Arcen Games

Games => Stars Beyond Reach... This World Is Mine => Topic started by: x4000 on July 01, 2015, 01:46:39 PM

Title: Release Date Pushed Back To September 25th.
Post by: x4000 on July 01, 2015, 01:46:39 PM
Original: http://arcengames.com/stars-beyond-reach-release-date-pushed-back-to-september-25th/

SBRWide600contrast

First of all, the TLDR: the time has come to push back the release date yet again, this time to September 25th.

Finances (Just Because I know People Will Ask)


So, yet another month -- whew. This is now our most expensive-to-make game except for Valley 1, and our most time-consuming-to-make game in terms of man-months by quite a margin.


Arcen just had a reasonable windfall what with the Steam Summer Sale and the Daily Deal for TLF. Between the two of those, that was more than a third of our income so far this year (it's been a slack year). This delay does raise the bar yet again on how much the game has to gross to break even, but that's frankly unavoidable at this point.


And I do think that we can really recoup this. Both TLF and AI War have exceeded the amount it will take to break even on this game, and I think this game will be notably more attractive to customers than TLF -- if we finish this up right. As for the total yearly income for the company, I think that the biggest blow would be releasing a substandard game rather than a delay of (sigh, yet another) another month.




Diplomacy In Games Kinda Stinks


And that's me being nice. There are a huuuuge number of reasons for this, and I'm not going to sit here and enumerate issues with other games. But I spent a goodly amount of time reading the complaints of players (both our own and just in general forums on the internet) about diplomacy in other games, and there were a lot of consistent themes. Some of that is in here: [Forum link]Chris: Hiatus from new beta players for a bit (diplomacy), but keep signing up!

The TLDR there is that even with the games that people like the diplomacy in, it's still in a "well it's not for everyone, though" and a "it's also got xyz major shortcomings, but it's better than anything else by far" way.

People REALLY Want Good Diplomacy In Some Game


It comes up again and again in reviews and forums and so on and so forth. Always has. And I feel that desire as well. There are lots of wishlisty sort of desires that people have, of varying degrees of feasibility and practicality. And people know what frustrates them, too.

There are a lot of possible interpretations of things, but what I've chosen to take away as the key requirements are this:

  1. It can't be ancillary to the main gameplay, or people won't use it. It has to be front and center.

  2. It has to give a sense of personality in order to be very interesting.

  3. It has to have a certain level of simplicity in order to be any fun for most people, and to not have an insane learning curve.

  4. It has to have a certain amount of flexibility, or people start feeling like it's an arbitrary game-y sort of system and not very realistic.

  5. It shouldn't be mounds of spreadsheets or text that make things impenetrable. That feels like you're going down a rabbit hole away from the main game.

  6. There should be a definite sense of momentum and consequence, where it's clear that the AIs are remembering what happened and where it's clear how that affects their future decisions.

  7. All of this information should be on as few screens as possible (ideally one), in some sort of digestible fashion, so that the player can look at things and understand what the heck is going on.

  8. This whole thing can't just be one big feedback loop into the "main" game, or this is just one more way of affecting the main game. Rather, it does need to have some separate systems of its own, but it also needs to have crosstalk with a variety of the "main" game systems, just like other game systems have with one another.

  9. There has to be a huuuge cost for war, or people will just do that.


My Solution For Diplomacy


Now, I don't claim to have all the answers on this by any stretch of the imagination -- not the One True Diplomacy Model or anything, I mean. But I have designed the framework of a system that meets all of the above criteria quite well, and which I feel like I have "clear line of sight" (as my dad would say) to solutions for the details. There are still tons of details that need to be filled in, but I can easily visualize solutions for ALL of those, which is a real first for me with this area of the game.

The short explanation for how diplomacy will work is this:

Further:

You have the tempo:

Specialty Victories become mostly cooperative:

A variety of subsystems get subsumed by this:

What About The Rest Of The Game?


So, we've already delayed this game at least twice. How did things turn out, in retrospect, from those?

TLDR: Very, very well. Though I forget all the individual things, and I'm leaving off all the general stuff like performance improvements and bugfixing time on so on, here's a partial list:

  1. The shift to Districts instead of Cities was definitely a big win, but had various problems. It was a major step in the right direction, though.

  2. The further shift to Territories instead of Districts has been an enormous win on all fronts, I feel.

  3. The military has shifted in a wide variety of ways, becoming further and further streamlined and clear, and it now meets the goals of the original Risk-like design I had in mind.

  4. Too much fighting gets wearying with the military, but that's true in most any 4X. The system is so solid that I am feeling really good about having that be something that is a really strong subsystem among many systems for the game.

  5. The citybuilding has been getting increasingly strong and clear, and has really come into its own as a mature core for the game.

  6. A lot of the remaining complaints about citybuilding from a really fundamental fashion boil down to some bits needing to be a bit more differentiated from one another, or a bit less fiddly in a few areas, etc.


Just as territories made the military vastly less fiddly (and citybuilding), the new international relations stuff is also aimed at those last pieces of differentiation and fiddlyness-removal on the citybuilding side. I have what I feel is extremely clear "line of sight" on all the issues that players have raised on this area, too.

Valley 1 was a game that we kept delaying and delaying, and we kept making major changes to it, but it was a lot of changing back and forth and wobbling around. With SBR, the changes have all been honing the core ideas that this game is based on, and have been focused on making things simple, clear, fun, and deep -- without just tacking on tons of extra complexity or content in the subconscious hope that quantity will make up for quality, heh.

Other Benefits From This Delay:


Erik and I will have time to fully do the marketing the way that we want. I'll have time to actually do interviews and livestreams that he sets up for me, and then he'll have time to do... everything else. ;)

We'll also have a much better shot at getting launch-day reviews, which would be a big win. The reason this is affected is because we can't let reviewers have the game until it's a certain amount polished, and if we're running right up to the deadline on that, then that gives them next to no time.

And lastly, this will give us a longer period for just-polish, which is going to be sorely needed, along with a hope of an extended period of Chris-testing-time, which is also something we've identified as key and yet which has been really falling by the wayside lately for a variety of reasons.

Oh, and lastly lastly, I'm more comfortable with late September as a release time of year in general. August is right in the middle of the sales doldrums, which made me fairly nervous in general. Late September is a period where sales are starting to uptick some, but it's still before the wash of the holiday rush of AAA games. August was already bugging me a lot just because it was August and historically that has not been a good month for game releases, so this solves that.

Last Notes:


Anyway, that's the long explanation of what's going on, why, and what the plan is. I figured it was time to catch everyone up and to go ahead and make this call.

The diplomacy section is the last truly weak part of the game, and this gives us time to address that and hopefully come out with something that people are excited about not just because it's good on its own, but hopefully superior to other similar games and meeting a longstanding unsatisfied desire. We shall see. The biggest change in my own head about this aspect of the game is that I no longer think of it as "the diplomacy section," but rather just expanding on the existing already-good parts of the game and providing a new consolidated interface to track those and how they feed into victory.

The "diplomacy" work is larger than I had expected in terms of the number of changes it's going to make to the game, so it's going to take us a few weeks at the absolute bare minimum to complete. Until then there won't be any new waves of beta players (no point!). Unless I'm really turning out to be missing the mark with this new stuff, then after that point and the initial week or two of inevitable revisions, we'll be in a position where all the features are settled enough that we're into refinement, bugfixing, balance, polish, etc, for the remainder of the time.

Thanks for sticking with us through this ride!

Chris

 
Title: Re: Release Date Pushed Back To September 25th.
Post by: Captain Jack on July 01, 2015, 02:06:41 PM
So wait, are you saying that diplomacy is going to be a *third* leveling mechanic distinct from technological advancement and social progress, tied to the other races, with opposing bonuses and penalties depending on how your relationship with them develops?

Just brilliant. I'm super excited for SBR again.

One thing that I do strongly recommend is to add BONUSES for NEGATIVE relationships with races. Not at every level, and maybe not very strong (5-10,15% at the highest), but a player shouldn't feel that they have to be Gandhi (with or without the nukes) to get ahead. Alpha Protocol did this well: you could get positive bonuses for having negative relationships with your handlers representing how every word out of their mouth galvanized you to outperform them or their expectations. Spite can a motivating force, along with terror, envy and opportunism. Piss off the Evucks and your scientists keep a closer eye on emerging diseases, cheese off the Burlurst and your soldiers get more difficult training in preparation for battle.

And if relationships with another race hit rock bottom, your propaganda machine can go ahead and make an enemy race out to be baby eating monsters, since relations will clearly never recover in an individual's lifetime.

That's not to say it should be all good for being bad, you lose out on mutual benefits and your people become more closeminded, less able to create products with broad appeal, and that's before you get into issues of racism and institutionalized hate and what it does to domestic as well as foreign policy.

Bit of a rant, that. Still looking forward to SBR. Best of luck, Chris.
Title: Re: Release Date Pushed Back To September 25th.
Post by: nas1m on July 01, 2015, 03:27:00 PM
Thanks for the write-up - very intriguing indeed! I feel like if anybody can pull of the deed of coming up with a diplomacy system fullfilling all the things outlined above there's a good chance that person is you ;). Looking forward to it!
Title: Re: Release Date Pushed Back To September 25th.
Post by: x4000 on July 01, 2015, 03:44:58 PM
Thanks guys. :)

Notes:

1. Yep, this is a third way of gaining in power.  It's not a leveling system per se because you can rise and fall in power with this system.  It's more like capturing production points that then further your power.  But that's semantics, it is a general design along those lines, anyhow. ;)

2. In terms of bonuses for negative relationships with races, I think that would mainly be expressed as a positive perk on a race that hates the race you did something to.  That is something I have planned.  Having a "negative thing that was a positive" on the race in question would be really confusing, I think; but basically if you are stomping in the faces of the Acutians the Fenyn might be all "yeeaahh" and the Burlusts are all "hahahaha" and the Evucks are all "that was scary, stop that" and the Andors are like "boo, they're my robot buddies!"  I wrote that with Aziz Ansari's voice in my head, so try to read it that way if you know his standup. ;)

3. This definitely isn't going to be Gandhi simulator, I can tell you.  To some extent this also means more avenues for non-military competition, thus wearing down a race by means completely unrelated to your armed forces.  That might in turn result in armed conflict or not, or an armed conflict might be the finishing move, up to you.  It might be that you simply run the Boarine economy into the ground, engineer massive starvation, and watch their population fall, much to the happiness of the Yali who were hating them for some historical reason in that campaign.  And thus you didn't really "gain" anything directly per se, and in fact you lost a lot with the Boarines, but you did indirectly gain much favor with the Yali (and perhaps specific bonuses from them in response to specific requests).  And then you might be able to further make it so that the Burlusts go over there and subjugate the Boarines, if they also hate them; and you then are maybe never having your hand militarily visible on the map with that, despite causing their military downfall.  Either you suggested the Burlusts do it, or you just made it too sweet a target and knew they'd do it (how very devious of you).  And at that point, if you're making the Burlusts into No Threat, then you've just won two races because the Boarines have no choice but to come with.


Whether or not you are directly the one pulling the trigger is up to you, but probably on the highest difficulties you will need to get others to do the dirty work for you as much as possible so that you aren't getting the planet stomping you in the face.  If the Burlusts get a bit too crazy and outright murder the Boarines, and then the planet comes down and decimates the Burlusts, well then now you have two options anew, heh.  Well, more, really.  Make the Burlusts more miserable, to the delight of someone else.  Finish them off yourself and have them subjugated, and just suffer a bit from the planet's wrath.  Help the Burlusts now that they really need it, racking up goodwill from them a lot more easily than normally would happen.  Or encourage someone else that you like to go and subjugate them, keeping up the chain reaction of indirection to the mayhem you're causing.


Anyhow, thanks for the vote of confidence, guys. :)
Title: Re: Release Date Pushed Back To September 25th.
Post by: Tomasdk on July 01, 2015, 03:56:02 PM
I suspected this might happen when you outlined your plans for the diplomacy, but in my opinion it's always better to take the time and refine the systems so that at release everything is done. The game probably would not be well received if it shipped without diplomacy and with a tag "diplomacy will be patched in later." :D
So take as much time as you need to perfect it. :)
Title: Re: Release Date Pushed Back To September 25th.
Post by: x4000 on July 01, 2015, 04:24:24 PM
Heh, we definitely would not have been planning to try and patch in diplomacy later, goodness.  The question was whether we could come up with a simple enough model that was quick to implement and that we could make fitting for the rest of the game.  Turns out the way it panned out is larger than I'd thought it might be, so here we are.
Title: Re: Release Date Pushed Back To September 25th.
Post by: Despayre on July 01, 2015, 04:42:39 PM
Wow Chris, you rock!

Thanks so much for the update.  Wish other companies would follow your lead and be so open about the dev process. Really excited to see how the diplomacy stuff shakes out!
Title: Re: Release Date Pushed Back To September 25th.
Post by: crazyroosterman on July 01, 2015, 04:52:12 PM
I'm actually quite surprised this game got pushed back again then again I didn't realise just how quickly august has come along for the most part thought I'm tomasdk take as long as you need/want with this provided it doesn't molester your finances to much.
Title: Re: Release Date Pushed Back To September 25th.
Post by: x4000 on July 01, 2015, 04:57:47 PM
Cheers guys. :)
Title: Re: Release Date Pushed Back To September 25th.
Post by: TheVampire100 on July 01, 2015, 05:29:43 PM
"Better safe than sorry, better safe than sorry, better safe than sorry."
I bet you say this all the time to yourself when pushing a release date back XD

The diplomacy idea sounds fun 8on the paper) but I have to see it ingame if it works out well. I guess this also means a lot of work for Blue because he has to design all the diplomacy icons now, lol.
In my mind I see this now similiar to a board game (which is a good thing, I like board games), you place your "tokens" on the field if you make certain actions and so fledging out the attitude of the other races towards you.

I'm really curious how this will look int he final game and I think this will make the game very unique to other 4X titles. Currently I don't know another game that has something like this.
Title: Re: Release Date Pushed Back To September 25th.
Post by: Tolc on July 01, 2015, 05:32:30 PM
Yay! Glad to see everything is (slowly) coming together for you and thanks for sharing it all this openly! I'm certainly excited for the diplomacy stuff :)
Title: Re: Release Date Pushed Back To September 25th.
Post by: Captain Jack on July 01, 2015, 05:40:32 PM
I actually really like the change from needing to dominate the other races to rendering them mostly harmless. It's much more thematically appropriate, though you probably need a pithy one word phrase for it.
Title: Re: Release Date Pushed Back To September 25th.
Post by: Gwmngilfen on July 01, 2015, 05:41:24 PM
Oh boy, that sounds exciting. I *loved* manipulating races in TLF, and spent considerable time setting things up juuuuuuust right before triggering some almighty war, etc etc etc. This sounds like it has similar or even more depth to it, and that's really what's needed. The hex system sounds great, looking forward to testing the prototypes :)

Big +1 for the co-op victories too. My space-escape victory in 0.894 felt... hollow. I just turtled with a ton of missiles and lasers around the space facility for 50 turns, job done. Doing it as a co-op sounds way more for an achievement.

So, err, hurry up! :D

Title: Re: Release Date Pushed Back To September 25th.
Post by: Shrugging Khan on July 01, 2015, 07:26:58 PM
Hooray for most of this, with one caveat.

Combat is still not fun. There really is no strategic thinking to it other than either "have military buildings everywhere because saucers can pop up in any place" or "just spam military buildings next to a target race and get the first strike". The fiddly-ness of having to match interceptors to attacker types; the limitation to attacking only the next territory over, and quite generally the lack depth of the whole affair is really sub-par for a 4x.

Now, if you really don't want to have complexity above that of Risk, then that's probably enough, and diplomacy will be the focus of the game anyways. But for bellicose old me, the martial aspect of SBR is, so far, rather unexciting.
Title: Re: Release Date Pushed Back To September 25th.
Post by: x4000 on July 01, 2015, 07:36:50 PM
Thanks guys. :)

1. "Better safe than sorry" is less the sentiment and more "ah crap I did it again!!"  There's two sides to "safe."  Burning through cash reserves, and making sure the game is as good as humanly possible.  Anyway, I feel good about this.

2. The similarity to boardgames is not lost on me at all.  One of the earlier things that this made me think of is the separate scoring track for Princes of Florence.  There are plenty of other games that use a similar thing, but that's just the one that popped into my head the most.

3. I agree that this definitely won't look like anything from any other 4x, which I'm hoping will be a really standout aspect.  Something to really help sell the uniqueness of the system from a visual standpoint in the trailer and screenshots.  So many things with diplomacy normally can't be shown, but this visualizes it more, which I like for a whole host of reasons.

4. Blue is a woman, by the way, but yeah she has a plenty of icons to do now, heh.  At the moment it's something like 80 already on her list.

5. This is definitely going to take us some time upfront here, because it's just such a big thing.  The visual area and manipulation of this new board is going to take Keith until Tuesday, as one giant chunk of it.  It's a whole other coordinate system, because these hexes are flat-topped and not in perspective, so the way you translate point to hex and hex to grid location is completely different from the main game view.  Fun!  I mocked this up with a perspective view in photoshop, and it just looked horrible, so here we are.  It's definitely worth the time, but that's one thing that adds some upfront time to the new model.  But there's plenty of other stuff, and while he's doing that I'll be writing up details, filling in data, and trying to figure out the most efficient path through the bulk of this, and then what pieces can be left until after an initial release of this (so that we can be playing with it in the beta while those last bits are added in).  Certainly not every strategic/diplomatic option will be in day 1 of the first beta release of this, so I have to figure out which things need to be for testing purposes, and which can fall to the week or two after that.

6. Totally agreed on co-op victories being important.  I felt the same emptiness when doing the space stuff myself.  Ultimately part of that emptiness was because the game just let you turtle without anything bothering you, which is a problem in and of itself when you go for those sorts of special victories.  So that's still something that will need some addressing anyhow, because that just never got fully satisfactorily implemented.  But even in the best case with it being solo and a hard battle, having to cooperate with another AI is way better because that increases the interest of that scenario in a wide variety of ways.  Most likely I'll just ditch all the special victories from the very first prototype version of this so that I can focus on the standard style victory first, and then swing back around to give each special victory some special love one at a time, top to bottom.  The current build has a lot of half-implemented ones, which is no fun. ;)

7. I'm glad that there is so much interest in this aspect of the game in general -- that really does reaffirm to me that it's not just me who is hungry for this sort of thing.  I mean, I already knew that, but it's nice to have confirmation in big bold letters that it's a worthwhile endeavor. :)

8. Regarding the combat, we'll see what happens.  It's something that I've been enjoying, mainly because I prefer the buildup and positioning to the actual in the moment combat.  That said, there are definitely some ways the system can be made better, and I'm not blind to that.  nas1m brought up some really good points about just spamming military buildings in territories, and the game thus has planned a form of population cap per territory in terms of military buildings, based on the size of the territory.  The other thing that's really going to change the whole nature of the military combat is when it's one part of a discussion or engagement, not the only way to resolve something.  For instance, right now there are problems with building up feeling fiddly because you have to do it repeatedly and with minutia.  That tends to be the definition of fiddly, or at least a big part of it.  But making it so that you don't do it all the time, and so that you're having to target select a lot more carefully and really want to think through the build-up phase more than the combat phase... I think that will make a big difference, but we'll see. 

9. Ultimately at core this game is about empire building, not combat, and the combat is a vehicle for more empire building.  Now the diplomacy is also going to be doing that, although it's going to be sucking up some of the attention from raw empire-building in a way that hasn't been the case at all so far. I think that the overall ratio of "what am I spending my time doing" has a big impact on the fun factor of a game, so getting the diplomacy aspect in is my chief goal at the moment since that has the largest effect on that equation.  I think that will then change the perception of combat quite a bit because combat then takes a different role; which is not to say that combat is then done, but it will let us consider combat from a more advanced light in terms of how it fits into the final game.
Title: Re: Release Date Pushed Back To September 25th.
Post by: Captain Jack on July 01, 2015, 08:18:53 PM
5. This is definitely going to take us some time upfront here, because it's just such a big thing.  The visual area and manipulation of this new board is going to take Keith until Tuesday, as one giant chunk of it.  It's a whole other coordinate system, because these hexes are flat-topped and not in perspective, so the way you translate point to hex and hex to grid location is completely different from the main game view.  Fun!  I mocked this up with a perspective view in photoshop, and it just looked horrible, so here we are.  It's definitely worth the time, but that's one thing that adds some upfront time to the new model.  But there's plenty of other stuff, and while he's doing that I'll be writing up details, filling in data, and trying to figure out the most efficient path through the bulk of this, and then what pieces can be left until after an initial release of this (so that we can be playing with it in the beta while those last bits are added in).  Certainly not every strategic/diplomatic option will be in day 1 of the first beta release of this, so I have to figure out which things need to be for testing purposes, and which can fall to the week or two after that.
Haha, oh I doubt it was that bad. I mean, it could have been a certain PS2 RPG's skill chart. (http://img4.wikia.nocookie.net/__cb20090501140203/megamitensei/images/5/5e/DDS2MantraGrid.jpg) I love the game and still go cross-eyed when I look at this grid, and I doubt you're going anywhere near as crazy. EDIT: In-game version, just for comparison. (http://www.mobygames.com/images/shots/l/186497-shin-megami-tensei-digital-devil-saga-2-playstation-2-screenshot.jpg)
Title: Re: Release Date Pushed Back To September 25th.
Post by: Cyborg on July 01, 2015, 09:06:03 PM
I'm concerned about these changes. It's not like I enjoy the way things are now, but diplomacy just doesn't look exciting. It's the forgotten x in 4X for a reason. Your diplomacy in the last Federation was actually really clever and probably the best I've ever seen done in a game. One of the best parts about that game is just firing it up and living through a game. Who knows what's going to happen? Nobody, and that's why you play.


In what you listed, it sounds like relationships are going to be rather static between races instead of something you can manipulate. I'm not suggesting you remake the last Federation civilization style, but I would say, you should not feel bad about taking what was fun about diplomacy in that game.


So far, this is not a better game than the last Federation (and let's not compare to AI war). Combat, while not the focus, is wonky, it remains hard to use the technology tree after repeated reshuffling. The game still doesn't feel like it's playing with me. I feel like I'm very much alone on the planet.


My suggestion to you, and what will excite science-fiction fans and people who play your games, is to bring your planet to life in the best way possible. You have all of this lore, a great audience experience with the characters from the last federation, unique and captivating illustrations, they are the stars of your show (pun intended). If you don't use them appropriately, this will not sell. You will know when you are doing it right (especially with the diplomacy) when you get people talking about their experiences and the races themselves. That's what happened with the last Federation. People started talking about them like real characters and compare notes as to their personalities. People talk about ai war  in a similar way. We have feelings about the characters in these games. But none of that exists in this game. You have to sell that.
Title: Re: Release Date Pushed Back To September 25th.
Post by: mrhanman on July 01, 2015, 09:50:01 PM
You had me at "hex grid".  8)

I must confess that the diplomacy parts of most 4X's I've played are the parts I'm least familiar with, simply because they're never very fun.  The framework you've outlined sounds pretty great, and I'm looking forward to seeing how it plays out.  ;D
Title: Re: Release Date Pushed Back To September 25th.
Post by: TheVampire100 on July 01, 2015, 10:46:23 PM
2. The similarity to boardgames is not lost on me at all.  One of the earlier things that this made me think of is the separate scoring track for Princes of Florence.  There are plenty of other games that use a similar thing, but that's just the one that popped into my head the most.
Had to look up the game. I have a similiar game in term of scoring, I guess. Candamir, a Spin-Off of the popular Catan series. You play as a single setller dreaming of your own house with a wife, a small fortune, animals and so on. You had to trade and collect for resources, filling pieces on the score board. Interesting game.

4. Blue is a woman, by the way, but yeah she has a plenty of icons to do now, heh.  At the moment it's something like 80 already on her list.
Whoops, I'm really sorry about that! I'm very bad at guessing the gender of people on the internet ^^
This does not however change the fqact that I'm amazed at her artist skills. SBR looks very awesome visually spoken. In my opinion the most beautiful Arcen game so far (second place in my hard has TFL with all the futuristic space ships design contrary to the normally bulky and edgy designs other artists use).

6. Totally agreed on co-op victories being important.  I felt the same emptiness when doing the space stuff myself.  Ultimately part of that emptiness was because the game just let you turtle without anything bothering you, which is a problem in and of itself when you go for those sorts of special victories.  So that's still something that will need some addressing anyhow, because that just never got fully satisfactorily implemented.  But even in the best case with it being solo and a hard battle, having to cooperate with another AI is way better because that increases the interest of that scenario in a wide variety of ways.  Most likely I'll just ditch all the special victories from the very first prototype version of this so that I can focus on the standard style victory first, and then swing back around to give each special victory some special love one at a time, top to bottom.  The current build has a lot of half-implemented ones, which is no fun. ;)
I mentioned it already here (https://www.arcengames.com/forums/index.php/topic,16915.msg184371.html#msg184371) that Civ had an aweful way to integrate diplomacy and victory conditions (especially in Multiplayer). It didn't matetr what you and your neighbour thought of each other or if you are playing with your best friend and want to help each other, int he end all you could do was to doom the other player. "There can be only one!"
In competitive strategic games I have no problem with this habit, in the end it's what players want to do. But Civ 5 has a diplomatic system that is an important feature of the game, the game itself FORCES this features at you with leaders that start to talk to you every time something happens. So why using diplomacy anyway if you aim for your sole victory? Even the "cooperative" victory (United Nations) ends with one player being the leader and the other players (computer or human) have to vote for you. Seemed pretty much senseless to me, in Multiplayer no one would vote for you because they want that spot for themself and in AI games the votes seemed pretty much random to me.
I'm happy that you are doing something different in SBR with allowing the player to pick up other races in the victory. That will hopefully also end in those races trying everything they can in helping you out in achieving that victory (even going so far at shooting everything down that tries to stop you).

Title: Re: Release Date Pushed Back To September 25th.
Post by: kasnavada on July 02, 2015, 02:10:28 AM
Hooray for most of this, with one caveat.

Combat is still not fun. There really is no strategic thinking to it other than either "have military buildings everywhere because saucers can pop up in any place" or "just spam military buildings next to a target race and get the first strike". The fiddly-ness of having to match interceptors to attacker types; the limitation to attacking only the next territory over, and quite generally the lack depth of the whole affair is really sub-par for a 4x.

Now, if you really don't want to have complexity above that of Risk, then that's probably enough, and diplomacy will be the focus of the game anyways. But for bellicose old me, the martial aspect of SBR is, so far, rather unexciting.

I'm excited for the changes, diplomacy is going to be something not much seen, which... is good.

But I quite agree with this. Combat has been "better" - as I stated in the combat thread I started there is an issue with range and fixed defenses which has been solved with territories. However, it's still not very fun, and turtling is VERY powerful.

Current strategy is boring for me because it consist of those predictable steps:
- be at peace
- build enough stuff near your opponent to crush it in one turn
- "breach" a peace treaty and shoot everything your opponent
- beat up stuff with is not military.
- ...
- rince and repeat until annihilated.

Second problem, with the current mechanics, it's just impossible to expand near someone at war. As the construction speed is slow, your opponent shooting at you will prevent you from finishing anything except if you build 6 or 7 times faster than your opponent. If, if you do, there should not be a war. I mean, if you outbuild your opponent fighting capability by 6 times or more, you're supposed to be winning already.

About Nas1m's idea... it sounds good on paper but there are the following issues to consider:
- a limitation per territory means that some defense will be impenetrable (which is a HUGE balance issue in itself)
- it doesn't solve the "shoot everything in one turn" problem if (and only if) you've got multiple territories around your target.

It's going to be a difficult idea to balance, at best, for meager benefits. Not that a cap ain't needed. It is - but I'd rather go for a "civ-level" cap rather than a territory cap. Currently the whole war thing is kind of bland because it's easy to build enough military to "sneak attack" a complete territory in rubbles in one turn. Note that even if the AI did recognize this strategy, it's still possible to make it work. Just a bit longer (because you need to be constructing all in one go instead of "one by one").


I don't have "the solution" (not that there is only one) but... basically, in all wargames, the military is mobile. There's a few ideas for making armies mobile around the forum, respecting the "no unit" part. But, as long as there are the same "range" in offense / defense, low building speed, and no way to "move" units, there is an issue with turtling.


Then again, all of that might not be necessary depending on how the diplomacy fares.
Title: Re: Release Date Pushed Back To September 25th.
Post by: nas1m on July 02, 2015, 02:14:33 AM
I'm concerned about these changes. It's not like I enjoy the way things are now, but diplomacy just doesn't look exciting. It's the forgotten x in 4X for a reason. Your diplomacy in the last Federation was actually really clever and probably the best I've ever seen done in a game. One of the best parts about that game is just firing it up and living through a game. Who knows what's going to happen? Nobody, and that's why you play.


In what you listed, it sounds like relationships are going to be rather static between races instead of something you can manipulate. I'm not suggesting you remake the last Federation civilization style, but I would say, you should not feel bad about taking what was fun about diplomacy in that game.


So far, this is not a better game than the last Federation (and let's not compare to AI war). Combat, while not the focus, is wonky, it remains hard to use the technology tree after repeated reshuffling. The game still doesn't feel like it's playing with me. I feel like I'm very much alone on the planet.


My suggestion to you, and what will excite science-fiction fans and people who play your games, is to bring your planet to life in the best way possible. You have all of this lore, a great audience experience with the characters from the last federation, unique and captivating illustrations, they are the stars of your show (pun intended). If you don't use them appropriately, this will not sell. You will know when you are doing it right (especially with the diplomacy) when you get people talking about their experiences and the races themselves. That's what happened with the last Federation. People started talking about them like real characters and compare notes as to their personalities. People talk about ai war  in a similar way. We have feelings about the characters in these games. But none of that exists in this game. You have to sell that.
Although I don't see this as drastic as Cyborg, I definitely share his sentiment that the races, their background and artwork and the fact that the races developed a life of their own was the strongest part of TLF and thus should be as much front and center in this game as possible to tie in with TLFs success.
You really should do what is humanely possible to achieve this in my book. You have a real treasure trove there - please use it!
Title: Re: Release Date Pushed Back To September 25th.
Post by: x4000 on July 02, 2015, 10:03:31 AM
Cheers guys.  So, some notes in response:

1. Regarding the hex grid, I was referring to the orientation of the hexes more than anything else.  Having them face-on looks much better when it's just for icon purposes, whereas having them in an isometric view like the regular game (which we already have all the math for in place) looks very bad for a GUI-level thing (but is great for showing buildings with a sense of perspective).

2. In terms of the diplomacy being static in terms of relationships of other races with one another, I think that's a good example of me not being clear and part of the reason sometimes I prefer to keep things close to the vest.  The races do have a huge historical momentum behind themselves when entering this game (which will vary from game to game), but despite that things can be done.  In other words, you have some situations kind of like India and Pakistan.  For the most part, those guys are at each other's throats, and for some very specific and longstanding reasons.  That said, they are capable of working together for various purposes that benefit their region as a whole, or standing against a common enemy.

TLF is a great game, but it doesn't have the sort of historical momentum that you have to overcome.  That can make it harder to really understand the consequences of your actions, in terms of why someone hates you helping X.  Basically in this game India would always get annoyed at you helping Pakistan, but that doesn't mean that they won't join with Pakistan in attacking Bolivia (picked a random country) if there is enough reason.  It doesn't even mean that a vibrant trade relationship can't exist between India and Pakistan.  But in the short term at least (our lifetime in the real world, and the length of a campaign in this game), there's always going to be that history in the back of the minds of those involved.

3. In terms of personality, that's not something I really addressed, which I had meant to.  But yeah, this gives you a ton of ways to interact with the races, and expresses their personality in a variety of ways.  My intent is for this to be stronger than in TLF, but we shall see.  This new system gives a lot of ways to do things in-character and have personality-filled commentary from the races, which I'm very excited about.  It also gives plenty of opportunity for race-specific options and issues without being a big long list of text.

4. When it comes to my comparisons to TLF and referring to this being easier to get people in to, I mean that with a finished product here I think that it's an easier sell.  People understand hexes, there is a big love for 4x, and there's not a non-genre-style combat model that they have to consider.  Obviously you can only make comparisons based on what you see in the moment right now, and that's totally reasonable.  But in terms of my own goals and thinking, I very much have to project forward using the various plans that are in my head or on some private papers of my own and not really anywhere else.  Making comparisons to the finished product of our other games based solely on what is currently in this game (as opposed to including what is intended) is definitely an apples and oranges.  Aka, my comparisons were about the state of things I hope to reach, not the state of things today.  If I thought that things were perfect today, I'd just go ahead and release now rather than pushing back another month, you know?

5. In terms of complaints about the combat, I suppose there is still more baggage there than had really been clear to me.  I will put that in the back of my mind to marinate, although right now my mind is pretty full with the diplomacy stuff.  But I'm willing to revisit that some more, and it may be worth you guys discussing this in a thread without me for now.  I don't want to be involved yet, but it's on your mind and so discussing that amongst yourselves and then us coming together when I have more time for that specific is something worth doing, I think.  Some thoughts of mine to get you started (please don't really respond in this thread, it's a conversation for elsewhere):

a. It may be that the concept of interception needs to go away, or needs to only apply to defending non-military targets, depending.
b. Or it may be that interception needs to be something that all military units can do in terms of intercepting attacks of their same kind on other buildings of not-their-same-kind.
c. Interception probably needs to have more of a cost to the intercepting building, basically kind of like what happens to defenders in Risk.

d. Heck, there needs to be more of a cost to the attacker buildings, too.  Right now the biggest problem with battles is probably that attacking and defense is "free" in the sense of cost to the attacker or the interceptor's health.  With most games, there is a clash and we are hugely likely to mutually take at least some damage.

e. There are some existing bugs that I am aware of that make your ground troops unable to attack certain tiles, and apparently also affect sea attackers at some times, just FYI.  Those are probably contributing to the feeling of wonkiness.
f. Seaports are intended to be able to attack a bit further away (sail into the adjacent water territories from a water territory they are in), making them more of an interesting force to deal with.
g. Seaports are also intended to be able to be stacked in a chain by the AI the way that you can, but the AI doesn't really use them correctly yet.

h. With Risk, the interesting thing there is that with the Armies you have to move them into the territory that you are attacking, if you attack with them.  And you can't attack with more than your total armies minus one.  Because you can't hold a territory with no armies.  Potentially switching to a system where the player is using more mobile stuff would be a good thing.

i. Part of the deal with the new diplomacy stuff in general is that I intend for there to be a bit of a "build-up" period where you declare battle and then have to give the other person time to get ready.  Both the AI would be required to do that (like the holographic fading in), and you would as well.  You could break this and do a blitz if you want, but it would probably cost you some effectiveness on your military due to them being rushed, and it would cost you goodwill with the planet and the international community, too.  So whether you blitz or whether you attack in a more orderly fashion where the AI has time to respond becomes a major decision.

j. Right now the AI does not give you any extra costs when you do an attack on them, which is just a piece of AI that I haven't had time to code yet.  Basically if you're sneaking up on them and ambushing them in a territory even using the current system, then that's fine, but the AI should be dropping saucers on you somewhere else as well as in that territory.  Meaning that turtling is not really a thing, because you're always going to wind up in at least a two-front war, one of which is focused around your own backside.  Helping to increase the cost of war on your part.

k. It has crossed my mind that removing the ability to do specific kinds of attacks in the main might be a good thing, and instead you should be "painting" targets and having the AI of your side then immediately launch as many attacks as needed at once to take that out.  Making it so there's kind of a "strike here" button.  The exception would be the cobalt bomber, of course.

l. When we talk about things like war weariness, the ability to launch infinite attacks in one turn if you had infinite buildings is definitely something that might play into that.  That's again something that gets wrapped up in the "diplomacy" stuff.

m. One of the big things right now is that the AI doesn't really bother you offensively as much as I want it to, and so you have a sense that you can turtle more than you really can in the final game.  Why is that?  Because you don't have proper ways to talk the AI down at present.  With diplomacy in, the AI's going to be like "hey give me X" and you can say yes or no, and saying no might lead to a fight.  Or they declare a fight straight out, and you can say "whoa, dude, take this and go away, ok?"  That piece is really critical for me in terms of the military being able to be involved more, because otherwise it's all about who has more might.

n. To drive this home a slight bit more, as well, these sorts of interactions are all yet more chances for personality development and relationship building for good or for ill.  You kowtowing to others instead of fighting is going to reduce your esteem in the eyes of the Burlusts, but make the Andors like you more, as one thing among many.  But who is more of a bully and why, and who is willing to come to your aid and in what ways are big deals.  Right now you can join incidents and ask others to join, and that's it.  But asking someone to attack someone who is attacking you, versus help defend against someone who is attacking you are two different prospects and I think very relevant.

o. The concept from Risk of "reinforcing moves" is something I've thought might be interesting here, and would also solve some of the ganging-up problems.  But that could be fiddly, so I want to avoid it if possible.

p. TLDR: I suppose this is really the perfect example of why I try not to say too much sometimes, because then I wind up having to go into exhaustive detail or people are going "that's it?" ;)  But for the military side in particular, hopefully this provides a good catalyst for an interesting/fruitful discussion in another thread for you guys, and then a further fruitful one when we talk about it together in 2-3 weeks.

6. All the credit definitely doesn't go to Blue for the art -- she and Cath have both been on this fulltime, and I agree it's been amazing work that they've done together.  I'm really jazzed about that.
Title: Re: Release Date Pushed Back To September 25th.
Post by: kasnavada on July 02, 2015, 01:01:36 PM
Quote
(combat)

It depends really. IMO I think there's a large discrepancy between what combat can be once diplomacy is in - and what people can imagine as long as diplomacy ain't there. Currently there's a need to "fill" the game and combat does not feel finished, at least to me. Neither does diplomacy but that's being worked on too =).

Personally if I'm working on combat now, I'm pretty sure to think & propose something which will be the core of the game. But once diplomacy takes that place... it can take its place without being "too large" for the game.

Apart from that, thanks for the insights. What you're cooking up really sounds unique =).
Title: Re: Release Date Pushed Back To September 25th.
Post by: x4000 on July 02, 2015, 02:12:11 PM
Cheers, appreciated. :)
Title: Re: Release Date Pushed Back To September 25th.
Post by: Trafalgar on July 02, 2015, 10:54:29 PM
i. Part of the deal with the new diplomacy stuff in general is that I intend for there to be a bit of a "build-up" period where you declare battle and then have to give the other person time to get ready.  Both the AI would be required to do that (like the holographic fading in), and you would as well.  You could break this and do a blitz if you want, but it would probably cost you some effectiveness on your military due to them being rushed, and it would cost you goodwill with the planet and the international community, too.  So whether you blitz or whether you attack in a more orderly fashion where the AI has time to respond becomes a major decision.

If I was an evil overlord: If I decide to sneak attack someone, I will actually prepare my armies before invading.

But overall, I'm looking forward to trying this out. The diplomacy you've outlined sounds nice.

I think I'd need to see the combat in action to have any idea what's really being said about it, though.
Title: Re: Release Date Pushed Back To September 25th.
Post by: jaxxa on July 05, 2015, 06:59:34 PM
Since the release date has been pushed back to September you should probably change the description of this forum.

The page: https://www.arcengames.com/forums/index.php

Lists it as:

"Stars Beyond Reach... This World Is Mine
Our upcoming 4x title (July 2015)."

Keeping that date could cause some confusion.
Title: Re: Release Date Pushed Back To September 25th.
Post by: Dominus Arbitrationis on July 05, 2015, 08:05:00 PM
Since the release date has been pushed back to September you should probably change the description of this forum.

The page: https://www.arcengames.com/forums/index.php

Lists it as:

"Stars Beyond Reach... This World Is Mine
Our upcoming 4x title (July 2015)."

Keeping that date could cause some confusion.

Thanks! I went ahead and fixed that.
Title: Re: Release Date Pushed Back To September 25th.
Post by: nas1m on July 07, 2015, 12:08:18 PM
I am curious: How are things going :)?
Is your design shaking out as expected?
Title: Re: Release Date Pushed Back To September 25th.
Post by: x4000 on July 07, 2015, 12:43:24 PM
It's not really going as I had expected, per se, but it's moving along and on an upswing at the moment.  My list of discarded diplomatic models is now longer than the list of ones that I'm keeping.  Having the visual aspects of this figured out helped a lot, but even so there were a number of things that were just frankly problematic because they aren't fun to do in other games and they wouldn't be fun to do here.

So I spent a lot of time messing with other games that I do find fun (not in the strategy genre) that have an atmosphere/narrative that moves along quickly despite there not being a ton of central text (in the grand scheme).  Oddly enough, I found the most inspiration from The Stanley Parable and Burnout Paradise, of all things.  I know that sounds a bit insane. ;)

And no, nobody in their right mind would ever notice any connection between those games and this one.  But it's a matter of how to bake in a narrative and personality into something that has a lot of choice to it, and/or a lot of sandboxiness to it.  But at the same time not overwhelming the player with a ton of things that slow down the core gameplay, whatever that is.  These are problems that transcend genres, and which some games solve synchronously with main gameplay, others do through forced cutscenes, and so on and so forth.

Some of it also comes down to being easier to look at another genre and ask questions.  Why do I enjoy Kentucky Route Zero and The Fall so much, but still feel more overwhelmed by trying to progress in their story compared to The Stanley Parable, which just zips me along?  Why is Arkham City fun to play, but feel a bit cold to me in the story parts -- making me feel LESS like I'm the actual center of the story -- while Burnout Paradise has so much less story (practically none) but makes me feel so much like I am the protagonist of my own story, with full freedom?  Etc.

Overall I came up with a revised list of goals, higher-level this time, for diplomacy:

GOALS:
Tell me a story.
Make me compete with the other races.
Make me cooperate with the other races.
Form a structure for how I win.
GTFO and let me get back to playing. ;)

I want to FEEL like I am the protagonist here, and I want to have interesting and hilarious encounters with the other races, but I don't want to sit around doing mental math and trade deals.   "Negotiating trade deals" is one of the least-interesting possible things to do, as the Star Wars prequels so helpfully demonstrated.

Overall I have just been searching for inspiration in nontraditional spaces, because the traditional spaces don't do what I want.  I wound up doing this with AI War, too.

Anyway, the TLDR is that I figured out some stuff late last night which is -- provisionally -- something I'm very happy with.  I'm not ready to share it just yet, but it's driving in the direction of a mix of handcrafted and procedural content that reminds me honestly of FTL: Faster than Light to a surprising degree.  We'll see if this one pans out or if it winds up being another balled-up piece of metaphorical paper in the metaphorical trash can.

That said, I've been working on the most outward part of the structure for this all morning, and that level of the structure is feeling really good and sensible, so that's helpful to know.  Between that and the visual components that were figured out previously (and which Keith is almost done with the visual coding for, not that they'll do anything at first), pieces are continuing to fall into place.

It all just basically reaffirms the need for this extra time, and I'm continuing to crunch on ideas and designs and move inexorably toward whatever the final version will look like.  That feeling of perfect clarity that I had a bit ago turned out to be false (blah that's always so demoralizing), but I'm tentatively starting to get that back again, knock on wood.
Title: Re: Release Date Pushed Back To September 25th.
Post by: Captain Jack on July 07, 2015, 01:40:13 PM
I stopped reading in the middle to figure out for myself what kind of inspiration a Sim-style 4X game could derive from Burnout Paradise, and the only thing I came up with gave a whole new meaning to "interacting with the races". ;D It'd be interesting to hear more about that thought process once the game's done. Make for a good blog post too (hint).

It's really interesting to hear your thoughts about player driven games (and fast moving games). For something closer to your genre, isn't Star Control 2 really good about making the player('s decisions) central to the plot, even with the world moving forward?

Speaking of KR0, I'd better finish act 3. I hate(love) my job.
Title: Re: Release Date Pushed Back To September 25th.
Post by: x4000 on July 07, 2015, 01:48:26 PM
Star Control 2 is great, yes.

For Burnout Paradise, it is a game with a variety of mechanics of increasing complexity, and it dumps you into that with no tutorial per se, and just lets you go anywhere immediately.  But it has a really good way of making you never feel lost, has a very good difficulty ramp system across its multiple types of challenges, and very importantly also has a sense of "certain things stay where I left them even while other things change," which is satisfying to me.  Among some other things. ;)
Title: Re: Release Date Pushed Back To September 25th.
Post by: nas1m on July 07, 2015, 02:22:25 PM
Thanks for the heads-up, Chris.
Intriguing as always.
Title: Re: Release Date Pushed Back To September 25th.
Post by: x4000 on July 07, 2015, 02:57:53 PM
Sure thing. :)
Title: Re: Release Date Pushed Back To September 25th.
Post by: Despayre on July 08, 2015, 01:35:55 PM
GOALS:
Tell me a story.
Make me compete with the other races.
Make me cooperate with the other races.
Form a structure for how I win.
GTFO and let me get back to playing. ;)

These all sound amazing..Great way to vizualize what a diplomacy system should accomplish.

I wonder about the wording of"Form a structure for how I win." though. It makes me think that ALL victory scenarios would be driven through diplomacy? Would it be more accurate to state it provides opportunities for alternative (noncombat) ways of winning?  I mean..sure war is a state of diplomacy and maybe it's just me, but I tend to think of diplomacy in games as 'stuff I do to better prepare for war' such as trade and research agreements or alliances that give me a leg up when it comes time to kick up some dust. 

Little things like AI gifts or even just some occasional flavor text from AI frenemies that remind you 'hey, we exist! And we're bragging about something cool we did! OR complaining about something you did!' do a great deal to create a strong connection to those entities when done properly.  Those bits also make players feel extra satisfaction when they decide to compete or cooperate with them. I really like games that give every single interaction a player has with an AI some personality, ones that use every bit of text when conversing with AI to convey whatever personality traits you want the player to associate with each race.  The key is to make those bits consistent within the framework of a particular game. It's when games with AI that throw agreements and war/peace treaties around like candy seemingly every turn that break the illusion and remind us we're playing a game.

If you are looking for something more procedural, maybe you could build something like an AI personality system that could assign a number of various personality traits to give each race more unique and interesting dialog and behavioral characteristics. For example, if you had some specific attitude traits like generous, warlike, aggressive, passive, stingy, scientific, elitist, schizophrenic, expansionist, paranoid, xenophobic, etc at game start and linked a unique subset of those traits to each race (or give each race some additional traits in addition to their 'standard' set), each race could then pull from various types of text pools when interacting with the player, thus creating AI experiences that would change with each game, but remain consistent within a single game? 

Also, I don't know that I want the game to tell me a story..I'd rather it just give me enough bits for me to tell my OWN story.  SMAC and Pandora are 4x games I would point to that tell a good story, but it's a story that is really only cool the first time you see it, then it's somewhat predictable and just another piece of gameplay.  There's no mystery left.  Things like discovering hostile life on an alien planet turn from an amazing discovery to 'oh ok, the planet just got aggressive, I better stock up on some military'. I would much rather have a story generating experience that gives me a chance to tell a new story about how I overcame some random crazy new opponents and challenges everytime I play :)
Title: Re: Release Date Pushed Back To September 25th.
Post by: x4000 on July 08, 2015, 02:15:49 PM
Cheers!

In terms of the story, there's a line there between having that be something cool and emergent, and having it be something that is sensible and that you control.  I'm not really ready to talk details yet because I'm still working through detail after detail making sure this is even possible, but so far it's seeming so and I'm trying to tiptoe along the line between those two.  It kind of comes down to semi-procedural storytelling, even though it's not truly procedural.  A blend of player-driven, procedural, and pre-written is perhaps the best way to describe what I'm going for.  I dislike predictable stories as well, but at the same time I feel like the game can help out the player's imagination a bit more than a lot of games do.  We'll see how that turn sout.

As far as a structure for victory goes, basically what I'm trying to say is that I don't view this as diplomacy in general, but rather "dealing with other races."  It's been a shift in my thinking, trying to get away from the idea of "diplomacy," but more just into a realm of inter-nation interactions in general.  Killing someone or subjugating them removes them from the international equation, yeah.  But short of that, you're going to have to find some way of co-existing with them.  So either you're working on a way to make yourself safe from them in the sense of them allowing you to co-exist, or you're going to go Hulk Smash on them.

That's basically what I mean by a framework for victory.  If you and I are in a hall and are each trying to get to doors on the other side of each other, then we have a few options.  One, we can fight until one of us dies or submits, and then the winner can walk through their door.  Or we can work with one another to let each other get past and thus proceed toward our own doors at our own rates.  If one of us falls and is then in the way of the other, then the standing one can try jumping over, a headstomp (ow), or helping that person up.

Overall I'd like for the international relations system to make you react a bit like you probably did just now when I described us killing each other or headstomping just to get to a stupid door.  Sure, just wiping them out is possible, but kind of abhorrent because you're starting to view them more as an actual entity with a personality and a set of problems distinct from your own.  They aren't just The Other in a competition for survival, so your instinct to just Kill Kill Kill goes down a lot.

Don't get me wrong, sometimes it's fun to just Play Evil, and that's totally cool.  But in the course of a normal setting where you aren't intending to do that, making you feel it a bit is a goal for sure.  This isn't an RPG, and I don't want it to be.  But one aspect of actual warfare that commanders have to deal with is the emotional fallout of the choices they make.  I'd like to have a small taste of that in a strategy game, without it being up in my face.
Title: Re: Release Date Pushed Back To September 25th.
Post by: Zebeast46 on July 08, 2015, 06:37:22 PM
Cant wait for the diplomacy to get done, any idea when it might be?
Title: Re: Release Date Pushed Back To September 25th.
Post by: x4000 on July 08, 2015, 07:00:48 PM
I... honestly am not sure on the diplomacy stuff.  It's a tall order.  At the latest it should be about August 1.  I am out for a week between now and then, which is the main thing that throws a crimp into stuff, so we'll see.
Title: Re: Release Date Pushed Back To September 25th.
Post by: Shrugging Khan on July 09, 2015, 03:52:27 AM
Little warning about storytelling: When you make the story integral to gameplay, make sure it's either so irrelevant I can ignore it on my n-th playthrough, or so varied and responsive that I find it interesting every single time.

This was your daily dose of negativity,
donated by Shrugging Khan.
Title: Re: Release Date Pushed Back To September 25th.
Post by: x4000 on July 09, 2015, 09:31:55 AM
Hahaha.  Yeah, that is understood.

It's a funny thing about storytelling in games, because there are basically two ways:
1. Set up interesting situations for the player, with bits of thematic stuff surrounding those situations.
2. Lots of explanation, narrative, dialogue, and backstory.

The goal here is #1 all the way.  There will be dialogue, but it's kept short and quippy and is to the point of explaining what the AI wants, etc.  And there is some backstory that you can uncover, but it's not done via exposition, but rather lots of tiny scattered clues.  So if you want to figure out what the backstory fully is, that's going to take work on your part with keeping track of the things people mention and fitting that into your own mental framework.  There's not some point where someone sits down and gives you four pages of explanatory text.

The general rule I'm trying to keep it to is that AIs are allowed to say one sentence to you in order to get their point across.

Let me use Silent Hill 2 as an example of what I mean, to some extent:
- First of all, it has verbose and extended cutscenes.  So let's cut each cutscene down to one or two lines, max.
- And of course, note that this is kind of facetious text, not with a lot of thought behind it, so it's not indicative of the game quality writing.

James: Damn, Silent Hill looks different than I remember.
<Looks at letter>
James: So strange to get a letter from my dead wife.  (I can read it in more detail if I want.)  She says she's waiting for me here, so I guess I'd better go look.
<Runs through woods on long scary path>
<Enters graveyard>
Creepy Lady: Oh, you surprised me.  I'm looking for my mom.
James: Well, seems dangerous, but good luck with that.  I'm off!
Creepy Lady: Good luck, I'm sure I'll be important to the plot later.
<Runs through deserted streets>
James: Is that big pool of blood... blood!?
<Walks over to blood and sees scary figure shambling in mist>
James: What the heck was that?  I'd better follow it, because that was totally freaky and irrelevant to what I'm doing.
<Finds radio.>
James: Wow, a broken radio.  But I'm a hoarder, and this is relevant to gameplay, so I'll take it.
<Monster rises slowly behind him.>
James: Whoa, a monster!  Better bash its head in with this plank.
<Monster dies.>
James: This town has really gone downhill.
<He goes back into foggy streets.>
James: Whoa, look at all the monsters suddenly around.  It's like they were waiting for me to pick up that board and radio.
<Runs past monsters, who ineffectually run around him.>
James: Oh right, my wife said meet her at our special place, which probably means that park over by the lake.
<Tries to go to lake, finds gaping hole.>
James: Well, I guess I'd better find a way around.
<Works hard on finding a way around, eventually finds key to apartments going in that vague direction.>
James: Ha!  That will show that hole.  I'm sure there's nothing terrifying going to happen as I go through this apartment to the other side.
<Etc.>


The point there isn't that it's giving me a ton of text or that it's constantly talking to me.  There's actually really long segments of gameplay between that, and the dialogue is mildly amusing at least and helps give me clarity and a sense of purpose.  I have a thematic reason for the things that I'm doing, and clear story-driven goals.

Of course, when we're talking about much more dynamic storytelling, then the idea is that there's a ton more choice and a ton more storylines in general, which interweave.  But the point is that they give context to what you are doing, as well as giving you reasons for potentially doing things that are nonoptimal from a spreadsheet-balancing point of view if you take the story out.  Aka, maybe the Fenyn want to save all the animals, and you can win favor by bringing them animal resources.  Okay, normally the animal resources are not something you'd really class resources by -- you look at their bonuses and that's it.  But suddenly there's a new meaning to the fact that this thing's a hare and that thing's a cactus.

Why exactly are the Thoraxians pissy on this map?  What sort of varied work-together scenarios can there be for escaping into space, blowing up the planet, or even doing the Transcendence victory?  The idea with those things is to make it so that those aren't simply "optimize your volcanoes and then wait" sort of situations.

TLF was actually pretty darn good at setting up this sort of meta-narrative in a lot of ways.  But the ultimate example, to me, is again Boatmurdered.  The problem is, that took not only an interesting situation to create, but also funny sarcastic writing.  We're trying to make a bit of a mix of the two so that it doesn't require an external LP for you to get that sort of sense from the game.  We'll see how it works, but that's the goal.
Title: Re: Release Date Pushed Back To September 25th.
Post by: Shrugging Khan on July 09, 2015, 09:51:56 AM
Oooh, another pet peeve of mine: Endless Legend.

So you have stories integrated into a 4x. Hooray, RPS says it's GOTY. Never mind that the stories are the same in every playthrough, and progress only once very specific conditions are met.

I'd say that if a story requires that the player follow it to a t, then it's useless for an open game.

Just another two denarii.
Title: Re: Release Date Pushed Back To September 25th.
Post by: x4000 on July 09, 2015, 10:11:19 AM
Yeah, I'm not a fan of that sort of thing either.  From what you're saying I think you'll be happy with what I have planned.
Title: Re: Release Date Pushed Back To September 25th.
Post by: Shrugging Khan on July 09, 2015, 10:13:59 AM
Looking forward to it in any case. You guys tend to get stuff done right, after all  :D
Title: Re: Release Date Pushed Back To September 25th.
Post by: x4000 on July 09, 2015, 10:19:07 AM
We try, anyhow. :)
Title: Re: Release Date Pushed Back To September 25th.
Post by: nas1m on July 13, 2015, 03:52:02 PM
We try, anyhow. :)
So, any news regarding your wip concept?
Did your recreational foray into graphics settings and unity upgrades have the desired effect ;D?
Title: Re: Release Date Pushed Back To September 25th.
Post by: x4000 on July 13, 2015, 03:55:25 PM
We try, anyhow. :)
So, any news regarding your wip concept?
Did your recreational foray into graphics settings and unity upgrades have the desired effect ;D?

The new build with that graphics stuff is now out, actually, just now: https://www.arcengames.com/forums/index.php/topic,17874.0.html

For the new diplomacy stuff, I think it's going to be right at the end of this month before that's really ready.  I have a week off between now and then that is part of the delay, but it's also just about building up the content and data and making sure things are flexible enough without being needlessly complex, etc.
Title: Re: Release Date Pushed Back To September 25th.
Post by: nas1m on July 13, 2015, 03:58:53 PM
Ninja'd ;).
Anything that you can share with regard to the final design?
Sounds like you might have had a moment of clarity of it's mostly about data and stuff now...
Title: Re: Release Date Pushed Back To September 25th.
Post by: x4000 on July 13, 2015, 04:06:48 PM
Oh, I don't mean to misrepresent -- the design is still very much in progress, but I'm approaching it from a data-design-first standpoint rather than a code-structure-first standpoint.  Coming from the data side is allowing me to figure out what the capabilities of the code need to be from the start, rather than us starting with a smaller style of code, doing some data for it, and then building up the code in layers.
Title: Re: Release Date Pushed Back To September 25th.
Post by: x4000 on August 18, 2015, 09:07:19 PM
And... we are delayed again: https://www.arcengames.com/forums/index.php/topic,17923.0.html