The ability to research new technologies was and always will be a central aspect of any space strategy game. Much of the fun in this type of games comes from witnessing the evolution of a society in the long run on all its different aspects: entertainment, culture, life quality, biology, production, governments, communications, materials, propulsion engines, weapons, new types of ships, etc. New technologies unlock new possibilities, new opportunities and new toys to play with.
In the past many games tried many variants of “tech trees”, as they are vulgarly called. A tech tree is a collection of technologies that can be researched and all the possible investigation paths that lead to the next discoveries and so forth. You can see this in space strategy games as you can see this also in many other types of strategy games (like Civilization IV for example).
Predictability and lack of Re-playability
Some games offer simpler and smaller technology trees, others present more complex and diverse research paths. As this is satisfying in the beginning unfortunately soon enough the games start to lose their re-playability since the possible technologies to research are already known from the start and the technology investigation looses its interest. Normally all races have at their disposal the same tech tree to research for and players tend to beeline (focus) on specific technologies that they already know the path to reach for which turns the games very predictable and ultimately boring to replay.
In the recent past GalCiv2 tried to give its technology trees a little more salt and pepper by providing specialized tech trees for each race which means that every race supposedly has its own tech tree with special and unique technologies. As very interesting that this may sound at first soon enough it looses its full potential since in most cases the “specialized” just means a different tech tree shuffle, re-ordering, subset or superset. This is a good start but not in my opinion what we are ultimately looking for technology research.
Dynamic and Specialized Research: an Innovative and Realistic approach
It is fine that tech trees can be customized for specific races however I think we did not hit the mark yet. To increase the re-playability and realistic factors a better idea would be to have complete or at least some degree of uncertainty regarding what technologies could be researched next. Think about it, there are areas to research as always but the exact technologies are still not available to choose from in the beginning. Instead of researching, for example, the “Universal Translator” the player would be researching in the field of “Communications” and a possible breakthrough could be the “Universal Translator” but could also be “Subspace communications” or “Xeno Diplomacy Relations”. All of these possibilities could be available to unlock in a particular game but not available in the next. The exact technologies to be unlocked would depend on certain factors. In spite Sword of the Stars has already did some work in this area I think much still needs to be addressed.
A certain Race “R” is very creative by nature but their members lack personality or charisma. This would make them prone to discover some kinds of technologies in favor of others. When researching in the field of “Diplomacy” Race “R” would be more keen to discover high technological gadgets to increase diplomacy (like the “Universal Translator” for example) but would be less keen on making breakthroughs on social aspects of the “Diplomacy” technology and so it would be more difficult to breakthrough “Alliances” (or Advanced Intergalactic Governments) or “Trade” (or Advanced Trade). The innovation behind this is that it would not be impossible for the race to discover “Advanced Trade”, it would just mean that would be less likely to happen. Certain perks, bonuses, events or player decisions throughout the game would influence the ability to make breakthroughs more in one area than another.
An example list of “factors” that could contribute to a certain player prowess to certain technologies would be:
- An ancestor ruin is discovered
- Special artifacts were found on planets
- Unexpected contact with alien races that shares knowledge (with the “correct” approach/answer)
- Race characteristics
- Decisions made on certain actions like colonizing, government decisions
- Previous breakthroughs
- Planet events
- Special people (specialists) born in the planets
Conclusion on Dynamic and Specialized Research
The uncertainty factor in research is very realistic and the possibility for a player to specialize in a specific technological field due to in-game events and decisions is also very attractive. These aspects of technology research would most definitely increase game re-playability and not only that it would give the player more sense of being in command of its empire with its own gameplay style. Some players would be more prone to research in the field of “Diplomacy” others more specialized in the field of “Weapons” others in the field of “Spaceship hulls”, others still were a bit luckier and discovered a very difficult or unreachable by normal means technology. This would be very interesting since then alliances would have a new meaning. Each race could be specialized in certain types of technologies, the kind that the player is interested or destined by fate to have.Subscribe RSS
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