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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).

Quote:

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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