I think you guys have played too many games by game designers who followed the lead of games like Master of Orion and Space Empire. I see no reason why the tech tree shouldn’t be modeled more fully after a real-world parallel.
Many technologies in our world were stumbled across by one or two very fortunate individuals, while they were doing something only vaguely resembling the research for which they eventually were credited. Many other technologies are simply off-shoots of these early efforts.
In this example
, plastic is a natural resource which is neither plentiful enough nor quite resilient enough for many applications. Many people attempt to create better plastic, some by treating the plastics currently available, and others by chemical construction.
Both yield results, but the point is that people did not specifically set out to research “Vulcanized Rubber”. Charles Goodyear was attempting to improve on natural rubber by coating/mixing it with other substances, and he happened across a method by which a much better type of rubber could be manufactured.
“Vulcanized Rubber” is the method humankind used to create rubber tires (themselves an upgrade to an existing technology, “Wheels”), which were later used to cushion vehicular travel. (Allowing all types of transportation to increase its speed, among other things)
In short, a man trying to create a more durable rubber ball/seal/whatever ended up creating a substance which increased propulsion technology.
If Charles Goodyear had not stumbled across the “Vulcanized Rubber” technology, and no one else had ever cooked sulfur-treated rubber, I have no doubt that someone somewhere would have found a way to increase our transportation speeds and increase the mobility of the populace eventually. The point is that your propulsion technology category is entirely unrealistic and cumbersome.
As time went on, other people found other ways to modify plastics of many types to fit other tasks. Research into new ways to use plastics and new ways to modify plastics has not abated in the slightest.
The suggestion that the categories as suggested here are more intuitive is only true so long as you expect the game to behave as other games have behaved. If you expect the game to behave as Human research has, then categories like “Propulsion”, “Ship Hulls”, and “Planetary Industry” are all fairly disingenuous and disappointing.
If I may propose:
----Lubricants (graphite, water, etc)
----Adhesives (nails, rivets, etc)
----Materials (Adamantium, Titanium, etc)
----Lubricants (oil, alcohol, formaldehyde, etc)
----Adhesives (epoxy, caulk, etc)
----Materials (rubber, plastic, fuel, etc)
----Constant (gravity, valence bonding, photonic energy, etc)
----Immediate (lightning, heat, radiation, etc)
----Constant (energy shielding, electricity, ship propulsion, artificial gravity, etc)
----Immediate (beam weapons, explosives, inertial dampening, etc)
----Cooperative (communism, socialism, etc)
----Competitive (barter, capitalism, etc)
----Destructive (fraud, theft, might-makes-right, etc)
----Cooperative (democracy, republic, hive-mind, etc)
----Competitive (monarchy, despotism, feudal, etc)
----Cooperative (self sacrifice)
----Competitive (ranking systems, self-righteousness, etc)
----Competitive (genetic engineering)
----Destructive (bio weapons)
Under this system, something akin to the Tech System of Master of Orion I could be implemented. Players research the tech categories they choose to research, perhaps with emphasis on a certain portion of the tech structure, and the specific advances achieved could be chosen at random from the list of potential advances.
Research into Tangibles-Minerals-Lubricants could reveal the advances:
Air-cooling – early combustion engines used air-cooling, rather than the oil lubricants enjoyed by engines today.
Water-cooling – more effective than air, but still not tremendously effective
Graphite powder – useful as a lubricant, also incredibly good at marking objects
Quicksilver – very nearly perfect (although I have no idea whether a perfect lubricant is possible)
Research into Attitudes-Economic-Competitive could reveal:
Trade – I have fish, you have grapes. I give you a trout for a double handful of grapes. Ug.
Currency – Gold and silver made good equalizers for Europeans. Africans preferred animals. (Would require a certain level of governmental ability)
Corporations – Cooperation amongst a small group in competition against a different small group. (Would require a certain level of A-E-Cooperative ability)
Research into Forces-Artificial-Immediate could reveal:
Energy Shielding – only after Forces-Natural-Immediate-Repellant
Weapons-Grade Lasers – only with the requisite Tangibles-Minerals-Materials (I.E. Gemcutting)
Disintigration beam – only with the requisite Forces-Natural-Constant-Gravity
Etc, etc, etc, ad nausiam.
With a system such as this, you could have nearly unlimited applied technological advances, and insert them wherever they belong in the tech tree. Research is all general, and the player doesn’t have to worry about levels or linear progression or the impracticality of specifying what outcome he/she wants the research to have. (As in, specifying that you want to spend research points inventing the wheel. If you know what the wheel is, then it’s already been invented.)
I believe that a system like this one can be very fun for the player (reference MoO I) and very realistic at the same time. The player can focus his/her research efforts on certain aspects of technology, in the hopes of acquiring specific types of technologies (“I need a better weapon to put on my ships. I’ll focus a little more on Forces tech, and specify that most of the focus should go into Artificial-Immediate tech, which is where all the weapons have come from so far.” “In my last game, I got this great weapon called Graviton Beam which said it was from the tech Applied Gravity from the Forces-Natural-Constant tree, and Artificial Gravity from the Forces-Artificial-Constant tree. If I even out my technology over the entire Forces section, maybe I can get other weapons that are better. If I neglect the Natural side of the Forces Category, then I may never advance beyond Lasers.”)
As far as implementation, naming the Applied technologies and creating a diverse collection of such technologies would be the biggest challenge. MoO I just used graduated naming (I.E. Shields level I, Shields level II, Shields level V, Shields level IX, etc.), but they also used specifically named techs (such as Fusion Engine (speed 2), Ion Engines (speed 4), and Hyper Engines (speed 7)) in the effort to bring diversity to the table.
I’d say that research into Tangibles-Mineral-Materials could get you Anti-Matter, but research into Forces-Artificial-Immediate would be required for Anti-Matter Drives or Anti-Matter Bombs.
I also think that a simple slider could be used to measure what percentage of the research is being done by the military. Some of the greatest military developments have come out of kitchens and innocent experiments involving energy manipulation, but the great majority of military technology is developed by the military.
As the slider approaches the military side of things, more refinements are developed, and fewer “pure” research breakthroughs are achieved.
A civilian scientist might come up with the phasor, and he might come up with a shield-piercing variation on an existing phasor, but he won’t be looking for either usually. A military scientist will usually be working with a current weapon and trying to improve it, so a military scientist (or engineer, as you see fit) is more likely to come up with the shield-piercing version of whatever weapons are already in place, and less likely to come up with Phasors when the whole military is currently using Graviton Beams.
If you guys are dead-set on using the same tech model as every other game on the market, then you will be received the same as so many other games on the market today. If you bring innovative new techniques to the table, you have a chance to achieve something spectacular. The graphics for this game are already better than the graphics in MoO III, easily on a par with Stars! Supernova Genesis. You say they will be better soon, and I can’t wait to see it, but looks aren’t enough to make a game great. The mechanics have to be great as well, and the tech trees I’m seeing suggested in this thread are all exactly the same type of thing as the Stars! and MoO II developers have already done.