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World conquest as a loss condition in a 4x.

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I was playing Master of Orion recently and found it to be pretty interesting. Of note, you can get two endings -- a Tyrant ending from conquering everyone, and a Senate ending which involves... peacefully getting people to vote you in as a galactic ruler. The tyrant ending (visible at
) is... not really a good ending.

This reminded me of how much I like taking the diplomatic route in strategy games because I find that it often has a more interesting dynamic to it. By and large I am happy to see that most 4x games have improved in terms of offering peace-time gameplay options (dodgy Eastern Bloc shovelware notwithstanding). Most recent games offer tech, cultural, trade, and UN-style victories in addition to conquest, and some even let you turn conquest off. Paradox's games don't have any set win conditions. Civ 4 in particular lets you turn permanent peace on as a gameplay option.

However I wonder to what extreme you could push this idea of diplomatic play.

A few ideas, most of which could be handled as mods to existing games, really:

- World conquest is a loss condition. At the end of the game, at least one other 'civilization' must be present and at peace with you for the game to be considered winning. Additionally, points are subtracted for every other country you wiped out. Conquest is still permissible as long as you never completely conquer an enemy.

- As per above, but conquering more than half of the maximum civilizations in the game will invoke a loss condition.

- The one I'm most interested in is as such: There's no inherent victory condition, and the game simply ends at a certain point in time; whoever has the highest score by this point is the winner or something. I don't know. What's salient is that if ANY side has conquered more than half (A third? More? Less?) of the world by this point, everyone loses. Additionally, perhaps the AI is set up to be more militarily inclined. As such, the player would need to find peace or, barring that, go to war with the AI to stop their conquests (releasing their holdings as free states in the meantime).

Just a few ideas, I guess.

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Instead of having some declarative "thou shalt not" win/lose condition based on conquest, you could have it a more subtle fact-of-life gameplay mechanic.

For instance, conquering a planet might make it necessary to commit large "peace keeping" police force dedicated to quelling the continuous stream of rebel attacks on valuable structures, equipment and personnel. Slave labor drawn from such a populace to operate the machinery of economics could be very poor production-wise, reflecting the high amount of supervision and threat needed to coerce them into production. And also loss of opportunity for diplomatic treaties that would otherwise be beneficial to both parties.

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Oh man, I remember that game.

I definitely agree with the previous poster. Rather than simply rating the player's performance at the end with a "You had a badness rating of 100000 because you conquered 10 planets and only convinced 9 to join you", it would be an interesting gameplay mechanic to have the method of takeover affect the value and behavior of the planet. Perhaps taking over a planet diplomatically would also give more immediate monetary yield, as their production facilities were not damaged in a conflict. On the other hand, a planet conquered by force might requires, as the previous poster said, a policing force, as well as becoming a money-sink while the player had to repair the damaged industry and infrastructure.

Also, rating the player based on number of planets conquered may also be bad because some planets just won't join your empire. If everyone went along with you, that would just be silly. Sometimes the player will have to use the stick, and they shouldn't be penalized for it.

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A couple of thoughts:

Alexander the Great's conquest was said to be thwarted by the fact that his people just wanted to go home. What about adding a mix of effects where military units away from their home civilization incur some sort of penalty and expanding civilization is difficult? On the last it's particularly funny to me that you sling around population at will but many empires have had to incentivize their population to move. If you want a planet set up in the middle of nowhere maybe you have to build it up with lots of services or it will remain a backwater.

Another thing I'd like to see is a good implementation of mutually assured destruction. It seems that when offensive capability dwarfs defensive there's more cause to use diplomacy, espionage and struggles by proxy in order to limit the chance of outright devastation. Survival to the end of the game in a scenario like this might be its own reward, especially after a Cuban Missile Crisis or two!

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I think you are looking at it from the wrong side. There should not be punishing conquerors but rewarding diplomats more. Conquest should stay as a viable option for players who like conquest and could not care less about diplomacy. But the diplomatic route should be made more benefitial than conquest.

In terms of Civ4 it could be "each civilization has a unique resource (like rock'n'roll or hollywood movies resource) when they perish the resource persih from the game too", "if a country agree to be your vassal you get +20% of their research points, the country does not lose these research points you just get bonus points (take a note that now you want others to have more research)".

Are you sure 4x is the best genre for your game? Maybe try something like SimCity with non violent competition over citizens with neighbours? 4x was made with conquest as a backbone, so, do you want to enrich the genre with more diplomacy or do you want to pursue a different genre more suitable for diplomacy gameplay? I mean, if you remove conquest and make it all diplomacy it could not be called "explore, expand, exploit, and exterminate" game anymore :D

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"Conquest should stay as a viable option for players who like conquest"

No, that's totally missing the point of what I was saying. That's like saying that jumping in pits should be a viable option in Super Mario Brothers for players that want to go that route.

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There are many ways to win/end a game besides simply peace or conquest. I'm posting a snip from an article i'm hoping to get published here shortly (it's in the pipe!) Perhaps it could help generate some ideas. (the article was partially inspired by games like MOO, so it's very applicable here).


Ways To Win

  • Elimination - Win by eliminating, destroying, moving, or removing opponents, obstacles, targets, or non-playing characters. Elimination can require a player to remove everything or a specific percentage or number of things.
  • Acquisition - Win by acquiring something or a certain level of something: money, resources, cards, tokens, opponents, or items on map. Victory by acquisition could also be called victory by conquest.
  • Points - Victory by high score is a lot like victory by acquisition, but so much greater because "points" are an abstract representation of value. Points can be awarded for anything. Additionally, different amounts of points can be awarded to players for different things. Players are then assessed by their overall skill level in the game and not by any specific skill. This encourages mastery of all the game's elements. Points are so flexible that you can even subtract or multiply points if so needed. Points can also be adjusted if the game is unbalanced.
  • Physical Goal - Win by getting to a location or several locations. This victory requires a game space to play in; Not all games have a game space. This victory could also be a victory by travel, discovery, or exploration. RoboSport (by Maxis) had a clever game mode called "baseball" where the player had to move units to four corners of a map to win.
  • Abstinence - Win by not doing something or by doing something efficiently. You might consider not losing something the player already has, going "out of balance", going out of bounds, losing resources, spending resources, or trying not to receive points. Victory by abstinence can also be victory by efficiency (like golf).
  • Riddance - Win by getting rid of something. Players may start with an item or items that need to be played out of the hand (like a card game), placed on a map, spent (like money), traded away, or destroyed. Victory by riddance provides the intriguing concept of giving opponents something they don't want as a hindrance (as opposed to not giving them something they do want) and of "going out" to win.
  • Spacial Dominance - Win by possessing or controlling an amount of physical area on a map. You will need to decide what constitutes "controlling." Victory can be attained by total domination, however a shorter and less player-exclusive game can be played by making the goal be a certain percentage of space or number of areas instead.
  • Key Target - Win by removing, destroying, creating, acquiring, or converting a key target or targets. Chess is won by capturing the King, not by capturing other pieces (this minor detail escapes many beginners). Key targets can be per-game (one target for all players), per-player (each player has a different target), or inter-player (each player has a target to defend against the others, e.g. "capture the flag").
  • Diplomacy - Win by social means. This can include winning by default (lack of other players), resignation of opponents, or a declaration of a draw or tie. Players could also vote for a winner (such as in [color="#ff0000"]Master of Orion), or periodically vote for a loser (think Survivor). There may also be multiple winners where a person wins by being allied with a winner (or loses by being allied with a loser).
  • Time - Rarely used in strategy games, but listed here regardless. Victory is given to the player who deals with a scenario in the fastest time.
  • Combinations - Win by completing multiple simultaneous victory conditions. This is not a victory condition, per se, but interesting to explore. Consider Physical Goal + Riddance. This requires the players to get everything out of something or away from something. Or consider Points + Abstinence, possibly requiring the player to win with the most points in the least moves (or while using the least resources, losing the least number of units, etc).
  • Variable - Win by completing one of several different victory conditions. This allows multiple paths to victory which allows for a wider style of play.
    Ways To End

    Important note: Ending conditions are not always victory conditions! - It is important that you specifically consider what events trigger the end of the game. This does not necessarily determine a winner in itself. For instance, some card games are over when someone "goes out," but the winner may be determined by counting points afterward. Go is over when all the available space is controlled, but the winner is determined by counting points. However, in some games, victory and endings are the same. In Chess, the game ends and is won when a king is captured.

    Endings that correspond to victory conditions:

    • Elimination - End the game by removing all players or competitive forces from the game. This could also be called "last man standing".
    • Acquisition - The game ends when a specific number or percentage of items or resources have been collected.
    • Points - End the game by scoring a number of points. This requires that score be actively kept during play as opposed to scoring after the game's end. A scoring end condition can be further restricted by only permitting a specific score to end the game with no overage or underage allowed.
    • Physical Goal - The game ends when one or more players reach a specific physical goal (like a race) or after all players have reached the goal.
    • Riddance - End the game by getting rid of something.
    • Spacial Endings - The game ends when all space or a specific portion of space is used up, controlled, or owned, either by players in general or by a specific player. For example, play may end and the game won by a player controlling 50% of the available area; or the game may end (but victory not determined) when 100% of the available area is controlled by all players in general or when no more moves can be played in it.
    • Key Target - The game ends when a specific target (or targets) is captured, destroyed, or collected.
    • Diplomacy - Players decide when the game is over. This can be a popular vote for a winner, a resignation, or a decision to draw or tie.
      Endings not related to victory conditions:

      • Combinations ("And" Endings) - The game ends when two or more ending conditions are met. For example: a Canasta hand is over when a player has both the necessary number of plays made and gets rid of all their cards. This player may not end the game if the required plays have not been made.
      • Variable ("Or" Endings) - Allow any number of multiple conditions to end the game. Variable end conditions usually go with variable victory conditions.
      • Exhaustion - End the game by exhausting an available resource. This could be a stack of cards, money, game tokens, collectible items, etc.. The game can end with the exhaustion of a specific resource or all resources combined.
      • Inability to Play - The game can end either when one or all players cannot make a legal play. Some games end after a player cannot play and all other players get "one last turn."
      • Time - The game ends when a time limit expires. Time limits are not related to a time victory condition, which is more like a race.
      • Random - What ends the game is randomly determined before the game starts. This forces more variety in play style.

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