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Member Since 27 Aug 2003
Offline Last Active Yesterday, 03:10 PM

#5194176 Multi-path story/simulation game with anonymized multiplayer feedback - has t...

Posted by Luckless on 22 November 2014 - 04:17 PM

I think you may have to expand a little more on how the players would interact with each other's worlds, and how you plan to actually generate those worlds in the first place.


But related to what you're talking about, and an idea that may be useful to you; I have long been thinking of an idea based on community 'script' development and a loose AI director. 


The point would be in a procedurally generated RPG would be able to string together 'scripts' or 'plot lines'. The game could either be run in 'strict' mode that follows a detailed long plot line from start to finish that would be written in the style of traditional cRPGs, or in a 'string' mode, that will tie shorter scripts together for a more Rogue like feel. 


Scripts would belong to various levels of a hierarchy, and use standardized tags to identify things. So at the top level someone could write a script about the interactions of two "Big Bad Gangs", and how "Character A" is a triple agent, betraying first one gang, then the other, and coming out as a mastermind. But the script itself doesn't need to define much of anything about either gang, or Character A. Low level scripts would define details about character, stats, precomposed lines of dialogue script, etc. And then a few layers in between based on how complex your system is. 


So when running in loose mode the game would start pulling together scripts from various sources and using them to guide a player through a game.



The elements that I see making such a system work well (And it is an insanely complex one that I haven't devoted serious time to developing due to its scope) would be community management methods. You ideally would have a detailed ranking system for the value of the scripts, as well as metadata describing what kind of script it is and what kind of stories it is suitable for. An automated blind peer-review system would be idea, having players score and provide feedback to authors, but not be able to see any consistent identifiers. (This is to help avoid trolling. Trolls can't work together as easily to push through deliberately 'bad' content, nor focus attacks on other people's good content because they will have no control over which user's content they're rating. And then automated ranking systems should help bring vetted authors up to the top of the list.)


Players then would configure their game generation through filters based on community standardized key-wording. So they have a loose control over what kind of plot lines and scripts the system will select to throw at them. (Or could choose to select from the hard written modules instead.) You can also include a feedback system from the players as well, having them score their enjoyment of the game when they finish. That info could be tied back into future game generation in some way, or spread points around the scripts the game used. After awhile you could build up a system and core dataset that can generate a huge range of really compelling games that combine good elements from hand crafted game worlds with the unpredictability and replayability of procedural content. 


In theory you could also extend such a system to game assets, and add additional elements to your visual or audio aspects of your game.

#5191150 Where to find test players?

Posted by Luckless on 04 November 2014 - 11:34 AM

Ask friends. Join a community of some kind, spend time being part of it, and then ask if anyone there wants to give you a hand. (Generally signing up on forums just to look for help gets considered as spam, but if you actually play the game or genuinely take part in the community in question then requests for help after the fact are better received.)


However, random help like that can be unreliable. Friends often don't want to be too harsh, or will look at everything with the friendly rose coloured glasses. Random people online are likely to give poor and unfocused feedback, and getting real testing on features or concepts out of them can be similar to herding cats. 


Depending on your project then you may want to look into hiring dedicated testers. (Bias warning, I'm actually employed as a professional software end-use tester, but I've had the 'pleasure' of dealing with community feedback for projects we've tested, and it can be painful compared to the structured, detailed, and targeted reports actual professionals tend to generate.) Also pay extra for a company with testers in a country that speaks your native language and is well aligned culturally. Sure you can 'save' money and pay a fraction for something overseas, but it is very easy to lose all those savings in frustration and inefficiencies that grow out of language or cultural barriers. 


Good luck with your project.

#5177470 Mechanics for space game

Posted by Luckless on 01 September 2014 - 12:50 PM

How about making it focused on exploration and expansion? You are a pathfinder paving the way for colonization, and new expansion occurs based on your suggestions?


It is the user's responsibility to make a judgement call on each planet they come to as to what kind of resource and development, if any, is put into the system. You can't simply blindly colonize everything, but need to establish plans of growth and development, flag areas as trade hubs, and run around dealing with problems as they arise. 


Basically playing a StarFleet captain pushing the boundaries of civilization further out into the dark. Push too far and too fast and settlements become weak and prone to failure as 'help' from developed colonies is then too far away. Move too slowly and your approval rating will slowly begin to tank and you'll be replaced/given access to fewer resources/demoted to a lesser ship.

#5170971 Action points in turn based strategy games

Posted by Luckless on 01 August 2014 - 03:43 PM

Doesn't really change the issue of alliances at the core, but opens them to some exceptional abuse depending on the game stage. If you are facing off against an alliance in a normal game, then you are most likely out numbered as it is. Having one side in a war suddenly get double the attack potential, regardless of how strong everyone's economic bases are, can quickly become horribly unbalanced and even worse than it normally would be.


This is made worse if you do not put strong limits on how units can be used, or how often they can attack. What does it matter if you have the better economy to afford to build and field more units if a vastly inferior force still becomes an equal because they can just keep reusing the same unit to attack with while much of the 'superior' force sits and is unused?

#5170569 Exploration in space 4X (boring & tedious)

Posted by Luckless on 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. 

#5169476 Problems with a multi race empire

Posted by Luckless on 27 July 2014 - 07:07 AM

What is the purpose of reuniting/building the empire if there is no real risk/reward mechanic? If all I'm doing in the early stages is just steam rolling small independent planets with zero real risk to my empire, then it risks becoming terribly tedious. Why not just start the player with a large empire and a small fringe buffer, give them a few turns to setup and configure their empire, and start the external invasion forces?


Not trying to put your idea down, just trying to better understand it and poke holes in areas that could be potential gameplay issues.


Good luck with your designs.

#5169413 How to manage 100 planets?

Posted by Luckless on 26 July 2014 - 08:34 PM

What exactly is the point of having detailed decisions for things like build orders if the user doesn't actually make those decisions? 


How does it add something useful to the game beyond selecting the world and upgrading it from a level 3 mining colony to a level 4 mining colony, and abstracting away all those fine details that you never cared about in the first place?

#5169371 Problems with a multi race empire

Posted by Luckless on 26 July 2014 - 02:59 PM

Reunification of a shattered empire does make for a very good backstory. You get to have various factions and such, rather than different species. Maybe even some procedurally generated factions based on a pool of various traits, so each time you play you'll have different challenges popping up to add flavour. A good bonus-negative balance system could do interesting things. 


One game you may have a large number of factions with a "reunification" trait, which makes expanding the empire easier, but it becomes counter balanced by "Anti-technology zealots" who cause havoc with internal affairs. 


Another game may have a large number of isolationists or small confederations who will resist your efforts.



Another different option for a storyline is 'convergent evolution', A dozen or so 'classes' of species emerge across the planets involved, and they're designed with characteristic traits to a class along with cultural traits picked from a pool. Possibly a multi level system, so you have a top level "Humanoid"/other classes, then mammal/insect/reptile sub-class, and then cultural traits.


The system could then spin you out a "tentacloid" reptile with cultural trait of religious next to the planet of "giant" mammal technophobes. Class and sub classes would be obvious from basic orbital probes, but all the cultural traits could take longer to discover, and some combinations may even result is 'total war' as the only option. Wipe them out/forcefully subjugate the planet's population or try to ignore them and just go around.



Also, I think that the "Small empire" of a handful of planets opposing you at one time is a good thing for game play. If it is never more than one planet who would oppose you then the game becomes simply nibbling away at the problem. Nothing really opposes you throughout once you establish your initial solid base, and you risk game play devolving into "Which bite do I take next" rather than "Which war to I gamble/risk next?".

#5169333 How to manage 100 planets?

Posted by Luckless on 26 July 2014 - 11:01 AM

Random thoughts that might be useful:


Base your control on regions, which are all controlled from a "regional capital" planet. Planets within a region are all specialists, based on the nature of a planet with some minimal flexibility to change what a planet does. Each planet provides various kinds of 'resource points' which are then controlled from just the capital. From that screen you can upgrade a given planets facilities 'to the next level', but don't force the player to manually decide if they want 'another mine in grid X,Y, a Habitat module, or to upgrade the existing habitat to a mk II version. Just keep in simple: Each planet has 3-4 'slots', a main 'infrastructure' slot, along with modifier slots (advanced waste processors/farming/storage, university/academy, intelligence facility, specific kind of research labs, defence systems, etc)


So rather than jumping between 20 planets at the start, you really have 2 or 3 capitals to worry about, and all your other 'planets' are merely modifiers that feed into your main hub where you make all your choices. The main 'infrastructure' slot can be a choice tree and represent general capacity/production from that planet, while each planet's modifier slot gives you strategic flexibility. Do you take the gamble of not taking up slots of core worlds with defence bonus options, and maximize them for production, while making the rim worlds far less productive, but arm the rim to the teeth as a wall against invasion?


Planets suitable for habitation would become your population and agricultural centres which produce food and workers/crew/scientists, but you have the option to decimate them and turn them into industrial or mining worlds. Planets which are borderline habitable would default to industrial production, with the option to invest into improving them for main habitation. Sub-habitable words become dedicated to mining or science which merely feed resources into the system which are then 'used' on other planets, but require food/population support from the other planets they support. 


A single screen can then easily allow the player to make decisions on 10-20 planets at a time, so your 100 world empire is easily managed from just a handful of screens. Add upgrades to your main hub world to allow them to control larger areas




This also gives you lots of design options for how the player can control their economics. Keeping it dead simple and just have planets feed resources to the core hub automatically, or putting it into the hands of the player to design trade routes (Which then become vulnerable points of their empire). Depending on your method of space travel this can be a really awesome mechanic in and of itself.


Maybe trade is done by way of Frank Herbert's Dune universe, where each planet is visited by a massive highliner like ship at scheduled intervals. New highliners are a massive cost, so the player would have to plan routes effectively, and decide if they want small amounts of resources to trickle into the core every turn/tick (where they can be used for your major projects/fleets), or do you use fewer highliners with longer routes which will result in having to go several turns without new resources, but then receive massive stockpiles every few turns?

#5167519 How to exit the game gracefully?

Posted by Luckless on 17 July 2014 - 09:50 PM

The games that annoy me when it comes to quitting them are mostly those that give me a bloody loading screen as I'm quitting, and/or make me wade through stuff to actually exit.


In game > Menu > load screen > some other menu > load spinner > yet-another-menu > long load spinner > main menu > quit menu asking me if I actually want to leave the game > LOAD ****ING SPINNER > desktop


When what I want is


In game > Menu > Confirm I meant to quit in the middle of my game > Desktop. No loading spinners, no delay, no flashy sounds or graphics to make me think the game is more 'polished' than it really is.



The other thing that bugs me on quitting functions are games which have no knowledge about their save state.


In game > menu > save game > menu > quit game (Without doing anything to game state) > Are you sure you want to quit? unsaved data will be lost! (Wait, did I save, or didn't I just save? I'm tired and in a hurry...)

#5167246 Fleets with personality & no micromanagement (4X)

Posted by Luckless on 16 July 2014 - 04:15 PM

Personally I would step it back further with abstraction. 


You don't build ships, you build ship yards.


Each flotilla of a fleet is then assigned a 'doctrine', and have a status for how effectively they match their selected doctrine. (This can be faked purely with math, or calculated based on some internal 'ship' simulation that actually accounts for the ships and what kind of stats each one has)


Each fleet/flotilla then is seen as a size/strength rating, doctrine rating (How suited their ships are to their planned tasks, planet security, ground invasion fleet, orbital bombardment, space superiority, etc), and modernization rating. 


player can adjust their fleets budgets from a unified management screen, choosing to allocate resources from your pool of ship yards to fleet maintenance, fleet construction, fleet modernization, or choose a special order of scrapping and rebuilding the oldest/most useless ships. 


Fleets would self balance themselves towards their doctrines, trading 'ships' if one type would more closely align somewhere else, or ordering new ships from the fleet yards themselves. 



Fleets/flotillas (and their commanding officers) would slowly gain general ability the longer they serve, and specific abilities in their selected doctrine. And these can also have a Rock-Paper-Scissors mechanic to them with various pros and cons, and possibly unlocking new ones as the game advances. 





The doctrines mean that the player still gets to make important and meaningful choices about their fleets, but don't have to fiddle with spreadsheet style game play to do so.

#5165056 Game Design: The Illusion of Choice

Posted by Luckless on 06 July 2014 - 09:36 AM

For game design I have seen "Illusion of Choice" used in two main ways.


1. The game lays things out such that it looks like the player is making a choice. A or B. However, neither option actually changes anything, and the player will not be impacted in a notable way. Eliminating one of the 'choices', or replacing it with a coin toss, would not actually impact anything. To me I mostly see this as adding flavour and cosmetic options, which make the game feel more rounded and interesting, but can feel 'cheap' if not handled well. (ie, Deus Ex: Human Revolution end was cheapened in my view, as all the choices you make eventually lead you to basically a single choice node at the end, but don't actually have an impact.)


2. The "win or death" choice. To me this is just bad design. Sure, you "can" play as the necromancer character who relies purely on minions to protect your character and deal damage, but if you ignore their buff/debuff skill tree and the direct attack skills, then you will be totally steamrolled by mid game and will be forced to restart from the beginning because the choices you made were completely unworkable. Or you "can" choose to use the shotgun instead of the sword, but you won't be able to complete the game with it because you'll run out of ammo.


Win or Death is basically a single line or narrow line of choices that lead to victory and additional choices that all lead to defeat, but the game leads you to suggest they are all equally valid. These have to be VERY carefully watched for. They can work in a game, but you risk annoying the player.


It is also related to what I refer to as a precognition door choice. You present the user with two or more doors. Behind one is treasure, and behind the other is a horde of angry shot gun wielding clowns who will near instantly kill you no matter what you do after that door is opened. During your first play through they are both equally valid choices, but the player is not given any information on that 'choice', and therefore is forced to pick at random. The player is then punished for being stupid and not picking the 'one and only correct' door, and must restart/reload, from where they can then select the 'correct' option only after they have already viewed the outcome. To me these are simply annoying and frustrating, and make for an easy reason for me to hit the power switch and just go outside or something.

#5157610 Is working in terminal/console really a waste of time?

Posted by Luckless on 02 June 2014 - 01:27 PM

Yes, learn different tools and ways to tackle the same job. Then evaluate what your actual needs are and apply suitable solutions.


Some days I have half a dozen terminal windows open and spread over multiple desktops in OSX, because I can quickly flick between them with a swipe of my macbook's track pad and get to the one I need. It stays light weight and takes less system resources than running full instances of Eclipse or XCode which have me spending more time looking at a spinning beach ball on my underpowered macbook than I do actually working on my project.


Other days I program with 3 different computers and half a dozen monitors to spread stuff around on.


Sort out how You can make effective use of the resources you have around yourself, and evaluate what new resources are probably good goals for you to work toward.

#5157555 Is working in terminal/console really a waste of time?

Posted by Luckless on 02 June 2014 - 10:56 AM

About 90% of my code is dealing with terminal/console based stuff, simply because it is focused on smaller tools, and command line stuff is far easier to be flexible in building tool chains than any GUI would be. So in my biased opinion it is very important to learn and be comfortable working in a command line environment. (And many of the tools I work with are in the windows environment, so it isn't just a Linux/OSX thing.)


To me coding In a console environment is of somewhat questionable use. It is something that can be useful to do, but generally I find it to be a less than ideal way to work compared to modern IDEs and multiple monitor setups if you can have access to them.

#5153312 Macroeconomy

Posted by Luckless on 13 May 2014 - 08:21 AM

I'm trying to understand what your design goals are and how your game play would function.


It is almost sounding like you want to include elements from something more like SimCity, but which starts out with an existing development you are forced to maintain and far slower expansion? You would take a more hands off control of things and focus the player's decision making on things like upgrading infrastructure or providing subsidies to build something the player wants, but there would be no guarantee that the project would be completed. (ie, you put up $X for a new apartment complex, multiple entities can potentially bid on the project, user picks one, and the project may or may not be finished or up to standards that you want based on various factors.)?