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Wavinator

Up, then Down the Tech Tree???

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Original post by LorenzoGatti
What is the intended time frame and scope of the game?


I'd like the say that the scope covers centuries, but I have to work out what exactly that means in terms of gameplay and what I can personally do. In theory, there would be golden ages and dark ages.

Quote:

An even more basic question: is the "dark age" an acceptable permanent situation that nobody wants or hopes to improve significantly (e.g. post-holocaust clichés) or hard times that everybody works hard to leave behind (e.g. post-war reconstruction)?


Good question. I think they could end up permanent if no player rescues the empire they're all a part of. But I think getting out would be preferable because that's really the only way to be stable and expansive.

This points to game goals, though, and that's an area I'm having a hard time with at the moment. I don't just want "eliminate all your rivals." If it was that, then permanence would make more sense.

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- Scripted and acceptable as a plot device (example: if the player knows a comet is going to obliterate the empire's homeworld in X turns, with X comfortably large, the exploration and exploitation game will be temporarily or permanently replaced by a grim but enjoyable damage control game).


Based on this thread I'm now considering dividing the game into linked scenarios with their own victory conditions. Your comet example would be the closest parallel to what I have in mind, except that it would really try to maintain the sandbox style gameplay common to 4X games.

Since every player starts as part of the same empire (just a different faction within it), balance isn't such an issue as it would be with separate starts. I can be free with a wide variety of goals and initial conditions: Diaspora, civil war, or machine revolt, or even starting players directly in a dark age.

What would be ideal is if player actions chose the next scenario dynamically, rather than as some external mode you pick. I'm not yet sure how to do that, though.

You present some VERY tough and useful questions, btw. Thanks for the invaluable input!

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Quote:
Original post by Wavinator
What did you have in mind in terms of diplomacy options?


Nothing elaborate, really. It was just coming from a generalized point that finding allies could even the odds for the declining empire/kingdom facing a rising or stable one. It was a sidenote.

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Original post by Wavinator
Quote:
Original post by Way Walker
I'm out of the game loop (the only 4X's I've really played are CivII and Alplha Centauri) so maybe this isn't such a new idea, but I've never heard of a game where there was some cost to maintaining your tech tree.


Natural tech loss could tie into something I've been trying to beef up-- the civil / noncombat side of empire building: Funding knowledge institutions, fostering a culture that values learning, stabelizing the society and its economy.

Maybe this could really be a system of tradeoffs. If your people are highly interested in art and entertainment, VR tech improves and people are happier, but science and business suffer.

I wonder though: Are you maintaining your position on the tree as a whole, or each branch (or even groups of nodes)?


To keep it simple, I was only considering the tree as a whole, but I think it'd be better to split it at least a little. I hadn't given it too much thought, so this'll be something like thinking aloud.

In Civ II, technologies were labelled as military, social, economic, academic, or applied. So, one way would be to have different trees with hard dependencies among them. For example, I think explosives was military and chemistry was academic in Civ II, but you needed chemistry to get explosives. One trouble here is that a tree might be blocked until you get advances in other trees and the player will just be shovelling resources into a dead end.

You could also soften the dependencies. Maybe you can get explosives without learning chemistry, but it'll cost more. It should probably be cheaper to research just explosives than chemistry and explosives so that specialization has some benefit. This could lead to the interesting situation where your military research spending is enough to maintain knowledge in explosives but not enough to learn it (e.g. if you learned it by first learning chemistry but then lost chemistry).

Another option would be to gain an advance when some linear combination of military(M), social(S), economic(E), academic(AC), and applied(AP) research reached some level. So you might gain chemistry when
2(M) + 1(S) + 2(E) + 4(AC) + 3(AP) = 100
and explosives when
4(M) + 1(S) + 2(E) + 2(AC) + 3(AP) = 100
Note that the RHS can be the same for all technologies by scaling the coefficients on the LHS.

Anyway, that's the sort of picture that I get when you say investing in different industries.


I also have a picture of something inspired by FFX's sphere grid which I think could make oneofthose's research supercomputer idea more intuitive (though my explanations may make it sound plenty confusing). I think it also goes along with your comments on not losing all the knowledge just because you've lost all your tech centers.

Advances are laid out on a 2D plane. At the start (in a game like Civ II that starts out very early) you have one research center (the palace in Civ II). You can associate each research center with a point on the 2D plane. At the very begining, you'll be limited to points labelled military, social, economic, academic, and applied. A circle will grow from the point you choose as time passes up to a maximum radius/area determined by the resources dedicated to the research centers associated with that point (or possibly the research centers are the resources dedicated to that point).

You can rededicate a research center to a new point within its associated circle (perhaps restricted to advances, or just certain advances, within that circle). The original circle will decay losing advances but a new circle will grow gaining new ones. If a research center is captured or otherwise lost, the circle about its associated point will start to decay. If you capture a research center, you'll gain some portion of that circle, the portion decreasing with the distance to your nearest research center on the tech plane.

I think you could also incorporate different sorts of tech centers. I'm thinking something basic like Civ II's libraries, universities, and labs. Perhaps libraries are a small investment, corresponding to a small circle on the tech plane, and can only be associated with low level advances on the tech plane. Universities provide more resources and can be associated with higher advances, and labs provide even more and can be associated with even higher advances. This could encourage players to remember mathematics even though they're off researching the latest and greatest, and give a low cost way to acheive the basics in economics mid-late game for a militaristic player.

Or, you could go further with the different sorts of tech centers. Maybe libraries and universities are good for academic advances, theaters and museums are good for social advances, barracks are good for military advances, etc.

Or, maybe there are different tech planes for each area and they interact in some way, which is bordering on suggesting it's in 3D (or higher dimensional?) space.

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I like the idea but it would have to be a very different kind of strategy game to pull it off.

That said I think I've narrowed it down two game play mechanics

1) Technology Trading

Rather then the standard strategy game idea of each empire producing everything, you could implement a system where goods and services are traded utilized by other empires. Those goods and services are then utilized by other empires either directly or to produce higher levels goods. For instance rather then everyone racing to produce the most cutting edge star drive one empire might specialize in that technology and make it available to other empires to use. In that way other empires could become dependent on that empire for supplying the engines for their ships.

In this way if that empire collapsed for whatever reason it could trigger a dark age as there is no longer anyone with the production capabilities or technology to produce new star drives of the current sophistication.

2) Sophistication Levels

This idea is loosely based on the loss of knowledge centres. The idea is that each colony has a set of sophistication levels or you could keep simple have just one like education. Now based on a ratio between population size and education determines that colonies tech level. A colony’s tech level determines that max level of technology they can research or produce. So, in this way if you had a colony of illiterate farmers you will be unable to produce star ships there by simply building a shipyard and just having a research lab won’t allow you to research combat AIs. You’d first have to increase the over all education level of the colony which is long term or a short term fix of transporting a contingent of skilled workers.

In this way if you loose your knowledge centres it would trigger a dark age as your empires overall education level drops. You could make it so that players have to re-research technology that is a greater then its current technology level.

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Have technology advances represented by objects (data disks, libraries, etc). These can be traded, stolen, copied and destroyed.

So, if you discover a "Laser Weapon" technology, then this is stored as an object. You can only build Laser Weapons so long as you have access to this Laser Weapon Tech object.

Yo could safe guard this object by making a copy, but with more copies comes the risk that your opponent could infiltrate and steal it (or copy it from your objects), so having a few, easily monitored copies would be sensible.

However, as they can be destroyed, it is possible for your opponents to target your storage facilities and destroy your techs. As these advances can only be used while you have the tech objects, you would then loose all those tech advances and enter into a Dark age until you could build up.

Now, as some techs become obsolete (that is nothing you currently use requires them), they might get forgotten, or even destroyed to make space for the needed tech objects. When this happens, the loss of the latest techs becomes more of a problem and you can be sent way back.

A carefully targeted assault by a weaker force can then have a greater effect than it could in a game where once a tech is discovered, then it remains discovered. It creates a game where asymmetric warfare becomes possible and where infiltration (and counter infiltration) can be a strong mechanic.

And besides. Being able to "blow your opponent back into the stone age" just sounds like so much fun. :D

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Knowledge has to be past down from generation to generation.

In the Dark Ages a lot of knowledge was no longer being past down, mostly due to economic reasons and lack of technology that helps people pass it down(or people that know how to use it). There is also the potential for devestating events like the burning of all the books in Egypt and Mongols attacking the Persians.


From a strategic standpoint a player could decide to place more emphasis on their military in a desperate attempt to stay alive. During these times economic technology could be forgotten.

Or the player could focus on their economy and lose some of the military knowledge the is really only born from experience.

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From a strategic standpoint a player could decide to place more emphasis on their military in a desperate attempt to stay alive. During these times economic technology could be forgotten.

I prefer for knowledge loss to occur through emergent gameplay rather than from some hidden formula. Firstly it makes it easer for the player to understand what is going on

Oh I let my libraries decay and the knowledge stored in them went as well.

as compared to:

Hmm, I'll reduce my spending on research. Hey where did my tech tree go?.

It also allows the player to manipulate it better. Instead of having a prefixed action that causes the decay of knowledge (reduce the spending on its maintenance), they might work out some way of shuffling things around that allows them to keep certain parts and let unneeded parts decay (they can have their cake and eat it too).

Emergent gameplay is much more strategically interesting than a prefixed formula.

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Instead of loss of knowledge, could it be shifts in available resources that bring different tech flavors in and out of vogue, with "dark ages" in the awkward time between your graviton-providing binary black hole system collapsing and your neutrino-based infrastructure getting up and running?

The relics from the past age would be either dismantled to build new stuff or used sparingly. I envision this being like Mad Max, where you've got all these cars, but suddenly there's no gas, so you run what you've got, and as the supply dwindles, you start stripping down the Buicks and hitching camels to them.

So your Deuterium-besed fleets, which are all leveled to 8th tier, become prohibitively expensive to fly, and you're researching antimatter reactors to level 3, and in the meantime you've got a bunch of level 2 units and factories and a few irreplaceable level 8 units and defunct level 8 industrial sites that you're stripping down to build level 2 industrial sites of a different color.

It's an awkward few generations, and it has the "dark age feel", but you aren't totally crippled by a deus ex machina, and probably had some warning that your ion well was drying up, so you're faced with the dilemma: Do I sprint to the finish and have the greatest possible stockpile of high-tech artifacts with which to rule the dark times, or do I start redirecting resources before the crisis occurs, softening the blow to my economy and infrastructure and ensuring a shorter period of disarray?

That would be a useful and nuanced gameplay feature, and wouldn't feel like a kick in the balls to the player.

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Thanks, great replies everyone.

I really like the object oriented approach: Knowledge centers, education levels, colonies that form an interlocking system of tech production and specialization all sound groovy. It does occur to me now that it would be more obvious if you could see things about to decay, then lose them because you allowed them to decay or you lost them in conflict.

More than ever I see now how important it is to determine why dark ages happen. The trouble I'm having is that while I can see it being a really intriguing mode of play, I can't see it as being anything other than happening for a negative reason.

How fair would it be to make it both a matter of internal (player managed) circumstances and external (unpredictable) forces? That is, on the one hand, losing your tech centers and failing to produce enough food so that your people have the time to go to university causes a dark age; but a huge barbarian invasion can also cause a tech loss for the same reason.

I suppose in a strategy game the latter has to be optional because your focus is on beating your rivals. I don't see a way to frame it as, "hey, you've lost half your empire and all those hours of work, but you're actually doing quite well!"




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How personal do you want to get?

A civilisation that can span the galaxies probably has something alot better then the internet - losing specific buildings then does nothing, because the data is 'on the web'. However, its usually *key* people (eintstien for example) who forward technology, if a building was destroyed that had key people in it, those people die, and tech is knocked back a couple of years.

Individual people can be taken out, die of natural causes, change alligence etc.

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