Age of Wonders: Planetfall - Dev Diary #10: The NPC Factions and PvE Diplomacy

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LennartGS

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Hi there! Welcome to this week’s development update where we’ll be discussing the role of NPC factions and the all new PvE (Player V Environment) Diplomacy system in Age of Wonders: Planetfall.

I’d like to emphasize the game is still in development so everything is subject to change; this diary includes some WIP interface stuff and onscreen text.

As you visit the collapsed worlds of the Star Union, you’ll notice they are filled with survivors. The game recognizes the following NPC Factions. (NPC is short for Non-Primary Combatants)

· The Spacers – Mutated descendants of the urban populations. Their society and religion were shaped by gaming culture, as the empire population was entertained extreme VR experiences. With the networks gone, they seek their thrills in the physical world.

· The Paragons – The former governing and elite classes. They’ve survived the collapse through life extending augmentations and therapies which are now faltering. They haven’t lost their arrogance and entitlement though.

· The Growth – Intelligent plants escaped from biotech company Terra Tech. They strive to live in a symbiosis with other life forms, not for people with tenctaclephobia.

· The Automons – Robots from the emergency services that have developed their own autonomous AIs after the central network of CORE went down.

· The Psi-Fish – Mysterious floating aliens that have become more prevalent after the collapse.

· Marauders - An umbrella term for the monsters and pirates that are beyond reason and cannot be negotiated with, not a true NPC Faction.

The NPC Factions are far from the sitting ducks from previous AoW games, they can’t be ignored. They might have alien savage societies, but are in the majority at the start of the game.

DD10-Wmap.jpg

Approaching a Paragon Dwelling with a Colonizer.

Quests

When expanding you’ll soon run into one of more of the factions. You might decide to approach them in a friendly way, so you perform quests for them and improve relation and influence – which you can then use to ask faction armies to give up important structures for you to use. Each NPC Faction has its own set of quests and narrative flavor.

DD10-Quest.jpg

A Paragon Quest


War

If you decide to remove an army belonging to an NPC faction by force, it means war with the entire faction and a hit on your global reputation. Be careful not to start too many NPC wars as their bases and dwelling will start to spawn invading armies and your colonies might be overrun.

Sector Claims

Just as AI Players, NPC factions lay claim to unowned Sectors around their habitats. So even if you try to avoid them, conflicts of interest with your NPC neighbors will soon start to appear: if you settle in sectors next to their dwelling your relations with them will suffer.

DD10-Claim.jpg

The Paragons don’t like us settling near them

Demands

NPC factions will make demands based on their relation with you and based on the stage of the game. Small and early offenses can be made right by payments in one of the key resources. Soon demands will escalate and include demands that you hand over sectors to them. If you decline demands, relations will go further south and you are at risk of attack.


NPC Attack Events

As in AoW3 there are stacks garrisoned at NPC dwellings, and ones patrolling territories. This time NPC factions will also launch invasion attacks. This is associated with an event. An extreme version of NPC attack events are Boss events, extra strong armies that have named Boss characters with high level unit mods and henchmen.

DD10-Boss2.jpg

An NPC Boss Army alert (Highly WIP)


NPC Unit Rosters and Assets

Each NPC Faction has at least 5 unique units, including a Tier IV as well as a set of unique Mods and Operations you can acquire from them. Depending on your relation level you can recruit NPC Units as auxiliary forces. The higher your relation, the higher the level you can recruit. This recruitment costs additional influence.

Dwelling Ownership

The ultimate friendly goal is annexing a faction’s Dwelling to your city. These dwellings have resource yields comparable with the Golden Landmarks (the highest-level economic structures in the game), and the units of the faction are unlocked for production.

This is not all, NPC interaction comes into play with PvP interaction too. You can mess with the NPC relation of other players through Covert Ops and of course they’ll play a role in achieving particular victory conditions.

Thanks for reading this week's journal, looking forward to your comments!
 

LennartGS

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Are NPC faction units and mods cross-compatible with race and class units and mods?

Yeah we designed faction mods to be fairly flexible. They work with requisites though. Some only work on infantry, biological or vehicles units.

Are they actually fish like?

Yes, but very alien exotic like fish. Manta ray, cuttlefish, that sort of thing.
 

LennartGS

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In the 1st screenshot, the Vanguard marines have 3 gold chevrons - is that indicative of levels of experiene. one assumes so. Therefore, is it 9 levels of experience? Or does it mean the unit can be levelled up (and that there is therefore a levelling up choice to be made?

Gold Chevrons = Rank. The Other Icon = Mod Variant. Ranks auto level without choice, as in AoW3; would be too much choice together with the mod system. Of course Heroes can be customized as they level up.

Also, mp on that stacks shows 0/32 mp, but the marines show 2 mp left. Does that mean that they had 34 mp, or that they used 2 mp less than the Colonizer unit, perhaps due to terrain/

Yeah could be terrain or a cheat used for this screenshot :D


Another gamechanger! So, it looks like it is shaping up to be a reactive, living map. Maybe too early to ask, but in the rmg, are there sliders to affect frequency, density, beligerence of npc factions?

Yes, there will be control over NPC factions in the RMG.

Are there independent cities that aren't dwellings, e.g. independent Vanguard outposts. If so (anjd one would hope that there are) how does declaring war on one of them count? Or is each city that isn't a dwelling basically independent?

Yes there are independent Outposts of the main races. They are actually called Outposts. More on interaction with them in later milestone. They use a different system from NPC Dwellings and work different from AoW3.

As in actively recruit them before owning them? The AoW3 analogue would be being able to recruit from a vassal. And finally, we see a concrete example of influence as a resource.

Yes, you can recruit NPC Faction units before owning them.
 

LennartGS

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One of the problems that Endless Legend has with its NPC-s is that there are so many of them. When you start out, they quickly blur together since they are very similar or sometimes the same. So when a message pops up about them, I hardly ever know who it is talking about until I double-check.

Differentiation between different NPC-s I think you can handle pretty well in PF, since they sound pretty different. But what about multiples of the same NPC faction? ie one band of merry plants starts out in the North, the other in the South. Same species, but with separate entities (capital, diplomacy etc.). Since they can become empire-large, is there a simple way to tell them apart? (such as coats-of-arms)

We played around with having multiple variants of a single faction on a planet and decided not to do it for the reason you mention. This way your actions against individual stacks have bigger consequences and its less confusing to the player. If we do make variants of a faction they'd be planet-wide.

Do NPC-s have diplomatic relationships with each other? Would two merry bands of plants go to war with each other if they were to claim the same sector? Could they ally themselves so that if you have good relationship with plants, you would get a bonus to your relationship with their allies, the Autonom? Can they give quests to each other (in addition to AI and human players)?

Currently NPC factions don't have relations with each other, but quests from one side might hurt relations with another.
 

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Different quests and flavor sounds good. The screenshot has a pretty basic quest in it, like we saw them in AoW3. Are there different quests then hunting down a group of units for different reasons? I really hope some quests go deeper and require more thought.

We currently have a category of economic quests, where for example the Paragon ask you to produce augmentations to replace their faltering implants. This gets added as Quest project in your colony production list. As being a 4X Game not all quests should be combat focused.

What sort of quests would you like to see in a this game?
 

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Who were the road designers and builders for the Star Union btw? Were it those peeps that like to create those grain circles here on earth?

:p

Actually crop circles were an inspiration for them yes.
 

LennartGS

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Thanks for all the suggestions. Yes its not easy to design quests that are easy to implement, and always fun / sensible to execute for a player.

Complex branching quests we have reserved for the campaign in the past, because there is no way for AI to properly complete them. How would you feel about having AIs not engaging in the more complex quest types for non-campaign maps?

These are the Dwelling type factions, correct? As in, there's no Dwelling in between these NPC's and the major Races?

Yeah they are take the place of AoW3 style dwellings. They contain units (monsters) different from the player races, but the mechanics surrounding them are much more developed.

BUT with this elaborate diplomacy system, will Players be able to send quests too?! If yes, can this be done to both Human and A.I. players?

We have been considering this. E.g Ask a friend to Conquer City X and he gets Y. Sort of a trade with objectives rather than assets. It was soon clear that there is way more work involved in this that you might think, edge-cases due to timing and balance concerns especially for the AI.
 

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There's mention of AI players as well as dwellings being able to 'claim' territory near them...

Would it be possible for the player to do something similar? It would be an effective means of establishing to other factions (and to your own populace for casus belli purposes) which currently unoccupied regions you consider to be 'yours', and which you're fine with someone else grabbing.

Players automatically lay claim to sectors next to their borders. Settling in it, gives a casus belli unless you have treaties. You can extend claims by building forward bases.
 

LennartGS

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Do I understand correctly that there can be only one settlement of each of the NPC´s on a map.

There are multiple dwellings for each NPC faction on a planet, but maps size + #players is a factor. (median=3 dwellings for a 6 player map). Not all NPC types exist together on a normal planet. These dwellings are subject to the same relation with the player but dwellings can acquired individually. If you build up a good relation with a faction in one area of the world, that relation will benefit you on a new continent for example, so you can get a quick foothold. This shared relation is why we have stopped using the name "independents" for them.

A NPC Faction has the following map entities associated with them:
- Dwellings: usually multiple per map, claims sectors. Strongly defended.
- (Forward) Bases: usually multiple are scattered around a dwelling, not necessarily attached. Similar to Brigand spawners when hostile. Claim sectors.
- Individual Structure Guards (scattered around the map, guarding resources nodes, pickups)
- Patrols: Guard territory around dwellings
- Raiding Armies: Attack enemy territory; originate from dwellings or bases.
- Boss Armies: high level raiding armies
- Then the RMG associates particular assets with them, like Growth having particular tentacle tiles and places particular resources and Hazards near them based on their theme.

NPC factions have a noisy clustering; meaning a Dwelling + Bases + Resource Guards don't sit in a clumped ball on a map, but territory has holes and mixes with other NPC factions.

Does the forward base give a claim on the sectors that border the forward base sector as well, or just the one sector? Is establishing a forward base different than (or necessary for) settling a sector like the AoW3 forts vs outposts?

In current builds forward bases project sector claims around them. But this is subject to balance and RMG density adjustments.
 

LennartGS

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Here's a thought-it would be cool if NPCs could become full AI Players somehow during game play. Like if they got enough resources or units or something. They could organically grow into additional opponents.

You wouldn't want that happening too often, but once or twice a game would be cool.

This would be cool but, but a tremendous amount of work :) NPC Factions have a radically different role and faction template. No Leader assets, no racial tech tree, different types of diplomatic structure, etc.

We need them as NPCs for a particular tole in the end game + they are pretty strong in their own right.
 

LennartGS

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How do these work? Do they cause you to lose relationship for taking out guards in random locations? Will they yield to you if you have high relationship?

You can get them to move with Influence. Of course you reputation has an effect on cost.
 

LennartGS

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Have you figured out how alliances interact with forward bases/sector claims? Can you let an ally lay claim to a sector you have claimed with a forward base, or can you just give them claim to a sector? Similar to trading cities, forts and resource building from AoW.

Sector bases and other entities projecting claims can be traded, but not the claims themselves. You can use trade to nullify casus belli.

Hrm, one thing I didn't like with NPC factions in AoW3 is that they didn't have a racial happiness or governance upgrades.
Is it going to be the same again?

Their relations + upgrade mechanics can't be compared to AoW3. Ownership of a dwelling is different. In AoW3 they were basically cities with most of the city functionality like growth stripped out. In Planetfall they are attached your colonies as landmark provinces.
 

LennartGS

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I'm unclear how that works.
Do you mean they attach to your nearest colonised province, or that you colonise their province that then gets a special landmark, or do you have to colonise an adjacent province?
I think I've missed something here.

You attach dwellings to a colony (after having reaching the relation prerequisites), in the same manner you attach wilderness sectors or landmark sectors to your colony.
It needs to be adjacent to a colony; you need to have the right population prerequisite to expand for it be be exploited.

Also, is there no racial happiness at all this time?

There is racial happiness in Planetfall. You atrocities will be remembered.