Sorry, no screenshots in this post, because I saw something on SpaceSector that caught my eye. The author discussed micromanagement in terms of managing colonies (http://www.spacesector.com/blog/2012/12/how-to-tackle-build-micromanagement-tedium-in-4x-games/), and while I made some comments there, I thought of another micromanagement issue: the end-game "final war" where you're either winning or losing, and the tedious task of going to each star system and ensuring that it's eradicated of your enemy.
Let's say that you're playing in a 200-star galaxy, with every star being inhabited by either you or your enemy, with about 50/50 distribution. And each star averages 4 planets each, that'd be about 400 planets to invade/bomb! This got me to thinking, what if that isn't the problem, but is actually how fleets are portrayed/managed in the game? It gets tedious sending a fleet to a planet, then attacking, then ordering it to attack another planet, or moving to next system.
I think the most fun aspects of a space 4X game are colony development/colonizing, research, ship designing, and space combat. Others are just fluff to help move the game along. What if the fleet management were minimized or even eliminated, thereby focusing on those fun aspects of the 4X game?
At this point, I realized that nearly all 4X space games have basically the same fleet management. No matter how they move, they're always represented in the galaxy view, and you have to issue orders one way or another for them to move to or attack a star system.
If we were to eliminate traditional fleet management, what are our alternatives that can perform the same tasks but are less tedious? Consider the fact that we want to support colonizing, exploring, transporting population/troops, attacking, and defending of planets.
Note, this is just speculation! I want to make the end game about as equally enjoyable as early game and mid game!
Perhaps we could try the idea inspired by Castles series (Castles 2: Siege and Conquest in particular) where instead of having army icons, the land is divided up into territories, and you select a territory then select an action (spy, attack, etc). You have a limited list of actions that you can perform at the same time. Would this work for this kind of game? Let me illustrate what it would look like:
Exploring would be done by "hiring" people to explore it for you. You select a star system, and click on "Explore". The price and time taken for this action will be based on distance from nearest owned system, and you confirm by clicking on "OK". This is then added to in-progress actions (actions are not arbitarily limited, it is limited by amount of resources that you have). If starlanes are enabled, then you can only explore systems that are connected to an explored system, and is not blocked by an hostile empire (blocked in the sense that they occupy a star system that connects your empire to the unexplored system.)
Colonization again would be done by "hiring" people to build a colony base on a planet. The cost and time will be based on distance and hospitality of the planet. Technologies can reduce either factors.
Attacking would be done by selecting a planet then clicking on "Attack". It will then prompt you asking which ships to send for the attack, then the cost will be calculated by the fleet's upkeep cost and time taken to arrive. After a successful attack, it asks you for three options (depending on what equipment your ships have): Bombard Planet (kill off all people, this have diplomatic repercussions, you'll be branded as participating in xenocide), Destroy Planet (same as Bombard, but more severe repercussions), or Invade Planet (no diplomatic repercussions, but more involved).
Transporting population can be partially eliminated by having people automatically migrate from crowded planets to less crowded/more hospitable planets. But for invasion, maybe you need to build up an ground army similar to Castles, then clicking on a planet and selecting "Invade". Invade would be similar to Attack, in that you select ships to escort your troops, and you select troops to attack.
Defending will be done by displaying list of planets being attacked, and which ships are attacking. You then select which ships to defend which planet, then resolve each battle. In this case, you have "home field advantage".
Spies can be used to find out the enemy's actions and see if they're planning an attack on you, or to find out intel such as explored systems, fleet strength, etc.
Your list of actions will be displayed in top right of the galaxy view, to remind you what you're doing.
Pros of this system:
A lot less management of your fleets, you don't have to worry about splitting fleets, moving them to defend a system, or attacking, or adding troops to a ship, etc.
More streamlined management of your empire. You're an emperor, you say "I want to attack this system", and it is done, you don't worry about supply lines or fleet formation, those are left to your underlings.
It scales with your empire size. More resources means that you can explore more systems at once, instead of having to build scout ships and sending them out.
It will be a lot simpler to program, meaning the game will be finished sooner.
It focuses on the fun features of 4X games - Exploration, Colonization, Battles, Researching, and Development.
Ships are now built at empire-wide level, because they're managed in an empire-wide level, which further reduces micromanagement. You can order up 10 battleships, and don't have to care about where they're built.
Cons of this system:
Less tactical decisions in the galaxy level. You'll feel a lack of micromanagement if you're a micromanagement freak. This is not a problem for me personally.
May be a bit imbalanced being able to attack one system on one end of galaxy, then attacking another system on the other end of galaxy shortly afterwards with the same ships. But this is offset with the ability to defend systems in the same manner. Again, not really a problem for me.
What are your thoughts? Personally, I find this to be very alluring, both in terms of simplicity for me to program, and in reduced management in general. If there are no major issues, then I will go ahead and attempt this venture.