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Making a Space 4X Game: A Living Galaxy

By on May 3rd, 2013 9:43 am

Exploring a living galaxy

I’m going to start writing about the systems in the game now. This will be a series of many articles. If you want to have a look at my previous articles of this series, please find them all here. These are my dev journals on making my own space 4X game.

Hopefully, by the time when I’m done you will all have a good idea of how the game will play and that’ll be enough for you to decide if it’s good enough for you to try :)

I also want to throw out a disclaimer: I will be showing some game art now. Most of it is placeholder art. The game is still in Alpha phase (not feature complete, but getting there).

I will be going to kickstarter later this year to get high quality art assets. So please refrain from making TOO many negative comments about my placeholder art :)

A Living Galaxy

There is a lot to say about a galaxy that feels alive, and full of discovery. It really makes the game more enjoyable – you don’t know what is at the planetary system you’re about to explore. What space monsters reside out in deep space? What sort of change happens over the course of the game to the galaxy? All of these are parts of making a living galaxy. It’s also easier said than done.

My Vision

I’ve taken the following approach of trying to add a bunch of unique and fun aspects to bring the galaxy alive.

  • Allow for enough variation and cool stuff to be generated each game so discovery is always fresh and exciting.
  • Make different parts of the galaxy useful for different activities and at different times of game play.
  • Make sure super rare items can appear and be useful for anyone who finds them.
  • Integrate some game systems into this. The galaxy view can be used in many different ways, and that can help bring the galaxy to life.

One important note: I’m going to continually work on this idea of creating a living galaxy. I won’t be able to implement all of my ideas right away, so I’ll work on it over time but what you read here is already in.

Galaxy Types

Galaxy types offer a good foundation for unique game play and different experiences. This is mostly due how the topography of a galaxy affects game play choices (such as where to expand/explore). It can set up fun situations: maybe being present at the end of a spiral arm, or in the center of a ring galaxy. Each situation can appeal to different players, and that is good.

I will offer the following galaxy types at release:

2 and 4 arm spiral, elliptical, ring, small and large clusters, chained clusters(clusters connected by small paths of stars), streaks(random streaks of stars) and spokes (sorta like spokes from a bike).

For each galaxy type, it’ll be possible to specify the size, age, and resource, special and planet scarcity.

This is quite typical of 4X games. I’m just offering several new types of galaxy structures (streaks, spokes and chained clusters). I have plans for more galaxy types later.

4 Arm Spiral Galaxy

Galaxy Contents

One important and fun aspect is to make sure that there is always a reason to explore – from the very beginning to the very end of the game.

In order to achieve this, I’ve made it so that each star has a random set of possible planet types (all defined in XML). Each star and planet type can spawn some unique and rare characteristics (resources, improvements, trade goods, specials). Sometimes, more than 1 rare characteristic may be generated – making the planet super special and worth defending. For example, maybe a planet generates with a high amount of rare resources. This would make the planet a critical point for an empire.

Each planet type will have a set of common characteristics that are typical for that type. But, each will have some rare and at times, ultra rare characteristics. They will have a large impact if colonized and exploited to their maximum! I also offer some unique and rare planet types (such as carbon or chthonian), which also have rare characteristics. While these have slight chances of occurring, they should happen often enough to have an impact.

For example, maybe you were suddenly attacked and weren’t ready for this war. Your colonizer is just about to reach a rare planet, capable of producing a lot of of industry. Within a few turns your new planet is pumping out warships to help defend against this unexpected war.

I’m also going to make some really interesting stellar objects present in the galaxy. I rarely see things such as neutron stars (sure, they sometimes are in games) actually have meaning. Maybe neutron stars are very good at producing research – so you’ll be able to build some special research improvements. Space has so many cool things out there – I want many of them to be present and each useful in their own way (or in some cases, better at doing common aspects).

Thusly, by making sure that the planets and other stellar objects offer a chance of offering unique and rare combinations of characteristics, it will make the contents of the galaxy always different and worth exploring.

Resources

The game will offer 7 resources, split in three tiers. Each resource has a specific use. They are:

Early Game
Neodymium (Mineral)
Deuterium (Fuel)

Mid Game
Zalluriam (Mineral)
Antimatter (Fuel)

End Game
Dark Matter (“Mineral”)
Dark Energy (Fuel)
Boson Crystals (Special)

Minerals are used to construct ships armor. Fuel is used to power ships engines. Finally the single special, Boson Crystal, is used for well, special components and some powerful weapons/armor. It’ll be an end game resource, rare and extremely useful. I’m hoping to drive resource contention with it. This’ll take some balance tweaking to ensure that it offers good game play (ie: making sure it’s not an “I Win” button).

Resources will work like Civilization 5. You have access and can build ships with it. When the ship is destroyed, the stockpile gets restored. This is done to lower micromanagement and keep small numbers in the game. Instead of 10,000′s of resources per resource, you only have 100 or 1000 (depending on galaxy size).

Of course, the game can be modded to handle any amount of resources.

In addition, if you notice the types of resources, they’re all slightly different. This means the harvesting mechanism will be different. For example, Dark Matter may be located out in deep space. Antimatter may be harvested from suns/stars. Dark Energy could be from black holes. As you can see – this really makes the resource dynamic of the game change!

And finally, the way the game is played slightly changes over the course of it – at the beginning you’ll be harvesting Deuterium on regular planets, and by the end – you’ll be looking for black holes to get the Dark Energy. This is good since it’s more interesting over the session and keeps you engaged.

Building Stuff

I’ve made the decision to make sure that the players cannot always build every single improvement on a planet. They are only given enough room to build a subset (most times). This will facilitate continual expansion. This can be magnified especially when certain events occur (either internal such as a player’s own goals or external like a nearby opposing empire affecting them).

I’m going to do a future article on Empire Management and Micromanagement that explains this aspect of building in more detail so I’ll stop here.

Exploration

I wanted to do something different for exploration. You know – besides sending out a scout ship and hitting end turn. So I’ve come up with some extensions and this is how I’ll handle exploring:

Scout Ships

Well, not much to say here except: they completely explore a stellar object (star) and it’s orbitals(planets).

Probes

You’ll be able to construct probes for a small price and then launch them to nearby stellar objects. They are a ONE time use, but will completely explore the stellar object like a scout ship. They’ll be much cheaper and faster than scout ships.

FTL Scans

You’ll be able to construct a large scan array that can be deployed anywhere. This scanner will act as a sensor array which will scan nearby stellar objects and anything in space in range (so fleets will show up). The catch here is: you won’t be able to scan the contents of the stellar objects – just the name will be revealed. These will also last a few turns(though the name of the stellar objects explored will remain). These sensor scans take a bit more industry to build than scout ships or probes.

Exploring the galaxy

By presenting the player with a few different ways of how to explore and answer the question “Hey, what’s out there?” it should be a bit more interesting since choices have to be made. You won’t (though you can) always be building scout ships. There are advantages and disadvantages for each type, and some have long term use, such as the FTL Scans.

Other Game Systems

I’ve also taken the idea of a living galaxy and used it in many of the other game systems – technology, trade, espionage, and diplomacy. In the case of trade and espionage, the player has control to define some structural aspects of how they work/behave, and this structure will change over time. On diplomacy, since it’s partially incident based, the player will be able to see actions that happened in the past. It’ll give history to their experiences in galaxy. Finally, for technology, there will be a few super projects that can be discovered and completed. These will be randomized during generation of the game.

This helps create an image in the player’s mind that the galaxy is alive because it had a beginning, and then changes over time. The player can look at these systems and see how it takes shape on the main galaxy view. Then, they can control certain aspects to give ownership. This will hopefully create a sense of being alive and make the galaxy more than just a star map.

I’m going to be doing articles on the systems mentioned above so I won’t explain them now.

Codex

Since I’ve created a lot of lore, I want to make sure the player can have access to it while playing the game. As such, I’ve created the Codex system. Each time a game is generated, a series of codex’s are placed on various orbitals. When a player colonizes/explores that planet, they’ll gain access to it. It’ll be saved to a special file that persists between games. Besides explaining the lore of the universe, these codex’s are going to be part of the requirement to unlock the special faction.

Pirates and Space Monsters

There will be these guys out there. They’re always fun and it’s cool to see how a developer tackles it. I have a couple of interesting ideas for space monsters, besides just the typical random one appearing. It involves transforming planets into breeding grounds of some sorts. If left unchecked, it could be a thorn in an empire’s side for a bit. I may have a rare chance of having super space monsters that can seriously plague the galaxy.

For pirates, they play a big role in the trade system and will be based on various factors, such as distance from your planets and how many of your fleets are around.

Extras

Now, I said in a previous article I don’t talk about things that aren’t in yet. But I’m going to break that rule this one time. I mentioned above that I have plans to expand on making a living galaxy, and I’ll list a few of them: event system, unique wonders, and smaller unique named stellar objects. Some of these may make it in on the initial release, but I can’t say for sure.

Of course, I can take requests so if you have any ideas – let me know!

Conclusion

So there you have it. That is how I’m trying to create a galaxy that isn’t static. I have some more things I’m doing but I’ll save those for another article.

Trying to make a living galaxy was something that I had to continually think of while designing each system. I think it’ll pay off – the galaxy will hopefully be more interesting than in other games. I hope the players have fun exploring each stellar object and location in the galaxy and think it’s worth it. After all, 3 of the 4 X’s are: eXplore, eXpand and eXploit

I’m going to continually improve upon this aspect for future updates as it’s important.

What am I currently working on?

I’ve been very busy the last 2 months. I’ve completed the majority of the fleet combat (I recently added lasers), then implemented the agency based espionage system, incident based diplomacy system, added in space governments and I converted the game to use LibGDX (potential Android deployment + better performance/tools) rather than Slick2D.

Between this, I’ve been coding the AI system. Finally, I’ve been working with my new artist to bring the different Empires to life! He’s doing a great job and I know you’ll like the art work.

Thanks for reading and I look forward to your comments.

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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51 Comments


  1. Jeannius says:

    Great entry. I am looking forward to your game already. The different type of fuel/mineral depending on stage of game is a brilliant idea.

    Looking forward to learning more about your game!

    • dayrinni says:

      Thanks! I’m having lots of fun coding it up, but is a lot of work. Labor of love they say.

      I think futuristic civilizations always have the ability to move forward, and I believed having different resources and the locations of harvesting them was an easy and simple way to achieve a portion of that aspect.

  2. TanC says:

    Can’t wait for the next article! Definitely would pledge to your game when it goes on Kickstarter! Do let us all here at SpaceSector know when it is up. :)

    • dayrinni says:

      Thanks!

      I’m not going to Kickstarter until I have a working game with all of the initial features I want. I’m doing this so people will know what they’re getting and I can spend most of my time (after Kickstarter) on the following activities:
      1. Fixing bugs/performance/stability. This is extremely important to me and is why it’s item 1.
      2. Ironing the balance/game play systems.
      3. Gives me my full focus to incorporate the acquired art assets (this’ll take some months to do). It also gives me the time to add in cool requested features/changes from the players.

      I will let you when I go and I’m actually using SpaceSector as my main means of communication with you guys. Adam has been kind enough to let me do that. He’s a great guy and has a great site so I feel honored.

      • Jeff P says:

        I think your approach is great! That should go a long way to avoiding the development pitfalls (and associated controversy) that has plagued certain recent releases.

        • dayrinni says:

          I’m glad you like my approach. The reasons you mentioned are why I’m going that way. I’ve seen many issues from the recent games and I want to try and mitigate them as much as possible.

  3. Ashbery76 says:

    Sounds great.What about luxury resources too like in Civ and Endless space that add nice social and population buffs.

    I think most 4X fail at making galaxy exploration last long enough..I think exploring and meeting new races should last to very late in the game.

    Exploring and growing is the most fun part in my view.

    • Ribba says:

      I agree, the galaxies always feels too small. It’s often like your exploring your neighborhood then a galaxy. It would be fantastic to have such a huge galaxy where you for instance hear tales about a great empire far, far away, but you do not actually make contact with it before far out into the game…. if ever. Because it greatness may have demised from the time you first heard of them, until you actually reached the area of the galaxy where this empire existed. Also, if this empire demised, it would be cool if you could explore the ruins on planets that once belonged to this empire.

      Also, research is also usually too quick and simplistic. Often it takes shorter time to develop new technologies then it does to actually build this technology. So when you finally have gotten your new and shiny ship, it’s already obsolete because you have already developed new and better technology.

      So if it was up to me, I would make research and development more evolutionary then revolutionary. I would also make it with the general idea that there is no perfect design. An existing technology can always be improved so that many of the tech tree’s branches basically has no end, and the only brake is the increasing cost and need for other technologies to be able to improve this existing technology.

      This way you also would get more diversity in the game, since players would now be able to make the choice to stay on an existing technology by improving it, or go for an new revolutionary technology with better potential, but is more resource demanding to invent then improving an existing technology.

      • dayrinni says:

        For galaxy size, I think it would be possible to do something that you speak of, where the game will only generate your current known area and then just extrapolate what happens in other areas. This is something I have always wanted to play around with but never attempted it. I’ve kicked out some ideas for this and would like to try some of them out. Maybe I can try this out for an expansion with a special game mode or something /shrugs.

        I also think that generally, the reasons why the galaxies are small is due to management and (at least in the past) hardware/performance limitations.

        Having said that, I do leave it open for players to mod the sizes of the galaxies and to create their own. So if someone wants to play around with that – they are more than welcome to do so. Fully zoomed out, I can easily render 1,500 stars at 60 FPS. I could probably do much more than that.

        I also agree with you on the technology speeds. It really is a bummer to be in that situation. I was always in that spot in Civ 5. I will have an article on technology, but I will just say for now, I’m going to try my best to make it so technologies are well balanced so that they flow well and the pace is not too fast. This is something I can only really achieve with testing (in a few months).

        Oh, I also do support upgrades for technologies (which can have many levels in fact). So in a way, I do implement a part of your idea :)

        Thanks for your comments.

    • dayrinni says:

      Oh, I am having those – it’s based in the trade system actually. So I’ll be covering them when I write that article, which probably will be one of the next ones coming up.

      I love exploring too. I feel the games become *partly* meaningless with no reason to go out there and find cool stuff. I’m trying my best to make that phase last as long as possible. It’ll be a work in progress and I’ll need to continually make improvements. But I think I have a good foundation to work from.

      I’m doing a few extra things that I didn’t write about, but they’re surprises :)

  4. shbs says:

    Would love to see Nebula’s in the galaxy, big ones – they are like that in real life, taking up dozens of stars – they could be home to completely different life forms or even NPC’s – different ship systems needed to navigate – different weapons, shields etc etc – basically something you couldn’t conquer with existing fleets – making you choose what to build.

    Also – too make a living galaxy – please put in heaps of NPC’s – finding new civilizations really opens up a galaxy + plus trade + different technologies + political ramifications – make the NPC’s not just one planet folk either – ie – some can control 3 to 4 planets in a sector – but not be an opposing empire.

    • dayrinni says:

      Hi,

      Thanks for your multiple comments. It’s great to see your enthusiasm!

      The game will have nebula in the galaxies. They are easy to do. Simply select the locations and away you go (drawing graphics + deciding if a nebula is there). I had them previously remove all shielding from ships. I may lower sensor ranges as well.

      Now, on your NPC comment. I may have a few NPCs, but it won’t be a lot. The reason is due to my planning of expansions and the current state of the main empires you can play as. They’re essentially in their own galaxy and just starting out with discovering FTL travel. Also, they are the only main life forms in their galaxy.

      I do plan to include many NPCs in later expansions (plus other cool features). In fact, they’ll probably be sort of how you describe them – somewhat powerful with a couple planets/systems.

  5. shbs says:

    Can i also request with ships and technology that each empire have a different focus.

    One of my pet hates with a lot games is that no matter who you play the same tech, weapons, ships are available to every civilization – it makes it so vanilla.

    I would imagine that if a society invented and adopted a certain technology that, that tech would be there specialty, say laser’s – they couldn’t just jump around to other techs.

    but if another society went in a different direction say bio-tech (think borg multiplied x 10) – then that would be there specialty. And it would take a huge effort to change that society to laser base.

    or another society may go for stealth (cloaking etc)which leads to inter-phase tech – something no one else could hope to catch up to.

    this would make the game more replayable – you would want to try the different specialities.

    You could then, even find a precursor planet with a completely different tech base largely intact – and have to choose if you wanted to change your speciality to that base or only incorporate it into your existing tech. Which would give benefits but possibly not as effective as a total change.

    Just thoughts – but man would that be interesting to play.

    • dayrinni says:

      I’m using a randomized technology system. It’ll pull technologies from a pool to assign them. You can upgrade technologies.

      While I think it’s cool to have different technologies for different races, I am not sure I can do it initially. It’s a lot of work of having to create thousands of different technologies. Right now, I need to create at least 200 technologies.

      If I gave each empire(I have 8) their own unique technologies, I would need 1,600 technologies. I do not have the resources for that (I’d need to design them, get the UI art which is a 128×64 image, make particle effects, write descriptions, test each one and then ensure balance). I honestly cannot do that right now. So instead, I’ll have around 200 and each empire can pull a subset of random ones from the main pool. So you’ll get 120 out of the 200 by the end of the game. I think that’ll achieve partially of what you describe – each will be different enough, but there will be some overlap.

      Maybe over time, I can create unique technologies for each race – if the game is successful enough. By having different technologies, it would most certainly increase replayability and make the empires very unique.

      I’m going to do an article about technology in the future.

      • Ashbery76 says:

        You could copy the SOTS,MOO style of having races have better weighted options at certain tech lines.Humans had better shields,meklar better at computers,ect.

        • dayrinni says:

          Great idea and I agree! In fact, I do something like this actually – each race has a proficiency level for each of the 4 categories. :)

      • MammothIL says:

        That’s actually a good way to handle tech research replay value. If I understand correctly, it like the system in the SOTS games?
        Clearly, creating a completely unique tech tree for each race is a great deal of work, and may not be feasible. But maybe you’ll be able to create traits for different races (like Ashbery76 wrote) and make certain tech binded to those traits?
        For example, Humans have better shields understanding – let them research a module that speeds up recharge rate.
        The trick, IMHO, is not to make the unique tech too powerful, or to weak.

        • dayrinni says:

          Cool!

          I am going to most likely do my next article on technology since many people have been making comments about it :)

          It’s possible right now to give bonuses to many different aspects of the game, so allowing Humans to have something specific like increased shield regen is easy to do. As mentioned in my Empire article, I am giving noticeable and stark pluses and minuses to the races.

          I will think more on having one or two special techs per race – it’s not hard to do as it’d be between 8-16 extra technologies.

  6. shbs says:

    Oh….and ship design (think stardrive) and land forces please.

    Imagine if everytime you went to conquer a world….

    1) – you get the normal space battle – your ships vs ships / starbase / land missiles

    2) – if you win the space battle you get sent to a land battle screen – something like “Total War battle screen” – where you have to battle in real time (pausable) to take over the dug-in enemy at their fortress or whatever, to win the planet.

    Land battle screen can change depending on planet type, jungle / swamp / desert / moon / fog / water / exotic / etc

    The possibilities of this would be incredible and add to the immersion – and something not done before in a space 4x

    • dayrinni says:

      Hi,

      I will have ground combat. I feel most 4X games completely disregard it (like Endless Space). I’m still designing how it’ll work though. I’m tossing around a few different ideas. Some of what you suggest are some of the ideas I’m kicking around. IMO, ground combat has to be a short but interactive experience. It can offer a lot to the game if done well. I still find MoO1/2 the best ground combat.

      I have a bunch of unique and fun things for space combat, and I’m saving it for an article :) So stay tuned!

    • dayrinni says:

      I forgot to mention this in my last comment: if you or anyone else have cool ideas for ground combat – fire away! I’m still figuring it out so some ideas/feedback would be cool.

      • Ashbery76 says:

        Play MOO3 and the copy the realistic army group
        organization.Division,corps,armies with support units required to form an army.I also liked that you could use bio,nukes as a tactical choice but at the cost of diplomatic penalties.Moo3 also had battles that could last many turns based on factors.It was the most feasible ground combat system I have seen in 4X games.

        Planet terrain should have an impact on the battle and unit type efficiency.Armour would be less effective in jungle planets.etc.Use planet terrain like a wargame uses a hex.

        • MammothIL says:

          I’d add to that the ability to give overall orders for a land battle that would give positive/negative bonuses to units stats? Say, blitzkrieg – +10% to attack, -5% HP.
          In addition, you could have orders that would be enabled only if you have a specific module or tech. Like space marines would give you an ability to use drop pods :-)

        • dayrinni says:

          This reply is for both Ashbery and MammothIL.

          I have played MoO3 and actually like the game a lot. It does some cool things and I thought their ground combat was interesting but wasn’t interactive enough and the graphical feedback wasn’t enough for me personally

          Though, that leads me to the question:
          How interactive do you (anyone) like ground combat? Most forms seem to be completely hands off (not sure on SD). That appears the status quo. Is there an opportunity to create a fun little “mini-game” if you will, for this?

          I do like the idea of giving orders and then having unique ones show up based on tech – in fact the idea of space marines using drop pods is AWESOME!!! It’d be even cooler if I had enough money to have short little clips of these things happening in the ground assualt.

          Maybe it could be round based, ie: you give some initial orders (overall attack plan), then, there are a few pauses to give follow up orders based on how things are going. Maybe you could place where you want these follow up orders to take place, ie: drop pods here, do an orbital bombardment here, etc. Then it would be:
          1. Short enough, like maybe a minute long. This means it won’t be drawn out and make every space + ground combat take hours to play. It can get dicey when you consider that ground combat has to take over an entire planet.
          2. Allow for enough interaction between the player and game system so the player feels like they’re making choices that affect the battle. It won’t be too much (controlling every unit) or too little (just watching)
          3. Easily done code and art wise (if we don’t include the videos, since they’ll be expensive). Implementing this system would not be hard to do. The art should be fairly straight forward.
          4. Making content is easy – just develop some new technologies to do different activities – should be straight forward.

          Sounds pretty awesome to me! Thanks for priming the pump here you two. What do you think?

      • AstralWanderer says:

        In my view, ground combat should be fairly similar to space combat (except for being on a planet surface) and that would have the benefit of using the same game system to handle both combat types. It may even be worth considering a third level of combat – orbital – where planetary defenses (ground launched missiles, giant projectors, orbiting space stations) come into play.

        Dayrinni: “I do like the idea of giving orders and then having unique ones show up based on tech – in fact the idea of space marines using drop pods is AWESOME!!! It’d be even cooler if I had enough money to have short little clips of these things happening in the ground assualt.”

        Drop pods and orbital bombardment would be very nice features to have (and in orbital battles, guiding pods so they avoid defensive fire could be critical to ground combat) – the only game I’ve come across doing this is Imperium Galactica 2. I wouldn’t bother with movie clips though – IG2 did those too and they tended to become tiresome.

        I would suggest not worrying about the length of ground combat, as long as players are given a “quick resolution” option then it should offer similar depth and gameplay to tactical space combat. Also ground assault is only likely to happen with key targets – everything else would probably be nuked from orbit.

        Ground combat does need to be linked with the colony system for best effect – looking at IG2 again, you could decide where individual buildings were placed (like SimCity) and later fight battles on the same map. I don’t know if you’re planning on the same level of control, but at the very least being able to specify defense levels or placing military bases would seem desirable.

        Ashbery76: “I also liked that you could use bio,nukes as a tactical choice but at the cost of diplomatic penalties.”

        A better deterrent might be to allow the capture of planet facilities (with research benefits) only if MDDs (Mass Destruction Devices) aren’t used. Glassing a planet from orbit is always going to be far easier and less costly than a ground assault, so there needs to be considerable incentive for a ground combat system to see much use.

        Dayrinni: “…if you or anyone else have cool ideas for ground combat – fire away!”

        Include some element of subterranean combat (either as a racial benefit or from research/production of underground defenses). This should allow a defender to “teleport” units on the battlefield (using tunnels), provide extra defensive bonuses and allow planets to better survive orbital bombardment.

        • MammothIL says:

          In reply to dayrinni :
          I think that the battle concept you described, sounds great!
          The battle should be kept short (1-3 mins). I dont think that planet size should matter to much – an invasion would be fought at a specific area on the planet any way (a capital, a 3C center, central outpost).
          The interactive part of the battle could be managed by dividing the battle in to several phases (say, Landing, Establishing a beachhead, Capturing the 3C centers). Before the battle starts, the player would be able to choose the overall strategy, and several (?) modifiers. For example, it could like this :
          Overall strategy : frontal assault.
          Modifiers :
          First phase : Preemptive bombardment – negative bonus to enemy defense strength and morale. Would require fleet assets in orbit, and take 2 turns.
          Second phase : Self-deploying turrets – positive bonus to your units HP, requires some tech research (AI ?) and cost credits.
          Third phase : “For the Emperor” (sorry, a just love WH40K :-) ). Would give positive bonus to attack, negative bonus to your units HP.

          Than the battle would play out according to your (and the enemies) choices.

          BTW, is there a forum for your upcoming game? If not, I’d think about setting one up, if only for the ease of discussion sake!

        • dayrinni says:

          AstralWanderer:
          Thanks for your feedback!

          My perspective is different on ground combat, and we have a chance to do something small and different. Also, I feel it can be used as a way for a pace modifier in game play. The feel of combat won’t always be the same and can have different dynamics. This can be beneficial to the overall combat experience.

          The issue with movie clips is easily solved by letting the player toggle movies on/off or allowing them to bypass them by a key stroke.

          The subterranean benefit is a cool idea and I like it!

          MammothIL:
          I’ll start playing around with some designs and see if I can come up with something cool. Thanks for your feedback. I feel like this type of system has a lot of potential to fit in a bunch of the little fun and racial aspects, much like what AstralWanderer was mentioning about subterranean.

          I will have a website/forums but since the game is not ready for public release/viewing/testing. I am waiting for the game to be feature complete. If you want to take part of the initial testing (note: the game will be RAW so if you’re adverse to testing, maybe it’d be better to wait until after kick starter) shoot me an email.

          Thanks!

  7. AstralWanderer says:

    Nitpick: Resources/End Game/Boson Crystals (Special) – Bosons are force carriers (see http://physics.info/standard/ for more), do not have mass and multiple bosons can exist at the same point in space. They’re unlikely to be found in crystal form so another unobtainium-style name would be better.
    While having different resources at each game stage should give a more dynamic game (where a formerly valueless system becomes important due to a now-needed mineral), having them linked to technology types may be better still. In that case, developing a specific tech means committing to its relevant resources which can raise several strategic conundrums – might it be better to look at little-known tech X since its resources are more widely available, or unlikely to be used by other races making them easier to trade for? Would Tech Y’s seemingly useful advances be worthwhile given they need a very rare resource (possibly only available in limited/hazardous locations like near supermassive black holes)?
    On the research size, your plans to randomise tech trees look interesting – one variation on this would be to randomise how far each technology could be developed (e.g. Hyperwave Laser Tech may top out at level X, so races using that are then unable to improve weapons until alternatives are developed – such as Focused Gamma Ray Tech – with their own caps). The game engine would need to ensure that such technologies had some overlap (new techs should always give inferior results initially) and some techs should be indefinite (where balance is easy to maintain, such as cloaking and de-cloaking), but doing this would simulate research “local maximums” as described in http://www.dansdata.com/gz122.htm as well as making it less predictable (related techs could reuse graphics to save development time).

    • dayrinni says:

      The Boson Crystal is indeed something that I made up with very little scientific backing. The funny thing is that I created the resource prior to discovery of the Higgs-Boson last summer (and confirmation apparently this past March), so I am most likely going to change it simply because I wanted something that just doesn’t really exist in real life yet. I’ll check out your link!

      Right now, I only have the resources tied to the ships armor and engines.
      I think this is what you’re describing with tying the resources to the various types of technologies? It may be better to equip a ship with armor from a previous tier simply because you have more of it available, but can still attain the same types of weaponry + components (sensors, etc). This isn’t as extensive/complex than what you are describing. Let me know!

      For technology upgrades, the upgrades are defined in the XML file, with a min and max level. Then the game will generate a random number between them. In some cases, you can define what each level gets (besides just saying +5% to weapon damage for example). So the flexibility exists easily to make long upgrade chains, and we can come up with a way ensure some overlap. I really want to make the player think on what they want to do: research a new technology (takes awhile) or upgrade an existing one.

      Thanks for the link, I’ll check it out!

      • AstralWanderer says:

        “Right now, I only have the resources tied to the ships armor and engines.
        I think this is what you’re describing with tying the resources to the various types of technologies? It may be better to equip a ship with armor from a previous tier simply because you have more of it available, but can still attain the same types of weaponry + components (sensors, etc).”

        Sort of – my initial idea was anything needing a resource should be nonbuildable unless you have access to that resource. However there are several ways to skin a cat and other options could include:

        (a) Research into some technologies cannot be done without access to a resource.
        (b) Some items cannot be built without access to a resource.
        (c) Some items are less effective without continuous access to a resource (these may degrade gradually, say 10%/turn until at 10% effectiveness – ablative armour and projectile weapons would be good candidates for this).

        Ideally, resources should make players think carefully over their technology choices, encourage trade or military action to acquire them and provide a degree of variability in the game. At the same time, you don’t want players to have to micro-manage (especially if you end up with dozens of types) but do want quantity to count.

        So one option is to assign a size to each resource deposit and require empires to build some sort of extraction facility to harvest it (this could range from a mine for physical ores to a research facility located at a Lagrange point collecting stellar debris). Resource size determines the largest facility and the output from all facilities is totalled.

        If an empire is producing an excess, some of it is traded automatically (amount depends on trading environment, price depends on how many other empires need it) though it should be possible to disable trade (for stockpiling). If there is a shortfall, it buys in the amount needed at market rate (random events pushing up resource prices could make things interesting…).

        Once usage of a resource is widespread enough, that resource should be counted as part of normal production and removed from the map – this will keep numbers of resources down (by removing old ones) and make older technology using it cheaper to maintain.

        These measures should make resources important without over-burdening players, but for some situations (like research which should be secret) it may make sense to ignore trade and require actual possession (though for research, the quantities needed should be small).

        • dayrinni says:

          A lot of what you have here is how the old game worked – each component of a ship (and buildings for that matter), required specific resources and extracting/stockpiling/etc. My testing with others indicated it did not work very well.

          I feel having lower amount of resources in general allow for better contention and in addition, since they don’t stockpile per turn helps too. Though, it is easily changed in the game to use larger values – just a few changes in the XML files.

          I do like your idea of having excess resources being automatically traded. I think I’ll try to include that. I can assign different values for trade potential and then have a couple other equations like you described. This can be an automatic procedure but better I’ll play around with allowing the player to have the option to choose where it is traded. I can talk more about this on my trade article.

          Since I have only 7 resources, the automatic removal from the network is not necessary, I feel. Though, if I had like 20 resources your idea makes complete sense.

          Unfortunately, it seems you and I have slightly different views on 4X games and I feel bad about that. I do not have any disrespect for you or your ideas. I’m just trying to go in a slightly different path. However, I do enjoy your contributions and you do have good ideas. I hope you keep posting!

  8. Peter says:

    Awesome articles.
    New games these days doesn’t have the replay-ability factor. Looking at your ideas I have a feeling this can be highly replayable. Recently I bought Xcom, played it like it but haven’t touched it since I finished it. Even downloaded the old xcom games since its better then the new one. New games are all about looks but no gameplay. Ofcourse it has to look great to attract the young gamers these days but without a good story/gameplay/idear behind the game it wont be a good game.

    Just look at the new game StarDrive that came out with allot of potential. Bought it, its good but meh it only has a sandbox with limited options at this time and dont get me started on the bugs it has. Its sad it got out of beta since its a beta at its current state. So im glad you are focusing on bug control :)

    Anyway looking forward for your next article.

    • dayrinni says:

      Thanks!

      As you mention, replayability is big. To me it is. I’ve tried to do enough to ensure there are different aspects/elements/etc each time you play. For example, I have a bunch of different victory conditions. I also have the codex system, and the locked empire that needs several game play sessions to unlock. So I’m really hoping by the time the game is completed, there’ll be enough variation that the game is solid enough to provide many sessions of 4X goodness!

      Being an older game, I grew up on games that were sprite/pixel based and the game play reigned supreme. While cool art/graphics do sell, there should be solid game play backing that. I’m trying to do that!!

      I haven’t played or bought SD yet. I’m trying to focus the majority of my free time into finishing the game. Though, I will try it out probably over the summer once testing begins!

      Now, bugs, they are sadly a fact of Software Development(I know most people know this). But there are a lot of things one can do to mitigate it. That starts with doing lots of testing. It also involves designing good systems, as well as have good coding practices. These go a long ways. But I’d be completely foolish to think there won’t be bugs. So I want to have a long testing cycle to flesh as many out as possible. I also will be crafting a sizable set of regression tests to ensure continual quality. I’m hoping that this will be enough to have generally lower bugs/issues. I guess what to take out of this: I’m trying my best and I actually do care about the quality of the product.

      My next article is looking to be about technology since the comments here have been mostly about it, haha. Seems like it makes sense to do that next I suppose :)

      Thanks!!

  9. Jeff P says:

    Today I dusted off my copy of MoOII and re-installed it. I played several hours, and realized that this game would be GREAT if re-released as is with upgraded graphics and real-time tactical play.

    The tactical component was tedious and the most obvious aspect of the game in need of revision.

    Microprose is long gone. Who currently holds the intellectual property rights to Masters of Orion II? It appears that someone doesn’t want to make alot of money.

    • Adam Solo says:

      Atari Interactive, Inc holds the Master of Orion IP at the moment.

      You mean a Master of Orion 2 HD (including support for today’s resolutions) with a few tactical combat enhancements or perhaps a combat revamp.

      I also think it would sell well. In particular it would appeal to old school gamers. But, I think you’d need to fix the overall micromanagement issue, not just the combat part. And that can still be a lot of work.

      So:
      - HD remake (new art assets, support for today’s resolutions)
      - combat fix (to reduce micromanagement)
      - colony management fix (to reduce micromanagement)

      I’m sure a lot of people would buy that. I know I would.

      But, what I would prefer over that, was a new game that would be a fusion of the best elements of MoO1 and MoO2, and why not MoO3. Of course, what one considers “best elements” will vary :)

      • dayrinni says:

        I love MoO (we all do!) and I wanted to fix some of the issues that were in that game (MoO2), pretty much what Adam listed, and a few more. I’m not claiming my game is a MoO remake or a clone or anything of the sort. However, like the majority of 4X games, it is obviously inspired from it.

        I wouldn’t mind doing a remake of MoO, in fact, it’d be a lot of fun but without having ownership of the IP and a real studio behind me to do that, it’s only but a dream!

        • Adam Solo says:

          Of course. I see a Master of Orion remake/clone/sequel as a separate subject, a thread in the 4X gaming world. However, many people played and loved MoO/MoO2, and that’s why many check every new 4X game features’ list, to see if they’re close to Master of Orion or not.

          But, this isn’t the same as saying that we ALL do that. I feel that a good many do that but others do not.

          So, one thing is the genre, that no doubt Master of Orion helped shape in the first place, but the genre will and is evolving at its own pace. Games like Distant Worlds hold few to almost no resemblance to Master of Orion’s gameplay, and it’s an excellent space 4X game on its own merits.

          Sins is also a very different kind of 4X, Star Ruler also. Naturally, the recent 4X TBS games are closer to the MoO formula. The cases of Armada 2526, Endless Space or StarDrive. But, even there I don’t see Endless Space to be that close to MoO.

          What I’m trying to say is that I feel there’s several threads running of different people who love the genre. And, these threads interwove many times. But, they are independent still. I’m sure you’ll find as many people who prefer to see more innovation as to see a Master of Orion remake.

          So, I would say that it’s perfectly natural to borrow from Master of Orion or other classics like BOTF, Star Wars: Rebellion, Stars! or Imperium Galactica (to name a few) but we should try to push some more innovation into the equation. And, why not, try to surpass the classics, as they all had their fair share of problems (poor stability, lacking AI, performance issues, micromanagement hassle, barren feeling, uninspiring design, etc). If this can be done with better graphics, so much the better.

    • Ashbery76 says:

      Moo2 is pretty much like the old X-com.Awesome for the first quarter and then tedium kills it.The MOO2 flavour,strategic system,and space porn tech tree’s are still the best in the space 4x genre in my view.

      The whole fiddling with alien pops is cool and adds great immersion but needs to scale when your empire gets bigger.Turn based tactical ship combat is great too but also needs to scale somehow.

  10. Towerbooks3192 says:

    The thing that bothers me about trying to make a space strategy/4x game is that how much research are the devs going to dive in to. I know that you could create some resources/techs/planets and stuff out of your own imagination and how much real scientific theories and principles will you throw in to the game?

    I really salute everyone who makes space 4x games and how they make things believable with a bit of real scientific theories and and some made up stuff derived from this. I think if ever I will get my hands dirty, I will go with fantasy strategies and RPGs since I don’t have to do some scientific research to back up my made up creatures/resources/ and techs like space/scifi games does.

    • dayrinni says:

      This is a great comment.

      I’ve done loads of research to find out what exists in the universe. That’s why I’m so excited about offering small unique twists on what’s out there.

      I’ve done lots of research on the values for stars and have them generated within the ranges provided. I also do the same for the types of stars in the galaxy (I do tweak some values to make it so that it’s a bit more playable). I’m going to do the same for the types of planets that orbit the stars. Though honestly, this type of information is hard to really find since it…doesn’t’ seem to exist.

      In terms of technology, I’m going to try to make it start off at a realistic level so that the progression makes sense. I plan on adding descriptions that try to explain how some things became into being so it does have some resemblance to real life. Though, this aspect, will mostly be flavor text.

      For FTL, I have done some “research” on this and actually have a few “technical” documents that explain how it works. I put that in quotes because this obviously isn’t possible but the person reading it with an interest in basic science should be like “Yeah, this sounds good!”

      I think these types of games should have some sort of base in reality since most of them are an extension of our present. It makes it easier for players to relate.

      Great comment though.

      • Towerbooks3192 says:

        I must say that you did a great job with your progress so far and hopefully we could see another addition to the space 4x available in the market. Like I said I salute you for doing it and the hard work you devote on research. The thing about space and scifi related theories and principles is that we dont know what lies ahead and one day it will probably turn out the way as imagined by some or turn out differently.

        I really love reading space lore and theories and how humans try to figure out the secrets ofvthe universe. I saw too much ancient aliens and personally I prefer to learn more on the mystical side ofvthings rather than the scientific one but I do love both.

        • dayrinni says:

          Thanks! Several years ago I spent a few months just looking at the values for different stars and made large charts. It was fun – I got to learn a lot about what the universe has to offer and all the amazing things out there! I have a friend who is an astrophysicist and he helped me out too.

          I think you’ll like what I’ve done lore wise with the races – it’s all very interesting to me and so I think it’ll be for you too.

          Ancient Aliens is awesome, haha. They do bring up some interesting points, lol. It’s actually good subject matter for me since some of what they talk about could be cool features. If I have enough time, I’ll add a couple small things.

        • Towerbooks3192 says:

          Once upon a time I wanted to be a priest so I love religion and if I wasn’t watching Cartoon Network, Nat Geo/Discovery Channel when I was a kid, I would be reading books about religion, myths and stuff.

          I am not sure if I missed something but I haven’t found a space game that gives the sort of point of view about aliens being worshiped as “gods” and they compete against other aliens to colonise and enslave worlds and try to be good to the people who worship them and give them technology and stuff and be evil to those who didn’t. I think the only game closest to ancient aliens is Dominions 3 (if you look at it in an ancient aliens perspective).

        • dayrinni says:

          I’d like to add something that kinda deals with the player making choices on species they find on planets. A whole host of different options would exist, each with…different end situations. So the idea of being worshiped by gods, or doing genetic experiments to create a new race to mine resources, or anything else AA suggests would play a role. Would be cool, I think. But that’s down the line and a lot of work to do it well and make sure it’s fun. But hey, that’s why they make patches and expansions :)

      • MammothIL says:

        BTW, on the topic of a Living Galaxy, another way that may stimulate galaxy exploration, is inclusion of events. Those can be based on real-life phisics (a star going nova, for instance, would affect space travel around itself), or Star-Trek like events (temporal anomaly of some kind).
        Those event can be interactive and affect the player that encounters them, or they could just effect the game play for everything around them.
        Also, dayrinni, i would love to hear your opinion on the tactitcal combat i wrote about a dosen post ago :-)

        • dayrinni says:

          Yes, events can be a very powerful way to stimulate exploration. I feel the event system is something that needs a lot of time to successfully do: both from design and implementation and then content generation. This is why I’m not sure it’ll reach the initial release. If you want to hear the technical details about this, let me know and I can explain a bit.

          I want to be able to spend time on it to make it really good. I want them to have real impact and choice. For some events, I want the player to look at the choices and really have to think about it. Evens will most likely be a stretch goal for kick starter.

          If a lot of people ask for events right away, I will reevaluate my position on it. :)

          I also replied to your ground combat post a few minutes ago (great one!) – Mondays and Wednesdays are bad days for me. Sorry for the delay!

          Thanks!!

  11. Ashbery76 says:

    With a bit of google espionage you can find dayrinni’s website.

    Long live the CER!

    • dayrinni says:

      I was wondering how long it’d take for someone to do that.

      I’m redoing the site soon (changing the color scheme mostly) and I have to add more to it/clean up content(one of the races need to be modified heavily). If you could keep it to yourself, that’d be great :P

    • dayrinni says:

      What’s your email Ashbery or if you could drop me a line at: dayrinni@tempestseason.com, that’d be great.

  12. Anubis says:

    Hello dayrinni, I am really enjoying your “Making a Space 4X Game” series! :)

    Regarding (random) events: I always felt that events shouldn’t be black and white in terms of positive and negative effects. For example a star goes super nova and thus destroying a colony. In recent 4X games it’s a very bad event making you want to reload the game! But I’d like to see an event system that at first glance an event seems very bad can result in initiating new positive things. Now that the super nova was so close to your empire your researchers could study the whole thing up close (as close as you can be during a super nova :D) and discover a technology that allows you to build a special “event technology weapon” for example that is more powerful for it’s technology tier, or cheaper to produce etc. Of course this technology is otherwise not obtainable and unique. This way it also encourages exploration or even expansion since you want to be close to events all around the galaxy.

    I think events should have a negative as well as a positive effect to them. So you kind of want to explore the event. :)

    Just a thought I wanted to share since you asked for feedback.

    • dayrinni says:

      Hi Anubis,

      Thanks a lot for your comment. I’m glad you’re enjoying the articles – it’s lots of fun writing these articles as well as working on the game.

      You bring up an interesting thought about events and I think that it has merit. Some events should both be bad and good like you describe. It makes it bittersweet and can actually be a catalyst to something cool. Your example of the event technology weapon is great. Maybe this is such a good weapon that helps you design better ships for the war you’re trying to win. So even though you lost a colony (or a few) you ultimately win the war and double the size of your empire…surely that one lost colony was a good price to pay :)

      It also opens up different aspects of events that can span several turns and having another layer of impact as maybe the situation on this turn is different than last, which may influence your decision making. It’s an easy way to make events inherently more interesting.

      This type of event system, one that is interesting and really good, is a huge project. I want to do a very good job on it and try to make many of the events interesting and require a bit of thought. That’s why I’m not entirely certain I can get it finished for the initial release. I am not sure how much of a negative that is, which is why I will continually evaluate and change as needed. This is a luxury of mine being an indie developer – I am only beholden to myself :) Though, if you want to chime on the requirements of such an event system, please do so.

      Thanks for your comment!

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