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PostPosted: Mon Aug 18, 2008 6:42 pm 
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It seems to me that under this system, you'd always want to have numerous scouts, because knowing the most you can in the shortest time possible about your immediate neighborhood is vital in the early part of a 4X game. So, what would the advantages be if I just quickly moved through all the systems, gathering minimal information?

What I'm saying is that the choice this offers feels false to me -- it seems that one strategy is inherently superior (always waiting until a system is fully scouted out). If this is the case, why introduce the decision at all? Am I missing something?


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PostPosted: Tue Aug 19, 2008 4:13 pm 
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Well you can either

1. go and get the "minimal" but vitally important information (starlanes, and planets)..specials are important but not as important as knowing there is a large terran world two starlane jumps away.

2. slowly get to know ALL the specials in each system (of course you will only get to explored one or two systems)

3. Invest in a massive scout force (the initial scouts go into new territory as fast as possible, the other ones aren't scouts... they are survey ships which settle down and do in depth determination of specials in a system)

Now I would say that #2 is the only bad choice
#1 and #3 are basically the endpoints of the spectrum of how much effort (not time but Industry) you will invest in scouting. [because multiple scout ships/massive survey ships should halp discover "hidden" specials faster]

so it is the level of risk you take in sending out your colony ships... do you just go for all the large worlds with good environment/minerals (which should be some of the first things detected on a planet) or do you prepare and go for the worlds with good specials (and avoid the ones with hidden bad specials.... that rich terran world may have a native disease that gives it a negative population growth or makes the pop cap low... etc.)


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PostPosted: Thu Aug 21, 2008 12:26 pm 
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(Sorry for this massive post, and sorry if it missed important points in previous posts. I've delayed getting back to this thread too long.)

Re: Separate in-combat and on-map stealth ratings...

I'm rather reluctant to do this, as it seems very counter-intuitive or confusing for players to have ships that are stealthy in one context but not the other. (As eleazar notes, or something similar)

There is more to the issue than whether a two-visibilty-rating system would allow for more stategic choices... Intuitiveness, as noted, is much better for a single stealth rating. The example of a knight's movement pattern in chess isn't very relevant, as the chessboard is so abstracted from real-world tactics that the real-world namesake doesn't even enter into players minds when moving the piece. (And also, there's no sub-battle board in chess in which the knight and its attacker or target are placed when two pieces move onto the same square and in which the knight moves 5+2 instead of the 2+1 on the main board...)

Perhaps if we had "passive stealth" and "cloaking", where the passive stealth is always functioning and limits galaxy-map detection range, whereas cloaking works on the combat field, but has to be turned on/off by players manually (by giving an order in-combat), it might be more distinct. I imagine the player-activated aspect would be sufficient distinction for players, while just different labels for two conceptually similar ratings (two types of "stealth") would not. Manually-activated cloaking would require a lot of player micromanagement in battles, however, and likely would need ot be made too expensive to run continuously, meaning we'd need to have some sort of energy limit or other reason not to use it unless necesasry, etc., and would have to build this sort of activated ship ability into the battle system (which we might or might not want to do for other reasons...)

But even then, a single rating seems much simpler.

Would it be sufficient to give ships a penalty to detection in battles compared to their ratings on the galaxy map? This would allow ships that can be detected easily on the map to be quite stealthy in battles, while requiring only a single stealth and detection rating for each ship (or other detecting or stealthy object)?



Re: tzlaine's comments about the need to hide systems because AIs will have a hard time deciding to explore in the direction most likely to lead to more systems... (Aside: My intial reference to this issue was just an acknowledgement of tzlaine's concern that he'd mentioned elsewhere, which he's since explained further in this thread.)

I'm not convinced that this enough of a problem to significantly modify the design, given the other issues that have been raised. Like eleazar, I find it hard to believe that it is especially difficult for an AI to choose scouting destinations given more information than "there is another system reachable from this location". Can AIs not be programmed to know that star colour X is more likely to contain planet type Y, and that race Z likes planet type Y, so star colour X should be scouted first?

Obviously any AI we're going to be able to write will be strategically inferior to knowledgable / skilled humans... What's so special about this particular problem in that regard?

That said, I still [edit]don't[/edit] think we should reveal the whole galaxy at the start, as I still like the Civ-style exploration and visual feedback of the galaxy being revealed.

tzlaine wrote:
I've seen, not just ocassionally, but over and over again, 4X AIs make stupid colonization choices. Such choices are a function of knowledge of the galaxy map, and the locations of enemies within it. I'd like to make an AI that makes great colonization choices, not just mediocre-to-bad ones.

This seems not to be directly relevant to the issue of hiding the galaxy layout. Hiding the galaxy contents before a system, or a nearby system or an immediately adjacent system, or something along those lines, only directly affects the exploration process. Presumably players will usually send out a scout to find a suitable system before colonzing it. This might mean sending a scout into the actual system, or it could mean sending a scout to an adjacent system and then hoping the discovered-from-afar system is as good as its star colour might suggest for the colony ship... But in either case, you're still going to explore a bit before sending colony ships, and so will have some information about systems near your colony ships that you will use to decide where to send those colony ships. Hiding the information before the system or systems near it are scouted doesn't change this, does it? Have I missed something?



Re: Scouting bonuses with time in system:

tzlaine wrote:
I agree that [giving increasing bonus with time spent in system] is a bad idea, and for largely the same reasons [as elaezar]. If I have to choose between moving through a system automatically and stopping and lingering for a turn or more, I'm going to have to micromanage the movement of my scouts.

How are you ever not going to need to micromanage scouts? The activity of scouting reveals new movement choices almost every time a system is explored, which as MikkoM notes requires scouts to be frequently ordered to move to new destinations.

Do you disagree with my view that exploration itself is, can be, and should be enjoyable? If it is enjoyable, then having some micromanagement of scouting ships, particularly near the start of the game when there's less other things to control isn't really a problem. Yes, you have to play attention to your individual scouts frequently and update their orders, but if you enjoy doing this and don't have a lot of other things competing for attention, why is this bad? As MikkoM notes, delayed exploration allow

If later in the game, micromanaging scouting becomes too time-consuming, we would likely want to modify the scouting mechanics so that not as much babysitting is required. Likely, more advance scout scanning equipment would could be made available to eliminate the need to linger in systems, or the need to choose whether to linger or keep moving.

eleazar wrote:
If it takes a long time to find something, the player is going to pushed into having detector ships sitting all over the place, and how is he going to know if he's scanned long enough?

There are a few ways this could be resolved.

The first that came to mind was, as MikkoM suggests, to have a well-established maximum number of turns for which spending in a system will give increasing advantages. This might be 1 or 2 or maybe 5 turns, after which you can be sure there's no point in staying longer because you won't get any further increases. This could be shown in the UI as a bonus to detection each turn a ships spends in a system.

Alternatively, we could make it known to players that there is *something* in a system that they can't identify. These somethings would act like pods or huts in SMAC or Civ, but could be a be more complicated... We could make things quite explicit, by having the "difficulty" or "obscurity" of an "unexplained anomaly" be known to players, with a particular detection level or number of turns in-system to fully analyze it.

tzlaine does make a good point about it always being better to scout thoroughly and that there would never be a reason to not do so, and this thus being a false choice. However we could make the choice more strategic by making the time it takes to analyze an anomaly or the ability to do so at all depend on the design of the scouting ship. The choice would then be in the ship design used to scout, and whether or not to invest in advanced scouting technology. Does a player research and build scouts with enhanced scanners to identify system contents quickly, or does a player make cheap scouts and invest in something else?

eleazar wrote:
How is [the player] going to remember which systems he's scanned for X turns with X tech?

If anomalies have a counter on them that, for each empire, keeps track of how many turns at what level of scanning they've been subject to, the player wouldn't need to. We could find some scouting level for each empire - perhaps the maximum detection meter of a ship in the system, or the sum of detection meters for that empire - and add that to a counter each turn. When the counter reaches the threshold (which is known to the player) for an anomaly in the system, it becomes revealed, showing the player the previously-unknown special (or planet? or cloaked enemy ship? not sure how far to take this...)



Re: Suggestion that ships' stealth decay with time in system:

eleazar wrote:
...i could see an argument for having the stealth value of a stationary ship degrade over time. This would make sneaking through a system easier than gradually building up an invisible invasion fleet in the same place.

This might be annoying, as it would require a player to keep moving fleets around so that their stealth level doesn't drop... Combined with fuel limits, this could get quite micromanagement-intensive if you wanted to maintain a blockade or raiding force of stealth ships, which you'd constantly need to swap out, send back to get refueled, then send on another patrol. You'd have to have a ship in the loop for each turn the patrol takes, and keep updating their routes each turn, unless we have a suitable set of orders to give looping patrols...

Then again, this is an interesting way to make the fuel capacity of stealthy ships more strategically important...


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PostPosted: Thu Aug 21, 2008 1:56 pm 
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Quote:
That said, I still think we should reveal the whole galaxy at the start, as I still like the Civ-style exploration and visual feedback of the galaxy being revealed.

Is there missing a "not" somewhere? I was under the impression you liked the idea of hiding the stars at the beginning...


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PostPosted: Thu Aug 21, 2008 3:16 pm 
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I personally, have always overlooked the delayed exploration option when playing 4X games. I never knew what the point was, and I never really noticed any visible impact, so for me that option seemed like a false one, and one that I never really payed attention to. There are better ways to make that first X a challenging or rewarding experience that I could name.

In fact, I cite Heroes of Might and Magic III, which uses a puzzle map the player must piece together by exploring the map in order to find the "holy grail", a powerful artifact that can be found by diligent explorers.
Very simply, I think the player should be given the option of going on great big treasure hunts, however you want to interpret that. I think, you'd be surprised how excited people get over those things, and it's a much better way to motivate people to explore more than delayed exploration IMHO.

Geoff wrote:
Alternatively, we could make it known to players that there is *something* in a system that they can't identify.

Absolutely. This is a good idea to mitigate the necessity of having the equivalent of SETI everywhere you look. If there is "something" in the system, it should be apparent to you no matter what, even if it's secrets can't be touched or known directly. Of course, if ships are the only things that can do this, there is no point in calling it "something", the player is going to know it's a hidden fleet of ships.

And please, no stealth decay. In the quest for making stealth less-than-invincible, we don't want to make stealth pointless either.

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PostPosted: Thu Aug 21, 2008 10:41 pm 
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pd wrote:
Quote:
That said, I still think we should reveal the whole galaxy at the start, as I still like the Civ-style exploration and visual feedback of the galaxy being revealed.

Is there missing a "not" somewhere? I was under the impression you liked the idea of hiding the stars at the beginning...

I omitted "don't" before "think", but have now edited it. Thanks.

Josh wrote:
Very simply, I think the player should be given the option of going on great big treasure hunts, however you want to interpret that. I think, you'd be surprised how excited people get over those things, and it's a much better way to motivate people to explore more than delayed exploration IMHO.

Geoff wrote:
Alternatively, we could make it known to players that there is *something* in a system that they can't identify.

Absolutely. [...] If there is "something" in the system, it should be apparent to you no matter what, even if it's secrets can't be touched or known directly.

So, if I understand, you like the idea of there being stuff to find in the galaxy, some of which can be hidden until players get sufficient (something, eg. detection tech) to reveal it. However you don't want there to be any delay involved... You'd either be able to detect something immediately, or won't be able to no matter how long a ship stays in a system. This seems reasonable, as there's no obvious need to have ships staying in a location give detection bonuses to make increasing ships' detection tech a strategic option.

Does anyone (MikkoM or Krikkitone?) who wants delayed exploration / bonuses due to staying in a location for several turns find this option to be insufficient, or have a reason why delayed exploration would be better still? I can see two ways this would be done:

1) A number of exploration "points" are required to detect something / analyze an anomaly, with more advanced exploration tech accumulating these points faster whenever a ship spends a turn in a system, with the number of points per turn depending on the ship's detection abilities.

2) There is a detection rating threshold to identify an anomaly, with no accumulation of points over time. Ships have to spend a turn in a system to analyze any anomalies.

The non-delayed exploration (that's still a bit more complicated / interesting) could be like 2), but without the requirement to spend a full turn in a system to explore it and analyze its anomalies.

To be clear, spending a full turn in a system means a ship starting the turn in the system, and not moving out of that system during the turn, and possibly not having any battles in the system that turn (which would interrupt the scanning of anomalies).


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PostPosted: Fri Aug 22, 2008 4:32 pm 
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Yes, but that shouldn't restrict a player from knowing that it is there or being able to do anything about it. If there is something hidden in the system, regardless of whether they own it, the player should know that there is something hidden in the system, marked with a flag or a question mark. If an enemy fleet "sneaks" into the system, the player should know there is an unknown presence there, even if they don't know exactly what it is. If there is a "hidden" special on the planet, it should be obvious that a hidden special is there. The player or computer should then be given the power to immediately do something about it, like investigating or avoiding it.

Stealth decay, for example, doesn't empower the player, it robs them of it by making them rely on time and luck for something to come up. For something of significant scale this might be useful, such as when their is a definite reward for the player, but it's not appropriate for the vast majority of circumstances. It's just frustrating to have to wait there for an indeterminate amount of time for "something" to pop up.

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PostPosted: Fri Aug 22, 2008 7:01 pm 
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Josh wrote:
The player or computer should then be given the power to immediately do something about [the hidden / unknown something in a system], like investigating or avoiding it.

What do you mean by "do something"? I assume you don't mean there should be an actual "scan system further" order, as that would be even more micromangement with seemingly no benefit than just requiring a ship to spend a turn in a system to scan it thoroughly / reveal anything I can detect that's hidden.

Quote:
If an enemy fleet "sneaks" into the system, the player should know there is an unknown presence there...

We should consider hidden fleets separately from hidden specials or anomalies. Knowing that there is something of note in a system such as a special or hidden starlane or weird spatial anomaly is fine, but if we reveal the locations of hidden ships, then that significantly lessens the usefulness of stealthed ships on the galaxy map. Consider, if you've already swept through a region of the galaxy and know where there are unexplained anomalies, if you're chasing an enemy stealthed fleet through that region, and a system you enter has a new unexplained anomaly, it's likely one would guess that that's where the fleet is hiding. If new unexplained anomalies pop up regularly, this might be not a huge issue... But hidden player ships are a different situation than hidden natural / non-player unexplained anomalies, and the same reasons don't necessarily apply for clearly marking ship locations in the same way as other anomalies.

As eleazar put it previously in this thread, in a related context:
eleazar wrote:
Geoff the Medio wrote:
Why is disappearing planets so much worse than disappearing ships or fleets?

Because it's relatively simple and straightforward to answer the question, "Am i now, scanning this system with a super-scanning-ship?"...
while it's much more annoying to have to answer the question, "Have i ever scanned this system with a super-scanning-ship?"
To find hidden planets you only have to search each system once (per tech level of scanning gear), which requires you to keep track of where you have scanned. This IMHO is anti-fun. When searching for stealthy ships you only need to consider the present

Replace "hidden planets" with "unanalyzed anomalies" for this situation.


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PostPosted: Sat Aug 23, 2008 1:04 am 
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When I say "do something" I meant not be unable to take action or utterly bewildered just because they haven't developed their detection infrastructure to compete with invisible or unknown objects. I thought about it though, and I think that's actually a self defeating concept, so nevermind.

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PostPosted: Sat Aug 23, 2008 11:09 pm 
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Geoff wrote:
Alternatively, we could make it known to players that there is *something* in a system that they can't identify.
Josh wrote:
Absolutely. [...] If there is "something" in the system, it should be apparent to you no matter what, even if it's secrets can't be touched or known directly.

So, if I understand, you like the idea of there being stuff to find in the galaxy, some of which can be hidden until players get sufficient (something, eg. detection tech) to reveal it. However you don't want there to be any delay involved... You'd either be able to detect something immediately, or won't be able to no matter how long a ship stays in a system. This seems reasonable, as there's no obvious need to have ships staying in a location give detection bonuses to make increasing ships' detection tech a strategic option.

Does anyone (MikkoM or Krikkitone?) who wants delayed exploration / bonuses due to staying in a location for several turns find this option to be insufficient, or have a reason why delayed exploration would be better still? I can see two ways this would be done:

1) A number of exploration "points" are required to detect something / analyze an anomaly, with more advanced exploration tech accumulating these points faster whenever a ship spends a turn in a system, with the number of points per turn depending on the ship's detection abilities.

2) There is a detection rating threshold to identify an anomaly, with no accumulation of points over time. Ships have to spend a turn in a system to analyze any anomalies.

The non-delayed exploration (that's still a bit more complicated / interesting) could be like 2), but without the requirement to spend a full turn in a system to explore it and analyze its anomalies.

To be clear, spending a full turn in a system means a ship starting the turn in the system, and not moving out of that system during the turn, and possibly not having any battles in the system that turn (which would interrupt the scanning of anomalies).


So what would this mean exactly? That once your scout arrives to a new star system all of those specials, space monsters etc. that are detectable by using the scout`s scanning technology would be instantly revealed, and those specials and other things that aren`t detectable would stay hidden, but would have some sort of a question mark above them, to indicate that there is something worth investigating here?

If I understood this correctly, this would seem like a sheltered exploration system, where the player is informed straight away that this star system contains something worth looking for, as there are question marks floating next to the planets, where as another star system doesn`t contain anything interesting as there are no floating question marks or some other icons next to the planets. If this truly is the case, then yes I would consider this system to be insufficient.

Now I would hope that the decision whether to stay and scan a star system or just move on would be completely up to the player. He/she might eventually find a star system rich in good special or a star system without any specials at all, but the choice to either stay and scan or move to the next system would be completely up to him/her, and not aided by some artificial indicators.

tzlaine wrote:
Regarding delayed scouting, what does this extra bit of design complexity add to the game? What are the multiple strategic/tactical options available to the player if we do delayed scouting, as opposed to the "normal" Moo-type scouting?


And what comes to this question, I am hoping that if we can make detailed exploration of star systems considerably slower than just flying from system to system and getting the basic information about them, both of these options could become sensible.

Now if you choose to make detailed scans of every star system that you visit, you get to know their specials, space monsters etc. However as this option is slower than flying from system to system straight away, you will probably only get info from small proportion of the galaxy, before you run into other empires, and so you must make your colonisation choices from a smaller group of planets/star systems than you would, if you would have flown from system to system straight away.

And if you choose to fly from star system to star system instantly, without doing detailed scans, you will more than likely cover a larger area, before you run into other empires, than you would by making detailed scans of every star system. So you will have more planets/star systems at your disposal when you make colonisation choices. And you will probably get info about new very suitable worlds for your race faster than you would by doing detailed scans of every star system. However this way you can`t be sure if a planet that you are about to colonise is going to have a nasty special or a space monster waiting for you. So there is a bigger risk involved. In this strategy you might also want to focus on industry/population growth, because some colony ships might be lost, and also to take advantage of this larger revealed area when you form your empire.

To be clear, my current idea about what should be revealed, if you enter a star system, but decide to move on straight away, is that you would get to know the colour of the star (if the stars are hidden at first), the amount of star lanes that start from this system, the planet types and maybe some really large specials that can be instantly detected (like this for example http://www.freeorion.org/forum/viewtopic.php?f=6&t=1334&start=0).

There might of course also be combined uses of both of these strategies, where for example the first wave of scouts would make the "rough" exploration and the second wave would make detailed scans of those star systems that would appear most juicy.

I would also still support a maximum amount of turns limit, as a way of implementing delayed exploration, as this way it would be clear to the player that he/she has to spend X amount of turns in a star system to reveal all natural phenomenon (doesn`t include things like enemy fleets). However this X could of course be modified by detection technology, like Geoff suggested. Thus allowing one more strategic option for the player: to focus on detection technology and reduce the time needed to make detailed scans of star systems.

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PostPosted: Sun Aug 24, 2008 5:03 am 
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I heartily concur with what Geoff and Tzlaine are advocating about hidden elements in initial exploration. It's exactly as I would wish it.

I also support delayed discovery of higher tech specials.

Large, obvious specials (like an artificial orbital, space monster, derelict ship, etc.)are discovered on pass through. Planetside specials are discovered by staying in system up to one turn per planet in the system. Higher tech specials cannot be found until that tech level is reached. Once reached, same rules apply for discovery. Note that a colony in system counts as a "turn in system" toward discovery, so a colony with a tech increase would discover a similar tech special in it's system in a few turns, without a starship present.

We could have a tech for "scientific exploration" that would automate discovery and research for specials in undeveloped systems, with each tech increase.


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PostPosted: Mon Aug 25, 2008 5:48 pm 
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As for detecting specials, I'd say

The equipment that you have gives
1. a maximum to your 'detection' meter in that system for specials
2. an increased rate of increase in the 'detection' meter

More equipment (multiple scout ships or a massive survey ship) + more time would only affect #2

so some specials would require a certain tech to be detectable, others would just need some you to send some survey ships and wait.

Also, a Colony of a certain level (pop and or Construction meter) would "count" as including a certain amount of 'detection equipment' based on your tech (obviously it would be much better at detecting for the planet it was on.)


Last edited by Krikkitone on Tue Sep 02, 2008 5:12 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Tue Sep 02, 2008 6:11 am 
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Geoff the Medio wrote:
Josh wrote:
If an enemy fleet "sneaks" into the system, the player should know there is an unknown presence there...

We should consider hidden fleets separately from hidden specials or anomalies. Knowing that there is something of note in a system such as a special or hidden starlane or weird spatial anomaly is fine, but if we reveal the locations of hidden ships, then that significantly lessens the usefulness of stealthed ships on the galaxy map.

I think we should also consider planetary specials separately. (assuming they can be hidden which i don't necessarily think is a good idea)

It makes a certain amount of sense to say there's an "anomaly, which cannot be pinpointed" in a system if that anomaly turn out to be a hidden planet, starlane, or wormhole. But it really starts to stretch credibility if anything hidden including ships, monsters, and planetary specials turns on the same "hidden anomaly indicator".

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PostPosted: Mon Feb 16, 2009 12:08 am 
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Better yet, we can KISS the first X and say that everything non other player related is visible upon entry into the system, leaving stealth and detection for more important aspects of the game, such as contact with enemy empires. Seriously, there are better ways to develop the first X than to make exploration take a long time, such as allowing several methods of exploration and putting in many different things for the player to find.

Switching to a different facet of the topic for the moment, how will contact with enemy empires work? Will both empires be able to identify all of the other player's systems as soon as contact is made, or will you only be able to see the planets that are definitively within your scanning range?

Also, suppose empire X has the long-range scanning (or spying or whatever) capability to detect a colony of empire Y, but empire Y does not have the ability to detect a colony of empire X? Is contact made immediately, or does empire X have the option to wait and observe empire Y for as long as he wants or until empire Y is able to detect X colonies?

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PostPosted: Mon Feb 16, 2009 4:04 am 
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Bigjoe5 wrote:
Will both empires be able to identify all of the other player's systems as soon as contact is made, or will you only be able to see the planets that are definitively within your scanning range?

You'd see the ownership of planets you can see.

"Contact" with an empire isn't a game concept yet, and probably falls under diplomacy, which is scheduled for v0.5. Presumably diplomacy or espionage will let empires exchange map information beyond what the each can see for itself, though.


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