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How to Tackle Build Micromanagement Tedium in 4X Games?

By on December 11th, 2012 8:35 am

This is an old problem and always a recurring one in 4X games, as we were discussing the other day.

How to deal with excessive micromanagement in 4X games? Especially when dealing with developing your management units (cities, colonies, planets, star systems), designated as MUs from this point forward.

One answer would be to go macro, abstracting the concepts as much as possible so that it is not required for players to manage all the details, but only take high-level decisions, that is, to macromanage.

Master of Orion | Simtex, MicroProse

For instance, in Master of Orion you don’t construct individual buildings, you just decide the amount of focus that is devoted to industry or ecology infrastructure and you’re done. Sword of the Stars takes a similar approach. The “slider management” approach. A high-level decision approach.

But, many people love to decide what buildings they want to build next and actually see them physically standing in their MUs. See the spaceport, the barracks, the factories, the wonders. This helps making a connection between the player and the game to maximize the experience. It helps with immersion, no doubt.

Master of Orion 2 | Simtex, MicroProse

But, this is all fine when you have to manage 2, 5 or even 10 MUs. But, when you reach 15 or 20, things start to become sluggish, but it’s probably still bearable to some people. However, more than 20 MUs and the game becomes too tedious and then there’s micromanagement hell. This is the case with Master of Orion 2.

What to do?

Solution 1: Use the AI to handle a portion of the micromanagement

This has been done but not in a completely satisfactory way. We’ve seen it in previous Civilization installments (Civ 3 for example), but not anymore (Civ 5). Sid Meier (or the Civ lead designers of the time) realized that AI Governors just couldn’t be made in a satisfactory way, at least not when they have full control of a MU. So, they limit the AI Governors’ actions to certain aspects but don’t let them decide what to build next. That is fully the player’s responsibility. But then we still have micromanagement hell.

Civilization 5 | Firaxis Games, 2K

Remark: It’s true that Civilization 5 has this “puppet” system that lets the AI take full control of a conquered city (if you want), but that doesn’t violate the principle of “not take away control from player”. You see, the player acknowledges that he gives away that power to the AI because it’s part of the gameplay mechanic that a puppet is a city that is self-sufficient but not really integrated in your empire. So, players accept the sub-optimal city development of the AI as it is an integrating part of an acceptable gameplay aspect. Very clever Mr. Jon Shafer.

Master of Orion 2 also had governors but they were also not good enough. So, people just managed the all thing themselves and got frustrated.

Conclusion

Leaving the task of managing our cities and planets to the AI doesn’t seem to be the answer, or at least no one has figured out how to make it fully work yet. The problem I see is that leaving the tasks to the AI to handle things violates the 4X game principle: never take away the control from the player on important gameplay aspects. And, MU’s are the critical gameplay aspect in any 4X game.

Humans just don’t trust machines to do the job yet. We are just not good enough at programming the AI to do the tasks as well as we do, because that would require that we understand well enough how we make decisions in the first place. The fact is that we simply don’t :)

Solution 2: Use gameplay systems to limit the number of management units

So, if you can’t trust the AI and still want to manage the thing yourself there’s only one solution you would say: “Reduce the number of management units (cities, planets)”.

So, what games that focus on micromanagement usually do is to limit the number of MUs the player has to manage. Or better, to incentivize the player to manage fewer MUs and develop vertically instead. Building powerful space colonies or big metropolis and not really dozens and dozens of settlements.

Civilization 5 | Firaxis Games, 2K

These limiting gameplay systems are usually: corruption, happiness or war wariness. We see them in almost all 4X games in one form or the other. Of course these are very difficult aspects to balance right, so you usually need several iterations with the fan base, and release a few patches in the meantime, before everybody is more or less satisfied with the mechanics.

Conclusion

Reducing the number of MUs surely helps, but it also reduces the scope of a game to probably no more than 20 MUs, otherwise it becomes too much to handle. This may work quite well for historic 4X games like Civilization but not as quite for epic space opera settings where one has to manage an entire galaxy with millions and millions, ok :), dozens and dozens of systems.

Your turn

So, what’s your take on this issue? Do you like to micromanage your MUs? What other systems could be devised to deal with excessive micromanagement when developing cities and planets? Is the answer just to reduce the number of MUs, that is, reducing the amount of cities and planets you can control? Should the game designer just pick a management model and stick to it? That is, either go with the macromanagement model, meaning sliders and high-level indicators which allow the designer to offer a bigger scope? Or go fully with the micromanagement model which allows fine detail but also means a reduced scope and fewer MUs to handle?

One thing is clear. If you want to go the micromanagement road be prepared to offer gameplay systems to help the player handle the situation because if the player needs to manage more than 15-20 MUs directly, chances are that your game will not be very successful since it will neither appeal to macromanagers nor to micromanagers.

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96 Comments


  1. caekdaemon says:

    You should take a look at Hearts of Iron 3 if you think those games are heavy in the micro.

    I have to automate the military in that game. It’s too hard to control by myself :O

    • Adam Solo says:

      I didn’t play a Hearts of Iron game yet, but I understand they are not 4X games, right? Of course, micromanagement issues may apply to all sorts of strategy games, but I was particularly looking at the specificities of 4X games, and particularly when developing cities or planets.

      • caekdaemon says:

        Hearts of Iron isn’t much of a 4x, but the Europa Universalis series could. It features exploration ( Going to the new world and all that ), expanding (Placing colonies or conquering your neighbors provinces) exploiting (developing your provinces or researching new tech) and a hell of a lot of exterminating.

        Hearts of Iron features a lot of of them all, aside from exploration, since the world is already mapped.

        They are their own genre, though. Grand Strategy, but they overlap with 4x quite a bit :P

      • JD says:

        Correct, HoI is a grand strategy game (operational wargame on some levels) like Europea Unversalis

    • Towerbooks3192 says:

      That is my downfall in Hearts of Iron and the reason why I didn’t get into the game. I prefer to control everything by myself and for me only Europa Universalis 3 and Crusader Kings 2 is manageable. Hearts of Iron 3 and Football manager 2013 are 2 of the games that no matter how hard I try, I failed to get in because I want to handle everything myself

  2. BTAxis says:

    One mechanic that exists in many 4Xes and that hasn’t really been mentioned in the article is aids to increase management intervals per MU over time. The typical example here is the construction queue. For early MUs a player might want to choose each building/asset separately, but as the number of MUs increases and each individual MU becomes less vital for the empire’s well-being it becomes more practical to slap a predefined building queue onto it, allowing that MU to be left alone for a prolonged period of time.

    This doesn’t solve the underlying problem of management overflow, but it helps to keep it in check.

    • Adam Solo says:

      Yes, of course. Having building queues is essential, and they do help mitigate the problem. However, and as you say, they are not sufficient per se to tackle the micro issue. Master of Orion 2 already offered building queues that although helpful didn’t feel satisfactory enough because priorities may change in the meantime. But building queues are an essential tool to mitigate micro I agree.

      • Sledge Hammer says:

        In Master of Orion you still had to fill each building queue, and you could only fill 10 or so.
        It would have helped a lot to save and edit different building queues.
        Having queues for military, economy, research etc.

        I think you can keep the good things of micro and still manage it without clever AI by some really good queue management.
        Maybe the AI could help prefilling queues/ optimizing queues.

  3. Sam says:

    “Leaving the task of managing our cities and planets to the AI doesn’t seem to be the answer, or at least no one has figured out how to make it fully work yet.”

    The author doesn’t seem to have anything to say, or at least they haven’t figured out how to say it yet.

    • Adam Solo says:

      What I mean with that sentence is that I’m still to experience an AI Governor system that is satisfying enough in 4X games. I gave the example of Civilization, where fully fledged AI Governors were a feature in Civ3 but then that was taken out in Civ’s 5th installment in favor of limited scoped AI Governors and sub-optimal AI governors in the case of the “puppet” system.

      So, using AI Governors to reduce micromanagement does’t seem to be the answer. But if they are I’m still to play a 4X game that satisfies me on that respect (when they are available which is not so common).

      Moreover, this is more a “raise the discussion” article. I don’t have the answers unfortunately.

  4. Eleazzaar says:

    * Endless Space makes the clever decision to make the entire system with a few exceptions, the management unit.

    * Some other 4X kickstarter will allow you to merge planets into a Dyson sphere to create a single management unit

    * When I see games go the other way, and offer you multiple colonies per planet, I cringe.

    * for Free Orion if we have a mechanic that looks like something many players will want an AI to handle later in the game, as a rule we throw it out, or take it back to the sewing board. If it isn’t fun for the player, then it doesn’t need to be in the game.

    * Another way FreeOrion lightens the micro-burden is with a global building pool. Production points are pooled and managed from a single screen.

    • Adam Solo says:

      I think you hit the spot when you say “clever decision to make the entire system (…) the management unit”.

      I also think that is one of the problems here. Not particularly for Civ games or other 4X games which deal with cities, but more of an extra problem for space 4X games when one needs to manage many planets which are part of the same system. This complicates things a bit. It’s realistic but is it really necessary?

      As you say, Endless Space managed to tackle this system-planet dichotomy in a clever way and you don’t feel that bothered with micro-management. And, they have building queues and you can re-order tasks if I recall correctly. So, micromanagement hassle is probably Endless Space’s least of problems to worry about.

      Game designers need to be very careful when deciding what can and cannot be a managing unit. Managing systems, planets and even moons can really sound cool in paper, but if in the end that translates into >20 MUs total, spread over several management layers, you may end up screwing up everything.

      Keep it simple.

      • Eleazzaar says:

        Totally agree.

        That’s the big problem with galactic 4X games, realism is constantly pushing toward game mechanics and features that sound cool, but actually make it harder to make the game fun (at least for the general 4X TBS audience). To make it trickier, 4X players tend to value realism, and assume that realism makes the game better.

        So the designers have a fine line to walk between making the game over complicated and tedious, and violating reality in a way that will ignore the fans. You can’t totally win, any remotely successful galactic 4x ignores major bits of reality, like the light speed barrier, the immense size of the galaxy, etc.

  5. hakkarin says:

    I wonder when the review for the “Enhanced edition” of swords of the Stars 2 will be out. Anyways a nice article!

    • Adam Solo says:

      I’m half way there. SotS2 is a tough one to crack you know. And now that it doesn’t crash it really takes time to learn how to play and actually play :) I’ll try my best for this week still.

  6. Rodrigo says:

    About Master of Orion 2 :
    “becomes too tedious and then there’s micromanagement hell”…
    I don’t think soo.
    Master of Orion 1 , It’s very minimalist. I don’t like it too much.
    I think buildings it’s better and you can see almost all buildings at colony at one sight.
    Sword of Stars it’s good , But it’s too simplist either.
    The Better is take a option to choose at beggining.
    Want :
    X – Simplist Game , X – Building Game , X – Micromanagement Hell (Like Endless Space , Master of Orion 3 , etc)

    • Adam Solo says:

      I agree with you when you say “The better is take a option to choose at the beginning”.

      Part of this article’s point was to raise awareness to this issue, so that game designers be aware of this before jumping into hasty implementations that look good on paper but that are simply not fun to play in the end.

      Be careful with the amount of MUs you request the player to manage. Do you offer a lot of depth on colony development, with lots of buildings? Then perhaps you should offer only a layer of MUs (maybe just systems) and even so don’t go with too many (e.g. <20).

      If, on the other hand, your colony management is light, like in Distant Worlds for example, you're freer to increase the game's scope a bit and let the player colonize and manage >20MUs.

  7. Marc says:

    I thought alot about this when playing my x4 games. time and time again id get frustrated cause i cant have that galaxy spanning empire that ive always wanted. Then id realize i have trouble enough managing the dozens of systems already. Like adam mentioned i love seeing my colonies develop seeing the buildings and so on and allowing other to marvel at what i have created it does add to the immersion and makes the game all that more playable.

    But once again it becomes tedious after you grow to maybe 20+ and with MOO3 (mock me all you want i love the game) i just started giving up and letting the AI do all the heavy lifting and concentrating on just what my home system was doing.

    In my opinion AI is the answer as time progresses AI will get better and better to the point where it will be able to manage things effectively. But also i believe that variable abstraction should be used.

    by variable abstraction on the micro and macro scale which allows the user to zoom in on a planet and the more you zoom the more into the micro you get. and vice verse the more you zoom out the more you get into the macro sliders sort of thing.

    This would allow i think for what i like to call selective management, on a rather smooth implementation. Players could micro all they wished on certain things whilst leaving the AI and some Macro settings to manage the rest.

    Say you have a space empire and is threatened by another one and your attention is needed on your border worlds you would be able to micro all you need within those world and then still zoom out and quickly move across the rest of your empire setting the rest of your Empire to work on tasks on a macro level.

    • Adam Solo says:

      Great idea. Sounds complicated, but looks good on paper :)

      I particularly liked your example of micromanaging a frontier system and then quickly zoom out and still be able to take care of everything in the inner empire fast and easy. That’s something I definitely would like to try out. If it works or not it’s a completely different story :)

      • Marc says:

        Aye on paper its a good design theory I am in no way competent enough to design and program and example for it yet though, but is something that i have vowed to look into once i feel i am at a stage in my career where i can feasibly put it to practice. Most likely in a small indy game lol.

        I take my inspiration from App development mostly, where abstraction is key to most apps. Time and time again you see the problem of either to much detail or to little detail and i figured why not have a method where you can dig down into a level you are comfortable at and play from there. It allows flexibility x4 game that ive never seen before.

        But like others have said trying to cater for everyone could mean ending up disappointing everyone as well. I see the flaws in my idea but i think the merits certainly out way them.

    • Wodzu says:

      That is exactly what I would want:) Few levels of abstraction. It is also the hardest way to do:) If not implemented correctly – it might broke whole game:)

      But I would love to be able to jump to a planet which I want and to chose particulr building to build, or move that one colonist to a research field. And when my race is growinga I would like to move some sliders, check some checkboxes and forget about that planet:)

      And when my colony grows even more, I would like to put some sliders and check boxes on a system level (so it would affect all planets in a given system).

      Or even let me select few systems, group them like you are grouping objects in 3D modeling program and setup rules for its further developement:)

  8. Mezmorki says:

    The key to a successful approach, in my mind, is two fold:

    (1) Balance the amount of detail within a MU to match the targeted scope of the game.

    (2) Give players easy to implement tools to manage their MU’s in an automated way (if desired) that embodies a STRATEGIC choice.

    Endless Space does #1 really well in my mind. At the scale of the “galaxy” star systems should function as collective units in my mind. Getting into the weeds of spatial placement of individual buildings on a planet’s surface is rediculous relative to what should be the STRATEGIC focus of a 4X game. Placing buildings is a nice detail but it’s not relevant.

    Starbase Orion (iOS app) does an excellent job with #2. The game goes beyond having a build “cue” (although it does have one as well) in allowing you to setup a “custom build order” for your planets. Based on the type of planet you want to make (e.g. research, industrial, food production, etc…) you can choose a custom build that provides an ordered list of ALL possible planet improvements that you can customize. As you unlock new buildings/technologies, the buildings get added into the cue.

    Of course you can override the custom build orders at any time, but it is the perfect tool to let you establish pre-set MU management approaches that can easily be applied and tracked. And it gives the players the tools to understand and manage that custom build order.

  9. zigzag says:

    There’s no one approach that satisfies everyone. Personally, I fall heavily in favor of Solution 2. I like games with small scopes and few mechanics. Others like sprawling games. Developers need to choose which crowd to please or risk satisfying no one.

    • Adam Solo says:

      I guess you’re right. The holy grail here would be to find a system that would please both macro and micromanagers. Something inline with what Marc was saying above about zooming in and offering all the detail you want for micros and zooming out offering less and less detail for macros. This sounds cool but also sounds quite difficult to design. Picking in Marc’s example, you could zoom in if there’s trouble in a border system and then quickly zoom out and be able to take care of the inner systems in a high-level way. Here’s a good challenge.

      • Eleazzaar says:

        That sounds good in theory, but you are vastly more likely to end up with a game that appeals to one or neither of the groups.

        Even if you had a magically perfect management AI to govern the micro you don’t care about, how is that AI supposed to know the human rulers grand strategy and do the micro in accordance with it?

        If there is micro in a game, the best results will always come to those who manage the micro- at least for the foreseeable technological future. That means for those of us who don’t enjoy micro, we need to spen time doing micro chores, or hand over the advantage to those who do.

      • Marc says:

        Yeh ill agree my approach would be pretty difficult to implement but offers that all around satisfaction. the way id do it is via zoom levels. Distant worlds does what i mean a little bit you can zoom in to individual planets and yet zoom out and select the whole system in general.

        It allows you to go where your attention is needed and when you have time satisfy everything else at the click or the change of a slider or two. The levels can be endless as well and i don’t see to much of a problem in the layers either. you could zoom in to individual planets which could contribute to a system which also contributes to a sector and so on. Digging down the abstraction levels is key to what in envision.

        • Marc says:

          (no way to edit my above post)

          To answer the question the AI would work to set parameters that the player sets you want a certain sector to concentrate on building up its industry then you change a few sliders in the abstraction view your choose and the AI will work to them parameters you have set if you want a planet to say concentrate on mining then you move down the layers and set its focus to mining industrial facilities.

      • zigzag says:

        I’m with Eleazzaar in that I don’t find this solution satisfying. I like zooming, and I think that it’s a better interface solution than separate screens. The problem, though, is that once you start giving the macromanagers what they want, i.e., really big universes, you prevent the micromanagers from doing what they want efficiently. I dislike Distant Worlds for this reason, for example.

  10. Zeraan says:

    This is the core problem that I’ve been very careful to address in my game. On one hand, MoO 1 is very good at macromanagement. If you research a new item that your planets can develop, such as improved eco restoration or planetary shields, it asks you if you want to assign production to that (0%, 25%, 50%, or 75%). It makes sweeping changes. However, the planets become abstracted away, and you don’t really feel attached to the planets except for those rich/artifacts ones.

    On the other hand, MoO 2 is very micromanagement-intensive. You have to go to each planet and assign something to the queue if you just researched a new building or designed a new ship. Since there’s no obvious penalty other than a slightly increased maintenance cost in building those shiny new buildings, all planets become the same. All planets will have automated factories, hydroponic farming, etc. While the approach is different from MoO 1, the end result is the same, you start to not care about planets since they’re almost the same, except for the rich/artifacts one.

    So there’s actually two problems here: Management and the MUs themselves. If MUs start becoming similar, then what’s the point of management? It will become tedious because each MU is not interesting enough to differentiate itself from others.

    This is what I plan to do to address those two issues in Beyond Beyaan. Let me address the second one first so that you can understand why I’m approaching the first one in a certain way.

    The root issue with MU’s being similar is that the economy is abstracted away into “Money” or equivalent, with maybe a few extras such as Iron or Horses in Civilization 4. So each MU can perform about the same with others, with some bonuses/penalties (Poor/Ultra Poor or Rich/Ultra Rich in MoO 1/2) For “extra resources”, there’s no buildings that take advantage of those that I know of, just units that require them to be built. Same with “Research” and “Industry”.

    But if there’s more to the economy system, we can encounter a problem where there’s too many resources to manage and keep track of, and the player feels overwhelmed. So the trick is to find a balance of number of resources.

    In Beyond Beyaan, I plan on having maybe 6 main resources (Ores, Rare Metals, Radioactives, Crystals, Gases, and Exotic Matter), along with the generic “BC” or money resource, and a planet can have maybe at most 2 or 3 of those available for mining. Industry and Research are split into 6 fields, one for each resource. So Research will actually consume resources, instead of “magically generated”. Each building, ship, equipment, technology, etc will require 1 or more resources to be developed.

    So, there’s 6 mining regions, 6 industry regions, and 6 research regions. Not too many, enough to differentiate the planets, but still can overwhelm the player if the management aspect is not done correctly. Can you imagine trying to find planets that has Radioactives if the management is not done in a way to assist you?

    Now with the 6 resources in mind, I’ll address the first problem, management. The problem is that there’s either “Apply to All” control (Think MoO 1’s prompt after researching something) or “Apply to One” control (individually managing each planet), but nothing in between. There’s no “Apply to Many” or “Apply to Few”.

    I’ve had experience with databases, and that is where I draw my inspiration from. You can set filter parameters and retrieve only what you want to see. You can also apply changes to certain rows that match your search criterias. So for Beyond Beyaan, in beginning, you’ll manage planets individually, but as your empire grows, it will become very tedious to manage them individually, so you switch to “Planet Management” screen. Here you can set filters to view only planets that matches your search criterias, and you can make changes to all of those filtered planets.

    Let’s say for example, you have 2 planets with Radioactives resource available in your 100+ planets empire, and you want to add 2 Radioactive Mining to each of the planets. So you specify “Has Radioactives and Is Owned By Me”, and it will display only those two planets. Then you click on “Add Region” and click on “Radioactive Mining” twice, and presto! Each of those two planets now have two radioactive mining queued up.

    Say, if you want to build some very expensive ships, and you want only planets with at least 5 industry regions that produces the appropriate type of industry (Ores and Radioactives for example), you can specify that, and it will give you a list of planets with at least 5 industry regions. You can then remove some planets that’s already working on something, then click on “Ships” and click on “Very Expensive Ship”, and presto! It is added to every selected planet’s queue.

    The controls will be almost the same as managing an individual planet. You can add projects, buildings, regions, etc to queues. The only difference is that it’s now multiple planets, carefully filtered to match your needs. No need for AIs here!

    • Mezmorki says:

      The filtering/querying aspect of empire management is a good idea. I wish more games empowered you to manage your empire comprehensively at a bigger scale.

    • JD says:

      This filtering system is very good idea Brent. Pax Imperia 2 had this also, although not as detailed as you describe.

    • David Karnok says:

      The drawback of such approach is the way you present filtering options to the user.

      Either you have to list a ton of options, using up valuable screen space; or have a general input field where the user has to type in some code (e.g., population >= 500 and queue.length = 0). And then you have to provide a way to save and recall filter settings.

      I’m faced with this issue a lot in my professional life and way #2 is usually too complicated for the end users, not to mention the inner programming language.

  11. Zeraan says:

    Oh, I got ninja’d lol

  12. Josh Thomson says:

    I actually really enjoy micromanagement cause im a boring bastard. It adds depth and makes you think a bit, when i play a 4X game that has barely any micromanagement I feel a bit sad, like the games lacking something.

    • Mezmorki says:

      I play 4X games in hopes of finding a real “strategic” gameplay experience. If you are playing a game and are bored because of a “lack” of micromanagement that may indicate that the game doesn’t possess any strong or interesting strategic level decisions that keep you engaged.

      I can’t help but feeling that sometimes games end up with a high levels of Micromanagement because there ISN’T a clear sense, at a broader level, of what the game is trying to achieve in terms of depth and strategy. So the dev’s pour in all this detail without a sense of how it plays out in the big picture.

      Detail and complexity doesn’t automatically make a game deeper – it just makes it more challenging to understand and operate. I say all this coming from the boardgame design world – where the balance between complexity and actual depth is vital for a game to be successful. Complexity that doesn’t amount to anything is largely pointless from the standpoint of creating a high level of strategy.

      I should add, that excessive detail doesn’t mean it’s a bad game – it just caters to a different audience.

      • Josh Thomson says:

        You make a point. But what i mean is that some games don’t have enough micromanagement in and make you feel like you are not in control. Endless SPace for example which i felt was a real letdown and unenjoyable had barely any micromanagement coupled with strange solar system/planet upgrades and an awful combat mechanic really didn’t agree with me.

        I think a sensible amount of micro-management can add depth and immersion to a game, but obviously the game should be good beforehand and not have micromanagement as something to shroud the fact that the game is lacking in depth itself.

        Dwarf Fortress has an absurd amount of micromanagement plus an amazing base game, hell even the rollercoaster tycoon series has a lot of micromanagement, i normally spend days building and managing my park before ive even let visitors in!

        I also enjoy learning about a subject or a game before I can play it as I have done with Dwarf Fortress, FSX etc

        Learning is fun! Micromanagement can be fun when used sensibly and when used with a good game :)

        • Mezmorki says:

          I agree with you- it can be fun. I didn’t mind Endless Space’s system approach to micromanagement – but I would be happy with a little more depth there too. I like that improvements are made across the system – but it would have been nice to be able to allocate your population, across the system, to focus on different activities (e.g. food production, industry, research, or dust). Right now, I feel like most systems are pretty pre-disposed to a particular use and there isn’t much choice in terms of how it develops.

          And I also agree with the awful combat mechanics. I wasn’t too bothered by the “concept” (e.g. playing order cards) they were going for – but the details and implementation was miserable. I hate arbitrary fleet size limits too – totally stupid.

          I think Starbase Orion does a nice job balance the level of detail/micro in conflicts. Before the fight starts, players can issue orders to each of their ships governing their “movement” (close range, keep long range, evade, etc.) and “target priority” (weakest, closest, specific target etc.). It gives players a meaningful level of choice without having battles consume huge amounts of game time to resolve.

      • eleazar says:

        Well said, Mezmorki

  13. Mezmorki says:

    I also think a lot of games get caught up in obsessing over the MU’s at the expense of Strategy.

    I’d like to take the browser based 4X game “UltraCorps” as an example of a game that does “Strategy” (with a capitol “S” mind you :) really well.

    In UltraCorp, the systems/planets (and empire management in general) is boiled down almost to nothing. All that differentiates planets is the amount of Ultranium (the only resource in the game and used to build stuff) and Population that is generated each turn and the construction licenses that are on the planet (and you can buy a license to build anything if you want). Population grows overtime of course and essentially reflects the maximum amount of industrial outpost the system can generate each turn.

    Now – what makes the game strategically deep/interesting is the choice of which systems you choose to concentrate population + ultranium, using trade convoys to ship people + ultranium from outer systems to production centers that contain your big expensive licenses. The depth on the “empire management” side of the game come’s from optimizing and balancing the effectiveness of your trade routs to maximize production – and there are all subtleties in how you can do this most effectively.

    At the same time, your whole empire structure needs to consider its vulnerability and risks to attack. Enemy raiding fleets can disrupt your supply lines, especially for Ultranium, and stall production on core worlds. If you are too concentrated (e.g. one massive production world) you loose your flexibility to respond to localized threats because the distance between your production worlds and outlying worlds becomes greater and greater.

    Anyway – I could go on, but the game is a testament to how well thought out gameplay at the big strategic level doesn’t rely on having tons of micromanagement details. The MU’s are about as simple as it gets, but there are huge implications for how you choose to leverage the Ultranium + Population provided by each planet.

  14. Kordanor says:

    I only like Space games where I can actually have something to do “on” the planet – for me this slider option won’t work. I would just not build a connection to this specific planet, it has no personality. It becomes too obvious that it’s just another Game Object with different values.

    Endless Space clusters the Planets within a system – which just creates a different problem. Whether you have 10 Planets to manage in Game A or 10 Systems in Game B isn’t really much of a difference. But you lose some of the exploration factor and a planet itself has less value.
    Especially for space games I think that the eXploration part is huge. It’s an awesome feeling in MOO2 or GalCiv2 if you discover a new Gaia Planet and think “this will be my new Central Planet, I’ll completely focus on it!”. In Endless Space it’s more like adding values. If you find a good planet…well, doesnt matter that much if the rest in the system is crap. The system becomes it’s sum and that isn’t really that special to explore.

    AI in general is something I won’t use when it actually takes away decisions for me.
    Because that basically means that I am ok with not trying to get the best out of a special situation.
    The moment I would take an AI for doing this stuff, the game is already over.

    In an interview about an 4X Space game (Sorry, I really forgot which one, but I think it was on this site) I saw an Idea which was really overlooked in the past: Combining stuff.

    I think you could do a lot with game mechanics which allow you to combine different MUs.
    As an example: Let’s say you start your 4X game with a single ship and build a colony on a planet. Maybe you build a second colony on the same planet. Once this planet reaches a special point you could then “combine” the colony MUs to a planet MU, which then also exchanges the options of what you can do there. Instead of building a factory, you now build a industrial center and so on.
    So maybe next, you colonize another planet in your system. First only a colony again, lets say on a rocky moon, where you can’t really do much more than a mining outpost because of a missing atmosphere. You colonize another planet, first a colony, two colonies, it becomes a planet MU again, and so on. Now when you start colonize other Star Systems at one point where you would have like 10 Planets to manage you might be able to Combine like 3 different planet MUs within a Star System to a Star System MU. And all the conditions of the current status of your planets, their ressources and so on form the stats, development and potential of the new Star System Mu, where you now create even bigger projects which cover the whole system.

    With such a “combining” system, where you also give hard benefits for combining stuff, you would be able to limit the MUs a player has to deal with at any certain point without giving the control out of the player’s hands.

    • Kordanor says:

      I found the interview where I saw this idea: It was your MORE Kickstarter Interview.

      Though I like my explanation with the colonies and star systems better than theirs. ^^

      From the interview (M.O.R.E.):
      To do so, we will introduce advanced building queues and Dyson Spheres. If your star is suitable for this, and if you have proper technology and resources, you will be able to “destroy” all planets in the star system and create a Dyson Ring or Dyson Sphere. Instead of some planets and moons you will have a Dyson Structure which will provide better conditions for work and development for people living there.

      Dyson Sphere/Ring will be treated from now on as a single vast colony and its quality will depend on the quality of the planets present in the Star System from which it was built.

      • Adam Solo says:

        Totally agree on the exploration aspects. Finding a key MU is like the feeling of winning a small lottery. “Boy, with this I’m going to do this and that”. So, I completely agree when you say that MUs should be best dealt as single entities.

        However, you seem to contradict yourself a bit. About Endless Space, you say that systems combine planets and “the system becomes it’s sum and that isn’t really that special to explore.” but then you say “And all the conditions of the current status of your planets, their resources and so on form the stats, development and potential of the new Star System Mu”. I may not have understood completely but it seems there’s a conflict there. Or perhaps you’re saying that there should never be Planet and System MUs in the same system but only one of them. Or perhaps you’re saying that it’s preferable to have single entities in the exploration phase and then and only then start to combine these MUs into bigger MUs when the exploration phase is almost over.

        Yes, I had the impression it was MORE you were talking about, that proposes to combine smaller MUs into bigger MUs, those being Dysonian Spheres.

        I think they say basically what you said with other words, no?

        But, I liked your approach of combining stuff. Sounds complicated to design but also looks fun on paper.

      • eleazar says:

        I like the Dyson sphere idea, but i don’t think it entirely solves the problem. Once you transform a system into a single big Dyson MU, it will be pretty much like every other Dyson MU (maybe the stats or size will vary, but that doesn’t make one “special”), and have less personality and uniqueness than the original system.

        This has all the problems you criticize the EndlessSpace system-level MUs for, only more so.

      • Kordanor says:

        @Adam and eleazar:
        There are several elements playing together here and I see why you see a contradiction here. Well, what I had in mind was a little different “played out”, like you guessed in the second part.

        In Endless space you first look for a system with a planet to colonize. But some of the very first technologies are there for colonizing other planets, and it becomes stupid to not do it. It also doesn’t really cost more to colonize a Terra planet or a Lava planet. You just sum them together, also because there is almost nothing really unique about the individual planets. They are more like tiles in Civilization. There might be a tile with a mountain with gold. But you would not build a city there if there was just desert around it until later in the game when you build a city in each and every spot anyways.

        But if you put much stronger focus on the uniqueness of planets itself, also making terraforming much harder, this would look quite different. You might have systems with just a valuable mining outpost, systems with just a huge terra planet with millions or billions of inhabitans with 8 other planets around it which are basically dead, but maybe this one planet might be so “big” that it’s enough for a System MU instead of a planet MU. And not all uninhabited planets would just be implemented there. On a higher “management level” you will still be able to colonize them, but they will stll be high cost/low reward options.

        In addition exploration is especially nice in the beginning and mid game. But once the most of the universe is explored, the focus shifts. And now you can abstract a little bit. But of course a system with just one terra planet still needs to be worth more than another system with 6 “dead” planets. This for example is absolutely not the case for Endless Space, as the differences in value of the planets are very small and it’s very easy to colonize almost everything and in the end you could even terraform almost all planets.

        So like you guessed, what I meant is: Colony MUs on a planet can form Planet MUs. Planet MUs can Co-Exist with other colony MUs and Planet MUs in the same system until they eventually form a Star System MU, which still recognized the planets and colonies, but takes some of the stuff out of your hands (a bit like puppet states in Civ5) but gives you beneftis for that which make this a good choice.
        The decision about when you should be able to combine MUs is pretty much a balancing thing I’d say. Personally I’d say it should be balanced so that you never have more than 10-20 MUs besides of situations where the game is already decided.

        Yes, what I said is basically the same as was said by the MORE guys. I just meant that the picture of a dish with meat and vegetables looks nicer than a picture of a stew out of meat and vegetables. ;)

        Of course the implementation would be a challenge. But that said, Game Systems like these are probably easier to design and program than creating an AI people would accept to do their management stuff.

        Another Idea in this matter would be to make things like “planet destroyers” more valuable. In MOO2 these were basically just to harass the enemy on systems you could not hold anyways or – more likely – destroy planets just to not need to bother about systems anymore when you are going to win anyways.
        You could reward destroying Planets (and reducing MUs by doing so) by getting rare materials from inside the planets or somthing similar.
        And of course, this again needs to be implemented and balanced well to not end up with a universe full of partial planets flying around. ;)

        In the end it’s important to see what works and what doesn’t. And the systems which are easier to implement aren’t always the ones working best if you consider all circumstances. Much like turn based combat looks being easily implemented and suddenly becomes a challenge if you want to do a proper multiplayer implementation. But this…is a story for a different time. ;)

  15. Alex says:

    SOTS is sorta a limited 4x I wouldnt really consider it to have any thing relevant towards colony management. I think a game that struck good balance was Imperium Galactica I & II. They had a good balance and I wish they would come up with games as equally deep with epic scale battles rather than the stacked unit battles in IG2.

    • David Karnok says:

      IG1 could become tedious after 30 planets or so, and you had to visit each and every planet to figure out what to do. IG2 introduced auto-build which took care of your colonies needs, but of course, was not aware of your global strategic needs and goals. (In Open-IG, I’ve introduced three things to help: colony problem icons on the starmap; a list of planets with their population; and auto-build with the option to let the AI develop your planet.)

  16. FSE says:

    Starships Unlimited gets around these issues by making the starships the MU, and letting the colonies manage themselves. I believe Distant Worlds takes a similar approach on a much larger scale,

  17. Neil says:

    I am definitely of the view that the solution to excessive late game micromanagement should come from the design of the game mechanics. Tools, such as automation and templates, are unsatisfying as they provide sub-optimal results. You always feel you would be better off not using them.

    The article discusses one approach to dealing with this using game mechanics – which is to limit the number of MUs the player can control. I believe this to be a valid solution but, as the author points out, it means you won’t ever have the feeling of growing a single star system into a sprawling galactic empire.

    The core issue is that there are an optimal number of decisions per turn for the most enjoyable 4X experience. Too few and the game is bland, too many and it is frustrating. Ideally you would want the decisions per turn to be constant throughout the game at this optimum level. The trouble is that, the number of decisions is typically proportional to the number of MUs and your tech level. What is needed is a means to make the graph of decisions per turn against number of MUs and tech level flatter.

    Solutions that spring to mind …

    A greater number of wonder style constructions. These can only be built once. In the early part of the tech tree you would have mostly normal buildings. Later on you would have mostly wonder style constructions.

    Old buildings being made obsolete and auto upgraded for free. It’s nice to have new toys when you discover new techs, but having too many buildings to construct for new MUs becomes a pain.

  18. Marduke says:

    I do like micromanagement where my space strategy games can take a long time to finish and are actually large maps, in games like Space Empires 4, STARS! , and Distant Worlds, and others that are and arent space games.

    What i usually do is to use the planet listing or do everything for myself, rarely i use an AI, and when i start to control everything, in mid way where i have more than 40 conquered or colonized starsystem, usually the core systems are mostly prepared with everything and i could leave them to fend for themselves unless something big happens then at that time i just take care of my border or outer worlds and “forget” the well protected ones, and my game can end up with almost 100 worlds if im playing in a super huge map. and all of those games I have been playing in one map session for almost 1 or 2 months each.

    I think in games resources for development should be spend on a good A.I. scripting engine and in the engine itself and have both options, you want to control everything or leave everything automated, as usually in many games those resources arent spent wisely and when you start super advanced graphics and other kind of junk, usually 50% to 65% the budget and time for the game is spent that that department.

  19. Bomber says:

    I think that MORE will have a good way of dealing with Micromanagement problem. If they add to their’s idea good construction queues, easily changeable and big it will also help a lot.

  20. Mark says:

    I believe the answer to excessive micromanagement is customizable build queues which contain an entire list of tasks or improvements. This would allow you to save a list of customized build options named something like “industrial planet”, “agricultural planet”, “research planet” or whatever.

    When you colonize a new planet, you would simply load up a custom queue appropriate to the type of planet you want to develop (which you designed earlier) and hey presto, no micromanagement.

    The custom queues would only need to be altered when you need to design a new type of planet or when new technological options are introduced, but a good design interface should simply allow you to edit an existing template to slot new items in or delete obsolete ones as required.

    If MOO II had a system similar to the one described above, plus the ability to create queues longer than 10 items (duh, what were they thinking?) then it would have been possible to control MANY more systems with negligible micromanagement.

    Why NOBODY implements this in their 4x games is a source of continual amazement to me, its such a simple way to effectively combat micromanagement which still leaves the decisions in the hands of the player and does not result in the AI playing the game for you (I’m looking at you MOO III).

    • Chris Biot says:

      That’s a fairly great idea, creating your own customized build queues would be a great feature. The thing about this micromanagement is that after a while you’re always doing the same procedure all over again which is fairly boring. If the player was able to create some queues that would greatly help out.

      Also as some people mentioned, Endless Space did a great job on handling micromanagement, once you have tons of system it gets a bit tedious but it’s less boring than in other 4X games.

    • Neil says:

      The trouble with custom queues is that the decision of what to build and when to build it depends on so many factors. The attributes of the planet strongly effect this – you will need many many template queues to handle this. Whenever you research a new tech you will need to visit all your queues. When your empires needs and situation change you will need to visit all your queues. Of course, you could choose to manage all this at the meta level of queue management, but then you will end up with a sub-optimal result.

      This is the problem of relying on user tools to patch up a broken game engine. You will always achieve an inferior result if you use them verses micromanaging.

    • Neil says:

      To give an illustration of what I am trying to get at..

      Imagine you have a build which boosts trade revenue at an MU. What factors affect whether you should build it or not?

      1. The current needs of your empire for more revenue.
      2. The ability of that MU to build it.
      3. The trade routes currently coming into that MU.
      4. The likely future development of that MU and how it will affect trade.
      5. Whether other MUs could do a better job providing trade.
      6. Other attributes of that MU which may mean it is better to build something else at that MU now.
      7. Other needs of your empire which may mean it is better to build something else at that MU now.

      This is just off the top of my head. The more you think about just this simple decision, you realise how much goes on to make the optimal decision. A template queue cannot possible account for all these factors and will produce a sub-optimal result.

      • Neil says:

        should say .. “Imagine you have a building”

      • Mark says:

        I was really thinking of MOO II when I wrote this. Customizable build queues in MOO II would have eliminated much of the micromanagement since the same 15 to 20 buildings used to get built in the exact same order on all planets with only minor variation. So in MOO II at least, there are not many factors to consider and build queues most certainly *would* do the job. Admittedly some games are a little more complex nowadays, although there are surprisingly few, SOTS 2 comes to mind as one.

        I think that many of the complex administrative problems you describe are only really relevant to a small handful of important or high production planets which should probably be handled manually anyway. Handling a few planets manually is not a big micromanagement issue. The vast bulk of other worlds are either developing in a standard manner (and not really able to contribute much until they do) or are simply providing revenue, or research or intel or whatever and could easily be handled with a few standard build queues with minimal loss of efficiency.

        • Neil says:

          I think what you say is true when the galaxy creation algorithms and game design tend towards a situation where there a small number of planets which have importance orders of magnitude above others. If the quality of planets, post improvement, has less variation, then you are handicapping yourself by only considering a handful of planets for micromanagement.

          A solution to reducing micromanagement hell may thus be a combination of a good template system combined with game mechanics which tend towards having a handful of really important planets.

          Of course you could also make it so that there are only a few planets suitable for proper colonies. Most planets can only support automated mining facilities or special research stations to exploit particular resources on that planet. These would require little micromanagement – and may also add to the atmosphere of outerspace being an alien and hostile place.

    • Mezmorki says:

      Someone has done this idea!

      The iOS game “Starbase Orion” (which is quite a bit like MoO2) has exactly this feature. You can pre-customize different builds based on the assumption of having all technology and possible improvements. During the game, you just hit the auto-build and pick the build you want and it builds those items that it can. As you research tech, it will adjust the order to build things that your tech allows. You can change cues at any time if you need. Works really well.

      • Mark says:

        Lol, after 30+ years of gaming, they finally come up with a 4x game that does away with micromanagement hell and *still* allows the player rather than the AI to play the game. Just my luck that they release it for a platform I don’t have :(

        Oh well, hopefully the idea will catch on and someone will do something similar for the PC.

  21. JohnR says:

    Surprised no one mentioned Distant Worlds. I’ve never seen a game that tackled this issue so well. The real beauty of it is that you can micromanage or automate as much or as little as you want, and the AI does a surprisingly good (if to be fair, not always perfect) job of handling the things you’ve chosen to automate. Still in all DW handles automation better than any other 4X game I’ve seen. DW is the first 4X game I’ve played where you’re not hit with the headaches and tedium of managing large late-game empires, so the game remains fun all the way to the end.

    Also, the ship combat of DW may not look like SINS, but it can be every bit as much fun to watch. The ships will maneuver and jockey for position depending on the level of technology and skill of the admirals (if present), unlike SINS where the fleets will sit their and blast each other in WW1 grind fashion until one side or the other cries uncle. But I digress.

    Anyway, I’ve been playing DW for about three weeks straight and it is my favorite 4X game by far. Nothing else I’ve played in the realm of 4X games comes close. I paid $72 for the suite and would have paid twice that. I think it is that good. It is my hope that StarDrive will be the DW killer, though that remains to be seen.

    Adam and Keith, I hope your holiday season is shaping up nicely. :o)

  22. Tiberius says:

    It would be nice to assign MUs to categories. For example, I assign some MUs to the “close to enemy X” category, and other MUs to the “core worlds” category. That way, instead of having to issue a command to each MU, I can tell all the “close to enemy X” MUs to build a warship with one command.

    Preferrably, each MU can be assigned to multiple categories, in which case I tell the MU to give priority to one category over the other in the case of conflicting commands .

    I also like in MoO2 how you would often end up with planets that were “as developed as possible” with your current technology. You then no longer had to manage these and could focus on your developing worlds. This would work well with the category assignment, because you could assign all your maxed out MUs to the same category and give them all upgrades with one command as you become more technologically advanced.

  23. Towerbooks3192 says:

    Well I am having this problem late in the game in Master of Orion and Civ V. I thought there was an option on the city screen to let the AI handle the city or something. MoO and Civ tends to get tedious in the end and that is when I kind of want to start a new game because I prefer building up my empire and exploring but kind of not want to stay during the land dispute and conquest stage. I am a sucker for micromanagement and even though I am not good at it, I left most or all things on manual in Distant worlds.I guess I could learn from this and apply it in Football Manager 2013. I have to admit that I have to delegate some task to my assistant manager.Even in games like Patricians 3 and Port Royale 3, I don’t trust my steward or ships trade routes because I rather want to manage all my trade routes but it does get confusing at times.

    I am a firm believer of the saying “if you want things done, go do it yourself” and I don’t trust the AI or others to do it for me but I guess I have to learn how to delegate my task especially on 4 x games and have to admit that even superman needs the justice league at times. LOL

  24. Ashbery76 says:

    The best 4x space games out there in my opinion DistantWorlds and SOTS1/2 showed me that Civ style planet building is not needed.A galactic Emperor does not build movie theaters.

    • JohnR says:

      I’m with you all the way Ash. Distant Worlds is very realistic in that the player is an Imperator, not Colossus: The Forbin Project! lol

      But seriously, I love how initially I usually have most of the automation on, then start taking control of things as the empire grows, and then in late game when my empire has grown large find myself turning many things back over to the automation so I can concentrate on the big picture.

  25. Robert says:

    I think a possible solution is the creation of scripts by the player. Mind you, I do not mean that the player must write code, only that the creation of the script (ie the creation of an administrator or “minister” for instance) is a process guided through a series of questions or options that should cover various aspects of managing (I’m thinking of a single sitema planetary level, not the colony). It could be established guidelines (from the management of troops to the creation of structures). The player could set a series of events that would create a specific notice to him as the approach of an enemy fleet of unknown entity or of the estimated power above a certain fixed percentage.
    This would have the taste to create an “administrator” in a similar way to what should happen in reality. And if the interface had to set up a meeting with a semblance of who should be the person who will become the administrator, the illusion and then “trust” in our admin-script would be stronger (because ultimately we decided how he will behave) would not be boring like using a script generator “old-style”.
    If we could manage scripts as tasks and assign or change the script to other administrators we would have created a set of the rules suitable for our purposes.

    Where you could change the management (if necessary) would be in the management of the resource pyramid (for example, production, research, welfare). the amount of production would be allocated into three fields as a set, but with all the rules set out in the creation of the scipt. It could also implement a mechanism for the state of war, which would change pyramidal allocation as defined in the script itself and in relation to the distance of the threat, in order to avoid waste of resources.

    In this way (at the price of small investment of time, which I think could be fun) there would be a reduction mechanism of micro management realistic and appropriate to the desires of each individual player.

  26. James Coote says:

    [b]The Problem[/b]

    Micromanagement is fun at the start of the game, because every small decision can have a huge impact on the eventual shape of your empire. In some game modes (such as small map) it’s also crucial to not getting overwhelmed by a competitor who got lucky with a really good starting position

    Early game is also where the rate of change from turn to turn is highest. The end game is exciting because you have all the best units and/or victory is in sight.

    It’s the middle bit that is boring. Expansion from the end of the early game phase has ground to a halt: You’ve run up against the edge of your island/competitor territory or limit of ‘expansion unhappiness’. There are a bunch of under-developed MU’s, each with a huge list of buildings to add to the queue that grows ever longer the more tech you research.

    The middle phase of most 4x games has no x

    [b]Short tech trees[/b]

    This boring middle phase needs to be cut out, and the best way to do that is to radically shorten the tech tree.

    Most RTS don’t have the middle phase. By the time you finish the fun early exploration/expansion, you have unlocked everything and can head straight to exploitation/extermination.

    • Towerbooks3192 says:

      I agree about the middle phase and especially if you are playing games such as civ v on epic(I think that is the slowest??) pace then its gonna go longer than that. However I have to disagree about removing it entirely. I think a better solution would be to make it optional?

      I have to say that a part of me really wants to play a long and protracted game on a really really really huge map but halfway through the game I restart because all I enjoyed about 4x games is the early stages of the game and I have never ever remembered finishing a 4x game ever (not even a short game or even a duel map on civ v).

      • Mark says:

        Me either, I just get really bored with Civ V

        • Towerbooks3192 says:

          I guess I discovered the possible answer that could reduce the Civ V tedium. I guess if I want to skip some of the tech research it would be best for me to skip into later tech levels like lets say I just want to play a conquest game, I could start during the medieval period to skip the boring part of researching pre-medieval techs and I already have decent units at my disposal

  27. Thrangar says:

    For space type 4x
    I always thought let me, before the game either set up a building que for each type of planet/moon and then let that ride(ofcourse always the option to addin to the que) or let me set a series of sliders for each type of planet before each start

  28. Chop says:

    Ive always been in the mind that things could be managed from a single design for space 4x using a class system for the planets. For example if you have 4 types of planets that could then be broken down into 4 classes then be able to assign a build queue to a type and class, that way you can still have specialist planets, research, industry etc but dont have to micro a planet to do it and it wouldnt matter if you had 10 planets or 10000 that same screen would still do the job. Ive always liked the planets in MOO2, the way the cities grow and using the system I just mentioned you could put an image in the colony of anything built from that queue, if you make one city set up for each race you can still have the immersion but not the headache of deciding what goes on at each colony.

  29. I posted about this in the Predestination post but it addresses this issue, so I’ll write about it here too.

    For Predestination, we’re tackling this problem with a colony blueprint system that’s designed to solve the micromanagement problem WITHOUT sacrificing any direct control over your colonies. That’s a tall order, but we think we’ve cracked it. You design the colony blueprint the same way you would design any colony: by picking buildings, deciding where they’ll go and what order they’re built in, and deciding on colony policies like where funding goes and how much you tax people. Then you can use that blueprint on another colony and it will auto-build exactly what you wanted and in the order you wanted.

    When you get a new building, you can just go in and add it to a blueprint and all the colonies using that are using that blueprint will update to implement the changes automatically. So you still manually decide on every decision that happens in your empire, but you can make changes to dozens of colonies at once. And since you can design as many blueprints as you like and set any colony to use any blueprint, you have complete control over where those changes take place. You could have one blueprint for a production colony, another for a farming colony etc.

    If you want more micromanagement, you can decide not to use the system or even leave intentionally blank spaces on the blueprint and then decide what goes there on a colony-by-colony basis. You can also set rules on buildings, to tell it only to build an ore silo if the previous one is full, or only to build a housing unit if your population is at a certain size. If those conditions aren’t met, the buildings are skipped but they stay at the front of the queue and will be built as soon as those conditions are fulfilled.

    This is a completely free-form system, you can design as many blueprints as you want and use them wherever you want. If you use blueprints on all of your colonies, you can manage dozens or hundreds of colonies with a single action. That for me is the holy grail of solving the micromanagement problem: Giving you the tools to macromanage the way you want without losing any control. The goal is to make it almost as easy to manage a hundred planets as to manage two or three, so that in the late stages of the game you don’t have to take tons of actions every turn to keep up with your colonies.

    Predestination on Kickstarter if you’re interested: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/nyphur/predestination-a-turn-based-space-4x-strategy-game

    Cheers :D
    – Brendan Drain,
    Lead Developer on Predestination

    • Mark says:

      Awesome! This is exactly what I was talking about previously in this thread, your blueprints seem to be the same as customizable build queues. Just the thing to drastically reduce micromanagement and still allow the player to fully participate in running their own empire rather than sit by and watch while the AI does it for them.

      Predestination is sounding more and more attractive all the time. Consider me interested, I’m sick of games where the AI plays while I watch.

    • Tiberius says:

      Brendan, your post just advanced my interest in Predestination 1000%. That sounds like a great system. I wonder though if the average gamer is savvy enough to take full advantage of a system like that.

    • James Coote says:

      Can you save the blueprint and reuse it when you start a new game?

      • Mark says:

        Good question, I’d like to hear the answer to this one too. A library of blueprints that could be used in any game would be fantastic.

      • James, I would absolutely LOVE to have that in the game, so that you could design detailed blueprints that auto-upgrade as you research technology. We’d also have to be careful to balance that level of complexity with making the system easy for most people to use. It’d be a bit more complicated to program the system this way and I’d have to design the buildings with direct upgrades in mind, but it’s totally feasible. I’ll definitely look into this and give it a try during development.

    • Tiago says:

      This looks really great, my only concern is that building blueprints using technologies you do not have may break the game immersion.
      For a veteran player however this is not an issue.

  30. Zeraan says:

    I just posted on my blog about another aspect that is overlooked in 4X games. The units themselves as MU. Sending fleets/units to attack or defend can be tedious in end-game as well!

  31. Sinni says:

    I always liked Master of Orion 3’s approach, which included three options for the player: 1. Build/manage everything yourself. 2. Leave it for the governor. 3. Leave it for the governor, but tweak his behavior through the Empire settings and powerful development plans. Best of all worlds, really, though they arguably had a bit too few ‘buildings’.

    Actually, MoO3 probably has the best planet/colony/empire system in a 4x game, period. Amazing detail, separate planetary zones with different resource values and stats, habitation rings, planetary/system/empire improvement buildings, etc. It was really quite ingenious the way everything came together. It’s really no wonder the rest of the game suffered; they made what is probably one of the best ‘economic simulations’ out there, and they did it all without boggling down everything with micromanagement.

    • Mark says:

      Lol, yeah I’m sure the AI was having enormous fun running my empire in MOO III, cause I sure as hell wasn’t. Give me micromanagement any day if the alternative is watching the AI play my game. Sorry, but IMO MOO III was an utter failure in every respect.

      • Sinni says:

        Did you not know about option #1?

        • Mark says:

          I don’t know if we were playing the same game, but frankly option #1 was a joke and an embarrassing one at that. Whenever I changed things, the Viceroy would just change them right back to whatever IT wanted them to be. Option #1 was bugged, it didn’t work. And even if it were to work, it would not have been viable because MOO III was never designed to micromanage. There were too many stars, too much complexity and zero tools to effectively micromanage, so any attempt would have resulted in true micromanagement hell followed closely by failure. That’s assuming that option #1 actually worked, which it didn’t.

          So we were forced to adopt options #2 or #3 and even with option #3 the Viceroy would STILL sometimes change things behind your back, so in essence you were always playing with option #2 whether you liked it or not. I fell into the “NOT” category along with one or two other people who didn’t like MOO III.

          I understand what they were trying to do with MOO III, but seriously they messed it up big-time to the point where it just ended up a total train wreck of a game. I admit that I’m not a big fan of the whole macro-management concept but I think it was much better realized with Distant Worlds.

  32. Chris says:

    Problem: Humans don’t trust AI to manage MUs.
    Problem: Humans cannot manage large numbers of MUs.
    Solution: Include more humans in game

    Essentially a plan for a mmo game, but instead of all players playing similar roles, have different levels of the game.

    Currently planning a military game with 2 levels, generals and soldiers. Soldiers play as FPS, generals as RTS. Concept, military has developed drone soldiers, hence soldiers always available for resource cost. However, human soldiers better decision making process. Hence generals can employ other human players as soldiers. Human soldiers do not always obey commands, but are better combatants.

    Similar could be done with 4x, with government being split into multiple levels, grand strategy level, city level, etc. Grand strategy sets direction, lower levels see about getting there. No more random stats for advisers, and no more stupid ai making decisions. You actually have someone to blame when things go wrong!

  33. Sinni says:

    Well, I did put the game on the shelf for a couple of years after buying it, given the initial bugginess. Then I started up again with the final patch and the vanilla/strawberry/chocolate mod packs. As such, I never really had those problems. Deactivating the viceroy worked nicely when desired, development plans and empire settings were followed, etc. For the most part I just used development plans for the majority of my colonies, then filled my ‘huge’ planets with industry DEAs and spent some time micromanaging those.

    All in all I thought it was an excellent system, with pretty much a perfect mix of micro and macro management. It took a bit of time to learn and understand, but well worth it I’d say. No 4x I’ve played has done that aspect as well; most of them do in fact seem embarrassingly simple, by comparison.

  34. Zero says:

    In StarDrive I have 5 different governor personalities: a “Core World” governor that builds everything beneficial, then specialized food/production/research govenors, and finally a military outpost governor who will just build some basic defensive infrastructure for an outpost. Governors only create planetary improvements and will not build military units.

    I think that basically you should be able to take any world, pick what you want it to become, and then the AI will take care of it for you. You just need to hop into the driver’s seat if you want to do something special with the planet, like create orbital shipyards or to strip mine the planet or something expensive and radical.

  35. Tiago says:

    OMG, so many good ideas on the comments. I feel compelled to try some in my game. =D


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