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Morri

4x games, why not ship-design-driven research?

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I am a big fan of 4x space strategy games. However, tech-trees where you go tech by tech are a bit boring. AND Ship design where your ship remains essentially the same, but it just upgrades in the size and equipment tech-levels, is boring too. I have not figured out the solution for these problems yet but I believe ship-design-driven-research might be one of the possible answers. This thread is mostly for brainstorming this idea further.

In ship-design-driven-research (let's call it SDDR) you don't have tech-tree where you pick up what you research, instead you research what engineers (you) design! That's the big idea, but how to make it interesting and implementable is the tricky question. Obvious thing is that the game will need a bit more complex lego blocks from where to build than traditional 4x ship design. Each block taking some amount of points and in-game-resources with ship size enabling certain amount of points for the design, would be the very obvious features.

Each component will provide essential features for the ship and need others, life-support, power, armor, hull-structure, weapons etc. To add more complexity you could also add other features like radiation, heat, funny shaped components that need special hull design to make a good ship (large ring shaped component for particle accelerator that is needed for mass drivers for example). You could also be very inventive with component shapes, who knows what shaped gadgets you need for phase-shifting tech? How about tech that runs on life force?

Certain designs will be high on the requirements of certain fields and low on other. Building a prototype generates more research than mass production of designs. Productivity etc. research could be included either as "city" design or make the world more based on space stations that have certain purposes. For me this sounds perhaps a bit too complex to be implemented in very huge scale, though I like the basic components: Shape, plus/minus-features(heat needs coolin etc.), point limitation to model hull-size, prototypes generating most research.

Anyway, I have to go for now, but I'll be back tomorrow. Feel free to throw any ideas at me!

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It isn't space-based, but rather very similar to Civilization set on another planet -- but check out Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri for an example of something that sounds pretty similar to your idea -- as you unlock the tech-tree, certain discoveries unlock "components" for building new units, and the player can then mix-and-match these parts to customise units to their liking. Check out the first image in this review.

Another game with a somewhat similar feature is Star Control II -- you can download and play a free version called The Ur-Quan Masters -- most ship designs in this game are fixed, but the player's flagship is a massive "pre-cursor" ship which the player can customise by installing different pods (weapons, generators, crew-capacity, cooling systems, thrusters, etc.) into "slots".

My third example of a similar system -- and probably closest in complexity to what you're actually describing -- is the Mech Warrior games, where different mech-chassis allow different weights and amounts of equipment to be installed, and the player can create vastly different mech designs by making different decisions about what to install.


In short -- yes -- such an idea definitely has potential. I think the important thing is probably to make sure that taking the time to design interesting/different ships actually has a meaningful impact on the game.

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Quote:
Original post by Morri
Obvious thing is that the game will need a bit more complex lego blocks from where to build than traditional 4x ship design. Each block taking some amount of points and in-game-resources with ship size enabling certain amount of points for the design, would be the very obvious features.
Go play Kingdom Hearts, and tell me about the gummi ship. The only difference is that you want the pieces to be even more specialized than in Kingdom Hearts.

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I think I get the idea. Instead of having a tech tree where you research technologies and then combine the results, you instead, somehow describe what you want and then the game tells you how long it would take to research.

So instead of using predesigned components (like lego blocks), you are using a more customisable system (like playdough).

It sounds interesting.

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Thanks for quick and quality replys!

I have played Galactic Civs, didn't like too much the unit design, it felt cheap and artificial way to get the Civ space-edition seem more like traditional 4x space startegy games. I will give the Star Control a try, but jbadadams, I believe you misunderstood the depth I would like to take this idea, I want to drop the tech-tree but not the discovery of new techs.

Platinum_Dragon, funny that you mentioned the Gummi ships, I liked the Gummi ships more than the actual game! (Thouhg Kingdom Hearts is awesome!) I would kind of like to see Gummi ships on steroids.

Edtharan, yes, you got it. I think if I could somehow make the higher tech components less easy to use in design if you want to have a manuverable, well armored, effeciently crewed and high speed space ship.

For example: huge mass driver will need huge particle accelerator and a lot of energy, in other hands the outer rim of your ship will be huge ring like they have underground in CERN. If the particle accelerator gets broken, your mass driver is not functioning. If you want to protect the particle accelerator from incoming fire you perhaps want to put all the power supply, crew, bridge etc. components in the front section of the ship and put some armor plating and hope that enemy interceptors never get close to the vulnerable parts of the particle accelerator.

Other choice is to use lower tech mass drivers with smaller particle accelerators (that you can afford to cover with proper armor etc.), which are of course less effective and can not pierce well that high thickness armor your enemy is using.

Anyway, you end up making those ships with huge mass drivers if you want to keep your general mass driver tech growing, perhaps even the military use of the huge mass drivers would generate research bonus, but the downside is that you have to protect that very expensive prototype investment and risk it in the battle. Though it might be much of fun to show your prototype of advanced tech to the enemy and watch the devastation your big guns can do.

Another aspect that I like about the idea is that it actually models the reality very well. The Apollo program and USSR space progam both advanced technology very much, and all these big engineering projects that envision something never done before do the same for technology.

In the system I believe that extremes of technology should be extremely vulnerable and easy to take down with modest level of anti-tech-weapons (power-disturbance weapons, gravity weapons can cause collisions in mass driver PA etc.). Also it would be fun if the prototype ship's shapes would reveal them easily in espionage, but espionage raports would not tell you directly what it really is (because your gov doesn't possess anything similar AND prototypes are much better protected for espionage than mass produced ships).



Perhaps this flight of thought describes well what it could be like. What kind of issues and risks there could be with the fun factor of this kind of solution (expecting that the players would be the kind of people who like to engineer things). The examples were about mass drivers because we today know how to make matter accelerate to high-speeds, but what kind of tricky shapes could for example phasing weapons have, how shield generator would look like. How about ideas on discovering new tech areas? I also know that building a prototype of this would be quite challenging since the ship-design would be quite complex. How could I strip down features so that it would be easier to implement as prototype? Anyway, this is still just brainstorming on the idea, I don't have enough time to do the prototype in near future, though if someone wants give it a shot I would be happy to help all I can.

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One way you could do this is to have some base level techs that essentially give the player access to a certain type fo tech (eg: mass drivere, laser, armor plating, etc), but then have various aspects of each tech improvable with research.

For example, with the Mass drivers, you could research them to make them smaller, more powerful, use less energy, etc. With armor, you could have its resistance to damage, how much damage it could take, etc.

So this way a player can choose the actualy values that go into making up each piece of technology and set them at the levels they want.

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First of all you should check what a mass driver is, it's something like a cannon.
According to what i've readed is like a coilgun, or the same. So no particle accelerator, just a long pipe.

PAs can be used in directed energy weapons, particle beams.
Also you can use it to manofacture antimatter, although having it stored as plasma in a magnetic container seems better.

Parts you can put:
-most kinds of cannons are like pipes
-solar sails would be enormous silver sheets
-fusion reactors can also be ring shaped (tokamak), you can make ring and sphere shaped reactors to have diferent properties
-specialized weapons can have weird shapes, imagine a planet destroying ray that has five pipes around a focus point in a star-like formation

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Quote:
Original post by klefebz
First of all you should check what a mass driver is, it's something like a cannon.
According to what i've readed is like a coilgun, or the same. So no particle accelerator, just a long pipe.


This is actually a very interesting point, because doing mass driver from a single pipe vs. a mass driver that has a circle are two different solutions for the same problem. You can accelerate a mass of particles faster in circular system because you can accelerate the mass for multiple rounds before making it exit, while with pipe the structure is less enormous but the speed you get is lower.

Quote:
PAs can be used in directed energy weapons, particle beams.
Also you can use it to manofacture antimatter, although having it stored as plasma in a magnetic container seems better.

Parts you can put:
-most kinds of cannons are like pipes
-solar sails would be enormous silver sheets
-fusion reactors can also be ring shaped (tokamak), you can make ring and sphere shaped reactors to have diferent properties
-specialized weapons can have weird shapes, imagine a planet destroying ray that has five pipes around a focus point in a star-like formation


Yeah, I think that there is much more room for imagination and innovation in space strategy games, not everything has to be pure physics. I have always been big fan of sci-fi meets fantasy kind of setting. Why not to have a race that uses necromantic powers etc. since it adds much of the needed variety to 4x games, not every race has to be similar. Though I think I should include a back ground story to every "weird shaped component" and I believe it should hint the player how to get towards the next level of techonology.

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Check out an old game called STARS!. There used to be a fairly decent demo of it floating around.
The neat thing about STARS! was the ship building and the automation abilities. If you haven't ever played it (and you can stand looking at WIN 3.1 era graphics) then go try it. It has spawned many ideas for me over the years.

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Thanks for these useful ideas Morri (and the others !), i'll look what i can do w/ these for the future r&d system of FARC :)

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