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StarLife - an indie sci-fi 4X in development

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Hey guys, hope you don't kill me for a bit of shameless advertising.

We’re Purple Orange Games, and we are currently developing StarLife, an independent sci-fi 4X game. We already have a tech demo showing rudimentary combat and currently are preparing for a Kickstarter that will air late March-early April.

Though the space strategy genre never really died out, newer releases have not even come close to the venerable ancestor, Master of Orion, they lacked that special something that made it one of the best games of all time.

Our goal, of course, is to rectify this situation.

Our core design philosophy includes:

- Varied races with unique gameplay - +10% growth? Research halved? A bonus to combat efficiency? Meh. These are not game-altering changes. We strive to make species really different. Each one is going to have a trait, ability, or gimmick that forces the player to readjust to a new strategy.

- Complexity as a means to an end – most of today’s games are catered to the casual gamer, and thus stripped of many features and lacking depth. On the other hand, we feel that stockpiling gimmicks and mechanics that have no real influence on the game’s flow and only make playing more of a chore is a dead end. Complexity is a must, but it has to serve the player, not the other way around.

- Technology more than just a linear progression – again, latest 4X games struggled a lot with coming up with a sensible tech system. Separate trees that you select and research one by one are not interesting the slightest. In Starlife, we are trying to put some meat on these bones.

- Quick, but tactically satisfying combat – battles are one of my favourite parts of strategy games. Unfortunately, most of the time they are considered of secondary importance and are either simplified or tend to drag. Starlife will feature hex-based combat system rooted in board games that is quick to resolve and offers a tactical challenge.

- No unnecessary micromanagement – Micro is always a bane of 4X in longer, bigger games. Our plan is cutting down on it without limiting players’ choices.

- Your subjects are living creatures (unless they’re robots) – Have you ever felt that those billions of subordinates on your colonies are mindless drones that need constant babysitting? Well, we have. That’s why in Starlife citizens actually have will of their own. They are quite helpful, but, if mistreated, can make your rule a pain.

Most of areas of the game are still being designed, so don't hesitate to suggest and post any ideas!



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Another update! DIPLOMACY. You can read it here and discuss here (or you could also read the text under spoiler tag and post your comments beneath)
[spoiler]Diplomacy, theoretically, should be an extremely important field in games that are all about the clash of mighty interstellar empires. However, in most 4X, relations with AI (and even human if there’s no outside communication) factions are overly simplified and, thus, bland. Most of the time, it boils down to exchanging technology, agreeing on non-aggression pacts or alliances, and, of course, declaring war. It’s the shallowest area in otherwise deep and sophisticated games (see MoO2). Playing a diplomatic race isn't that much different from playing a despised one, you are just less likely to be attacked.
Starlife aims to overhaul diplomacy completely. We want to make it into an important factor that you always have to take into consideration, even when not directly parleying with others.
The main element on which the system is based on is Intention. You could also say that intentions are one of the bases of the whole game, because you place them on almost every field (for example, you ‘intend’ to colonize a specific planet, which results in civilian migrations), but its impact is most visible in diplomacy. 
Let’s illustrate it on an example. You are at war with another race, and decide to ask for peace. When sending emissary, you have to choose why you’re doing so, like: 
1. Intention: War preparation. You want to regroup and continue the war at your leisure.
2. Intention: Improve Relations. You no longer wish to pursue combat with this race, maybe because they’re more powerful.
3. Intention:  Espionage. You covet their secrets and plan on stealing them.
Each intention gives an appropriate bonus (like faster ship construction in example 1).  Obviously, the enemy doesn't know your true plans, but – if they managed to infiltrate your empire – can learn them and respond properly.
Each intention has a goal you need to achieve connected. If you choose Espionage, you are supposed to send a number of spies to enemy territory; if you decide on War preparation, you are to declare war within specified time gap.
Now you could of course try to meta-game and pick only false goals to stump the AI. However, breaking your objectives comes with penalties. Intentions are what you communicate to your subjects. So, when you choose War preparation, the entire empire commits to constructing a powerful navy. When it turns out that you had no plans of going to war, they are confused and angry at you. The penalties for breaking objectives won’t be too harsh, but enough to make you think twice, especially if you break your promises willy-nilly.
Another example. You’re at war with two AI races (A and B). You make peace with A with the intention to go to war again, and with B to just shake hands and restart trading. You start to build a new fleet. This makes both A and B uneasy for obvious reasons. They both may have spies – let’s say A learns your true intentions but B doesn't. Now, A can start a preemptive war on you, and B joins in because it thinks you’re might be dangerous to them (it doesn't know you want peace with them and won’t believe you).[/spoiler]
Edited by Hoverdog

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