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Wavinator

The best 25% of the best empire game

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If you had to pare down your favorite empire game while still trying to capture the heart of the 4X (eXplore, eXpand, eXploit, eXterminate) genre, what would be the most critical gameplay you'd need to save (and why)? I think there are four elements that must be saved, no matter what:
  • Mixed tactics combat - Ultimately, these games are wargames (though some, like the Civs, try to be more). So it's vital that strategy be rich. Attacking and defending against indirect, covert or unique tactical vulnerabilities is probably what players spend 50% of their time on.
  • Tech tree planning - Important because it changes the overall strategies the player has. Production bonuses, for instance, might mean a "quantity vs. quality" war, while stealth bonuses might create a "hit & run" guerilla conflict.
  • Infrastructure and population center placement - Where habitats and production facilities go indirectly impacts gameplay, and right along with tech planning, changes how the whole game will be played
  • Personal reactions - Either through diplomacy or behaviors by the empire's citizens, this is hands down what separates an empire game from just a war game. The actions of the people and interactions with enemy/ally empires creates the flavor of the game, and can drastically affect the outcome of the game.
The probably non-essential stuff: - Unit design - Land development - Government options - Individual habitat improvement - Unit production - Resource balancing / micromanagment - Special critical resources (that prevent a unit from being built, for example) btw, I'm not saying this stuff wouldn't be fun (unit design is my favorite); I'm only saying that the above isn't essential to making an empire game Thoughts?

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The 4X game that I keep on playing is Master of Orion 2, and that's because I tend play these games a bit like RPGs. I like to define my approach right from the beginning; such as "today I'll play as a hive mind race of intelligent ants, but I'll be really sharing and peaceful" or "I'll play as the Imperials from Star Wars", or "I'll play the stereotypical all-devouring race of alien nasties".

So for me, I like it if you make as much of the game as customisable as possible. Everything from the units to the racial properties, culture, etc. Ideally I could design the entire universe and play in my own little simulation of galactic politics, but maybe that's dragging the genre away from 4X.

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I disagree on a few of those, though that might just be my rather strict view of 'no matter what'. As always, I might be way off base, at which point I'd appreciate an explination as to why...

Let's see....

Mixed tactics combat: I do not think this is vital. Civilization for example mostly has standard ground units with a simple attack/defend number. Perhaps I am biased, as I dislike the combat elements of 4x games, but I think that the mixed elements is not a vital component of a 4X game. Certainly some form of directed aggression is though.

Tech tree: Again, I'm not sure this is vital. Some 4X games I've played have had nearly linear tech trees, which didn't really detract much from the game.

Infrastructure: This is vital imo. Population centers/cities/planets are the things [imo] that really distinguish 4X games from just wargames or RTSes. They embody 2.5 of the Xes [Cities are the points for expansion, the sources of resource exploitation, and (1/2) the target for extermination].

Diplomacy/Citizen Subgame: Have any 4X games made diplomacy or citizen temperments that were decent? Most I've seen have been atrocious. The AI commonly handles diplomacy so poorly that it's virtually non-existant, and the games themselves have done well. Still, I can't think of a 4X game that didn't have either...



I can only think of one gameplay element that's pretty vital which hasn't been covered: The fog of war. It too is in every 4x game I can think of in one way or another, and satisfies the eXplore X. It's rather important in distinguishing the 4X from a board/puzzle game like Settlers of Catan.

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Quote:
Original post by Wavinator
The probably non-essential stuff:
- Unit design
- Land development
- Government options
- Individual habitat improvement
- Unit production
- Resource balancing / micromanagment
- Special critical resources (that prevent a unit from being built, for example)
Thoughts?


Wow, that's pretty radical :) I never thought of a game like this that didn't have unit production, but now that you mention it, producing units explicitly IS another form of micro-management.
Come to think of it, it would be better if you had a system of recruits, instead of marines popping out of a barracks, and only the vehicles and machinery would be produced in factories, without direct player intervention.
However, there should be some degree of high-level control. I might think it's better to replace completely the old T80 with the brand new TX, or that I need 10 more special ops teams with state-of-the-art gear and training for base infiltration!

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If you had to pare down your favorite empire game while still trying to capture the heart of the 4X (eXplore, eXpand, eXploit, eXterminate) genre, what would be the most critical gameplay you'd need to save (and why)?
I think the potential to create the most destructive armed force in the universe is probably up there. Seriously.

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