Author Topic: Preview: Simulations In The Last Federation  (Read 13694 times)

Offline mrhanman

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Re: Preview: Simulations In The Last Federation
« Reply #45 on: November 04, 2013, 09:58:22 AM »
Another option that doesn't require an existing save will be to just "start X minutes into the game," where we basically fast-forward the simulation for you for however long, and your mercenary fleet then enters a more mature galaxy.

This sounds like an incredibly powerful replay enhancer.  The gameplay possibilities this enables boggles the mind.

Will there be any explanation for how so many sentient races arose in a single solar system?  Not that it's terribly important.  I was just curious.
« Last Edit: November 04, 2013, 10:01:25 AM by mrhanman »

Offline x4000

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Re: Preview: Simulations In The Last Federation
« Reply #46 on: November 04, 2013, 10:04:55 AM »
Possibly, I'm not sure.  There's a fine line between having too much backstory that it all starts to become same-y, and having not enough of a story that it feels kind of hollow.  All of that is still being developed, as largely the gameplay is being developed before the bulk of the story.
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Offline Teal_Blue

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Re: Preview: Simulations In The Last Federation
« Reply #47 on: November 04, 2013, 07:38:09 PM »
One of the defining characteristics of AI war is just how many obstacles you can put in front of yourself; the challenge is adjustable, and it feels like the experience is even more rewarding when you can take on that much more because you are skilled. You don't get to see, fight, or experience half of what you do when you don't know how to play.

That's what I mean by rewarding skilled players.

Oh, I gotcha -- yeah, that makes sense.  For this game we aim to have a super-simple "quick start" way for players to get into the game that is basically like "what difficulty do you want, and what race?" and not much more than that.  The amount of randomization and the hugely varied situations you would run into just from that alone will lead to all sorts of hilarity (as we've already been noting in early testing where we just let the simulation run on superspeed and see what the races do without any intervention from the player).

But we also plan to have an Advanced Setup mode that is more like the AI War lobby, where you can change a bunch of different things and create some insane challenges.  Some of the ones I've thought of are letting the player kind of have a "semi-restart" in an advanced solar system that they have already won or lost, so that they can take some crazy late-game situation that they are familiar with, and use it as a starting point for a new game.  Brutal. 

Another option that doesn't require an existing save will be to just "start X minutes into the game," where we basically fast-forward the simulation for you for however long, and your mercenary fleet then enters a more mature galaxy.  Some race might already have taken over half the galaxy and created a Fear Empire, or a couple of races might have created a Solar Axis Pact.  All of the races would probably be spacefaring, and there might be some intense Psyops going on between a couple of them.  Maybe a gas giant already ignited and half the solar system is gone.  Etc.

We could probably also make some advanced options for specifically starting with circumstances along those lines, too.  There is some nasty stuff that can crop up later in the game if you don't watch what is going on, and letting you get straight to that is pretty interesting.  Probably cool to do modifiers on various things like having the ability to make Anti-Federation Demonstrators a lot more likely or numerous, or having them turn into insurgents straightaway instead of just demonstrators, etc.

Likely we won't have the advanced setup screen at first in the alpha unless we wind up needing it for testing purposes (which we might, not sure), but the game is so full of crazy stuff that can happen that it's not hard to turn on things saying "okay this has happened before the game started" or similar.


This sounds totally awesome!! I am really looking forward to this!  :)

Offline DrFranknfurter

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Re: Preview: Simulations In The Last Federation
« Reply #48 on: November 11, 2013, 11:57:27 PM »
Simplified Question:
Any similarity to, or inspiration from: Space Rangers? (how will Quests and Ground combat be handled?)

Full version:
This all sounds interesting... I'm curious about how similar the game will be to Space Rangers. A different scale but a similar number of races, simulating planets, wars going on in the background and you as a merc/ranger with some ships helping or hindering. I really liked space rangers 2 and yet if this ends up quite different I'm sure it'll be well worth a look based on Arcen's unique magic.
One thing I'd take from space rangers: the start-up difficulty options for both beginners and for replaying. It lists factors including quest difficulty, your luck, equipment failures, tech pace, scientist intelligence, goods price ranges... each clearly modifying your score multiplier. Plus global choices of just easy-medium-hard-vhard for quickstart.
It's simple but extremely effective at incentivising unpleasant settings and making it very obvious whether, for example, a low price range is 'good' or 'bad'. (low=harder game. In reality it's more complex than that, since you may never do any trading and the effects will be secondary - value of loot pirated, net worth of traders/pirates etc. (which aren't always your friends) and it encourages you to do more quests instead which may be easier)

Perhaps consider the games starting settings, or ranges for settings and consider taking notes of the resulting difficulty so that each can be grouped into categories that can be easy, medium, hard, impossible. +random, nightmarish and lovecraftian horror story.
e.g. Species behaviour:
clear and simple, shades of grey, complex and passionate (+twitchy little buggers, insane insomniacs with multiple personalities all of them easily offended)
Starting conditions:
plentiful resources, limited resources, running out of rocks (+everythings made of explodium or just plutonium, decaying homeworlds-forces planets to go to war more quickly over limited resources without hindering early growth)
Detachment:
I'm not with those guys, Ok, so I'm human, I'm 'the' human and it's all my fault. (+you're barely human you ugly alien-hugger, worst of all worlds a federation of failures)

I'm just thinking of AI war in comparison, the planet numbers, map type and 0-10 scale of minor severity doesn't have any clear and obvious impact on difficulty... except hints that extremes are probably but maybe not entirely unwinable (10 dyson sphere... I can't tell if every other world is going to be an angry monster that wants to kill me or not. In reality usually not at all significant. 4 FS on the other hand is massively difficult for a noobie) plus added confusion from using a different 0-10 scale than the AIs scale (average being 4, 7 respectively) and the hard/exos options seem more like toggling favourite mechanics than actual changes in difficulty. Most ships are balanced so there aren't easy bonus ships and hard ships... but that would be interesting as a choice if you began with a different tier of bonus ship... I digress heavily but you can see I'm rambly giddy at the news

Quests... obviously some system is required to gain influence and whatnot but how will they be handled? text based with long backstory or a bullet-point list... any special rewards to them? How big an impact will your actions have, what choices can you make?

Ground combat: is the focus entirely on ship-to-ship encounters or will there be a chance to help with orbital bombardments and ground combat via minigames...or something?


Oh and I saw the answer to this question already
[edit, moved]
Will it be singleplayer or multiplayer? (shared control, co-op, vs, something like the champions in AI war)
(noticed the quote: "Right now... looking like our second single player game.  Some designs just don't lend themselves well to multiplayer unfortunately." I'm still curious if anythings changed or for co-op, shared control or whatever even if combat is 1 on 1)
« Last Edit: November 12, 2013, 12:11:54 AM by DrFranknfurter »

Offline x4000

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Re: Preview: Simulations In The Last Federation
« Reply #49 on: November 12, 2013, 08:42:48 AM »
Whew! Lots of questions. ;)

First, let me preface this by saying that I've not played Space Rangers, although Keith really loves it.  My understanding is that this game doesn't really bear much resemblance to it.

There aren't really quests in the classic sense in this game; there are "contracts," but those work very differently from an RPG.  Some of them insta-complete in exchange for resources, others require combat or a series of combats, etc. 

The text that will be there is largely for flavor and to get a sense of the races and individuals you are working with, not there to have lengthy RPG-like dialogue trees.  Rather than this being some sort of really scripted story or set of stories that you get tired of, I really am hoping to see Boatmurdered-style LPs with the hilarious exploits of solar systems gone wrong.  In other words, I would not class this as an RPG at all, even though there will be more text than in an average strategy game.

In terms of starting difficulties, we intend to have a quick start option that is good for new players and just gets them in there simply.  And then later also an advanced start option that lets you tune a variety of things.  Think how Civilization V lets you customize things.  Or AI War to some extent, although in AI War it obviously isn't optional to go through the scary complex screen.

Oh, in terms of rewards from the contracts, it's a variety of things.  The most direct and common things are money, general bargaining power, and influence with a specific race (lost or gained).  But the important thing to remember is that all the contracts CHANGE things.  If you destroy or damage a race's ship at a planet, that ship is then destroyed or damaged.  If you blow up the soletta array at a planet, that thing is just plain gone.  If you start bombing a planet, not only do they start hating you more, but their populace is partly killed in each bombing run.  And you never know how their enemies might react to that.  Etc.

So it's less about rewards per se, and more about how you can manipulate the situation to your benefit.  You can also steal technology and capture space outposts and so forth, and those do also work as direct benefits for you.  But you can gift them or so on, as well.  I have not played Drox Operative, but I have heard enough about it since starting this project that I think I can safely say that this project is closer to that game than Space Rangers.  But honestly I think this game really stands apart in a "there's really not anything else like it" sense.

For ground combat, you don't really get involved in that directly.  You can hire saboteurs that do some bits of dirty work for you if you want (this isn't a contract, this is something you can buy at the market, like also buying informants, heh).  Ground combat soldiers are on each planet belonging to the various races (remember, you are mercenaries and thus do not control a race).  Their troops make it across the divide on troop ships when a fleet attacks, and the combat is simulated out of sight (though you can see the population numbers fluctuating).  Some races are scary good with ground combat compared to some others.

In the future, doing other "minigames" (so to speak) for various activities such as bombings and ground combat is something I would very much be interested in doing.  To me that's just adding more and more to the part of the simulation that the player can take part in, and I think that's exciting.
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Offline keith.lamothe

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Re: Preview: Simulations In The Last Federation
« Reply #50 on: November 12, 2013, 08:49:47 AM »
First, let me preface this by saying that I've not played Space Rangers, although Keith really loves it.  My understanding is that this game doesn't really bear much resemblance to it.
You're correct :)
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Offline DrFranknfurter

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Re: Preview: Simulations In The Last Federation
« Reply #51 on: November 14, 2013, 09:16:26 AM »
Thanks for the replies, it sounds really interesting and I'm grateful for the speed and depth of your responses. Insta-completing contracts sounds like less of a hassle than normal quests (though it also stops the rpg staple of 'give me the money', 'I just did it because I'm nice' options), quick-start is great especially if you have the best of both worlds and have complex starts too, I hope the complex starts aren't too intimidating. I'm curious about bargaining power... is it some 'diplomatic capital' that's spent e.g. buy the soletta array for 10k, or does it influence what you can buy with standard money, e.g. buy the soletta array for 10k credits at 'trusted' level. So unlocking things at certain thresholds?

I love the growing complexity that arises from simulations so I'll be watching. The sense of realism and naturally flowing stories it produces in game facinates me... I studied a little population dynamics and it's wonderful how much complexity can arise from even just 3 variables, never mind as many as you unavoidably get in games. Things like birth rates, death rates, infections (which I could imagine all being involved in your planet pop growth model)... add in time and distance (say multiple planets or multiple cities/continents) and you can end up with odd solutions to problems and beautiful patterns to watch unfold. The maths isn't too different if you're talking about the spread of plants, fire, disease or the colonisation of space... just renaming variables and tuning the constants.

I'd suggest you have a go at space rangers, it's worthy of Keith's love and playing a new game always helps to see things in a new light. My favourite aspects of space rangers could be summed up in two event chains:
An NPC pirate demands cargo from a merchant, he starts asking others for help, merchants, diplomats and local battleships start chasing down the pirates who offers up credits to be left alone before landing on a planet and being put in prison for a few months.
You attack an infested system with help, aiding a space station that performs a hyperspace jump to attack and unleashes a wave of fighters. Dominators dead, gain loot/rewards... then clear the planet surface and since the entire sector is free new space stations are built. I use the money to buy some more and feel like I've shaped that sector and the entire war effort.
(It gets a little repetative with missions, the end-game feels dull whatever you do, translation from russian has lost a little magic in the process, fewer amusing puns and the like. But I think if you consider it research into persistent and living worlds in single-player games then you could use it as an excuse to spend a few hours on [edit] both Space Rangers and Drox Operative (I've never tried it, looking at it now): purely for research purposes :P)
« Last Edit: November 14, 2013, 09:28:07 AM by DrFranknfurter »

Offline x4000

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Re: Preview: Simulations In The Last Federation
« Reply #52 on: November 14, 2013, 09:29:13 AM »
Sure thing.

For the insta-completing of contracts, in a lot of ways often it is like taking a mission in Final Fantasy Tactics Advance.  You accept the mission, go into the battle or whatever, and then win or lose.

For bargaining power, it's basically political capital, yes.  It's separate from money.  You mainly use money for influencing your own fleet and its finances, whereas you use bargaining power more to influence the overall situation in the galaxy.  You can't really buy something like a soletta array or whatever, you have to be a bit more indirect about that (outsourcing the use of a science lab of yours to help them do that, etc).  The bargaining power is more about larger maneuver, like getting an informant or what have you.

I'd love to play Space Rangers when I get a chance at some point, but right now it's mainly an available-time sort of limitation.  Very little gaming time at the moment, between work on TLF and then family stuff.
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Offline DrFranknfurter

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Re: Preview: Simulations In The Last Federation
« Reply #53 on: November 14, 2013, 11:28:02 AM »
It's not bad to be busy with a game you're obviously so excited about, but if you were to pick a time to play other games- for ideas, design impressions and general inspiration not merely for fun- the alpha/pre-alpha stage is probably the latest point where you've still got enough time before release to actually add anything that you are inspired by. A chance to compare and constructively contrast with what you have... that sort of thing.

Anyway, thanks again for responding. Good luck and keep busy, I'll be looking forward to screenshots and looking out for interviews, blog posts and the like. Watching a game being made is like seeing the pyramids as a drawing in the sand and then watching dream take substance, rising higher and eventually, standing the test of time as a subtle (or not so subtle) background feature in the lives of millions.

Offline x4000

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Re: Preview: Simulations In The Last Federation
« Reply #54 on: November 14, 2013, 11:48:40 AM »
Yep, no problem. :)

And agreed on pre-alpha being the time for looking for inspiration from other projects, but honestly I'm not really looking for that with this game anymore; already been through that phase with this one.
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Offline DrFranknfurter

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Re: Preview: Simulations In The Last Federation
« Reply #55 on: November 16, 2013, 05:51:36 PM »
Just had a chance to try the Drox Operative demo, only 130mb, I found it surprisingly similar to depths of peril by the same makers-character, inventory, relations... and general aRPG stuff lifted almost directly but now 'in space!'. Fun despite not being too much of a creative leap... UI and game-pace is still as busy, hectic and messy as Depths of Peril which is a shame. Though I may sound unimpressed I still quite like it as I liked Depths of Peril. If The Last Federation is closer in form to Drox than space rangers I'm quite intrigued.

Still, my humble list of flaws from the Drox demo you may wish to avoid in The Last Federation:
The big lists of shallow quests, (you shouldn't be able to solve most of the quests without trying or even caring, though the nice 'solve quest' button is necessary if you're completing dozens of quests)
Too much insignificant information (+0.01 relations! yipee! Sure, add 0.01, just don't shout about it. Perhaps have a theshold for when any change is important with major numbers given some form of highlighting like bold, red or extra large font and insignificant numbers in a small font, grey, faded or transparent)
I wouldn't mind a starting setting to change the pace of events/quests/etc. to 10xslower (so only 0-2 (3 max) quests offered at any one time so each one actually matters and is worth caring about. Perhaps with modestly increased rewards again for significance). I understand the intention for a fast pace but some people prefer to take their time and may be put-off by all the rushing around. It'd be nice if the quests offered involved a choice in and of itself, so that choosing one cancelled the others, picking sides in a conflict or whatever.
Drox Quests: My first quest is to eradicate my own race... non-optional... I've never had a more strange and nonsensical quest in any game. Always a possibility when you have randomly generated stuff if you're a bit sloppy in the execution. (I think I'm supposed to be part of the Drox, but I'd rather quit it and damn their mission than slaughter my own kind and my only ally.)

Offline Penumbra

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Re: Preview: Simulations In The Last Federation
« Reply #56 on: November 18, 2013, 09:52:59 PM »
::poke::

  ;)

Offline keith.lamothe

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Re: Preview: Simulations In The Last Federation
« Reply #57 on: November 18, 2013, 10:03:01 PM »
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Offline Penumbra

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Re: Preview: Simulations In The Last Federation
« Reply #58 on: November 19, 2013, 03:22:05 AM »
 :o

I think I missed.....

Offline x4000

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Re: Preview: Simulations In The Last Federation
« Reply #59 on: November 20, 2013, 09:06:19 AM »
Sorry about that, it's been a really hectic week for me.  At first I was sick, then I've just been really busy, and this has been sitting on my list of things to look at.

DrFranknfurter: a lot of what you're talking about are things we are very consciously trying to avoid.  Whether or not we actually do, we'll see.

But one thing to remember is that we don't really have "quests" in the same sense that Drox does.  We do have tons of contracts, which in many ways are like quests, but most of them are always available (or contextually available for a very long time, anyway).  So if you don't decide to bomb some planet, or you do decide to gift them an outpost or smuggle stuff for them or whatever, you can do that more or less whenever.  There's not a timer ticking away on those contracts, but choosing one over another is where the strategy comes in.

There are other things that are more time-limited of course, and these we call Events.  They are often things that you may not care to do anything about at all.  Burlusts suffering from a disease?  You may be super happy about this!  It may be the answer to your prayers.  Or you might just be indifferent.  Or you might want to help them as quickly as you are able.  It depends on your future plans for dealing with them, and if you are trying to manipulate them into doing something specific that will be helped or hindered by the disease, etc. 

Same sort of deal if the Andors are celebrating their Freedom Day holiday -- crime is going down on their planet, and you may be happy about this or you might intentionally be trying to push crime up for some reason with them (there are various reasons you might do that).  So the event does matter, but it again is not something you have to deal with right away.  Just because their holiday lasts for 10 months or so (not all that long in game-time, that's a bit over 3 minutes), that doesn't mean you actually have to deal with it in that timeframe.  In fact, quite often with something like that in particular, it's something you might want to hang back and see the results of, then later decide how to deal with the aftermath.  Maybe pushing them into a cesspit of crime isn't the way after all, or maybe you redouble your efforts, or whatever else.

Beyond that, the alien races themselves are taking actions, and may be initiating war, retraining soldiers into doctors to fight off a disease, researching technology, breeding like crazy, researching new ship technology, fighting an internal war, or doing whatever else.  These are things that happen in realtime, sure, and you can't deal with everything at once.  But you also don't really have to.  The key stats that matter for your actual victory condition don't go up or down without your direct actions.  (That said, if you do nothing or do the wrong thing, conditions can deteriorate to the point that you die or get in a bad way, even though your technical progress towards victory did not go backwards at all).

Overall there are three main groups of things to pay attention to: racial actions, events, and the status of specific planets.  It doesn't take long to digest this information, and each can be concisely displayed on its own screen to show you all the actions on one screen, all the events on another, and all the planetary statuses on another.  And I do also plan on working in as many overlays as possible to make the use of subscreens less of a requirement as well.  Of course if you WANT to delve into more details, we have those, too.  A lot of that UI design is still very much in progress, but the underlying gameplay is something we're specifically designing with the idea of having a comprehensible UI for it.  If the underlying game isn't compatible with a GUI that easily summarizes, then you just plain are going to have a complex UI, period.

Put another way, I think the comparison to Drox is apt in that there is more going on than you can deal with at any one time.  That's also true of SimCity, usually.  But we are taking a lot of steps to make sure it's understandable to players, and that there isn't a sense of rush.  AND that there is a sense of progression.

When you first start the game, there's only one planet/race doing anything at all.  A second planet becomes spacefaring pretty soon after.  Depending on your difficulty level, there are no events at all right at first, but there then becomes one event at a time one two planets are online.  And then every 2 planets after that until you have 4 events max at one time in the late game.  Plus obviously 8 races each with two actions, rather than just a couple of races with two actions.  But by then you are more in control of the situation, and you ought to have a federation progressing such that you really only have to pay close attention to the actions of the non-federation races.  Of course if you want to make things crazier earlier you can smuggle spacefaring tech to planets early (and this is a valid tactic for advanced play in particular), or you can use the Advanced Start to set up more complex starting scenarios in general if you're to that level of play.

With TLF more than any other game prior to it, one of the things we have been really paying attention to design-wise is not only how complex/fun the game is, but also how to gradually ease the player into that, and how to make it fun right from the start even when the complexity isn't huge yet.

Hope that sets your mind at ease some!
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