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What Makes A Good Game – Progression

By on November 2nd, 2011 10:33 am

For my second post, I’d like to talk about about Progression in games. Before I get into that, I would like to take a moment to thank everyone who read and made some comments on my first post about Immersion. I will be making some replies there shortly. People have different tastes and impressions in games. I really liked reading the replies from people on this!

Progression exists in many different forms so I will talk about it generally. It is important because the players can see the reward for their time spent in the game. It can keep people engaged in the game and longevity in games is always a good thing to have.


Progression is having goals and how the player achieves them. What is their purpose(s) in the game? How do they fulfill their purpose(s)? By having good progression, it keeps players involved in the game. People, especially gamers, like to strive towards something. They like to set themselves a goal in a game and then achieve it. Put simply, this can be seen as the “carrot on the end of the stick”.

4X games for example offer several different forms of progression (more on this below): empire expansion, ship design, and technology/research to name a few. To me, one of the greatest joys in playing a space 4X is watching my empire spread out amongst the stars. I love building massive fleets and “incorporating” lesser civilizations into my own. MMORPGs generally have a lot of progression: gear based, skills, encounter based and so on.

As mentioned above, most gamers like to improve themselves and do better. They want to gain that next level, or that next technology for their ships. They strive to achieve these goals. It creates an environment that makes the player’s time well spent and encourages them to play longer. The excitement level and desire of getting something keeps them interested.

Progression rewards the players. That is why the typical experience and leveling system in MMORPGs hasn’t gone away (TOR is reported to have a very strong and lengthy leveling experience). It is very easy to understand and gives great results. “Hey I gained a level and got some new abilities!”. You now have something you didn’t before. In 4X games, technology is a great example of this. Researching a new plasma cannon that can be placed on your ships: the excitement level grows with each click that increases the number of plasma cannons. Imagine the damage it will deal to your enemies!  Or acquiring shields for the first time and knowing (hoping) that the enemy would not be able to deal with them.

Even though the developer may place progression in a game, it does not discount the fact that players make their own progression (sometimes unknowingly). In a 4X game, there could be an instance where a particular planet is “ultra-rich” in ore and it would be vital for the player to acquire that. Perhaps this planet is controlled by an enemy empire with a strong defensive presence. This situation can set off an entire chain of small goals leading up to the eventual attack on the planet. The player just created a small progression system.

Next, I would like to provide a humorous real life example. In MoO1/2, I always played as the Psilons. I enjoyed having a large tech edge (plasma cannons, anyone?). I always got very displeased with the Darloks stealing my technology. So, I made it my mission to show them what eXterminate really means in 4X.

Other forms such as victory conditions and achievements helps too. The boundaries are really endless and each game can have their own progression and be unique. That is the beauty of games. I want to throw out one warning: do not make the progression overly difficult or time consuming. A fine balance must be done to ensure that the players do not feel the time spent is not worth what is earned (or will be).


As with the previous article, I want to give an example of how I achieved progression. I will again use the MUD for my example (I’ll use my own 4X game when it gets farther along). During character creation, a player could choose one of two skill paths to travel down. Each path had 10 skills. They then could select 7 of the 10 skills and these would be gained in 5 level increments. This was a good system because it allowed the player to set their own goals with gaining skills at certain levels. Then they wanted to use them and so the player had to work to attain them. This created a small progression system that encouraged people to play more.

This finishes up my second article about the two aspects I feel are that important to me: Immersion and Progression. I hope you enjoyed reading it and thinking about games and their development in slightly different ways. As with the post on Immersion, I would like to hear your thoughts and comments (I’ll try to reply faster this time). Finally, if anyone has a request for a future topic on an article, let me know and I’ll consider it.

dayrinni has been a Space Sector contributor since October 2011. This is his first foray into writing articles for any review site. He is an avid gamer in the genres of 4X, Strategy, MMO’s and RPGs. Finally, he has been the implementor of several MUDs and is currently working on a 4X space game that offers large scope and complexity. See all dayrinni’s posts here.

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  1. Fernando Rey says:

    Excellent post dayrinni. These deconstruction pieces regarding some of the critical characteristics of games in general, but particulary on space based 4x games, are more than welcomed. It’s been comforting to know we think alike on these subjects, I am also working on a 4x game and this kind of things are on my mind a lot. For a future article, I think I would like to read your take on story; is it necessary at all? (SOASE hardly has any) How to best involve the player in it and similar topics.

    • dayrinni says:

      Sounds like a good idea on the next post. I think it is something important in games. My testers and I are having that same discussion on our forums. The timing is right so I believe that will be my next article. Thanks!

  2. kalamona says:

    Great post! I am always interested what other people want from a game, and what gives them enjoyment. I will read the Immersion one right now!

  3. Ermdog says:

    I think you hit it right on with progression. Most games, such as MMOs, 4x, RTS, and many others, thrive on progression and make it very enjoyable for the players. I love the idea of progressing toward a better tech, a better item, or a better anything. It makes you want to play more, to EARN rewards that you can only get by progressing in the game. Now I know not everyone is the same way. For example, I play World of Warcraft, and the one of the great satisfactions to the game, in my opinion, is earning everything you have. You want something, you have to go out there, grind it out and earn it. Once you finally get that item, kill that boss, or whatever you worked so hard for, it makes it that more rewarding that you accomplished something. On the other hand not everyone shares that opinion. There are many out there that simply want to be the highest level, have the best gear, and the best items without even working for it. They will buy accounts that have the highest lvl character with the best gear, buy illegal gold, or even cheat to get the upper hand. Other games will allow you to enter in unlimited cheats so you can get unlimited money and resources anytime you want. What’s the point of playing if you get everything for free and not earn it?

    One of the best parts of a game, especially a 4x game, is the ways in which you can progress. The more ways, the merrier. I want to research this tech, I want to upgrade this weapon, I want to upgrade that starbase. The more ways and things you can progress on, the better. Another example is the new Modern Warefare 3 game coming out. If you’re not familiar with the game, in multiplayer there are many things you can unlock and advance in. They have a level system where you continue to level up your profile and unlock certain weapons and items, as well as have a challenge system where by completing certain tasks, you get to unlock even more items. The good thing about the new game is they have added a new progression system to your weapons. Now your weapons have a level system as well and the more you use that weapon the more it levels and the more perks you can buy to upgrade it. This is a good example of the more ways to add progression to a game.

    • Fernando Rey says:

      The real danger to progression based gameplay, as you pointed out Ermdog, is the whole “PayToWin” monetization scheme. Most developers are very public on how they are against it, but it seems with time more and more on line games fall to this F2P bastard child. If people can just throw money at the game and progress faster, it’s not that fair to everyone else and it kinda cheapens the whole progression process. I don’t think that XP boosters based on money or things like that are entirely bad, but those mechanics if not implemented carefully; can become a pain; like a slippery slope into a community upheaval.

    • Ermdog says:

      I agree with you Rey. I don’t mind paying for a monthly subscription for a game I enjoy, and even don’t mind paying for a “premium” membership for a ‘free to play’ game. What I do hate is when you’re a premium member and you still have to pay real cash to get elite items and bonuses. Just sucks that you can play the whole game, but you’re not entitled to earn the elite items unless you pay.

      Another thing I hate are the free to play games that offer no premium membership, and only allow you to buy boosters and special items for cash. You see a lot of these games on Facebook. I understand game companies need to make money, but when they make it painful to level and progress it really discourages you from wanting to play. Their solution is to offer boosters for cash to make it less painful. It just sucks because there are a few games I really enjoy on Facebook, but in order to really progress in the game you have to buy tokens to purchase items.

    • dayrinni says:

      I agree with you on the mindset of the players and how they want to acquire it without putting in the effort and time. I wanted to stray from that aspect because there will be people who like to earn their progression and others who do not. There really isn’t much a developer can do to appease the people who don’t want to work for their items without degrading the health of the game. These people exist in real life and if there was an easy way to fix it, well, then we wouldn’t have them :)

      I also did not want to talk about the micro-transactions because that can be a hot topic for people and it was not the intent for my article (to create a controversy/etc.). Some people don’t mind them and others do. That is about all I can say about it. But it definitely does pose a series of issues.

  4. Kyle "Lordxorn" Rees says:

    Great article, and as Fernando mentioned, I think it is vitally important to the 4x genre which has made no progression (Pun Intended!).

    I point to GalCiv and it’s laughable tech system where progression there is Laser I, Laser II,, Lase BOORRRING!!!

    Same thing in WOW, some of the skills repeat themselves as a more powerful version, the only saving grace are the talents that allows more specialization.

    I was at odds with Distant Worlds and it’s ship classification system being generic, however after playing it and reading other player’s thoughts, it is a great system. It allows the player to define their ships within roles they want, then can be assigned to the AI for control, IE.. Explorers or Civilian escorts.

    So yes as Adam and I mentioned in earlier articles, the 4x genre makes steps in the right direction but take more in the wrong direction. I understand that as a designer you want something unique, Starbase Orion is the opposite, so I do not want to be exactly like MOO2. However, it would be a good thing to at the very least include the elements that made it the standard.

    Can you copy elements from MOO2 and make your own game? Sure.

    In MOO2 your technology had PROFOUND, not Profane effects on your ship designs. They could literally win or lose the game for you. Techs in others games are just a tad better then GalCiv generically lame system, why not incorporate a Stellar Converter or Black Hole Generator in every game?

    • dayrinni says:

      I agree with you! Having cool technologies that look exciting and will be mad fun to use is a great way to get people to progress. It really hits a high fun factor for the player. Yes, I am very obsessed with plasma cannons. I would load up a ship completely filled with them and I would show the enemy empires who was boss.

      I also don’t know why games haven’t made some really cool and fun new technologies. It boggles my mind. But the good thing is that since that is missing, I can offer it in my 4X game as a reason to play.

  5. Fernando Rey says:

    That’s one of the things I hated the most out of GC2, it didn’t really feel like progress to me; to just simply have a (number + 1) next to whatever I researched. The same thing happens in other titles like “Lost Empire – Immortals” and “Space Empires” for example. MOO2(and Armada 2526 to an extent also) has technologies that actually mean something and have different effects; not simply improving damage, resistance or whatever by X much. Besides “Laser X”? What does that really mean? What technology it’s based on, why is it better than the last one, etc. That last point though has more to do with real based science fiction vs fantasy science fiction, but I think it can stand on its own. Maybe I brought it up because I never quite liked how GC2 made fun of components and stuff in the descriptions. In any case this just remind me that I need to play Distant Worlds, I am pretty sure I am not going to like all those numbers and automation; but I need to get it, even if it’s only to study it’s mechanics. I will probably get it as soon as I have some free time(which is probably next year ;)

    • Adam Solo says:

      You do make sure you have the free time. Distant Worlds can’t be played like “I’m going to play 10 minutes before diner”. Forget it. You need 10 minutes just to realize where you were.

      “Haa, that’s what the plan was! Hum, where are my fleets again? I was constructing defensive bases and monitoring stations throughout the empire wasn’t I? I wonder where are those colony ships I’ve sent couple of days ago? Ok, let’s play! Wait! What was I researching again?”

      10 minutes passed in paused speed. Gameplay: 0 sec. Real progression: 0. Fun? yes. And this happens all the time :) That’s why DW is not for everybody.

  6. Ermdog says:

    I agree with the GalCiv2 tech tree, its very boring. Instead of having to research Lasers I, II, III, etc, they should make weapon and ship upgrades separate from the tech tree altogether. That way you can upgrade that tech you learned without having to research it again.

    MOO2 is one of my favorite games for the fact that you really get to design what kind of ship u want it to be. The best part was the variety of weapons and defenses you could put on your ship. Do I want lasers that kill marines, anti-rocket missiles, fighter squadrons, tractor beam? You really had to choose what you wanted on your ship. With GalCiv 2 its very simplistic, weapons and defenses that offer nothing more than damage and defense.

    What do you guys think of Distant Worlds? I’m always looking for good 4x games but have been busy playing Sword of the Stars. Can you compare it to another game…where does it rank among your best space 4x games?

    • Adam Solo says:

      Well, I guess my opinion is already fairly know, due to my reviews and also because I already replied to you on more or less the same topic on another post. But I’ll reply to your questions.

      Distant Worlds Return of the Shakturi (the expansion is mandatory to have) is, in my opinion, the best recent 4X space game experience you can have. And probably one of the best of all time.

      Regarding comparisons (and while I don’t like making them I’ll do it because you asked) I’ll give it a shot and say that DW RotS feels/plays like a crossbreed between Space Empires (the vastness, the freedom and somewhat the complexity part) MoO2 (the story – present at least, the individual planets colonization model, the custom ship design. With Legends and its new Character system it will even have more MoO2 elements.) and Sins of a Solar Empire for the obvious RTS mechanic and the single gameplay scope (battles and everything else happening all in the same game perspective).

      Where does DW ranks among the best space 4x games of all time? Well, as you know this is a highly subjective subject but I will give you my opinion of course since it’s part of my job in this site to help you guys make the best decisions regarding all kinds of sci-fi and space strategy games. If you look at the review scores in my site alone you would conclude that the best 4X space game of all time is Sins Trinity. I know some people state that Sins is a “light 4X”, I would love to hear why (because “it’s not like MoO2” is not really a valid answer). But the score doesn’t tell you everything because Sins is in many ways different from MoO2. That’s why I hate comparisons and that’s why I rank games in my reviews based mostly on the games themselves, without unnecessary comparisons. Moreover as you can see I only reviewed a fairly small number of 4X space games to date (we are a very small team still) so it’s hard to say exactly where DW RotS ranks.

      I think GalCiv2 with the expansions lies somewhere around RotS’s value but I’m not sure which I like more overall. After Legends I’ll let you know.

    • dayrinni says:

      I’d almost say that the technology tree and what is contained inside of it is one of the vital aspects in 4X progression and fun factors. It can add so many layers of depth, complexity and fun while still being simple to use (streamlined complexity I like to call it). Your example of the MoO2 with the lasers was great.

      I like DW but have some issues with it in the late game. I made post about it on the forums.

  7. Ermdog says:

    Thanks for your response. I asked that question before I read your review on DW and ROTS. After reading ROTS I pretty much made up my mind that I was going to get the game. I just wanted to see what others had to say about it before dishing out almost $70 on the game and expansion.

    As far as calling Sins Trinity “light”, I agree and disagree with that. Sins is a great 4x game, one that I have had fun with over and over, but I do feel it differs a bit from your MOO2 style 4x games. The biggest difference I feel, and I think many others feel, is that there is really no planetary management, or planetary building. It’s very simplistic with only allowing you to upgrade Infrastructure, Planet shields, and to Discover Artifacts. Yes I know you can build Trade Ports and Defense Platforms, but it still doesn’t offer the many building options that MOO2 had. Then again, Sins is not that type of game. There is no farming, no beakers for research, no axes for industry, and no toxic waste. Its all based on money, which works well for the game, but it really takes away from managing your planets. I think many people want that aspect in a game. They want to actually manage their planet, set taxes, decide if they want more for research or production. Sins is very simplistic where everything you do involves money…that’s it.

    Another gripe about Sins, is that there is no designing at all. You are stuck with the ships they provide you with and can only really modify them by upgrading the weapons and defense through research. Again, it works well for the game.

    Those are the 2 major things I can think of when trying to differ the two types of games. I’m not taking anything away from Sins, because it is one of my all time favorite games, but it just differs from most MOO2 style games. Sins excels very well in Space Combat. That is the main reason why the game is so good in my opinion. Their Diplomacy section is much improved since their last patch, but I still feel the best part is the combat, and that’s what really makes the game.

    All in all, both MOO2 and Sins are great games. They both play well and I have loads of fun with them. But what it really comes down to is, do I really want a RTS where I can create a giant fleet and destroy my enemy, or a more manageable approach where I can dig in and really decide how I want my planet to function, what kind of ships do I want to create, what buildings shall I build. Those to me, are the main factors in deciding what to play.

    • dayrinni says:

      I really like planet building so I dig games with that aspect. That in itself, is a progression system. You can envision what this planet will ultimately be and how it can help your empire/nation/etc. In MoO1, you KNEW those ultra rich planets were going to be very useful. In Civ, the city near a bunch of hills/resources would put out a lot of production. So you built the planet/city to be that way and reaped the benefits.

      I liked Sin, it was fun but just like you said, it was missing the planetary building aspect. It had fun ship to ship combat though – I enjoyed that a lot! I also thought the name was fantastic. It was really mind-provoking in my opinion.

    • Fernando Rey says:

      The problem here is that comparing Sins to MOO2 is very difficult, because even when they technically are in the same genre, they are world apart in terms of gameplay. The main differentiator though its that one is turn based and the other is in real time, that’s why and even though there have been “successful” “real time” 4x games(such as Pax Imperia:ED); SOASE is to me an RTS game and NOT a 4x game. Both genres have a lot in common, the 4Xs can be applied to both of them equally; but traditionally the 4X label goes to the grand scale turn based strategy games. IMHO comparing SOASE to MOO2 is like comparing HW2(Homeworld 2) to GC2(Galactic Civilizations 2). Now with that said, I just want to say that SOASE bored me much quicker than any other space game in history … Played 2 or 3 games only and never picked it up again. I am waiting for some cool B5(Babylon 5) mod to pick it up again really. The problem is that, although I love to see cool space ships going pew pew across space, without some grand strategy going behind curtains; I just can get immersed into the game. That’s the same reason why to this day I’ve played only 26 minutes of GSB(Gratuitous Space Battles) This is something that didn’t happen to me with HOI3(Hearts of Iron 3) and COH(Company of Heroes) for example, since I enjoyed both games a lot and I even would said I was addicted to COH for a while :) In any case I don’t know why the disparity really. To sum up and IMHO, a good 4X game should have the combat of SINS, or better yet N:TJI(Nexus:The Jupiter Incident), with the strategy of MOO2.

    • Adam Solo says:

      In Sins you can construct labs, trade centers, refineries, resource extractors and other military and civilian infrastructure. Although most are built in space there is significant structure building and management involved still, although not in the planet itself yes. So, Sins does offer structure building and management only not in a planet-centric way, so, I understand what you mean.

      “doesn’t offer the many building options that MOO2 had”. For us MoO2 will always be the reference, there’s no question about this :)

      There’s no ship design yes but that doesn’t make it less 4X because of that does it? It makes it less MoOish yes, and less rich in terms of features provided but not less 4X. Civilization has no “unit design”. Does that makes it less 4X? I think we some times confuse the genre 4X and “being or not like MoO2” which is different.

      Sins is not only based on money, there are 2 resources involved that are required for both research and construction if I’m not mistaken.

      I agree that Sins lives a lot around combat, and it’s not as complex as many other 4X games but it does provide all the aspects required to be considered 4X. It’s a different 4X than MoO2 no doubt. Like Distant Worlds is different from Star Ruler, from Space Empires, from Galactic Civilizations. Each focus more on some aspects.

      Defining 4X games isn’t easy. If you’re interested I recommend:

    • Adam Solo says:

      @Fernando Rey
      COH is an awesome game isn’t it? I devoured it, including the expansion. One of the best WW2 strategy games of all time in my opinion.

    • Adam Solo says:

      @Fernando Rey
      I think it’s not fair not to qualify Sins as 4X. I think this is a bit too strong of a statement “SOASE is to me an RTS game and NOT a 4x game”. I understand what you mean but technically it is 4X, at least for me. But I know it’s hard to define 4X, the borders are not always easy to grasp.

      I think you all agree with me that the Galactic Civilizations series games are traditional 4X games right? Well they don’t provide space combat. It’s purely cinematic (the same with Civ till the 4th installment, now Civ5 is more tactical). Combat is an important part of 4X gameplay and we don’t question if GalCiv2 is or not 4X. This was just an example to illustrate that MoO2, or GalCiv2 or Sins do not represent what the “4X genre” is. MoO2 is a 4X instance, a very rich and elegant one no doubt, but just that, an instance.

      The problem Fernando, let’s see if you agree, is that many people (to an extent me included) are traditional TBS players (of Stars!, ST BOTF, MoO2, GalCiv2, Space Empires, Civ, …), so we were “raised” with the belief that that was 4X. Look at Imperium Galactica II – Alliances (great 4X RTS), at Pax Imperia: Eminent Domain, Starships Unlimited: Divided Galaxies, Haegemonia: Legions of Iron, Distant Worlds and Sins of a Solar Empire. All RTS and all 4X in my opinion.

      There are different mechanics (TBS, RTS, mix) and different flavors for everybody (w/ ship design, wo /ship design, more tactical combat, auto-resolve, more micromanagement, less micromanagement, complex colony building, light colony building – distant Worlds offers very few colony buildings BTW, does it make it a “light 4X” too? ;). And that’s what makes 4X games one of the best genre that is.

    • Fernando Rey says:

      @Adam Solo
      I second that motion Sir, COH to me is the best RTS game ever; and if not THE best, at least it should be in the top 3 for sure. And that’s said after playing all C&C games(except the last one because, which half way through the beta I realized it was going to pretty much suck), all of Blizzards “crafts” ;) and even some “hidden” gems like RON/ROL(Rise of Nations/Rise of Legends). Nevertheless if I wasn’t such a fan of “realism” in games, I think Starcraft 2 could be considers better; at least it’s the most successful for sure. But even among the raging flames in the trenches of Relics’ game, sometimes I miss the “excitement” of managing the build queue and passing laws in HOI3 ;)

      • Adam Solo says:

        Same feeling here. If you are an RTS fans happening to read this (of the traditional RTS type of games like starcraft, C&C, age of empires, etc) you like the WW2 background and you didn’t try Company of Heroes yet, you’re in luck, you have the perfect game to try next :)

    • Fernando Rey says:

      @Adam Solo (sorry I missed your 2nd post before replying)
      In part I do agree with what you are saying, because part of the problem is the old definitions we are using today; but it isn’t really how we grew up with the terms, it’s more how the genre itself has yet to grow up. I mean the 4X concept has almost 20 years of existence, it’s time for it to get an update. The real problem is that RTS(C&C, COH & HW2) games and “MOO2 like”(for lack of a better term) games, are both part of the same genre(4X); however they should be classified in different sub genres. But since we don’t have a name for “like MOO”, we use 4X and that’s wrong in my opinion. It’s the same problem that happened with the “shoot’em up” genre in the late nineties, it splinted up into at least two sub genres; TPS and FPS. Calling BF3 a “shoot’em up” nowadays it’s totally weird, even if it’s correct; but this hasn’t happened to the 4x genre yet. We call SOASE and MOO2 4x games when, although still 4x games at heart, they belong in different sub genres or categories. I am pitching for TBG2S or Turn Based Grand Scale Strategy, but that’s just me and whatever crazy game comes out of my midnight coding ;) What do you guys think? Should a new sub genre be created? And if it should exist, what should it be named?

      • Adam Solo says:

        @Fernando Rey
        That’s a great debate you’re opening right there Fernando. Probably the best would be to discuss that in the Space Sector forums. If you want to create a thread there I think it would be very well received by the community.

        The short answer, a quick one without thinking too much about this, is that I think it would be a bit confusing perhaps, to come up with new subgenres? When we say “4X RTS” today we know (more or less) what to expect (when we say 4X TBS there’s no doubt in any people’s mind I guess). If we go with “4X TBG2S” we lose people. But it’s a very interesting debate to have for sure.

        As someone said (can’t recall the source) MoO2 made (forged) the 4X space game concept itself. It’s very hard for us 4X space enthusiasts to get away from that fact. I don’t know, a poor unsufficiently un-thinked parralel would be Wolfenstein 3D (or Doom) made the FPS genre? Sorry if I made an offense here, I like FPS but they’re not my alley.

        And calling HW2 and C&C 4X games it’s not commonly accepted as valid (I think HW2 doesn’t even qualify for all 4X stages – doesn’t have eXpansion right?) although many of these do contain the 4X phases in a purely technical sense. I think what makes 4X games special (the ones that are in your mind and mine) is complexity and scale (as you also put it) among other things. I wrote an article about 4X definition some time ago (one of the links I provided you in a previous post). This is not an easy topic, and that’s a very exciting thing :)

    • Ermdog says:

      Thanks Solo, I did forget there are resources in Sins, but you got my drift about planetary management.

      But yes I do agree Sins is a 4x game no question, just not a “traditional” 4x Turn Based game. I was going to say to sub categorize them into RTS and TBS 4x, but I think you touched on that topic and said it could get confusing, cause TBG2S confused me, lol. All in all it really doesn’t matter because it is a 4x game, it’s just people, like you said, base it off the traditional MOO2 TBS game.

      Another aspect that makes MOO2 better from all the rest, is their research. By this I mean you really had to decide what tech you wanted because once you pick that tech from that category, the other techs in that category were no longer available. Of course you could get them from stealing techs, adding points in research in the beginning, or being the Pslions (my favorite race). Now I always loved being the Pslions because I wanted all the techs i could get my dirty mitts on, but there were times I would mix it up and choose a different race or not put points in research, and it really made you think what you wanted to get as well as made you feel that everything you researched mattered. I think that was a very important part of making the game so great.

      GalCiv2 failed on this part because you can pretty much get anything you want, so it was really a matter of what I want first. I also like what SOTS did with their research by randomizing tech each time you played. I think that offered a lot of variety in the game

      Altogether I think some people want to be able to access every tech, hell I sure did, but it really made it fun when you had to choose only 1 and how much it affects what you do in the game

    • Fernando Rey says:

      In the latest GC2 expansion, they compensated for that with empire specific tech trees. Something that, although cool and relatively new, does not offer an unpredictable tech tree; like MOO2 and SOTS. Besides it doesn’t address custom species originality, since they are always tied to another species. All in all I think the best solution is to have a randomized tech tree, not for all techs of course; all but the essentials really.

      @Adam Solo
      I agree this should be better covered somewhere else, hopefully I’ll take some time off today and write something coherent in the forums. But I just wanted to say that your 4X TBS, it’s the equivalent of TBG2S(or whatever you guys want to name “like MOO” games), however RTS is RTS without the 4X prefix. Finally I just wanted to point out that all RTS games are 4X by definition, so that shouldn’t be a problem.

      • Adam Solo says:

        @ Fernando Rey
        I don’t agree with your last sentence “Finally I just wanted to point out that all RTS games are 4X by definition, so that shouldn’t be a problem.”. I do understand what you mean but your sentence is false. Many RTS games do have some “4X elements”, but let’s leave it there shall we :). So, for you Homeworld would a 4X game, the same for StarPoint Gemini or Space Pirates and Zombies (just to name a few). Think not :)

        4X definition is hard, borders are unclear, but you were off the mark with that one. It takes more than just having each of the four Xs to be considered 4X games. Look here (a definition I do agree with) for example:

      • Fernando Rey says:

        @Adam Solo
        I was after the original meaning of the term 4X and not exactly what we expect from the term, these are two different things. I know that Wikipedia entry, have been there plenty of times and that doesn’t refutes or corroborates anything really; my point still stands. RTS games, in addition to fulfilling all the Xs(which is THE definition of the genre), have many of the features 4X TBS games have; which is no surprise to me since I believe they belong to the same parent genre which is 4X.

        The only real difference is scale, RTS games tend to have a much smaller scale; but that’s not always the case. There also the issue of relative scale, SOASE seems big; but all you’ve got is like 20 planets and hundreds of ships. That’s really not far away from a Supreme Commander game, the thing is that since your see ships in space; it seems like gigantic. I know all this can seem “controversial”(So to speak), but just because an idea challenges the status quo; it should not warrant any less attention.

        To sum up: due to all this I believe yes, that games like Homeworld are 4x games; just not the same 4x games you think I mean ;) Well whatever we call them, I think we can all agree we love them; so I believe the utility of this discussing this any further, is hardly any at all :D

        • Adam Solo says:

          I agree… with your last sentence ;) Well, I agree with more things you’ve said, I’m just teasing. And there’s always room for a good discussion, although after this point things start to get fuzzy because the concept is not 100% clear.

          Calling Homeworld a “4X game” is however a bit over the top, to say the least. In this case not even all the 4X elements per se are present in my opinion (not to mention everything else that is required on-top of that to make games 4X). For instance, in Homeworld, you eXplore (the scenario map) yes; you eXploit the resources yes; you eXterminate your opponents mission after mission, yes. What about eXpand….? “Expand means players claim new territory by creating new settlements, or sometimes by extending the influence of existing settlements”. I don’t recall having the ability to construct new mother ships or “settlements”… What about diplomacy? Not to talk about scale and complexity. So, I don’t think so :)

          PS: You also said this:
          «(…)my point still stands. RTS games, in addition to fulfilling all the Xs(which is THE definition of the genre), have many of the features 4X TBS games have; which is no surprise to me since I believe they belong to the same parent genre which is 4X”.

          I think you’re a bit confused with all this genre thing. Calling Homeworld a 4X game was a bit over the top but reading that RTS and TBS are 4X subgenres (if I understood your point correctly) is strange. RTS and TBS are strategy genres (maybe types would be a more appropriate term). They define the game pace mechanic (how you play). 4X is a strategy genre that defines more a style of gameplay (a particular set of gameplay mechanics – what you play). TBS and RTS can or not be 4X games.

          Check here: It’s a good source for clarifying genre stuff. I tend to agree with most if not all said there.

  8. Larry says:

    I think consistent progression is important. I have experienced games that are underwhelming or overwhelming – leaving me with too little or too much to do.

    I’m playing a bout of Sword of the Stars for now, and I’m colonizing and developing some systems. It is taking a long time. There are systems I haven’t explored, but managing each production queue at each of my systems is too much tedium for me. The problem could be avoided by production lists and waypoints.

    I’m disheartened to hear that people dislike lengthy research. One of the things I’d like to avoid in my own project is the tech well running dry. I’d hate an endgame where I had researched everything and the only thing left to do was mop the floor. I was considering attempting an infinite research system, where each advance earned diminishing returns. Is it that going from “Lasers 1” to “Lasers 2” is just annoying?I was intending to avoid an iterative naming scheme and just let costs and statistics represent development.

    • Adam Solo says:

      Ditto. The technical term for your first paragraph is what’s called “The Flow”. For a nice progression there should never be too easy or too hard events for you, but the appropriate level and amount. You must feel that your skills are appropriate to the game challenges.

      Regarding short research yes, it’s a major problem. For instance people have been complaining that same thing about Armada 2526. Supernova, Armada 2526’s expansion, did introduce some more techs and after a patch you can now set research speed, but it all seems a bit too short still. I know of other developers which are also pursuing this “infinite research system”. It’s really something that would innovate the genre. That and randomness in the tech tree, although that is not complete innovative since MoO1 and SotS do offer some research randomness, however it’s still a bit uncommon to find in 4X games these days, and surely needed in my opinion.

    • Fernando Rey says:

      I can’t really see that problem with the design I favor, a tech victory is all it takes to remove this issue from the table and it actually adds much more to the game by increasing the available strategies to win exponentially. However a tech victory should be something significant in the lore and not just an indication that the research tree is complete.

      For example in Civilization you have the spaceship victory, which is a kind of research victory(industry aside, however gets the techs first, is likely to win); with a lot of lore behind. In a 4X game a research end project could be to travel to another galaxy or evolve into energy beings for example.

      In any case both tech victories add a lot to the lore and even could serve as the basis for the concept of the game. At least to me, a 4X game without research and diplomatic victory conditions at least, can get boring very quickly. There are ways around the micro manage hell of build queues as well, but let’s leave those for another day.

      • Larry says:

        I think all of which could be compatible with the systems I and others have proposed. Due to practical limitations – which I won’t delve into – it is fundamentally impossible to have a truly infinite tech tree. It would be very possible to have a percent tech tree completed victory or a tech unlock victory.

        Different ways to play, and I think that’s a good thing.

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