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Making a Space 4X Game: Empires and Races

By on February 12th, 2013 10:28 am

thomlab.com

For my third article of my Making a 4X Game series, I’m going to write about how I design empires/races for games. As I’ve said before, I’ve made several MUDs (text based RPGs, popular in the 90s and early 2000′s), which generally contain a large amount of races for players to select from.

So, I have quite a bit of experience navigating that area of design. With 4X games, it usually is more of an Empire or Civilization. Sometimes, the people of these Empires are non-human and vary. This poses some interesting opportunities because of the wider scope; so more can be put into these Empires and Races. As a small note, from this point on, I use Race and Empire interchangeability since they both represent a collective of beings of an organization.

I have a few important points that I feel work best, which I like to consider high impact. Essentially, I want a Race/Empire to be Relatable, and ensure it fits in Lore.

Relatable

This is a common quality mentioned, and is easy to explain and understand. It’s presence is outside of games, especially in movies. Essentially, an empire must be able to relate to the player or viewer. It is important to build emotional attachments to these races.

If us, as Humans, find it hard to connect with someone, we will not become emotionally vested, and in essence, the situation (game, movie, book, etc), won’t matter as much. Entertainment is a means for us to engage mentally and emotionally – hard to do if we are playing a game that forces us to be a race of spiders (at least many people find spiders repulsive).

Some of the simplest ways of making Empires relatable is to make the actual races mostly Human-like and have traits that are common to a player. Star Wars is a great example of this – they have many Human-like races such as the Twi’lek, Chiss, and Sith races. They are all very Human-like but have enough differences that make them different.

Another tool to use is familiarity. Familiarity is a powerful tool – Master of Orion did this fantastically. They selected a subset of animals for their races that any one could relate to, and weren’t generally too repulsive. Anyone knows what a Bird, Cat, and Ant is. It helped the designers made their characteristics translate well into the game.

Having a culture that is similar to a well known one in our past or present is also a very good thing to do. For example, I modeled one of the nations in my MUD game after Rome. In my 4X game, I have Humans (which is quite common).

I think it is absolutely vital to have some form of Human component as an Empire or Race. There are some players who are OK with playing weird Empires, while others not so much. Having Humans present, immediately gives a player the comfort level they need. I mentioned I have Humans in my 4X above, in fact, I have three sets of Human civilizations out of the 8 that will be present in the initial release. This will provide a large amount of comfortability. It will also not introduce too many different races too quickly.

Now, this doesn’t mean there shouldn’t be any wild and crazy races! They should be included (if it fits the design and lore) – don’t be shy. Just make make good decisions and ensure there is some sort of relatability present.

Lore

The second major attribute I want to mention deals with Lore. Lore forms the foundation of the game. It is here, where the game takes shape and provides a rigid structure for all that is to come: design (within reason), races and empires, technologies, and so on and so forth. Lore is also the glue that holds the game together. Lore makes it possible for a new universe to be created and for players to get lost into it. Each empire has to fit within the lore – it must have a reason to exist. If there is none – the race serves no purpose and should be removed.

Some other good aspects for Lore is creating unique aspects of the Empire. This can be done by the use of backstory, or in-game through the story, or through the behavior of the AI. Game design elements can be used as well. This is also a good time to make them unique and distinct. Focusing on one or two aspects is an easy way to get the point across: maybe a race is good with technology, maybe they look a certain way that is different. Perhaps, they have contradicting belief systems.

Another point that I’d like to talk about here is the naming of these empires. Make sure they are distinctly unique and easy to remember. A new player has never seen your races before. They have no idea what is going on (unless using a pre-existing IP). You should make it simple on them – and the best way to do that is to ensure that each Empire starts with a unique letter. For example, don’t have two Empires that begin with R (I’m looking at you Endless Space. They have two races that begin with the same letters: H and S). As designers, we should try to make it as easy as possible for players to get into the game. The sound and pronunciation can be used as well, to create distinctly different sounding Empires.

Lore is especially important while adding to the game later on. The initial lore must be well thought out so the first empires make sense in the game universe. Then, later on, any new additions have to fit in and abide by the established rules. I think we all know how fans feel about lore being broken which I can sum up with one word: midi-chlorians.

thomlab.com

My Races and Empires

As mentioned above, I have 8 Empires planned. Unfortunately, I cannot provide any names at this time, but that will come after the public reveal in the future. I spent a large amount of time preparing vast amounts of lore – roughly 40 pages worth.

The reason for 8 Empires is because it offers enough room to have unique sides but not be overwhelming to the player and development. The game type plays into a big role for the number of Empires/Factions/etc. For example, in a typical RTS, a large amount of art assets need to be made for each side. Also, lots and lots of balancing must be done. Each side usually has a set of units that are designed by the developers (as opposed to the more common people defined ships in 4X games) – and each unit has to fulfill a specific role without being too weak or over powering. That’s why there are only typically 2 or 3 sides in RTS games (for example, StarCraft2). A 4X game is much easier to handle more sides – smaller art assets need to be made, and the balancing is easier (it’s usually simple modifiers, like +25% ship attack).

Now, I want to talk about how I used the above guidelines on my Empires!

Human Empires

First, I made 3 of the 8 Empires Humans. These will appeal to those who enjoy playing Humans and have a need to feel comfortable. In order to create three different factions that diverged from Earth, I came up with some lore that focuses on this. I created a single story that is told from three different view points. This single story is the main lore point for the Humans.

This creates some good past conflict and sets up future conflict during the game.

By having a story with multiple side creates a sense of mystery for the player. What really happened? Will they ever know? This can be a powerful driving force for the player. It can also be used as a role play mechanism. Finally it leaves plenty of room for additional content that won’t easily break the lore – since I have more than one story to choose from. As a designer for future content, it gives me the freedom to be creative yet still abide by the lore and history.

For the 5 non-Human races, I wanted to make sure I had unique and interesting ones. Since I have met my requirement of offering relatability and familiarity, I wanted to touch on a few concepts that haven’t been done before (in my experiences anyways) and aspects I always thought would be interesting to explore. I shall briefly go over four of the five, though all are backed by lots of lore. Many of the races have subtle interactions with others, and it creates a complex web of relationships.

Ancient Race

One of them was to offer an opportunity to play as the Ancient Race. I’ve always wanted to be able to play as the Ancients. How cool would it be to have a shot at playing as the Orions (from the Master of Orion universe)? It is likely any of the Ancient race would be quite over powering and break balance. In order to balance this, I made them locked at the start and the player will have to complete some in-game goals over the span of some games in order to unlock them. I’ve also made this race a mere Remnant, so while powerful, they aren’t at their full strength.

Violent Race

I wanted to offer a Violent Race as players have come to expect that in 4X games. Lore wise, this set of beings is driven by something called The Directive. It is a genetic code built into their DNA that sets out specific goals. Their appearance is Humanoid, though they are fleshless and faceless – sort of like mindless drones.

They also have several new types of gameplay elements: they begin the game at around turn 20 with a small fleet and no colonized planet. They are going to have to find a suitable planet to colonize and quickly build up. During the early game, their empire continually sends them warships to use as an invasion force. Finally, The Directive will outline a series of goals for the player to achieve during the course of the game, rewarding them if successful.

Resource Exploiters

The universe can be filled with untold resources which is meant to be exploited to the maximum amount! This Empire fulfills that need by continually finding new planets to harvest and mine. The abilities for this Empire involve being able to quickly build up a vast amount of resources (they are generally limited in the game). They can do this by building special improvements that generate resources. As one could imagine, this is a large advantage. In order to balance it, their fleet size is smaller and they suffer from combat penalties in combat and research. This race focuses on the familiarity of resource exploitation and one of the Xs.

Religious Technologists

What would a race of intensely spiritual beings coupled with superior intellect deal with over the course of their civilization? I found this to be a thought provoking question and this race came into being. They have the power to enter into a deep mediation that allows their mind to transcend into a higher plane of reality. This gives them massive research and technological bonuses.

Lore wise, they discovered the Violent Race would be invading the galaxy, and made plans to stave off the attack. In order to do this, they genetically engineered another race. This other race is the last playable Race. And while this is going on, their society was continually up-heaved with schisms on their core beliefs. Here, I use the contradiction of beliefs (science vs religion).

Bonuses

Another part I spent a lot of time on was on the Empires’ bonuses. I am a strong believer that the Empire you play as should have a lot of fun and unique characteristics. Each race is riddled with lots and lots of bonuses and negatives, some of which are very unique and should offer great gameplay experiences. By doing this, it makes the races distinct and more fun. Also, the varied bonuses offers increased re-playability.

Naming

In my previous section, I made a mention about naming empires. I’ve spent a lot of time ensuring that each look and sound distinctly different. Each starts with their own unique letter (C, D, E, H, N, S, T and V). They also have different tendencies in letter usage to further make them easier to spot.

Conclusion

So, these are some of the guidelines I follow when making up Empires. Over time, I found they have treated me well and the players seem to have favorable experiences and memories with them.

I believe the choices I’ve made for the 8 Empires will be interesting, different, and offer some fun gameplay elements. All the while being easy to extend in the future, which includes keeping the lore intact. As you can see, I’ve tied the lore to the majority of the races – 7 of the 8 are somehow tied to each other. This will offer a rich experience for the player and make the potential for future content that much more fun! Overtime, I hope the players will get emotionally vested in the Empires and their history. If this happens, then I have designed my Empires well.

I know I haven’t covered every single possibility out there, and there are plenty of developers following this site. So I was wondering: what are your guidelines for developing races? What have you found worked well? Or not so well?

And for the players: what do you like in an Empire? What was the most fun for you to play as?

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 space 4X game that offers large scope and complexity. See all dayrinni’s posts here. In particular, check his “what makes a good game” and “making a space 4X game” series.

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52 Comments


  1. dayrinni says:

    I just want to make a quick note that the art in the article is not from the game.

    I hope you all enjoy the read!

    • Gary says:

      I just wanted to say thanks for using that art in the article, I found a new (to me) amazing artist :) Now if Thom just provided some wallpapers…

      • dayrinni says:

        You can thank Adam – he found them. I tried to contact Thom to do some art work on the game but he is currently busy. It was really surprised at the images when I first saw them. Adam did great selecting some real nice ones.

  2. Zeraan says:

    I agree with you about Lore – Especially the naming and making the races easy to remember. This was a problem with MoO 3, I got confused with the new races (especially the water/gas giant ones, I wasn’t sure which was which). I even read the backstory, but it didn’t help much, as it focused on Antarens…

    So I decided to make my races in Beyond Beyaan cheesy like MoO 1, and while some people complained about it, others complimented the race choice as being creative and memorable. How often do you see tree cyborgs? :)

    • Adam Solo says:

      Yes, sometimes the radical ones, or the cheesy ones are the best. Basically, memorable ones and the highly relatable/familiar ones as dayrinni wrote.

      Speeking of trees, R.T. Smith also designed a tree race for Armada 2526, the Walden. But, they were less radical than your cyborg trees :)

      When I think of StarDrive for example, I immediately think of its Bear Samurai race. It’s even the game’s icon (startup icon). At least for the beta. How cheesy can that be? (Bulrathi from Master of Orion). And, I even remember thinking: “What was he (Dan) thinking?”. And voilá, memorable race, and probably a lot of fun, who knows.

      Usually I’m a Human race picker kind of guy. I only move to other races when I’m fed up. But, I particularly liked playing Sins alien races. Their looks, ships, techs and other details were different, which makes them more fun to play. And that’s what dayrinni was talking about, Lore, and I fully agree. Lore is great, backstory is nice to have, story however although not strictly necessary in a 4X game must be at least residual so that we have a sense that there’s some purpose to the all thing. Civ cheats, because the story there is the story of the Human civilization :)

      A typical good example of lore and races is Sword of the Stars and its sequel. It contains lots of lore, and the races play differently in some aspects, even radically in some, like in the way they travel the stars for example.

      But, all in all, I prefer to play custom races in 4X games. That or rich/different ones, with different personalities. There’s nothing worse than having bland races just for the sake of numbers.

      • dayrinni says:

        One thing I really liked in Civ V was the voice over while the game was loading about the civilization you were playing as. I thought that was an amazing touch. It really sets the stage and get you ready to play. Little things like that go a long ways in my opinion.

        I also think having a custom editor for races/empires is a must for 4X games. While it takes awhile to implement in some cases, I think it pays off big in the end for the reasons you mentioned. Many of us have that special empire that we want to play as (I always make the Empire from SW). It just is another feature that gives a lot of bang for the buck. And yes, I will be supporting a form of custom races.

        • Adam Solo says:

          Absolutely. Again, Civ is lucky, because it uses the best lore and backstory that there will ever be, our own! But, definitely the different Civs’ lore and backstory (even if many elements are not directly related to your gameplay) are very cool to read and watch and set the right mood. Lore again. Man, when I got Civ5:Gods&Kings, the first thing I did was read the Civilopedia for the new leaders, Civilizations and city states, and then and only then started playing :)

          Empires, races, lore and their glue is really a distinctive aspect of science fiction gaming (or fantasy gaming) in contrast with historical games for example. Historical games’ problem is to reflect known history the best they can, sci-fi/fantasy writers and game designers need to create something from scratch and make that believable, and there’s where the relatability and familiarity tools come in.

      • Zeraan says:

        Haha, yeah, when StarDrive introduced the samurai bears, my first thought was “I’m not the only one doing cheesy races!” :D

      • Gary says:

        I always pick the race with the Research bonuses, or if the game supports custom races, I make one with Research and Production bonuses. I can’t remember the last time I played a 4X as Humans (who usually get Diplomatic or Trading bonuses in 4X games) :)

        • dayrinni says:

          I’m usually the same way, I like to tech up and then unleash an armada of fury against my enemies! Mwhaha! Though, lately, I’ve been trying to have more early wars and whatnot in games. It’s fun for a change of pace.

          It’s a good thing you mentioned the traditional bonuses for Humans. The three different Human factions have really paid off here for me: one focuses on diplomacy/governments, another is trading (money generation), and the last one is going to be more warlike. So I’ve hit the two main aspects and added a bit something extra.

          As you and others can see, I’m going with a solid base (what people expect to exist) and then I’m making a few changes here, a few changes there. So in the end, I hope to have something that plays familiar, easy to learn, yet has enough different aspects in the majority of the game, it’ll be a fun and positive experience.

    • dayrinni says:

      Indeed, some games aim for a specific view and/or goal. That’s a great way to make everything unique and fun. Everything doesn’t have to always be serious and completely fleshed out (even though in my article I give that appearance). Sometimes, it can be as simple as a paragraph – just enough to get you going. On top of that, familiarity can be useful. For example, we all know what trees and cyborgs are. So that immediately gives us something to think about. And it works!

    • zigzag says:

      I agree with you about cheesy races, and I prefer 4x games with minimal backstory – just enough for me to understand the races’ strengths and weaknesses. If I were interested in the lore, I’d read a book.

      • dayrinni says:

        I tend to think the presentation of such lore should be well thought out. A player should be able to see there is substance to the race right away, but not be completely bombarded with it. You know – just enough to get them thinking and involved a bit. But, then, if the player WANTS to get more, they should be able to access that information – through an in-game encyclopedia, a website, maybe some stuff in a manual and so on.

        I’m tackling this problem by providing a few paragraphs during game setup of the empire. Then if they want to know more the website can be visited (I make mention more information can be found on the game’s website).

  3. Jeff P says:

    Let me utter my heresy up front: I thought the race creation in Spore was great. It was difficult, if not impossible, to create the same race race twice, and the game coaxed the player into caring about even bizarre creations because you spent so much time and effort in their development.

    Character creation in some RPGs (Fallout 3 and New Vegas spring to mind) likewise results in near-unique avatars when the player answers questions related to the character’s background which impact starting strengths and weaknesses.

    I wonder if a similar process could be used at the beginning of a 4X game: a Q and A creating a race’s history and development could generate the characteristics of a race including its appearace. The player could then tweak details manually, resulting in a custom-made race each game.

    Just a random thought from a game player, not a developer.

    • Adam Solo says:

      I think Galactic Civilizations 2 works a bit like that. As you progress you’re faced with decisions or dilemmas, which if I remember correctly affect your relations with other races according to your choices, since that’s what defines your government type on the long run. You basically can “go evil”, peaceful or a mix. But aside that I remember that it definitely affects your race’s characteristics and bonuses.

      I like that kind of dynamic system that molds your race through in-game events. Combined with some pre-sets it probably makes one of the most interesting system to create and develop races.

      • Jeff P says:

        Races in all the Galactic Civilization series are developed as the player makes moral choices. I agree that this makes for an interesting customization: technologies, units and even the interface may change to reflect player decisions on the various dilemmas posed during the game.

        Developers couldn’t go wrong by adopting more of the design approaches pioneered by GC.

        • dayrinni says:

          Yeah this was a cool feature. It certainly gives meaning to the choices in the game.

          One thing that I do not like for Events is choice without consequence. Merely picking the choice that benefits you most isn’t terribly too fun for me. I do want to experiment with a few ideas for my Event System, as I want to make it a bit more interesting and fun for the player. Maybe I should look into the moral side of it.

        • a_Wizard says:

          I liked that about Galactic Civilization very much or the dynamic technology for SotS II(with set tendencys). Generally the developing of your empire along the way giving it unique technology’s, traits or bonuses. Even if its just finding an artifact like in the Sins of a Solar Empire.
          I’m not saying the races shouldn’t have their predefined traits from the beginning. But change (evolution, progress whatever you fancy calling it) doesn’t stop with achieving FTL spaceflight capabilities. I never liked that from there your race developed the same way it did in all the parallel universes(other games).
          I always cringe when I get a game where the lore of the race is progressed to the point of a galactic empire while in the actual game I start with one planet and just achieved FTL spaceflight.

        • dayrinni says:

          @a_Wizard:

          I too like the idea of the race changing over time, it’s a fun game play element. The problem at least for me (and maybe other developers) is the amount of work and effort it takes to pull it off in a good way. There would be a lot of different variations you’d have to account for.

          Now, your comment about how you read in the lore and they are a galactic empire and then you start the game with 1 planet – wow a huge let down for sure. I agree so much so, that I set out to make sure that DID NOT happen. In fact, the planets and whatnot mentioned in the lore actually show up in the game. The lore and game play should go hand in hand.

          To give an example, the main Human Empires start with the planets that are mentioned in the lore.

    • dayrinni says:

      I never played Spore, I think I was turned off by the DRM though I think it is on Steam (I’m OK with Steam, I like it a lot actually).

      Your idea of having some questions about the races history is actually quite intriguing and it could prove to be something unique.

      Each question is involved in a certain area, and the answer determines the bonus there. For example, “When confronted with first contact of Alien Race X, did you: Attack, or Talk?”. Attack would clearly give combat bonuses and Talk would give diplomacy. So something like that could exist so it wouldn’t be too hard to develop – especially if it was just a set of different static bonuses (ie: +25 to diplomacy or something similar). It could also be fun for modders, since they could generate new content for creation.

  4. Fishy says:

    Great work on the article! I really enjoy reading and getting ideas from these articles for developing my game. Empire naming was one thing I haven’t finalized and I really like your suggestion of making sure the first letter is different for each empire, simple but makes sense.

    Just looking back at the random names I made up for now, I don’t think I did too bad. Out of 18 empire names only about 4 are noticeably similar. Though some might be hard to pronounce and would like to fix that too.

    Lore I think is going to be a struggle for me, I’m not that good at writing but like you mentioned, having at least a paragraph or two about the history\attributes of the empire really adds to the depth.

    Keep up the great articles :)

    • dayrinni says:

      Thanks – glad you liked it. My next one is going to be about modding and how I implemented it. It’ll be more technical than this one.

      What are some of your names and how did you come up with them?

      The real fun thing about coming up with your own game is you get to make the world how you want it to be. Maybe you can read some lore from other 4X games to prime the creative pump so you can get a few paragraphs out for your empires?

      • Fishy says:

        Ahh looking forward to the modding one and technical details for sure :) I’ve current got modules and ships loaded from text files like .ini files but haven’t even thought about mod packages or anything yet.

        A few names I thought of were Kwaffilian, Telimi, Oortes, Kinumun, etc. I think most names I really just pick randomly sometimes just thinking about names I did like from other games and use the last 3 letters and make up the beginning of the name, or the other way round. No real process behind it at the moment and all might be reviewed\changed later.

        Yeah for Lore I have a few ideas for races from other games or my favorite Scifi shows, as most people mentioned it’s near impossible to make up new and unique empires but just try to make it different enough or combine 2 you know into a mix of your own. We’ll see :)

        Thanks,

        • dayrinni says:

          Sounds like you do have some interesting names, Kwaffilian certainly has some uniqueness to it! Were you going to change any of the ones you listed? Taking bits and pieces from several sources seems to be a common way to make something new. Plus, with the amount of stuff already done, it’s hard to really come up with something completely ground breaking.

  5. SQW says:

    Best race lore/creation in games goes to Kerberos’s SOTS universe. The history, background and technology of each races are not only diverse, deep but actually translates into different gameplay styles(FTL engine techs).

    Compare to SOTS, every other aliens in 4x games I’ve came across feel like a bunch of reskined humans – strange looking evil human, strange looking tech human, strange looking religious human, basic human etc etc.

    I think sci-fi writers are too hang-up about creating an alien race we can ‘relate’ to. If I want to relate I’ll play human. Aliens are suppose to make you scratch you head and go “WTF?!”.

    • Eno says:

      Um no…the races in Sots were absolutely ripped from other games/genre just as many other games did before them. I’m not saying that wrong but kerberos’ races arnt original and frankly I never thought the lore was that good. Thats what you get when you hire an adult movie writer rather than an actual sci fi author to make your lore.

    • SQW says:

      If the pre-req for a ‘good’ alien race is originality, the entire modern sci-fi genre should be looking for a hole in the ground.

      I never said SOTS races are original. My point is Arinn Dembo crafted a universe whose inhabitants are both diverse and filled with rich details – many of which translated to meaningful gameplay mechanics. Can you name me another 4X game whose various races are more than a portrait and a selection of interchangeable attributes a la Moo, Endless Space, GalCiv, Sin etc?

      P.S. I think the limiting factor of an adult movie story lies with the production goal rather than the writer’s ability.

    • Mark says:

      I agree, the races in SOTS really have immense depth and personality which adds so much to the immersion of the game. I especially love the Liir and the Zuul. They really did an excellent job in this area and as far as race immersion goes, SOTS pretty much eclipses all other 4x games with the possible exception of Alpha Centauri where the factions had similarly rich and detailed personalities.

      Unfortunately with SOTS, as they add more races, the requirement that every single star-faring race MUST have a separate and distinct FTL system is beginning to stretch credibility to the breaking point. I understand why they do it, but its getting harder and harder to suspend disbelief with each newly invented FTL system.

    • dayrinni says:

      Well, I will admit, I haven’t played SOTS. I own it, and did load it up for about 10 minutes, but haven’t got around to getting in any good sessions. I think I also bought 2 when I bought the first one. It’s on my TODO list. I have heard great things about the game though (especially in terms of how races do FTL travel). That’s about all I can say about this :)

      • Mark says:

        Different FTL systems certainly help to distinguish each race and make them all play differently, even if it is hard to swallow so many different methods of breaking the light barrier.

        • dayrinni says:

          How much did they really differ? And they were all different? Or did some races have the same type?

          In my personal opinion, I feel like some sort of wormhole system would be the most feasible, so I choose that as my method of FTL. I came up with some reasonable set of explanations for how it works on a technical level so it can be more believable. Of course, the player isn’t required to read this but can if they want.

        • Mark says:

          @ dayrinni,

          No two races in SOTS have the same FTL system, they are all different. Many are completely different in the way they operate and the way you have to play them. A few are quite similar in practical operation (Tarka and Liir for instance) but still play differently enough to distinguish the races.

        • dayrinni says:

          @ Mark,

          I really need to play this game, lol. Sounds quite cool. I just need to clone myself a few times…

          I am going to check it out some websites for it tonight before I head to sleep (soon). I think it’ll be some fun stuff to read before bed.

        • SQW says:

          @dayrinni,

          http://www.gamersgate.com/DD-SOTSCC/sword-of-the-stars-collection

          SOTS Prime is on special. Pick it up for the price of a cup of coffee. Beware of high learning curve and less-than-stellar AI.

        • dayrinni says:

          @ SQW,

          Thanks for the link! I checked my Steam library and it seems I have SOTS Complete and then SOTS II Enhanced Edition. So I think I have everything that link has to offer. If I remember correctly, I did pay around $10 for it.

  6. Eno says:

    “I think it is absolutely vital to have some form of Human component as an Empire or Race”

    This is a flawed statement. Humans are familiar and that is not always asset. They will bring with them all sorts of familiar concepts/history/assumptions/biases that may not help the player connect with the new universe. By purposely including morphisms that the player will have predetermined opinions about you rob them of a fresh experience.

    • dayrinni says:

      Well, that’s why there are usually non-Human races are offered. Games/shows/movies/etc tend to try to appeal to more than one audience usually.

      And plus, I don’t really think your comment is correct that it is flawed. Look at A Song of Ice and Fire. That is essentially 100% Human based (even though the Targaryens aren’t technically Human, from appearances they are). It’s wildly successful. Look at Battlestar – it’s Humans vs machines. Star Wars starts out showing Humans. Star Trek also contains many Humans, as well as very Human like races.

      Also, I said “some form of Human component.” I wasn’t speaking exactly of having an exact copy of Humans we know them as today. There are many ways to introduce various aspects that people can be familiar with on some level. You can go to one extreme and have a copy of today’s Humans. Or you can go to the other side, where you take aspects of Human psychology and apply it to non-Human races; and then everything in between.

      • Adam Solo says:

        And don’t forget about Asimov’s Foundation series space opera. All Humans. And, brilliant stuff that makes you wonder. If you want another classic, Ender’s Game. Humans vs Aliens. But, Aliens vs Aliens only? Can you recommend me a good space opera book? Or movie, without a human component? It has to do with Humans being cheaper to do in movies, but what about books? I’m serious, I find this idea of having aliens only quite intriguing, although not easy to pull of I think.

        • dayrinni says:

          Right now, I cannot think of something that hard only aliens. I guess the closet would be maybe the Babylon 5 TV series, I seem to recall that had a lot of aliens. I never really got into it though, so I can’t say for sure. Most of my reading involves fantasy or history books and not too much Sci-fi.

        • SQW says:

          Read The Lost Regiment by William R. Forstchen. You get fantasy, some sci-fi and a dash of history in that series.

        • Gary says:

          I have to second SQW’s recommendation of “The Lost Regiment” series, if only because it’s great military sci-fi adventure! :)

      • Eno says:

        Well Fantasy has sorta written itself into a corner at this point where people were dying for a book not about elves, dragons or Halfings. And arguably the more popular characters in those books are the ones with atypical human characteristics. Cripples, children, albinos ect.
        Regarding the tv shows, those were developed to appeal to a market beyond scifi fans and I think again its the non-humans that steal the show. Further, while entertaining I think most sci-fi fans would say they were examples of poor writing.

        Cherryh’s Pride of Chanur is a good example of a story with a non human setting. Niven’s Known Space, and Mote series, Hamilton’s Pandora’s Star and Vinges Fire on the deep and all good stories that try and take the aline perspective..though they do involve humans to some extent. It seems publishers require one to either make humans the main character, or the neutral middle ground to be compared against wehen they really should be left out. Star Control 2 basically leaves humans out. As does Ascendancy I beleive.

        • dayrinni says:

          Thanks for those extra references, I shall take a look! It’s always cool to see how people/writers/etc approach things. You can certainly learn a lot!

        • Eno says:

          dont mean to make this a what are you reading thread but cant beleive I forgot to mention Zahn’s conqueror trilogy..

  7. dayrinni says:

    I also wanted to mention, I intent to do a follow up article on the Empires/Races once the public reveal happens. This will contain the real art for them, and of course, some game play information. I’m not exactly sure when this will go down because I need to complete the feature set for the game and get the art (in the middle of lining up an artist to that. The joys of being an indie developer!). If I had to take a shot at the time frame – maybe 2-5 months.

    Thanks again for reading and for your support! I’m having a lot of fun writing these and talking with everyone. We’ve had some great discussions here.

  8. Ashbery76 says:

    The only space 4x games with an indepth lore to the same level you get in sci fi media like books,movies and Tv is Emperor of the fading suns and Sword of the Stars.

    The majority of 4x’s sci fi lore is basically a small paragrath and some art.A think they have missed a trick on the importance of theme.

    • Gary says:

      The reason SotS had indepth lore was because they hired a writer to create the lore.

      The reason Emperor of the Fading Suns had so much lore was because it was based on the pen & paper role-playing game “Fading Suns” by the same company (Holistic Design).

      Most 4X games just don’t have an RPG background, or the money to hire a writer.

    • dayrinni says:

      It certainly was time consuming to construct the backgrounds for everything, a matter of months. So I can see how most developers do something simpler and more straight forward. I happen to have the luxury of being self funded, which allows me to set my own timelines. Everyone’s situation is different.

  9. JD says:

    Another great article Dayrinni. I really enjoy reading these.

    • dayrinni says:

      Thanks! I’m glad you liked it and enjoy the series.

      My next article will be about modding and how I went about doing it. It’ll be much more technical than this one, but still should prove to be an interesting read.

  10. Hoverdog says:

    An interesting read, though I agree only partially. The ‘relatable’ part is bullshit. I haven’t met a single person that enjoyed the star trek “hey, here’s a totally new race, it’s different from the last one because it has two coils on its forehead instead of one” trope. It’s bland, it’s boring, and it’s a mess.

    Also disagree on making multiple human factions. It’s hard to make them properly different and unique, even with a good backstory.

    The part I do agree with is naming. Species names should be short, varied, and easy to remember. That’s the way we’re doing it in our game (Starlife). ‘The One’, ‘The Empire’, ‘Krom’, ‘BorBorr’, they all are easy to associate and give some immediate insight into their story.

    The ancient race part is something I can’t stand though. I hate unlockable content in games (well, maybe in arcade racing that are quick and to the point), especially if the said content goes completely overboard in terms of balance.

    • dayrinni says:

      Thanks for reading and your comments.

      I think we can agree to disagree on our viewpoints. We all have different opinions, and I respect yours. Good luck with Starlife!

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