Age of Wonders: Planetfall - Dev Diary #9: World Map Structures I: Exploration Phase

Age of Wonders: Planetfall - Dev Diary #9: World Map Structures I: Exploration Phase

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LennartGS

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Hello there! In an earlier diary we took a look at the structure of the World Map with its sector System. Today we're going to explore the world map a bit more, and take a look at some of its new systems and locations, especially the ones relevant in the early game. You’ll see there is plenty of danger lurking in the worlds of the Star Union.

Exploring.jpg

Note the Yellow Scanner Markers in the Fog

Scan Range
We have added a new means to explore and surveil the world map. Next to Vision Range, your empire's units and structures project a Scan Range which allows players to detect units in the fog without disclosing all of their details. This system helps you set scout targets, as structure guards are detected by this system (which show up as yellow), but most importantly it detects enemy and NPC marauder stacks (which show up as red). This acts as an early warning system. AoW games always had long movement ranges compared to vision ranges; so you often got attacked out of the blue, scan range make this more balanced. Scan Range can be increased and can be made to disclose more information like which player or faction owns the detected stack through research.

OwlScout.jpg

Vanguard OWL scout kitted out with mods.

Pickups with Bonus Events

Your scouts will be on the lookout for pickups, which may be both defended and undefended. As you would expect, there are pickups associated with all resources. In Planetfall we added something new, sometimes a Pickup will spawn a bonus event in addition to its standard reward. These bonuses include items, map locations, units, and there are events affecting relations with NPC factions. Of course, all these events and bonuses are themed around the main resource.

PickupEvent.jpg


NPC Faction Bases

Soon enough you’ll meet sectors occupied by one of the NPC (Non-Primary Combatant) Factions like the Autonom, Growth or Paragon. These NPCs claim sectors using bases, like players do. For you to claim a sector you’ll have to remove of the base through friendly of unfriendly means. Be careful not to make too many enemies though, as Bases will Spawn raiding stacks of that faction if relations turn hostile. These spawns are associated with Events, so players will at least receive a warning before angry groups of monsters start attacking them! NPC Faction Bases look like mini-dwellings, feature unique combat maps and are removed from the map when conquered. We’ll discuss Dwellings and NPC interaction in a later dev diary.


Base.jpg

Intelligent Plants block our expansion. How do we deal with them?


Marauder Bases

Of course, Planetfall also includes monsters that cannot be negotiated with. It is of vital importance your scouts map out Spawners locations before they start eating your colonists. A typical marauder is The Hopperhound. A giant locust that can jump great distances and rip through armor.

Hazards
The destruction of the Empire left many marks on the planets you will explore, with some sectors filled with hazards that make settling unattractive and exploration dangerous. Hazards come in multiple types (Nuclear Craters, Void Rifts, Bio War Residues, ets), and drastically debuff both economic output of sectors and units positioned in them. Hazards originate from crater locations and can be removed after researching Hazard Removal Technology.

Screenshot.png

This particular Hazard is extra nasty as it spawns units

So you might have to hold off claiming hazard-struck sectors until you have the necessary technologies. Late game, after you have rebuilt a society from the ashes of the Star Union, you will be able to unleash powerful world map operations that can spawn new cataclysmic hazards of your own. War ... war never changes.




 

LennartGS

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The events linked to basic pickups are always positive. This so scouts aren't ambushed, etc.

Some of the bigger events have 2D art. But there is tons minor events and we don't want the art cost creation to be a factor in adding more or to variety constraints (one image for each unit that may spawn?) . We are looking into sharing images for pickups; like just a cool image showing the approach/scanning of the pickup.
 

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Would it be possible to have a collapsable/expandable messages system.

By which I mean, one flashing icon for research events, one for combat, one for empire stuff, one for cities, and then up to the player to expand that, so clicking research would bring up the smart defence modules and nanite support messages shown in the screen shot.
Good idea BBB, might work. Events are a nice tool but can be overwhelming. Collapsible interfaces are tricky with controller though (*ducking*)

What I'm curious about is are Psynumbras a secret tech?
Yes it sure is.

Also, are those guys in the top left of the first shot units from the sixth faction? They seem to have they're own city, don't look like cyborgs, and have the same icon as the Not Dvar tank from last DD.
They are an NPC Faction.

I went over DD #3 and all it says there is that landmarks (and possibly large dwellings) stop you from building cities in a sector. All others seem to be fair game.

Moreover acquiring a new sector is kind of like building a new city lite; it still adds to the snowball.
You can't found cities next to one another. Further anti-snow ball mechanics like diminishing returns linked to # of cities are considered and will be called in if necessary. Size and density of maps are big factors here.
 

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The game looks absolutely beautiful. However, I hope you realise that the lore text for the bonus event you showcase here makes literally no sense. "Among the burned out wrecks of this convoy, next to an energy pod worth 37 (lightning symbol) we found a nearly depleated, but still intact." A still intact what? A still intact sentinel? A still intact droid? Why does this event have such an epic title (the lost sentinel) when it is just about some random abandoned droid?
Might be a bit unclear - it is supposed to be a guard/escort robot to the energy transport.
 

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I looked to me like it only has red markers but this only proves the point.

With "realistic" color scheme with no pronounced strong color it might be very hard to properly distinguish what happens on map. AoW3 was already relatively tame for a fantasy game (they probably went for "pastoral" color scheme so it looks sorta like Renessaince painting) but it didn't have things like that really affecting gameplay. Here I hope for different icons with more pronounced colors.
The difference is pretty much as big as can be:
- Different symbol, ! for moving armies
- Animation: inward moving arrows for static guards, outward for moving stacks.
- Color difference

Scanner.jpg
 

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This. I like this. Props to whomever did this.
Is there any indicator that shows radar range (perhaps when the specific settlement is under selection)?
Does jamming the radar just cause blind spots (to be detected by yellow marks suddenly disappearing) or is there a notification or visual marker that shows that something is causing the radar to malfunction in that approximate area?
Due to map interface overload, we've decided not to show a line displaying max scanner range, although we can see that the Mplayer-hex counting crowd would want it. Maybe we can add it as a special lens. I think all scanner jamming is done on a per sector basis next to the usual unit stealth abilities. You would not know a sector is obscured just by looking at the map; unless you notice a particular structure like a Shroud Station or an active Op. There's plenty of potential meddling to be done with the scanners, but we don't want to over do it as we want scanners to be dependable most of the time.
 

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At the base level the scanner has no friend or foe detection. Of course Allies are able to share vision / scan range as before.

Invisible Units are not shown (I think / they shouldn't)

There is a plethora of scanner upgrades and debuffs possible. Right now there is an upgrade that discloses owner, and it is possible to hide sectors.

We're still in the process of balancing this all out; like which scanner modifiers are available to all (via the covert ops tech tree) and which are unique to particular factions. Also particular races or Commander perks could give a scan bonus. And we might add a global scanner scrambler event :)
 

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Covert ops tech tree = a secret tech?
Covert ops and Intelligence like abilities are part of a tech tree section that is shared between all factions. Sort of how like dispel magic and disjunct were in AoW3, only more extensive.
 

LennartGS

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Does that mean "any unit in this sector will not appear on other player scanners." Or does it mean "This sector appears unclaimed to other players even though you own it". Or does it mean it will go back to the fog of war as if unexplored? Or did I miss it completely and you meant something different?
it hides units on scanner + it covers it in fog / reduces vision when entering. Note all the variants of sector cloaking haven't been developed.
 

LennartGS

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Yeah Rogue did, as did Death from AoW2/SM. From the way scanning seems to work, it is probably necessary to give everyone some protection of their sectors/settlements from scanning at least on a basic level.
Yep we're working on that.