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Acharis

Minimalistic space empire building game

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I'm thinking of a simple and short turn based strategy game of building a space empire. The primary goal is to design it as easy and fast to develop, the secondary goal is to make it relatively short to play, kind of like space empire building in a nutshell, but that's of lesser importance. As for complexity of the gameplay I'm indifferent (but probably due to the constrants above it won't be too complex).

How such game could look like?


I thought of these basic assumptions/tricks:
- strictly singleplayer
- the game is heavily random and highly replayable, can be finished in like 2-5 hours
- the game is asymetric, the player owns all planets on the map, no AI controled empires, the enemy comes (out of the screen) in a form of alien invasions only (this should simplify the AI greatly)
- part of the game could be like Tower Defence genre, where aliens invade player's empire and the player tries to stop them
- there could be a card-like mechanic involved for various things, it's easy to develop and easy to grasp for the player, yet allows a lot of different concepts to be introduced (you can "play" a "space university" card "imperial army reform" card, "technological advancement" card, etc. One mechanic and useful for many purposes).


This is an initial stage of design, kind of like brainstorming. Fell free to stray from what I described above and feel free to put not fully compatible ideas. I still try to grasp the overall concept of it. Edited by Acharis

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Depends on how you want to define your game, I believe.

Usually, when you say ' space empire ' game, what do you think people will think ?
- Start small [1 - 3 planets to start with]
- crappy technology at first
- crappy planet development
- crappy military forces

So then, it's up to the players to decide how they want to advance. Most will agree with me that, fast expansion is usually a pretty good idea in the beginning. Then boost up your Research, develop high quality planets for industry output, then build up those shipyards and make armadas.

Will you cut all these concepts as well ? If you turn it into Tower Defence ?
If so, what's there to keep players to keep replaying the random games over and over ?
Think about that too :)

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Depends on how you want to define your game, I believe.
Right now I'm trying to define the game :) So, I'm collecting unelated ideas and welcome warious "how I would do it if it was me doing that kind of game". Later, once I sort it out, I will strat another topic with more clear constraints. As for now, anything at least remotely related is welcomed :)


By tower defence part I was thinking that there are these planets/systems and there is a predefined path (order of conquest) in which invading fleet visit these planets. Wherever the players manages to stop the invasion, that's the border planet of his empire. I was also thinking about various aliens invading planets in another order (from different direction). The strength of the invasion probably could get decreased after each planet conquered (so the home planet in the center of the empire would be quite easy to defend, while the farthest ones almost impossible).
But I'm not tieds to that ides, I just thought it's simple and convey the whole warfare part quite well.


Many planets vs few planets.
I wonder which one to choose. I can make very few planets (like 5-12) and make these complex (you build infrastructure on each one, each planet is a sparate ecosystem, has an appointed governor, various population groups, etc). The second option is to make many planets, but not very detailed. You would be able to decide what the planet's specialization is (mining, industry, agriculture, science) and see what its size/population level is and what military units station there.

With few highly detailed planets it could look like that http://cf.geekdo-images.com/images/pic1310229.jpg (one screen, not scrollable, big clickable planet icons)
With many simplistic planets it could look like that http://gametwonk.com/2012/08/24/endless-space-review/2012-08-19_00001/ (scrollable, for convenience in one axis only)


Exploration
I wonder how important the exploration part is. If I go for few detailed planets all these would be visible from the start (or very early). That would mean no exploration or crippled exploration...

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Just a few of my thoughts...

In 2-5 hours I think you're really going to have to strategically cut down on the detail, so that compared to most empire-building games you have a few less detailed planets.

It's a cool idea but I think it's going to be hard to both build an empire and have it constantly under siege like a tower defense game and make it not really irritating to a player. Building outer colonies only to have them steamrolled sounds not fun, and I think players will have the tendency to turtle up, emphasizing the tower defense part over the empire building part... which isn't what you are going for. Plus if you are constantly fighting over frontier worlds, how does the game actually end?

My thoughts on scope:

  • Have all the planets in a single solar system (like the Firefly TV show), and include moons.
  • Treat all the planetary systems like mini-solar systems
  • Larger planets could have separate "continents" managed like the moons.

    Thoughts on gameplay:

    • Have the player move into alien territory, not vice versa.
    • Break combat areas into sectors like a planetary system above, so the players can choose how much they want to juggle (attack only one system at a time or split forces if they're strong enough)
    • Combat would revolve around creating an outpost in a system on a moon, holding that outpost against attacks, fortify and use foothold to build outpost on the next closest moon, and so on until system is clear. Holding becomes harder closer to the planet you are, with holding continents being the hardest.
    • Call the game Space Conquistador

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Check out The Space Game, Creeper World and AI War. They sound like the kind of game you are going for. They are asymmetric strategy games where you expand your base and constantly fight back the enemy.

For the AI, you can have them occupy planets and wage war. Simply use a different rule set than the player and call that alien technology. This will allow you to create a simple AI and retain a realistic feel. You could also have them teleport motherships/stations and spawn units from there. It would make the entire map a potential battle zone instead of fringe territories only.

Personally, I would go with an abstracted system rather than a detailed one. There is little to gain from being so detailed if the game is supposed to last 2-5 hours.

As for the rest, it depends a lot on the victory goal. There are a lot of ways to do it. Just need to figure out an interesting mechanic, like the card one.

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Well, if you mainly invade other races it has a feel of a young empire. Agressive, flexible, young. It could be fun I guess, but I feel a space empire is better portrayed as an old one. I mean an old, stagnant empire rotten to the core with bureucracy, falling apart, riots on the streets, usurpers to the throne, court politics, internal intrigues and assassinations. And on top of it some young alien race attacks and you don't have the time to deal with it properly because you have "more important" internal affairs to take care of :D I think such scenario has better impact and lets you feel how it is to be a space emperor.

I still wonder how important the tower defence part should be. Maybe even I should remove/minimize it and go for regular "disaster events"? Like every 50 turns there is a major disaster you need to deal with (civil war, rise of an usurper, alien invasion, military coup attempt, the local sun turning into supernova) and a minor one every 10 turns (like assassination attempt, rampart corruption among officials, riots on one planet, pirates). These could be done as some sort of "random cards", not as a separate minigame. You get the event and you have a list of resurces (with alternatives) you need to apply to stop the event, or a list of mini goals to achieve to stop/reduce it. Like for riots you could send a regiment of an imperial army (if you have one) or some charismatic leader to solve it peacefully.

It's a cool idea but I think it's going to be hard to both build an empire and have it constantly under siege like a tower defense game and make it not really irritating to a player. Building outer colonies only to have them steamrolled sounds not fun, and I think players will have the tendency to turtle up, emphasizing the tower defense part over the empire building part... which isn't what you are going for. [/quote]Yes, there is such danger... But I don't meant a pure tower defence game, it can be done as a sheduled attack, not even most of the time. I meant something more along the lines of this: http://silverlemur.com/minigames/wiztowersim.php
Anyway, the concern of it being too important and distracting from the empire building part is valid...

Plus if you are constantly fighting over frontier worlds, how does the game actually end?[/quote]Well, for this kind of game I could even go for "the game ends after X turn" model. Not the prettiest one, but assuming it ends up being a short game it would be acceptable. Or I could go for victory points system, you need to get 5 victory points, you get 1 such point for doing a big thing (like constructing transdimensional gate, defeating alien race, building death star capable of destroying whole planets, etc).



An example how such game could be done (event cards driven empire building with few planets):

You have 8 planets (you start with one, but can annect the others quickly). Most/half of these planets would be inhabited from the start and you would be annecting these (military or diplomacy), not colonizing. The rest would be colonized when you feel like it. Each planet would have on average 2 races (multirace empire) that not always love each other (internal problems). There is a dozen of empire wide stats (integrity, stabilization, corruption, happiness), if these fall too low (or go too high in case of negative stats) it means trouble (or even instant game over). Regularly there are disaster events, you better deal with these of the empire stats will fall down. You have/build some assets (imperial army, fleet, officials, special imperial inspectors, advisors, governors, security forces, institutions, organisations), you use these to deal with the disasters. You can improve planets (buildings, garrison forces, local institutions). You can improve empire as a whole (imperial senate decrees, projects, policies, laws). You can send expeditions to explore "outer space", it's a kind of cheap replacement of exploration part, you just decide on funding and tell them which "sector" of the galaxy they should survey and then the survey team bring you alien artifacts, contacts with other races which allows trade routes and other random goodies (or space viruses that start an empire wide epidemy :D).

Note that this all sounds very rich, complex and like completely separate features, so the only way to implement it reasonably is via some abstract general mechanic (like in most card games where you have a card telling you that you encountered pirates and need 5 points of military to deal with this card and a card that tells you there is an assassination attempt and you need 3 points of security to deal with it; while these tells completely different story, it's still the same (or very similar) mechanic used).

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Check out The Space Game, Creeper World and AI War. They sound like the kind of game you are going for. They are asymmetric strategy games where you expand your base and constantly fight back the enemy.
Hmm, the more I think about it the more I like something along the lines of "cards". Let's take a look at Creeper World, I love that game, but it has basicly zero replayability. The whole point of playing it is because of downloadable comminiuty made maps, but on its own it has no replayability at all (ok, maybe a bit to beat your score). I also played the Creeper World's 2 auto generated missions and these are simply not good (compared to the ones made my real people). Same goes for The Space Game, generated scenarios for these simply sux.
But if you look at Weird Worlds: Return To Infinite Space its generator works perfect, I don't feel human made scenario for it would be so much better. Simply, generators work very well for such kind of game (and it basicly is an event "card" driven game).
I definitely want to avoid community made maps (too much hassle with these servers and making editors) and I need very high replayability (if the game is short it needs to be replayable, that's how it works...) also I need the game not feel like a flash game (it needs to provide longer overall experience, in either long play time or replayability)

I wonder if I should go for less combat focused kind of game...

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A good strategy game that uses the "card concept" is Armageddon empires( http://www.armageddonempires.com/games/AE/armageddon_empires.html ). Before the game you make a "deck" and balance the ingame-cost/deck-cost/strength/number/utility of units. Combat is also really simple at first glance dice for attack and defense(you actually see the dice so it doesn't seem unfair random), with some "commander abilities" you can build instead of units.

Basically the game takes tons of really really simple mechanics that draws from table top games and deck building games. BUT gets complexity by adding lots of "instead-ofs" and forcing choices.
________

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ooohh finally, a turn based game, and also science fiction setting. it's my bread! Loved these games in the past and unfortunately didn't see anything interesting in last years.

The card system implemented is also a very cool idea, if you need a tester, I'm here for you, just contact me!

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First, thanks for all your posts. I was thinking about what you wrote and came to these conclusions/thoughts so far. Please comment them :)


1) classic (map with planets to conquer) vs unique (like cards) mechanic:
If I go with classic mechanic, like the ones Tiblanc mentioned, at best it would be perceived as a "better flash game", which is not a good trait for a standalone PC game :) Not to mention the complexity of it (development time wise) with all these AI, planets, interface to move ships and grouping ships, etc. I'm quite sure it's a dead end for the kind of game/project I can afford to make. It would either be an inferior 4X game or a full blown 4X game which take too long to make. I simply have to go for some unique or hybrid mechanic.

Also, Armageddon Empires example made me thinking. I knew about that game before, and it's the only kind of that game I know. It's also the only game you listed... In short, there are EXTREMELY few games that use card mechanic :) Well, there are some other, but these are either copies of non computer games or simple (put X monsters in a row and fight X monsters of enemy). The card mechanic is definitely not overused.


2) War focused vs Non war focused:
Most games are about combat, it's the easiest to make and the most obvious. You produce some units and attack or defend. There might be some complex economy layer involved but it's end purpose is just to make more/better military units (Civilization). I wonder if I should go that route or go for a "peaceful" one.
For example there could be internal issues of the empire, plagues to deal with, court politics, support of different factions within the empire, riots, grand projects. It could be done even without any form of combat at all... So, I wonder, should it be about war or about war + internal issues or just internal only without combat at all?

Or it can be phrased other way, what a space empire is supposed to do/deal with? What would give you the best feel of being an emperor of a space empire?


The card system implemented is also a very cool idea, if you need a tester, I'm here for you, just contact me![/quote]I always need testers :D But right now I'm in the middle of another project, so I would be very surprised if I would start this one earlier than 6 months from now. Assuming I start it (it's just talking and thinking for now). In case I do I will surely forget about your offer by then, but I will post a topic about new project of such kind here, so if you see anything like that, just drop me a line again (actually, at that stage I always go around begging for people to test my alpha/tech demo so you would not need to contact me at all but just download it and post your feedback) :)
I always love and need testers :D

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