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AngleWyrm

Post Mortem on 4x Strategy Games

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Imagine if you will, a typical 4x strategy game, where the players are represented as societies/races, and the principal motivating need is to propogate the species throughout the realm, and there is a competition among the players for territory.

 

An unsolved problem with this genre is that the current crop of games turn out to be an initial race, where whoever takes the early lead wins the game. The player who pulled ahead in the colony rush becomes far superior, and further combat is reduced to a mop-up operation. The race leader has no real threat of losing their territory, and taking all of the remaining realm is just a matter of time. New or young empires cannot thrive and win, because size is everything.

 

What can be done about it?

 

One possibility is that the model of empires as a simple Bigger is Better isn't sufficent. If we look at the way businesses rise and fall, we can get a similie that seems to me to be satisfying on a deeper level. For example, Circuit City was a huge corporation that rose to power and then collapsed in bankrupcy. Said the CEO, It wasn't necessarily doomed "had we woke up sooner...It wasn't obvious in sales figures, but the rot had set in...The world is always changing, and you can’t rely on your past accomplishments.”

 

That is so very different from the biggest corporation being insurmountable! And the same story is played out in the death of a lot of big companies. A sense that the big companies become sluggish, complacent, ineffectual in their ability to respond appropriately to the competition. So I wonder if we can model something like this into a 4x game in such a way that it is fun, easily comprehended and improves the game.

 

As a first draft of this idea, a player's society (or some smaller business units?) could have a cumbersome variable, a construction time delay or cooldown based on it's size. Meetings and conferences must be held, and delays and run-on expenses.

 

A second version of cumbersomeness is that the large companies are essentially failing to adapt to their current environment, falling behind the curve as new ideas are implemented by competitors. This seems like it has to do with Technology. So it might be appropriate to think of modelling a substantial penalty to research and development, based on size. So bigger empires would take a hit to Research point production.

Edited by AngleWyrm

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Check Paradox games, they got rid of it nicely (any by default the countries in their games are highly unbalanced, ranging from superpowers to small fishes, yet it works).

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Check Paradox games, they got rid of it nicely (any by default the countries in their games are highly unbalanced, ranging from superpowers to small fishes, yet it works).

 

Thanks. As I cannot afford to buy a large sampling of games that Paradox Games has manufactured, can you recommend a title that showcases this feature?

Edited by AngleWyrm

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What I dislike about most 4X games is that mandatory expansionist mentality. Take all faster = win. Leaving the unlucky players that spawned in less expansible territories to their inevitable doom. Spawning on a stranded islands in Civilization calls for a restart.

 

I'm trying to fight that mentality in my own 4X game by balancing quantity and quality. A higher developed sectors will yield as much benefits as several underdeveloped sectors. In the end, having more undeveloped sectors might be too risky as they will be much easier to lose.

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Check Paradox games, they got rid of it nicely (any by default the countries in their games are highly unbalanced, ranging from superpowers to small fishes, yet it works).

 

Thanks. As I cannot afford to buy a large sampling of games that Paradox Games has manufactured, can you recommend a title that showcases this feature?

Get a demo (they have very generous demos, allowing to play for a decent while and check how it all works). Also, there are numerous regular sales :)

 

Basicly any game will do... I would recommend Victoria 2, Crusader Kings 2, March of the Eagels.

 

 

Also you could read the manual of boardgame "Here I Stand", the part about "sue for peace" mechanic.

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What I dislike about most 4X games is that mandatory expansionist mentality. Take all faster = win. Leaving the unlucky players that spawned in less expansible territories to their inevitable doom. Spawning on a stranded islands in Civilization calls for a restart.

 

I'm trying to fight that mentality in my own 4X game by balancing quantity and quality. A higher developed sectors will yield as much benefits as several underdeveloped sectors. In the end, having more undeveloped sectors might be too risky as they will be much easier to lose.

Same here; I don't like the colony rush, and having to restart the game lots of times just to have good starting conditions, and then being bored to tears near the end of the game.

 

So the game I'm working on has a universe that has already been fully settled. If it's inhabitable, it's already inhabited. The colony race is over, what now? Heh. I'm leaning towards something of a city builder with a detailed economy/technology, and I want to make politics, relationships and policies entertaining.

Edited by AngleWyrm

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Well most empires fall apart because the people in them don't want to be part of it anymore. When ypou're so strong that nothing external can defeat you, the threat must come from inside the empire.

 

When I make a 4X game I plan to have an "external threat"-meter. If you are attacked everywhere your subjects will want your imperial protection. When you've defeated every credible threat and just have to conquer everything, people might prefer independence. Expect unrest and rebellions in the fringe worlds. The people of your enemies OTOH will stand united against the threat of invasion from you since you're the massive imperial power in this scenario. 

 

This way mightier empires grow weaker awhile smaller ones make last stands, hoping the big empire might crumble.

 

 

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Check Paradox games, they got rid of it nicely (any by default the countries in their games are highly unbalanced, ranging from superpowers to small fishes, yet it works).

 

Thanks. As I cannot afford to buy a large sampling of games that Paradox Games has manufactured, can you recommend a title that showcases this feature?

 

 

Look at Crusader Kings II, or any of the Europa Universalis games.  CKII has especially interesting mechanisms, but it's somewhat tied to it's own era (inheritance, bloodlines, etc).  EU's methods are a little more basic, but can be adapted to more environments.  I'd recommend CKII first.

Edited by Tebriel

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I'm having a hard time trying to see how Israel could somehow defeat the United States of America in combat...

From a simulation standpoint, your 'corporative' approach assumes there is a market, not that this is a war machine we're talking about.

Since, in warfare, there is no 'client', territorial claims have much more importance.

 

Perhaps you could make a 4X game that behaves like a tycoon/sim type of game though.

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a universe that has already been fully settled. If it's inhabitable, it's already inhabited.

 

That's what came to mind for me too.  It's more realistic - 100% of recorded history has taken place in just that kind of situation.  The challenge is then making the conflict over limited resources interesting.  Experiment with non-violent means of establishing control too, if it fits the setting.  Some Stardock games have done a little of that, Galactic Civilizations comes to mind (overwhelming "cultural influence" can cause colonies or outposts to defect).

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