There is a topic about how they are too powerful, and I quite disagree with it.
Namely, Snowflakes are fine imho, they make very good but fragile scouts at early game if one has the chance to get them, and when they mature they make capable but certainly not overwhelming fighters, to the extent that they become useless late-middle game.
Juggernauts are indeed extremely powerful once matured, but they are so slow that they make for an interesting challenge rather than "destroying the game" through their might, especially now that fighters can tear them up if in sufficient numbers.
Of course their slowness is less a problem for defence than for attack, so they can be seen as too much an advantage for the Empire that gets them early, but as it's quite rare to get more than one Large Juggernaut, one has to choose between defending one's Homeworld OR the Juggernaut Nest, leaving no good choice.
Krakens are the one who are powerful enough to crush enemy military early game while being quick enough to be deployed to the front line without being outmaneuvered easily, so maybe they are the ones who need some re-balancing.
The main qualm I have with Space Monsters is that if they are on average quite balanced (an outpost is not a small investment early game, so yes like other specials they are indeed an interesting addition to an Empire but can be quite crippling if the investment doesn't pay off and one gets no matured anything for a long time after outposting the nest), all one need is two or three good "rolls of the dice" early to shatter the game balance : a Great Kraken or Large Juggernaut being a, well, unstoppable Juggernaut even at the end of the early game, that can and most probably will destroy everything in its wake.
A good thing to address that "unstoppable Juggernaut" thing could be to prevent any other allied ship to go in the same system than a space monster as long as a specific technology (either existing one in the Bio line, like Xenogenetics, or a new one "Ship Hull Pheromone Coating") hasn't been researched.
That way an expeditionary corp being launched at you wouldn't be invulnerable because a huge space monster is in it, one could use hit-and-run tactics to target the accompanying fleet (notably the one including the troop ships).
Globally, Space Monsters are so dependent on luck and randomness that they really hinder strategic calculations.
It is true that strategy entails both detailed calculations of the different outcomes (and the ways to reach them) and quick adaptation to changing conditions, so having both ships for the "detailed calculations" part and Space Monsters for the "ever changing conditions" part is a good thing, but "managing randomness" is an important part of any strategic game with random aspects and there are too few in FreeOrion (only "build an outpost or don't build an outpost" then "move the monster or leave it mature in an proper system").
Also, they range from underpowered to useless late game, except maybe for Large Juggernauts.
A lot of the propositions I've seen are to make them more like ships, which is understandable strategically but would reduce their unique flavor and thus seems to me the wrong direction to go.
What we need is managing randomness as written above, and specific mechanics for allowing them to keep course with ordinary ships when the game evolves.
1 - Managing randomness :
The way to go imho is to let research modify the spawning and maturing algorithms.
Instead of a flat chance of spawning each turn, once the unlocking research has been completed (either something like Megafauna Endocrine System, or a new specific tech) the formula would be
Code: Select all
Chance_of_Spawn = a + kt + b + c/10
a : the flat chance of spawning that we have now
k : a constant determined by the technology level (let's say it would be 0,01 after Megafauna Endocrine System, 0,02 after Controlled Ravenous Bio-Adaptation, 0,03 after Megafauna Ecology, and so on)
t : the number of turns since last monster spawned on the same nest
b : a constant tied to the specie that inhabit the planet on which is the nest ("animal husbandry ability" of the specie). Probably 0,01 for most species, -0,01 for exobots, and varying levels up to 0,05 for "good herders"
c : a constant tied to the species that inhabit the system of the outpost (sum of the values of the species inhabiting the system)
A similar formula, using different techs as unlocking factors, could be used for maturing (t being the number of turns since the monster is on a proper system - there would be a rationale to leave it on a system rather than moving it).
2 - Upgrading Monsters :
Then, to make better monsters as a technological path, starting with Genetic Manipulation we can unlock genetic selection of better monsters.
That would mean unlocking mutually exclusive buildings that can be built on the Colony/Outposts where the Nest is, different buildings being unlocked by different technologies:
- Heterochromatic Enzyme Laboratory : each turn new spawned monsters would gain 1 Structure for Mature Form, 0,5 structure for Intermediate Form, and 0,10 for Spawning form.
To be clear, what I mean is new spawning monsters will get this bonus which grow over time, already spawned or matured¹ monsters don't change their characteristics.
For example, if we have three Larval Krakens, let's call them Huey, Dewey and Louie.
Huey spawns on turn 23 and matures to Kraken on turn 31 then to Great Kraken on turn 44.
Dewey spawns on turn 30, matures to Kraken on turn 50.
Louie spawns on turn 44, matures to Kraken on turn 49 and to Great Kraken on turn 58.
The Heterochromatic Enzyme Lab is built on turn 32.
Huey will then have its normal 20 structure that he keeps until he matures at turn 31 where he'll have 100 structure, that he'll keep until he matures to Great Kraken where he'll have 1012 structure (1000 for Great Kraken, 12 for the twelve turns of genetic selection towards improved structure) until the end of the game or death takes him apart.
Dewey will have its normal 20 structures that he'll keep until he matures to Kraken where he'll have 109 structure (100 for Kraken, 9 for the eighteen turns of genetic selection towards improved structure).
Louie will have 23 structure (20 for Larval Kraken, 3 for the twelve turns of genetic selection towards improved structure) that he'll keep until he matures to Kraken where he'll have 108,5 structure (100 for Kraken, 8,5 for selection) that he'll keep until he matures to Great Kraken where he'll have 1026 structure (1000 + 26 turns since the building started working).
- Muscular Dynamics Laboratory : each turn new spawned monsters would gain 0,1 Speed²
- Chitinous Latticing Laboratory : each turn new spawned monsters would gain 0,1 Damage for Mature form and 0,05 for Intermediate form
- Protein Pre-Folding Laboratory : each turn new spawned monsters would grow 0,01 Damage in addition to the 0,1 they grow naturally (so if this building is built on turn 32 instead of the Heterochromatic Enzyme Laboratory, Louie would do its normal damage at maturation but would grow it by 0,36 by turn)
- Stem-Cells Nanoprogrammation Laboratory : each turn new spawned monsters would gain the ability to regenerate 0,01 Structure per turn
- Bio-Vibration Harmonics Laboratory : each turn new spawned monsters would gain 0,01 Shield for Mature form
- Artificial Insemination Laboratory : each turn the probability to spawn a new monster would be augmented by 0,1%
- Mega-Fauna Hormonal Balance Laboratory : each turn the probability of a Spawning form monster to mature to Intermediate form would be augmented by 0,1%
- Telomere Replication Laboratory : each turn the probability of an Intermediate form monster to mature to Mature form would be augmented by 0,1%
- Controlled Mutations Laboratory : each turn there is a probability of
- ExoSymbiosis Laboratory : each turn there is a probability of
You will have noted that since all these buildings are incompatible and work only for the monster type that spawn on the attached Nest, the only way to select both Speed and Structure ameliorations for Krakens would be to have two Kraken Nests³.
I don't see why multiple Laboratories of the same type at different Nests should not stack their effects.
Some advanced technologies could also increase the turn-per-turn bonus provided by each Laboratory.
3 - Cybernetic Monsters :
There has been a lot of propositions to make monsters bear technological weapons, which I definitely find badass too.
The ways to make it work were not in accordance with the specific nature of spawning-and-maturing-monsters mechanism, though.
My idea is to use the same principle as above: researching Cyborgs unlocks the building "Mega-Fauna Immuno-Suppression Laboratory" and once the building is built, each turn there is a probability of
Once the mutation has occurred, the Design Panel allows for the corresponding Hull which has all the characteristics of the monster plus N free external slots⁴ (N being the numbers of mutations since the building of the ImmunoSuppression Laboratory).
The player can then choose whatever he wants to put in those External Slots, and new monsters maturing to Mature form inside supply will get them.
Obviously, that allows for only one type of cybernetic transformation for a given monster type (Kraken, Snowflake or Juggernaut) at a given time.
A more elaborate way would allow multiple cybernetic transformations : when the player saves the cybernetic design in the Design panel, it generates a new building "Design_Name Harnassement". Building one of these buildings on a Nest will make all monsters spawned there to get this particular design when maturing.
A similar building ("Mega-Fauna Internal Physiology Laboratory") would allow integration of internal slots, which in my idea would be limited to Hangar Bays, Krill Spawner and Solarweb⁵.
We could also have monster-specific hangar bays, which would host more efficient fighters (probably by being more numerous). It is also my opinion that Solarweb should double its bonus on Space Monsters given the adequate technology ("Symbiotic Photoelectric generation").
¹ Yes, anybody with a biology background will cringe at seeing genetic selection affecting organisms born after the selection, but the way FreeOrion works as I understand it is that when a monster mature, what happens is that the "larval" form disappear and the mature form "spawns" at the location, so doing it another way would mean changing too much.
² To simplify, I consider here that all monsters have the same laboratories, but it's definitely possible to have Laboratories specific to each Monster Nest, so this bonus of 0,1 per turn would be only for Snowflakes, Krakens would get 0,05 and Juggernauts 0,02.
³ Also it would be possible to alternate between selecting for Speed and selecting for Structure by scraping the Heterochromatic Enzyme Laboratory in order to build the Muscular Dynamics Laboratory, but since scraped buildings give no additional bonus and building a new one takes a certain number of turns, it's inefficient and thus these micro-managy tactics would be discouraged.
⁴ I acknowledge of course that this would require more change in code so that the Design panel would accommodate these features, so it can wait for longer that what I propose above.
⁵ Disruption modulator maybe ? Fuel parts are irrelevant, Speed/Engine parts break immersion imho if allowed on Space Monsters, and Stealth parts also break immersion (except for the Krill Spawner) in addition of being unbalanced.