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General Category => Stars Beyond Reach... This World Is Mine => Topic started by: x4000 on October 31, 2014, 10:09:36 AM

Title: Announcing "Stars Beyond Reach," a new 4x coming in April/May 2015.
Post by: x4000 on October 31, 2014, 10:09:36 AM
Original: http://arcengames.com/announcing-stars-beyond-reach-a-new-4x-coming-in-aprilmay-2015/

STARS-BEYOND-REACH-cropped

It is with great pleasure that I formally announce this next game.  Finally, Arcen is doing a true 4x!  People have been suggesting that we do this for years, and I've wanted to, but I wasn't really ready yet.  Even so, bits and pieces of 4x infuse a lot of our games, particularly AI War and The Last Federation.

What Is This Game?


The short: 4x, hexes, hex-shaped map, 14 races planned (8 playable), 3 leader options per race, no units (think SimCity), sci-fi but planet based, and (probably) with co-op multiplayer.

The even-shorter: Think Civilization meets SimCity meets AI War meets New Stuff.


The above isn't a full-scale screenshot (it's 75% scale), and it's just a tiny snippet of the screen.  But it does give you some idea of what we're up to.



Recent Name Change


Until recently, this game was known as Spectral Empire, which was a name that I really came to dislike.  It wouldn't have served the game well.  A huge thanks to Draco18s for suggesting The Stars Are Beyond Reach a month ago.  We shortened that a bit, and we've added the tagline "This World Is Mine" (that's a tagline, not a subtitle).  But the core title is just awesome and really does the theme of the game proud.


The above is a thumbnail of it zoomed very far out to show a large part of a midsize world with a normal map style (continents and islands and poles and whatnot, and all the season zones).  The pale green buildings are ones that have been modeled but not yet painted.  Note that also the per-race alien flora isn't yet spreading here, either.



More Details!


Back when this was still called Spectral Empire, I did a preview of the alien races that will be in the game, and all of that is still pretty well accurate.

Also a bit back, I did a brief tease of the Planet Voice as a video.  The second video has a better version of the voice.

More recently, people have been quizzing me on various aspects of the game, and naturally I can't resist answering (cautiously at times, since a lot of things are still subject to change, but still).


Above is a view of where the north polar zone is butting up against the northern temperate.



Snippets From The Above-Linked Q&A (Dear Lord It's A Lot, I Know)


A comment from myself: Hexes are by nature abstract.  I feel like the more people try to hide that abstractness, the less the hexes have a point in general.  My direction to the artists for our own upcoming hex game was "let's not hide the hexes, let's flaunt them."  I feel like having tiles that are merging things like coastline plus ocean are inherently messy and confusing both visually and conceptually (as a player), and so I prefer to have something that is inherently a little more abstract, but proud of it.  Hexes can be done in a really gorgeous way, and personally I get excited just seeing them...
Q from relmz32: Regarding how the planet is mapped in SE, how do you guys handle wrapping? The reason why I ask is that cylendrical wrapping, while popular and pretty easy to implement, doesn't actaully do a good job of representing an actual spherical planet.

Answer: Basically, we originally had both x and y wrapping, and it was something that worked well, except it was pretty confusing.  If you went north, you'd pass a pole, then temperate, then tropical, then temperate, then another pole, then temperate, then tropical... wait, was that the north pole or south pole?  Etc.

Plus you'd get kind of odd things where you were looking at the "top of the globe" so to speak, but it felt like an island of ice rather than the actual polar ice cap because it's all being projected onto a flat plane.

Those things were... annoying, but realistically the player would not spend that much time zoomed out and panning like crazy to where that would be a frequent issue of confusion.  And adding the minimap would solve the issue of "where am I."

Well... we added the minimap, and that just compounded the problems.  Being able to zoom out crazy far was limited heavily by the need to not have the same tiles repeating on both sides of the screen, and the inherent difficulties of doing that in an orthographic projection rather than a literal top-down view.  I'm not aware of any other hex games that are in an iso view, but as Keith will attest it complicates things enormously from a basic viewport math point of view.

Anyway, so the zoom was a problem, but the minimap was absolutely the end of things.  Because of the nature of how the hexes fit together, we couldn't make a square or a rectangle out of the minimap without repeating tiles.  We'd always have a gap at the top and/or bottom because of the way the things project.  So... yeah, that was a problem.

Adding up all of the problems, the wrapping simply wasn't a good mechanic.  It caused confusion and troubles at every level, so late last week we decided it had to go.  Instead we are now using a hex-shaped world, where the internal angles are 120 degrees (as opposed to the sharper 90 degree corners of a rectangular map), and it lets us handle things far more gracefully.  It's an unusual shape to have the world be, for sure, but it works out surprisingly well.  And the game immediately felt way more intuitive and so forth.

My big concern, and why I'd wanted wrapping, was to avoid the ability to "hide in corners" or "be stuck in a corner."  But having 120 degree internal angles instead of 90 degree ones really does solve that pretty neatly.  The corners really aren't too much of a corner.  And with the way the game has evolved, trying to turtle isn't really a relevant thing, anyway.

AND, incidentally, not having wrapping lets us have greater distances between points on the far ends of the map than wrapping would.  With wrapping, half a world away is as far as anything is.  Without wrapping, it can be a full world away.  So you get a greater feeling of space without the wrapping, which was a complete surprise to me.

We're going to be doing a variety of map types, not all of which depict all the zones in the first place.  Some just tropical or just polar or whatever other slices we want.  So what you're normally seeing is a slice of the vertical axis of the planet, theoretically.


Above is a view of where the northern temperate is hitting the tropics slightly, as well as showing some resource-rich rocky crystal ground native to the planet.



Q from DrFranknfurter: 1 building per hex is hinted by the first screenshot?

Answer: It's not always one building per hex.  Or rather, one hex per building.  Each hex has at most one building on it, let's put it that way.  But sometimes buildings have footprints that are 2 or more typically 3, and one has a footprint of 7.  Most buildings are 1 hex, though, to keep things manageable.
Q from DrFranknfurter: What sort of resources will there be to gather/find/fight over?

Answer: As with Civilization, there are kind of two levels of resources.  One is the more direct stuff that you manage at a high level.  Those are things like money, energy, morale, and so forth.  But then there are resources like oil and minerals.

Unlike Civilization, those oil/mineral type resources are not hard gates to things (you can't have chariots if you don't have horses), but rather are pathways to greater efficiency.  This is one of the key tenets of the design of this game for me: make it so that players have a limited number of steps to do something in kind of the basic way, but so that the optimal way is a matter of debate as well as being more involved.  Keeping the civ example, you would not be blocked in building chariots without a source of horses, but when you got horses that would be a "large supply of horses" not "any horses at all," and having those horses would either make the chariots stronger, or produced faster, or some other effect.

There are also some other "resources" of a sort, mainly involving making the atmosphere more to your liking, or spreading the sort of terrain of your home world.  The terrain that you see here is all the "vanilla" terrain that is native to the planet itself.  Each race will have 3 different kinds of terrain unique to themselves, though, and there are various benefits to them to surrounding themselves with their kind of terrain.  The early game will look very different than the late game, terrain-wise.

Although, I take that back: the Neinzul and the Spire are both flying races, and so they don't have terrain.  Their "buildings" are actually floating living beings.
Q from DrFranknfurter: 14 races is a lot... considering that how are you planning them to look different?
will they share building artwork (sane) or do they get there own (Good but expensive, 14x the work is a painfully large multiplier) Or will the buildings be coloured with your race colour (cheap but effective) or something else to differentiate them? (Like red spiky crystals/forests surrounding cities of different races)

Answer: Some of each thing.

There are 6 races that are not-ever-human-playable out of those 14.  Those are the Acutians, the Andors, the Thoraxians, the Spire, the Neinzul, and the Yali.  All of these races work entirely differently from all the human-playable races.  Each of these races has something like 5-6 unique buildings for themselves, and they use their entirely own economic mechanics, AI, and everything.  They aren't playing the same game as you at all.

The other 8 races are all human playable, and they share possibly all of their buildings, maybe with one or two unique per race.  Not sure on that yet.  There are some buildings that will be AI-only though (aka only used by AI players for these races), and some that are player-only.  Remember that the story is that the players are new to the planet, while everyone else is established.  So there are some differences there, and yet more asymmetry.

All of the races that are not flying have their three unique terrain types, which will tend to spread out from their cities.  So that kind of informs you that you're coming in to Burlust territory, when you start seeing their red angry sort of plants and lava pools, etc.  You'll see all those sorts of terrains clumped up around the race, so you don't have to remember the terrains individually.  But in terms of those terrain types, with things like the Andors it's not even living terrain.  Instead it's these kind of golden robotic forests and fields that are much more mechanical.  For the Burlusts, it's very lava-like, etc.  And so on.  Each set of 3 terrains has a very distinct feel to it, very different from any other race.

Each race also has a specific two-tone border color associated with them, too.  You can see the one surrounding the territory of the buildings in that first screenshot up there.  We'll see if more than that is needed, but at the moment I don't feel like it will be in terms of identifying which race a city belongs to.

Speaking of races, there are a variety of languages spoken by them, and you have to learn them before you can speak with races that speak that language.  Overall there are 8 languages, and which race you start as determines which language you know from the start, versus which ones you have to learn.  Starting as one of the races from TLF gives you a bit of an advantage because they all speak Solar Common.  Except for the Thoraxians, which are an older group that never visited the solar system in TLF.  These Thoraxians still speak Proto-Thoraxian.  The other languages are Zenian, Spirian, Neinric, Yalven, Fain, and Kronish.

And again speaking of factions, there are three possible leaders for each faction.  Each of these leaders has different bonuses, but also a different personality.  Taking the Civ analogy, basically Gandhi would not always be the leader of India.  Sometimes he would, and he'd act like the nuke-happy guy that people are used to.  Other times you'd encounter India under other rulers.  Overall that gives you 42 different leaders in the game, 24 of which you can directly play as.  This helps us to have differentiated sub-factions, only one of which is present in any given game.  So the Burlusts act one way in Game A because they are under Leader 1, and a different way in game B because they are under Leader 3.  Etc.
Q from DrFranknfurter: Will you be trading things with the AI? (assuming you know their language). I can imagine not knowing the other players languages could slow down diplomacy (5 turns to unlock breathing, 5 more to unlock grunting, 5 more to unlock talking) and push you towards ignoring it entirely in favour of conquest. Especially if the other players are actively damaging your terrain through hostile terraforming. That said, it would be interesting to have the diplomacy text be more and more detailed/unambiguous as you understand their language better, much like the spire conversations do in AI War. But perhaps having a little bit of diplomacy available at all times would be enough to prevent that worry from becoming an issue. (firing a warning shot is a solid form of non-verbal communication, giving a gift shouldn't require anything more than dumping valuable gems near their border etc.)

Answer: Conquest in a direct fashion is something that is abnormally difficult here, or that's the plan.  There are some other mechanics that I haven't really mentioned, such as Planet Mood, which gets to the freaky guy you heard in that teaser video.  The languages are literally transcoded text, so as you use linguists to unravel the languages you don't know (if you care to), then you can better piece together what is being said.  At the moment my intent is to make it so that you can take a guess at diplomatic discussions by kind of mashing buttons in languages you can half read.  ;) And then see the results if you want to take that sort of gamble.  That may not work out in practice, but I have some interesting ideas there that I want to play with, anyway.

Regarding diplomacy, that's something I'd rather not talk about just yet.  That sort of thing is always one of the most unsatisfying parts of most 4x games, and attempting a traditional route is likely to lead to the same sorts of bad feelings for me at least.  Keith has had some excellent ideas about "implicit diplomacy" where your interests align with other races based on circumstances, and it's really compelling stuff that I feel certain will make it in.

But then there's also another layer that I want to have in order to give a sense of life and personality to the races and their leaders.  It's a risky sort of potential time-sink, and so I'm trying to figure out a way to handle that gracefully.  If you want to talk about multiplicative math, THERE's the real challenge in terms of coding and particularly writing.  But in particular after reading the Civ:BE reviews, the need for really strong personalities makes itself abundantly clear to me.  And honestly, thinking back to my time with Civ V, even there the less recognizable leaders were a problem in terms of me not feeling any connection to them.  So I have my work cut out for me in that area.  It's not directly on my plate yet, though, as a lot of that boils down to vertical content rather than horizontal mechanics.
Q from DrFranknfurter: I'm a little sad that the player doesn't get his hands on giant spire floating cities... But as both the Spire and Neinzul weren't the main races in AI War either (by dint of their awesome power) I'm not completely surprised.

Answer: The main reason for certain specific races being AI-only is the way that they work so differently.  As much as I'd like for the player to be able to play a completely different game from the base one in terms of having floating cities of unique buildings, that's just incredibly beyond scope, heh.  But having AI factions do that is really fun.  And being able to ally with them and get them to help you is something I plan (the opposite too, of course -- naturally).

In terms of expansions... who knows!  I haven't remotely gotten my head to that sort of space yet, but there's plenty of room for more beyond the base game.  In the sense that the world is a wide one, and the mechanics are broad -- not in the sense that there's something planned to be missing!
Q from DrFranknfurter: Will there be any orbital stuff? I'm assuming there's a reason they're all stuck on the planet together... perhaps a reason that interferes with satellites/spaceflight.

Answer: There is not likely to be any orbital stuff, but I'm not sure if I'm really ready to say why just yet.  I'm not sure yet at what point in the story that reason is going to be revealed.  Possibly right upfront, or possibly as a reveal further into the game, not sure.  One of the victory conditions will be escaping into space, at any rate.
Q from DrFranknfurter: Are the flying spire and neinzul the orbital equivalent - how high do they float? I'm assuming it's just an artistic representation of their buildings... is there any mechanical differences from them floating? (can they move, build over oceans, float over your cities?)

Answer: These are basically antigrav "buildings" that are still in the atmosphere, but high.  They can't be positioned over the territory of other races, or above mountains, but they can go over water.  The Yali are actually completely water-based, incidentally.  And the Thoraxians dig tunnels all over the place, under water and land.  Aside from looking for resources with sonar, you also have to watch out for tendrils of Thoraxian tunnels.

As to whether or not the Neinzul and Spire "floating buildings" can move or not, I'm not yet sure.  I've considered it, but I'm not yet fully convinced either way.  There are pros and cons, given the other game mechanics.  At any rate, there are lots of flying craft that can go over mountains and whatever else, including the floating buildings.
Q from DrFranknfurter: What is planet mood? Will the planet get annoyed with your growth/wars/terraforming? Interactions with the planet was a core feature of Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri (SMAC, the beloved 4x of yesteryear) In it certain buildings and policies harmed the planet - which could then attack you with mindworms- and certain victory conditions involved communicating with the planet. Will the player be dealing with the planet in a similar way? How much of a similarity is there?

Answer: I'm honestly not prepared to fully comment on this one yet, as my designs on this have yet to be integrated into the prototype and thus I don't have a good sense of what might have to change.  I don't want to say something on this that might turn out to be woefully incorrect, particularly given the high standard that SMAC sets.  All that said... yes, you will be interacting with the planet in several ways, and the planet responds back in kind.

The broad concept right now, without getting too specific: To some extent, it is like SMAC.  In other ways, this is actually like AI Progress from AI War -- even reverse AI Progress, depending on how you play.  The mood can be a force that is helpful or harmful for you and other races as well, and unlike AI Progress isn't something that just works against you.

Take the above with a big grain of salt, because things like interface clarity, fun and understandability, etc, may cause revisions.  I'm familiar with how SMAC did it, and I think that was great, but I'm interested in a more robust system.  The trick there is making it more robust without making it complicated for the sake of complexity, if that makes sense.  That's why I'm reluctant to talk too much about specifics prior to actually having a prototype I'm happy with on that part.
Q from ElOhTeeBee: (Relating to Terraforming) YES.  About how much of this post do you at least want to try to make work?

Answer: No satellites, but there are some ground-based buildings you can use to adjust the temperature on the planet, as well as the atmospheric mix.

Temperature fluctuations cause deserts to expand and contract, same with ice/snow, and for sea levels to rise and fall.  You can flood out coastal buildings with rising seas if you drive up the temperature enough.

You can't raise mountains, and there's no concept of height in the game (unlike SMAC, and like Civ:BE).  I know that bothers some people, but representing that in a way that was attractive and clear was something we tried and failed to do.  And in the end, we're able to get at the same sort of resultant gameplay without that.

You can clear forests and certain other kinds of terrain, but you can't raise back up natural forests.  However, depending on your race you have one of three kinds of terrain that is unique to your race that you can seed.  So you can draw all the phallic obscenities you want. ;)

I've thought about having land expansion onto water, but I'm not sure yet.  I have a couple of models in which it could work, but I worry that it would trivialize certain aspects of the game.  At any rate, if you find yourself stuck on an island, you can expand your empire via docks, airstrips, and helipads with ease.

In terms of making yourself resistant to atmospheric poisons, that's an interesting concept, and not one I've thought about.  Although, I guess I kind of implicitly have.  The atmosphere is by nature going to be hostile to at least some of the races, because the races have a mixture of partially-compatible or completely-incompatible requirements.  Those that are ill suited to the atmosphere don't just die, but it will slow them down a lot because of their need for rebreathers and other things.  So you can push the atmosphere in ways that will help you (and implicitly some other races that have some similar needs), while pushing out other races.  I suppose that part of that would be to potentially have some expensive tech to increase your tolerance of specific atmospheric elements, although I don't want that to get in the way of the primary push and pull too much.

Bear in mind that I haven't had time to actually prototype any of the environmental stuff yet, except for the temperature changes and how that affects coasts/deserts/snow/ice.  And basic clearing of land, of course.  But the more sophisticated atmospheric manipulation, and the planting of your own native flora/terrain isn't something I've gotten to yet.  I have plans, many of them quite detailed, but it's a matter of making sure that they actually survive the prototype intact based on them turning out to, in fact, actually be fun.  SOME form of those things will survive, I'm certain, because that's really a cornerstone of how you can compete with the races non-militarily in this game.

Having other ways to interact with the races other than just military blows and cheap diplomacy is something I'm definitely driving towards.  So many strategy games focus on the military above all else, and kind of let the other elements wither.  Heck, with AI War I made the conscious choice to do almost nothing BUT military -- there's nothing wrong with that approach.  Here I wanted to make the military no more attractive of an option than any of the other playstyles, but at the same time not making it so that the factions are isolated -- they should be in constant competition even when not militarily engaged.  Even if you never actually fight anyone in an entire game, it should be a bitter "battle" the whole time on at least a couple of fronts.


Above is a bit of desert and desert mountains bordering one side of it.

Title: Re: Announcing "Stars Beyond Reach," a new 4x coming in April/May 2015.
Post by: x4000 on October 31, 2014, 10:09:56 AM
And the discussion starts here. ;)
Title: Re: Announcing "Stars Beyond Reach," a new 4x coming in April/May 2015.
Post by: MaskityMask on October 31, 2014, 10:57:41 AM
Sounds cool :) I wanna buy it already

I like it when strategy games have stuff like "This particular leader has this ai and there are multiple leaders for factions" so that each faction won't every time play exactly the same when controlled by AI
Title: Re: Announcing "Stars Beyond Reach," a new 4x coming in April/May 2015.
Post by: x4000 on October 31, 2014, 11:07:06 AM
Thanks!  That's something I like, too -- having factions that aren't entirely monolithic is really nice.
Title: Re: Announcing "Stars Beyond Reach," a new 4x coming in April/May 2015.
Post by: Wingflier on October 31, 2014, 11:22:09 AM
If there is no unit management, can we expect to see something along the lines of Skyward Collapse, where the units themselves are simply a product of the buildings whether directly or indirectly, and have a mind of their own?

It's hard for me to imagine a 4X game that doesn't have "units" in the traditional sense. Buildings are important but how will the armies function? Will there even be armies?

Maybe I'm asking you to divulge too much at the given moment, but I think everyone would like to know how the "battle" system works, or if there is even any type of battle happening amongst factions.
Title: Re: Announcing "Stars Beyond Reach," a new 4x coming in April/May 2015.
Post by: x4000 on October 31, 2014, 11:37:40 AM
If there is no unit management, can we expect to see something along the lines of Skyward Collapse, where the units themselves are simply a product of the buildings whether directly or indirectly, and have a mind of their own?

It's hard for me to imagine a 4X game that doesn't have "units" in the traditional sense. Buildings are important but how will the armies function? Will there even be armies?

Maybe I'm asking you to divulge too much at the given moment, but I think everyone would like to know how the "battle" system works, or if there is even any type of battle happening amongst factions.

The battle system in general is still in various stages of prototyping, but you are correct that there are literally no units, period.  It's not like Skyward Collapse where you have units but they are auto-managed.  You won't see any giant barbarians moving around the map.

That said, there are things like military dropships that are shuttling unseen soldiers from one part of the map to another on your command.  That's a bit confusing when I'm not more specific, but I'm trying not to say too much that will change later.

Overall, think of the populace as being just like in SimCity.  For instance, you have an overall population that is being sustained by the city/empire that you are creating, and you have to house them and so on.  There is some concept of position of the populace, in that building adjacencies matter a lot for reasons like desirability, pollution, access to services and transportation, etc.  However, unlike the very latest SimCity, there's not a simulation of every last little individual and how they move around.  It's a bit more abstract than that here, more like SimCity 4 and SimCity 2000.

The military mechanics are intended to be a seamless offshoot of that.  By erecting various military buildings, you project a certain amount of power from them as certain members of the populace are employed there.  However, you have to have a supply chain to support those buildings fully.  And from those buildings, you can supply things like the drop ships, which then land on kind of "makeshift buildings" that can go next to enemy terrain.  These being things like little military camps that you fling up -- kind of like what a US Air Force Combat Controller would do in enemy territory to set up a temporary airstrip in hostile territory, then used for further breaching.

The military portion of your populace then begins the incursion from there (or defends against an enemy incursion if the roles are reversed), and the mechanics there are less finalized.  I have a variety of models mapped out there that I think have promise, but which one exactly is clearest and smoothest is something I have yet to decide on.  I want something that isn't click-heavy, that doesn't require endless subscreens, and that gives you the power to directly make choices but doesn't require you to micro everything if you don't want to.  So that's going to be some more stuff that I'm experimenting with prior to us hitting beta.

The other aspect of military warfare is direct-fire weapons, mainly missiles.  These being things where you say "hey missile silo, fire a missile at X coordinate in your range," and then it immediately does it and you see what happens.  So there's not really a fight there per se, it's just you inflicting damage on an enemy city based on direct ranged attacks.  That might be softening them up for a ground incursion, or a preventative measure to keep them from attacking you with their own ranged missiles, etc.  The direct-fire weapons are already in and work just fine.

Anyhow, it's a pretty different concept from most other 4x games, by design.  Not just to be different for the sake of being different, but because I feel like most 4x games bog down in the late game because of all the tedious combat.  And I don't feel like automating that is the solution, I feel like a model that is actually fun and direct and fast and more in keeping with the rest of the game is the solution.  And having giant units wandering around the map has just never really felt right to me in general.  This game takes a lot of cues from citybuilders in general, and none of them have ever handled military in a way that I liked, either.  So hence something new.

Incidentally, part of my reason for making AI War a game in space was because I like space but I disliked all space strategy games prior to that.  It's kind of the same thing here.  I love 4x games, but they tend to lose me when it comes to the actual combat.  I love the back and forth struggle, but not how it is represented or how the AI deals with it or how I have to manipulate it.  It's always felt clunky and awkward, and so I'm trying something more in keeping with the rest of the mechanics of that genre, which I absolutely love.  Why can't combat be more like the actual empire-building portions, which are so fun?  Etc.
Title: Re: Announcing "Stars Beyond Reach," a new 4x coming in April/May 2015.
Post by: relmz32 on October 31, 2014, 12:06:35 PM

<span style="text-decoration: underline;">Q from nas1m:</span> Regarding how the planet is mapped in SE, how do you guys handle wrapping? The reason why I ask is that cylendrical wrapping, while popular and pretty easy to implement, doesn't actaully do a good job of representing an actual spherical planet.



Hey! That question was from *me*!
 :D

...

Also, I have a question regarding how the planet is mapped in SE, how do you guys handle wrapping? The reason why i ask is that cylendrical wrapping, while popular and pretty easy to implement, doesn't actaully do a good job of representing an actual spherical planet.

This annoucement makes me quite excited, and the name does sound like a good fit, I am glad that you came up with something great.
Title: Re: Announcing "Stars Beyond Reach," a new 4x coming in April/May 2015.
Post by: Wingflier on October 31, 2014, 12:07:07 PM
If there is no unit management, can we expect to see something along the lines of Skyward Collapse, where the units themselves are simply a product of the buildings whether directly or indirectly, and have a mind of their own?

It's hard for me to imagine a 4X game that doesn't have "units" in the traditional sense. Buildings are important but how will the armies function? Will there even be armies?

Maybe I'm asking you to divulge too much at the given moment, but I think everyone would like to know how the "battle" system works, or if there is even any type of battle happening amongst factions.
The battle system in general is still in various stages of prototyping, but you are correct that there are literally no units, period.  It's not like Skyward Collapse where you have units but they are auto-managed.  You won't see any giant barbarians moving around the map.

That said, there are things like military dropships that are shuttling unseen soldiers from one part of the map to another on your command.  That's a bit confusing when I'm not more specific, but I'm trying not to say too much that will change later.

Overall, think of the populace as being just like in SimCity.  For instance, you have an overall population that is being sustained by the city/empire that you are creating, and you have to house them and so on.  There is some concept of position of the populace, in that building adjacencies matter a lot for reasons like desirability, pollution, access to services and transportation, etc.  However, unlike the very latest SimCity, there's not a simulation of every last little individual and how they move around.  It's a bit more abstract than that here, more like SimCity 4 and SimCity 2000.

The military mechanics are intended to be a seamless offshoot of that.  By erecting various military buildings, you project a certain amount of power from them as certain members of the populace are employed there.  However, you have to have a supply chain to support those buildings fully.  And from those buildings, you can supply things like the drop ships, which then land on kind of "makeshift buildings" that can go next to enemy terrain.  These being things like little military camps that you fling up -- kind of like what a US Air Force Combat Controller would do in enemy territory to set up a temporary airstrip in hostile territory, then used for further breaching.

The military portion of your populace then begins the incursion from there (or defends against an enemy incursion if the roles are reversed), and the mechanics there are less finalized.  I have a variety of models mapped out there that I think have promise, but which one exactly is clearest and smoothest is something I have yet to decide on.  I want something that isn't click-heavy, that doesn't require endless subscreens, and that gives you the power to directly make choices but doesn't require you to micro everything if you don't want to.  So that's going to be some more stuff that I'm experimenting with prior to us hitting beta.

The other aspect of military warfare is direct-fire weapons, mainly missiles.  These being things where you say "hey missile silo, fire a missile at X coordinate in your range," and then it immediately does it and you see what happens.  So there's not really a fight there per se, it's just you inflicting damage on an enemy city based on direct ranged attacks.  That might be softening them up for a ground incursion, or a preventative measure to keep them from attacking you with their own ranged missiles, etc.  The direct-fire weapons are already in and work just fine.

Anyhow, it's a pretty different concept from most other 4x games, by design.  Not just to be different for the sake of being different, but because I feel like most 4x games bog down in the late game because of all the tedious combat.  And I don't feel like automating that is the solution, I feel like a model that is actually fun and direct and fast and more in keeping with the rest of the game is the solution.  And having giant units wandering around the map has just never really felt right to me in general.  This game takes a lot of cues from citybuilders in general, and none of them have ever handled military in a way that I liked, either.  So hence something new.

Incidentally, part of my reason for making AI War a game in space was because I like space but I disliked all space strategy games prior to that.  It's kind of the same thing here.  I love 4x games, but they tend to lose me when it comes to the actual combat.  I love the back and forth struggle, but not how it is represented or how the AI deals with it or how I have to manipulate it.  It's always felt clunky and awkward, and so I'm trying something more in keeping with the rest of the mechanics of that genre, which I absolutely love.  Why can't combat be more like the actual empire-building portions, which are so fun?  Etc.
So the battles themselves will not be animated or displayed in any visceral sense, but will instead rely on the imagination of the player using statistics screens and outcomes to determine how the battle played out?
Title: Re: Announcing "Stars Beyond Reach," a new 4x coming in April/May 2015.
Post by: x4000 on October 31, 2014, 12:19:55 PM
Quote
Q from nas1m:

Hey! That question was from *me*!  :D

My bad!  Sorry about that, I fixed it now. :)

So the battles themselves will not be animated or displayed in any visceral sense, but will instead rely on the imagination of the player using statistics screens and outcomes to determine how the battle played out?

I'm not sure I would characterize it like that.  As you are moving troops into an area, or as other troops are moving into an area, you're seeing buildings being erected and troop transports flying around.  If you direct-fire a missile, you see the missile launch, fly, explode, and then see the wreckage left after.

In terms of ground combat, you'd never see guys shooting a bunch of guns, no.  You will probably see some sort of particle effect, possibly, and you would see the attacked tile either get turned to rubble or else switched in allegiances, depending.  That's something I'm still experimenting with conceptually, as well.  Can buildings be captured intact?  Etc.

I guess there is still some similarity to Risk here, in some ways.  You're not having a clash of a bunch of troops individually on a particular tile that lasts an extended period of time.  Rather, for the most part they are more of a quicker decisive victory on that tile one way or the other, and things shift one way or the other.  The way that territory moves in Rebuild 2 or 3 is also a pretty good example of that.  There's a sense of territory creeping back and forth, not of specific units living or dying on a given territory.

I know that breaks the Risk analogy slightly, but if you consider a group of tiles to be more like a territory in Risk, then the individual tiles are closer to armies in risk.  So you wind up with some armies coming and going, and the struggle for the territory moves back and forth visually as that happens.

The actual mechanics of fighting are not meant to be sophisticated or complex here.  Choosing where to attack a city definitely is, as which buildings you take out make a difference in the outcome of the battle.  And the defensive levels of tiles would influence how well you actually CAN attack various areas.  And the same goes for when you're defending your own areas -- creating buffer zones being a relevant thing, etc.

One thing that's relevant with the military here is making sure that you can still maintain an effective supply chain if you lose certain key parts of your city.  So where are your backups, etc.  And like I've said before, there are a lot of other ways that you can (and kind of have to) compete aside from just via direct military action.

This is part of why I'm reluctant to talk about certain things too soon, though.  People jump to all sorts of conclusions, and I wind up having to dispel those by saying a lot of things that haven't fully been prototyped and thus might change by the time they get their hands on the game. ;)  So take the above with a grain of salt in that it might change before you have your hands on the game.  But what I'm driving at is hopefully clearer now.
Title: Re: Announcing "Stars Beyond Reach," a new 4x coming in April/May 2015.
Post by: ElOhTeeBee on October 31, 2014, 12:59:40 PM
Question from a friend - can you clarify which races will and will not be playable? Specifically, can you play as the Thoraxians?
Title: Re: Announcing "Stars Beyond Reach," a new 4x coming in April/May 2015.
Post by: x4000 on October 31, 2014, 01:09:39 PM
Question from a friend - can you clarify which races will and will not be playable? Specifically, can you play as the Thoraxians?

There are 6 races that are not-ever-human-playable out of those 14. Those are the Acutians, the Andors, the Thoraxians, the Spire, the Neinzul, and the Yali. All of these races work entirely differently from all the human-playable races. Each of these races has something like 5-6 unique buildings for themselves, and they use their entirely own economic mechanics, AI, and everything. They aren't playing the same game as you at all.

The Thoraxians were a race that I wanted to have a really cool and unique way of interacting with the world, and giving that to the players would mean essentially (at least) two separate games to balance.  You never know in an expansion or something, if this is popular.  But for now they are probably Enemy Number One most of the time.
Title: Re: Announcing "Stars Beyond Reach," a new 4x coming in April/May 2015.
Post by: Tridus on October 31, 2014, 01:17:28 PM
4x with co-op multiplayer? I'm so in! :D
Title: Re: Announcing "Stars Beyond Reach," a new 4x coming in April/May 2015.
Post by: x4000 on October 31, 2014, 01:22:48 PM
with co-op multiplayer

Hopefully!  I'm not making any absolute promises on that just yet, but it is definitely the intent.
Title: Re: Announcing "Stars Beyond Reach," a new 4x coming in April/May 2015.
Post by: Draco18s on October 31, 2014, 01:32:31 PM
Awesome. Can't wait to see where this goes (although i have speed much of the text walls x has posted, heh).
Title: Re: Announcing "Stars Beyond Reach," a new 4x coming in April/May 2015.
Post by: nas1m on October 31, 2014, 03:44:02 PM
Congrats on finally completing the name selection process :). I like it!
Title: Re: Announcing "Stars Beyond Reach," a new 4x coming in April/May 2015.
Post by: x4000 on October 31, 2014, 03:52:28 PM
Thank you! :)
Title: Re: Announcing "Stars Beyond Reach," a new 4x coming in April/May 2015.
Post by: Huw on October 31, 2014, 05:18:01 PM
Day one purchase, obviously!  Will you support Linux from day one?
Title: Re: Announcing "Stars Beyond Reach," a new 4x coming in April/May 2015.
Post by: DrFranknfurter on October 31, 2014, 06:18:37 PM
Just want to wish you all the best. I'm very happy to see all those questions ended up being useful. (You do move quickly) Good luck and happy Halloween. I'm looking forward to any more teasers and insights as your designs become reality. (especially on planet mood, unique mechanics and anything else you're wrangling over). Thanks again for answering so many questions.
Title: Re: Announcing "Stars Beyond Reach," a new 4x coming in April/May 2015.
Post by: Breach on October 31, 2014, 08:21:03 PM
This looks fantastic, I love the bit about planet mood which looks really interesting from a macro point of view. And of course another unique gameplay style from Arcen, can't wait to hear more about it. Great work so far, best of luck for the future, I'll be keeping an eye on it as always.
Title: Re: Announcing "Stars Beyond Reach," a new 4x coming in April/May 2015.
Post by: Histidine on November 01, 2014, 12:11:46 AM
There are 6 races that are not-ever-human-playable out of those 14. Those are the Acutians, the Andors, the Thoraxians, the Spire, the Neinzul, and the Yali.
NNOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO

...ahem.

Right, definitely looking forward to this. Love the title image, by the way  :D
Title: Re: Announcing "Stars Beyond Reach," a new 4x coming in April/May 2015.
Post by: Aklyon on November 01, 2014, 09:19:58 PM
There are 6 races that are not-ever-human-playable out of those 14. Those are the Acutians, the Andors, the Thoraxians, the Spire, the Neinzul, and the Yali.
NNOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO

...ahem.

Right, definitely looking forward to this. Love the title image, by the way  :D
Sadness about the Spire seems to be becoming a theme here, hen its not people asking questions.
Title: Re: Announcing "Stars Beyond Reach," a new 4x coming in April/May 2015.
Post by: Tridus on November 02, 2014, 10:26:58 AM
There are 6 races that are not-ever-human-playable out of those 14. Those are the Acutians, the Andors, the Thoraxians, the Spire, the Neinzul, and the Yali.
NNOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO

...ahem.

Right, definitely looking forward to this. Love the title image, by the way  :D
Sadness about the Spire seems to be becoming a theme here, hen its not people asking questions.

Expansion idea!  :D
Title: Re: Announcing "Stars Beyond Reach," a new 4x coming in April/May 2015.
Post by: ElOhTeeBee on November 02, 2014, 10:33:52 AM
Question from a friend - can you clarify which races will and will not be playable? Specifically, can you play as the Thoraxians?

There are 6 races that are not-ever-human-playable out of those 14. Those are the Acutians, the Andors, the Thoraxians, the Spire, the Neinzul, and the Yali. All of these races work entirely differently from all the human-playable races. Each of these races has something like 5-6 unique buildings for themselves, and they use their entirely own economic mechanics, AI, and everything. They aren't playing the same game as you at all.

The Thoraxians were a race that I wanted to have a really cool and unique way of interacting with the world, and giving that to the players would mean essentially (at least) two separate games to balance.  You never know in an expansion or something, if this is popular.  But for now they are probably Enemy Number One most of the time.

So, by extension, the Burlusts, the Peltians, the Skylaxians, the Boarines, the Evucks, the Zenith, the Fenyn, and the Krolin are the playable races. My friend is now sad, but I am not because playing as the Zenith sounds totally sweet. Looking forward to beta! (Or possibly just release, if the financial issues caused by my impending move aren't resolved quickly...)
Title: Re: Announcing "Stars Beyond Reach," a new 4x coming in April/May 2015.
Post by: mrhanman on November 02, 2014, 05:58:27 PM
I love hexes.  These are especially pretty hexes.  :o
Title: Re: Announcing "Stars Beyond Reach," a new 4x coming in April/May 2015.
Post by: Cyborg on November 02, 2014, 10:12:41 PM
Arcen 4x, clearly day 1.


There is so much imagination in this game, plenty of room for your players to fantasize in. And, this being an Arcen title, I'm sure we are going to get challenge and your best attempt at eliminating what makes 4x so difficult to enjoy sometimes. I don't know how you plan on balancing this, but creating "infinite possibility" in a world that people don't want the ability to exploit a win is challenging. Diplomacy is probably the easiest to fail at, but what Keith said makes sense.


When you get a little more code to page, and some early gameplay videos out, make sure to let us know so we can spread the word.
Title: Re: Announcing "Stars Beyond Reach," a new 4x coming in April/May 2015.
Post by: Draco18s on November 02, 2014, 11:01:20 PM
God, I don't give a shit what the rest of the game is like if you can pull off the diplomacy aspect.

Space Empires 3? had some really awesome options, but the AI never went for two thirds of them ("And why would I agree to a subjugation treaty?")
Title: Re: Announcing "Stars Beyond Reach," a new 4x coming in April/May 2015.
Post by: x4000 on November 03, 2014, 10:18:42 AM
Day one purchase, obviously!  Will you support Linux from day one?

Thank you!  And of course, day one linux support is a given on our stuff now. :)

Just want to wish you all the best. I'm very happy to see all those questions ended up being useful. (You do move quickly) Good luck and happy Halloween. I'm looking forward to any more teasers and insights as your designs become reality. (especially on planet mood, unique mechanics and anything else you're wrangling over). Thanks again for answering so many questions.

My pleasure, and thank you so much for asking all the questions, too.  It really gave me a good kick in the butt that has been something that was needed from a marketing perspective.  I've been in this kind of "not ready to talk, not ready to talk..." mode, but talking about this and doing the larger post has gotten some positive attention from the press and around the internet that was a quite good thing.

Perhaps the most notable so far: http://www.pcgamesn.com/stars-beyond-reach/arcen-announce-stars-beyond-reach-a-bonkers-sounding-sci-fi-4x

Anyway, it's scary as heck for me to start the talking-publicly process when it's aimed at the wide web, but you helped me just talk in a more private setting first, and then decide to push that more wide once I realized the time was ripe.  So thanks!

This looks fantastic, I love the bit about planet mood which looks really interesting from a macro point of view. And of course another unique gameplay style from Arcen, can't wait to hear more about it. Great work so far, best of luck for the future, I'll be keeping an eye on it as always.

Thank you!  I'm excited about the planet mood stuff and the things that are related to that, too.  A lot of the story bits that you find out that tie into secrets about AI War and TLF are related to that mechanic, too.

Right, definitely looking forward to this. Love the title image, by the way  :D

Thanks!  It came out of this process: https://99designs.com/logo-design/contests/logo-design-stars-beyond-reach-upcoming-steam-strategy-429511

Sadness about the Spire seems to be becoming a theme here, hen its not people asking questions.

Definitely so.  Though come on, these guys are basically incredibly OP if you were to actually have them as a race.  And if they were just a "normal" race, then that would really be butchering the spire as a cool concept in the first place.  I have a feeling that if this game does well and gets an expansion, then probably one of the main features for the first expansion would have to be something related to playing as the spire.  That would probably be as different as playing invasion mode in TLF, though -- which is a good thing, in my book, but definitely expansion material if it's going to be done right.

In the meantime, for the base game I will definitely bear these feelings in mind and try to do the spire justice and give the players lots of ways to interact with them. :)

Expansion idea!  :D

Ah, whoops, you beat me to it!  Responding as I read, heh.  ;D

So, by extension, the Burlusts, the Peltians, the Skylaxians, the Boarines, the Evucks, the Zenith, the Fenyn, and the Krolin are the playable races. My friend is now sad, but I am not because playing as the Zenith sounds totally sweet.

Yep, those are the ones!  I'm particularly excited about the Krolin out of the new races, myself.  Though it's also really nice to return to the Zenith, who were my first really fleshed-out alien race I ever designed.

I love hexes.  These are especially pretty hexes.  :o

Thanks!  I'll pass that on to the artists. :)

Arcen 4x, clearly day 1.


There is so much imagination in this game, plenty of room for your players to fantasize in. And, this being an Arcen title, I'm sure we are going to get challenge and your best attempt at eliminating what makes 4x so difficult to enjoy sometimes.

Thank you!

I don't know how you plan on balancing this, but creating "infinite possibility" in a world that people don't want the ability to exploit a win is challenging. Diplomacy is probably the easiest to fail at, but what Keith said makes sense.

A lot of the solutions to this particular problem are inspired by AI War, SimCity, and what I've learned from TLF.  A big part of freedom is saying "okay, you are free, but your actions have consequences."  In America, sure you can open carry a weapon in most places, but if you do then that will affect how people around you interact with you, for instance.  There are lots of countries in which you can spout all manner of hate speech without getting thrown in jail, but there are social consequences that can also turn into financial consequences and so forth.  Any country in the world is technically free to pursue nuclear weapons, but those like Iran and North Korea find themselves under heavy economic sanctions and very isolated.  Countries are also free to rely on more powerful neighbors for most of their protection, or to stay stolidly neutral in most conflicts, but in doing so they become a bit more at the mercy of said neighbors.  And so on.

During the beta I expect there to be loads of "oh my, the player was so clever to think of that; now we need to code a proper response from the AI to when people pull that sort of move."  That's more or less when what the process was in AI War and TLF.  Every time players do something unexpected and report it to us, then we think about what a reasonable response would be, and code that sort of thing in.  It takes some time, but having a beta that is 3-4 months is something we feel that is important for that reason in particular.

When you get a little more code to page, and some early gameplay videos out, make sure to let us know so we can spread the word.

Oh you bet!

God, I don't give a shit what the rest of the game is like if you can pull off the diplomacy aspect.

Space Empires 3? had some really awesome options, but the AI never went for two thirds of them ("And why would I agree to a subjugation treaty?")

You know, I never played Space Empires 3.  If you care to share any of the things that you really loved (and/or hated) from there, that sort of thing is always welcome.  I'm not going to carbon copy anybody, but more information on how others have solved or attempted to solve problems, and how their results turned out, are always welcome.

One thing that bothers me about a lot of diplomacy in games is how single-issue it is, personally.  Real diplomacy is about all sorts of various complex issues. 

"Hey Belgium, you need to stop letting people come over from the UK and buying the same cars for a lower price there, it's hurting our dealers locally." 

"Hey China, we love that you provide us with cheap goods, but the level of toxicity in some of your materials is becoming a problem for some of us, and the intellectual property violations are becoming a big thing." 

"Hey US, it's not that we exactly liked the guys you went and attacked, but you feeling like you have the right to tackle things like that unilaterally makes us super nervous, if you know what we mean?"

I feel like the more discrete the options can be made, the more interesting diplomacy can become.  Coding the logic for something as broad as when to accept a subjugation treaty is incredibly complicated, because you never want them to agree in a circumstance where players would not.  And it's extraordinarily hard to calculate that sort of thing, because there are so many factors involved and you don't know which factors the players would be weighing the most in any given situation.  So you wind up putting yourself in a corner where no single algorithm is ever going to be good enough; it's always going to look stupid in some way.

But if you're negotiating on single issues more, then that becomes something where the number of variables are more bounded, and thus something that can be reasonably calculated.  And you can wind up creating an implicit subjugation empire simply by negotiating enough components that would constitute one.  Heck, the implicit one could even be made a formal one once enough of those criteria are met and one last negotiation is made, for that matter.  At that point, all those other complex deals have already been made, and the subjugation AI just has to say "have I made enough deals of category X?  Okay, then I'll agree under Y conditions."  The AI there can be extremely satisfactory, because it's not one behemoth piece of an algorithm, but rather a ton of smaller algorithms (all still individually quite complex) working together.

Well, shoot.  I think I just solved a lot of the diplomacy design questions I've been having.  I hadn't thought of any of this until just now, but in writing it out it suddenly became pretty clear.  And it fits really well with the overall empire management designs I already have going on.  In fact, frankly this diplomatic model would not work if the empire management side of things wasn't robust enough.  Neat!  :D
Title: Re: Announcing "Stars Beyond Reach," a new 4x coming in April/May 2015.
Post by: Draco18s on November 03, 2014, 11:35:10 AM
Right, definitely looking forward to this. Love the title image, by the way  :D

Thanks!  It came out of this process: https://99designs.com/logo-design/contests/logo-design-stars-beyond-reach-upcoming-steam-strategy-429511

That is really cool.  The fact that that service exists makes me happy.
Some of the other designs are really well done, even if they aren't as good (for this game).
Title: Re: Announcing "Stars Beyond Reach," a new 4x coming in April/May 2015.
Post by: x4000 on November 03, 2014, 11:39:02 AM
Oh yeah, I love that service.  We've used them before:

Exodus of the Machine: http://99designs.com/logo-design/contests/pro-indie-game-logo-exodus-machine-206605

Valley 2: http://99designs.com/logo-design/contests/prize-guaranteed-create-logo-valley-video-game-171656/entries

Skyward Collapse: http://99designs.com/logo-design/contests/logo-skyward-collapse-pc-game-207944/entries

The other logos for all our games were all done in-house by either myself, Phil Chabot, or Blue.
Title: Re: Announcing "Stars Beyond Reach," a new 4x coming in April/May 2015.
Post by: Huw on November 03, 2014, 01:56:50 PM
And of course, day one linux support is a given on our stuff now. :)

I <3 Arcen Games. :D
Title: Re: Announcing "Stars Beyond Reach," a new 4x coming in April/May 2015.
Post by: Tridus on November 03, 2014, 01:58:17 PM
Exodus of the Machine: http://99designs.com/logo-design/contests/pro-indie-game-logo-exodus-machine-206605

Now I'm sad about Exodus of the machine again.
Title: Re: Announcing "Stars Beyond Reach," a new 4x coming in April/May 2015.
Post by: wwwhhattt on November 03, 2014, 03:22:28 PM
And now it's on RPS (http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2014/11/03/stars-beyond-reach-announced/) 

With this in the first comment: "I think Arcen’s games are a cry for help from people who can’t stop making games they find interesting."
Title: Re: Announcing "Stars Beyond Reach," a new 4x coming in April/May 2015.
Post by: Draco18s on November 03, 2014, 04:23:15 PM
And now it's on RPS (http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2014/11/03/stars-beyond-reach-announced/) 

With this in the first comment: "I think Arcen’s games are a cry for help from people who can’t stop making games they find interesting."
With the reply, "I encourage everyone to further finance their self-torture."
Title: Re: Announcing "Stars Beyond Reach," a new 4x coming in April/May 2015.
Post by: x4000 on November 03, 2014, 04:39:58 PM
 :D
Title: Re: Announcing "Stars Beyond Reach," a new 4x coming in April/May 2015.
Post by: Cyborg on November 03, 2014, 08:08:16 PM
It may be worth looking at how paradox does diplomacy. Not that you should copy them, but just to learn from what works and what doesn't. For them, they have a set list of conditions that must be met for different diplomacy events to occur, such as vassalization, and multiple victory/failure conditions and rewards/penalties depending on what happens during the game. For example, if you are in the middle of a war, your actions contribute towards a war score that you can use to achieve different victory or failure conditions. This way, there is a lot of freedom with the ways in which you can affect the warscore without it being exact prescription. This is similar to the last Federation in some respects.


I do like the idea of creating very small building blocks for cause-and-effect purposes. It might also be worthwhile to have observable or hidden motivations (for the AI, hidden from the player) which creates a game within the game of trying to identify your friends and foes.
Title: Re: Announcing "Stars Beyond Reach," a new 4x coming in April/May 2015.
Post by: Mánagarmr on November 04, 2014, 05:45:39 AM
My biggest issue with diplomacy in 4X games is that AI will never, ever EVER give up. Even if you own the entire universe and all they have is a rotten moon, they will fight you to the death rather than accept annexation, surrender or subjugation.


That makes for very binary play. I'd rather see races willing to surrender, for now, to survive in the short term and perhaps build power later to break free and fight for independence. Preferrably when the player is busy with another enemy elsewhere.
Title: Re: Announcing "Stars Beyond Reach," a new 4x coming in April/May 2015.
Post by: Tridus on November 04, 2014, 08:15:38 AM
My biggest issue with diplomacy in 4X games is that AI will never, ever EVER give up. Even if you own the entire universe and all they have is a rotten moon, they will fight you to the death rather than accept annexation, surrender or subjugation.


That makes for very binary play. I'd rather see races willing to surrender, for now, to survive in the short term and perhaps build power later to break free and fight for independence. Preferrably when the player is busy with another enemy elsewhere.

The vassal states in Civ 4 were really good at helping to make that less common.
Title: Re: Announcing "Stars Beyond Reach," a new 4x coming in April/May 2015.
Post by: Draco18s on November 04, 2014, 08:50:58 AM
Like i said earlier: often those options exist, but the AI will never use them. So if Arcen can pull off the diplomacy,  the rest of the game will be almost irrelevant.
Title: Re: Announcing "Stars Beyond Reach," a new 4x coming in April/May 2015.
Post by: x4000 on November 04, 2014, 08:57:36 AM
@Cyborg: Makes a lot of sense, thanks for those notes!  And yep, those are some very good things that I like about the paradox titles that I've played (dabbled in, really).

@Mánagarmr and Tridus and Draco18s: Yep, it is frustrating that the AI never really voluntarily uses those actions.  I felt like the vassal states in Civ 5 were just kind of a band-aid, although they were super clever.  Basically it was "you've already beaten me into submission, so do you want to eradicate me or keep me?"  There's value in that in the middle game, but it doesn't solve the "last moon" scenario.  So really it wasn't so much a band-aid, I take that back.  But it was more of an early-game and somewhat-middle-game mechanic, and a late-game complementary mechanic was missing.

I don't know about the rest of the game becoming irrelevant if we pull off diplomacy, but we'll see.  That stacks AWFULLY high hopes on a type of system that I've never seen done to my satisfaction.  I'm not sure I'm keen to stake the entire game on something like that. ;)  However, it is an important issue to me, and I think that something can be worked out there that will hopefully be pleasing.
Title: Re: Announcing "Stars Beyond Reach," a new 4x coming in April/May 2015.
Post by: Draco18s on November 04, 2014, 10:02:24 AM
I don't know about the rest of the game becoming irrelevant if we pull off diplomacy, but we'll see.

I meant for me. :)

For me, a good 4X would be a 4X that makes the diplomacy interesting and viable.  As much as I enjoy the ship design (e.g. Space Empires) I've never been fond of the empire day-to-day management (AI War fits right into the right slot in that regard: I've got resources, production, and expenditure, but don't have to get super fiddly with how X the Y is because of Z,* though a few other games have done well too, like Age of Wonders).  But you've already nixed the part I've really hated: dealing with stacks and stacks of unit stacks worth of combat and having to auto-resolve or manual-command two dozen fights a turn.

Early game I'd participate and manually command each fight, because I was smarter than the auto resolve (most of the time: Age of Wonders I would still auto-resolve ranged units because it was impossible to figure out if moving the unit this way or that way would improve their trajectory with no 'shit that was the worse idea, undo undo!' button) but as the game progressed I'd use more and more auto-resolve just to get them done and over with and rely on tech and numbers superiority.

*TLF is just the other side of the line for me.  TLF had a lot of civilization attributes with no obvious way to affect most of them with mechanics going on that you have no control over that have a greater impact.  I'm sure this has changed since release, but I feel that it was still a lot of abstract numbers, most of them hidden, buried, or poorly explained with only two levers available to the player: neither of which seems to have any impact.
Title: Re: Announcing "Stars Beyond Reach," a new 4x coming in April/May 2015.
Post by: x4000 on November 04, 2014, 10:30:07 AM
Makes sense!
Title: Re: Announcing "Stars Beyond Reach," a new 4x coming in April/May 2015.
Post by: topper on November 05, 2014, 06:56:06 AM
It may be worth looking at how paradox does diplomacy. Not that you should copy them, but just to learn from what works and what doesn't. For them, they have a set list of conditions that must be met for different diplomacy events to occur, such as vassalization, and multiple victory/failure conditions and rewards/penalties depending on what happens during the game. For example, if you are in the middle of a war, your actions contribute towards a war score that you can use to achieve different victory or failure conditions. This way, there is a lot of freedom with the ways in which you can affect the warscore without it being exact prescription. This is similar to the last Federation in some respects.
I was reading through this thread and had come to the same conclusion just before I read your comment.

The way relationships work in TLF is already pretty similar to how they work in EU4 (though I think the display of modifiers is a little better in EU4), but where it really shines is in the diplomacy of resolving wars. The granularity allowed is pretty awesome, and the peace terms you choose also affect how other countries view you. Extending the EU4 peace negotiations to general diplomacy (where both/all sides  can give and take) would be awesome! Having a virtual currency (like warscore or diplomacy points in EU4 or some of the various racial currencies in TLF) as  opposed to cash (like in Distant Worlds) would probably be preferable.


Edit: now for my own questions
Are there likely to be any local/neutral buildings not related to a specific race like barbarians/huts or city states in Civ5?
Title: Re: Announcing "Stars Beyond Reach," a new 4x coming in April/May 2015.
Post by: x4000 on November 05, 2014, 09:00:47 AM
It may be worth looking at how paradox does diplomacy. Not that you should copy them, but just to learn from what works and what doesn't. For them, they have a set list of conditions that must be met for different diplomacy events to occur, such as vassalization, and multiple victory/failure conditions and rewards/penalties depending on what happens during the game. For example, if you are in the middle of a war, your actions contribute towards a war score that you can use to achieve different victory or failure conditions. This way, there is a lot of freedom with the ways in which you can affect the warscore without it being exact prescription. This is similar to the last Federation in some respects.
I was reading through this thread and had come to the same conclusion just before I read your comment.

The way relationships work in TLF is already pretty similar to how they work in EU4 (though I think the display of modifiers is a little better in EU4), but where it really shines is in the diplomacy of resolving wars. The granularity allowed is pretty awesome, and the peace terms you choose also affect how other countries view you. Extending the EU4 peace negotiations to general diplomacy (where both/all sides  can give and take) would be awesome! Having a virtual currency (like warscore or diplomacy points in EU4 or some of the various racial currencies in TLF) as  opposed to cash (like in Distant Worlds) would probably be preferable.

Excellent extra information, thanks -- I will be sure and play that some and get a feel for it, I appreciate the tips. :)

Edit: now for my own questions
Are there likely to be any local/neutral buildings not related to a specific race like barbarians/huts or city states in Civ5?

It's not something I had thought about much, for whatever reason, but on reflection the answer is "of course."  Thanks for reminding me, though, or else the answer might have been "oops, no." ;)  Probably I would have remembered at some point, but my focus has been elsewhere thus far.
Title: Re: Announcing "Stars Beyond Reach," a new 4x coming in April/May 2015.
Post by: x4000 on November 06, 2014, 12:22:10 PM
It may be worth looking at how paradox does diplomacy. Not that you should copy them, but just to learn from what works and what doesn't. For them, they have a set list of conditions that must be met for different diplomacy events to occur, such as vassalization, and multiple victory/failure conditions and rewards/penalties depending on what happens during the game. For example, if you are in the middle of a war, your actions contribute towards a war score that you can use to achieve different victory or failure conditions. This way, there is a lot of freedom with the ways in which you can affect the warscore without it being exact prescription. This is similar to the last Federation in some respects.
I was reading through this thread and had come to the same conclusion just before I read your comment.

The way relationships work in TLF is already pretty similar to how they work in EU4 (though I think the display of modifiers is a little better in EU4), but where it really shines is in the diplomacy of resolving wars. The granularity allowed is pretty awesome, and the peace terms you choose also affect how other countries view you. Extending the EU4 peace negotiations to general diplomacy (where both/all sides  can give and take) would be awesome! Having a virtual currency (like warscore or diplomacy points in EU4 or some of the various racial currencies in TLF) as  opposed to cash (like in Distant Worlds) would probably be preferable.

Excellent extra information, thanks -- I will be sure and play that some and get a feel for it, I appreciate the tips. :)

Actually, are there any LPs about this, or video tutorials at all?  I have EU4, but it's a bloody beast to get into. ;)
Title: Re: Announcing "Stars Beyond Reach," a new 4x coming in April/May 2015.
Post by: topper on November 06, 2014, 02:56:05 PM
Actually, are there any LPs about this, or video tutorials at all?  I have EU4, but it's a bloody beast to get into. ;)

I actually learned mainly by trial and error and partially by the game wiki after running through the basic tutorial (which just describes the buttons).

For some reason, the game suggests starting as a big country (France, etc). But I started my first game as Brandenburg at the default start date and I think it is a nice introduction to the game since your options are constrained at the start.

Pay attention to the notifications at the top of the screen (I never dismiss them since they remind you of outstanding conditions). If you choose the mission to take Neumark then you can get into a war almost immediately to get a feel for it.

I can take a look later if I find any decent Lets Plays showing off the features I was describing.
Title: Re: Announcing "Stars Beyond Reach," a new 4x coming in April/May 2015.
Post by: x4000 on November 06, 2014, 04:26:04 PM
Thanks!
Title: Re: Announcing "Stars Beyond Reach," a new 4x coming in April/May 2015.
Post by: doctorfrog on November 06, 2014, 04:49:23 PM
I'd also note that for once, the majority of comments on that RPS article weren't negative. Perhaps even grudgingly respectful in some cases.
Title: Re: Announcing "Stars Beyond Reach," a new 4x coming in April/May 2015.
Post by: x4000 on November 06, 2014, 07:28:00 PM
I'd also note that for once, the majority of comments on that RPS article weren't negative. Perhaps even grudgingly respectful in some cases.

Ooh, nice!  That is indeed a welcome surprise.  :)
Title: Re: Announcing "Stars Beyond Reach," a new 4x coming in April/May 2015.
Post by: DrFranknfurter on November 09, 2014, 08:04:08 AM
I enjoyed the start of the rock paper shotgun article:
"If you’ve pressed your ear to Arcen Games’ door, read their lips through their window, rummaged through their bins and taped together shredded documents, planted microphones to record their nocturnal mutterings, or browsed their forums, you might know that the AI War and The Last Federation developers have been working on a 4X strategy game."
It made me chuckle.

"Strangeblades says:

Arcen Games’ games are Chris Park’s thought-constructs given digital form. “This is my idea,” he says. The strange, bumpy, interlocking-clockwork is put into your hands (our hands). Before we can ask what THIS is, Park is back in his laboratory."

That made me smile, as did this:

"sinister agent says:

I own every game and expansion Arcen have made, which I’m pretty sure can’t be said for any other developer. I love their attitude, and their respect for their customers and craft. Even when they get it wrong, they’re interesting, and always unusual. I’m looking forward to seeing what they do with a civ-alike. Too many of them, even the good ones, become too much of a chore after a while."


I'm still reading all the posts both here and elsewhere, but for now I'm waiting for a few more teaser pictures before giving you another barrage of questions. (Plus you have proper games reporters and QAs to deal with now. So I'm looking forward to the highlights from them, hopefully with some new information. I'd feel guilty about hogging your time, even at speed-reader and speed-typist rates)

One question though, with all the recent interest, what are you most nervous about doing well? Art? Diplomacy? Planet mood? Lots of comparisons with other classic games are getting some people's hopes up on specific aspects of the game. I can imagine the interest either as added pressure, or a chance to shine. It's all about perspectives. Is there anything you want to play down? Or are you just encouraged to made sure you do the aspects that grab attention the justice and attention each deserves?
(I know that's 6 question marks... I'm calling it one question... Or one interlinked thought shaped into question form.)

Hope all's going well.
Title: Re: Announcing "Stars Beyond Reach," a new 4x coming in April/May 2015.
Post by: x4000 on November 10, 2014, 11:37:17 AM
All good, thank you!

In terms of where I'm most nervous about us doing things well... it's hard to say, really.  The biggest worry is always making sure that things gel together and turn out to be more than the sum of their parts, rather than less. If we nail four great subsystems but have a weak fifth one and plus it all doesn't really fit together well or is too confusing when taken in aggregate... well, then we've still really screwed up.

Regarding art, I'm not worried about it at all because that ship has sailed.  We're well into production on that, and I think the style is gorgeous.  I think a lot of people will really like it, although I'm 100% certain that some people will hate it to various degrees, some with a passion.  Such is life.  I personally think this is the best-looking game that we've ever done, and I can't ask for more than that.

Diplomacy is certainly a loaded gun that usually has a tendency to backfire on the bearer, though, I will say that.  Based on actually talking to folks and reading about their interests and their complaints with other games in the genre has inspired me in some different directions than I originally had for the diplomatic aspects.  So that's been a positive thing, and in some ways took some pressure off because now I have an idea that I'm truly excited about with that part of the game, and which I think is a novel way to handle this in general.  Here again some people will inevitably be disappointed because they are going to imagine a system that is "just like game X that I love, but with 3000% more content and a pony," and there's not much I can do about that.

Early expectations are something I used to stress about more than I used to.  The fact is, most of our customers won't have heard about the game prior to it launching, so for them they'll just judge it on its merits.  For a lot of the rest of our customers, they'll hear about it, and then mostly forget about what their expectations were, then rediscover it.  For the others, their expectations may be heightened now, and that's a risky thing for me, but there's not much I can do about it.  Either way it doesn't change what my job is, because it's not like I'd slack off if people weren't watching now -- they're going to see it eventually one way or the other.