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Orymus3

"Research" System in 4X Games

26 posts in this topic

Hi,

 

Most 4X games I've seen over the past decade have been using the mainstream Research system (a system I've even seen employed in various other games, such as XCOM to state a contemporary title).

In essence, the system gives you resources (research points) that are a measure of time invested towards achieving a discovery in a given field.

In many 4X games, you have control over this resource by building variants of a research complex / science building of some sorts.

 

There are two side-effects of this system I'd like to discuss here:

 

1 - This creates a time reference where a game turn appears "longer" and "slower-paced"

The concept itself hints that you're actually doing the research in fields never before experimented with. Researches take time, and discoveries take even more. From the player's standpoint, if 5 game turns yield you a major discovery, you'd be tempted to count these turns in matter of months or years, and the overall relative time flow of the game will be affected.

 

2 - It becomes a "must" as it increases exponentially your army's efficiency, and it becomes impossible to achieve victory with sub-par technology

Let's face it, most 4X games are won by technology. Efficient ship design will not matter, not matter how well you can concentrate your force, if your opponent's science is two notches ahead of you. And it's extremely hard for developers to balance technology in a way there there aren't necessarily bad choices.

In most games I've played, investing in economy, in an effort to bring numbers, was always much weaker than investing in tech and have the next-gen shield/laser.

It's not necessarily a bad thing, as a tech-race might be fun gameplay too (especially given the choices) but it generally gets old, especially after playing yout 101st 4X game in a row.

 

 

Therefore, I'd like to discuss an embryo of a suggestion I believe might work better, which assesses both of the previous side-effects.

 

The concept, in and of itself, is that rather than having the player perform the research of new technologies, they'd rather need to fit their infrastructures in order to support existing (but hardly mainstream) technologies.

This system supposes that Beams/Shields techs 1-10 already exist and are established facts amongst the scientific populace, but have yet to be used outside of their testing labs.

As a result, rather than invest in scientists and their labs to come up with proof of concept, all you need to do is retrofit your starbase with the necessary tools/components/resources to build such gear.

Each "technological advancement" is a sizeable investment you need to make in terms of resources, and just because one of your starbases has acquired the capability to produce tech 7 beams doesn't mean the others do.

This creates a form of localized investment which is repeatable and requires consideration.

 

It assesses # 1 in that it would be possible to think of a game turn as 1 day or 1 week, given that the tech already exists and only requires you to burn overtime hours in setting up your infrastructures to build it.

It assessed # 2 in that it hardly scales. While its quite possible that one of your starbase quickly becomes maxed out with high-tier components, it doesn't help you defend the outskirts as your built ships will require you to move the extra distance. Likewise, if you want several starbases to be maxed out, you'll be spending a hefty count of resources to keep them up to speed, and that will mean that much less ships in your fleet.

It also comes with a finite endpoint (say 10) so that it avoids power creeping past the initial state of investments.

 

More importantly, it can factor local resources and whatnot, in such a way that you can only produce level 10 beams from a specific starbase in your empire, which is nowhere near your level 10 shield starbase. Assembly requires you to ferry parts aboard large freighters and find a suitable starbase to assemble the actual ships.

 

I've been tinkering with such a system and I'm trying to find the potential pros/cons I may not have discovered so far.

 

Thoughts?

 

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This is definitely interesting. I must say, I'm not all that bothered by issue number one but it'd definitely be a pleasant change of pace to have it be a bit different.

I especially like that you would have to do this at each base separately  In a sense, total war games already have this sort of system though and I think it works well if implemented in a way you suggest.

 

You might want to consider merging the two systems in one, you could require the player to research certain technologies before they can even build them in teh way you suggested, but have a bunch of technologies ready at the start of the game.

It could be easier (faster and cheaper) to research technology if someone else has already discovered it.

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I'm not all that bothered by issue number one but it'd definitely be a pleasant change of pace to have it be a bit different.

That's why I call them side-effects. Its not irritating, and I can see the interest of going on the macro-level of 4x (more planets, longer time periods / distances) but it became clear to me that a 4x game focused on micro-management would have to have a different pace and that this was one of the obstacles from a "feel" perspective.

 

 

total war games already have this sort of system

I see what you mean, but the implementation would be drastically different here, as you pointed out.

 

 

You might want to consider merging the two systems in one, you could require the player to research certain technologies before they can even build them in teh way you suggested, but have a bunch of technologies ready at the start of the game.

 

Yeah, I actually thought of that as I typed it. But it does feel like a trap towards power creeping. I mean, sure, the distribution of starbases limits that, but if you can reach warp engines level 19181383, it won't matter that you operate from a single maxed out starbase because the speed gain will allow you to be virtually anywhere with 1 turn notice...

 

 

It could be easier (faster and cheaper) to research technology if someone else has already discovered it.

Interesting, but it does become a game of catching up, thus, making the research race more important. Getting an edge is possibly that much harder with this method, but there's no denying that the focus on research will be that much more important. People would literally cripple their economy to keep 1 level ahead of their opponent.

Perhaps it can be balanced though. Thanks for the idea smile.png

Edited by Orymus3
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having technology increase your efficiëncy *exponentially* is a matter of numbers-tweaking, in most 4x-games i win with technological superiority because i was winning the game already, it just took some time, and i didn't stop researching in that time.

numbers-tweaking can mean making every next technology cost more(exponentionally, often) or making the technological improvements smaller relatively.

 

if technologies becoming cheaper when an opponent already discovered them the new strategy is lagging behind, getting the same technologies(eventually) yet having more resources available for other things.

(although usually we implement a certain spy-element here)

 

lastly, having multiple technologies available but only implementing one at a time means a player makes choices, instead on playing on "auto-pilot" which most players will enjoy(not all), but, the same can be said about discovering new technologies, so i realy wouldn't scrap that(though given as an option for a skirmish-game to start with all technologies could be a nice addition)

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Too complex.

 

I have been thinking about something similar as well and really liked it as a designer. But when I asked myself if I would want to play such game my answer was no... In a game I have a decision to make if I want to invest in industry or if in science.That's a strightforward decision. But here I would need to make a decision if I want invest in science, in industry or in a "science unlocker" in form of infrastructure that is required only to make the research usable. From my, the player, point of view this step is useless and should be merged with research step.

 

I'm not saying it will never work, actually I would love to try a game with a system like that in place, but I suspect it could work only in some specific circumstances. As the minimum requirement I would say it needs to be simple (as simple as research for example).

 

Assembly requires you to ferry parts aboard large freighters and find a suitable starbase to assemble the actual ships.

That does not sound fun to me.
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-How do related technologies fit into the retrofitting scheme? I mean, how much is involved in going from Laser 2 at a starbase to Laser 3? I would have to imagine that it's not a dramatic change, maybe the base needs more power to use Laser 3 and obviously the physical weapon itself, but does that cost compare with, say, adding a new facility to the base?

 

Interesting question. I would imagine this would require a different assembly line of some kind, but its quite possible that only a few subcomponents of the laser would be affected.

As a reference, building a whole new car requires a genuinely new assembly line whereas a 2013 iteration of the 2012 model might just make a few adjustments so to speak. I imagine both are viable approaches, although, from a gameplay perspective, the investment should be sizeable.

The investment in resources doesn't necessarily need to translate to physical components changed in the assembly line. It could represent time spend by a "lean" team to iterate on the current assembly line, or as you pointed out, greater energy intake.

 

-How would you handle more self-contained technologies? A rail gun needs power, but otherwise really just needs to be mounted into a window or general turret bay.

I'm not entirely familiar with the inner workings of the rail gun, but I imagine that any technology that can be enhanced would generally come at a cost of option, otherwise, why would we still produce weaker designs at all? Most high-techs are generally not mainstream because their cost of production is inefficient. As a reference, its possible to build supercomputers for millions of dollars, but the average joe won't commission this because:

a - they cost too much (largely because b)

b - the demand is low because the average joe has no practical use for so much power

 

That said, you seem to have insight on this matter. Feel free to share, I'd like my system to account for loose ends :)

 

-What is required to re-fit a ship or station? Better weapons might need more power to operate, but I'm having trouble imagining what other major work would need to be done to install a new weapon system that has already been manufactured? By major, I mean large enough that it would register in a 4X as something that would take a turn. Maybe something like training operators to use the new system?

Retrofit is an ability I plan only few species using. With that said, I agree with you, retrofitting appears simple enough, but don't overlook QA process. Before launching a shuttle into space, even a minor human error could lead to destruction. Diagnostic of the current implementation might be the reasoning behind waiting for 1 turn for retrofit to be complete.

 

So if you invest a lot in manufacturing capacity you can crank out facilities, ships, etc. very very quickly.

I'm ok with that, so long as your choice is quantity over quality. It will allow you to cover more ground with the same amount of resources, at the cost of having to generate concentration of forces on the fronts you wish to cover. Which inherently means that an opponent that focuses on quality will have a hard time to cover his bases, but might catch several of your ships unaware, evening out the fleet. Both are viable strategies and require skill to master.

 

A shorter game, involving a smaller map, causes non-research elements to be more important as you can't rely on executing a turtle-and-tech strategy.

That would come in conflict with a design decision I've previously made for my game unfortunately. The map will not be "limited". In fact, it will be near-infinite to better depict space as an environment where its possible to expand. Sensor ranges will thrump movement speed by a tremendous margin to account for this. Thus, I can't choose to artificially limite the breadth of the galaxy to "fix" the turtling strategies here.

 

Having Laser 2 while your enemy only has Laser 1 shouldn't decide the game, but Laser 9 vs. Laser 2 probably ought to.

Interestingly enough, having laser 9 tech should also cost a lot more resources to implement once researched. The idea is that only few ships will benefit from that top tech. Most games assume researches as linear upgrades that affect previous ship retroactively at no cost, not further increasing ship production costs. That's the aberration I'm trying to solve.

Also, please note that while a ship with 1 level 9 laser would technically defeat a ship with 5 level 1 lasers, it should be helpless when faced with 10 ships with 1 level 1 laser each. Once again here, its a matter of choosing quality over quantity, and a sturdy battleship with few yet powerful lasers should lose to a fleet of unarmored fighters.

There are a few rock-paper-scissor strategies in space warfare that I'd like to keep, and this implementation allows me to scale it efficiently.

 

For me to feel comfortable with a system like this I would expect the game to have an explicitly short timescale, like, a whole game encompasses less than a century of simulated time.

I was thinking that a game would probably be no longer than a few years at worst, depicting weeks (52 turns for 1 year). I'm still trying to figure whether it would be possible to create an assembly line efficient enough to build up small ships within 1 week though.

 

Production, population growth, and travel time would also have to be tweaked to fit

The one that I'm worried about is population growth. I mean, I would hardly imagine population to increase more than 3% over the span of a single year, so it could make each crew lost that much more important. Crew shortage could be an issue that needs balancing, but I'm ok with that. I've rarely lacked population in any 4X so far, thus it might be refreshing (there was a Star Trek Armada game though where pilots were actually trained over time and always in short supplies as far as I can remember).

 

A standard 4X game typically encompasses centuries or millenia; I expect radical technological progress to be available over that span and I also expect there to be at least some differences in research capacity between groups. I might just be overly biased by the standard game model, but a game with a mechanism like you propose sounds like it would need to be structured very differently from other 4X's in most other respects as well.

That's actually a good thing. Like I said, I'm not opposed to the current model, and the project I'm tackling is meant to be different. I'm trading macro with micro, and I anticipated that several game elements would need to change in order to accomodate for this shift. If you have any other specific examples popping into mind, feel free to share as it would unmistakably help me establish the core gameplay elements of this design.

 




Posted Yesterday, 10:28 PM


having technology increase your efficiëncy *exponentially* is a matter of numbers-tweaking, in most 4x-games i win with technological superiority because i was winning the game already, it just took some time, and i didn't stop researching in that time.

numbers-tweaking can mean making every next technology cost more(exponentionally, often) or making the technological improvements smaller relatively.

 

I'm not arguing the logic of it. I just want this game to be won by logistics rather than tech.

 

lastly, having multiple technologies available but only implementing one at a time means a player makes choices, instead on playing on "auto-pilot" which most players will enjoy(not all), but, the same can be said about discovering new technologies, so i realy wouldn't scrap that(though given as an option for a skirmish-game to start with all technologies could be a nice addition)

Why not make everything available to them so this is a constant choice? A lot of modern games like to bring you the content over time and grant you a permanent ability to produce these things, which has been largely influenced by a strong focus on tutorials, for the casual player audience. My system gives it all to you, but limits your ability to produce things based on various factors (was your starbase destroyed? could you muster the funds to implement this infrastructural change?)

While it could be considered negative feedback, it forces you to cherish what you have and plan what you need. It also hurts when your opponent's strategy counters your efficiently. If they've figured Starbase-BT01 was your strategic implementation for "fast scout ships" and they're struggling to keep you out of their backyard, they should be rewarded for destroying it, by making you less efficient. You can't just turn your head to the nearest starbase and instantly produce scouts to compensate: you need to make the logistical adjustments to this starbase before you can, and the opponent can take advantage of this delay.

I think it emphasizes player skill, though it can be abrupt/unforgiving to newcomers.

 

I'm not saying it will never work, actually I would love to try a game with a system like that in place, but I suspect it could work only in some specific circumstances. As the minimum requirement I would say it needs to be simple (as simple as research for example).

The VGA Planets (an old DOS-era game still largely active to this day with its 5th reinstallement)'s implementation, from which this originally was derived, is actually fairly simple:

Each starbase has a level in HULLS, ENGINES, BEAMS, TORPEDOES.

It costs credits for an instantaneous upgrade which allows you to build tech components of that level.

That's it. That simple (much simpler than researching). Each level has 1 or 2 components only (crew-killers or more powerful weapons).

I'm looking for a relatively similar system with as much ease of use.

 

That does not sound fun to me.

I must admit I'm a bit concerned as well. This was one of irritating parts of StarKnights. However, I'm looking for ways for individual starbases to operate different techs without impeding the player's ability to assemble "master ships".

Example:

One starbase is level 1 engine and level 10 weapons, the other is level 5 engine and level 5 weapon. I'd like the player to, somehow, be able to assemble a level 5 engine, level 10 weapon. Perhaps however, its best to keep the cost of option present here and simply not grant them this ability?

VGA Planet's solution was to build a level 5 engine level 5 weapon ship, move it to the other starbase, and retrofit it with local weapons.

The idea of moving components merely gives non-critical ships (freighters) the ability to do the moving instead.

I'm not hellbent on implementing this mechanic though.

 

Thanks all!

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maybe you could see research-allocation as a way to give choices on macro-level, and implementation as a way to give choices on micro-level.

research allocation may be easier to teach to players, while not immediately forcing the details upon them.

then again, if you got a good but mainly clear system on micro-level  for them ready that could be all you 'd need.

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Interesting question. I would imagine this would require a different assembly line of some kind, but its quite possible that only a few subcomponents of the laser would be affected.
As a reference, building a whole new car requires a genuinely new assembly line whereas a 2013 iteration of the 2012 model might just make a few adjustments so to speak. I imagine both are viable approaches, although, from a gameplay perspective, the investment should be sizeable.
The investment in resources doesn't necessarily need to translate to physical components changed in the assembly line. It could represent time spend by a "lean" team to iterate on the current assembly line, or as you pointed out, greater energy intake.

 

This makes me think of your idea in a new light, and one that is even more intriguing than the original idea. It's not the research that matters (although you could easily have a research component if you wanted) or even your production capacity, but your production facilities that are the key. So if you can make Laser 5, it might take a significant amount of resources and time to retool each individual factory to make them. So even if your society can pump out Laser 5 units pretty quickly, you have to make a substantial upfront investment of time and resources to begin producing them at all; it's a major decision to put your Laser 5 tech into production. That means that you would want to have an overarching strategy for any tech you want to actually use.

 

Do you want the advantage of deploying Laser 5 enough to lock yourself into it for a while? Is it worth the risk that an opponent might put Laser 6 into production soon after, leaving you with an inferior weapon for a period of time? If you need to produce more units than you can afford with a Laser 5 weapon for whatever reason, you still have to invest time and resources to retool for Laser 4 even though once you've done so you can produce more individual weapons. That adds a really interesting layer, well beyond correlating research points and construction points.

 

This would also account for my self-contained weapon systems question. The interesting decision isn't really deployment or installation, but specialization of your production capacity and high cost for switching.

 

Interestingly enough, having laser 9 tech should also cost a lot more resources to implement once researched. The idea is that only few ships will benefit from that top tech. Most games assume researches as linear upgrades that affect previous ship retroactively at no cost, not further increasing ship production costs. That's the aberration I'm trying to solve.

 

In most of the 4x games I've played, retroactive upgrades are pretty limited. When they're even possible they require a refit at a shipyard, and its often more practical just to have a fleet of slightly outdated ships headed by newer models. New ships cost more than older ships, but it's often not noticeable because your economy is ramping up at the same time new techs become realized. There are some exceptions (new drives tend to be included with all ships, and cost doesn't increase), but to stay competitive you need new weapons, shields, and so on, all of which are more expensive as they advance.

 

The one that I'm worried about is population growth. I mean, I would hardly imagine population to increase more than 3% over the span of a single year, so it could make each crew lost that much more important. Crew shortage could be an issue that needs balancing, but I'm ok with that. I've rarely lacked population in any 4X so far, thus it might be refreshing (there was a Star Trek Armada game though where pilots were actually trained over time and always in short supplies as far as I can remember).

 

This sounds fun to me. On a shorter timescale it might be more fun to use the population as a limited resource. You have 1,000,000 individuals, maybe 35% of which are prime military aged. You can draw from the population to crew your ships and fill out your military infrastructure, but every soldier you lose represents a serious loss that will take a long time in-game to replace (if you ever can). The population doesn't grow very much, but your forces can absolutely shrink.

 

I'm really warming up to the game you're describing. I think it has tons of potential to be novel and fun while still playing like the 4x games I already love.

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This makes me think of your idea in a new light, and one that is even more intriguing than the original idea. It's not the research that matters (although you could easily have a research component if you wanted) or even your production capacity, but your production facilities that are the key. So if you can make Laser 5, it might take a significant amount of resources and time to retool each individual factory to make them. So even if your society can pump out Laser 5 units pretty quickly, you have to make a substantial upfront investment of time and resources to begin producing them at all; it's a major decision to put your Laser 5 tech into production. That means that you would want to have an overarching strategy for any tech you want to actually use.


I had never actually seen it that way, but I believe you are right. This is also somewhat captured in VGA Planet's approach. Making the switch up from 4 to 5 for example, would cost the equivalent of building 5-7 actual beam weapons. Upgrading thus becomes a cost of option where you're willingly choosing to halt your weapon production to get better weapons. It isn't done artificially with a time delay, but with an actual setback in terms of resources.


This sounds fun to me. On a shorter timescale it might be more fun to use the population as a limited resource. You have 1,000,000 individuals, maybe 35% of which are prime military aged. You can draw from the population to crew your ships and fill out your military infrastructure, but every soldier you lose represents a serious loss that will take a long time in-game to replace (if you ever can). The population doesn't grow very much, but your forces can absolutely shrink.

I'm growing to like this idea as well. I'm still carefully analyzing it to insure it wouldn't mean I need to take away a key component of the gameplay that I would've liked to see implemented. So far, the biggest threat is this:

I need the players to start with large populations and cannot emulate a system where you start off with a few colonists and need to carefully make decisions to increase their birthrate. That said, the system would get there if you spend your populace needlessly as you'll quickly find yourself in a spot where you have too few of them to continue expanding your fleet, and then you'll need to figure out aggressive ways to increase population (cloning perhaps?).

All in all, it feels like an organic limitation to rampant end-game fleet sizes that generally become hard to micro-manage, and given the scope of the project, it feels like a wonderful idea to keep the focus on fewer ships anyway.

Slavery might even become a key component of the gameplay. I had initially anticipated for it to be only minor...


I'm really warming up to the game you're describing. I think it has tons of potential to be novel and fun while still playing like the 4x games I already love.

Most of the credit still goes to Tim Wissman for establishing VGA Planets which remains my base reference. That said, I'm glad to see this spurs some interest :)

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This is an interesting idea.  I've always been a little bugged by the research systems in most 4x games.  Real-world R&D does not really depend on a static function to produce research results and there are far more "dead ends" than useful products created. 

 

Another model to use might be the real-world ship "arms race" beginning some time after the Napoleonic Wars and ending with WW1.  Nations were scrambling to try to figure out how to build the baddest and best designs with emerging technologies.  IIRC, La Gloire was already obsolete when it was launched, made so by HMS Warrior.  So, you could conceivably achieve an incremental breakthrough and someone else's huge success could render it useless.

 

The other side of the coin is that the "arms race" doesn't necessarily factor in things like crew skill and training to the degree it should.  After all, the Soviets had better tanks at the beginning of WW2, but deployed them poorly and had not developed their armor tactics as well as the Germans did.  Maybe a de-emphasis on weapon quality in combat design and an increased emphasis on how well those weapons are used would also make sense.

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This is an interesting idea. I've always been a little bugged by the research systems in most 4x games. Real-world R&D does not really depend on a static function to produce research results and there are far more "dead ends" than useful products created.

 

I was actually having a conversation with a coworker the other day, as he was telling me he had just read an article comprised of 10 new inventions that will change our world.

I replied to him saying that probably none of them would ever hit mass-production, and would therefore disappear no matter how appealing they were. Since no real tech ever gets used until a large portion of individuals see the use in paying its initial cost (which eventually finances means to reduce production costs by increase automation) a lot just won't see the light of day.

I've always been much more interested in techs that have been discovered 10 years ago but that, somehow, no one has put to good use yet, than the ones that have just been discovered.

 

Another model to use might be the real-world ship "arms race" beginning some time after the Napoleonic Wars and ending with WW1. Nations were scrambling to try to figure out how to build the baddest and best designs with emerging technologies. IIRC, La Gloire was already obsolete when it was launched, made so by HMS Warrior. So, you could conceivably achieve an incremental breakthrough and someone else's huge success could render it useless.

Well, since this game will rely on very few ship designs for each species, I want them to remain relevant at all times, and I'd like to have a relatively small margin between upgrades where, say, upgrading from tech 4 to tech 5 beams won't make such a big difference (you won't suddenly start killing everything that moves) but allow you to kill a ship you could already kill perhaps 1 round earlier, reducing the amount of damage you'd take in the encounter and either allowing you to face a second ship and live or reduce the amount of economical cost it would take to repair your ship (thus improving your logistic network as a result).

A lot of weapon improvements generally head that way as well. For example, the (beloved) AK-47 isn't the best weapon in terms of accuracy and stoppage power (a M16A2 would definitely be better there) but it has the advantage of firing efficiently in pretty much any circumpstance (even when soaked in water or covered with sand). At the end of the day, it represents a considerable improvement over previous weapons, without it being significantly stronger. It can't quite compete with a tank's armor yet :)

 

The other side of the coin is that the "arms race" doesn't necessarily factor in things like crew skill and training to the degree it should. After all, the Soviets had better tanks at the beginning of WW2, but deployed them poorly and had not developed their armor tactics as well as the Germans did. Maybe a de-emphasis on weapon quality in combat design and an increased emphasis on how well those weapons are used would also make sense.

Quite to my point :) Since better weapons aren't necessarily much more deadly, I think it leaves the player with a number of decisions:

- Do I REALLY want this upgrade?

- How does 1% more damage really help me?

- In which situations can I make this an actual advantage worth investing 10% more resources into?

etc.

 

Gameplay comes with player decisions and options. Its quite possible that upgrading from level 4 to level 5, with your current fleet, opponents, etc might not bring any immediate gain aside from allowing you to tech up to level 6.

 

The best example I've seen of this is in the Starcraft series, when considering the weapon and armor upgrades.

An in-depth analysis comparing the amount of actual HITS it takes to kill each unit with or without the upgrade revealed several interesting factors.

For example, its quite pointless to upgrade zealots' attack power if they are fighting zerglings. But also, there were some situations where upgrading a stalker's attack to defeat marauders was not as efficient as upgrading the armor because it did not reduce the amount of hits it would take to defeat it, whereas the armor upgrade would allow the stalker to resist one additionnal volley, thus being able to strike one additionnal time. When you pay attention to the numbers, you can really seek means to min/max your decisions, and I don't want to take this away from the player by making each upgrade substancially better.

 

In VGA Planets, you had to build ships with purpose in mind. If you expected to fight a Carrier, it didn't quite matter the tech level of beams you'd use, so long as you used a lot of them. So you'd pack your 'sacrifice' ship with a bunch of level 1 beams to rid the carrier of most of its fighters. Your ship would die in the process, but would make the carrier defenseless against your second ship which would have much fewer beams, but higher level ones to quickly defeat the carriers (in case it had weapons of its own).

Player skill will be noticeable when they start making these decisions, and for them to be able to figure this out, I think one needs to let them make the wrong decision first (aka, cripple their economy by always maxing the tech they use, etc).

 

On a sidenote, you seem to have a fair grasp of military history.

My university field of study was military history. I sadly did not specialize in the same eras as the ones you've just mentionned (WWII and Napoleonic conquests) therefore I'm grateful for your insight!

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One starbase is level 1 engine and level 10 weapons, the other is level 5 engine and level 5 weapon. I'd like the player to, somehow, be able to assemble a level 5 engine, level 10 weapon. Perhaps however, its best to keep the cost of option present here and simply not grant them this ability?

VGA Planet's solution was to build a level 5 engine level 5 weapon ship, move it to the other starbase, and retrofit it with local weapons.

The idea of moving components merely gives non-critical ships (freighters) the ability to do the moving instead.

I'm not hellbent on implementing this mechanic though.

I feel it should be automated somehow... I mean, there is no decision involved, just pure micromanagement. The optimal strategy is trivial, make 4 starbases, each maxed out with one component, then move your "in production" starship between starbases as in assemblyline.

 

OR

 

Maybe make it so the shop can be retrofit only once (means only 2 starbases can participate in building it so you need to build these as some sort of "puzzles")...

 

 

Anyway, the question is, why the player would want non maxed out starbases? What is the incentive to make lower quality starbases? Do certain ships require different sets of components (therefore different starbases being optimal for their construction)? What's the player's choice involving constructing starbases?

 

 

- How does 1% more damage really help me?

I would say, the minimum increase should be 25%, otherwise it is not noticeable and therefore this whole research and upgrading weapons is just a scam :D

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It assesses # 1 in that it would be possible to think of a game turn as 1 day or 1 week

 

it would seem to me that the proper way to do things would be to start by defining the time and distance scales for the game (simulation): how much real world time = 1 turn. how much real world distance = 1 unit of distance in the game.   from there, it all downhill.

 

While its quite possible that one of your starbase quickly becomes maxed out with high-tier components, it doesn't help you defend the outskirts

 

sounds like what you're talking about is more like construction than research. making incremental improvements to the capabilities of individual installations. and the duckets to do so, like everything else, comes out of the same warchest as your fleet, etc.

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Anyway, the question is, why the player would want non maxed out starbases? What is the incentive to make lower quality starbases? Do certain ships require different sets of components (therefore different starbases being optimal for their construction)? What's the player's choice involving constructing starbases?

 

Assuming a sizeable investment is required to upgrade the starbase, I can think of many reasons, namely, the inferred role of the starbase.

A starbase close to an enemy border would act as an outpost, building ships with better weaponry, regardless of engines for example.

A starbase on a pacific or unexplored outskirt of your empire would want to help the scouting effort by increasing efforts towards getting better engines and sensors, regardless of weaponry and hull sizes.

A starbase closer to the center of your empire would probably want to support the economy by building top-of-the-line freighters, boosting hulls (and possibly engines) and ignoring everything else.

Finally, your capital ship starbase would probably max all of them and produce the fer-de-lance of your fleet at tremendous costs.

 

For every investment you make, you burn resources that prevent you from building ships. Even worse, as the upgrade is performed on the starbase, you cannot build ships from this starbase. I believe this adds a lot to mindlessly upgrading everything you can. Upgrading your starbases all at once to the new tech might leave you unable to respond to a sudden enemy incursion, therefore planning will be of the essence.

 

I feel it should be automated somehow... I mean, there is no decision involved, just pure micromanagement. The optimal strategy is trivial, make 4 starbases, each maxed out with one component, then move your "in production" starship between starbases as in assemblyline.

For the sake of simplicity, I believe I'll go without the shipping component parts. You build what you can from the starbase. This will strenghten the role of the starbases within your empire and force you to make just the investments you need.

 

 

I would say, the minimum increase should be 25%, otherwise it is not noticeable and therefore this whole research and upgrading weapons is just a scam

 

Consider the below table:

 

Tech Type Mass Damage Crew Kill Mines MC Dur Trit Moly 1 Laser 1 3 10 1 1 0 1 0 1 X-Ray Laser 1 1 15 4 2 0 1 0 2 Plasma Bolt 2 10 3 9 5 2 1 0 3 Blaster 4 25 10 16 10 12 1 1 4 Positron Beam 3 29 9 25 12 12 1 5 5 Disruptor 4 20 30 36 13 12 1 1 6 Heavy Blaster 7 40 20 49 31 12 1 14 7 Phaser 5 35 30 64 35 12 1 30 8 Heavy Disruptor 7 35 50 81 36 17 1 37 10 Heavy Phaser 6 45 35 100 54 12 1 55

 

You'll notice many oddities for sure, yet, there are several strategies that can be employed with these 10 weapons alone.

First, notice the basic logic. Every now and then, you get to a 'well-rounded' weapon, then, a crew-killing one, and then, a hull damage one.

Notice also that some techs seeks to reduce mass at very limited actual upgrades. Notice also the varying costs, and how oddly they scale.

 

The most interesting are 3 and 4, Blaster vs Positron Beam.

16% increase in hull damage.

10% decrease in crew damage.

25% decrease in mass.

400% increase in Molybdenum cost.

20% increase in Megacredits($) cost.

 

Would you upgrade from 3 to 4?

It probably depends.

 

PROS:

As you pointed out, the 16% damage increase isn't stellar. But on some ships, it actually does make the difference. Ofttentimes the difference between a ship surviving or losing an encounter with a similar-sized ship can be shifted by less than 10% increase in damage or armor. Now, I don't need to explain the advantage of a surviving ship, no matter how damaged. You can just tow it back for repair and bring it back into the fray for a ridiculous portion of the original cost in resources and time.

Also, its quite possible you can sport more than one beam on your ship, and having the increased damage on every shot, if you have more beams than your opponent, continues to increase this advantage. While a ship with fewer beams might need to consider getting a better level beam, having 4 or 5 of these can really stack quickly.

 

If you are building a reconnaissance, scout, or skirmisher/dogfighter, or even a ship that is meant to go deep and harrass the enemy freighters, you'll applaud the reduced 25% mass. This will make your ship able to go faster with smaller fuel costs and will help with your mobility. Imagine you could get all of the components with such a bonus: you'd actually gain an overall 25% mobility, and that is an advantage that is noteworthy if you intend to play the guerilla tactics game.

 

CONS:

In some cases, the added 16% won't be that useful. Either your ship uses beams for the sole purpose of killing smaller crafts and making way for the big guns, or your ship size is large, and you know that in order to defeat larger ships, you'll need a much bigger increase than that.

 

If you intended to capture an enemy ship, it will not longer be efficient because you can't kill the crew as efficiently. In fact, chances are that, by the time you kill the last crew,

there will no longer be any ship to fire at anyway.

 

The increased Molybdenum cost (which is the rarest resource) is frightening. Chances are you can't willingly choose to spend so much for an only 16% increase in damage.

 

 

What I like here is that you can measure the pros and cons of every single beam in there, and realize that many of them will remain relevant for long periods of the game.

Would you be surprised if I told you that the levels 7-10 beams are far from being the most used beams in the late-game? They are present, but in much smaller numbers than you'd expect. Some of them are even frowned upon. Though they bring more firepower, it oftentimes is firepower that isn't necessary (especially when fighting a carrier). So this gives the option to players to ruin their economy simply because they haven't taken the time to consider their needs.

 

it would seem to me that the proper way to do things would be to start by defining the time and distance scales for the game (simulation): how much real world time = 1 turn. how much real world distance = 1 unit of distance in the game. from there, it all downhill.

Initially, I wanted to use Newtonian physics, but in the end, I'd rather do what's fun than what's real. In other world: balancing and fine-tuning with user tests to insure is as fun as it can be and feels right to the players, regardless of whether this is real or not.

 

sounds like what you're talking about is more like construction than research. making incremental improvements to the capabilities of individual installations. and the duckets to do so, like everything else, comes out of the same warchest as your fleet, etc.

Precisely.

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Assuming a sizeable investment is required to upgrade the starbase, I can think of many reasons, namely, the inferred role of the starbase.

A starbase close to an enemy border would act as an outpost, building ships with better weaponry, regardless of engines for example.

A starbase on a pacific or unexplored outskirt of your empire would want to help the scouting effort by increasing efforts towards getting better engines and sensors, regardless of weaponry and hull sizes.

A starbase closer to the center of your empire would probably want to support the economy by building top-of-the-line freighters, boosting hulls (and possibly engines) and ignoring everything else.

Finally, your capital ship starbase would probably max all of them and produce the fer-de-lance of your fleet at tremendous costs.



For every investment you make, you burn resources that prevent you from building ships. Even worse, as the upgrade is performed on the starbase, you cannot build ships from this starbase. I believe this adds a lot to mindlessly upgrading everything you can. Upgrading your starbases all at once to the new tech might leave you unable to respond to a sudden enemy incursion, therefore planning will be of the essence.

As a designer I can see it working and even being enjoable to some people. As a player I'm unthrilled and would probably pass on a game with that description (mostly because it assumes there are hundreds planets I need to micromanage and crawling slow fleets that become outdated once they reach frontline - not my style of playing).

 

 

Would you upgrade from 3 to 4?

That's what I would consider a scam :D I have invested in the technology, it was hard and expensive and now they are telling me to consider if it is worth implementing that technology or not... I understand the decision could be if I want to retrofit the OLD ships, but for new ships it should be no brainer, put it on all new ones since it is a superior technology that give you an instant benefit (that was the reason why I researched it in the first place).

This simple makes the whole research soo weak I wonder if it makes sense to implement that feature...

 

How about you enable ALL technologies from the start? And the ony decision is about upgrading your infrastructure?

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As a designer I can see it working and even being enjoable to some people. As a player I'm unthrilled and would probably pass on a game with that description (mostly because it assumes there are hundreds planets I need to micromanage and crawling slow fleets that become outdated once they reach frontline - not my style of playing).

 

You are entitled to your opinion, this is obviously niche gameplay.

With that said, the scope of the empire management wouldn't reach these unbearable limits typically associated with 4X games.

For example, most games of VGA Planets end up with players controlling FAR less planets than other 4X games. You could technically have a dozen important ones and a few abandoned outposts used for sensor ranges only.

Also, fleet doesn't generally become outdated. Ships created on turn 7+ are generally what you'll need up to the end of the game. You still have to gauge your production of large scale warships vs freighters vs smaller scout/harrassing ships though, and will generally need to refresh your fleet with every critical loss, but the essence of the game remains.

 

That's what I would consider a scam I have invested in the technology, it was hard and expensive and now they are telling me to consider if it is worth implementing that technology or not... I understand the decision could be if I want to retrofit the OLD ships, but for new ships it should be no brainer, put it on all new ones since it is a superior technology that give you an instant benefit (that was the reason why I researched it in the first place).

This simple makes the whole research soo weak I wonder if it makes sense to implement that feature...



How about you enable ALL technologies from the start? And the ony decision is about upgrading your infrastructure?

 

Perhaps you were confused, but that is precisely my intention: all techs available from the start and only gauge infrastructure.

The premice here is that I wouldn't expect new techs to come-to-market within a few years of space travel. As a result, I'm taking for granted that all of these techs are ready-to-use, but require tangible investments to upgrade the infrastructures.

Thus, there is no research investments, just infrastructure.

Its also, actually, a much simpler system to implement than the usual research tech tree.

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Oh, now it makes sense :)

 

Yes, it could work, I see no obvious big problems here. Still, that's not my favourite thing to play (but I would probably try it out of curiousity).

My biggest concern is how you market it, maybe using the "4X" term is not the best in your case since it's quite far from a traditional 4X game... Maybe call it "space warfare logistic sim something" or "turn based space RTS"? I mean, if it appeals mostly to SC fans and VGA planets fans try to name/phrase it so they get it's a game for them (and they not necessarily might be fans of 4X). Plus, if you market it as 4X you will get poor reviews because it might be considered "a 4X that lacks research part and other obligatory elements".

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it's quite far from a traditional 4X game

 

Actually, its closer to the origins of the genre smile.png You have to remember that VGA Planets, one of the original titles, was actually following this model.

It does have all 4 Xs (eXplore, eXpand, eXploit, eXterminate) possibly in larger quantities than modern 4X games which focus mostly on the 4th X.

The intent is to put more emphasis on the other 3Xs. More focus doesn't mean more scope though. Just because the game plays with a fraction of the units commanded in other 4Xs doesn't mean its any less of a 4X.

With that said, as I've previously mentionned, I'm not hellbent on it being part of the 4X continuum. I just want it to be fun and mind-breaking smile.png

 

 

 Maybe call it "space warfare logistic sim something" or "turn based space RTS"?

 

I've been googling for space warfare logistic sim and tossing economy keywords in there as well, to no avail. It may be that its not a very "marketing-friendly expression", or that there is visibly a niche that needs taking care of. I'll see how I'll market it when I get there though.

For now, its really just a game about ships, planets, economy and warfare.

 

a 4X that lacks research part and other obligatory elements".

 

I don't believe research is an obligatory element. It certainly wasn't this way back in the original 4X titles, and the fact it became a cheap "reflex" to associate the two shouldn't lead to a bad review. Afterall, a review is about the fun, not genre-consistency (at least it should be).

That said, I'd also be interested in seeing a game that really redefines the way we look at research in games. I've seen games where discoveries were more random for example, and it was interesting. I'm just not too fond of the current mainstream application of the system, quite possibly only because I've seen it too often.

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acharis was saying the press(and fans) would consider research a key-element in 4X-games, thus it might be a bad idea to sell it as a 4X.
(i think you should probably sell it as die-hard-4X or 4X meets total war or something)

 

a few questions:
will there be any (special) resources in your game ?
why do you want to game to (seem to) last shorter ("only" a few years)

 

i ll keep the rest of my comments to myself, because they all come down to "but you could research this, but you could research that" xD

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Afterall, a review is about the fun, not genre-consistency (at least it should be).

Nope. A review is about if it is better or worse than MOO2 (at least as long as you use the 4X tag) :D You underestimate players laziness and their blind definition of genres. That's why I'm suggesting you mention it clearly upon marketing that it is not a typical 4X game, it will both close the mouths of annoying pests like me and make people who look for a unique play more interested. The worst thing you could do is to make an impression that it's something like MOO2 (beacue you will disappoint those who love MOO and make those who hate it skip your game without checking).
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will there be any (special) resources in your game ?

 

Please define. The term resources is extremely broad.

 

why do you want to game to (seem to) last shorter ("only" a few years)

I'm not sure. Probably because of the game scope. I'm scoping down a lot of things from the 4X genre which has evolved in a race to bigger galaxies, more planets controlled, larger fleets, etc. It somehow felt natural (although not necessary) to scale down from the millenias model as a result. More importantly, its more a consequence than a cause, in that I never actually voiced this idea until trying to explain the difference between reseach and infrastructure upgrades.

 

i ll keep the rest of my comments to myself, because they all come down to "but you could research this, but you could research that" xD

I do it as well, all the time in fact. I've reopened that discussion several times, but I always come back where I started with the "it is simpler without this, and probably more fun". Maybe I'm wrong, but if I can make it "right" it will be just as fun.

 

Nope. A review is about if it is better or worse than MOO2 (at least as long as you use the 4X tag)

I'm expecting a lot of hatred here, but... I didn't like Moo2 very much. To me, it was an ok game, but it deals too much with abstraction. Any 4X game (probably the majority) that deals with abstracted resources feels kind of odd to me. I don't like increasing my "production power". I'd rather have the actual industries filled with people producing actual tools or something. Similarly, I want to stock up on fuel and minerals, not on manufacturing power or whatever. I understand why they do it, and it does simplify the economy when you go macro, but I feel there is a sweet spot when you scope the game down where micro-management of actual resources is not overwhelming. It was just right in VGA Planets, which is why I believe it can be achieved. But, economy and resources will be part of another thread (I'm not ready to discuss my plans here yet as the model is still evolving a lot from day to day).

 

it is not a typical 4X game

I obviously intend to say that (like everyone else says though).

 

The worst thing you could do is to make an impression that it's something like MOO2 (beacue you will disappoint those who love MOO and make those who hate it skip your game without checking).

Accurate.

Duly noted.

That said, I'm nowhere close to marketing the game, but even finding additionnal team members might be harder if I can't label this right. Some people won't want to lend a hand on a Moo2 clone and might get the wrong impression.

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From a design standpoint, I really like your idea. I also think that shaking up the tired old research formula used in 4x games is a good goal.

 

However, when I step back and imagine playing your game I'm a bit turned off.

 

Let me explain: In the game you describe, your level of “Technology” is directly related to what level your starbases different production capabilities are. If in the scenario you described, where you build your starbase that specialized in weapons and defense near a potential enemy (although it doesn’t matter where it is located, not trying to bring strategy into this) is destroyed by an invading enemy, you’ve essentially already lost. Your other starbases aren’t cable of building effective combat ships, and the time/resources required to upgrade one of them to that point will likely mean the destruction or occupation of most or all of your empire.

 

This is of course just my opinion, and perhaps this is even what you are aiming for (making starbases extremely important, and their loss almost game losing before you have multiple starbases that specializes in the same area). I find it slightly unforgiving though. I hate the feeling in a 4x game where a war between you and an opponent is decided in a single instant, or battle. Basically, I despise the “mop up” phase of a 4x, where you’ve basically already won/lost, and are just going through the motions of finishing the game.

 

Is losing a war in a single battle realistic? Absolutely. Is it fun? Not really. If I lose a key planet or asset, I still want there to be a way for me to claw my way back into the game, or at least go down struggling! Losing the ability to produce an effective military after a single loss would not really allow for that.

 

I brought this up because I’m trying to find an effective way of eliminating this “mop up” phase from my own game. I want the player to still think they have a chance to effect the game even when they have almost been eliminated (maybe not win, but take some enemies down with him, and put up a fight of some kind). I want the player to still have meaningful choices that can have some kind of effect even if they’ve lost a key system/asset.

 

I’m trying to eliminate that feeling when after a single loss, you sit back in your chair, take a look at this massive empire you spent hours building, and say “That’s it, I’ve already lost.”

 

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying you should not be able to take crushing losses, but no single loss should decide the course of the game.

 

Phew! Sorry, at some point there I stopped commenting on your game and started discussing problems in mine! Anyway, this whole thing is just me throwing ideas and personal preferences around, so while I might find it unforgiving, maybe it’s just right for everyone else J

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Let me explain: In the game you describe, your level of “Technology” is directly related to what level your starbases different production capabilities are. If in the scenario you described, where you build your starbase that specialized in weapons and defense near a potential enemy (although it doesn’t matter where it is located, not trying to bring strategy into this) is destroyed by an invading enemy, you’ve essentially already lost. Your other starbases aren’t cable of building effective combat ships, and the time/resources required to upgrade one of them to that point will likely mean the destruction or occupation of most or all of your empire.

 

You'd obviously need more than one production center. While resources come into play, time wouldn't be as much of a factor. You could technically go up 3 levels in 3 turns possibly, or maybe just in 1 (representing you brought people in to perform the upgrades to the infrastructure during that month).

 

In the base ref game I'm using it actually works well, and you can always end up promoting another starbase to do more than one thing, but you'd rather not if you can avoid it.

Also, try not to think of it as a "this starbase makes weapons" as much as "this starbase produces mid warships". All bases should technically invest some in engines, weapons, but in varying degrees depending on the resources you expect to be able to collect from the nearby planets, and the role the SB will play.

You would have some maxed out SBs to produce your top-of-the-line warships, for sure, so you'd survive the loss of a SB, but it would hurt.

 

The intent is also to shift the loss of a planet (in a galaxy so large, losing one planet isn't that bad, really) to the loss of an investment (starbase). When someone kills your starbase, they are sinking many resources:

- The initial resources spent to build up the starbase, and a fraction of the cost of all of the ships that had to ferry cargo there.

- The investments made in tech upgrades done to the starbase

 

While capturing planets denies potential (resources that has yet to be mined), losing a starbase outright destroys a portion of the game's finite resources, much like breaking ships would. Think of SBs like veryyyy expensive ships.

 


This is of course just my opinion, and perhaps this is even what you are aiming for (making starbases extremely important, and their loss almost game losing before you have multiple starbases that specializes in the same area). I find it slightly unforgiving though. I hate the feeling in a 4x game where a war between you and an opponent is decided in a single instant, or battle. Basically, I despise the “mop up” phase of a 4x, where you’ve basically already won/lost, and are just going through the motions of finishing the game.

Starbases would also have strong defenses, making it impossible (or so) to wreck in the early game. They could take on a few ships, unflinching.

Likewise, since SBs will be so strong, while losing would be crippling, building a new one would give you a sudden advantage. The intent here is that, if an enemy's advance has wrecked one of your SBs, you'll turn back, defend your next line of defense (possibly, your closest SB) and lick your wounds from there. They offer sufficient defensive advantage to insure your fleet will probably hold back the enemy there until more reinforcements come along, and you can probably build another SB in a different direction during that time, to reinforce your line with even more ships, or better techs.

 

I think your concern is valid, but can be kept in check with clever balancing.

 


Is losing a war in a single battle realistic? Absolutely. Is it fun? Not really. If I lose a key planet or asset, I still want there to be a way for me to claw my way back into the game, or at least go down struggling! Losing the ability to produce an effective military after a single loss would not really allow for that.

As previously said, the SB will be a strong static defense element. In other words, it will cost less resources per "firepower" unit than ships would.

Thus, it will always be more cost efficient to move back, build a base, and get your troops around it, than to build ships and strike. So, if the enemy intends to continue his pursuit, he either needs a very strong military advantage (which he has probably lost trying to defeat your SB in the first place), or he'll also need to settle down and build a new SB of his own to capitalize on the economic advantage he has gained, and slowly turn it into military might.

I think of SBs are production centers, much like expansions in Starcraft 2. You have to fight for them, and they grant you an advantage, but the amount of investment put towards securing the expansion means you'll also stop there, and not raze the whole map in one hit.

 

This is where techs come in: when you have built your SB, building up your techs insures that you'll need to spend some time including this new area of the map to your logistic plans, bringing the resources to raise its level, etc.

Your opponent (or you) should be rewarded for thinking about bringing freighters along with their fleet in an effort to kickstart a starbase and minimize the amount of time before their SB becomes a good production center.

 


I brought this up because I’m trying to find an effective way of eliminating this “mop up” phase from my own game. I want the player to still think they have a chance to effect the game even when they have almost been eliminated (maybe not win, but take some enemies down with him, and put up a fight of some kind). I want the player to still have meaningful choices that can have some kind of effect even if they’ve lost a key system/asset.

My personal approach to this is actually located in ships. Most 4X games assume that there is a drastic difference in power scale between ship classes (a destroyer has 10 times the firepower of a corvette for example). I reduced this so that 2 corvettes could easily take down one destroyer for example, and increased the cost of the destroyer nonetheless, because, at any given place, it would be stronger than any ship below its class. Concentration of power, in space, is hard to achieve: you want to cover wide areas, because players can always use that against you if you focus on strong ships. Likewise though, you'll need actual might to defeat Starbases, so you will still have to build destroyers, else, you'll lose too many corvettes in the process.

 


Phew! Sorry, at some point there I stopped commenting on your game and started discussing problems in mine! Anyway, this whole thing is just me throwing ideas and personal preferences around, so while I might find it unforgiving, maybe it’s just right for everyone else J

I'm ok with that, its good to discuss with somebody tackling the same problem. Unfortunately, I know too little about your project to really lend a hand, but I'd sure like to!

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