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Vandetta

Open ended space strategy - the research side

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Hi everyone, well this is my first post so I´ll hope you´ll forgive me if this topic has already been covered. Anyways Im throwing around ideas for an open ended space strategy grand space strategy game. But where Im having problems is on the research-technology side of the game. I want to create a different feel for research in the game, I dont want to just have a static tech tree where every race follows the same path and ultimately will have the same technologies. How can I have different flavors of technologies for each race without of course, the obvious, just making a seperate tech tree for each race. I want the player to not necessarily know what the next technological advancement will be, I want there to be an element of suprise. I think I know how to do something like this for a medievel-mystical strategy type game. For example in a fantasy world one race might have a certain forest located by it, then the tree can be researched and those trees might be better for building bows than other forests located near other races. In this way players and races would have very different units and techs because their bows would be made from different trees, swords from different metals, other things developed from different artifacts etc. However I have no idea how to implement the same sort of research idea for a space genre strategy game. Any other ideas any of you have had? Thanks.

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Guest Anonymous Poster
Maybe you could select things within your civilization to research? I.e. as you said, you study that species of tree that grows around your cities and also research ranged weaponry, maybe you make bows, whereas another civ researches the metal they found while digging drainage trenches and you study that and, say, munitions or swords or whatever and get ... yeah...

Of course, you'd also have to research more generic techs like Physics, etc. if you want to make engines with your metal.

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Guest Anonymous Poster
^ Errm, by the way, what I meant by that is they could for instance click the object and select "research" or something - maybe the dirt they wanted to research is totally useless, or maybe it can be tempered with a mineral to produce more food.

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Well, it's easy to say things like "different trees" and "different metal", but when you get right down to it, you'll be determining properties of all those materials and assigning them roles in tech. That's a lot of labor and design. If you're willing to make that kind of creative investment (and I salute you for it), then the leap to SciFi would not be very large. A race that develops in a system rich in Uranium and/or plutonium will use a lot of fission tech. Rarified hydrogen cloud just outside your orbit? Looks like fusion. Handy ring of comets with an electrical nebula nearby? Fuel Cell tech is the way to go.

Besides power production, minable asteroids could yield different minerals (which you can make up to fit your design, of course) and from then on it's a matter of building them.

Modelling the research itself would be the most important aspect in this environment. You can build your science facilities, and then fund either directed research or pure research.

Directed research has clear goals, like "Find a way to use all this Einsteinium to upgrade our shields". It's not going to give you leaps and bounds, but you can probably count on it to come up with an einsteinium-based shield upgrade within a decade or so, thus boosting your tech level.

On the other hand, pure research just cuts scientists loose. You put them in a cloud of krypton gas and say, "Do something with all this crap". Ten years later they've got sweet new massage oils and a dozen clever ways to break your expensive research gear, but no weapons upgrades. Then, seventeen years into the project, when you're starting to think you wasted your money, a plucky young scientist figures out how to use the gravitational eddies inside that cloud to teleport your ships to a similar cloud that he's been researching with embezzled money. That other cloud is inside the defensive perimeter of an enemy fleet, and you can now sneak-attack their supply lines. Twenty years later, they find a way to use that teleporting tech to harvest water from comets without the dangerous salvage missions.

If you have the grind and the grab-bag in equal parts, you'll have a good solid tech tree with enough variation and enough predictability to make each play-through unique but familiar.

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If your game is intended to be a tight race between different species, I'd strongly recommend away from the "blind research" path. In Master of Orion 2 I understand that this was (from comp gaming mags and friends) one of the least used options, even though you had to expend points to get rid of it (by buying "Creative", I think).

Blind research inhibits the overall strategy of the game, and I strongly think it should only be used as a mutator option for veterans who want added challenge. What you lose with blind research is the huge swaths of planning that really make a 4X game fun. You can't say, "Hey, I see a neutron star... I'll go for Graviton Drives, start researching Atmospheric Conversion, and in 8 turns I'll boost past the neutron star and capture those three class A colonies; then I'll turn them into Gaias before the Centauri knew what hit them..!"

(FWIW, I think that way whenever I play a 4X. Playing Civ years ago I used to scare people by walking around work and muttering, "Hmmm... I'm going to have to take out the French... but I'll need catapults... I bet the Zulu have catapults..."[smile])

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If your game is intended to be a tight race between different species, I'd strongly recommend away from the "blind research" path. In Master of Orion 2 I understand that this was (from comp gaming mags and friends) one of the least used options, even though you had to expend points to get rid of it (by buying "Creative", I think).
I'm pretty sure the default in MOO2 was that you could pick one of up to three techs at each level in a research path. You could take a disadvantage (meaning you could pick advantages elsewhere) by choosing an option that only gave you one tech choice at each level, or take an advantage by choosing an option that meant you researched all techs at each level.

The disadvantage option is not the same as blind research - for instance you could still research in the tech area of 'transportation', you just wouldn't know whether you would get better fuel cells or a better ship drive. I think the disadvantage option was generaly unpopular because the points for taking it as a disadvantage weren't really worth it - choosing the perfect tech was very valuable.

Still, MOO2 was a terrific game, and I think they did a great job on the tech tree.

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Original post by Argus2
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If your game is intended to be a tight race between different species, I'd strongly recommend away from the "blind research" path. In Master of Orion 2 I understand that this was (from comp gaming mags and friends) one of the least used options, even though you had to expend points to get rid of it (by buying "Creative", I think).
I'm pretty sure the default in MOO2 was that you could pick one of up to three techs at each level in a research path. You could take a disadvantage (meaning you could pick advantages elsewhere) by choosing an option that only gave you one tech choice at each level, or take an advantage by choosing an option that meant you researched all techs at each level.


I still play MOO2 from time to time (the manual is right here in my bookshelf [smile]); Argus2 is correct here. The tech tree had a number of improvements for each advance (such as Fusion Physics giving you either a Fusion Beam for your ships, or Fusion Rifles for your troops.)

By default, you had to choose which of the improvements you wanted, and either get the other techs by trade or stealing from other races. Then there was the "Creative" option, which I believe cost 8 out of 10 race points to pick at the start of the game (pricey!); this would give you all the improvements when you research a tech. And finally you could pick "Uncreative" and get a bonus 4 race points to spend on other attributes, but then your improvement would be randomly picked for you. This can be painful if you don't get something useful, or if the improvement picked is a dud (and there were a few duds in the game).

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The disadvantage option is not the same as blind research - for instance you could still research in the tech area of 'transportation', you just wouldn't know whether you would get better fuel cells or a better ship drive. I think the disadvantage option was generaly unpopular because the points for taking it as a disadvantage weren't really worth it - choosing the perfect tech was very valuable.


The problem was that "Creative" was, despite the high cost, insanely useful in the mid to late game (in my opinion). You don't need to worry about trading techs with other races (plus due to the nature of the diplomacy A.I., other races never seemed to want to make fair trades). By the mid game you have a large tech advantage all the other races (unless they are Creative too), which means your ships are better and your planets have better buildings.

However, I liked to play as "Uncreative" races now and again, because it was challenging and fun to make up new strategies based on what random improvements you get.

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I think that randomizing the "space features" available to an empire, and then attaching a list of possible techs to each feature is extremely cool.

Before I go any further, let me first clarify that what I mean by "feature" in this context, is something like an asteroid field rich in fissionable material, or a planet extremely rich in liquid water, or vast amounts of helium 3. Each of these can enable a number of different techs.

So there would be tons of different combinations depending on the features you got!
Plus, it would be a lot easier to balance than an open-ended system, since for example if each feature had like 10 techs, you could have crappy earlier techs, but then more powerful ones later in the game. There is the possibility that a combination of 2 or more techs is really powerful, and you never know what you're going to end up with, but that's the fun part!

I have another suggestion to make. To add a bit of variety, a portion of the techs would depend on having other techs first. The catch is that these could be grouped in the list of techs available only if you have *another* feature!
So if you started out with both features, good for you. However, if you didn't, suddenly another player's feature would be much more valuable. Lots of planning involved. Now instead of fighting for plain resources, you're fighting for technology!

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The problem with the 'creative' pick was that it was only 6 points in the original version of the game. This made it [almost] a no brainer pick, since you tripled your research for a mere 6 points. Version 1.2 [iirc] bumped it's cost to 8, which prevented that race from some of the other beefy picks.

Back to the OP. In the grand scheme of things, all the races/empire will ultimately have all the techs due to trade and diffusion. I'd rather avoid such open ended research, since that tends to lead to moo3-ish techs. ["oh look, engine #11"] Not very interesting for the player.

That said, I do like the idea that the tech tree isn't just in it's own world. Techs will develop due to need, and supply. That way the tree provides a little changes to supply the player with choices rather than a set path.

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I just thought of something to add while reading the replies. For a space rts game and researching technology you could have a set of individual techs that you hire. These techs would be individual people which a certain preordained set of technologies that they could give you if they have enough techies (researchers) to help them and the right facilities as well as resources and current technology. As the game goes on the older the techs get the less use they have and you have to search for and hire new techs. Each tech would have a slue of stats which determine what techs, how long, what facilities, how many techies, and etc are needed to complete the techs. So instead of researching by resources of say that neutron star over there or that blackhole. Or instead of having the research and upgrades done by buildings or stations you have everything done by techs.

You could also steal techs from your enemy and have a separate building to recruit or train your populace into researches (techies). You could pay a Scientist from some other race a higher amount of money to join you and work for you to develop more technologies. The techies that you hire or train will have a random capped skill ability that will determine how much they add to the Techs researching power. You could also assign Techs to research the same subject matter and have the subject matter or Theories part of a Techs contribution. So if you put a Tech to work at the Researcher Training School then he will produce Theories which your other Techs can then perform research on whether on a researching vessel or something like that.

Of to implement all of these ideas would be a very daunting task as you would have to develop an algorithm to create all the technologies that a Tech could develop given your current technologies your Training Facilities and the Current Theories presented. If you had research vessels that you can assign your Techs to you could have them take small missions to pick up the resources they need from different parts of your territory. There's a lot more you could add to such a system but I think that I'll stop there.

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I don't know whether or not that fits your space strategy game, but what I would like to see for a change would be different tech trees for different races, as I don't see how two or more different races which are lightyears apart from each other would all come up with the same technology.

Take it one step further - create technologies for a race that would really boost the research results of your own race by combined technology, so you got a really good reason to trade tech and be friends with others. There are various other options as well - in K240 (and its sequel Fragile Allegiance) you could buy blueprints from a huge trade council/company (SciTec), so if you go out and concentrate on industry and profit, you could still compete with other races that invest more resources in research, giving the player more options on how to run his empire.

Another idea is that a race that only knows about laser and fusion based weapons is unlikely to develop a shield that works against an exotic technology of a yet to be discovered race. If you first meet them and they start attacking you, you will realize that your shield technology is useless against this new kind of weapon. This leads to your research department trying to analyze this new technology and to come up with something that protects you from it. This way, your tech tree would develop by reacting on the events inside the game, the races you encounter and whether you are good friends with everyone or are the arch-villain of the universe, so your style of playing would have much more impact on your tech development than just some sliders adjusting the amount of money you throw at your science department.

Maybe there are certain races that know of and fight against each other, so their technology is based upon their enemy's. If you declare war on one of them without meeting their tech level (or, more likely in that case, they declare war on you), you should better try to ally with their other enemies so you stand a chance against this otherwise superior aggressor.

Adapting to an enemy's technology doesn't have to mean to be able to only recreate his weapons and equipment. Well, try to capture it! If you engage them in a space fight, let one of their ships survive and then invade it. Usually, a player would just blow up the enemy vessel, since most of the time there is no point in sending expensive invading troops just to add that one more ship to your fleet. With a reward like this, a player would think twice about destroying such a great source of new technology.


In my opinion, a dynamic tech tree like this would give the player great feedback based upon his style of playing, and would add a much higher replay factor since every game is different, based on your individual behaviour, your allies and enemies, and what the universe looks like (thereby influencing the point of when you encounter other races). I would LOVE to work on such a game. :-)

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To make different races feel more different in the game, you could even customize their interface and background music. For example, if you would play a more close-to-nature race, the music would sound quite organic and ethereal, while you wouldn't expect this soundtrack for a technocrat race of cyborg creatures.

With dynamic music at hand, you could even mix in some flavours of other races' music into your own, according on how much you adapted your own technology to theirs. If the organic race described above abandons its origins and switches to the robotic side of technology they aquired from race #2, their overall feel could change as well.

Of course that might be a bit over the top... ;-)

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Original post by c-Row
Adapting to an enemy's technology doesn't have to mean to be able to only recreate his weapons and equipment. Well, try to capture it! If you engage them in a space fight, let one of their ships survive and then invade it. Usually, a player would just blow up the enemy vessel, since most of the time there is no point in sending expensive invading troops just to add that one more ship to your fleet. With a reward like this, a player would think twice about destroying such a great source of new technology.



Nice idea. I'm also working on a 4X type game , so am quite merrily scouring this forum looking for good ideas to rip off ( err , allow myself to be influenced by ). I remember playing a strategy game where you could only research certain things once you'd seen one of your opponents using it , and then you could slash the research time quite dramatically if you could get your hands on a working model.

How about at least one of your ships has to survive the battle , in order to send to you their sensor readings ( or whatever ) of your opponents new toy?

Each race would choose a certain research path at the beginning , and the only way you could build things from a different path would be by capturing or trading for them ( want a level 2 energy shield? Capture a ship with one , and send it to your labs for examination - or trade , or send spies to steal). But that will only let you build what ever it is you've captured ( or gone up against in battle ). Of course , the more technology from a certain path you've managed to assimilate , the greater chance of your scientists being able to research stuff from it by themselves , without needing to be 'inpsired' by their opponents stuff first.

If you see what I mean

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Original post by SadisticToaster
Nice idea. I'm also working on a 4X type game , so am quite merrily scouring this forum looking for good ideas to rip off ( err , allow myself to be influenced by ).


:D


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I remember playing a strategy game where you could only research certain things once you'd seen one of your opponents using it , and then you could slash the research time quite dramatically if you could get your hands on a working model.


Sounds like X-Com to me. Indeed, UFO Defense had a quite similar approach on the tech tree side. Humans had a number of own technology to research and manufacture, but once you had captured your first alien equipment, a whole new bunch of research possibilities unfolded. Things were still a bit static, though, since you always encountered the same aliens and their weapons/technology.


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How about at least one of your ships has to survive the battle , in order to send to you their sensor readings ( or whatever ) of your opponents new toy?


Makes sense, and would still reward the player for cowarding... eh, I eman, tactical retreat.


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Of course , the more technology from a certain path you've managed to assimilate , the greater chance of your scientists being able to research stuff from it by themselves , without needing to be 'inpsired' by their opponents stuff first.


Hm, didn't think of that, yes. Like as soon as you fully understood an unknown technology, you could use it yourself without just copying an enemy's tech.

Of course, from a game design side of things you would need to come up with hundreds of different techs and equipment... (although some technology might just not be compatible with another)


So many ideas, so little time (and programming experience)

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I think that SadisticToaster's suggestion would be even easier to code like this: (you know, describing this stuff is really cool and easy, but sometimes the technical side is much much harder to pin down)

You simply have another bar for each technology you can research: "knowledge".
This is a measurement of what your scientists have to work on that technology, and it represents directly the speed at which they can research that technology. At first it is zero, so you actually cannot research it at all.

When you successfully research a technology, it will boost the knowledge of others that are related. This will create a technology tree or web that will provide a lot of interesting choices and objectives to pursuit (you can't get your hands on your enemy's Positron Scrambler Beam, so you research other positron-based technologies in order to raise your chances of researching it).

The coolest thing would be that, as you had more encounters with a technology, your chances to research it would slowly improve, and have a big boost if you had a working piece of it, or just some scraps or stolen information.
Gameplay would be improved in that, if you really want a technology, you can actively make its research take less time by doing these side-missions! :P

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I think That Space Empire 4 had 1 nice concept

It had various research trees. 1 main with common tecnologies to all races. And other smaller trees for special tecnologies that you could buy with race points (before starting the game, like moo2). The tech trees were about "psychic powers", "organic manipulation" and so on.

I think thats a good way to go.

Each race could have 1 or more unique tech trees besides the main (common) tree, and you could custom your race using race points to get the extra tree. You could even put tech nodes that required techs from 2 or mor trees (like a psyonic machine, or an organic quantum-based computer. Imagination is the limit).

The bad side is that it was divided by areas to be researched in a sucessive way (like moo2) but in SE4 it had too much areas to coose (even in beggining) and a reseach could generate too much branchs. So it was a pain to choose what to research. The brilliant side was that you could research various techs at the same time.




In reality (as we can see in history) the civilization tend to create an unique culture while isolated, and evolve in a peculiar way. But with contact with other civilizations, they tend to trade tecnology (by trade or war) and in the end we get 2 very similar cultures. The weapons get similar, the tools, etc...

I think in a galactic race it should be similary true. Of course, humans cannot mutate his body to a ship, but when with contact with an all organic race using organic ships we will want to research ways to make organic ships. If well using or not (or well use some hybrid tecnology) will depends if our technology is superior enough to take out their organic ships. The same goes to the organic race. If they DO research, they GONNA research metal/silicon use.

The tech tree should achieve that. The races should start with diferent techs, and later in game (by trade, spy, war,...) become equal techs.

That means that humans could not start with psionics research tree, but then assimilated the tech, they could reseach further without help.

As for an open ended game, I think it is great, but it must be an ending objective (kill everyone or make an united federation). You could put an tech tree, and then it ends it goes for the numbers... "propulsor #13" for instance should give "engine #13" and "fuel #13". Well, it dont sounds fun, but its much better that dont having anything to research anymore.

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