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Saturday, December 22, 2012

Micromanagement Part Two

In the past week, I played a few different games, some board, some video, and I think I may have hit on a sweet idea for reducing end-game tedium and micromanagement.

First, the games that I played?  Castle Risk (board game), Eador: Genesis, and Heroes of Might and Magic 2.

In Castle Risk, each player has a Castle that he must protect at all cost.  If he lose the territory that contains his Castle, he's out of the game, and his army is removed from the game, leaving the now unoccupied territories open for free invasions.

In Eador: Genesis, you start with a hero and a stronghold.  The map is divided into Shards that is further divided into provinces (spelling?).  A Shard is basically a whole game in itself as you don't transfer armies between shards.  You can move units only with your hero, and you can capture provinces.  However, even if you are in a province with an army (including hero), it is not fully explored at first.  Maybe 5% or 10%, but sufficient to "claim" the province and its output.

In HoMM 2 (and all other games in the series), there are resources and stuff scattered across the map.  There's lumber mills, gold mines, and so forth.  There are few castles in relation to the map size.  You can develop each castle by building stuff which adds new types of units that you can gather into your hero's army.

So here's my proposal.  If I were to combine those elements, it will enhance the "Explore" and "Exploit" aspects of the 4X label for my game.

First, starting with exploration aspect.  Let's say that you have a "FTL Carrier" which is an equivalent of heroes in HoMM and Eador, that can transport other ships with it, but it is not involved in battles (it will retreat immediately if you lose the battle).  You can't explore other systems without a FTL Carrier.  However, a FTL carrier will be very expensive to build, and pricey to maintain, so you won't have too many of them.  They will have a limited capacity in the number and size of ships that they can transport, so over the game you will upgrade your FTL carriers to be bigger and faster.

When you arrive at a star system, there is a chance that you may encounter something guarding the system (Guardian, Space Monsters, etc), or not.  If you choose to battle and is successful, or if there's no guardians, you claim the system, otherwise you retreat.  Once claimed, you don't see all the planets and other stuff at once.  You'll need to send some ships to explore (if you have at least one ship in the system idling, it will automatically explore).  Some planets on discovery may require you to attack defensive satellites, baby eels, natives, or some other stuff before you can claim the planet.  Once claimed, it is now open to development.  People will automatically move to it, so that's how the "Colonization" will work in the game.  There will be other stuff that you may discover, such as derelict ships that you can add to your fleet, ancient artifacts, stockpiled resources, etc.

Your home system will be your "Castle", and will have a planet that is unique to your race that can support a full "home".  This means that most of other planets are really just outposts with some people on them, mainly for mining and production.  If you lose your home system, you lose the game.  So in late-game, you don't need to wipe out all the enemy's systems, just his home system.

If you own a system, and an enemy attacks it, the battle is for the whole system, not on per-planet basis.  You will use all of your ships in the system, and it's only two sides in the battle (if two enemies attacks, you deal with each one individually).  If  you lose, the enemy now claims the system, but he will still need to explore it.  If you added defenses to your owned planets, he will need to wipe them out before he can claim the planets, buying you time to get reinforcements and attempt to take the system back.

So a fully developed system will take quite some time for an enemy to fully conquer as opposed to a newly settled system.  In real life, f you were to invade a country and topple its government, it don't mean that its people are now immediately under your control.  You'll have to go to each city and battle it out, unless the country decided to surrender.  However, if the government is totally toppled, it makes it much more easier to capture cities, so that's how it will be in the game.  If you managed to capture a home system, it means that the player is out of the game, but all of his previously owned planets will still have defenses and such that he developed.

I believe that another part of micromanagement tedium is waiting for stuff to be built.  In Eador, you can go to your stronghold and build a new building in a turn, paying the cost to build it though.  In Beyond Beyaan, each turn is a year, so I assume that it shouldn't take more than a year to build a farm? :)  So you can go to planet management screen, and filter out planets, then add buildings and regions to the selected planets' queue, and they will be built.  However, the price will be deducted immediately when you assign a planet to build, even if it's not for a few turns.  Every building and region will only take one turn to build.

As for ships, I think the idea is to have few small ships to defend and explore systems that they are in.  You can upgrade a system to build larger ships, but those upgrades will be expensive, so most likely only a few systems will support that.  Then you send FTL carriers to pick up those large ships and replace the lost or obsolete ships.  If you see planets in your systems that are not claimed yet due to being heavily defended, you can wait until you build ships,

You design ships, then you can "buy" them (they will be built in a turn).  However, ships will be expensive and high maintenance, so you won't have too many of them, and making it more of a incentive to retreat if a battle is going badly, getting rid of the "disposable ships" idea.

All in all, it will be similar to HoMM/Eador system, with a lot less fleet moving around, but emphasizing exploration and focusing on fun aspects that I mentioned in last post.

What are your thoughts?  It maintains the strategic aspect of moving ships around and conquering, but with added emphasis on exploration and exploiting resources, and reduced tedium in waiting for stuff to be built.  If you want more resource output, you have to decide between building ships, or developing planets, or buying technologies so you can improve your ship's designs, and few other things.


  1. the FTL carriers rub me the wrong way to be honest. It seems to be aping the mechanics of having heroic generals who are the only ones who can lead troops, purely for the sake of aping the mechanic. If there's a better reason (and i feel there should be considering the downsides of this move) then it isn't clear from this post.

    Mainly its just the in universe effects that it means that like in dune the only FTL is using vast expensive 'highliners'.

    I think that enforcing a specific vision of the sci fi universe being portrayed through game mechanics is bad for the idea of this game being the basis for mods. (after all that talk about myriad ways of handling FTL (stargates, hyperdrive, hyperspace tugs, starlanes, mobile stargates, etc). It seems a step down the wrong road to suddenly go hyper restrictive about this and build such restrictions into the game mechanics.)

    I do like the idea of cutting around the tedium of the long war to conquer the vast enemy empire thing though. Albeit an alternative would be to make each empire have one race defined special unit (the emperor, the space parlament, etc) which acts as their single point of failure. And while it can be moved its expensive to do so and is fairly easily for spies to figure out where it's gone.

    But overral the idea that if your power is overwhelming enough to take on the enemies best system defences and best fleet combined you should be able to decide the war in a single battle is excellent.

  2. To be honest, I never read Dune. Yeah, thinking about it, it may actually increase some micromanagement because you'll have to send FTL back for reinforcements, then back to battlefront.

    I never planned to impose restrictions in the game code, only in the data files (so it'd be possible to use other methods of traveling in mods)

    But I'm glad that you do like the idea of a home system. How will you move 10 billion people to a planet that's not suited for them? All other planets in the game will have a max in range of hundreds or thousands, not millions or let alone billions. So if your home system is wiped out, your race has basically gone extinct.

    What do you think of buying buildings, development, and ships as opposed to developing them over a number of turns? I will have support for both though in game code.

  3. Buying buildings and ships, I think it works up to a point. And that's the point where the ships and buildings are what most would classify as 'megastructures' so basically anything that other games would consider a wonder or special project building wise or any ship above a certain size i'd have take multiple turns to build.

    So building frigates and farms, same turn purchase with maybe a limit on how much you can spend each turn that's not just (till the money runs out). But building a Dyson ring or the Grandeous Oblivionator mk3 as your ludicrous anime space opera style flagship is multiple turns. Personally I might go with that model as a playstyle if the game ever gets finished, flagships'd almost be like FTL carriers except they'd fight. I'd have huge flagships with the FTL tag along feature so a mob of small ships can join them in interstellar travel. But I A. wouldn't want this choice imposed on others and B. think it'd be loads of fun to fight enemies who used much different ways of solving the problem than me who occupied the same game world.

  4. Something to note here re: buying/building things. You can make "build time" a separate consideration from "build cost." Make the player pay the cost up front, but then some objects could take multiple turns to create anyway. Players can research technologies to reduce build costs but that won't effect the build time. They can also research techs that reduce build time but don't effect cost, or that do both.

    It's like the difference between saying a single widget costs $100 to make vs. that same widget taking 2 hours to manufacture on an assembly line. You can find ways to reduce labor and amount of input material (cost) and you can find ways to improve your construction techniques (time).

    Each structure in the game would have a default cost and a default build time and the player could reduce either of these through research. Once the player pays to build something it automatically gets built over the next X turns.

    Note that if you require payment up front, players will not be able to even start building something until they have all the money required. This alters strategies a bit. You could circumvent this by allowing them to spend into debt.

    Here's an interesting article that describes some of the ramifications, albeit from a real-time strategy point of view:

  5. I just realized one problem with "buying" as opposed to developing. You can't "buy" repeatedly like you can do with development. By that I mean having a system build a ship repeatedly until you issue a different order.

    I think I'll just go with the original idea where a project requires XX amount of resources, and it gets filled up as fast as your planets can produce those resources. And no FTL carriers, all ships can travel FTL if they have FTL engines. But systems will need to be explored across a number of turns. And losing your home system loses you the game. I think that should be sufficient to make late-game interesting and engaging.

  6. If you were brainstorming about another game than I would give you thumb up. Imagine something like Aegis from Starcape brought to TBS. Something like that is on my "will not die before I that game" list. But considering Beyond Beyaan, I think it's to much of a change for the vanilla version.

    Regarding buying buildings, it's basically HoMM system. Late game in Civs basically degrades to it too. In Civs it takes a way "personality" from cities (general probelm with the late game in TBS games) while in HoMM it's OK. Could be interesting if it required local resources instead of global (empire wide). For instance stockpiled ores and crystals.

    Argument that if 1 turn translates to 1 year than building for longer than a turn looks ridiculous is interesting one. In Sid Mayer's Civs first few turns represent 25 year intervals. Maybe even more, 50 years, but I'm to lazy for research at the moment. How ridiculous is the fact that it takes 200 years to train militia or make a market place? Well, it's a game, experience do not have to suffer because of reality checks.

    1. Hmm, now my comment looks out of place. I must have hibernated my OS or something. The context of the comment is original post and first two comments (WR's and BP's).

  7. While reading this, I thought of a feature that might be nice and could speed up the end game, even if the mechanics were the same as MOO1/2.
    To attack a star, click on it and it will list available units to send for an attack, ranked by nearness to the target. There'd be a checkbox or something to select which units to send and then notice somewhere that tells you how long it will take for the attack force to arrive.
    I imagine that the nearer ships would wait at their planets until they need to leave. That way, if you decided to call of the attack, then not all of the ships would be en route.

  8. Just my thought about the 'explore' thing.. I'm playing Eador as well and MOO2 is one of my favorite games. I like how you explore provinces in Eador, but in a Sci-Fi setting it should be done a bit differently, I think. I mean, it doesn't make sense that you can scan stars LY far away and you can't see a planet in the system you're in. Exploring would be better suited to find mineral resources, special treasures or to trigger special events (pirates, hidden colonies or something). Also scouts should be enough to explore systems, then you could come back with a fleet if there's a reason to do it (something big that needs to be fought).

    About fleets, I liked MOO2 system, I wouldn't change anything from that. Maybe, the possibility of building more than 1 thing in a turn on a planet if it has the capability to do that (high production output). As much as I love Eador, I'd prefer it more similar to MOO2 (though I like the 'conquer the castle' concept).

    Also, I don't know if you know a MMO game named Cosmic Supremacy, it's a 4x too. There you can build multiple instances of each buildings, and each adds a +% to base production. I think it works really well. Each successive building of the same type costs more there, and so, if a farm adds +25% food output, 3 farms add +75%. Personally I would allow multiple instances and tie them with population, for example a farm can sustain up to x people, once the limit has been reached you need a new farm to increase population. Or maybe this can be achieved with an improved farming tech, like 'improved farm' that allows population to grow over a certain limit.

    One of the faults in MOO2 system was that basically total population was everything, that is, you had the highest population, you won. Also production was much more important than the rest. Maybe you want to be careful about these aspects.

    One final thing: I don't know if you ever played MOO2 multiplayer, you can find players at channel #moo2. Players there use mostly a mod that makes the game more balanced and interesting for MP. If you never did, I urge you to do so. It is still, for now, THE REAL THING (I mean the real MOO2 and much more than that). You could learn a lot for your game playing there. Really, you should give it a try and I think you'll have a lot more ideas for the game after that.

  9. I won't be doing it quite like Eador. When you arrive at a star system, you will see that there's something like "8 Unexplored Sectors". Your scout can automatically explore if you have "Auto-Explore" enabled. It will take a turn for each sector to be explored. You may discover a planet, a derelict, hidden pirate base, etc. While it's easy to find planets (our scientists can find planets light years away!), it's required to explore the sector so that the scout can map out the planet and observe its orbit path and any other stuff required before you can colonize the planet.

    The queue system in Beyond Beyaan will have the excess resources from a completed project fall to the next project in queue. So if you have 5 scouts lined up, and you can make 2 in one turn, it'd make two scouts in one turn.

    I plan on both planet-wide and region-wide buildings that enhances their respective areas, don't worry.

    Yeah, one problem with MoO 2 is that if you have decent tech and superior production, you can out-produce your enemies and grind their fleet into dust. All other aspects are weak in comparision. Spying? Hah, you can maybe destroy one building if you're lucky, or steal a tech. But it don't often turn the tide of battles. What if you can actually capture a ship via spying, and it's one of their flagships? Or ask an empire to spy on your enemy and cause chaos? I plan to expand other interactions that you can have with an empire so it's not just "peace until I gain an edge then wipe you off of map, and with only ships". Ground invasions, spying, diplomacy, and other aspects can and will turn the tide if you're not careful!