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Wavinator

Flexibile Upgrade Paths for Alien Ships

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I've been thinking about what a sort of Star Control 2 meets Escape Velocity would look like-- several alien races with their own ship themes mixed with the idea of upgradeable ships-- and was wondering how best to mix both universal upgrades and unique ships. One of the best parts of the old Star Control 2 was how each ship had unique combat strategies due to unique weapons / defenses. Now compare that to space trader games like Escape Velocity where you have a point system for upgrades but can really mix and match just about anything. How would you get the best of both worlds, assuming about 8 species which each have 8 to 10 unique hulls (so 64 to 80 unique ships, not counting factional or make and model variants)? What I'm leaning toward is unique, species specific upgrades and universal upgrades which have a species specific cost. Example: Upgradeable Androsynth Blazer Let's say you have a race that has a transformable ship. In form 1 the ship has whatever handling characteristics, internal space, crew requirements, etc as other ships. In form 2, it can transform for a limited time into something like a comet, moving fast, turning slowly, immune to damage and able to ram. In form 1, the ship uses whatever universal tech you've outfitted it with. But in form 2, you employ a unique line of upgrades to get variations of this special ability. No other race's ship can ever use it, and short of capturing the ship you'll have to restart as a new race to ever get it. I'm not entirely sure this is a good idea. It will create a huge balancing challenge, but I'm wondering if it's worth it in order to encourage replaying as different races and employing unique strategies. Can you imagine yourself both trying out the various universal upgrades and replaying for the special upgrades?

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I thought you were heading towards the RPG realm. Encouraging a seperate play-through for each unique species seems more like an RTS feature. One that will significantly change other aspects of your game. Would it not be more interesting and engaging to make alliances or steal technology from these other species in order to acquire their spacecraft and upgrades? Star Control style for allies, X-Com style for enemies. It would pack more fun and complexity into the game without requiring players to start over.

To answer the question, it sounds like it would work fine. I don't think you really need to worry too much about perfect balance outside of multiplayer gaming. Dynamics like being required to upgrade Spathi ships to have a chance against bare-bones Ur-Quan ships just adds more flavor to a single player game.

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Original post by Wavinator
I'm not entirely sure this is a good idea. It will create a huge balancing challenge, but I'm wondering if it's worth it in order to encourage replaying as different races and employing unique strategies. Can you imagine yourself both trying out the various universal upgrades and replaying for the special upgrades?


Absolutely. The immediate case in point example would be Starcraft and the Zerg race.

Creep Colony -> Sunken Colony (Attacks ground only) or Spore Colony (attacks air only).

Mutalisk (Flying unit that can attack ground or air, rather weakly) -> Guardian (Strong anti-ground flying unit) or Devourer (Strong anti-air flying unit)

Hydralisk (Medium powered ground unit that can attack air or ground units) -> Lurker (Ground unit that excels at attacking ground units only while burrowed)

Their whole race stems from the fact that everything comes from a larvae, to which you can build a drone or other combat units. The drone then can morph into their buildings or harvest resources. The unique aspect to the race is the fact that the peons, the drones, are consumed in order to build the city, so you must constantly spawn more form larvae.

I'm sure you can extend the idea even more with various changes, but it gives a level of certain flexibility when playing and employing different strategies. It is hard balancing all those though.

In context of a space game, you have your various classes of ships to begin with, such as speedy scout ships, large slow transports, fast medium armored attack ships, etc.. all of which can take different parts and whatnot. You could make it so certain weapons don't work with others to force a specific upgrade path. Freelancer is a fun little game that shows most of that concept.

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Original post by Kest
I thought you were heading towards the RPG realm. Encouraging a seperate play-through for each unique species seems more like an RTS feature.


I'm somewhere between RPG and strategy. I do like the idea of stealing tech and such, but what about the sense of enforced uniqueness you get from things like having multiple classes in an RPG? The magician is worth playing because the barbarian and rogue are nothing like him.

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To answer the question, it sounds like it would work fine. I don't think you really need to worry too much about perfect balance outside of multiplayer gaming. Dynamics like being required to upgrade Spathi ships to have a chance against bare-bones Ur-Quan ships just adds more flavor to a single player game.


This is a good point. Come to think of it, so long as there's a way of escape, such encounters could be the very reason to upgrade. Thanks!

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Original post by Shannon Barber
À mon avis, 2 completely unique races is better than 12 with 1 or 2 things different.


Any other ways to vary them?

Space traders usually stand on upgrading, trade, combat and missions. Although my upgrading topic was a complete non-starter, I'm still looking to make leveling different for the different races. You could vary trade a little, but I think it's risky to try to add lots of variation there because economics is dry.

That leaves movement and combat.

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...but what about the sense of enforced uniqueness you get from things like having multiple classes in an RPG?

You could do Culture, to which Military Doctrines might derive from (as in combat roles, or also the equivalent of Classes). One culture might favor the turtle (ranged offense, little mobility, high defense) more than the hit-&-run (high mobility, little defense).

You could vary each species' life support requirements. Species A might be able to cope with XYZ hazardous environments more than Species B. Species C might not even require food intake, just sunlight & water (plant-men). Species D might be telepathic-based and require good vibes/thoughts from crewmembers in order to be healthy. Species E might be able to go naked in space without any harm come to him. Species F might be robotic and only require batteries.

While on the topic of varied crew biology, unique Fighting styles might derive from this, in the form of Unique Skills. You might have a Vulcan deathgrip for one species. A telepathic blast for another. A chemical stink cloud for another. They don't all have to be attack-related, they might be supportive, like a Focus Skill so that species G might be better capable of handling a ship.

So to balance this, introduce a strength and weakness for each species.

Though you could vary their technologies, technology isn't something that stays unique for too long, as it can be inspired, bought, stolen, etc, but you could make affinities to certain technologies or knowledge bases which vary from species to species, giving them a working bonus to that field.

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Original post by Tangireon
You could vary each species' life support requirements. Species A might be able to cope with XYZ hazardous environments more than Species B. Species C might not even require food intake, just sunlight & water (plant-men). Species D might be telepathic-based and require good vibes/thoughts from crewmembers in order to be healthy. Species E might be able to go naked in space without any harm come to him. Species F might be robotic and only require batteries.

While on the topic of varied crew biology, unique Fighting styles might derive from this, in the form of Unique Skills. You might have a Vulcan deathgrip for one species. A telepathic blast for another. A chemical stink cloud for another. They don't all have to be attack-related, they might be supportive, like a Focus Skill so that species G might be better capable of handling a ship.

So to balance this, introduce a strength and weakness for each species.

Though you could vary their technologies, technology isn't something that stays unique for too long, as it can be inspired, bought, stolen, etc

There isn't really much of a difference. Crew can also be transferred or recruited between alliances of species. And in the most interesting situations (Teal'c - SG1, or Todd - SGA), even enemy characters can cross over.

As a participant in this galaxy, I would find myself wanting to recruit members of the G species for my pilots, and Vulcans as my science officers. I might be human, but my ships and crew would be from all over - we wouldn't be a human fleet. It would take extra effort to help the crew get along with each other, but we would have formidable advantages.

None of this really creates a barrier for game design though. One can seperate tech and species between game clans, and very few players will question it. My opinion is just that an 8X enriched single play-through is far better than 8 seperately unique play-throughs.

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I see it more as so that the player can define their starting identity, sort of like choosing an appearance, race, and class in Morrowind or Oblivion, or in some other open-ended RPG or even MMORPG. It's not really much of a game design factor as it is more of an aesthetic factor, as though your starting options would be limited to your race's culture, biology, military doctrines, etc, eventually your options would converge later in the game despite which template you start with, such as with the hiring of alien crew or the obtainment of alien ships or technology, but if there are more ways to enjoy the game, and you have the resources to implement them, why not offer them? It's a cool feature to have, one which players which prefer to play only just one playthrough can choose not to play around with (as they could just simply choose a starting template and be done with it), while those who care about these things could play around with them.

[Edited by - Tangireon on September 19, 2008 3:23:00 PM]

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I see it more as so that the player can define their starting identity, sort of like choosing a race and class in Morrowind or Oblivion, or in some other open-ended RPG or even MMORPG.

But unlike a player character race, you can allow choosing between ship technology and crew species inside the gameplay. Rather than a game start decision that diverges to several unique play throughs, it would be interwoven throughout the entire game, allowing an infinite span of unique play throughs.

Instead of choosing between species A through F at the start of the game, you could allow the player to make an alliance with A or B, then C or D, then E or F. The player may have access to some of A, D, and E's tech and crew one game, then have access to A, C, and F the next. Since C doesn't like the A species, and E admires the D species, different combinations could change the relationships with the player's species, changing his level of access to their tech and crew. Certain plots can also require the player to temporarily favor one species over another, creating bolder friendships and deeper rifts. Access to each species' tech and crew would be a huge reward and incentive to make the gameplay seem meaningful.

It seems like a waste to throw all of this diverging gameplay into a single game start decision.

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