Author Topic: Preview: Simulations In The Last Federation  (Read 13693 times)

Offline x4000

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Preview: Simulations In The Last Federation
« on: October 31, 2013, 11:57:35 AM »
Original: http://christophermpark.blogspot.com/2013/10/preview-simulations-in-last-federation.html


A few weeks ago, we did our first sneak preview of our upcoming game The Last Federation.

The game is a mix of strategy and tactics set in a simulated solar system with 8 planets, each with its own unique race.  The strategy section and the combat (tactics) are two different styles of play, but both are realtime pause-able (and fast-forward-able for the experts).

Your mission is the formation of the first-and-last Solar Federation, to unite whatever races manage to survive the events of the game.  You play as a mercenary fleet plunked down in the middle of a situation that starts out very simply (think the start of a game of Civilization), and which escalates as each of the planets becomes spacefaring and undertakes other activities.

The pacing of a lot of the strategy portion is actually very much up to you, incidentally.  You can smuggle spacefaring technology to races early in exchange for influence with them... but this will anger other spacefaring races if you get caught.  You can hang back and watch a conquest happen and then make friends with the victor (or even help them during their attacks), or you can try to maintain peace throughout the solar system.

Different strategies that you choose to employ are heavily influenced by the situation of the planets.  During some games, the situation on planets will be so poor for the various races that they are a lot more aggressive out of necessity.  Other times the most warlike races may be too distracted by internal war to bother with their neighbors.  Other times you may find that the solar system is pretty peaceable because everyone has resource-rich planets, and thus your biggest threats are from pirates and anti-federation insurgents.

The emergent AI in AI War: Fleet Command, which I've described in detail in the past, is something that works primarily because it is highly multi-agent.  In other words, there are loads and loads of ships in the game -- tens of thousands, usually -- and thus various flocking behaviors and other group activities are able to happen.  Over the years since I originally wrote the AI articles, we've layered on even more layers of AI in that game, including more traditional decision-tree types of AI, and the result is something even richer and more realistic as an opponent.  But none of that would really work without having so very many ships in the game.

The Last Federation takes a similar approach with its simulation.  The simulation of the eight planets, their populace, their buildings, their resources, and their environment is extremely complicated and multi-layered.  This leads to a lot of situations where races take actions purely from emergent circumstances such as who their allies are, what the resources are on their planet, how large their planet is, and so forth.  The starting state of the solar system is varied enough that you get a vastly different result every time.

The cool thing is that you don't have to understand what is going on under the hood as a player -- not remotely.  You are primarily worried about your own mercenary fleet and its influence on each race.  This involves managing the ships you have and winning battles, as well as taking contracts to improve your reputation with various races.



But the simulation isn't just a backdrop to your game: the sorts of contracts you get offered come out of the simulation, and your opportunities to (for instance) sway the course of a war you are not involved in are substantial enough to give you reason to care.  If the Thoraxians are reaping giant swathes of Peltians down, you could help the peltians in a variety of ways (if you even want to help them).  Smuggle them technology or resources, use your bargaining power to bring them new allies that were ignoring them, or take some potshots at the Thoraxian fleet if you dare.

Then of course you later have the challenge of either appeasing the incensed Thoraxians, or finding some other way to get them to join the Federation despite their personal animosity towards you.  While surviving whatever forms of vengeance they may be pursuing against you in the aftermath of their failed war.  But maybe it was worth it, if it finally convinced the Peltians to join the federation.

In another game, the Thoraxians may be your dearest friends and a wonderful killing force ally.  The Peltians may be using their substantial space armadas to make up for their lack of ground combat strength, bombing their enemies into the stone age.  What to do then?

The learning curve on TLF should be worlds easier than the one for AI War, but there's a lot of interesting depth here built on a complex underlying simulation that bubbles up to you in more concrete ways.  You don't necessarily care that the Burlusts have 10m engineers, you care that they are looking to expand their industrial base and that you can get them some key technology to help them do that.

Put another way: the details of the simulated numbers will likely be exposed in an "advanced" screen for each race and planet (we have that for debugging, and will probably make that public so long as it doesn't seem overwhelming), but the real information that you need is easily summarized and digested.

The bottom line is that in The Last Federation you are a part of a larger solar system, and there are many things that go on without your influence or interaction, as in real life.  It's proving really fun and interesting to layer a strategy game inside a simulation game, because it makes the whole thing feel more real without making you manage the true complexity of the simulation itself.
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Offline mrhanman

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Re: Preview: Simulations In The Last Federation
« Reply #1 on: October 31, 2013, 12:51:19 PM »
One of the most intriguing parts of Dwarf Fortress to me has always been the detail in which the world is simulated, even the world outside your fort that you don't directly see, but it still later has various effects on the player.  Are there any other games which employ this type of society-building?  Some of the meta-game aspects you mention remind me of Drox Operative to some extent.

Anyway, I can't wait to see where this one starts and ends up.  It sounds great so far!

Offline chemical_art

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Re: Preview: Simulations In The Last Federation
« Reply #2 on: October 31, 2013, 01:20:52 PM »
This sounds good, in every sense, as long as the ideas pan out. The ideas here simply are the most exciting I've seen from Arcen to date.

Actually, if this delivers, I'll consider this even more exciting then AI War.
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Offline x4000

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Re: Preview: Simulations In The Last Federation
« Reply #3 on: October 31, 2013, 02:07:42 PM »
Awesome. :)

And yeah, we're hoping that this will be really ripe for interesting LPs where players get into crazy situations and so forth.  We're simulating citizens by the million, incidentally, with that as the smallest unit of citizenry.  When you have gas giants that could house a billion million humans, you have to get kind of coarse with the numbers. ;)  But realistically most planets have only thousands of millions of citizens most of the time.

We're still heavily inwork on this, but we're all really excited about all three aspects of the game (the simulation, the mercenary fleet management, and the combat model).  All three are pretty unique.
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Offline Mánagarmr

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Re: Preview: Simulations In The Last Federation
« Reply #4 on: October 31, 2013, 02:11:19 PM »
Huh, this reminds me to some extent of Drox Operative. Cool idea! I likes.
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Offline TechSY730

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Re: Preview: Simulations In The Last Federation
« Reply #5 on: October 31, 2013, 02:20:21 PM »
Sounds like this will sort of have more in common with Space Pirates and Zombies than it does with AI War, in that there is a whole world going around doing stuff you whether you choose to interact with it or not. Except, this sounds like it will be even more expansive and in depth. Sounds cool.

So, this almost sounds like a mix of Civilization and Space Pirates and Zombies, and maybe some of the X<number> series thrown in a bit (in how the world works, not the combat model)? (Yea, I know that X meets Y game comparisons are usually gross oversimplifications that rarely do the game justice, but they do help narrow down what the genre sort of is)

Offline nas1m

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Re: Preview: Simulations In The Last Federation
« Reply #6 on: October 31, 2013, 02:45:03 PM »
Wow :). I am intrigued. This could turn out all kinds of awesome.
One question that occurred to me is: Why did you decide to bring in the concept of the player managing a mercenary fleet (instead of one of the races) in the first place? In my current imagination of how the game might play out it feels a little tacked on. Am I missing something obvious here?
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Offline x4000

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Re: Preview: Simulations In The Last Federation
« Reply #7 on: October 31, 2013, 03:00:17 PM »
In terms of expansive, I'm not sure if that will really be true in the sense that there are only 8 planets and you don't do much exploration.  It's not like you are navigating galaxies and finding lots of new things.  It's more inwardly focused, like SimCity or in a lot of respects Dwarf Fortress.

In terms of why you don't manage one of the civilizations, it's because what they do is a mix of both too complex and too uninteresting.  The core premise of the game was from the start to be managing a small mercenary fleet, and the idea of simulating everything behind the scenes to get the sort of scenarios we wanted came later.  Trying to get everyone unified in peace was also one of the design points from the start.
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Offline chemical_art

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Re: Preview: Simulations In The Last Federation
« Reply #8 on: October 31, 2013, 03:11:57 PM »
I will add that if one started as a race, it would feel very much like an 4x, which this current game doesn't (and the fact it isn't trying to be a 4x is for the best)

Acting as a mercenary fleet with your own goals while the various races act as independently is a lot less tried and therefore more interesting.
« Last Edit: October 31, 2013, 03:13:52 PM by chemical_art »
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Offline x4000

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Re: Preview: Simulations In The Last Federation
« Reply #9 on: October 31, 2013, 03:13:00 PM »
That was my thought also.
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Offline nas1m

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Re: Preview: Simulations In The Last Federation
« Reply #10 on: October 31, 2013, 04:18:15 PM »
Its okay :). I just asked myself why some mercenaries from another system should care to unify the sol system in peace (instead of e.g. simply raiding them again and again using their (obvious?) technological advantage), I guess.
Interesting concept, nonetheless, though ;).
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Offline x4000

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Re: Preview: Simulations In The Last Federation
« Reply #11 on: October 31, 2013, 04:52:57 PM »
Oh, they are actually from this system, and there's a story with it.  You get to pick which race you are from at the start of the game.  You don't represent the race, that's just what the race is called.  And there's a different hero name for each race, so basically a different character for each one.
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Offline nas1m

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Re: Preview: Simulations In The Last Federation
« Reply #12 on: October 31, 2013, 05:14:45 PM »
Ah, I see. Sounds more reasonable that way :). I am looking forward to see how this one will turn out!
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Offline JAlfredGoodwin

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Re: Preview: Simulations In The Last Federation
« Reply #13 on: October 31, 2013, 05:16:11 PM »
Oh, they are actually from this system, and there's a story with it.  You get to pick which race you are from at the start of the game.  You don't represent the race, that's just what the race is called.  And there's a different hero name for each race, so basically a different character for each one.

Are there game mechanic differences for each Origin-Race?  Or is it solely cosmetic?

Offline Kingpin23

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Re: Preview: Simulations In The Last Federation
« Reply #14 on: October 31, 2013, 06:07:42 PM »
What about randomness.
Is the game setup the same everytime you start it or will it be completly different after every playthrough?