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General Category => The Last Federation => Topic started by: x4000 on November 20, 2013, 10:48:34 AM

Title: A Guide To Aliens In The Last Federation
Post by: x4000 on November 20, 2013, 10:48:34 AM
Original: http://christophermpark.blogspot.com/2013/11/a-guide-to-aliens-in-last-federation.html

What is The Last Federation?  Check out our first sneak preview about it, or our preview discussing simulations in the game.  Also our recent podcast with Space Game Junkie with lots of other details.  Oh, and the forums for the game are filled with lots of other detailed tidbits, too.
The Last Federation is filled with 8 (well, really 9, but one of them only has one remaining survivor: you) alien races.  How each one acts in each game depends greatly on their circumstances and what sorts of alliances and events form.

Background On The Races
Even the nicest of races can become warlike if their planet is filled with crime or they are bent on revenge for a war of aggression from another race.  Even the most horried, aggressive of races can be your best ally if you get them into your federation early.  And for that matter, the most-aggressive races can wind up being meek and passive on a solar-system scale if they are continually consumed by internal strife or are otherwise finding themselves technologically outmatched and outnumbered.

So the thing to remember while reading this guide is that each game will play out very differently, even though the baseline personalities are always the same.  Sometimes the "ewoks" will be the undisputed terror of the galaxy, ruling half of it with a Fear Empire you can barely overcome.  The "klingons" hide in fear of the terrible little furry guys.  Etc.

Honestly this is one of my personal favorite things about the game: the races themselves do not have randomized attributes, but since their situation is so heavily randomized, their reactions to their situation is understandable and internally consistent, so that you get very different situations every time.

Sometimes maybe just everybody gets along and there is no war, but there's a bunch of politics, commerce, and pirates to deal with.  Sometimes everyone hates each other so much by the end that it's a challenge to just build a federation with those planets that haven't been blown to smithereens.

 An unfinished sketch of the view for when you are dealing with the Acutians.

So!  Down to business.  Let's hear about these races, then.

The Acutians
These guys are rather jerks.  Very much industrialized belligerent polluters, kind of a sociopathic robotic race.  In a lot of ways I guess they are kind of like Robo's "friends" in the 2600 AD time period in Chrono Trigger.  That general vibe, anyway.

The Andors
These guys are more of a utopian robot society.  In a lot of respects they are kind of like C3P0 without the cowardice and with some common sense.

The Boarines
Basically... quadruped snow pig-people that really need their own personal space.  I'm not really sure what to compare them to in other sci-fi.  In a D&D sense they are kind of a True Neutral species, so long as there isn't overcrowding on their planet.  Then it's a bit more Chaotic Neutral.

The Burlusts
These guys are basically Klingons... with feathers and chicken feet on their bottom half.  They're a bit sensitive about it, and their society is a lot less stable than even the Klingons.  These guys are seriously some of the biggest, buffest jerks in the solar system.  Along with the Acutians and the Thoraxians, they are some of the more likely antagonists.

The Evucks
A very scientific kangaroo-like race with these kind of furry jowl tentacles on their face.  They prefer to keep to themselves for the most part, as a group.  If they happen to be on a gas giant and it looks like they are facing takeover, watch out -- they're likely to try to ignite that sucker, glassing a goodly portion of the solar system (including you personally as well, if you're caught in the blast radius). 

They're also not above unleashing horrible diseases (Teethworms, Black Bubbles, or others) on enemy planets they particular hate.  Left to their own devices they aren't really mean or aggressive at all, but when someone else pushes them they push back hard.

The Peltian
Basically: fat Ewoks.  Also communist agrarians, as compared to the capitalist industrial Acutians.  These little guys are absolutely pathetic at ground combat, and will absolutely get rolled by anyone who manages to get troops on their planets.  Since they can't launch useful troops of their own, they instead load themselves into suicidal launch personnel transport pods that explode when they crash into enemy planets.  Why exactly they have to put personnel in these things is a question best not asked.

Their name was never intended to be a pun, but these guys are also aces at orbital bombardment.  Sure they stink on the ground, but in spaceships it's a bit of a different matter.  When it comes to bombs anyway.

The Thoraxians
A hivemind insect-like race that is kind of a cross between the buggers in Ender's Game and the aliens in Alien.  If anyone gets into ground combat with these guys, it's basically all over.  I won't go into the overused joke about "it's the only way to be sure," but, yes, Ripley's strategy remains a sound one.  Good old ship-to-ship phasers or missiles or whatever are not a bad idea either.

The Skylaxians
The most scientifically advanced of all the races, these are close in some ways to the supposed Area 51 aliens in appearance.  They have a strong sense of honor, and won't bomb opponents or partake in other questionable activities.  And if someone else does, that will really affect their attitude toward the other race.

These folks really aren't out for conquest or any other wars most of the time.  But they are so technologically advanced that if they're on a planet that is particularly suitable for them, they are likely to outstrip everyone else in terms of fleet size and quality pretty fast.  So if they DO get into a war, that can be a Really Bad Thing. 

You can always smuggle their technology for yourself and for their enemies, or work to suppress them from getting such high technology in the first place (which may naturally happen even without your involvement), or you can work to become their bestest buds early on in.  Being bestest buds is not always the best thing if that means that suddenly the Thoraxians and the Burlusts are doing something like forming a Solar Axis Pact in response, though.

Bonus: The Chelonians
This is you -- you're the last of the Chelonians, due to events that transpire in the opening story sequence of the game.  The short of it is that your race was the first in the solar system to come up with spacefaring technology, but as a group you were selfish and basically prevented any of the other races from joining you in the stars... for a few centuries.

But not everyone within the Chelonian race agreed with this policy, including yourself.  There was a bunch of civil war, and some other mysterious things, and in the end everyone was dead except you, and your home planet was gone to boot.  Oops.  Meanwhile, you've crash-landed your ship onto an alien world (you get to pick which one) with the technology they need to finally reach the stars.

Except, uh, they're kind of pissed at you for all that historical oppression.  Actually, everybody has some degree of dislike for you at first, and that's one hurdle you'll have to overcome.

Who To Ally With?
That all depends!  It's really going to vary based on the specific game situation you're running into, which varies heavily time to time.

You might find that, in practice in one solar system, the burlusts are actually the most technologically advanced and the skylaxians are a poor backwater, due to poor starting conditions for the skylaxians and then the burlusts successfully suppressing the development of everyone else.  Maybe you helped the burlusts in that suppression, and their main warlord(s) really love you for it.

Another time, the evucks are spreading diseases left and right, and somebody needs to go take those dudes out... but they're on a gas giant.  Great.  So either you sacrifice half the solar system (that part which is not already dying from maggot pox, naturally) or you manage to rally the other races and help them all launch a war of aggression that wipes out the evucks before they can achieve ignition.

Sometimes the acutians wind up taking over half the solar system simply through sheer manufacturing power.  If "somebody" doesn't do anything to help stop them.

Your Role In All This
Unlike other strategy games, you don't represent a faction here.  You're not in control of a planet, or a government, or even a fleet of planetary scale.  You're a nameless mercenary, working (sort of) behind the scenes with a scalpel-like small force and whatever bargaining power you can muster through helping or hindering races through the contracts you take.

A lot of things are going on without your say-so, and if you just sit and do nothing then you'll find yourself outmatched and some crazy situation will evolve without your control.  We actually love just sitting there in a form of debug mode and running the simulation to see what insane late-game situations evolve completely without the player's input.  It's pretty varied to say the least.

That said, your ability to affect things from behind the scenes is quite substantial.  Inciting war, or helping to develop vaccines, or assassinating political leaders, or capturing outposts, or smuggling key technologies or goods for the disadvantaged... oh, you have plenty of power indeed in this solar system.

You are not the face of any government, and it takes a lot of governments a while to catch onto the role you actually play (after which some of them buddy up to you even more, while others start sending assassins your way, and others start seeing political anti-federation demonstrators and insurgents on the rise, etc).  You're behind the scenes of all of this, as best you can be anyhow, but you have just as much power to wield as any of the planetary governments.  Just in a different way from them, and frankly in a different way from most other strategy games.

Well, this turned out to be a much longer post than I intended!  Enjoy. :)
Title: Re: A Guide To Aliens In The Last Federation
Post by: Conir on November 20, 2013, 01:14:36 PM
good read, thanks for the info!

but what about some screenshots? or a short clip of that debug-mode you are talking about :)

would be nice
Title: Re: A Guide To Aliens In The Last Federation
Post by: x4000 on November 20, 2013, 01:53:47 PM
We still have a lot of placeholder graphics, although there are also lots of finished bits as well. We've learned our lesson from valley 1 that showing early iterations of screenshots really can backfire bad!
Title: Re: A Guide To Aliens In The Last Federation
Post by: nas1m on November 20, 2013, 02:16:52 PM
Awesome stuff! Bring it on ;D.
Title: Re: A Guide To Aliens In The Last Federation
Post by: Mick on November 20, 2013, 02:48:31 PM
Needs more space bears.
Title: Re: A Guide To Aliens In The Last Federation
Post by: Mánagarmr on November 20, 2013, 03:41:57 PM
With a huge risk of repeating myself: This sounds a lot like Drox Operative. Are the two in any way related or like eachother?
Title: Re: A Guide To Aliens In The Last Federation
Post by: tigersfan on November 20, 2013, 04:46:17 PM
With a huge risk of repeating myself: This sounds a lot like Drox Operative. Are the two in any way related or like eachother?

Chris talked a bit about the similarities in http://www.arcengames.com/forums/index.php/topic,14149.msg161313.html#msg161313 (http://www.arcengames.com/forums/index.php/topic,14149.msg161313.html#msg161313). But, in a nutshell, there are some similarities in that there's a TON going on, and you, as a player will never be able to grasp or understand everything going on around you. But, the game has a very different feel, and not really any of the RPG elements that Drox has.
Title: Re: A Guide To Aliens In The Last Federation
Post by: Mánagarmr on November 20, 2013, 06:33:43 PM
With a huge risk of repeating myself: This sounds a lot like Drox Operative. Are the two in any way related or like eachother?

Chris talked a bit about the similarities in http://www.arcengames.com/forums/index.php/topic,14149.msg161313.html#msg161313 (http://www.arcengames.com/forums/index.php/topic,14149.msg161313.html#msg161313). But, in a nutshell, there are some similarities in that there's a TON going on, and you, as a player will never be able to grasp or understand everything going on around you. But, the game has a very different feel, and not really any of the RPG elements that Drox has.
Oh, thanks!
Title: Re: A Guide To Aliens In The Last Federation
Post by: Aquohn on November 20, 2013, 10:48:01 PM
This sounds really, really cool. I can't wait to see it in action!
Title: Re: A Guide To Aliens In The Last Federation
Post by: Rekka on November 21, 2013, 03:44:14 AM
Good read. Nice to know a little bit more about each race and their behaviour. :)
Title: Re: A Guide To Aliens In The Last Federation
Post by: Histidine on November 22, 2013, 01:37:20 AM
Ooh, tingling with anticipation!

The Burlusts
These guys are basically Klingons... with feathers and chicken feet on their bottom half.  They're a bit sensitive about it...
Behold, Plato's half-man! (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diogenes_of_Sinope#In_Athens)
Title: Re: A Guide To Aliens In The Last Federation
Post by: x4000 on November 22, 2013, 08:55:58 AM
Ooh, tingling with anticipation!

The Burlusts
These guys are basically Klingons... with feathers and chicken feet on their bottom half.  They're a bit sensitive about it...
Behold, Plato's half-man! (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diogenes_of_Sinope#In_Athens)

Ha!  That's awesome. :)
Title: Re: A Guide To Aliens In The Last Federation
Post by: Misery on November 22, 2013, 09:25:55 AM
I think I can speak for everyone when I say that I sure would not want to contract Teethworms.   Or Maggot Pox, for that matter.

And this whole thing sounds pretty good to me.  Are we still looking at an early December alpha/beta/whatever here?
Title: Re: A Guide To Aliens In The Last Federation
Post by: tigersfan on November 22, 2013, 09:47:46 AM
I think I can speak for everyone when I say that I sure would not want to contract Teethworms.

The most disturbing part of teethworms for me is the sinister tone Chris' voice takes when he talks about them.

*shudder*
Title: Re: A Guide To Aliens In The Last Federation
Post by: tigersfan on November 22, 2013, 09:48:27 AM
Are we still looking at an early December alpha/beta/whatever here?

I think so?
Title: Re: A Guide To Aliens In The Last Federation
Post by: x4000 on November 22, 2013, 10:04:53 AM
Teethworms cracks me up every time, and makes Josh shudder like crazy.  We were coming up for disease names for Starport 28, and he had to go to the dentist the next morning.  I suddenly started laughing and managed to get out "We should call one Teethworms!"  All of the non-robotic diseases (aka not computer viruses) were actually thought up for Starport 28, and then got carried over into The Last Federation along with the races (though there were 20 races in Starport, we just took the best 9 for TLF).

When it comes to the start of an alpha, I'm honestly not quite sure where we are, it's hard to tell.  Mainly it's one of those "you know it when you see it" sort of situations, and right now we still have a bit too much going on for me to feel comfortable with an exact date.  It is looking like it may be closer to mid-December, though, with a 1.0 version of the game coming February instead of January.

Things are continuing to go really well development-wise, but it's just a huge game.  Given how it is turning out, I'm being really careful to make sure that we give each thing the time it needs even prior to alpha, rather than running to alpha too fast.  I'd like the interface and so forth to be as close to final as possible before people start getting into the alpha, so that if there is any confusion it's not because it was stuff we just hadn't gotten to yet.  Whatever results from the alpha, which I'm sure will be plenty, should all be stuff we didn't already know if we can help it.

Status on a number of things:

- The simulation for this game is bloody complicated, but almost all of the major systems for it are designed (and most in place) now.  The big thing that we still have outstanding are the political systems, of which there are 8.  The first one is done (Skylaxian Senate), but the rest are still needing their detail design.  We've been using a simplified model for that aspect of the game up until now.

- The coding for the game is something Keith is doing exclusively, as it's taking me and Josh fulltime on the design side; it's that intensive for design, which has never been the case before for an Arcen title.  Anyway, he's flying along with things, so that's really good.

- Once the last of the simulation subsystems are in, then it's going to be a matter of a lot of small bits of cleanup, and I still have to really get going on making about a dozen interfaces really as intuitively designed as possible, and then Keith has to code them.

- All of the ship graphics are to the point of being shaped out and thus are usable from an alpha standpoint, and about half of them are 100% to completion.

- Special effects and some of the cutscenes and background stuff are lagging, but those are less important for the early alpha, and the special effects in particular will be quick.

- The solar system map is basically done, although more variety in some of the 11 planet classes will be needed prior to 1.0, but that's really a minor thing.  The battle starfield backgrounds that we have are also done and awesome, although we want a bunch more and in some more varied colors.  Those will be prior to 1.0, but right now are minor.

- The drones that get launched by ships are currently to the silhouette and sketch stage, but haven't been colorized or anything (except one of them, the phaser drone, which is done).  So that's a big thing for now that we are working on.

- The HUD styling for the battle screens has been a major ongoing project for weeks, really something we've been pouring endless time into, but finally that has come to a point where it looks amazing and we're ready to move forward with that.  That's going to be informing a lot of other parts of the HUD, including the icons work, so now that essentially that R&D is done we're getting to where we can do more than just use temporary graphics there.


So you can understand why we haven't released more screenshots or any videos, basically.  We'll still be working on adding certain types of noncritical art (that still adds a lot in terms of both variety and a sense of place) into January, but all or most of the critical art should be past the placeholder stage prior to Christmas, I'm pretty positive.


Somewhat conversely, we're also going to be adding more events and racial actions and so forth as we get into the alpha.  Right now we have enough to really verify that it is working well and makes sense, and it already gives a large sense of scope, but I want even more to truly get into the crazy-AAR zone.  Right now we have something like 90ish types of events that can happen, and I want to roughly double that.  We have about 60 planetary technologies, and that will be expanding even prior to alpha, although that's still a pretty good number.  There are 45 resources, which is probably plenty.  Right now there are only 36 different racial actions, which actually is plenty in a lot of respects, but I expect that to more than double prior to alpha.  We have about 35 different types of contracts, plus another 30ish kinds of political deals, but both of those will be expanding greatly.

Planetary modeling for citizens, economy, medical, environmental, public order, AFA, pirates, combat, and so forth are all done already, though I'm sure there will be some tuning.  All of the ship hull types for the game are designed and implemented, and so are all the races and their features.  There's a goodly number of weapons and special abilities and such for combat (39 I think), although I hope to double that number by 1.0 as well.

The really fun thing is that this is just blazing along, though, so in a week if you ask me the same question this list will be way shorter already.  The main thing is getting the game to a point where we can say "yes this is an accurate representation of what we want 1.0 to be, minus extra content that will contribute to longevity of the game as opposed to anything that really bothers you for the first dozen hours or so."  As it already stands, you could in no way see all the content of the game without maybe... I don't even know.  50 hours of play?  It's a lot, but I want to push that even further, and know how to do so without going into crazy scope mania like happened with Valley had.  A lot of the content here has more to do with the simulation and AI and text and so forth, rather than art, which is one of the key differences.

Anyway, the TLDR is that I'm really excited both with where the game already is and where it is headed, but there's a certain point I want to make sure it is at before we invite in other folks.  Mainly to do with accessibility on the one hand, and on the other hand making sure that we're not making you relearn the game with things that we are changing that we already knew we were going to change (for instance turning some of the contracts into political deals, and adding the 8 different political structures; though that will be done far before alpha anyway, and there isn't anything else of that scope left).


Hope that makes sense!  I figure it's a better reply than just a vague "well, probably more like middle of December now."  Gives some context to why, and what is going on internally.  It's a very busy time for us!
Title: Re: A Guide To Aliens In The Last Federation
Post by: chemical_art on November 22, 2013, 04:12:47 PM
At one time, there was talk that the player can influence one of the starter races directly, depending on where they crashed landed (or for some other reason).

Are there still plans to do so, at least for the advanced mode? I could imagine some hilarious combinations if a normally peaceful races is more belligerent at start due to your influence.
Title: Re: A Guide To Aliens In The Last Federation
Post by: x4000 on November 22, 2013, 04:15:48 PM
You do still get to choose which planet you crash on to, and that has some unavoidable effects on that race.  Mainly:

1. They hate you more than other races, since you stole their flagship-candidate.
2. They get a jump-start technologically and economically, and thus are likely to have an upper hand on other races more often than not (depending on how well suited they are to their planet, anyway).
3. If you start smuggling spacefaring tech to the other races, and get caught, this race is likely to hate you even more.

There's not much else that is affected by this, but those things alone can really cause the start of the game to play out differently.  In terms of advanced start options, I'm sure we'll wind up adding all sorts of interesting options like "hateful ewoks" or whatever. ;)
Title: Re: A Guide To Aliens In The Last Federation
Post by: chemical_art on November 22, 2013, 04:19:31 PM
Gotcha :)


Another note, how does end game, and the federation itself play out? Do its members merely sign non-aggression pacts, or is it alliances? What happens when the critical mass of the galaxy occurs where a large part of the galaxy is in the federation. Doenemies attempt a rival government to try to combat the federation, or does the federation become inefficient due to its own weight? Etc.
Title: Re: A Guide To Aliens In The Last Federation
Post by: x4000 on November 22, 2013, 04:30:29 PM
The end-game is something we are still tuning, since obviously that has effects from a lot of factors.  That said, I'm already pretty pleased with how it's coming out so far.  Let's see, some various notes:

- Federation members might hate one another, but they'll never leave the federation or attack one another.

- Federation members who like each other will aid one another in wars, but ones who don't like one another will not.  Think of this like the UN in that regard. ;)

- The formation of rival government types (Solar Axis Pact, Pirate Empire, Fear Empire, etc) are things that happen independent of the federation, and usually happen in the mid-game if they are going to.  They make winning the game harder, typically, and aren't related to balancing the end game.

- Anti-federation sentiment (the Anti-Federation Alliance) is something that you have to contend with at a variety of times in the game, but moreso toward the end of the game.  AFA demonstrators and insurgents can cause problems even on federation planets, and they will also actively attack you, specifically, once everyone is catching on to your role in things.  Depending on how your game is playing out, they may be a major factor or not -- if non-federation races have a lot of rage near the end (which they may or may not), the AFA may be more or less of a thing.

- Assassins from the non-federation governments sent to get you is another thing that you may have to cope with if they hate you personally.


These things balance out the majority of cases, but there are a few minority cases that are not yet adequately handled.  Specifically if you have a very peaceable solar system (in terms of inter-governmental warfare, not speaking of piracy, etc), which is something I very much want to always remain a possibility, I'm not sure that there are enough counterbalances yet.  That situation is comparably rare so perhaps it's okay that things just snowball to victory if you manage to actually pull that off (or circumstances are just that kind to you).  That's one of those things that needs to be explored more in alpha.
Title: Re: A Guide To Aliens In The Last Federation
Post by: chemical_art on November 22, 2013, 06:40:47 PM
All sounds interesting to both tune and test. Looking forward to an alpha in late December