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Acharis

Space Empire (4x strategy) storyline, aliens and other things

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I'm making a strategy game where you are an emperor of the galaxy (so it's not a typical setup where these are several races/empires on the map that compete for planets). I was writing about it for a while on GameDesign subboard but weared the people there so they don't want to talk with me anymore biggrin.png So, I thought of invading the Writing subboard, especially since I have several storyline dilemmas to solve as well smile.png Overall, I mostly look for feedback and fresh ideas (especially storyline related and "how to justify the mechanics used") but feel free to go off topic or ask stuff. I just want to talk about it so I get a better hang on how this world work.

 

 

About the game

Singleplayer turn based strategy (4X, space empire), asymmetric (the computer plays by different rules), it's a mix of traditional strategy and tower defence. The goal is to get 120 planets in your empire (there might be other alternative victory conditions) and hold them for at least 50 turns (or some prestige system).

 

Overview & map

You start in the very center of the galaxy (ALWAYS) and you are the meaniest, baddest, the most powerful & advanced civilization around. At the very beginning of the game you claim the title of the Emperor of the Known Universe (althrough the known universe is rather small biggrin.png) and go on a quest to unify the galaxy under your rule (not that difficult) and defend if from various threats (much more challenging).

 

The galaxy is made of a round 150-200 planets connected by star lanes (so traditional here). You start in the exact center. There are plenty of uninhabited worlds. There are also some special planets (local aliens, pirates), usually at the outskirts of the galaxy. Also there are several entry points (at the very edges of the galaxy) via which "aliens from another dimension/galaxy" can (and will) enter.

 

The challenge

The player is strong in the middle (near homeworld/imperial capital), the very center is relatively easy to hold. Edges of the map (outskirts) are inhabites by pirrates, rebels, strange aliens and other scum (they are stronger there). So, the usual gameplay is that the player holds some sort of "bubble" in the cenbter and it's squeezed by various threats from the outside. The player tries to make his area the biggest possible and push aliens/rebels as far to the edges as possible (total eradication and claiming all planets would be very hard and it is not the goal of the game).

Also, at the late game the player learns that every 10,000 years some aliens come via some transdimensional portal and eradicate all life in the galaxy (they don't want to conquer but annihilate) and that it is almost time for their next visit; they need to be stopped (once this is discovered the Empire gets tons of diplomatic bonuses making independent planets/rebels willing to join the Empire after all smile.png).

 

First problems (mostly storyline):

- The galaxy is kind of empty, there are no other empires. There are some local aliens (more like powerful animals or parasites than sencient beings), pirates (generated by your Empire - you know, your citizens deciding to choose another career path smile.png) and independent planets (planets colonized by disgruntled citizens of your race who don't want to be in the Empire).

- Real aliens (powerful ones) come via the edges of the map (they come from another galaxy, so they don't have any homeworld on the map) and start colonizing the borders. I have a dilemma here, while coming from the "other galaxy" is better mechanics vise (easier to explain why they are so powerful even though they have much fewer planets than the player) I wonder if adding their homeworlds in the outskirts is not better (again, that's mostly storyline issue)...

- I could use some explanation why the player (Empire) is strong in the center (bonuses) and why most aliens are strong near the edges

Edited by Acharis

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In general the center is stronger because it is attacked the least, which makes that area the most technologically advanced. All the highest level research facilities and production facilities are there. The center can traditionally produce the most weapons fastest.

 

The outskirt is weaker because it is harassed. The change in control make them less stable, thus less advanced and less productive. The technologies and weapons from the core also take time to get distributed to the outskirt.

 

 

From your description, I have a concern that since the shape of your world is a sphere and the enemy can basically attack from any angle. If the game is very much like tower defense (such that the player cannot relocate the weapons, the situation might end up making the player repeat building the same kind of structure against all angles. It might get tedious doing so. In 2D tower defense that repeat could be bad. In 3D that could be worse.

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Note: It's not 3D but 2D, the galaxy is sort of disk-like shaped not a sphere.

 

Anyway, the gamebalance things I can fix easily (not all attacking at once, some aliens being weaker, etc) what concerns me most is the story.

 

I mean, why these aliens start at the outskirts? Where is their homeworld (another galaxy?) What they want here? Were they here always or just came recently? Why they prefer outskirts and not the center? Why they pick on the player instead fighting each other? Or maybe there should be only one alien race that occupy all outskirts without center (which is even weirder to me)? If they came from "outside" did they just travelled traditionally (so that's why edges first) or did they used some portals/warp gates?

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Why they prefer outskirts and not the center?

Why would they prefer the outskirts?  Personally I would just drop this entirely; the aliens start on the outskirts because they're arriving from elsewhere, and if the the player is doing well they'll stay on the outskirts simply because they're prevented from moving inwards.  If the player does a bad job and the aliens are allowed to move inwards there's no reason (other than proximity to the player) they shouldn't do just as well there.  If they really had a preference/better conditions on the outskirts compared to the centre they probably wouldn't have any interest in trying to move in on that territory and the player could just leave them to the outskirts without interacting.

 

Rather than making aliens (and other threats) stronger towards the edges of the map, just make that their starting location and have them be equally strong in any location they manage to reach.  The player could still be stronger towards the centre (this will probably happen to some degree naturally/without you explicitly making it so thanks to the reasoning Wai provided anyway) to discourage them moving towards an edge.

 

 

If you really do want a reason for them to prefer the outskirts however, perhaps they don't like to move too far inwards because it opens them up to attack from behind as other aliens arrive?

 

 


Why they pick on the player instead fighting each other?

The player is probably the biggest threat, and the player also holds the most territory; further, the territory that the player holds is also the most desirable territory.  Maybe the aliens do fight each other occasionally, but not as much as they fight the player because it's more beneficial to do so.  If the aliens do occasionally fight each other perhaps an observant player who is unable to hold a certain planet outright could use this to their advantage by specifically allowing a certain group of aliens to take that planet because it's likely to cause a fight between two alien groups (distracting the aliens from pressing their advantage and taking more territory) while the player re-groups.

 

If the aliens sometimes fight each other it also provides further value (for all parties) to planets towards the centre of the galaxy, as those planets aren't subject to the sudden unexpected arrival of additional aliens like the outer worlds are.  The aliens want to move inwards so that they can be safer from the arrival of other aliens.

 

 

Where is their homeworld (another galaxy?)

 

You could probably just not bother to explain this at all and allow players to come up with their own explanation.  The aliens are coming from somewhere and they'll take your planets if you don't prevent them from doing so; you don't necessarily know where they've come from or why they're doing it.

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You could probably just not bother to explain this at all and allow players to come up with their own explanation.  The aliens are coming from somewhere and they'll take your planets if you don't prevent them from doing so; you don't necessarily know where they've come from or why they're doing it.

 

That's exactly what I had in mind. If you start explain, more questions will arise and you will end up creating plots and twists and that can be never ending story. Besides you know what are players like, right? It's impossible to satisfy all. You're better off with what Jbadams said let players came up with the story individually.

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In the meantime I made an early prototype and it seems I will have 2 kinds of aliens. Quite a lot of them being "local aliens" that have homeworlds in the galaxy. And the second group (smaller it seems) is aliens that "came from another galaxy/another dimension" and enter via the borders of the map.

 

It also brings another issue. Since most of the local aliens are non sencient or barely sencient (bugs, insects, etc) I wonder about spaceships. The combat is made of 3 components: ground troops (no problem here, every insecto-bug is an excellent soldier), ground planatery defences and spaceships. And I wonder how to explain/handle the spaceships, does these bugs have all some sort of "living ships" they use to fight in space and hop to nearby systems?

 

Another issue, balance. All/most local aliens start with many planets (only player start with one). How to make them not to aggressive vs the player? Note: I made them partially self contained in terms of territory (for example The Hive have 3 overminds on various planets and they can/want to colonize only up to 3-5 jumps from the overmind) so it helps to an extend...

But I'm not sure I want all of these local aliens contained this way.

Ideally for me would be some storylike explanation why they do not want to kill the player until turn X for example.

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I wonder how to explain/handle the spaceships

Maybe they spread on pirate/rebel/refuge ships, either by hiding out or by entirely taking over?

 


How to make them not to aggressive vs the player? Note: I made them partially self contained in terms of territory (for example The Hive have 3 overminds on various planets and they can/want to colonize only up to 3-5 jumps from the overmind) so it helps to an extend...
But I'm not sure I want all of these local aliens contained this way.

Maybe they're in smaller clusters controlled by these overminds, but after a certain time a larger overmind unites them all and causes them to agressively expand?  If the player kills this overmind the expansion stops -- maybe those further from the smaller overminds even lose morale or become disorganised and can be easily removed, until a larger overmind grows again.

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