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General Category => Stars Beyond Reach... This World Is Mine => Topic started by: x4000 on November 17, 2014, 12:36:20 PM

Title: A note about "no units" in Stars Beyond Reach.
Post by: x4000 on November 17, 2014, 12:36:20 PM
Original: http://arcengames.com/a-note-about-no-units-in-stars-beyond-reach/

STARS-BEYOND-REACH-cropped

A bit ago, I announced Stars Beyond Reach, which you can read a lot more about at that link. The very-short explanation is that this is Arcen's first true 4X title: think Civilization meets SimCity meets AI War meets New Stuff.  More recently, I posted some updated screenshots and some portraits of some of the the racial leaders.

There is one misconception about this game that I want to go ahead and clear up right now, though, which I've seen crop up on a number of places on the Internet.  And that is that this game won't have any combat, or that it's a substantial amount more SimCity than it is Civ.  Neither of those are true, and I just want to put that out there now before people see an alpha in January or February and are surprised when we seem to have "changed our plans." ;)

city1a

What Does "No Units?" Really Mean?

In any strategy game, there are a variety of ways of representing power and its use.  In Chess it's pieces you move around.  In risk, it's the abstract little "armies" that are basically just counters on territories.  In most computer strategy games, it's a combination of buildings, techs, and units.  And so on.

As you might guess from AI War, I love RTS games and I think that the buildings + units model works really well there.  Things are shown at something remotely approximating scale, and you can set your guys to do a lot of moving around while you are focused elsewhere.  There isn't a whole lot of micro in a game like AI War -- you're not giving individual units orders, and you're not having to check back and give them orders as well as making sure their prior orders are still a good idea every "turn" (since there aren't turns, and since the granularity of time is a lot less when there are no turns).  So: hooray, RTS games rock for that reason.

I love turn-based games as well, though.  One of the big gripes I have with them, though, is how I have these buildings and these units that are at different scales and which are existing on the same tiles.  My giant barbarian or tank goes and stands on top of my "city" where his feet are taller than my walls.  And if I want to put multiple guys on that tile, either it has to have yet a more-meta interface for stacking, or else it needs to disallow stacking because of the various problems that stacking can cause.

But having units in that sense where you move them around is just one way of abstracting power on a hex grid in a turn-based game.  There's no way that it has to be the only way.

In Stars Beyond Reach, I am still experimenting with a variety of models and so I don't want to get too specific.  There are several things that work really well in our prototype already, and other things that I'm still experimenting with to find the ideal approach.  But it's very promising.

THAT said, the core idea of no units is that you can direct force around the map, and even see things like battle cruisers flying around and whatever, without having to directly move specific units or see them standing around with their sandals on your towers, etc.  The idea that you can use buildings to represent both the reach of your power, the location of your power, and the amount of your power.  The idea that you can then move that power around, and see some visual indications of what those movements mean (as opposed to just numbers ticking up and down).

Let's put this another way: it's more "zoomed out."  If you were one of the generals of WWII, you'd know that you had X number of soldiers in Y location, and if you flew over in a recon plane you could see signs of the battle down there, and you'd hear about the results of the battle, etc.  And you'd gain and lose materials and people as well territory.  All well and good.  But you wouldn't know "Soldier Bob," a unit.

This metaphor does break down somewhat because you would know "E Company" or "the 12th Panzer Division."  And a lot of 4x games are basically using a graphic of one guy or tank to represent those sorts of concepts.  So we're back to units again, while staying "zoomed out."

My problems with units boil down to how tedious they are in practice to move around and manage, how odd they often look graphically, how they obscure the tiles they are standing on, how they create problems like the "stacking problem," and a whole slew of other things.  A sci-fi game like SBR is an excellent place for me to do something different, because the concept of rapid transport (within reasonable bounds) is really much more realistic than it would be in a WWII game, let's say.

TLDR

Clear as mud?  I apologize for that, because I'm not wanting yet to be more specific since we're still in prototype.  My goal is something that you just go "ohhh, yeah, of course it would work that way" when you see it.  I'm not 100% of the way there yet, but it's an idea I'm confident in and it's coming along.  I just want to avoid people calling me out in 2-3 months going "but wait, I thought this was a no-combat game with no soldiers or troop transports or whatever?"  It's definitely not!  You're going to be fighting quite a bit, but in a streamlined way that is more similar to the already-streamlined way that 4x games tend to handle empire building, rather in the (in my opinion) relatively clunky way they handle unit management.

That's all that's changing!

city1b

Oh, And About SimCity

Part of what makes some of the other things above possible is the detail at which your cities are being represented.  We're not having just "cities" as a kind of monolithic thing that you add a few bits and bobs to.  That's a perfectly valid level of abstraction, and I love plenty of games that do that.

But for the kind of unit-less combat that I have in mind to work, you just can't use that level of abstraction on the buildings.  You need something that is a bit more zoomed in, rather like, well, SimCity.  You'll note that SimCity (4 and before) does an awesome job of modeling people and industries and pollution and waste and water and whatnot, all without ever actually saying "here is Bob, he lives in Apartment X in Building Y."  But your macro-level decisions still affect the growth and flow of your city, and what kind of city it is.

For SBR, some of that gets a lot more detailed than what can be supported inside a 4X that moves at any reasonable pace.  Other parts of it really bring out a lot of depth that lead to new and interesting diplomatic, technological, empire-management, and military options and flows.

I'll use an example from first person shooters: it's the difference from being able to shoot a guy "in the head or in the body" as far as damaging goes, or being able to knock out one leg, or his trigger finger, or whatever.  Militarily-speaking, that's part of what that extra SimCity-like granularity brings to the table.

Apologies For The Vague Post

I know that in a lot of cases I tend to be more specific than this, but again... prototype phase right now.  Based on past projects, I've learned to keep a few things to myself until I'm sufficiently certain of them. ;)  Okay, have an Evuck:

Evuck_1 copy

Until next time!
Title: Re: A note about "no units" in Stars Beyond Reach.
Post by: Draco18s on November 17, 2014, 09:11:40 PM
I was on the right page, but always neat to hear new details. :)
Title: Re: A note about "no units" in Stars Beyond Reach.
Post by: Coppermantis on November 17, 2014, 10:43:11 PM
The Evuck is kind of cute.
Title: Re: A note about "no units" in Stars Beyond Reach.
Post by: x4000 on November 18, 2014, 09:40:45 AM
I was on the right page, but always neat to hear new details. :)

I know a lot of folks here were, but there were a few sites (Co-Optimus, Rock Paper Shotgun, etc) which had a bit of a different interpretation.  So I wanted to get this out preemptively.  They won't print anything about it now, which is fine, but this is "on the record" so to speak from this point onwards so that when people come complain about how we're "indecisive" in February I can just point them here. ;)
Title: Re: A note about "no units" in Stars Beyond Reach.
Post by: steelwing on November 18, 2014, 09:51:56 AM
LOL Chris, the first time I looked at that Evuck, my mind interpreted the bulge in the middle of his head as a big eye and curvy part below that as a goofy grin. XD Even funnier once I realized how that's supposed to look...
Title: Re: A note about "no units" in Stars Beyond Reach.
Post by: mrhanman on November 18, 2014, 12:57:18 PM
I'm really loving the design of the tiles and buildings!  Is that a parking lot tile in the middle-right of the second image?
Title: Re: A note about "no units" in Stars Beyond Reach.
Post by: x4000 on November 18, 2014, 01:12:58 PM
Glad you're enjoying the buildings!  We're making some substantial shifts to the player side of these in order to make them more legible (ie more spaced out with walking roads between them).  It's looking TONS better, I'm really excited about that.  And for all of the alien races, we're doing unique buildings now (aka non-player-controlled buildings).  There's some story additions that involve a bit of a human touch on the player side, now.  It's both fitting (and tragic, but spoilers) story-wise, as well as makes sense mechanically and artistically.  And helps with the feeling that everything is as it should be, I think, as opposed to feeling like maybe art was reused to save time.
Title: Re: A note about "no units" in Stars Beyond Reach.
Post by: nas1m on November 18, 2014, 01:41:02 PM
Glad you're enjoying the buildings!  We're making some substantial shifts to the player side of these in order to make them more legible (ie more spaced out with walking roads between them).  It's looking TONS better, I'm really excited about that.  And for all of the alien races, we're doing unique buildings now (aka non-player-controlled buildings).  There's some story additions that involve a bit of a human touch on the player side, now.  It's both fitting (and tragic, but spoilers) story-wise, as well as makes sense mechanically and artistically.  And helps with the feeling that everything is as it should be, I think, as opposed to feeling like maybe art was reused to save time.
Sounds exciting! Can't wait to see a sample of this ;D.
Title: Re: A note about "no units" in Stars Beyond Reach.
Post by: x4000 on November 18, 2014, 01:52:03 PM
Well, here's a sample. ;)

(http://www.arcengames.com/forums/index.php?action=dlattach;topic=16566.0;attach=9152)

That's just a few buildings placed willy-nilly for testing purposes with the new effect, but it gets the idea across.
Title: Re: A note about "no units" in Stars Beyond Reach.
Post by: mrhanman on November 18, 2014, 03:40:48 PM
That looks really nice.  I didn't think the other buildings were cluttered, but now that I've seen this, the other screens look cluttered.
Title: Re: A note about "no units" in Stars Beyond Reach.
Post by: x4000 on November 18, 2014, 03:50:06 PM
I didn't really think the other screens look cluttered, either, until I really tried to play with them for any length of time.  I kept losing my buildings in the visual clutter, which was a super bad sign.  So we kind of took a moment, stopped and worked on that problem for almost a week now (half a week?  Not sure), and solved that as well as a couple of other presentation clarity problems as we went.

Hooray for prototyping, it's the best. :)
Title: Re: A note about "no units" in Stars Beyond Reach.
Post by: Zebeast46 on November 18, 2014, 05:04:26 PM
Damn, that city actually looks like a city. {I am used to things in civ 5 where you could only have 1 building in a city, and damn those roads look really cool}
Title: Re: A note about "no units" in Stars Beyond Reach.
Post by: Zebeast46 on November 18, 2014, 05:08:13 PM
Also, I'm really liking the no-unit thing. If you execute it correctly {I will not be surprised if you do} it will be awesome.
Title: Re: A note about "no units" in Stars Beyond Reach.
Post by: x4000 on November 18, 2014, 05:19:22 PM
Thanks!  I've had an absolute storm of ideas over the last day or so, which is really nice because -- knock on wood -- it may have answered most of my lingering questions on how best to do things.  We'll see.  Lots still to do, but the prototype is suddenly leaping forward.  As fast as I can type out specs, Keith has them coded in, it's nuts (and awesome).
Title: Re: A note about "no units" in Stars Beyond Reach.
Post by: topper on November 18, 2014, 06:06:48 PM
The map looks nice to me too, more so now than before.

One thing on my wishlist for grand strategy games are map filter options. Highlighting the location of all your military buildings, showing your total combat ranges, etc.   Having a zoomed out view or map filter where it simply shows an icon for the building function and its outline would be sweet too, so that you are not constantly needing to remember what the function of each building image is within all the visual clutter.

You guys did ok with map options in TLF, but probably a lot of the graph information could have been presented on the map in a more visually pleasing and intuitive way (a relations map, current wars map, trade routes, etc). Sorry to plug a different game again, but check out the map options in EU4, there are about 30 different map views.
Title: Re: A note about "no units" in Stars Beyond Reach.
Post by: x4000 on November 18, 2014, 07:36:44 PM
Good point on map filters, and if you've played much AI War (can't recall if you have or not), you'll know that's something we're big into there.  TLF overall was a very problematic sort of game in terms of visually representing a lot of what was going on.  Same as, frankly, some games like Civ are.  A lot of what is happening on a tile in Civ is invisible until you click into it or change it to show some specific overlay or other.

SimCity is sort of the same way, where there's a lot going on that you can't directly see without going into overlays or graphs or advisor screens.  Not just overlays for convenience, but literally you can't tell at all what is happening without it in some cases.

Any game with sufficient depth is going to have that problem to some degree, but I've been working on a number of ideas that I'm pretty pleased with that help make a lot of the need for that sort of thing less relevant.  Not that there won't be overlays or graphs, but the idea is that you can make decisions a lot more quickly without having to go into them each turn.  Particularly at advanced levels of play.  The more the player can infer just from looking at the map itself, the better.

Lots of 4x games and citybuilding games have done a really good job of mitigating those problems, but there's always tradeoffs of some sort when you do.  Some games I like better than others in terms of how they manage such tradeoffs, and I think I'm heading down a good path with taking it another few steps there.  More than perhaps any other Arcen title, this is one game where I'm just super focused on what is feasible without having to dig into menus or tooltips.
Title: Re: A note about "no units" in Stars Beyond Reach.
Post by: topper on November 20, 2014, 09:06:33 AM
Good to hear, thanks.

I am looking forward to hopefully getting in on the ground floor for this one!

(and yes, I have AI war, except for the last two expansions)
Title: Re: A note about "no units" in Stars Beyond Reach.
Post by: DrFranknfurter on November 20, 2014, 09:41:25 AM
It's good to know the coding duo are hard at work and working well together:
Thanks!  I've had an absolute storm of ideas over the last day or so, which is really nice because -- knock on wood -- it may have answered most of my lingering questions on how best to do things.  We'll see.  Lots still to do, but the prototype is suddenly leaping forward.  As fast as I can type out specs, Keith has them coded in, it's nuts (and awesome).

It's also nice to see the modest changes with big impact. The buildings are certainly much more clearly defined now. It'd odd how such a little thing can have a big difference.

As this thread is about clearing up the issue of units and war. I'm still not quite sure how wars will actually work... it still feels a bit vague there. I keep picturing something between:

Risk - Wars where the aim is capturing all tiles. With a snowball/steamroller effect as tiles produce more units which capture tiles.

Rebuild - Where the goal is capturing/damaging/changing specific tiles, with a unit cost for each advance and defence. Full conquest is expensive but border skirmishes are common. You'd push through the enemy cities towards their capital.

War of the Worlds - Another risk-style map affair. Territory control include hostile terraforming and spreading the red weed (visual change only).
It was my first PC game and I loved it to death - it has a Risk-style map of the UK, split into real geographic locations. Named thematically e.g. Sector 9 for the Martians and Galloway for humans. Drastically different sides, unique tech-trees, voice narration and cinematics, real-time strategy and large real-time tactical battles... I loved it. Video:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=He8CXqhJSLU
Anyway, back on track... each sector has resources that are only usable by either side. So humans want coal, oil and steel. Martians want human blood, copper and uranium. You don't see the other resource view (which would be nice), but you can capture key production sectors or disable the enemy supply chain (buildings draw resources from all surrounding sectors, deny them a sector or destroy the resource plants and their production slows to a crawl)
I can picture a war being fought where you try to secure or destroy, using the SimCity analogy, the expensive power plants. Once they're down it's extremely hard to recover. So the enemy could even surrender at that point or beg for a truce.

Lastly I can imagine something like creeper world, with troops abstracted as a fluid that is attracted to target buildings. So the orders are reduced to where the troops start from, what the terrain is (how they'll move/flow, how fast they'll advance) and what they should go towards.
(http://cfile9.uf.tistory.com/image/212CFA3F525F81EE2C07EC)
I'm picturing the two clouds of light blue and dark blue that are fighting here being emitted by two sides military buildings. (with each tiny square being a large hex... so this would be a very late game war on a massive map). Troop transports would then just dump x troops into a tile, which would then stay there or spread out, or creep towards a target location. (with a turn being like 30s of creeper time. But that's just me wanting to stick all the best bits of games together).

So that's me just thinking aloud about combat. I'm not sure it'll be totally clear until we eventually get to see it in action.

Oh, and I can't remember if I asked before. Nasarog from eXplorminate asks if you've ever played Deadlock?
http://www.mobygames.com/game/windows/deadlock-ii-shrine-wars/screenshots
I haven't played it but this looks interesting:
http://www.mobygames.com/game/windows/deadlock-ii-shrine-wars/screenshots/gameShotId,209524/
It looks like you can change the function of buildings, much like how in Civ: Beyond Earth you can now pick one of two quest/specialisation options for each building. But this looks more toggleable. So you can do fun things like mobilising for war and making your hospitals serve the military over the public. Or in a push use hospitals as emergency housing. Not sure how annoying or micromanagement-heavy such a feature is. But it may be interesting for core, rare buildings. It'd certainly be nice as a feature. Like making exo-force fields a toggle for metal harvesters in AI-War. I can see it working, possibly a fair amount of micro if you would be tempted to switch too often. Or like you could push power stations in SimCity to produce more energy, if you had more control of the function of buildings it'd be interesting.

Talking about buildings... I think most of these questions could wait for a 'Meet the buildings' thread but I'll ask now. You mentioned the SimCity elements and the impact they'll have on the game:
Quote
  Other parts of it really bring out a lot of depth that lead to new and interesting diplomatic, technological, empire-management, and military options and flows.

So what are some of the important and fun buildings going to be? e.g. factories, hospitals... trans-dimensional rift generators?
What fun things can the buildings do? Increase production, growth... launch phasic nuclear strikes?
What other impacts and requirements can they have? e.g. adding or consuming: Pollution, power, population, water, resources, RCI, terraforming...
What control of buildings functions do you have? e.g. coverage area of a hospital, the output of power stations, the dumping site for all that pollution.

I'm thinking of examples... Do the Acutian buildings pollute? Do the Spire all have massive energy requirements? Do the Thoraxians have any commercial buildings? (I can't imagine them trying to sell sweets.) I can picture Thoraxian tunnels, Andorian hospitals etc. But there's a lot of room for fun stuff.

SimCity again. I found each city felt unique not from the buildings themselves but based on your personal aim. A city designed to be efficient had strong repeating patterns and very short travel times. A city designed around pollution is more stretched out, distancing population from industry and having better quality buildings in key, clean areas. I'm just wondering what factors each race will care about and what types of cities each will make. Will each race have a different layout or plan? (e.g. focus on energy, food, production, low pollution etc. Build in ordered patterns vs organic blobs)

Anyway, that's a lot of little questions. Here's a few comments from eXplorminate:
athelasloraiel 14 hours ago
I love mining ideas...
 
AwakenTiamat 13 hours ago
"Risk meets Civilization meets AI War"...be still my heart
 
athelasloraiel 6 hours ago
with a pinch of Majesty on top...


So, as always don't feel obliged to answer everything. I'm just extremely curious as to what you've come up with in prototyping and what those buildings pictured actually are and do, and which race will be building them, and why... generally each picture prompts a thousand further questions. Hope all is going well.
Title: Re: A note about "no units" in Stars Beyond Reach.
Post by: x4000 on November 20, 2014, 10:28:38 AM
It's also nice to see the modest changes with big impact. The buildings are certainly much more clearly defined now. It'd odd how such a little thing can have a big difference.

Indeed.  Also, I'm not sure if I mentioned this yet, but basically the whole "racial flair" thing and "team colors" thing is going away.  The human players play with one set of tiles, and then each AI-controlled race uses their own unique (much smaller set of) buildings.  So there is literally 100% asymmetry, no overlap at all between AI and player buildings.

This keeps things a lot clearer, and works well mechanically for a number of reasons that I won't take the time to write up now.  But if you think about AI War and why it works well there, this kind of takes the same general concept and runs with it.

Story-wise this has also been adjusted so that the human-like nature of the human-controlled cities makes some sense.  Even if you are playing as "The Boarines," you'll be playing as the sole human who is kind of advising/leading them.  You'll still choose your Boarine leader for the race, and get bonuses and all that, but it's basically a partnership between you and that leader in building your empire.  The AI-controlled factions, meanwhile, are 100% non-human, so they wind up being extremely alien in all ways, in a good way.

As this thread is about clearing up the issue of units and war. I'm still not quite sure how wars will actually work... it still feels a bit vague there.

Risk - Wars where the aim is capturing all tiles.

Rebuild - Full conquest is expensive but border skirmishes are common. You'd push through the enemy cities towards their capital.

War of the Worlds - Territory control include hostile terraforming and spreading the red weed (visual change only).

creeper world, with troops abstracted as a fluid that is attracted to target buildings. So the orders are reduced to where the troops start from, what the terrain is (how they'll move/flow, how fast they'll advance) and what they should go towards.

I've played all of those extensively except for War of the Worlds, and the first two are particular favorites of mine.  SBR is... kind of like a lot of these, but not really like any of them exactly.

1. Terrain really isn't a super limiting factor most of the time.  As in Civ on a decent-sized map, you can pretty much capture enough terrain to run a nice empire without feeling cramped.  So you aren't forced into fighting your neighbor out of simply having nowhere else to go, unlike Risk.

2. That said, sometimes you'll say "I want that area," and you'll have to go get it in some fashion.  Or you might try to get around a foreign city to a clear spot on the other side, splitting your empire but making sure you are friends with them in the meantime.  It's a lot more viable here than in Civ, where having cities spread apart is frankly suicide (at least for me).  The impetus to kill your neighbor just for the sake of a cohesive empire is not inbuilt here, although depending on circumstances it might be (depends on who the neighbor is!).

3. So, why do you fight at all?  A variety of reasons, really:

a. You might find yourself trapped in a smaller area than you want, and need to attack your neighbors to get out.  The difference between this and Risk is that this isn't a foregone conclusion, and there are often other solutions anyhow.

b. You might be under attack by someone who really hates you, and thus have to kill them to stop their aggression against you.

c. The equivalent of "barbarian camps" are definitely there now (and working!) and you have to fight at a bare minimum to defend yourself against that aspect of the planet.  Even if you never war on another race.

d. You might attack another race in order to gain something other than territory (but territory is a kind of bonus that comes with it).  You might want to steal something from them, or prevent them from doing something before you can do it, or prevent them from attacking someone who is helping you, or etc.

At the moment there are four types of military actions that I have set up:
1. Ranged combat, where you fire missiles or similar at enemy targets from your buildings.
2. Ground combat, where you send troops across the ground from a barracks of yours to an enemy building that can be pathed to across the ground.  You see the little guys run over and so forth.
3. Air combat, where you send a military dropship or a stealth helicopter over to a target to shoot at it from the air and then hopefully return home.
4. Naval combat, where it's the same sort of thing except with stealth boats that try to get in, strike, and then get back.

All of those actions are initiated from buildings, and there is no "unit position."  The buildings emit the attack of whatever sort, and there are consequences based on the type of attack (aka, you don't lose any population to fighting if you just fired a missile, but you probably will if you send in ground troops).

I'm only saying all this now because it's starting to really come together at this point.  There's still a lot that is almost-prototyped but not quite coded yet, so I don't want to talk about much more of that right at the moment.  But I'm quite pleased with how well this is coming along, and how smooth the overall concepts here are.  There are some extra clever things (if I do say so) that I have yet to mention, because I have yet to actually be able to test them and be sure they work as well in practice as they do on paper.  But at any rate, I have a lot of experience looking at things on paper, and right now this is feeling very solid.  If all goes well, I'll know more conclusively by sometime next week.

Oh, and I can't remember if I asked before. Nasarog from eXplorminate asks if you've ever played Deadlock?
http://www.mobygames.com/game/windows/deadlock-ii-shrine-wars/screenshots
I haven't played it but this looks interesting:
http://www.mobygames.com/game/windows/deadlock-ii-shrine-wars/screenshots/gameShotId,209524/
It looks like you can change the function of buildings, much like how in Civ: Beyond Earth you can now pick one of two quest/specialisation options for each building. But this looks more toggleable. So you can do fun things like mobilising for war and making your hospitals serve the military over the public. Or in a push use hospitals as emergency housing. Not sure how annoying or micromanagement-heavy such a feature is. But it may be interesting for core, rare buildings. It'd certainly be nice as a feature. Like making exo-force fields a toggle for metal harvesters in AI-War. I can see it working, possibly a fair amount of micro if you would be tempted to switch too often. Or like you could push power stations in SimCity to produce more energy, if you had more control of the function of buildings it'd be interesting.

Neat!  I have not played the game, no.  And I'm generally not in favor of per-building things where you have to hunt for specific buildings on the map.  That's something I'm trying to get away from.  I do like things like SimCity does where at the city level you can set taxes or the amount of spending on fire safety in general, or whatever.  Those sorts of centralized controls (by city, not your entire empire) is something that I want to explore.  I haven't put anything like that in place yet, but it is in my plans.

Talking about buildings... I think most of these questions could wait for a 'Meet the buildings' thread but I'll ask now. You mentioned the SimCity elements and the impact they'll have on the game:
Quote
  Other parts of it really bring out a lot of depth that lead to new and interesting diplomatic, technological, empire-management, and military options and flows.

So what are some of the important and fun buildings going to be? e.g. factories, hospitals... trans-dimensional rift generators?
What fun things can the buildings do? Increase production, growth... launch phasic nuclear strikes?
What other impacts and requirements can they have? e.g. adding or consuming: Pollution, power, population, water, resources, RCI, terraforming...
What control of buildings functions do you have? e.g. coverage area of a hospital, the output of power stations, the dumping site for all that pollution.

I'm thinking of examples... Do the Acutian buildings pollute? Do the Spire all have massive energy requirements? Do the Thoraxians have any commercial buildings? (I can't imagine them trying to sell sweets.) I can picture Thoraxian tunnels, Andorian hospitals etc. But there's a lot of room for fun stuff.

This is an incredibly complicated question, and I'm a bit short on time, so I'm going to defer for now.  Right now there's a lot of buildings that are getting continuously re-defined in the interest of streamlining and clarity, too.  There is a pollution model, but I wound up devising a completely new one more recently.  It's a lot more clear and streamlined, but actually more complex to interact with, in a good way.  It blows in the wind, and mountains block it, so building other buildings where they won't get the smog on them is something to take into consideration when building stuff that pollutes and stuff that is degraded by pollution (not all buildings care).

There are also hazmat buildings that you can construct that will send little hazmat teams flying around to clean up the blobs of pollution, so you can combat a dirty sector in a couple of different ways.  As with SimCity, you could also just build your polluting stuff far away, but that also comes with some other risks/costs here, so it's a matter of your playstyle.

That's just addressing pollution, but there is also food, water, housing, morale, staffing, and a few other mechanics.  These are designed so that most of those effects are city-wide and can be managed centrally (per city) without having to worry about specific buildings.  There are some things with crime resulting from unemployment, or migration between cities based on that.  Or you can build cryo sleep buildings to put the can't-be-cared-for-right-now citizens away.

As far as citizen specialties go, this takes the sci-fi theme and runs with it, giving basically the ability to "download abilities" into the minds of citizens, ala The Matrix.  So one citizen is as good as any other at most tasks.  Though of course there are racial limitations on things in general (just not limitations on citizens within the race compared to other citizens of the race).  Although I do plan on probably having some limited "super citizens" that you can breed.  The births are handled through artificial means in accelerated growth birth centers, rather than by direct mating.  This lets you grow population as demand arises, relatively speaking, although the birth centers obviously have a limited throughput on each one.

Because of the versatility of your citizens, any citizen can do any job.  However, overall your technologies and race and buildings and whatnot determine what overall skills you have available to download into citizens, AND the available buildings and their situation determine what hardware is available for use.  Aka, if you don't have hospitals in an area, it doesn't matter that you could download surgeon knowledge into citizens -- it isn't going to help them perform surgery with no tools.  And if you only have limited surgery skills to download into anyone, well, that's as good as your surgeons can possibly be right now.

Note that all that talk of "downloading into citizens" is completely automated.  You're managing the buildings and the techs and things of that nature, and the citizens implicitly move to where they are needed based on your actions and setup.  It's easy to infer what the player is trying to do with high accuracy, and from a player perspective it is also easy to infer what will be inferred.  So you get the streamlining, aka lack of a tedious interface with lots of clicking, without the removal of depth.  I would argue actually there is more effective depth, since in a lot of overly-deep games there are so many features that go unused because of the tedium of using them.

A lot of the "how could that possibly work" is stuff that will have to wait until I can show it to you in practice.  But this was a big part of my breakthrough earlier this week, where I discovered an "oh of course that's how it would work" obvious way for this to function.  I don't want to say what it is just yet, because it's still about 50% prototyped at the moment.  There may be some hidden problem with it that I'm not yet aware of.

But at the moment I am super stoked, because basically all of the biggest problems I've had in terms of "hmm, I have options, but how to handle this the best?" have at least on paper been solved.  If the prototypes pan out the way I hope in the coming weeks, then we'll be hitting Q1 extremely strongly with the game.  If there are problems with what I have on paper, then we'll iterate and see what happens from there.  But what I like about what I have at the moment is how bloody obvious it is, in the main.  It's not like any other game, but it just feels very natural to me at least.

SimCity again. I found each city felt unique not from the buildings themselves but based on your personal aim. A city designed to be efficient had strong repeating patterns and very short travel times. A city designed around pollution is more stretched out, distancing population from industry and having better quality buildings in key, clean areas. I'm just wondering what factors each race will care about and what types of cities each will make. Will each race have a different layout or plan? (e.g. focus on energy, food, production, low pollution etc. Build in ordered patterns vs organic blobs)

Yes, immensely so.  I love that, and here this is also an implicit thing to your cities.  Not so much the AI cities, because they each have very limited building sets (about 6 buildings for each of the 14 races).  Given the super-alien nature of the alien buildings, learning more than the 6*14 = 84 unique and strange alien buildings would be just absolutely insane, anyway.  Your own civilization will have about 120 buildings to choose from, and different ones would go in different cities within your empire based on your aims.  Just putting everything in every city would be extremely inefficient and unwise.  And some things benefit from different environments, too, so you may see cities that have more of this or that because of local conditions as well.

Here's a few comments from eXplorminate:
athelasloraiel 14 hours ago
I love mining ideas...
 
AwakenTiamat 13 hours ago
"Risk meets Civilization meets AI War"...be still my heart
 
athelasloraiel 6 hours ago
with a pinch of Majesty on top...

Nice. :)

I'm just extremely curious as to what you've come up with in prototyping and what those buildings pictured actually are and do, and which race will be building them, and why... generally each picture prompts a thousand further questions. Hope all is going well.

All is going very well at the moment. :)

General notes of importance:

1. All of the buildings pictured thus far are "player buildings," meaning that you the human-who-is-helping-a-race always control them.  The way the races you are helping use them can vary, though, and there will likely be some unique buildings from your race that get pulled in, too.

2. All of the buildings used by races-controlled-by-the-AI are completely unique to that race, and you've seen none of those yet.  There are generally 6 per race.  We're through modeling on the Thoraxian and Spire ones, and I think the linework is done on the Thoraxian ones as well, but coloring hasn't happened yet for any of those.  I still have to get to the building definitions for the other races, but I've been more focused on the player cities thus far.
Title: Re: A note about "no units" in Stars Beyond Reach.
Post by: DrFranknfurter on November 20, 2014, 12:37:18 PM
Thank you so much for all the detail. You said you were in a rush but it still manages to stretch to ~5 sides of A4, I hope I didn't distract you from something important. I'm very happy to see all the passion and excitement about everything boiling over. I'm trying to boil things down to the core elements. How's this as a very-short summary:

"Combat between cities. With Buildings as units, population as intelligent ammunition.
Simple, powerful City-level controls with the depth of lots of tracked details: pollution, food, water, housing, morale, staffing, and a few other mechanics (crime, migration, cryostorage...)
Full asymmetry of buildings. Think AI-War level asymmetry, with 200+ total buildings. The AI is always playing with alien toys (80+ alien buildings, split between 14 races) while you have lots of human-only toys"

I hope you don't mind a little follow-up question. You mentioned barbarians (which I look forward to finding out a bit more about). I can imagine they slow down early game expansion. What else stops the infinite city sprawl you can get in games like Civ? I can picture a mix of planet-mood, barbarians, pollution, upkeep, diplomatic pressure etc could all work. But the details depend on how easy you plan it to be to choose between having a tall or wide empire. Could you play a 1-city challenge? can you instead go for ICS - infinite city sprawl?


Oh and from eXplorminate:
Nasarog  Officer 48 minutes ago
Whoa, I will need to read all of that at some point today.

I do have another question - I saw how the humans and Alien AI will have different buildings and different tile sets. What happens when either faction captures the other factions city?
Title: Re: A note about "no units" in Stars Beyond Reach.
Post by: x4000 on November 20, 2014, 12:57:22 PM
Thank you so much for all the detail. You said you were in a rush but it still manages to stretch to ~5 sides of A4, I hope I didn't distract you from something important. I'm very happy to see all the passion and excitement about everything boiling over.

No problem, and you're right I just can't help myself, heh.  I'm actually slightly ahead of Keith at the moment, so I'm in an okay spot.  I'm speccing like mad, and he's always hot on my heels.  I threw a GUI or two behind me to slow him down, though, so that got me a slight bit of breathing room. ;)  We're very much in a car-chase situation, I think.

I'm trying to boil things down to the core elements. How's this as a very-short summary:

"Combat between cities. With Buildings as units, population as intelligent ammunition.
Simple, powerful City-level controls with the depth of lots of tracked details: pollution, food, water, housing, morale, staffing, and a few other mechanics (crime, migration, cryostorage...)
Full asymmetry of buildings. Think AI-War level asymmetry, with 200+ total buildings. The AI is always playing with alien toys (80+ alien buildings, split between 14 races) while you have lots of human-only toys"

Bear in mind that things are subject to change given that we are in prototype mode at the moment, but that about sums it up pretty nicely.  It ignores things like diplomacy, linguistics, social progress, and the tech tree, too.  But I haven't even mentioned a couple of those things. ;)

I hope you don't mind a little follow-up question. You mentioned barbarians (which I look forward to finding out a bit more about). I can imagine they slow down early game expansion. What else stops the infinite city sprawl you can get in games like Civ? I can picture a mix of planet-mood, barbarians, pollution, upkeep, diplomatic pressure etc could all work. But the details depend on how easy you plan it to be to choose between having a tall or wide empire. Could you play a 1-city challenge? can you instead go for ICS - infinite city sprawl?

Pretty much everything you put as a question mark there works as a statement.  Buildings cost power to run, and it's unlikely that you can support a planet-wide empire without polluting the heck out of everything, which causes problems.  Not insurmountable ones, but it's like running up the AI Progress in AI War.  There are some people who capture 100 out of 100 planets in that game, which is not the intended play path, but is possible.

There's obviously also the cost of constructing stuff.  If you're pouring all of your crowns (the currency of the game) into pure expansion, then you're likely neglecting some other aspects of your empire (or playing on too easy a difficulty level).  For instance, you may be very under-teched, and thus have problems actually defending all that space.  Even in the late game, the barbarians can pose a problem if you let yourself sprawl without defending your hinterlands.  It's not that they are an enormous threat late in the game, but if you are leaving openings all over the place that's going to potentially be an issue.  So putting up defenses everywhere costs some, too.

There's no reason you need to ever have more than one city if you are playing on a map that doesn't have much in the way of water or other geographical barriers.  There are some map types like that, and you could just build one sprawling city that just subsumes other things that it meets.  There are probably some downsides inherent to doing that, but I can't think what they are right now.  I guess if some part of a giant city gets taken out, then the repercussions would affect your whole empire rather than just part of it -- so there is that.

The main reason on a normal map (with oceans and continents) to make new cities is that you have to when you need to cross water.  You can put certain buildings outside of your city, like mining platforms and helipads and cargo airstrips and ports and whatnot, and remote engineering brigades let you put things like barracks and sonar stations and scout stations out away from your main city, too.  So you can have little "city annexes," so to speak, that are clusters of buildings like that away from your main city.  You can even create long chains of helipads or ports if you want to, and it's all one city.

But if you want to build the bulk of the buildings, they need to be supported either by your lander (which turns gradually into a big imperial center over the course of the very early part of the game), or by a civic center that defines a new city. In order to put up a new civic center, you'll wind up creating a chain of helipads or ports or whatever (or a mix of those, actually!) from the first city to the site of the second city.  It depends on how far you want to go from one city to the next, which is going to vary for a lot of reasons (the neighbors, the terrain, the amount of space at the new location and the distance you want between the cities, etc).  You might have a very short chain.

Anyway, you then establish your second (or third or whatever) city, and manage both cities from then on.  There are definite benefits to that, and you can make one city that is an unhappier slum that nonetheless is great for military forward operations, and another one that is your population center and the kind of science paradise or whatever.  That chain of transportation methods between the two cities that you originally created remains your linkage between the two.  If it gets severed then you can't send certain things between the cities, but you can still manage them independently just fine.  You can create some redundant linkages between them, just in case some pieces get destroyed, if you want.  And/or make each of those linkages into little mini-forts that are super well defended on their own, either way.

My expectation is that most people will not have more than 3 cities in a game, but we'll see.  It's possible to have as many as you want, depending on how you choose to do your social progress unlocks (focusing on a volume of cities is going to preclude you taking some other bonuses from there as you gain social progress).

So... ya.  There are a number of subsystems that are independent but which all matter for purposes of these sorts of decisions.  Exactly how you play is going to be based on your preferences (or needs based on the situation) with each of those subsystems.  It's extraordinarily freeform, though, in your level of options.  That's going to be bloody hard to test the balance on, but hence a long beta (where it's feature-complete but we're still tuning like crazy).  We plan on having the longest one for this game of any game we've ever done, because of the sheer scope here.
Title: Re: A note about "no units" in Stars Beyond Reach.
Post by: Teal_Blue on November 20, 2014, 08:50:58 PM
Really nice write up, and lots of wonderful detail. Am looking forward to seeing it, I am a fan of the old AC, but this one seems even more detailed, which is a very nice thing. Anyways, Happy Turkey Day next week, will be off to see family for the next week or so, so probably won't have a chance to pop in and see what is happening (my parents are not computer people) :)  Anyway, take care and thank you for all the nice ideas to think about. 

-T

Title: Re: A note about "no units" in Stars Beyond Reach.
Post by: x4000 on November 20, 2014, 09:05:17 PM
Thanks very much, and happy turkey day to you also! :)
Title: Re: A note about "no units" in Stars Beyond Reach.
Post by: DrFranknfurter on November 22, 2014, 11:55:56 AM
Thanks again for answering all the questions. I have one last combat-question to forward from Nasarog. Basically, what will combat look like? I understand if this is best left until you have everything in and ready to show-off. I don't want to push you, I don't mind waiting and nor does Nasarog.

Nasarog:
"I am sure this is lost in this thread somewhere but I will bring it up again.

Combat: No tactical combat. Is it strategic like it is in EU4/CK2? Is it implied by a conquest bar/timer like in ES? What is the visual representation for conquest? If there isn't one, you might want to consider something. One of the most requested features for ES was a physical representation of planetary/system conquest. I know, I ask plenty of times."

Originally posted by Franknfurter:
Fair enough. I'll see if I can get any more details.

Nasarog:
"You don't have to, you can add to a list of questions for when they do want to share. We aren't going anywhere."

Oh and for clarity of any comparison I've just done a quick search for pictures.
EU4 combat:
(http://www.eu4wiki.com/images/thumb/d/df/Land_battle_result.jpg/400px-Land_battle_result.jpg)
and CK2:
(http://img4.wikia.nocookie.net/__cb20120226215350/crusaderkings-two/images/0/0f/Fight.jpg)
And Endless Space:
(http://forums.amplitude-studios.com/attachment.php?attachmentid=7827&stc=1&d=1376868953)
(http://www.spacesector.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/endless_space_disharmony_invasion.jpg)
Title: Re: A note about "no units" in Stars Beyond Reach.
Post by: Draco18s on November 22, 2014, 03:33:39 PM
I really disliked Endless Space on a number of fronts, one of those being "incapable of colonizing a planet unless its inside your influence bubble."  Or sometimes even worse, incapable of sending units there.

But I did like how they worked otherwise.
Title: Re: A note about "no units" in Stars Beyond Reach.
Post by: x4000 on November 22, 2014, 08:34:46 PM
It's definitely not like either of those things.  In a lot of respects, despite "no units," the combat works a lot like it does in Civ... just quicker to execute orders.  You give an attack order against a specific tile from a specific TYPE of tile in a specific city of yours, and then you see a brief animation of guys fighting on the ground or ships flying in and fighting or a missile striking or a boat sailing out and fighting or whatever.  Buildings have health bars that go down, and population is lost (potentially on both sides) depending on the type of combat.

In other words, I think a lot of people won't really register that there are "no units" in some ways, because you do in fact have little soldiers that you order around, etc.  But you aren't training something like 20 types of soldiers, or making tons of kinds of attack ships, etc.  You're empire building.  You also aren't producing specific units or giving them positions.  You're constructing buildings, giving THEM position, and you're also raising population and energy on a city level.  These resources then combine to show the fruits of your labor doing combat in a very streamlined few-clicks-as-possible fashion.

It's a question of emphasis: in a lot of 4X games, the positioning of your buildings, and the depth of types of buildings you can build, is pretty shallow.  Compared to a citybuilder, anyhow.  However, the richness of units you can create is very large, and you can often in fact get bogged down on per-unit upgrades and whatnot.  Here you have various upgrades as well from the tech tree for capabilities for your citizens and so forth, but the unit type list is absolutely anemic compared to most 4X games.  Why does this work?  Because the empire-building side of things is where the real meat is, and the actual fight is the external expression of your success at positioning.

One example is I guess Risk: there's only one type of unit, but nobody would call that a shallow game.  Rather, it's all about position and territory control.  Chess has more units, but again is often chiefly about position.  This game is less exclusively about position (by a long shot), but still moreso than other games of its ilk.  And if you expand "position" to include the concept of "makeup and location of cities and empire," then actually it's pretty darn complex to optimize at a high level of play (but something you can intuitively and quickly faff about with at an easy AI level of play, no problem -- the barrier of entry is low, similar to Risk or Civ or even Chess).

TLDR:
1. It's all about the buildings, on both sides.
2. However, the overall stats of the cities on both sides matter as well, both in terms of techs, population counts for the city as a whole, supporting buildings, and so on.
3. There are animations and health bars and so forth that give a sense of grounding to what is happening, so that you feel what is happening rather than feeling like a spreadsheet that is too abstract.

It's a very different system from any other game I've played in a lot of respects, and yet it's already feeling extremely familiar to me after less than a week.  I should warn you that this is not fully prototyped yet and there may be changes.  But I am quite convinced that these ideas are super solid and the nature of the game is very clear in my mind these days.  It's unusually early in a project for things to be quite that clear to me, so I'm elated actually.  We always do experimental things, and usually there is more waffling on my part at this stage still. ;)

I'm still knocking on wood that none of the above will wind up being "oh that actually didn't work, now it works this other way" in a few months, but I will know more for sure within a few weeks.  So far I see no signs that that is the case, but that doesn't always mean some latent realization won't come up.

But to drive at the most key part of the question above, a visual representation of the combat of persons and vehicles, despite the lack of "units" in the traditional sense, is 100% something I'm sure will be there.  It just wouldn't feel right without it, and that aspect of things IS prototyped to the point that I can say with confidence that the visual aspects work well and feel right.  If there are changes, it will be to the logic and game flow behind them.
Title: Re: A note about "no units" in Stars Beyond Reach.
Post by: Zebeast46 on November 26, 2014, 08:12:54 AM
Oh, I get it. So the buildings such as temporary military bases have ''special abilities'' where they send ground troops out to go and destroy something and then come back. Then you can also launch missiles and stuff from buildings too. Just a question though, can you make it so that not only can the troops attack from the buildings, but so that they can defend your buildings in your city?

Keep up the great work.
Title: Re: A note about "no units" in Stars Beyond Reach.
Post by: x4000 on November 26, 2014, 08:50:10 AM
Cheers!

Buildings that you control have population in them that can defend themselves in general.  And though I don't have this yet, automated defenses are planned, yes.  Basically things that you place strategically that help to defend stuff that is near them, etc.  That's been something I've planned for a while, but I haven't had a chance to design that out yet. :)
Title: Re: A note about "no units" in Stars Beyond Reach.
Post by: Teal_Blue on November 28, 2014, 07:17:08 AM
The details on SBR sound really cool. Thank you for all the interesting information. Quick question, will there be any positioning? By that I guess I mean, will we have troop buildups? Or flanking maneuvers for attacks? Perhaps I am thinking to unit-ly,  :) perhaps all the positioning will be at the building sites, and therefore projectable to either other single tiles, or multiple tiles as the case may be.

It makes me think a bit of chess, or even an RTS where buildups and flanking possibilities are noted, and of course where a player will consider options of countering, or feigning or allowing as it pulls resources into an area to be captured? Or trapped? Or separated from their supporting buildings?

I'm not certain I am making sense. The idea and question all seemed to when it first occurred to me.
Anyway thank you for listening.
-Teal

Title: Re: A note about "no units" in Stars Beyond Reach.
Post by: Cyborg on November 28, 2014, 07:49:27 PM
This is looking great. I don't quite understand the combat model, but I always have faith that the team will come up with something suitably fun and challenging.
Title: Re: A note about "no units" in Stars Beyond Reach.
Post by: x4000 on November 30, 2014, 03:26:36 PM
Thanks to both of you!

In terms of positioning, no, there are no troop movements per se.  However, you may have population movements between cities, and you may have military fortifications increasing or decreasing along a line of demarcation, which is basically the same thing.  It's tricky to explain, but I think it's really easy when you see it in practice.  Knock on wood. ;)  I look forward to being able to show it off in some videos, probably in January.
Title: Re: A note about "no units" in Stars Beyond Reach.
Post by: Teal_Blue on December 04, 2014, 09:52:35 PM
Thanks for the info, that sounds interesting, looking forward to catching a 'Let's Play' when it's ready.

-Teal