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Hey Arcen, really pissed off with you!!!!

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Chris, I can't wait to see what twists you can bring to the traditional 4x arena. In the meantime, I have two suggestions for 4x done well (and in space).

Question though - you seem fairly adverse to modding in your other titles, though you certainly implement user suggestions and keep the features rolling out. With most of the 4x/grand strategy games I enjoy, one key component is the ability to do total conversions and mod the game far from what the developer originally conceived.

Do you think it is possible/likely that an eventual Arcen 4x would include mod support?

Aurora: narrative driven, procedurally generated, and perhaps the most complicated thing I have ever put my mind to. I have heard that it is quite rewarding. I am still at the head-scratching stage. Think: dwarf therapist (the spreadsheet overlay to dwarf fortress), in space, as a 4x, with no automation of micromanagement. You want to fire a rocket at an alien? research the tube, the fuel, the engines, the guidance, payload, and launch system, make a prototype, tool up a factory, get the rockets in place, and launch. You may be rewarded with a radar blip and a bit of text about the launch/impact :-) http://aurora2.pentarch.org/

I am not doing it justice, as I haven't really wrapped my brain around it, but the people who enjoy it? Wow, read some of the AARs. Oh, and free, closed-source, written as an exercise in visual basic :-P

Distant Worlds: solo dev out of new zealand, working with matrix games (strategy publisher), 4 years, 5 expansions, just about to release a standalone compilation of all previous content. They are going with a mixed-Steam release and actually pricing it affordably. You can automate as much or as little as you want. Diverse races, interesting tech trees, great ship design, solid fleet posturing (strategy) and ship control (tactics). (http://matrixgames.com/products/515/details/Distant.Worlds.-.Universe)

Three missing things: 1. you shouldn't be able to talk with other races when you first meet them. Babelfish are a fun conceit, but I'd love to see a 4x that actually handles "The Other" well. First contact - you shouldn't be able to communicate and you shouldn't know whether a smile and handshake mean "hi, I'm a friend," or "this meat looks tasty, let me grab a piece."

2. unique research trees: in the base game, there is very little customization of the research tree. I really enjoy how SoTS made each species' research options unique and how that drove ship design, empire functioning, etc. Modding will certainly improve this, but there is talk of a feature update post-ship.

3. extreme moddability. Universe certainly improves on it, but modding is mostly cosmetic and you certainly can't touch things like the AI. I really enjoy what Taleworlds did with Mount & Blade, and Paradox with CK2/EU4 - where you can create a fundamentally different game using the base framework of the developer. It really extends and expands the life of these titles.

The 4x that I have planned is actually terrestrial, although you never know.  But having language barriers is super interesting in any context, honestly.  I've made a note of that, that's awesome.

Regarding moddability, honestly we're a small company and a reasonably small community, and it's not something I've been keen on.  If the vast majority of people (for instance) go migrate to various mods, then suddenly we are basically bound to not make changes that would break those mods.  And we lose feedback on the base experience.  And so on.  Right now when we make a change, we know exactly what it impacts.  If there were mods relying on the code being static... well, you've seen our changelogs.

Glad you like the idea, I'll be interested to see what you do with it.

Regarding modding - your hesitation is completely understandable. I don't think I have played a game where most people were using a particular mod, at least not while the game was still in active development. The onus has always been with the modders to ensure compatibility with the base game, rather than the other way around (and Paradox may not have the active changelog you have had with AI War & TLF, but the irregular changes have been huge.)

I'd love it if some devs with modding-sympathetic tendencies could chime in regarding the feedback loop. (if only more of the development community was as transparent, communicative, and open to ideas as you are!)

The funny thing is that I was a modder for almost two decades prior to becoming a developer, so it's a bit hypocritical of me to say the least.  But the main thing is that I tend to create something that I want to keep growing in the way I want to create growing it; I'm not really creating a platform for other people to basically grow their own games (ala DayZ from Arma II).  I may change my stance on that at some point, but right now it just doesn't fit with my personal priorities.  I know it's hypocritical, but so it goes. ;)

Ha. That's some tasty irony.

I don't think that it's hypocritical to have a vision and want to implement that vision. I just (personally) prefer visions--especially of 4x/grand strategy games--that include the ability to let players tear down your vision and erect their own hideous monstrosities in its place. And I think that it is really good for the longevity of game communities and it encourages people to be like you. To start modding, become real devs, and then bring their own visions to the public. Virtuous cycle and all that.

[ominous voice] Someday, Chris, someday you will want to play a game by a new generation of developer, and you will be sorely disappointed if that dev was raised modding candy crush and silly 4xs rather than creating gameplay mods of AI War and the like [/ominous voice]

So this land-based 4x of yours... will there be water for boats, so I can pretend that I have a navy in 2d space ;-) To do naval combat well might dilute the overall experience, so I am not sure if it is a good idea. Just spitballing (and fishing for additional teasers about your 4x vision).


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