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Numsgil

Politics in a Non-Political Game

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Numsgil    501
For my game I have the player represent an agent of the UN government in the future. As they explore the universe, the player can further the interests of either the UN or a subcommitte or civilian agencies. I was considering having the political control of the various groups change hands amongst the various political parties. I'm thinking of having three axis: social, economic, and foreign policy. So if the player persues a policy of aggressive expanionism and the UN is under the control of isolationists, the net effect on the player's political clout might be negative, or at the very least less positive than if the player was aligned with the views of the UN. Should I use real life parties and their rankings on the political compass (the 2D mapping of social and economic issues) or make up ones instead? I'm leaning towards making up ones because it allows me more latitude in balancing them. Is this all too much for the player to keep track of? Especially considering that the government can be run by conservatives and the other agencies by liberals, it might become very hard to keep track of it all. Obviously political volatility will make a difference. The game deals with space travel by cryo-stasis, so it may be possible for the player to start an action when it's favorable and end it when it isn't. Basically, does a system like this become burdensome? I'm striving for a more-or-less realistic immersive element, and adding politics to government certainly would increase realism. But if in the end it becomes just an annoyance, that's no good either. I'm thinking maybe the government doesn't change political hands quickly, and perhaps even reacts to the player's actions. So isolationists in government would indicate that the player has been persuing an overly agressive foreign policy, and the people at home are tired of it. So the player would have to switch tactics in order to maximize effectiveness. What are your thoughts? If there was an option with something like this in a game, would you play with it on or off?

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onyxflame    203
I'd personally invent various factions rather than using real ones, because if people from different countries are going to play this game they might not like the way you represent their governments. Of course, if you have imaginary countries, you might as well have the setting be some other world of humans with an organization equivalent to the UN. Having something called the UN and then having imaginary countries belonging to it would probably be distasteful to most players.

As for how intricate the politics get, you have to consider what effects they'll have on nonpolitical aspects of the game in order to know how deep to make it. What is there to do that's unrelated to politics? For example: can you buy ship parts, and the political climate influences the prices of them? Are there things like passports that you have to get in order to travel in space controlled by certain factions, and can the methods of attaining them or how strictly they're inforced vary depending on the government? Do politics affect the weapons that are legal to arm your ship with, or to carry on your person when boarding passenger craft?

Just some stuff to think about. I'm pretty clueless both about politics and what your goal is, but that's never stopped me before. :P

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Numsgil    501
Quote:
Original post by onyxflame
Having something called the UN and then having imaginary countries belonging to it would probably be distasteful to most players.


The game is set in the not-so-distant future, and I want some large, beurocratic world-wide government to finance the the player. The UN seemed a logical choice, but if it'd ruffle feathers, another organization might be better.

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As for how intricate the politics get, you have to consider what effects they'll have on nonpolitical aspects of the game in order to know how deep to make it.


Without having you read the whole design document as it stands right now, the basic actions the player can engage in are:

Colony building, diplomacy, exploration, or conquest.

For colony building, for instance, let's say that authoritarians have control of government. You'd see alot of dissenters willing to leave the planet and risk the dangers of starting colonies around other stars. At the same time, if you engage in activities that would be illegal at home, or condone them (maybe you create a free trade agreement with a race that has slaves, and the current government is opposed to that), you will find political funding quick to dwindle, and you may even be censured.

If the government is socialistic in nature, you will see more entrepeneurs willing to make the trip into space and set up/negotiate trade agreements, and the government will have more money to give you, but maybe the quality of goods produced on Earth suffers, so that you can't buy equipment that won't crap out 50 LY from Earth.

Those are just off the top of my head. The game's focus is on exploration, like the early european explorers. In the same way that they had to wrestle with a fickle crown, I'd like the player to wrestle with a political force.

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onyxflame    203
That sounds pretty interesting, actually. The only game I can think of right off hand that did a similar thing was Colonization, and even then all the king did was tax you out the ass.

I think it'd be a nice challenge if you have things all set up to work at optimum efficiency...and then your homeworld's governement changes hands and you have to scramble to change things to suit the new one. Not to mention the occasional sucking up and bribery. :P

The only problem is figuring out whether this hasn't been done very much because people haven't thought of a good way to do it, or because people wouldn't enjoy playing it. I personally think it's pretty neat, but more people ought to chime in with their opinions. *glances at other users*

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Numsgil    501
Quote:

That sounds pretty interesting, actually. The only game I can think of right off hand that did a similar thing was Colonization, and even then all the king did was tax you out the ass.


Yeah, alot of what I'm looking to include in my game is from older games. I'm thinking a kind of "7 Cities of Gold" in space.

Quote:

I think it'd be a nice challenge if you have things all set up to work at optimum efficiency...and then your homeworld's governement changes hands and you have to scramble to change things to suit the new one. Not to mention the occasional sucking up and bribery. :P


That's what I was thinking. Requires the player to change his gameplay style every now and then, and requires the best players to be able to be a diplomat, general, and entrepeneur whenever the government at home demands it.

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I personally think it's pretty neat, but more people ought to chime in with their opinions. *glances at other users*


I'm going to assume from the lack of posts that most players don't care one way or another. Meaning that I'll put it on the 'would be nice' list of features.

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Wavinator    2017
Quote:
Original post by Numsgil
I'm going to assume from the lack of posts that most players don't care one way or another.


NO! NO! NO! Some of us have been working so much they haven't gotten a chance to post on such an interesting idea! [smile]

Anyway, the lack of depth where diplomacy is concerned is a major gripe of many game players. But I need a better picture here: Are you talking 4X empire game ala Alpha Centauri, or do you take a ship or group of ships and do things? IOW, what's your area of influence and what are you tied to? At this point I'm not sure if you're a colony or a ramjet or wandering generation ship or what, so my answer will change depending.

In terms of political parties, I'd recommend that you morph them based on what they are now, given some creativity and imagination the farther you are in the future. Consider how that party would survive in the future, and how nations might evolve (but please go easy on the USA is god or USA is dead tropes, as they've been done to death).

Alpha Centauri did this in an interesting way with their political factions. The UN faction, for instance, was heavy on bureaucracy and diplomacy but still had teeth, and that affected gameplay; whereas Morgan's pursuit of wealth beyond all else made him weak on defense (sorta capitalist robber baron and very libertarian).

There IS one major problem that I see, though. If you can't do anything to affect what's going on at home it will feel like a random event. It's my understanding that random events often get turned off in a lot of strategy games because they mess up pure strategy (you didn't lose or win on your own merits, but because you got lucky). If the game has more of an adventure or action component, then this applies less and less.

If, however, you could buy agents or influence then this would make it less arbitrary. You'll also need to be very careful about giving the player clear indicators of risk as they take action, maybe bars representing how close you are to ticking off a faction versus how powerful or how likely that faction is to assume power.

I see this working REALLY well if you have to strategically place yourself or resources on the map: For example, if you find a derelict to loot in alien territory but know that it will anger the xenophiles-- but at the same time, that if you leave it it will be reclaimed by the aliens.

I believe you can make this complex so long as you simplify the interface. I also think that this is one area where you can get a lot of unique gameplay without having to go after bleeding edge graphics.

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Numsgil    501
Quote:
Original post by Wavinator
Quote:
Original post by Numsgil
I'm going to assume from the lack of posts that most players don't care one way or another.


NO! NO! NO! Some of us have been working so much they haven't gotten a chance to post on such an interesting idea! [smile]


I'll bite my tongue. That's high praise [wink].

Quote:
Are you talking 4X empire game ala Alpha Centauri, or do you take a ship or group of ships and do things? IOW, what's your area of influence and what are you tied to? At this point I'm not sure if you're a colony or a ramjet or wandering generation ship or what, so my answer will change depending.


The best way to describe the game is a kind of empire builder without the empire, or rather, a first person empire builder. Meaning that you are the one that builds colonies and attacks 'countries', but you can't build multiple fleets and your actions are largely tied to political groups at home.

Basically it allows the player to explore, build colonies, etc. without worrying about the rest of the empire. Once a colony has achieved self-sufficiency, the player doesn't have to worry about it. Earth's merchant marine will take care of trade, etc. while giving the player a small cut of the colony's procedes.

As for the overall pacing of time within the game: The player starts in a sublight cryo-stasis ship, and as he discovers tech and artifacts, he slowly increases towards an instantaneous transportation system. The only real end condition is when the player dies (and he even ages slightly while in stasis).

Here's an overview of the scoring system. A player's clout within a group can be seen as his score. This is taken straight from my design document as it stands so far.

Quote:

Since the game encourages as open ended play as possible, the players score may be raised by pursuing diplomatic, fiscal, cultural, scientific, expansionary, or militaristic strategy, each being weighted equally. The number of completed missions posed to the player will also add to the player’s score.

Diplomatic:
Score is derived from the number and impact of all treaties and agreements made with alien races. Score is reflective of the Interplanetary Senate’s general support of your actions. Treaties which weaken the IS’s political power or position will lower this score but generally raise another to compensate.

Fiscal:
Score is derived from the overall financial success of all colonies and ventures the player has initiated. One really successful venture will help make up for several failed ones. However, the best score is achievable from several moderately successful ventures rather than one very successful and several failures.

Also included in this score is the player’s personal wealth. Money that moves into the player’s personal account gives more points than money earned on behalf of Earth.

Cultural:
Score reflects the change in Earth’s culture. As the player establishes cultural exchanges with alien races, the general wealth of literature, music and art forms previously un-thought-of, increases on Earth. This score reflects the support of the cultured elements of society.

Popular Support:
As the player brings back technology, artifacts, and other items, the affluence of the people of Earth increases. Due to an exceptional PR department, the people know exactly who is responsible for their increased wealth. This score reflects the depths of the player’s popular support.

Popular support drops from civilian deaths, including those on off-world colonies due to catastrophe, battle, or other causes apart from the simple rigors of colony building.

Scientific:
The scientific community is eager to examine and learn from artifacts and technologies the player brings back. This score represents the support from the ISC. Whenever a scientist dies from unnatural causes, this score drops considerably.

Score also increases from exploration of stars and planets, and from first contact with alien races.

Expansionary:
There is a strong desire among the people of Earth to expand humanity to as many other worlds as possible. This score is representative of the success of all colonies, that is, how many have achieved self-sufficiency (self-sufficiency is defined as an ability to survive if Earth suddenly dissappeared), as well as how many are still moving towards that goal. Any unsuccessful colonies (ie: like Roanoke in the Americas), will lower this score considerably.

Militaristic:
Player’s score represents the overall success and strength of the Earth military. Although minor military losses will not disproportionately lower the player’s score, truly incredibly defeats will.


There are political organizations behind each score, with all of them putting their influences on the IS (which is like the UN). All of the groups, save for the IS itself, act as a kind of special interest group. So the best overall strategy is probably to have some influence within all the groups.

Quote:

Alpha Centauri did this in an interesting way with their political factions. The UN faction, for instance, was heavy on bureaucracy and diplomacy but still had teeth, and that affected gameplay; whereas Morgan's pursuit of wealth beyond all else made him weak on defense (sorta capitalist robber baron and very libertarian).


I'm thinking as different parties and factions gain control of government, the player might have to switch from a diplomacy heavy strategy to a capitalist one. It'd be like having your nation in Alpha Centauri suddenly switch on you, and having you adapt your playing style.

Quote:

There IS one major problem that I see, though. If you can't do anything to affect what's going on at home it will feel like a random event. It's my understanding that random events often get turned off in a lot of strategy games because they mess up pure strategy (you didn't lose or win on your own merits, but because you got lucky). If the game has more of an adventure or action component, then this applies less and less.


The game's emphasis is on peaceful exploration, with a definate strategic emphasis. I'm thinking in the beginning of the game the IS a kind of random event, but as the player becomes more successful, he can influence events at home more and more.

Quote:

You'll also need to be very careful about giving the player clear indicators of risk as they take action, maybe bars representing how close you are to ticking off a faction versus how powerful or how likely that faction is to assume power.


Yes, this is a good point. I imagine having various political factions, with lists of what their policies include, and how powerful they are within the IS, and their change in power over time. Then the player can gauge whether an action will change a party's support at home, and how it will affect the player's influence within that party.

Obviously there are alot of dynamics to work out. I'd have to spend some time flushing out all the feedback loops, etc. But the basic idea is a kind of backdoor influence on the policies at home.

Quote:

I believe you can make this complex so long as you simplify the interface. I also think that this is one area where you can get a lot of unique gameplay without having to go after bleeding edge graphics.


Because of my own limitations as a programmer and artist (and a student. I don't have alot of time to spend on non-gameplay areas) I'm really working on gameplay. I hope to have many unique elements.

Tell me if I missed a point, I did my best to address them all.

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Wavinator    2017
Hey Numsgil, again working (and now about to go into a 4 day conference), so sorry for not getting back to you. I really like the possibilities presented in the different victory conditions.


Quote:

The best way to describe the game is a kind of empire builder without the empire, or rather, a first person empire builder. Meaning that you are the one that builds colonies and attacks 'countries', but you can't build multiple fleets and your actions are largely tied to political groups at home.


I think this concept is very cool (we have a similar aim here I think, to dramatize and personalize the civilization aspect, even though we take different routes).

Two questions first: Do you have any active competitors moving about the map, or are all of your competitors abstract and represented by the gaming system (say as the "masses" were in Civ)? In either case, there's a great potential for detente and diplomacy there (I think both are equally intriguing).

Also, is Earth the center of the political intrigue and balancing, or can the colonies become factors as well? For instance, can you build up good will among the colonies so much so that they can sustain you if Earth cuts you off? (Ahhh, a little colonial rebellion... heck, you've got a ship, why not have a Tea Party?[lol])

One thing that occurred to me is that you might be able to directly enhance your political fortunes by transporting certain types of colonists. This could be as simple as accepting a mission once you get back to Earth. Transporting the Neo Gaiaist faction versus the Cyber Communists would not only change your reputation back home, it would help shape the new colony, which could be critical if you were ever cut off. You could include so many nifty tradeoffs here, too: Assuming you can configure your ship somewhat, do you shape yourself more into a passenger transport or a trade transport? If could be a real brain teaser to weigh WHO is in power on Earth with who is in power at a colony, and you could end up thinking, "Dammit, if I tick off the Neos, Earth won't fund me, but if I don't take the Cybers then the Neos will own Tau Ceti."

That reminds me: How does Earth have a hold over you? What's to stop you from going rogue? Is it the only place you can refuel, or can they cause the crew to mutiny or what? Some ability to go solo, especially to ride out a few generations of an anti-tech fundie movement would be useful.



Quote:

Basically it allows the player to explore, build colonies, etc. without worrying about the rest of the empire. Once a colony has achieved self-sufficiency, the player doesn't have to worry about it. Earth's merchant marine will take care of trade, etc. while giving the player a small cut of the colony's procedes.


What happens in the case of war? And can Earth lose territory? It would be interesting if you got to contribute in key ways here. Maybe you don't fight every battle, but you have a hand in key operations.

Quote:

As for the overall pacing of time within the game: The player starts in a sublight cryo-stasis ship, and as he discovers tech and artifacts, he slowly increases towards an instantaneous transportation system. The only real end condition is when the player dies (and he even ages slightly while in stasis).


VERY cool. I'm assuming the alien tech scavenger hunt is one way to do this? Or does Earth have to fund this (maybe better if it ties you to Earth).


Quote:

Diplomatic:
Score is derived from the number and impact of all treaties and agreements made with alien races. Score is reflective of the Interplanetary Senate’s general support of your actions. Treaties which weaken the IS’s political power or position will lower this score but generally raise another to compensate.


Consider scoring higher on the basis of key, named victories and accords, as this could flesh things out. If you broker the Earth-Mars Peace Accords this not only makes diplomacy more personable, it makes it so that there are specific things to shoot for (like key battles). This I think is sort of how you do ventures, if I understand correctly.

Quote:

Cultural:
Score reflects the change in Earth’s culture. As the player establishes cultural exchanges with alien races, the general wealth of literature, music and art forms previously un-thought-of, increases on Earth. This score reflects the support of the cultured elements of society.


This is a tall order, but I'd recommend the cultural discoveries being able to impact the political parties. Let's say the Denebians are a proud warlike race with a high chance to assimilate other cultures due to the strength of their own. If you bring their sonnets, dramas, religious texts and history back, it benefits the Spartan Party at the expence of the Peace and Freedom Party, which allows them to get into power. The effect of the Spartans getting into power might be to become more warlike, though, which causes them to fight with the Centaurans or implement a 1984-style society or whatever.

So basically, just like in Civ how you can change your government type with some risk, here you change it using cultural items. Add to this the fact that the artifacts generate wealth and you have a juicy tradeoff (Denebian War Sonnets are lucrative, but destabelize my society... hmmm... choices, choices)


Quote:

Popular Support:
As the player brings back technology, artifacts, and other items, the affluence of the people of Earth increases. Due to an exceptional PR department, the people know exactly who is responsible for their increased wealth. This score reflects the depths of the player’s popular support.

Popular support drops from civilian deaths, including those on off-world colonies due to catastrophe, battle, or other causes apart from the simple rigors of colony building.


I don't know if its just the firestarter rebel in me or what, but I'd so like to see this same concept mirrored in Earth's colonies. I'm itching to cause funk between the two so that I can thumb my nose at Earth. (Must be some latent anti-social behavior [lol])

I also think it would be so much more textured if colonies could grow apart from the motherland. This may be asking too much, though, so maybe for version 2. [smile]


Quote:

Scientific:
The scientific community is eager to examine and learn from artifacts and technologies the player brings back. This score represents the support from the ISC. Whenever a scientist dies from unnatural causes, this score drops considerably.

Score also increases from exploration of stars and planets, and from first contact with alien races.


I like this aspect, but about scientists and unnatural causes:
How can this happen, by taking them into a warzone?

Quote:

Expansionary:
There is a strong desire among the people of Earth to expand humanity to as many other worlds as possible. This score is representative of the success of all colonies, that is, how many have achieved self-sufficiency (self-sufficiency is defined as an ability to survive if Earth suddenly dissappeared), as well as how many are still moving towards that goal. Any unsuccessful colonies (ie: like Roanoke in the Americas), will lower this score considerably.


I think you'll need to make it clear to a player that when they establish a colony they'd better not wander farther than their ability to respond. But this will depend on how fragile the colony is. If we're talking an incoming asteroid, you may have years or decades. But if they can die from civil unrest or something outside of your control, you'll need tools to counter-act this.

One of the things I really liked in Civ 3 was the distinction between colonies and cities. How about automated robot stations that you can set up which also help expand Earth's empire, but are even more "fire and forget" than colonies? There's something really cool about creating the trade route to the colony by hand, protecting it every once in awhile, then watching the money roll in. In Civ 3, a colony is clearly a different strategic choice than a city: It requires new tech, is somewhat expensive, expires, and can't be converted to any other purpose; whereas a city starts off dirt cheap but if tended properly can grow into a flexible powerhouse.

Quote:

Militaristic:
Player’s score represents the overall success and strength of the Earth military. Although minor military losses will not disproportionately lower the player’s score, truly incredibly defeats will.


Okay, I can see a challenge here and I'm curious how you're going to solve it: In a good 4x game you can lose a lot of units and fight out a lot of strategic encounters. Yet with one unit this is lost, unless your one unit is tactically varied (say, with hardpoints and modules that can be damaged). So how do you retain some of that tactical flavor? In this case, I would strongly recommend the idea of you being a mothership which can port around smaller ships, unless you plan to make the battles action oriented, in which case this kind of goes away.

Quote:

I'm thinking as different parties and factions gain control of government, the player might have to switch from a diplomacy heavy strategy to a capitalist one. It'd be like having your nation in Alpha Centauri suddenly switch on you, and having you adapt your playing style.


Again, I'd strongly recommend the ability to see this coming and strategize. Maybe the psychohistorians or social scientists give you projections, such as, "Trends show that more people are going to university these days" (science is on the rise) "and participating in peace rallies as a result." (militarism is on the decline) "The new trade treaties have many students studying business management in the hopes of becoming the next generation of millionaires." (business faction gaining strength) etc.

You're not exactly giving it away, but at least the government switch doesn't feel like a random event, which is horrible if it screws up strategic planning.

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Because of my own limitations as a programmer and artist (and a student. I don't have alot of time to spend on non-gameplay areas) I'm really working on gameplay. I hope to have many unique elements.


I think this is a wise time investment, especially since you'll have time to perfect the most important part.

Quote:

Tell me if I missed a point, I did my best to address them all.


No, I think you got them all, though sorry to drown you in a dozen more (although feedback is usually a good thing [grin]). I will not be able to get on the board again until Monday or later, btw, but I will keep up with this.

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Numsgil    501
I dare say that's the longest reply to a topic I've ever seen [lol]. I appreciate the time you spent sending me this feedback.

Quote:

Two questions first: Do you have any active competitors moving about the map, or are all of your competitors abstract and represented by the gaming system (say as the "masses" were in Civ)? In either case, there's a great potential for detente and diplomacy there (I think both are equally intriguing).


I'm thinking the player has to deal very little with competition. Due to beurocratic constraints back home (and a lazy programmer [lol]) the IS has never sent out another team like yours, even after two thousand years. This gives the player a monopoly on how Earth explores the galaxy.

I want the player to be able to explore different strategies without worrying how effective they are compared to others. In the end, the player is really competing against himself, trying to get the largest score possible before he bites teh big one.

Quote:

Also, is Earth the center of the political intrigue and balancing, or can the colonies become factors as well? For instance, can you build up good will among the colonies so much so that they can sustain you if Earth cuts you off? (Ahhh, a little colonial rebellion... heck, you've got a ship, why not have a Tea Party?[lol])


To be honest I hadn't considered having the colonies be entities in themselves, but that doesn't sound like a bad idea at all. If a set of colonies founded by die-hard communists think the government on Earth has become too capitalist, and the IS no longer represents their needs, they should be able to break away.

This allows for interesting possibilities if I allow the player to change political allegiences in-game. Maybe you side with the communists and forget Earth altogether. Or maybe you conquer Earth in teh name of the communists. There are certainly interesting possibilites here.

Quote:

One thing that occurred to me is that you might be able to directly enhance your political fortunes by transporting certain types of colonists. This could be as simple as accepting a mission once you get back to Earth. Transporting the Neo Gaiaist faction versus the Cyber Communists would not only change your reputation back home, it would help shape the new colony, which could be critical if you were ever cut off. You could include so many nifty tradeoffs here, too: Assuming you can configure your ship somewhat, do you shape yourself more into a passenger transport or a trade transport? If could be a real brain teaser to weigh WHO is in power on Earth with who is in power at a colony, and you could end up thinking, "Dammit, if I tick off the Neos, Earth won't fund me, but if I don't take the Cybers then the Neos will own Tau Ceti."


I could easily see something like this being used to increase the strength of political parties unpopular at home. If every colony is founded by libertarians, in a few hundred years the IS would become decidedly libertarian, even if Earth itself is staunchly communist.

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That reminds me: How does Earth have a hold over you? What's to stop you from going rogue? Is it the only place you can refuel, or can they cause the crew to mutiny or what? Some ability to go solo, especially to ride out a few generations of an anti-tech fundie movement would be useful.


In short: nothing. The IS's hold over you is strictly monetary. Since your spending the majority of your life away from Earth, they have no way to discipline you other than cutting your funding in true beurocratic fashion.

Earth has the best equipment though, and the best engineers. The more complex a piece of equipment found, the more likely you'll need to bring it back to Earth to have them look at it. You can only do so much with a sledge hammer and duct tape.

As I hinted above, it's possible to conquer Earth if you want. There are obviosly consequences to such an action that you'd have to deal with (such as looking weak to the aliens).

As for refueling, I'm thinking that the ships the player uses either refueles from the solar winds of stars (like in Elite), or picks it up as it goes, like a ramjet, or maybe taps into the mystical zero-point energy, or manages to convert complex carbohydrates to pure energy.

What I'm trying to say is: I don't want the player to have to worry too much about it. The early european explorers used wind power. They could go pretty much anywhere with it. I'ld like the player to have a similar freedom of movement.

I haven't thought much about a crew mutiny, but I could see it happening. Tick of the IS too much and maybe the crew decides you are unfit for command. I'd have to explore this idea a bit more, but I could see something like it being implemented.

Perhaps some kind of loyalty system, with some personell being loyal to thier faction, to Earth, to the player, to the highest bidder, etc.

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What happens in the case of war? And can Earth lose territory? It would be interesting if you got to contribute in key ways here. Maybe you don't fight every battle, but you have a hand in key operations.


I'm thinking the battles are taken care of like in Smugglers 3 (it's a small but good game). You can go out and conquer planets for Earth, but Earth and your enemy each have a fleet (which the game engine probably deals with as a random encounter kind of thing) which try to defend and attack one another's colonies.

So Earth can lose any territory it holds, including Earth itself. If the player loses Earth, there are some very dire consequences, and the new IS headquarters is moved to the self-sustaining colony that's (closest, oldest, most populous, I haven't worked it out yet).

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VERY cool. I'm assuming the alien tech scavenger hunt is one way to do this? Or does Earth have to fund this (maybe better if it ties you to Earth).


Definately scavenging is one way, but the more advanced the technology from your current level, the harder it'll be to rig to your ship (or yourself if it's cybornetic). You'll probably have to bring the more advanced pieces back to Earth for study.

However, Earth has it's own research program, and will stumble across new technology on its own too. Maybe bringing that broken down Hyperlight engine back to Earth will help speed Earth's current Hyperlight program.

Also, if the merchant marine back at home is going to increase in capability enough to service your growing colonies, it'd better have access to some technology you bring back. If you keep all the artifacts for yourself, you may be able to speed across the galaxy in an instant, but your poor merchant (and military for that matter) marine will still be chugging along in light sails!

Diplomatic
Quote:

Consider scoring higher on the basis of key, named victories and accords, as this could flesh things out. If you broker the Earth-Mars Peace Accords this not only makes diplomacy more personable, it makes it so that there are specific things to shoot for (like key battles). This I think is sort of how you do ventures, if I understand correctly.


I think that's probably a good idea. Maybe from time to time the palyer is presented with 'uber-treaties' which affect the game more than the regular sort. I'd have to flesh out all the details, but I think this could work.

Cultural:
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This is a tall order, but I'd recommend the cultural discoveries being able to impact the political parties. Let's say the Denebians are a proud warlike race with a high chance to assimilate other cultures due to the strength of their own. If you bring their sonnets, dramas, religious texts and history back, it benefits the Spartan Party at the expence of the Peace and Freedom Party, which allows them to get into power. The effect of the Spartans getting into power might be to become more warlike, though, which causes them to fight with the Centaurans or implement a 1984-style society or whatever.

So basically, just like in Civ how you can change your government type with some risk, here you change it using cultural items. Add to this the fact that the artifacts generate wealth and you have a juicy tradeoff (Denebian War Sonnets are lucrative, but destabelize my society... hmmm... choices, choices)


I like this idea alot. Maybe only trading cultural items with peaceful civilizations ensures pacifist control back home, but means lower profits. Maybe the revenue from cultural exchanes is proportional to the difference in cultural attitudes. So you'd make a killing when you finally bring back some Denebian War Sonnets, but you're carefully constructed pacifist state would become unbalanced.

Popular Support:
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I don't know if its just the firestarter rebel in me or what, but I'd so like to see this same concept mirrored in Earth's colonies. I'm itching to cause funk between the two so that I can thumb my nose at Earth. (Must be some latent anti-social behavior [lol])

I also think it would be so much more textured if colonies could grow apart from the motherland. This may be asking too much, though, so maybe for version 2. [smile]


I could see something like this implemented. Subdivide the popular support score for each planet. Then maybe when your colonies rebel from Earth, they decide to elect you to commander-in-chief. I like this idea alot.

Scientific:
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I like this aspect, but about scientists and unnatural causes:
How can this happen, by taking them into a warzone?


Bringing them into a warzone, having a scientific venture suddenly explode in a burst of flame from unwise experimentation with alien artifacts, or allowing that biologist to be eaten by that 30 foot sloth on Gamma Signis IIb. It means that scientists are very sensitive about death, and the player has to watch out for them.

But often the best discoveries lie at the heart of alien artifacts, and studying 30 foot sloths, and watching the social effects of war on soldiers. So the player has to decide if the benefit outweighs the risk.

Expansionary:
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I think you'll need to make it clear to a player that when they establish a colony they'd better not wander farther than their ability to respond. But this will depend on how fragile the colony is. If we're talking an incoming asteroid, you may have years or decades. But if they can die from civil unrest or something outside of your control, you'll need tools to counter-act this.


Basically the only thing that'd make a colony fall apart would be famine from lack of farms (and so suddenly 90% of the people die) or an extreme import/export ratio, so that the colony becomes a drain instead of a benefit.

Other than that, colonies can be seen as progressing towards self-sufficiency. If a colony hasn't really grown, or become more profitable, and it's still not self-sufficient, that would be a bigger drain on the player's score than a colony that's not self-sufficient but growing and expanding.

I imagine having a few long range disasters the player would have to contend with. Meteor strikes, ecological uphevals, etc. that could be planned for in advance. The scope of the game is really long-term, and I wouldn't want the player to have to deal with a sudden disaster that he hadn't been warned about.

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One of the things I really liked in Civ 3 was the distinction between colonies and cities. How about automated robot stations that you can set up which also help expand Earth's empire, but are even more "fire and forget" than colonies? There's something really cool about creating the trade route to the colony by hand, protecting it every once in awhile, then watching the money roll in. In Civ 3, a colony is clearly a different strategic choice than a city: It requires new tech, is somewhat expensive, expires, and can't be converted to any other purpose; whereas a city starts off dirt cheap but if tended properly can grow into a flexible powerhouse.


What I refer to as ventures are kind of like colonies in Civ 3, but more versatile. The idea is to have that small venture that is quite lucrative become your large colony that is even more lucrative. I pulled this from my design document:

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Colonies and Ventures:
Colonies are all permanent establishments, meant to create an off-world presence. Ventures are all those temporary encampments, designed to set up an operation.

Colonies:
Colonies require a large base of personnel to function properly. Although not as productive in the short run as ventures, a colony will come into its own as it grows, eventually surpassing a venture in productivity.

Until a colony becomes self-sufficient, it must rely on imports from Earth, which lower it’s profitability. If a non-self-sufficient colony is placed too far from Earth, where Earth’s merchant marine can’t reach it, it will likely starve and collapse.

For a colony to become profitable, it must export more than it imports(mercantilistic economics admitadly, I may change it alter). To that end, a profitable colony is usually an outgrowth of a successful venture, the best being cultural exchanges or trading posts. However, any colony will eventually become profitable as it expands into the neighboring terrain and begins to produce industry.

Ventures:
Included are mining operations, scientific outposts, embassies, etc. They tend to produce a small but steady income, until the player disbands them or they become dry. Ventures may be upgraded to colonies by the addition of many colonists.
Types of Ventures:

1. Mining Operations – Built around rich deposits of valuable material found within the earth. In order to achieve profitability, the venture must be able to sell its goods to Earth. The player may set a level of profitability at which the mining operation will disband. This is useful since if the mines become too dry, the venture will become unprofitable. The expense of transporting the miners and other personnel back to Earth is subtracted from the player’s account.

The most consistently profitable venture, until it runs dry.

2. Embassy – Although it doesn’t become profitable by itself, an embassy is necessary to create more complex treaties with an alien race, which are themselves quite lucrative. An embassy only becomes unprofitable if the alien race dies or the lucrative treaties expire.

3. Agronomy Venture – A small farming venture usually placed as the precursor to a successful colony. The operation will produce food, with the levels dependant on the suitability of the planet and other factors. Due to sophisticated Agronomy science, an agronomy venture will never become unprofitable unless catastrophe or insufficient start-up funds are to blame. It is the least profitable of the ventures.

4. Scientific Outpost – An outpost formed to allow scientists long term observations of an ecosystem, artifact, or other items. Only slightly more profitable than Agronomy Ventures. Generally used to increase the player’s ISC support and science score.

Because of various beurocratic entanglements on Earth and within the ISC, scientific outposts are the best way for a player to research new technology, especially technology that is frowned upon by the scientific community (read: politicians) back home. Occasionally, illegal and unethical experiments will result in a lowered popular support score.

5. Trading Post – A small venture which acts as a liaison between domestic and foreign markets. Necessary for the creation and operation of a trade and free trade agreement. The most variable of all ventures in profit and, if the conditions are just right, the most profitable.

6. Cultural Exchange – A small venture which seeks to exchange various culturally related items and ideas with an alien race. Moderately profitable, as the traded pieces of music, literature, and philosophy are exported to Earth at great profit, to the masses that eagerly read and discuss them. Most successful between races which share a majority of psychological attributes.


I think you get the idea.

Militaristic:
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Okay, I can see a challenge here and I'm curious how you're going to solve it: In a good 4x game you can lose a lot of units and fight out a lot of strategic encounters. Yet with one unit this is lost, unless your one unit is tactically varied (say, with hardpoints and modules that can be damaged). So how do you retain some of that tactical flavor? In this case, I would strongly recommend the idea of you being a mothership which can port around smaller ships, unless you plan to make the battles action oriented, in which case this kind of goes away.


I'm thinking there is a large advantage to having a single ship (only one ship to upgrade), but I want the player to be able to create a fleet if they wanted. Each ship is modular in design, so something like damaging different modules is very possible.

I'm thinking that having a ship destroyed is rather rare (who wants to die?) so victory is given to whichever side sticks around longer. Combat becomes more of a game of chicken, like battle between elk. First each side tries to look imposing. Then they butt heads for a while, until one decides he gives up and leaves.

The resolve of who you're fighting depends on several factors, including: if they're defense or offense, who initiated combat, what kind of race they are, what the commander is like, etc.

So, the degree of win or loss is determined by what planet was won or lost. A catastrophic loss might involve not a single one of your ships being lost, but a key system was lost.

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Again, I'd strongly recommend the ability to see this coming and strategize. Maybe the psychohistorians or social scientists give you projections, such as, "Trends show that more people are going to university these days" (science is on the rise) "and participating in peace rallies as a result." (militarism is on the decline) "The new trade treaties have many students studying business management in the hopes of becoming the next generation of millionaires." (business faction gaining strength) etc.


I like the idea of having psycho-historians. Maybe they can predict the rise and fall of the various parties over time, assuming you were to do nothing. As the projection goes further into the future, the spread increases, until you reach the distant future where their projections for a party's strength range from dead to all-powerful.

So the player would recieve a graph of the parties projected strength in the IS in the future. I'm thinking something like this (forgive the crudeness of it, I just threw it together).


I'd have to figure out how to project the different parties' strengths, but I'm sure some mathematical model can be created when I understand what I want to do a bit better.

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sorry to drown you in a dozen more (although feedback is usually a good thing [grin]). I will not be able to get on the board again until Monday or later, btw, but I will keep up with this.


I don't mind long replies at all [wink]. Gives me something to read between classes.

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Wavinator    2017
Hey Numsgil, I promised to get back to you on this...

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Original post by Numsgil
I'm thinking the player has to deal very little with competition. Due to beurocratic constraints back home (and a lazy programmer [lol]) the IS has never sent out another team like yours, even after two thousand years.


Just a story cover, but I'd consider making the player's ship an artifact like Arthur C. Clarke's Rama or the ships in Pohl's Heechee Saga that were rare and could only be flown by specific people. (It adds some spice and quells the urge to disbelieve).

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I want the player to be able to explore different strategies without worrying how effective they are compared to others. In the end, the player is really competing against himself, trying to get the largest score possible before he bites teh big one.


To me this makes the game even more attractive to a beginner and puts the focus squarely on exploration, which is where I think you want it.



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To be honest I hadn't considered having the colonies be entities in themselves, but that doesn't sound like a bad idea at all. If a set of colonies founded by die-hard communists think the government on Earth has become too capitalist, and the IS no longer represents their needs, they should be able to break away.

This allows for interesting possibilities if I allow the player to change political allegiences in-game. Maybe you side with the communists and forget Earth altogether. Or maybe you conquer Earth in teh name of the communists. There are certainly interesting possibilites here.


Again, I think you want to make the player care about whatever colony they do anchor to as much as possible. They're not going to care just for sentimentality's sake.



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I could easily see something like this being used to increase the strength of political parties unpopular at home. If every colony is founded by libertarians, in a few hundred years the IS would become decidedly libertarian, even if Earth itself is staunchly communist.


This sets the stage for some cool strategic planning and conflict.


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In short: nothing. The IS's hold over you is strictly monetary. Since your spending the majority of your life away from Earth, they have no way to discipline you other than cutting your funding in true beurocratic fashion.


But what is the money spent for? IRL a ship is rather self-contained village. While the tax man can stop you or jail you on Earth for not obeying, or you can starve for not working, in a ship this doesn't make sense. I think you need some unique anchor. Even pay for the astronauts is a bit of a wimpy excuse, though still plausible.


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Earth has the best equipment though, and the best engineers. The more complex a piece of equipment found, the more likely you'll need to bring it back to Earth to have them look at it. You can only do so much with a sledge hammer and duct tape.


I have a problem with the fact that earth has the best stuff but they don't want to build another ship. As a player, it just seems wrong. But I know what you're trying to do, so maybe Earth can have something else that you vitally need?

I guess what bothers me is that while early explorers expected their kingdom to reward them and their church to forgive them, the player sees the life and death of entire kingdoms and churches as time goes by (or so it sounds). Maybe it's a detail that no one else cares about, but it bugs me like a plot hole would.

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Perhaps some kind of loyalty system, with some personell being loyal to thier faction, to Earth, to the player, to the highest bidder, etc.


This could work if you want to generate some shipboard events, like sabotage.


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I'm thinking the battles are taken care of like in Smugglers 3 (it's a small but good game). You can go out and conquer planets for Earth, but Earth and your enemy each have a fleet (which the game engine probably deals with as a random encounter kind of thing) which try to defend and attack one another's colonies.

So Earth can lose any territory it holds, including Earth itself. If the player loses Earth, there are some very dire consequences, and the new IS headquarters is moved to the self-sustaining colony that's (closest, oldest, most populous, I haven't worked it out yet).


If these battles go on while you're exploring it might act as a drag on your activities. I can see this as potentially frustrating if you both cannot command the battle but also are dependent on the results. Just something to guard against. Maybe the galaxy is pretty static unless you do something to tip it?


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Also, if the merchant marine back at home is going to increase in capability enough to service your growing colonies, it'd better have access to some technology you bring back. If you keep all the artifacts for yourself, you may be able to speed across the galaxy in an instant, but your poor merchant (and military for that matter) marine will still be chugging along in light sails!


Cool!

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I'm thinking that having a ship destroyed is rather rare (who wants to die?) so victory is given to whichever side sticks around longer. Combat becomes more of a game of chicken, like battle between elk. First each side tries to look imposing. Then they butt heads for a while, until one decides he gives up and leaves.

The resolve of who you're fighting depends on several factors, including: if they're defense or offense, who initiated combat, what kind of race they are, what the commander is like, etc.

So, the degree of win or loss is determined by what planet was won or lost. A catastrophic loss might involve not a single one of your ships being lost, but a key system was lost.


I'm a bit confused here: How can you lose territory if you can't lose a ship? If ships are never destroyed then they retreat, in which case they will end up massing at the final point and then what?



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I like the idea of having psycho-historians. Maybe they can predict the rise and fall of the various parties over time, assuming you were to do nothing. As the projection goes further into the future, the spread increases, until you reach the distant future where their projections for a party's strength range from dead to all-powerful.


I really like that chart, both concept and potential for being a key piece of the interace. It tells you what's likely, but isn't exact as time goes on.



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Numsgil    501
Quote:
Original post by Wavinator
Just a story cover, but I'd consider making the player's ship an artifact like Arthur C. Clarke's Rama or the ships in Pohl's Heechee Saga that were rare and could only be flown by specific people. (It adds some spice and quells the urge to disbelieve).

...

I have a problem with the fact that earth has the best stuff but they don't want to build another ship. As a player, it just seems wrong. But I know what you're trying to do, so maybe Earth can have something else that you vitally need?


Yes, I see your point. I don't have any quick fixes as far as the back ground story goes, but maybe there are special player building activites you can only do at Earth.

I allow the player to participate in many of the activities his personell can do, such as surveying and sample collection (exciting I know [lol]) which are based on a skill system.

So maybe while he's visiting Earth, the player can go back to school/train, increasing his skills at a much faster pace than if he just stays in space. So it would be a huge hit to have that taken away. (Awww Mom, but I want to go to school!)

A more cynical solution would be to say the IS has poisoned him, and the longer he's away from Earth the lower his stats become. He must return to Earth for periodic treatments, at which point his stat hits dissappear. If he's bad the IS can withold the treatment.

I'll have to brainstorm some more, of course, but I'll see what I can come up with.

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I guess what bothers me is that while early explorers expected their kingdom to reward them and their church to forgive them, the player sees the life and death of entire kingdoms and churches as time goes by (or so it sounds). Maybe it's a detail that no one else cares about, but it bugs me like a plot hole would.


That would make any person become fairly cynical, wouldn't it. If you were in such a position, going through time in fits and starts, spanning centuries, what would you do? You wouldn't really feel bound by the rules of nations, since they change every time you wake up. Would you even feel a tinge of homesickness if the world you knew was long since dead.

Sol may be as alien as anyone you meet in the stars. I imagine I should allow the player to affect change that he can witness over time. Then Sol becomes a kind of garden that the player comes back from time to time to harvest.

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To me this makes the game even more attractive to a beginner and puts the focus squarely on exploration, which is where I think you want it.


That's what I'm going for. I want it to be somewhere between electronic toy and game.

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Again, I think you want to make the player care about whatever colony they do anchor to as much as possible. They're not going to care just for sentimentality's sake.


Perhaps the player is presented with policy choices from time to time, so he can affect the kind of colony that develops. Give them more independance, and they become less dependant on Earth, which is good, but become resentful of Earth interference, which could mean rebellion.

The only way I know how to make the player care about a place is growing it, like you would a garden, to continue the metaphor.

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But what is the money spent for? IRL a ship is rather self-contained village. While the tax man can stop you or jail you on Earth for not obeying, or you can starve for not working, in a ship this doesn't make sense. I think you need some unique anchor. Even pay for the astronauts is a bit of a wimpy excuse, though still plausible.


You have to pay your crew, of course. Money is used to upgrade your ship and gain clout back on Earth, but not much else. It does seem that the IS has limited power over you. I'll have to add more than just purse strings I think.

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This could work if you want to generate some shipboard events, like sabotage.


A neat idea, if it is simple enough to implement. I'll look into it.

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If these battles go on while you're exploring it might act as a drag on your activities. I can see this as potentially frustrating if you both cannot command the battle but also are dependent on the results. Just something to guard against. Maybe the galaxy is pretty static unless you do something to tip it?


Smugglers 3 made the two nations declare piece as soon as one lost a system, so the balance of power was slow to shift.

I don't want to do something as static, but some similar form of power inertia would be useful for ensuring that you don't suffer too much from the failures of your invisible fleet.

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I'm a bit confused here: How can you lose territory if you can't lose a ship? If ships are never destroyed then they retreat, in which case they will end up massing at the final point and then what?


I'm basing it off how Starport GE (an indie MMO game of great merit IMO) played. Players spent a long time just cracking heads a while, then leaving to refill shields, then going at it again.

There were few deaths considering how often people fought, and there was huge incentives to kill PC's.

I'm thinking that whoever can hold a planet/system until the opponents give up can claim it. Something like constructing defenses in the few hours/days/years between waves.

I'd say that Humans are one of the few agressively territorial animals, (bettas and hippos are similar I'd say), so most aliens get the message and leave you alone fairly quickly. If they're defending a planet, they'd probably be nastier than otherwise.

It takes a relatively long time even at high techs to travel from system to system. Higher techs use gates instead of jump engines, so if you manage to take out their gates (which would be hard to do I'd say) they probably don't have the standing fleet necessary to launch a counter offensive. You'd have several months, at least, in order to build defenses.

I haven't worked out alot of the combat specifics yet to be honest.

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