Sci-fi Setting: Concepts for a Sequel

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    Real Strategy Requires Cunning

Zsar1

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I feel your pain.
At least it's not inline-Assembler on your side, but Java has its whole own category of nasty programmer traps (looking at you, strong/weak reference ambiguity).

I think the ecologists are being murdered by third-party animals: They always seem to die amidst a group of creatures.

"meat-grinders", I think, should always be discouraged. Even Dwarf Fortress, as bloody as it is, has an immigration push factor based on dwarf deaths, which reduces the size of immigrant waves (while accumulating wealth increases it). Rather, in the very tragic and unfortunate event that death is inevitable, the player should be presented with the very harsh decision which people to sacrifice. This, of course, requires mechanics that penalise losses beyond the individual - else the situation you describe will necessarily emerge as a form of optimised play.
... Majesty had spawning graveyards as such a mechanism, and I think it worked poorly for the simple fact that their spawns were too weak to inconvenience the player - rather, they provided cheap XP for replacement and veteran heroes alike, ending up as more of a bonus than a penalty.

It might be the most straightforward to apply a (decaying over time?) penalty factor to hiring cost, which is increased per death of (any) personnel. Something more emotionally touching might be nice, but will prove difficult to design (has to not grow stale eventually, must still have gameplay impact; morale penalty to existing personnel, depression, other mental disorders, ...).

By all means, if I am still around at the time, feel free to get in touch again. I am always hard pressed for time nowadays, but one never knows when I might be able to spare the odd hour or ten.

addendum:

A couple of oddities I found in the tutorial (not yet verified in normal play):
  • Unconscious enemies can be assigned as target of a capture mission; they are brought to the Bastion, but then the mission does not end and eventually (may require auto-repair, tested on the Tripod guarding the Ruins) they wake up and are immediately free to attack.
  • People build relationships with corpses, hard enemies and while unconscious (Tripod befriends the the corpses of those it killed and while unconscious befriends the trooper who carries it to the Bastion; nevertheless it happily shoots its best-friends-forever once it wakes up).
  • Capture missions have no feedback for outcome (tried to capture Drones but they all died, I have no idea whether that was just bad luck or whether my troopers lacked crucial equipment).
  • Capture missions do not end if the target is dead (but neither do the assigned personnel attempt to carry the corpse back home).
  • Game speed affects material tooltips above buildings and personnel (it probably should to some extend, so they do not stack up into illegibility on max. speed; a 1:1 effect feels too large, however).
In terms of GUI improvements, I find it rather hard to judge my economy in terms of projected balance for resources (including money). Business Intelligence / Data Warehouse functionality would be much appreciated (but I know well what a drag it is to code; mayhap some library could limit the workload).

...

Only today did I notice that personnel actually upgrades their housing as seen in e.g. Caesar 2 (and I suppose 3, as you mentioned that earlier). Very nice.
 
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Alfryd

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I feel your pain.
At least it's not inline-Assembler on your side, but Java has its whole own category of nasty programmer traps (looking at you, strong/weak reference ambiguity).

I think the ecologists are being murdered by third-party animals: They always seem to die amidst a group of creatures.

"meat-grinders", I think, should always be discouraged. Even Dwarf Fortress, as bloody as it is, has an immigration push factor based on dwarf deaths, which reduces the size of immigrant waves (while accumulating wealth increases it). Rather, in the very tragic and unfortunate event that death is inevitable, the player should be presented with the very harsh decision which people to sacrifice. This, of course, requires mechanics that penalise losses beyond the individual - else the situation you describe will necessarily emerge as a form of optimised play.
... Majesty had spawning graveyards as such a mechanism, and I think it worked poorly for the simple fact that their spawns were too weak to inconvenience the player - rather, they provided cheap XP for replacement and veteran heroes alike, ending up as more of a bonus than a penalty.

It might be the most straightforward to apply a (decaying over time?) penalty factor to hiring cost, which is increased per death of (any) personnel. Something more emotionally touching might be nice, but will prove difficult to design (has to not grow stale eventually, must still have gameplay impact; morale penalty to existing personnel, depression, other mental disorders, ...).
It's very reasonable to suggest that frequent deaths would have an effect on both internal morale and external reputation, which would likely both increase hiring costs and cause 'grieving' among survivors.

I reckon the larger problem with Majesty, though, was simply that hiring fresh meat was relatively cheap compared to babysitting- e.g, a single Agrelan healing spell costs nearly as much as a new Rogue (and more than a Gnome), so if rookies got in significant trouble, most players perceived hiring a replacement to be an easier fix than buffing for survival. (To be fair, the heroes' erratic self-preservation instincts didn't help.)
A couple of oddities I found in the tutorial (not yet verified in normal play):
Unconscious enemies can be assigned as target of a capture mission; they are brought to the Bastion, but then the mission does not end and eventually (may require auto-repair, tested on the Tripod guarding the Ruins) they wake up and are immediately free to attack.
People build relationships with corpses, hard enemies and while unconscious (Tripod befriends the the corpses of those it killed and while unconscious befriends the trooper who carries it to the Bastion; nevertheless it happily shoots its best-friends-forever once it wakes up).
Capture missions have no feedback for outcome (tried to capture Drones but they all died, I have no idea whether that was just bad luck or whether my troopers lacked crucial equipment).
Capture missions do not end if the target is dead (but neither do the assigned personnel attempt to carry the corpse back home).
Game speed affects material tooltips above buildings and personnel (it probably should to some extend, so they do not stack up into illegibility on max. speed; a 1:1 effect feels too large, however).
In terms of GUI improvements, I find it rather hard to judge my economy in terms of projected balance for resources (including money). Business Intelligence / Data Warehouse functionality would be much appreciated (but I know well what a drag it is to code; mayhap some library could limit the workload).
Yeah, one thing I was planning to do during a rewrite was implement a consistent code-interface for buildings to report their estimated daily inputs/outputs. There should be some information on total supply/demand under the Finance pane, though, IIRC?

I'd have to check on the capture missions and dialogue mechanics again- some of these *sound* like bugs that I fixed before, but maybe got reintroduced. Do you still have the save-files, by chance? If you could forward those over dropbox or email or something, I'd be much obliged.
Only today did I notice that personnel actually upgrades their housing as seen in e.g. Caesar 2 (and I suppose 3, as you mentioned that earlier). Very nice.
Have you not played C3? Classic game (though Pharoah/Zeus/Emperor are arguably more polished in gamelay terms), and stunning sprite art. The big change vs. C2 was the introduction of random walkers to provide goods & services, which I thought kinda dovetailed with Majesty's free agents.
 

Alfryd

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I've been revisiting some citybuilder-simulation code recently, and I'm starting to realise what a difference automated testing can make. If you haven't seen his talks already, check out Uncle Bob.


I've also realised something that I think has been bugging me subconsciously about this project: Given the existence of spy satellites, it stands to reason that a spacefaring culture will have no real Fog of War. That means there's much less of a role for 'explore flags'.

I am perhaps the only person on earth that this would bother, but I'm the developer, dagnabbit. *sigh*
 

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There could be jammers, viruses that cripple the satellites, EMPs... they can be countered or neutralized.
 

Alfryd

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Sure, but one imagines you could use jammers and EMPs and orbital missiles etc. to knock out visiting spacecraft too, which means you couldn't reliably recruit people or conduct trade. If you were able to establish a viable settlement in the first place, odds are you'd have access to satellite footage too.

It's conceivable you could go with a 'crash landing' scenario where visiting spacecraft are few and far between and satellites are rare, but then settlers will also be rare and hard to come by, and your economy will be largely barter based (a la Rimworld.) It might work, but it feels like a rather different beast, and I'm not sure that niche isn't already well-served?
 

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I guess it depends on the "granularity" that the satellites can achieve. Real life example, we have satellites orbiting Earth and mapping "the big stuff", but new species are discovered every year, meaning people still have to trek into areas and "explore" and make discoveries that the satellites can't make.
 

Alfryd

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Oh, there'd still be some role for reconnaisance in general- you might need scouts to uncover anything camouflaged or troops on the move or anything recently built (a satellite can't watch everywhere at once.) But the broad features of the terrain would be known from day one, and that takes away some of the mystery, I think. (It'd be like the difference between transient and persistent fog in other RTS games.)


The good news is that with some exposure to automated testing, I think I might be more confident about my ability to scale the project, even if I'm working solo, and that I have been able to substantially simplify much of the behavioural scripting. We'll see.
 

Alfryd

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I think I've stumbled on an answer for why orbiting satellites wouldn't be permitted. If they get shot down or break up in orbit you can get what's called a Kessler syndrome, where a chain-reaction of structural collisions creates a field of high-velocity debris that makes space travel of any kind hazardous for centuries. So they'd probably be on the list of 'do not proliferate' technologies along with nuclear weapons, gene drives and strong AI. Not quite nonexistent, but subject to fairly stiff conventions, a la Dune.

So... my citybuilder engine rewrite is actually turning out pretty okay. It's tweaked toward a different setting at the moment and the graphics are rudimentary, but I'll see if I can't merge it with the art and UI/graphics routines from Stratos/Presidium and see where to go from there.
 

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It would take more than a couple Satellites to cause a Kessler syndrome :)
If you have ships, you don't need satellites, a ship can do anything a satellite can just by idling in orbit :p
 

Alfryd

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Hush, Nerfish. You're spoiling my tenuous simulationist excuse...

I suppose one could always go 100% Dune and say that you have to pay the Spacing Guild if you want to get satellites in orbit, and that's beyond the price range of most settlers?
 

Nerdfish

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Hush, Nerfish. You're spoiling my tenuous simulationist excuse...

I suppose one could always go 100% Dune and say that you have to pay the Spacing Guild if you want to get satellites in orbit, and that's beyond the price range of most settlers?

:p :3
So the spacing guild does not charge you extra for brining in settlers, but would if they have to stop in orbit and drop off a satellite XD
This line of thinking might work, what if the space guild owned all the satellites and will charge you by the hour for using them, like a sovereign spell ?
Since they also own all the SHIPS, if someone launch one unauthorized, it's a simple matter for them to appropriate it.
 

Zsar1

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Apologies for disappearing. My laptop crashed and burned the day after (by virtue of memory corruption - so my technical observations had probably been invalid already).

Mmh. Having a satellite might be sensible. Having a satellite network seems to clash with the amount of equipment available at game start - surely one would rather pack more supplies that actually keep people alive and the venture profitable.

According to Wikipedia, a single satellite in MEO would pass about every twelve hours. Assuming that it has perfect sight on everything that would equal two map updates for every in-game day. Not enough to eliminate FoW, but enough to get updates on everything static. Rocks will not move anyway, but new (competitors'?) and razed (plundered ruins?) structures might be discovered at this pulse. Mayhap semi-static "logical" structures such as Drone patrol routes or animal territories could be discovered over the time of several passes (realistically probably ~a week of in-game time? Not really dependent on number of passes!).

... That seems to be rather nice. Having to find the very last units and/or buildings of the enemy was one of the main points of critque of the original Age of Empires, if memory serves, and has been an issue in most games handling map exploration and FoW similarly (all, to be precise, which do not either restrict building to owned territory like The Settlers 2 or provide a surrender algorithm for the AI like Seven Kingdoms; even then, some games have chosen to do both, just to be save, like Sins of a Solar Empire.

As for an in-game explanation for lack of satellites - they are a telltale sign for activity from further out in space: tracking the orbit allows the observer to delimit the space wherein the owner's base might be contained and therefore to find it faster once in orbit themselves. More satellites (presumably in different, overlapping orbits) would only ease this task. In comparison, the supply freighter must be observed when it makes it's approach lest it may - to the observer - as well not exist at all.
- So, an initial landing site might well come without satellite (but surely not without previous survey data - a completely unexplored map is certainly untenable in this setting). Once the situation allows satellites (e.g. from a certain size of the colony, a certain size of the goods flow or plain old discovery), there would then be the issue of getting them - the original dropship is then away and the freighter presumably meant for bulk transport rather than orbital deployment. Building the infrastructure to get that (prepacked? seems sensible) satellite into orbit might be a nice mid-game goal (as in Command & Conquer: Red Alert). At that point, creating, deploying and maintaining a whole satellite network to gradually eliminate FoW might be the logical long term goal to follow - mayhap at the campaign level, requiring a certain amount of control over the planet (to e.g. have a legal claim against the competition shooting then down).

All in all, the satellite quandary looks a lot more like a chance than like an obstacle. Just flag it as "not yet implemented" and you have validated the Status Quo.
 

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Apologies for disappearing. My laptop crashed and burned the day after (by virtue of memory corruption - so my technical observations had probably been invalid already)...

...All in all, the satellite quandary looks a lot more like a chance than like an obstacle. Just flag it as "not yet implemented" and you have validated the Status Quo.
I appreciate the input. I guess that all sounds like a pretty reasonable solution, so I'll try to come back to that later.

To be fair, the original Majesty doesn't really dwell on how your castle materialised in the middle of a completely unexplored map. How did the builders get there?
 

Alfryd

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Good news! Two very basic releases for windows/OSX should be available here. There's no tutorial to speak of (or even help-text) and half the older version's features are missing, but in theory every major gameplay sub-system now has automated tests in place to verify correctness. Which means I'm much more confident about actually being able to get the project done, from a technical/engineering perspective, and I don't have to worry about the project collapsing under it's own complexity.

If anyone is feeling brave, they might take it for a spin for twenty minutes, just to give some first impressions and an idea of what features they'd like to see restored or introduced.


* You start out with a free Supply Depot. If you click on that building, you can set your imports and exports as desired. Exports make you money.
* If you build a Stock Exchange, your citizens will build houses nearby, and shop there for food and other goods. (This nets you a profit too.)

* Nurseries produce carbs & greens, which can either feed your citizens or be exported off-map. They need space to plant crops.
* Excavators produce ore from rocks, which can be sent to an Engineer Station and made into parts.
* Harvesters produce carbons, which can be sent to an Engineer Station and made into plastics.
* Buildings are themselves constructed from parts and plastics, usually stored at the Bastion.

* Finally, there are one or two ruins on the map that produce wandering enemies. If you're feeling adventurous, you can recruit some troopers and destroy them. (Use the recon and strike missions at the bottom of the UI.)

Ciao for now.


EDIT: Well, this is embarrassing. All my automated tests were working fine, but a recent change to the rendering routines was actually mucking directly with internal position-data, thus breaking pathfinding. I'm gonna patch this later today.

EDIT EDIT: Fixes should be done now. Also, this might be a good place to cover some basics of the interface:

basic_UI_strip.png


From left to right, you have the (1) Building-menu, (2), save/record button, (3) load/rewind button, (4) pause, (5) slow-speed, (6) normal-speed and (7) high-speed buttons. Flags and sovereign spells are over on the right. And... that's all for now folks. Might do a short tutorial video when I get the chance.
 
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