out of ammo for your 5.56 assault rifle, and now you've fallen back to just your pistol. You come across a 7.62 assault rifle and a cache of ammo for it:

Obviously you're probably going to want to grab that 7.62 rifle. Even if is a little harder to aim and you can't carry as much ammo for it at a time, it is still clearly a far better weapon than your empty 5.56. The question is, do you keep that nice 5.56 in the hope of coming across another cache of ammo for it, or do you ditch it and its dead weight so you can grab another few handfuls of 7.62 ammo to feed the new rifle awhile longer?




But honestly if you want solid answers to these design questions then I suggest that you start writing out stories of what your players actually do. Picture two friends talking about the game, one has played it and one hasn't: What aspects is the player telling his friend about? What awesome and amazing things happened in your game that the player is going to tell his friend about that the friend is going to be interested in.


I've never once said "Oh man, the DPS between weapons is so balanced, and they have the perfect number of ammo types!" when trying to get someone interested in a game. Yes, weapon balance is important, but it is something secondary to the actual game and mechanics itself. Like I said before, I've played games where I had the choice between dozens of weapons, and I've had fun. And I've played games where I've had only a single weapon and I've still had fun. However the number of weapons has never been something that stands out in my mind. 

#5259789 The wrong way to count lines of code

Posted by on 30 October 2015 - 01:41 PM

LOC is a useful metric, but its usefulness is very limited and quickly becomes meaningless. 


Far more interesting and useful metics can be generated through peer review and points or grading systems. 



LOC on its own really doesn't tell you much, especially when you account for things like switching to third party code on a project. Some code that I had years ago was a few thousand lines of C++ that made a bit of use of some external libraries. I decided to rewrite it while learning Python and made use of a number of highly supported and recommended libraries. The code ran just as fast, but what I actually wrote myself was now only a few dozen lines of Python with more of the 'grunt work' for things passed off to efficient and reusable opensource libraries solving the same problems I had previously had to do myself due to having lacked knowledge and trust of suitable libraries when I had originally written it.

#5259775 no of ammotypes

Posted by on 30 October 2015 - 11:20 AM

When designing systems like this you have to ask yourself what is the goal of the design? Where is your 'fun' coming from, why would I as a player want to actually play the game?


I have had lots of fun with games where I picked up 'ammo' or 'energy', and used it in whatever weapon I pull out, and I've had lots of fun where I've bashed open a crate only to find out that it was full of hundreds of rounds of 5.56mm rifle ammo instead of the 7.62mm that the one rifle I could carry was using. And then I've also had loads of fun with some games where I could tape the trigger button down and have the bad-ass auto cannon just keep firing for hours on end.


So, what does ammo limits and ammo types add or take away from your game? 


For a survival horror kind of game, I honestly kind of like having lots of options and choices. Having ammo come up in sensible real world ways is fun, as is having realistic stashing mechanics. Maybe I'll find a half empty brick of 9mm for my pistol behind the counter of some diner, a fist full of .50cal short in the desk drawer of a sheriff, or a full pallet with thousands of rounds of 5.56mm sitting in the back of a warehouse. It offers a world building aspect, and resource imbalance isn't always a terrible thing in this case. Coming across a million rounds of ammunition that is there for the taking isn't a game breaking event if the user still has to make choices and deal with the effort of trying to move all of that ammo. Maybe the game play will force the player to grab a hundred rounds or less of it and move on.



Long story short: What is the game world? What do you want the player to do and feel? Answer that first, and then you can start worrying about whether you add "pistol, rifle, shotgun, crossbow bolts" as the options to your game, or whether you grab "The complete ammunitions of the world Reference book" and model a few hundred or thousands of types of rounds.

#5259767 Too easy to avoid anti-air fire (aircraft game)

Posted by on 30 October 2015 - 10:57 AM

I'm starting to think that a viable solution would be to have the AA weapons fire in a beam like manner.


Each battery could have a zone of engagement, and when the player enters the weapon's zone you would calculate where the player will be X units of time ahead of where they are based on their current pathing, apply a random offset to this point, and then start firing off a stream of bullets/lasers that continues on beyond where they are.


Give the player time to react and try to plot a route around the danger area, but as they start changing direction then have the stream of AA fire try to follow them, and keep firing until the player leaves that weapon's zone of engagement. 


With multiple overlapping zones the player is then forced to plan their forward path on the fly, and when combined with being able to see the emplacements ahead of when they can start engaging you then as a designer you can develop patterns that become effective 'mazes of death'. Choose poorly and you could find that fleeing in one direction from one firing emplacement's arc will instead herd you into the arc of two or three more.

#5258845 Too easy to avoid anti-air fire (aircraft game)

Posted by on 24 October 2015 - 10:25 AM

Real world AAA relied partly on imprecision, general volume, and probability. The batteries also worked together to saturate a volume of sky that the target was flying through with literarily tons of flak in some of the largest air battles in history.


So if you have more than one gun emplacement within a zone, and they can all engage the target, then don't have them all target perfectly. Rather than every gun calculating the point in space where their munitions would hit the target, instead have the first in the group target the 'point of expected impact', then start spiralling out from that with the other guns. The more guns active in an area, then the larger the volume they can target, and the harder it becomes to dodge. 


Depending on the specifics of your game you may want to play with the odds and probability. Some game styles can benefit from being able to 'fly through the flak cloud', and take the random chance of whether or not it works. Other games would need more deterministic outcomes from such actions.

#5258501 Units Factories

Posted by on 22 October 2015 - 06:40 AM

Another thing to consider when you are designing your base economy system is that the factories and what they produce isn't just for the player controlling them to make decisions, but they are also vital to the opponent if it is going to be multiplayer! (Actually even kind of plays into computer AI if you want to make it account for things.)


The reason to have multiple unit types is to use a Rock-Paper-Scissors approach to combat. (After all, if there is no real noticeable difference in units, then why bother going through the effort of making different units?) Which makes mechanics to scout the enemy base kind of important. If you see that your opponent is only building the stuff needed to pump out light infantry, then maybe you'll focus more heavily on building up tanks or helicopter gunships. 


So while you are designing your base building mechanics, do remember to not focus solely on the view from just the controlling player's perspective. 

#5258432 What makes a City Builder fun?

Posted by on 21 October 2015 - 03:59 PM

I tend to drift towards city builders that blend general design with system building and problem solving.


Lately I've really been into traffic simulation and transit design with systems that focus on relatively realistic cities, but I did really enjoy what I considered "Tool-chain" games when I was younger, such as Caesar III, and more recently the Anno series.


I'm really enjoying most parts of Cities: Skylines, but the traffic design tools leave a little to be desired. (Weird random 'snap' placement and curves at times, lack of pre-planning that leads to frustrating budget issues.)



But what I really want is a good solid and realistic colony game. Outpost 1 revamped kind of thing. There have been a number of 'colony' games that I've seen lately, but they're all horribly shallow and short tool-chain builders. 

#5257504 Relation between mines & factories

Posted by on 16 October 2015 - 10:07 AM

Personally I would either go with a multiple vector resource and logistics system (Even if it is as simple as flagging production, stockpile, and staging areas and their supply lines at a very abstract level, but I'm very fond of logistical planning.), or just abstract the entire thing away to "Industrial Capacity", which you then direct towards different outputs, such as Military Hardware, Research, or "Consumer Goods". 


In the Industrial Capacity model you would be acknowledging that you don't really care how it gets done, you just care about whether or not you want to invest any of your current IC here and now into producing more IC for you at some point down the road. These systems can be made more complex with various things factoring in, such as whether or not you develop "direct" IC on distant parts of your empire, or if you centralize everything, in which case it could automatically deploy 'indirect' IC and gain some bonuses based on outlying holdings. (That way you can't just pile on all your IC development in your capitol while expanding your empire and keep "max production" even if you're losing most of your land. Gaining outlying land/planets would give you a bonus to your IC even if it is all in one place, but losing it would then still knock down your IC as well.)



But also remember that you don't need 1:1 "just in time" usage. Hearts of Iron does things in an interesting way in that you need to think far ahead with regards to your resources, and issues with that depend on who you are playing as. Producing way more than you actually need right now is a good thing, as conflict can then radically change your empire's input of resources. You could be trading and buying up far more resources than you need for your industry at the time being, but doing so means you can keep your war machine rolling after much of your external supplies dry up during conflict. Build up stockpiles during peace time, and then burn them as "War Fuel" during conflict. 


Then there is also the "Catan Trading" option when it comes to resources. Don't have a specific resource you need? Convert a large amount of another type into a small amount of the resource you desperately need. Combine that with the Strategic Stockpile and External Input concepts from above, and you have a far more interesting system than "One mine feeds one Factory that feeds Ten Ships". 

#5254373 How do I know what Android version to target?

Posted by on 28 September 2015 - 08:03 AM

Dig around on google for 2 things:


1. User stats, what devices are actually being used in your target region.

2. Testing services who can cover all, or at least most, of the devices in the list you made from the above searching. 


Given how many devices there are out there, and how widely the performance and differ, it really can pay to just hire someone else to do your basic testing. Think of how much it would cost you to buy the half dozen or so most popular devices, and then think about how much it will cost you for ten hours of testing to get someone else who already owns all those devices to do an install and basic play sweep. (Pro tip: Design your application for a robust "debug" build system. If the testers can jump through to the different parts of the game from the main menu it really speeds up their testing. Especially if you run into a bug like "App crashes when doing X in level [very high number]", then they can jump right too that spot on the next build. Also means testers can confirm that the error is something with playing the level itself, rather than playing for x amount of time or something, which just happens to end up putting you in the same level consistently.)

#5254174 Currency in post-apoc / zombie world?

Posted by on 26 September 2015 - 03:43 PM

Since the topic of ammo has come up, I think that taking time, possibly in another thread (and possibly on another forum actually, not sure how well a detailed discussion on making ammo would go over here...) to talk about what it would take to make 'important things' in the kind of game scenario a given game might be using, such as making more ammo after civilization has pretty much ended.


So I would have to say that the hardest part about producing your own ammo is going to be your chemistry, not your physical dimensions. Making a bullet that is sized to a given firearm is really fairly trivial once you're set up for it, and even forming brass casings isn't that hard of a job, and it can all be done with just hand tools if you're really pressed for it. Reliable primers seem to be one of the tricky things, seeing as it isn't a well known technology even among people who deal with firearms.


I don't even own a gun, but I can make a moderately reliable basic black powder simply because I'm a history geek, and I know enough that I could probably cobble together nitrocellulose for a more modern product. (Oddly enough I learned about making that mostly from exploring early photography rather than weapons.) However making a reliable primer? That's rather tricky from what I can see. One of the biggest problems is that the stuff, by nature of its use, needs to be easy to set off, which in turn makes it rather tricky to produce due to how easily you can screw up and do unpleasant things like blowing your fingers off, or worse.


With a bit of googling it appears that lots of people seem to know a fair bit about the making of old black powder, far fewer know much about producing smokeless powder, and fewer still seem to have much to say about the subject of making primers or percussion caps. So that can make producing ammo a rather interesting problem, and could possibly cause tech to split in two directions. Some communities might fall back to using blackpowder in modern style cases with a weird revision on a flint lock and flash pan firing method, and other communities with better chemists producing modern smokeless powder with modern primer caps. 



Thinking a little more about the problem and the risk of poor powder resulting in under velocity rounds is leading me toward the idea that a break barrel rifle might have a lot of value due to being able to quickly check that your barrels actually cleared before reloading. 



To me, small details make a huge difference in game lore.