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PostPosted: Sun Dec 07, 2008 6:54 pm 
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General_Zaber wrote:
I certainly don't think its finished and there are a number of things from this thread that I'd like added to it but here is a draft for a backstory:

FreeOrion Alternate Backstory Suggestion
(It's a little long so bear with me)


It's clearly written, but i think there are some important plot holes.
    * Who is the "unknown force"? Yeah you wouldn't tell the player right off, but these guys seem like they should show up again somewhere.
    * If the powers are so wiped out that they can't fight any more, how do they have enough resources to start over in a new galaxy?
    * If they have the ability to leave the galaxy why haven't they done it before
    * If the engine wasn't totally busted, why didn't they try to fix it, or in total-war mode why didn't someone blow it up to keep it out of somebody else's hands?
    * If the engine is so busted that the precursors can't easily fix it, what value does it have to player species?
    * You haven't given the precursors any motivation to do anything expect take back the engine, and try to fix it.

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PostPosted: Mon Dec 08, 2008 12:28 am 
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You bring up some good points eleazar. Like I said it was just an openeing draft but I guess I might develop some answers for you.

eleazar wrote:
Who is the "unknown force"? Yeah you wouldn't tell the player right off, but these guys seem like they should show up again somewhere.


I guess I left this part fairly open. My original concept would be a group of religious extremists, composed from each of the precursor races but controlled by an outer force, something toying with the precursors just as they toy with the player races. This higher entity's motivation would have been the prevention of the Engine's use in order for it not to reveal the power's identity to the precursors.

But it would be better perhaps if this was a random element to the plot revealed only through strong end game ties to a precursor race or through recovery (but not operation) of the Engine on Orion. One result could be the one above, another could be a random one of the precursors who never got over their old rivalries. Or a more 'out there' possibilty could have been the Engine itself interfering with the past once it is activated in the future by one of the player races, its motivation would have been the Engine's view of the precursors, after all they nearly destroyed the galaxy.

eleazar wrote:
If the powers are so wiped out that they can't fight any more, how do they have enough resources to start over in a new galaxy?


They weren't quite wiped out, after a century of violence they had begun to lose resources (and planets to recover them from) and they knew if they were to continue down their path then there wouldn't be enough for them to fight over.

eleazar wrote:
If they have the ability to leave the galaxy why haven't they done it before


At the time their most ideological goal was completion of the Engine and therefore everything else seemed to take a back seat .Like the real world mission to Mars idea, JFK wanted it by 2000, but at the moment it's scheduled for 2050. And an intergalactic journey is big no matter who you are, the Star Lane network probably took centuries to construct.

Besides without Star Lanes, any journey is exponentialy longer, therfore even with ships equipped for the journey, the Exodus would have taken thousands of years.

eleazar wrote:
If the engine wasn't totally busted, why didn't they try to fix it, or in total-war mode why didn't someone blow it up to keep it out of somebody else's hands?


Remember that everyone who ever worked on the Engine was brutally murdered, they were all the greatest thinkers in galaxy so therefore it would have taken far longer to fix it even in peacetime. As for blowing it up, after so many years working on it, the Engine even in its damaged state was too important to destroy completely, if anything they might have tried to relocate the Engine, but if they tried, they didn't succeed, it would have been hard with all five races fighting in Orion's system anyway

Of course that doesn't mean one or two of the precursor races might have changed their minds about it in their millions of years in isolation.

eleazar wrote:
If the engine is so busted that the precursors can't easily fix it, what value does it have to player species?


Whether they could fix it or not, the Engine is a very valuable bargaining tool for players with the precursors.

eleazar wrote:
You haven't given the precursors any motivation to do anything expect take back the engine, and try to fix it.


Well these races are supposed to be the same five you came up with. Their isolation would have changed them into the Unifiers, Engineers, Observers, Caretakers and Final Ones. Not to mention the galaxy used to belong to them so they would want it remolded into anything they wanted.

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PostPosted: Mon Dec 29, 2008 12:39 pm 
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Well, most ideas in this thread are a bit hit and miss, but I'd like to add something to the Precursor list.

eleazar wrote:
Identity of the Precursors
The Precursors are not a unified group. They are simply a diverse collection of extremely old and powerful species/civilizations. They are powerful enough that survival is more or less guaranteed, so the focus and unifying factor of each Precursor group is ideology. The following list is not necessarily complete, nor are the names final.

Final Ones
Single-mindedly bent on the destruction of all other beings. Ash is all that is left behind after their passing. The other Precursors are able to a degree to hold them in check. There is uncertainty if the robotic ships are the Final Ones themselves, or merely their tools.

The following is their only known communication: "Only the strongest deserve to exist. We alone will watch as the Universe fails. End your existences, or the Final Ones shall end them violently."

Unifiers
The Unifiers seek to include all sapient life in a single group mind. They do not ask permission. Unifier colonies have 100% loyalty.

Curators/Gardeners/Caretakers
The Caretakers are fascinated with the diversity of life, especially but not only sapient life, and attempt to tend and increase that diversity. It is thought the Caretakers are responsible for constructing Gaian worlds and for seeding sapient life in fallow galaxies.

Engineers/Builders
The builders are primarily interested with making stuff. It is thought the starlane networks were created by the Engineers.

Observers
The observers avoid interaction with the universe and instead accumulate knowledge and information.


Protectors/Guardians
The polar opposite of the Final ones, these guys will fight any evil Precursors and protect the weaker races. They mean bussiness and have the firepower to do it. They are also something of a opposite to the Unifiers since they are quite violent.

Experimenters
A Precursor species that likes to experiment with other species to either improve the universe or further their own desires. They have never quite gotten the hang of those pesky morals. The player can approach them to "upgrade" his or her own species. But this isn't without risks, your people could turn into insane cannibals that eat and kill anything in their way.

Mysterious Sleepers
The sleepers have been snoozing for a long time and are finally waking up to go about their bussiness. A mystery faction, they will either approach the player with diplomacy or simply attack to gain access to a planet. Afterwards they leave to a unknown location. Working with this species could be to your advantage (unless their plan is to destroy all life).

Isolationists
They don't like it when others visit their territory. They are not the most social, but they won't bother you if you don't bother them. This species could be a problem when you want to expand your territory. On the other hand, they are also a great defense from other species that would need to cross their territory to get to you.


I also think that the storyline we all have been wanting to crowbar in is a bit too static. How about multible types of storymodes that can be selected near the start of the game?

Here's some examples:

First Ones
There are no Precursors in this game, all the player races are the first ones to have achieved spacetravel.

Giants in the playground
The game starts with both player races and Precursors. The Precursors have the advantage from the start. The player should try to ally with various species to survive. A alliance with a Precursor would be the best.

Late arrival
The Precursors show up after 300 or so turns.



Now how's that?

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PostPosted: Wed Dec 31, 2008 10:58 pm 
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Skaro wrote:
I also think that the storyline we all have been wanting to crowbar in is a bit too static. How about multible types of storymodes that can be selected near the start of the game?

Here's some examples:

First Ones
There are no Precursors in this game, all the player races are the first ones to have achieved spacetravel.

Giants in the playground
The game starts with both player races and Precursors. The Precursors have the advantage from the start. The player should try to ally with various species to survive. A alliance with a Precursor would be the best.

Late arrival
The Precursors show up after 300 or so turns.

I agree that the player should have the option to play without any Precursor incursions. ...But not by becoming "first ones", without Precursors there would be no-one to leave useful/dangerous/cool junk around the galaxy.

I believe i've suggested (at least i meant to get around to writing that) that the player can choose any/all/none of the Precursor incursions and major objects to possibly appear in his galaxy. I think preserving some element of surprise is important. If he has selected more than one option, the player won't know which of the Precursor will invade his galaxy, or if there is any or more than one Orion-type planet.

As for "Giants in the Playground" (B5 reference?) that sounds cool, but practically i think it would be a balancing nightmare on a random galaxy. Starting too close to a hostile Precursor power could make it absolutely impossible for the player to win from the beginning. The only real option is to gimp the precursors so they aren't significantly stronger (over all) than a regular player— but various empires of differing strength sounds like something more appropriate to a specific scenario or campaign. I'm specifically addressing a standard, random game in this thread.

Your suggestions for new Precursors seem to designed for a "Giants in the Playground"-type campaign galaxy, and as such i'll pass them by in this thread, at this time.

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PostPosted: Thu Jan 01, 2009 1:36 am 
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Easy fix for the Giants in the Playground 'problem. Players start off with ten populated worlds (in a "huge" galaxy") -- Precursors start off with 1 populated world, and a severely impeded population growth rate. (After all; just because you have gained cosmic powers doesn't mean you can still breed like rabbits -- and certainly prolonged childhoods is a characteristic of more intellectually developed species here on Earth.)

This gives the early players a huge production / research edge -- but they will obviously have to use that to "catch up" to how far ahead the precursors would be. (You could even of course attempt espionage against precursors -- but that would not necessarily be in your best interest.) And like in B5, they would occasionally toss technology "bones" to the "inheritor"/player races.

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PostPosted: Thu Jan 01, 2009 7:40 am 
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IConrad wrote:
Easy fix for the Giants in the Playground 'problem. Players start off with ten populated worlds (in a "huge" galaxy") -- Precursors start off with 1 populated world, and a severely impeded population growth rate.

The relative (dis)advantage of having more initial planets or a slow growth rate would vary greatly with galaxy size and the number of players. Again, this is something that could be made to balance under specific conditions, (i.e. in a hand-crafted scenario) but would not hold up under the varied possible settings of a random, standard game.

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PostPosted: Thu Jan 01, 2009 8:31 pm 
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Quote:
The relative (dis)advantage of having more initial planets or a slow growth rate would vary greatly with galaxy size and the number of players. Again, this is something that could be made to balance under specific conditions, (i.e. in a hand-crafted scenario) but would not hold up under the varied possible settings of a random, standard game.
So tie the number of worlds and/or growth rate to the size of the galaxy.

MoO II had an option to start at varying tech levels. This could be a similar option. No need to de-randomize or require specific scenarios.

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PostPosted: Fri Jan 02, 2009 7:17 pm 
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We could place precursors in the center of the galaxy and have all the player races near the edge. We could also have them ignore the "lesser races" for a certain number of turns.

Quote:
I agree that the player should have the option to play without any Precursor incursions. ...But not by becoming "first ones", without Precursors there would be no-one to leave useful/dangerous/cool junk around the galaxy.


That's a drawback. Alternately we could have another storymode to compensate for this:

Picking up the pieces
There are no more precursors in the galaxy, they either left or got wiped out. Though there are still many artifacts left by them.

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PostPosted: Fri Jan 02, 2009 9:40 pm 
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Well the way I see it, the OP was Precursurs that

1) left stuff
and
2) "Visited" through incursions

but were not Present

I could see various Levels of Precursors as the game setting

1. None... no Artifacts, no Incursions, etc. All populations either evolved on the planet they are on. You ARE the Precursors

2. Long gone... Artifacts, Nonnative populations, etc. signs op previous technologically advanced empires.... but they aren't there and never visit

3. Interfering... the OP idea, all of the above, pluss the Precursors are alive and well... but not here, their ships are spread throughout the universe and you really hope they don't come to visit... but they might

4. Present...Active Precursor presence in the universe,.... must be minimally active however for game balance... Essentially precursor Outposts, Military and diplomatic interaction may be possible, but they will keep to themselves unless strongly provoked... Successful invasion/raid of a Precursor outpost is likely to trigger incursions.

3+4 could be merged depending on the level of activity


Isolationist Precursors would be valid only if they were actually In the galaxy. The problem is that would basically just be an impassible system/uncolonizable world. If an entire Precursor races strength was concentrated in one spot... they should be unbreakable by any player empire/They also can be modeled by the Observers.

Mysterious Sleepers... essentially all precursors should be like this... you don't know what they want, until they actially do it... eventually you may figure out what their goals are.


Essentially The Precursors will be categorized on what they do to you when they have no limits on them

1. Destroy=Final Ones
2. Conquer/Rule completely=Unifiers
3. Random/No pattern=Experimenters (generally destructive of your empire because they meddle)
4. Weaken but preserve=Caretakers/Protecters/Gardners/Guardians [weaken the strong + support the weak to preserve diversity]
5. Nothing=Isolationists/Observers/Engineers/Builders




The idea of a Mix of empires at different levels is also Interesting, but would have to be balanced... it might be like playing a Native American Tribe/empire in a "history of the Americas" game... you are dealing with powers whose empires extend to multiple galaxies. This is probably not their home galaxy. You will never defeat them, but you may be able to persuade them to leave/cooperate with you because that is the most efficient strategy for them in terms of dealing with each other.

What you could be given is points to spend on how much development you already had, ala Civ4's advanced start... buy starting techs/ships/planets/population/meter levels, etc.


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PostPosted: Sun Jan 04, 2009 2:01 am 
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Thanks to Krikkitone for a good summary.

Would it definitely be too game-unbalancing to have precursors present as an empire in the galaxy? Something like this was done in the SMAC expansion SM Alien Crossfire (or SMAX for short). In this case the precursors were the survivors from opposing factions of the race that created the planet. Both factions were more powerful than any of the other 'none-precursor' factions, but were also hamstrung by the fact that they were basically cut-off and marooned on planet. (Consider how weak and impotent we might be when shipwrecked on a desert island.)

Thus the precursor races were sufficiently strong to be more powerful than non-precursors, but could be thwarted either by ganging up on them, or by exploiting the rivalry between the opposing precursor factions. I am very cautious about seeming to make AI related demands from the developers, but I do think it is fair to believe that a goal of the AI development will be to make weaker empires less likely to fight one another and more likely to co-operate against stronger empires. Is it not therefore true that the game will include 'natural' balancing factors for such over-mighty empires, including precursors? Therefore can't the precursors not be included in the game in the "giants in the playground" scenario?

Also, it might be nice if it were possible to negotiate with some of the precursors, to trade with them. Perhaps if you agreed to go to war against any genocidal races the "Caretakers/Curators" might agree to turn one of your worlds into a Gaian one. Maybe you could purchase limited information from the "Observers" about an unexplored system perhaps. I'm not sure what you could sell them that they would be interested in though. And clearly there would have to be some pretty strong caveats on what worlds the "Caretakers" would make Gaian - small, poor specials, not your homeworld, etc. I expect they would be pretty unhappy if you were to renege on your deal, or start killing many members of other species.

I imagine that the free Gaian world from the "Caretakers" will simply be far too game-unbalancing and should therefore be forgotten. Maybe if it were just limited to a free terraforming it might be a bit more reasonable. Either way it is only an idea and not to be taken too seriously.


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PostPosted: Tue Jan 06, 2009 2:15 am 
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Sui Generis wrote:
Would it definitely be too game-unbalancing to have precursors present as an empire in the galaxy? Something like this was done in the SMAC expansion SM Alien Crossfire (or SMAX for short). In this case the precursors were the survivors from opposing factions of the race that created the planet. Both factions were more powerful than any of the other 'none-precursor' factions, but were also hamstrung by the fact that they were basically cut-off and marooned on planet. (Consider how weak and impotent we might be when shipwrecked on a desert island.)

The alien factions in SMAX were IMHO well balanced, but you haven't got to the heart of why it worked. Being "cut off and marooned" for instance is part of the story text but doesn't really effect game mechanics. The important factors:

    1) The Aliens start only moderately more advanced than human factions, certainly not at the far end of the tech tree.
    2) There were only 2 alien factions, and they were always at war with each other.
    3) The game was very skillfully balanced.


These SMAX aliens are thus functionally quite different from the precursors i've proposed, note particularly #1. My basic idea for the precursors (which people liked) is that they left behind a lot of stuff— including very advanced stuff that the player can only produce towards the ends of the tech tree. It would be absurd for precursors powerful enough to have casually discarded stuff like Gaian planets to be somehow crippled enough so that they didn't dominate any game. Additionally Precursors strong enough to make classic MoO "incursions" into the galaxy, far too strong to live there and compete without dominating.

Thus the precursors in the role that i've described, and any "ancient" aliens that could exist in a winnable "giants in the playground" scenario are from a game-design perspective fundamentally different things. They might be more powerful than "normal" starting species, but they are far below a true precursor's level of power. I think such crippled ancient aliens, if successfully done would be really cool. I also think they are beyond the scope of what we could accomplish for v1.0.

Such crippled ancients are compatible with the precursors back-story laid out here, but they are a different topic.

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PostPosted: Tue Jan 06, 2009 8:47 am 
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I'm thinking such powerful players should wither arrive late or not at all, knowing they're as powerful as they are.

6 precursors is quite generous, considering how powerful and rare they are. There may not be enough room in every galaxy for all of them, all at once, all the time. Too much competition, and it seems wierd if they outnumber the player species. I also saw something else I've been meaning to mention:

(The quotation has been stripped down in length for an easier read)
Skaro wrote:
Protectors/Guardians
The polar opposite of the Final ones, these guys will fight any evil Precursors and protect the weaker races.

Experimenters
A Precursor species that likes to experiment with other species to either improve the universe or further their own desires.

Mysterious Sleepers
The sleepers have been snoozing for a long time and are finally waking up to go about their business.

Isolationists
They don't like it when others visit their territory. They are not the most social, but they won't bother you if you don't bother them.


Now this is just speaking storywise.

Except for the protectors, who create a dichotomy between themselves and the final ones, these new ideas only seem to echo the ones on Eleazar's first list. Six is also a good upper limit for major league species, considering they have such a huge impact on the game. That being the case, they could still be helpful if you hybridized them with Eleazar's or he with yours. For example, while Eleazar's Observers goals are only vaguely defined as "avoiding interaction and accumulating information.", they could believably take on traits from Skaro's Isolationists or sleepers or experimenters. Here are some humble suggestions:

Observers + Isolationists = Actually nothing changes here curiously. I guess they'd trade stuff.

Final Ones + Sleepers = A menacing species, locked away and now awoken, that the universe is ill prepared to meet.

Protectors + Unifiers = A misguided protector species dealing in it's own moral absolutism.

I kind of also think it might be cool to play a precursor race. Just a thought.

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PostPosted: Wed Jan 07, 2009 7:41 pm 
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I think a few key ideas of the precursors are

Those 6 are 6 "types" of precursor... essentially a breakdown of how the player would interact with them.
You may have hundreds of "precursor races".... or for arts sake only one/two.... the Unifiers would look just like the Final One which would look just like experimenters.
In terms of them actually coming in.. you might only have one that ever comes in. And you would definitely only have one (maybe two) making massive end game incursions.

Differences between Precursors/Players

a "Precursor" race exists over a Vast multiple of galaxies
Territory is not a really significant "resource" for them. Their only real resource is their ships. (which is why they won't risk too much of them)
The total power of a Precursor race compared to a player race is effectively infinite.
The power of a Precursor race in this galaxy compared to a player race is finite.
The only reason a Precursor race doesn't do whatever they want to a player race is because of a balance of Precursor power. Too many ships used in the FO galaxy would hurt their goals in other galaxies.

So you never "beat" a Precursor race... the best you ever do is persuade them that this little galaxy isn't worth the effort. (to sterilize, assimilate, experiment with, or garden with... you wouldn't care about isolationist observers)


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PostPosted: Sat Feb 28, 2009 5:56 pm 
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You know, come to think about it, if we write the precursors into the campaign mode, all we need to say for the standard mode is "The Experimenters did it" and leave it at that.

I don't feel that the backstory to the normal mode needs more, or even as much attention as the campaign mode story. Have you ever played Super Smash Brothers Brawl? The story mode had a story because it was a story mode, but in the standard mode of play, there was no need to explain why Mario, Sonic, and two Ganondorfs are having a free-for-all on an F-Zero circuit.

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PostPosted: Sat Feb 28, 2009 6:41 pm 
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Bigjoe5 wrote:
I don't feel that the backstory to the normal mode needs more, or even as much attention as the campaign mode story. Have you ever played Super Smash Brothers Brawl? The story mode had a story because it was a story mode, but in the standard mode of play, there was no need to explain why Mario, Sonic, and two Ganondorfs are having a free-for-all on an F-Zero circuit.

Umm, really FO is quite a different genre from a silly fighting game. I've enjoyed a earlier Smash Bros. games, but it's not a thoughtful game that people expect to make any sense at all.

Space 4X games generally have some sort of backstory that frames and explains the gameplay. They add something good and expected to the game. Smash Bros. is not our model.

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