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Wavinator

Critique System For Dynamic Empires?

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I'm going to try to make this a bit more brief than my usual *ahem* extended posts... I'm finishing up a system which is supposed to generate random history for an RPG as well as create a changing world the player can impact. There are three main pieces to it: Risk-style rules, missions and reports. I'm interested in feedback on how this system impacts players directly more than the system itself (but I'm open to that, too). Risk rules These run in a thread in the background and get extra attention during routine interrupts like level loads. Simple formula of attack power versus defense power is tested against a results table in different areas, with results of partial or full on success or failure. Empires & Factions Empires duke it out for control of resources, territory and population. Within each empire, factions fight for power to set the agenda of the empire. The player is a citizen of one empire, but can become aligned with almost any other. Empires expand in 4 areas: Diplomacy, Military, Science and Economy. Resources in each control the expansion: alliances, fleets / armies, tech and mines. Diplomacy affects how the player is treated in other empires; military affects events like random pirate attacks, invasions and Sieger (space monster) strikes; science affects tech level for medical / repair services and how effective the player's gadgets are; economy determines the price of goods and services. At regular intervals, one or more of these areas are tested for each empire. Towns, items, ships and characters change based on the results. Missions Missions act as modifiers for tests, which means that all missions are TIMED . If an NPC says a town will be destroyed by a certain date, it will be destroyed. (RPG players might hate this, but it breaks immersion otherwise). This means that the player can win a mission but the results can still turn against him / her. They'll get credit and rewards, but the empire can still lose. Missions match the 4 areas: Escorting diplomats, recon / sabotage, scanning a dangerous anomaly or recovering tech, or destroying enemy mines and factories, are examples. Multiple Missions Are "Stories" Every mission has short-term and grand objectives and key characters who will use a toned down version of the risk system to pull off dramatic moves. The player never sees these moves, but they create the next mission. Example: Disable an anti-capital ship gun for the Motherbrood allows a Sieger invasion in one mission; in between scenes a key mercenary kidnaps the First Broodmother to interrogate her; next mission: rescue the Broodmother. The entire objective (not revealed to the player for suspense) is to weaken two empires and bring about war. Reports Most reports just add flavor. The player cannot participate unless the event specifies a time and location, inwhich case the game tests and creates the event if the player shows up. They won't be formally compensated without a mission, though (standing bounties or scavenging aside). The results of the risk-style conflict makes it into the news and mouths of NPCs. News broadcasts depend on the empire, with propaganda a factor (the NeoCommunist Digital Union, for instance, would claim that enemy fleets are committing suicide even as they're invading the planet). NPCs also have similar filters, based on internal biases. They'll cite recent events and offer an opinion ("Hear about that Sieger strike against Ishido? Poor people."). They'll also make simple projections and express hopes and fears. ("This war against the Zelenae will ruin our nation!") When the player is talking to a mission character, these opinions and projections will be far more accurate than with the average citizen. It should be funny to hear the people propose wild conspiracy theories. That's the basics. I've held back a lot of little details for clarity's sake. Feedback appreciated. -------------------- Just waiting for the mothership... [edited by - Wavinator on June 1, 2004 11:09:53 PM]

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Hi

Are all the empires inherently aggressive with a "we will rule the universe!"-mentality leading to attempts to take over or crush other empires and factions. I think it would be cool with empires with different "personalities". Some might want to expand infinitely (3rd Reich), while others might want to try to live peacefully. Yet others might want to meddle with everything to try to make a "better world" (US )

Missions: You say if an NPC says a town will be destroyed at a set daye - Wouldn''t it be better that the town will be attacked and possibly destroyed on that date? Then the player might have a chance to do something - rouse a defence or something like that and possibly avert the destruction of the town. It might also be that the attacker lost the battle and the town survived even if the player had no hand in it.

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sounds good.

What about at powerful npcs, lets call them avatars for now. At the start of the game a number of avatars are created. Each avatar either likes, dislikes each faction. When you do your risk rolls if there is an avatar in a factions territory then it increases or decrease that factions die roll depending on its opinions of that faction.

Basically the avatars are npcs, with power and influence that help shape the galaxy. You can even have a little sub story around the player killing avatars.



-----------------------------------------------------
"Fate and Destiny only give you the opportunity the rest you have to do on your own."
Current Design project: Ambitions Slave

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quote:
Original post by frostburn
Are all the empires inherently aggressive with a "we will rule the universe!"-mentality leading to attempts to take over or crush other empires and factions.



Hey, thx for the reply. No, the empires go off an alignment system (I posted about this weeks ago) called the Moral Compass. It determines whether or not they''re reserved, honorable, barbaric or humanitarian. But all empires, even the peaceful ones, will be competing and cooperating. The peaceful ones will just be dealing in alliances, economic influence and subterfuge, mostly to protect themselves from the aggressive ones.


quote:

I think it would be cool with empires with different "personalities". Some might want to expand infinitely (3rd Reich), while others might want to try to live peacefully. Yet others might want to meddle with everything to try to make a "better world" (US )



Yes, this adds flavor. The empires will be randomly generated with random history. They may be either racially unified or polyglot. You should even be able to find multiple empires of one race, and in the case of humans I''ll add a touch of culture to the historical mix so that you can get planets like Ishido settled by Japanese traditionalists and Israeli dissidents.

quote:

Missions: You say if an NPC says a town will be destroyed at a set daye - Wouldn''t it be better that the town will be attacked and possibly destroyed on that date? Then the player might have a chance to do something - rouse a defence or something like that and possibly avert the destruction of the town. It might also be that the attacker lost the battle and the town survived even if the player had no hand in it.



I have to give this some careful thought. I''ve got to balance your need as a player to get involved in whatever you come across with the need to suspend your disbelief and make the world more alive. In most RPGs, the town waits for you to save them (heh, I remember in Fallout 2 I became an old woman before rescuing my people, aging from 30 to 42!!!)

How would you react if, in a war, you travel from one place to another and discover that the town, the people you were used to interacting with, the shops and facilities... etc., were all gone in a nuclear blast.

If this was a result of a war between your home empire and another, would this motivate you as a player? Or would you be annoyed? (I would never let the town be destroyed if you were in it without ample warning, though as a new player you might not know that).


--------------------
Just waiting for the mothership...

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quote:
Original post by TechnoGoth
What about at powerful npcs, lets call them avatars for now. At the start of the game a number of avatars are created. Each avatar either likes, dislikes each faction. When you do your risk rolls if there is an avatar in a factions territory then it increases or decrease that factions die roll depending on its opinions of that faction.

Basically the avatars are npcs, with power and influence that help shape the galaxy. You can even have a little sub story around the player killing avatars.




Actually, this is perfect TechnoGoth. It fleshes out the concept I talked about awhile ago about nemesis characters. I think this be another direct way of influencing the game world along with getting super-advanced technology and giving it to the different empires. You could accomplish the same goals by influencing the right leader, who can influence a faction.

There could be, just like with the technology idea, different scales of influence (planetary, system-wide, empire). The more effective the change the avatar can make, the more missions and challenges you need to go through to get them to listen to you.


--------------------
Just waiting for the mothership...

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I thought of a nearly identical design years ago, but putting into practice such a massive simulation is way tough. I had mine envisioned as a Rogue-like game, with terrain, towns, etc., and then it would have had to figure out roads, armies, supply lines, and all sorts of details to make it feel somewhat realistic X( The core concept was the same though - characters of different status(king, mob boss, merchant) have various goals, and generate appropriate quests to achieve those goals, both of which the player can take a part in. The results then go back into the world, reflecting the changes from that quest.

Someday I might try it again Games like EV Nova let you take over galaxies, but it''s just not the same. The world doesn''t "bend" enough to make it more than an idle pursuit for people like my collegate friends. Changing the world top-to-bottom from player actions is always going to be a tricky thing, though....

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quote:
Original post by RTF
I thought of a nearly identical design years ago, but putting into practice such a massive simulation is way tough.



Thanks for the feedback. I think the major flaw to a simulation approach is that of trying to detail the simulation outright when approximations of change should be the top focus.

The first thing you have to get right are the rules for how the world changes and stats that get changed (I''m about 70% done here). The meat of this is how one change affects something else. For instance, piracy should increase security, so if you keep track of how many times you run random events for piracy and how many times the player pirates in one node, you get a sense of how much security should correspondingly increase.

The trick at this phase is coming up with rules that are transparent enough for the player to work with, and realistic enough to be believable.

The next step is to connect game entities like a base or character to the above rules at a level that''s abstracted enough so that you''re not overwhelmed, but detailed enough to be engaging. Assassination / removal is my favorite example because it''s so direct: Blow up a jump gate, or kill the leader of a world, and it should ripple changes throughout the map.

The final decision is to figure out how and when to to process the map.


quote:

I had mine envisioned as a Rogue-like game, with terrain, towns, etc., and then it would have had to figure out roads, armies, supply lines, and all sorts of details to make it feel somewhat realistic X( The core concept was the same though - characters of different status(king, mob boss, merchant) have various goals, and generate appropriate quests to achieve those goals, both of which the player can take a part in.



This sounds cool, although I have to ask: How much of this was actual, in game AI planning and movement, and how much was "faked." I plan to "fake" most of this based on probabilities and teleportation because it''s plausible. The rest will be based on game objects that can be affected in a limited number of ways.

quote:

Someday I might try it again



I highly recommend it. The world could use more games like this!

quote:

Games like EV Nova let you take over galaxies, but it''s just not the same. The world doesn''t "bend" enough to make it more than an idle pursuit for people like my collegate friends. Changing the world top-to-bottom from player actions is always going to be a tricky thing, though....


I agree with you that this isn''t simple, and EV doesn''t go far enough because there''s aren''t enough objects in the game world to affect and enough interesting ways to affect them (and be affected by them, especially once they change). If bases could change hands or be destroyed with or without you, that would be a quantum leap forward. For all the fascinating times you jump in and see two sides duking it out, you realize eventually that nothing ever changes.

I''m putting my hopes into the idea that nodes and connecting lines, with a general set of rules, can represent the game world at whatever level of abstraction you want. The nodes can be star systems or cities on a planetary map, or even buildings within a city. In parallel with gameplay like combat and trade that can stand alone, my hope is that there''ll be enough of a changable, living world to keep you interested.



--------------------
Just waiting for the mothership...

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In context of modern politics - consider this: massive numbers of 3rd party factions that generally have no impact on the players, but if so moved by extreme political events can become involved in various ways - like a very politically popular player able to mobilize many neutral countries in his aide, while a more brutal player may end up finding himself under trade embargoes. In the extreme case, factions struggling against each other could breed discontent between the neutral countries, forcing the 3rd party world along factional lines - creating a cold-war style climate of communism vs. capitalism in which a player is only one part.

The dynamics of this would mean the player would have to consider much more the ramifications of their actions - will such and such a trade deal or invasion be popular? Whom will it be popular with? Will it solidify our deals?

Too many of these "civ simulators" minimize the massive interdependance and interconnectedness of the world. A more modern globalized approach would be interesting.

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After reading your last your response I had an idea, for a way you can use simple rules to abstract complex situations, using resource points. The idea still needs some work but here it is.

A faction has a number of Resource points in different fields.
Diplomacy
Economy
Security
Military
Science
Infrastructure
Population

Those resources points abstract the various amounts of activity and entities in those fields.

Entities generate different amounts resource points in different fields and/or consume resource points. Events/mission also provide a change to resource points depending on the mission.

So lets say there is a small faction, with 1,000,000 points in all fields.

The player then destroys one of their jump gates, which cause a loss of 250,000 security points and a loss of 250,000 infrastructure points.

However that’s only the immediate result. The effect ripples through the faction, the faction was receiving 50,000 economy points and 15,000 diplomacy points each month from the jump gate, which is gone now. Also their tourisms income which is (infrastructure + (average (diplomacy, security))/1000 economy points a month. The ripple continues and the factions trade income, which is based on infrastructure decreases, and their trade expenses increase. That change in income can then go on to effect military and science spending.

So depending on the rules you create an actions effect can be created easily and yet that effect can have a far-reaching major impact on the faction.

The change in resource points would also affect the player, since you mission would be based on those resource points. Decreased security means an increase in criminal related missions, decreased infrastructure would mean a greater demand for infrastructure related missions such trade, and transport. Decreased economy would mean lower wages and higher prices.

You could even allow the player to be evil and devious, so that rather then creating a supply to match a demand the player can create a demand to match a supply. Have a fleet of cargo ships doing nothing? Destroy a factions jump gate and then take advantage of valuable trade deals that result.


-----------------------------------------------------
"Fate and Destiny only give you the opportunity the rest you have to do on your own."
Current Design project: Ambitions Slave

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quote:
Original post by Pxtl
In context of modern politics - consider this: massive numbers of 3rd party factions that generally have no impact on the players, but if so moved by extreme political events can become involved in various ways - like a very politically popular player able to mobilize many neutral countries in his aide, while a more brutal player may end up finding himself under trade embargoes.



Neat, you''ve got me thinking about how I''d do this in the context of this node based system I''ve been working on all this past week. The easy part for something like this would be in making it happen at the abstract level: Empires or factions can easily declare war, and I''ve got rules that propigate conflict across the map. Embargoes are even easier, as the nodes will be organized in a parent/child fashion, with resources summarized so that the game can quickly figure out if an economic change should be happening.

The trick here is actual gameplay: How does the player affect these factions, and how do they get at least some sense of the magnitude of their actions.

quote:

In the extreme case, factions struggling against each other could breed discontent between the neutral countries, forcing the 3rd party world along factional lines - creating a cold-war style climate of communism vs. capitalism in which a player is only one part.



Populations are represented as a faction, and they have a morale. It seems what would be needed then is a ruleset that says that certain types of populations dislike conflict, and thus in the game''s database their morale gets updated whenever conflict begins or ends.

quote:

The dynamics of this would mean the player would have to consider much more the ramifications of their actions - will such and such a trade deal or invasion be popular? Whom will it be popular with? Will it solidify our deals?


Yes, I think this is the most exciting premise, because it means you can truly impact the game world. Although there needs to be some clamping so that the whole system doesn''t run off the rails as has happened in MMORPGs like Ultima with economic depression and such. That''s why I''m a fan of any major impacts the player can undertake either a function of a specific mission or a specific object that embodies stat-based changes. So you can either get a mission to say, destroy the planetary stock exchange to cause a depression, or you can destroy it yourself, but you''d never be able to destroy the economy just by accidently selling too many cheap alien goods.

This is no the reasoning that a change you can''t predict is no better than a random event. Random events have their place, and I intend to use them in a semi-random fashion, but I''d hate to play a game where my every move might upset the universe... it would inspire not to move at all.

quote:

Too many of these "civ simulators" minimize the massive interdependance and interconnectedness of the world. A more modern globalized approach would be interesting.


I definitely agree. It''s interesting to simply consider how this works and what factors cause the world to be interconnected or not. Then it''s even more fun to put them into rules and code.


--------------------
Just waiting for the mothership...

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