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Space archeology (4X)

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I need a fairly simple and abstracted archeology system for a 4X.

 

You discover ancient ruins on planets, these can be of one of 3 ancient races. Then you start excavating, each ruins can be excavated up to 9 times (dimishing returns). The type of ruins determine a chance of what kind of goodies you discover. Most of the goodies come into a form of encrypted datacrystals (you get the reward once you decipher the datacrystals/examine relic/etc).

 

First question: how archeo resources are allocated? (mechanic and the interface) The player should be able to say "I want to excavate ruins of race X first" also "decipher me datacrystals that contain weapons schematics first". I'm not so fond to micromanaging this (like a list of ruins with "excavater" button next to it) I would rather see some priority system. Also I think there should be one archeo resource like "100 archeo actions per turn" and excavation by one level takes 25, deciphering a datacrystal 80 points, etc. Something along these lines I think (it could be handled different way, all I care about is so the player can make a decision here and it's not micro heavy).

 

Second question: I want the player being able to excavate ruins on alien planets as well (the game is asymmetric, AI does not deal with archeo). Like you have "green accessibility" ruins on planets you own, "yellow accessibility" ruins on planets near your empire and/or on friendly aliens worlds and "red accessibility" ruins on far away/hostile planets which are excavated only if absolutelly necessary. How to make these harder to excavate?

 

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For 3 races, you could do a triangle selector, where clicking a corner focuses exclusively on that race, and clicking somewhere near it focuses mostly on that race. Alternatively you could just do a sorted list, or choose the most important, or have occasional audience events where an archeologist asks about priorities.

 

Choosing which datacrystal to focus on, I wonder if that could just make use of existing priorities? If you've prioritized weaponry, that includes archeo work. If you prioritize planetary development, then the architectural artifacts are prioritized.

 

Local planets vs. allied planets and new digs vs. diminishing returns could just be calculated. At some point going after an ally planet is the most efficient dig, so you do that. If you've got an archeo resource, it could just be more expensive on further out sites. Alternatively, this could require some particular level of diplomatic friendship, or be purchased at the empire level (we'll give you 10,000 credits for the right to dig on your planets for 100 years).

 

Enemy planets it seems like you should have to occupy first. Do you have a plunder attack, where you raid a planet but don't try to govern it? That could be enough to enable archeology. Maybe a raid gets you the resource, but uses up 3 excavations since you damage the site to extract the resources quickly.

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Enemy planets it seems like you should have to occupy first. Do you have a plunder attack, where you raid a planet but don't try to govern it? That could be enough to enable archeology. Maybe a raid gets you the resource, but uses up 3 excavations since you damage the site to extract the resources quickly.
I was thinking about "send secretly a small ship at the edge of the universe filled with horror aliens and then secretly excavate the site" you know, Indiana Jones style :)

 

No, I have no plunder attack, plus that planet might be simply too far for any military operation. I just wanted to allow the player to excavate (at some additional cost maybe) all/most discovered ruins regardless where these are. Otherwise the conquest decisions might be driven too much by the ruins location (which won't be good for the gameplay here).

 

 


Local planets vs. allied planets and new digs vs. diminishing returns could just be calculated. At some point going after an ally planet is the most efficient dig, so you do that. If you've got an archeo resource, it could just be more expensive on further out sites.
Yes... But I don't like it because of optimization (min-maxing) issues. Like you plan to conquer planet X eventually, there are ruins, your archeologists excavate it paying premium price in archeo points. This premium price is actually wasted since later you will get this particular planet and then could do the excavation at the normal cost. So the player starts doing some stupid & boring metagame (like: prevent discovering new ruins on enemy planets). Also, in such case discovering ruins on enemy planets, while having unexcavated ruins on your planets, means the average speed of new excavation gets lowered... In short, a lot of ugliness is here.

 

I have a feeling the cost in archeo points should be constant regardless of ruins location... Maybe allow only 25% of total archeo points to be spent each turn on yellow/red accessibility ruins? Or some other type of points? I don't know...

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Local planets vs. allied planets and new digs vs. diminishing returns could just be calculated. At some point going after an ally planet is the most efficient dig, so you do that. If you've got an archeo resource, it could just be more expensive on further out sites.
Yes... But I don't like it because of optimization (min-maxing) issues. Like you plan to conquer planet X eventually, there are ruins, your archeologists excavate it paying premium price in archeo points. This premium price is actually wasted since later you will get this particular planet and then could do the excavation at the normal cost. So the player starts doing some stupid & boring metagame (like: prevent discovering new ruins on enemy planets). Also, in such case discovering ruins on enemy planets, while having unexcavated ruins on your planets, means the average speed of new excavation gets lowered... In short, a lot of ugliness is here.

 

I have a feeling the cost in archeo points should be constant regardless of ruins location... Maybe allow only 25% of total archeo points to be spent each turn on yellow/red accessibility ruins? Or some other type of points? I don't know...

 

 

Discovering a new ruin would never reduce the excavation speed, you'd only switch to foreign worlds when that's most efficient. Either you ran out of local digs, or the local digs are all on excavation #6+ and it's cheaper to do the first iteration on an ally world.

 

I think any system with meaningful choices is going to have a risk of min-maxing: if 10% of the budget can be spent on red worlds, that's still a valuable resource that you don't want to spend somewhere you're about to conquer (better to spend it on a further out planet). Maybe that means downgrading the alien race on that particular planet. You can automatically make appropriate priorities, but when things like "which planet to conquer next" are in a players head, they can potentially do a better job then anything automated. Good defaults at least discourage the behavior. To eliminate min-maxing, I think you either have to give planets a constant cost (no difference if its yours or not) or excavate everywhere simultaneously.

 

Another choice would be to have a risk slider. Worlds close by are safe, distant enemy planets are dangerous but have higher value research. They could be more expensive, or have a probability of failure. You could still include basic ROI logic, so even though you want risky, if you've conquered a distant world it's best to just take the advanced research from there so that will always happen.

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What if each of the 3 ancient races had a type of relic/artifact associated with it? ie Race A -> wapons/military stuff; Race B -> domestic/planetary growth stuff; Race C technology/science stuff. That would lead to less information being needed by the Player, as all they need to know is the race. Prioritizing the Race to do archeo stuff with would intrinsically be saying I want to excavate these kinds of relics to receive these kinds of bonuses. All they'd need to do is look at a planet and see which race inhabited it to know if they want to begin excavation.

 

The resource that gets used for archaeological endavours could simply be Archaeologists. Using a triangle slider as suggested by Polama sounds like a solid idea, as the Player could see where their archaeo points are being spent at a glance. The slider could auto-adjust the other two races as the other is adjusted by the Player, with the option to manually adjust all 3, as well as what planets they get assigned to? Or, all planets could have such a slider, and there's a big galactic one that represents the average across every planet. Then, it would also make sense that it's the same resource for excavating relics as it is studying them, and it seems legit that performing one task detracts from your capability to perform the other.

 

As for a way to simulate digs on unfriendly planets, perhaps there could a chance that some archaeologists will die during the excavation. If there wasn't a some extra incentive to do this, though, it would be strictly worse than just waiting until the planet was captured. Maybe if it's a red accessibility planet then there will always be extra relics/resources gained from a heathen shrine on the site or something

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As for a way to simulate digs on unfriendly planets, perhaps there could a chance that some archaeologists will die during the excavation.
But how does the player decide on this? A separate slider for "friendly/hostile planet excavation"?

Or maybe a "list of known ruins" with an Allow/Disallow excavation button next to each ruin (but then a lot of min-maxing is for the player here)?

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But how does the player decide on this? A separate slider for "friendly/hostile planet excavation"?

 

A list of known ruins that the Player could "disallow for future digs" doesn't sound like a bad idea. Maybe there could also be a prompt that comes up whenever archaeos are about to be commited to a dangerous dig like "are you sure you want to commit to this dig? There's a chance that not everyone will make it back.". And a checkbox for "Never show me this in the future", so experienced players won't have to deal with it

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Is increasing the number of alien races an option? Then you could have the player make a much larger choice in "which race to pursue next?" The caveat would be that you need to explore many different ruins of the alien race to solve the puzzle of their technology: you don't understand the language, or the physiology, or history of the aliens enough to make heads or tails of what you find left on one planet.

 

Each choice, then, would have different rewards (militaristic races, psychic races, ...) and a different risk profile (all planets under your control, only some, none). The player can balance the tech they want with future conquest plans, although it's now a much slighter benefit: it's not (enemy planet => my planet), it's (8 planets are owned by the enemy => 7 are.)

 

Another option: You can split your archeologists into government sponsored and freelancers/treasure hunters. Government sponsored archeologists follow your priorities, but can only dig where you've got access rights. Treasure Hunters are completely out of your control, but can work enemy planets.

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But how does the player decide on this? A separate slider for "friendly/hostile planet excavation"?

 

A list of known ruins that the Player could "disallow for future digs" doesn't sound like a bad idea. Maybe there could also be a prompt that comes up whenever archaeos are about to be commited to a dangerous dig like "are you sure you want to commit to this dig? There's a chance that not everyone will make it back.". And a checkbox for "Never show me this in the future", so experienced players won't have to deal with it

One thing I don't like about this idea is that the player is the Emperor. So, being bugged about single archeo excavation site breaks the mood... As the Emperor you give generic orders and priorities without dwelling into tiny details. You might conquer a region because it holds serveral ruins you want, that's fine. You might order archeologists to excavate ruins of race X, that's fine too. Also making some treaty with aliens to grant access for your archeologists is fine. But selecting every single ruins and deciding if dig there or not... no, that's not very compatible with the grand Imperial theme :)

 

Maybe let's look at it from the point "what's the simpliest mechanic that allows the player to engange with ruins in an interesting yet quick way"? Note the ruins are not implemented yet, so other options are viable too (like more abstracted mechanic).

 

I think, from gameplay point of view the ideal solution is if the player makes only an explicit decision about what type of ruins to excavate and the availability of ruins is handled some indirect way (like a treaty with aliens, establishing treasure hunters guild that will explore faraway ruins, things like that).

 


Each choice, then, would have different rewards (militaristic races, psychic races, ...) and a different risk profile (all planets under your control, only some, none). The player can balance the tech they want with future conquest plans, although it's now a much slighter benefit: it's not (enemy planet => my planet), it's (8 planets are owned by the enemy => 7 are.)
Sounds complex... With a lot of strange cases (like you have no unexplored ruins on your planets at all OR you don't know any ruins that are on enemy planets, etc).

 


Another option: You can split your archeologists into government sponsored and freelancers/treasure hunters. Government sponsored archeologists follow your priorities, but can only dig where you've got access rights. Treasure Hunters are completely out of your control, but can work enemy planets.
Hmmm, interesting. How exaclty it could work?

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Another option: You can split your archeologists into government sponsored and freelancers/treasure hunters. Government sponsored archeologists follow your priorities, but can only dig where you've got access rights. Treasure Hunters are completely out of your control, but can work enemy planets.
Hmmm, interesting. How exaclty it could work?

 

 

Let's say you're generating 100 archeo points (AP) a turn, based on whatever mechanism that is. This is then split into, say, 60 government directed AP and 40 freelance AP. This could be directly in your control, but I think it would be fun to have it (at least partially) as part of a larger "government vs. private sector" divide: is your empire a massive bureaucratic pyramid where your orders are churned by 1,000 middle managers into a royal decree for some archeologist's assistant? Or do you tend to provide looser incentives and taxes to push behavior, but let space capitalism take care of the rest? (in game, it could be slightly less efficient but precise control vs. better resource generation but you have to deal with more randomness in what your empire produces)

 

For government archeology, you set your priority sliders, and the resources are allocated based on that. To avoid min-maxing, I'd suggest using the priorities to select the next task to devote 100% of AP to (it's better to finish one data crystal at a time rather than wait 30 turns and finish 10 of them all at once, so you might as well just do that to prevent the player from simulating it via sliders). The Antlarians are deprioritized, but weapon tech is a high priority and this is a level 1 excavation so the return is high...it scores 72/100. Whichever scores highest is next done.

 

For freelance archeology, the same 100% resource assignment to a dig or data crystal happens, but the choice is completely random. It might happen on one of your planets, or on a distant ruin in enemy space. You can now keep costs constant: the penalty of an enemy planet is simply that you have to wait for it to randomly happen outside your control. (if total randomness is too much of a penalty, you could have the freelance archeologists partially follow your sliders if they select a local ruin)

 

If you want to play up the chaos and danger of the Indiana Jones treasure hunters, you might add good and bad random events: they can be killed (temporary AP penalty), anger the locals (increases hostility by local alien empire) but they can also steal a relic from an alien museum (free datacrystal) or gather intelligence from the enemy world while they're there. If you balance the good and bad events, the treasure hunters aren't better or worse, they're just higher variance.

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Keep in mind I make up numbers without a good knowledge of how your game mechanics work, since you seem to be working on them now.

 

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If your archeo actions are a fixed point system, perhaps a start with a base of 100 and add +2? per planet controlled.

 

For your search vs unlock it would be pretty straight forward.  Use a # of datacrystal setting.  This way one could say if I have 5 data crystals prioritize unlocking over finding.  If there are less than that # number then allocate the points to finding new crystals.

 

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If you have a good idea what is in the datacrystals a simple priority list, going with abstract categories (military, industrial, transportation, etc.) would be just fine.  Then during processing of turn you simply run top down through the list and see if that type is in your datacrystal pile and if it is check if you have enough points to open, then repeat the process till you are out.  Do unlocking *before* exploration so that if you run out of datacrystals and still have points to explore you do explore.

 

You might want to tier your finds.  Tier 1 would be for common items like a basic engine or cell phone and Tier 10 would be for Death Tech Insta Destructo Annihilator Beam.  Then you could simply square the tier to determine how many archeo points are needed to open it.  Tier 1 = (1*1) = , Tier 2 = (2*2) = 4, ... Tier 10  = (10 * 10) = 100.

 

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Since you don't like micro managing stuff I am sure you will have a save/load default settings buttons somewhere so a person can simply import their standard settings from a previous game or game data folder.

 

Being as such, simply using a priority list of alien race 1-3 and the type of ruins and mission of ruins in priority lists shouldn't be that big of a problem.  Since everything except the interface will be handled by the game turn processing it shouldn't be a problem.

 

Make each alien type have base static points of technology found.  Then they will be the same in each game.  (might want to add more alien types)

Alien 1 (military = 34, industrial = 33, transportation = 33, etc.  don't forget priority point setting for rank in list  1st = 3, 2nd = 2, 3rd = 1)

Alien 2 (military = 20, industrial = 20, transportation = 60, etc.)

Alien 3 (military = 50, industrial = 25, transportation = 25, etc.)

 

Then use a simple list of ruins types and ruin mission type with extra points to add to the find possibilty.  Make the effect greatest from the smallest type of ruins and the least from major sized ruins.  The thought on this is that an outpost maybe small but would be used for the most dangerous experiments, whereas technology from a metropolis could easily be found but be pretty common technology.  A military outpost would have been set up to test a new dangerous weapon or system so finding the remains of it may be difficult but worth it if you find it.  On the other hand a large or major city would have a lot of tech just laying out making it easy to find but would for the most part be the safest general consumer technology.  Not sure what your effects will be so not sure how to layout handling of that so I put effect and max mod as an idea of how to handle the effects of gaining tech.  As above the effect might be a better chance at a higher tier technology datacrystal.

 

Ruin Type  (remember to set priority point for rank in list [with 7 types rank 1 = 7, rank 2 = 6, etc.])

Outpost (Find +5 pts) (Effect +250 Max Mod +200%)

Base (Find +10) (Effect +100 Max Mod +170%)

Colony (Find +15) (Effect +50 Max Mod +140%)

Small City (Find +25) (Effect +25 Max Mod +110%)

Medium City (Find +50) (Effect +15 Max Mod +80%)

Large City (Find +100) (Effect +10 Max Mod +50%)

Metropolis (Find +250) (Effect +5 Max Mod +20%)

 

Ruin Mission (use percent mods for the ruins primary mission type

  probably need to be expanded, don't forget to set the rank points [currently with 3; rank 1 = 3, rank 2 = 2, rank 1 = 1])

Trading ( military = 100%, industrial = 100%, transportation = 100%, etc.)

Military ( military = 200%, industrial = 50%, transportation = 50%, etc.)

Agriculture ( military = 10%, industrial = 150%, transportation = 100%, etc.)

 

Any time the player changes these settings you would need to rerank the ruin sites for quick handling and prioritization.

 

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As for the question of how to make it harder to excavate that sounds like a zone of control type of system.

 

If you have control, "your planets, green planets" this would be full effect archeo digs.

 

After that you could simply go by distance with a absolute minimum success rate.  Absolute minimum success rate is 5% non-hostile?

Set the range at which it becomes the absolute minimum.  100 light years/units?  This lets you set any from that distance out at 5% success chance.  Then calculate distances from the nearest friendly planet to the taret planet and set the percent chance.  Also if the planet was enemy controlled "red" then halve the success rate at the end of the equation.

 

Failure would simply be a loss of archeo points for that expedition, and if you want it could count vs the number of chances to excavate that ruin site.

 

With that in mind you would normally target the highest percent chance of success first.  So pretty simple to automate.

 

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Basically you can stick to a few simple priority lists on an archeo screen and minimize the micro managing to a few clicks whenever someone wanted to change what they were after.

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I agree on the "finish what you started first" rule for excavation.

 

As for races priorities I would merge them with ruins types. Like:

- Antarians Temple ruins

- Antarians City ruins

- Antarians Shipyard ruins

- Xeons Temple ruins

- Xeons City ruins

- Xeons Industrial center ruins

Each race/ruin type combination would have different chance for rewards (like Antarians have a lot of Energy field techs, Shipyards unlock new hull types, Cities have a lot of small valuable luxury items).

 


For freelance archeology, the same 100% resource assignment to a dig or data crystal happens, but the choice is completely random. It might happen on one of your planets, or on a distant ruin in enemy space.
Hmmm... Maybe... so, there are Imperial Archeologists (100 points) they can excavate on imperial owned players only and on alien planets with digging rights treaty. Then you can make an edict to establish Private Archeologists (in such case they have 10 points and your Imperial Archeologists have 90 points) who can excavate everywhere (same points cost). In addition Private Archeologists (need a better name for them :D) take much less into account your priorities (or some sort of bounty system?).

 

You might want to tier your finds. Tier 1 would be for common items like a basic engine or cell phone and Tier 10 would be for Death Tech Insta Destructo Annihilator Beam. Then you could simply square the tier to determine how many archeo points are needed to open it. Tier 1 = (1*1) = , Tier 2 = (2*2) = 4, ... Tier 10 = (10 * 10) = 100.
I would rather go for "collect X parts to get Death Tech Insta Destructo Annihilator Beam". So, you collect various artifacts which are useless on their own but once you collect a certain combination of these you get some bigger thing.

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