Geoff the Medio wrote:
...an alternative solution be to treat food just like minerals - only one stockpile in a single location per empire - but to instead change how a shortage of food affects a planet? There's no reason we have to have a shortage mean immediate starvation (at least for all races). Rather, we could have a cumulating health penalty each turn that a planet has a food shortage, which would quickly cause health to drop low enough to stop growth, then slowly die off, then quickly die off as the famine continues.
I like that solution. However i'd call it "Famine" (an extreme shortage of food) rather than "Starvation", which implies citizens should quickly start dying.
A nice touch is the fact that colonies in non-ideal EPs will die off more quickly, since their base health is lower. This sorta corresponds to the way citizens could delay starvation on friendly EP worlds by foraging, or planting something in the window. That's not so easy if the "outdoors" are extremely hostile to your type of life.
[Without distribution hubs] Indirect blockades become too difficult
With tzlaine's version, as the length of supply lines grow it becomes increasingly difficult to sever one part of an empire. The only feasable way to create a indirect blockade it to nearly or completely surround that portion of the empire.
I may have missed a point or not be getting an obvious assumption here, but if distribution hubs are added onto the fleet supply system, then won't that make it even harder to cut off systems from each other? Don't we need to reduce the range of inter-planet supply from that of fleets in order to make hubs necessary and supply connections non-redundant enough to allow fairly easy blockading? Are you assuming that the distances between populated systems will typically be much larger than the distances fleets can be supplied? (I guess we'll have to make some extra-good widely-separated planet specials and make it prohibitively expensive and unbeneficial to populate most systems between the good ones... which is probably not a bad thing anyway...)
First, i'm not arguing that distribution hubs should be added to the "expanding planetary supply line" model described in the preliminary v0.4. I'm arguing that the range of planetary supply lines should be always and only: 1 jump,
because of issues with the current model. Hubs are a necessary support to the "1 jump" approach, but not the goal.
I'm also not trying to change fleet supply. It obviously needs to be able to operate at a distance of more than 1 jump. While I originally had the goal of fleet supply and planetary supply operating by the same rules, the alternative i'm proposing of planetary supply operating on a simplified version of the rules ships use, is in practice no less KISS.
I'm not making assumptions about the distances between populated systems, except to say that it will vary wildly with EP (unless the planet distribution model is fixed) the age and the shape of the galaxy. Well, i assume this much: your colonies will usually be in easy reach of your ships, otherwise how did they get there?
OK, hopefully with that much taken care of, i return to my statement:"...as the length of planetary supply lines grow it becomes increasingly difficult to sever one part of an empire. The only feasable way to create a indirect blockade it to nearly or completely surround that portion of the empire."
For sake of the following i'll assume that late game supply lines will come near to or exceed 10 jumps.
The way starlanes link up varies an awful lot, with different frequencies of starlanes, the galaxy type, the section of the galaxy (edge, vs middle) and of course random chance. However for purposes of discussion, i think we can regularize the galaxy into a rectangular grid of starlanes— with the understanding that actual ease of travel may vary significantly for better or worse.
So, lets consider the most
vulnerable empire shape imaginable: the hourglass shape, with a single planet in the middle. As you can see it's not too hard to subdivide the empire, if the largest planetary supply line near the blockade is short (less than 4)— presumably the condition of relatively poor or new colonies. But more mature colonies can pretty effectively circumvent a blockade, leaving indirect blockades as a rather rare tactic only employable under one or more of the following conditions:
1) The invader has an overwhelming force, and thus can maintain a long picket line
2) The target area has undeveloped planets
3) The target area has no access to alternate routes because it's in a "dead end"
In #1 and #2 above, the invader could very likely blockade the systems directly, and thus the concept of an "indirect blockade" doesn't change the macro-strategy possibilities much.
This situation meets in a minimal way this statement from the v.4 docs:
"Having blockades allows a system to be indirectly attacked by isolation from its empire. This prevents excessive turtling strategies, and makes empire shape and distance important strategically."
... But it really doesn't look like it will be nearly as strategically significant as i had hoped.
3) "Road building" can be fun
I tend to enjoy building the infrastructure of my empire in 4X games such as Civ or SMAC. While this aspect is not normally included in 4X space game (expect for stargates), i think it can work. It's a very macro-level game-play element, and is simpler than the infrastructure aspects of land-based 4X games, and so shouldn't consume much time.
This is an interesting point. The system proposed has an advantage as well... In Civ, typically one has to keep building roads and other improvements for the whole game, which becomes a huge chore by the end when you've got dozens or hundreds of workers running about. But for FO, we're (I think) proposing to have planet supply ranges grow with time. This means that at the end of the game, there is less need for hubs between planets, since they can make connections on their own without need for hubs to be built. This means that there's a need and use for more psedu-micro in placing hubs at the start of the game to keep the player busy, but at the end, the need for micro (hopefully) disappears before it can get excessive.
I'm not going to stress the "this will be fun" aspect too strongly, because that's hard to argue. But i can refute the idea that it's likely to be burdensome (per Civ road-building), unless planet supply ranges can be greater than 1 jump.
* Civ has hugely more "tiles" where roadbuilding may be needed than FO has systems. The max
size FO map has 1/3rd the spaces where hubs could be built compared to the spaces on a moderate
civ map. (Assuming average civ map = 50x100 tiles with 30% land = 1500 spaces. Accuracy may vary with civ version)
With a higher land/sea ratio or larger maps, civ's number of spaces potentially needing roadbuilding would be much greater.
* With civ roadbuilding, you not only need to build roads between your cities (which are never adjacent), but you also need to build them on all useable land around your cities. And usually you need to redo the job 3 times for tech advances: road>railroad>maglev. There are also quite a few other improvements (farms, irrigation, mines, etc, depending on the version) which you should do outside your city.
* With my proposal no "road-building" is necessary between immediately adjacent systems, nor is it necessary to build hubs surrounding a system... all you have to do is make sure all systems are sufficiently connected. You won't have to redo the work with a later tech advance. And there are no other extra-system infrastructure corresponding to civ irrigation etc. Also, i'm assuming that late game technology like "stargates" will allow distant parts of the galaxy to be connected. In all, i'm confident you'll spend a fraction of the time building hubs in FO, that you would building roads in Civ.
My main concern is the following, but i'll have to prepare a bit more for explaining that.
4) Clearer interface
It's rather easy to design a simple, clear interface for this proposal where supply flows along definite lines. I haven't been able to think of an equally understandable way to display long, indefinite supply lines between planets.