Space Life

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Geoff the Medio
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Space Life

#1 Post by Geoff the Medio » Tue Feb 02, 2010 8:47 am

The roadmap has space monsters scheduled for FreeOrion v0.7.

Before then, I'd like to start brainstorming ideas for various types of life that could populate the galaxy, both monstrous and otherwise. I'm primarily interested in non-planetary life, although the lifecycles of space creatures or organisms could include some star or planet-based stages as well.

This isn't meant to be a discussion about races or species that players would control as a standard planetary population, although I don't want to rule out player control of (non sentient?) space lift from being part of the game, as this could be quite fun.

This also is meant as a conceptual ideas for various types of life discussion, rather than a discussion about what properties the life might actually have in gameplay. That said, I wouldn't object to there being a few types of space life that have no real gameplay purpose, and which are there mainly to give the universe some "personality" or to make things seem more alive and interesting.

So, what sorts of things might live in space between systems, floating around in systems, surrounding planets or asteroid belts, or surrounding stars?

It's generally assumed, given the roadmap, that there will be some varieties of space monsters. Presumably this includes space amobeas, dragons, or squids. What sorts of interesting story or lifecycle properties might these sorts of creatures have?

What about less animal / monster-like life?

I've been pondering "wispy tendrils" or "gossamer starstrands" or similar, which would be long, delicate web- or moss-like lifeforms that could be present in some systems.

Plant-life called "star ferns" or "cloud tree colonies" could show up growing in various system...

"Mineral Lichen" could grow on asteroids...

"Space Barnacles" could be a nuisance if not dealt with, though wouldn't really be "monsters".

"Wave Divers" might be fish-bird creatures that feed on space krill in a system, neither of which are generally threatening enough to be considered a space monster. The divers probably need a better made up, vaguely marine-sounding name... Something sounding like "cetacean".

Some of the names are a bit generic sounding, which is unfortunate. To avoid that, if there are at least two or three varieties of something, there can be two or three names for the varieties with interesting-sounding (but meaningless) words added to the names, like "crested", "whip-tailed", "humpback", "spiny", or "fringed". So we could have "whip-tailed space barnacles", "spiny star ferns", or "crested cloud tree colonies", etc.

Any other ideas or suggested details?

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Krikkitone
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Re: Space Life

#2 Post by Krikkitone » Tue Feb 02, 2010 7:18 pm

One idea;
"Von Neumans"
ie Self-replicating AIs... but not AI enough to qualify as a race... essentially the planets would continually produce Military of various levels... which Might attack anything present... including each other.

If only one planet was infested it would only produce orbitals and ground troops
If the whole system was infested, they would produce system ships (that could infest other planets)

One that could produce Starlane capable ships would be good for a 'galactic disaster'. (as soon as all the ground forces were eliminated on a planet, it would get infested the population would be eliminated.. by the ground forces produced.)

The forces would be of a Fixed technology level.

Defeating all the ground forces on a VN world could yield a tech bonus, as the planet becomes 'uninfested'

As for Gameplay [wrote this before you saw you weren't interested in it], for any form there are a few different things
1. What does it Do to the player
Navigation hazard (slows/damages ships)
Combat danger for civilian ships only (flees combat)
Combat danger for ships in range [most MOO2 monsters]
Danger for populated/outposted planets/Asteroid belts/GG [all MOO2 monsters but space eel]
Benefit (gives some special bonus where it is present, possibly involving harvesting it...using it up..possibly a choice; harvest this for a massive one time mineral bonus, or get a continuous research bonus by observing it.)
2. What is its "Range"
'orbit' around a single planet, Asteroid, Gas Giant, Star
Starlane entry/exit point
Starlane
System
Range from System (only travel so far from "nest" before dying/returning to feed/breed)
Interstellar [MOO2 Space Dragon]
3. Can/does it reproduce, (how fast, what conditions)
No
Numbers
Range [Space Eels from MOO2]
Numbers + Range
4. What are its combat cababilities (basically what Level of investment/technology is needed to properly get rid of this)
5. Is player cultivation and control possible? (this needs to be balanced carefully with 'benefits')
Last edited by Krikkitone on Tue Feb 02, 2010 9:03 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Space Life

#3 Post by pd » Tue Feb 02, 2010 8:09 pm

I think this fits in here too:
Image

I imagined those as flying around the galaxy, but they could also just remain in certain systems if this is desired.
A seedsphere contains everything to create a new ecosystem. It's unknown who has sent them out.

I'm not sure what to actually do with them related to gameplay.

The initial idea was to have them develop in space into state two, three etc. They could create orbital(around the sun) trees and forests. If not dealed with properly, they could absorb all light and put the entire system into shadow.

They could also be autonomous, mobile terraforming units, only targeting barren(for example) planets. Alternatively, they could be a real plague targeting every planet type and transforming it in a certain way.

They definitely should be able to defend themselves.

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Re: Space Life

#4 Post by eleazar » Tue Feb 02, 2010 8:47 pm

Geoff the Medio wrote:This isn't meant to be a discussion about races or species that players would control as a standard planetary population, although I don't want to rule out player control of (non sentient?) space lift from being part of the game, as this could be quite fun.
To clarify, you mean that players might be able to capture, domesticate, and/or train space monsters as SMAC's mindworms, not that the player would play as the spacemonsters, correct?
Geoff the Medio wrote:That said, I wouldn't object to there being a few types of space life that have no real gameplay purpose, and which are there mainly to give the universe some "personality" or to make things seem more alive and interesting.
With core, necessary features so far from complete, it seems unwise to open the door to adding content that has no gameplay function. Besides being a distraction, it starts to shift FO towards being a simulation, which for the sake of our sanity, and getting things done, IMHO we should stay far away from. Leave that sort of embellishment until after there's something we can play.


Here are my general thoughts on how space "monsters" fit into the game, and some of things they might do. It's a bit orthogonal to the topic, but not totally irrelevant.

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Re: Space Life

#5 Post by Krikkitone » Tue Feb 02, 2010 9:00 pm

pd wrote:If not dealed with properly, they could absorb all light and put the entire system into shadow.
I like that Idea...`I'd imagine "putting a system into shadow" doing something like Making all worlds one "level worse" (not changing their position, but if an inferno species was on an Inferno world in that system they wouldn't count as being optimal)

Basically giving an additional Food penalty to all the worlds in the system, and lowering max population (if it was more than a certain amount)

Although this probably should get moved to the "story" thread

Also, Space Monsters provide a really interesting possible use for Moons and Nebulas

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Re: Space Life

#6 Post by Geoff the Medio » Tue Feb 02, 2010 9:15 pm

eleazar wrote:To clarify, you mean that players might be able to capture, domesticate, and/or train space monsters as SMAC's mindworms, not that the player would play as the spacemonsters, correct?
Probably, although could you clarify your distinction between playing as and controlling space monsters? If a player's empire "controls" a planet of a particular race, is the player playing as that race, or just controlling them? Does it matter if the player's first planet is of a particular race vs. gaining control of a race on a planet later in the game? It might end up being possible to start players just with control of a single space monster, which they could use to capture a planet or ship, and eventually gain control of a more traditional empire (although this probably shouldn't be a design requirement or goal for v1.0).
With core, necessary features so far from complete, it seems unwise to open the door to adding content that has no gameplay function. Besides being a distraction, it starts to shift FO towards being a simulation, which for the sake of our sanity, and getting things done, IMHO we should stay far away from. Leave that sort of embellishment until after there's something we can play.
I'm not suggesting adding whole extra game systems just to be able to show a note in the UI about how there's a meaningless and irrelivant spotted space eel colony in a system. But, if we have a space monster system set up, with support for various other types of space life that tie into other game systems (racial prefereces towards space life, strategic or macro resources available from them, fighting space monsters, etc.) then it's not likely to be much effort to add a few extra types of space life that don't have much or any gameplay purpose, but which do make the galaxy seem more full of life, diverse and interesting for players who like exploration. And for exploration-oriented players, any addtional variety of space life or features that could be discovered during exploration and perhaps read about in the encyclopedia would actually add to gameplay, even if not strategic gampleay.

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Re: Space Life

#7 Post by RonaldX » Wed Feb 03, 2010 12:29 am

I like the idea of an all-consuming virus that annihilates anything that tries to land on a planet until enough research or radiation or firepower has been thrown at it to exterminate it and make the planet safe for colonization.

Giant space creatures are fun but you'd have to look at them more as non-biological or they wouldn't necessarily survive outer space. Crystalline or Robotic has a bit more logic to it. Maybe the crystalline space monster isn't a life form at all, simply a massive crystal that resonates at some strange frequency when a fleet travels through a starlane nearby, causing catastrophic interference to a living creature's biorythm. Basically if you leave it alone, it eventually crashes or flies past, but if move a fleet through the starlane or system it's currently in, it resonates and turns the entire population of the nearest system into puddles of jelly.

Could be used offensively by a clever player with a fast fleet, might be too overpowered for a random event.

-Ty.

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Re: Space Life

#8 Post by Krikkitone » Wed Feb 03, 2010 2:40 am

RonaldX wrote:I like the idea of an all-consuming virus that annihilates anything that tries to land on a planet until enough research or radiation or firepower has been thrown at it to exterminate it and make the planet safe for colonization.

Giant space creatures are fun but you'd have to look at them more as non-biological or they wouldn't necessarily survive outer space. Crystalline or Robotic has a bit more logic to it. Maybe the crystalline space monster isn't a life form at all, simply a massive crystal that resonates at some strange frequency when a fleet travels through a starlane nearby, causing catastrophic interference to a living creature's biorythm. Basically if you leave it alone, it eventually crashes or flies past, but if move a fleet through the starlane or system it's currently in, it resonates and turns the entire population of the nearest system into puddles of jelly.

Could be used offensively by a clever player with a fast fleet, might be too overpowered for a random event.

-Ty.
Just one point here, "Biological" =/= Carbon,Water based life form... Especially in this game

Also, the exact chemical make up of something =/= its structure and appearance... it is quite reasonable for an interstellar silicoarsenite based fusion powered organisms to look like a planet sized stuffed teddy bear, if that structure keeps it operating in which ever way it operates.

Also as for "Life form"
Well if it reproduces, then it can be considered a "life form"=biological, whether it is robotic ,crystaline, or made of paper

If it can interact in any type of interesting way. ie combat, movement involving acceleration, deacceleration, then it could be considered a 'space monster'

If all it does is slow things down, or do damage to ships passing through a certain starlane, then it is a 'Special'

(If it can do diplomacy and research techs, then it is a playable empire)

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Re: Space Life

#9 Post by Josh » Wed Feb 03, 2010 3:45 am

Okay I'm game:

I've been thinking for a while Space Pirates would make an ideal in game space monster. They randomly go from system to system
exacting tribute, blockading systems, causing general mayhem while avoiding imperial patrols. They pledge allegiance to no one (but they might change their minds for the right price) perfect space monster.

Similarly to space pirates, space barbarians that come in barbarian hordes, pillaging and ravaging worlds.

You'll probably want to treat precursor guardians as monsters too.

Benevolent lifeforms would be cool. I'm not sure what the point of that would be though. Not all life in sci-fi is necessarily hostile, some of it is even indispensable within certain sci-fi meta-verses, but maybe these would be better treated more as planet specials, unless there is a good reason to simulate benevolent, bovine alien creatures as volitional, autonomous vessels.

And how many monsters is too many exactly? Because this list can go on for a while.

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Re: Space Life

#10 Post by RonaldX » Wed Feb 03, 2010 5:45 am

Josh wrote:I've been thinking for a while Space Pirates would make an ideal in game space monster. They randomly go from system to system
exacting tribute, blockading systems, causing general mayhem while avoiding imperial patrols. They pledge allegiance to no one (but they might change their minds for the right price) perfect space monster.
Yarr.. Pirates be an excellent idea.

(Sorry. Someone had to do it.)

The only question is, what is their tech level, or does it develop as the game goes on, staying just slightly below the players?

-Ty.

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Re: Space Life

#11 Post by pd » Wed Feb 03, 2010 8:02 am

RonaldX wrote: The only question is, what is their tech level, or does it develop as the game goes on, staying just slightly below the players?
-Ty.
Well, pirates usually don't build their own ships. They either capture enemy ships or they've been part of player/AI fleets and have turned rogue. So, they can be anything, really - depending on how advanced other players/AI's are.

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Re: Space Life

#12 Post by Bigjoe5 » Wed Feb 03, 2010 5:36 pm

Occasionally, a system's star could be a space monster. I'm not sure what it would do to the system, exactly, but I imagine it would be relatively benign, unless it was attacked, in which case it would completely annihilate the/every player's holdings in that system with some kind of psychedelic solar flare attack (or perhaps such a creature could be a host organism for some type of star-dwelling life, which it can use to defend itself against any would-be attackers). It would probably take some hyper-advanced tech like Nova Bomb to destroy it.
Warning: Antarans in dimensional portal are closer than they appear.

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Re: Space Life

#13 Post by quosa » Fri Feb 05, 2010 10:51 am

hi,
i like pirates, especialy those, hungry and mad ones in Serenity/Firefly; they could ocupate or blockade an another Race to force them to build their ships;
f.e. such a social structure:
- lots of stupid, suicid/mad soldiers
- a working-class, an oppressed Race, dammed to build ships and stations
- a small "upper-class", to control the hole empire

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Re: Space Life

#14 Post by eleazar » Fri Feb 05, 2010 4:04 pm

Geoff the Medio wrote:
eleazar wrote:To clarify, you mean that players might be able to capture, domesticate, and/or train space monsters as SMAC's mindworms, not that the player would play as the spacemonsters, correct?
Probably, although could you clarify your distinction between playing as and controlling space monsters?...
Not the best phrasing on my part. If you capture and control a space aomeba, or a mindworm you have a monster unit, but it no longer is controlled by a monster AI. Monster AIs can have goals, but IMHO they should be distinct (and probably much simpler) than "player" AIs. Monsters aren't trying to win the game by accumulating planets, tech, ships, and economic power, otherwise they are not an idea for a monster, but an idea for a playable race, with some probably over-complex special rules.

In my mind the Precursors are a third category, neither monster nor player, with many of the features of a player species, but also some special limitations and rules.

Geoff the Medio wrote:
eleazar wrote:With core, necessary features so far from complete, it seems unwise to open the door to adding content that has no gameplay function. Besides being a distraction, it starts to shift FO towards being a simulation, which for the sake of our sanity, and getting things done, IMHO we should stay far away from. Leave that sort of embellishment until after there's something we can play.
I'm not suggesting adding whole extra game systems just to be able to show a note in the UI about how there's a meaningless and irrelivant spotted space eel colony in a system. But, if we have a space monster system set up, with support for various other types of space life that tie into other game systems (racial prefereces towards space life, strategic or macro resources available from them, fighting space monsters, etc.) then it's not likely to be much effort to add a few extra types of space life that don't have much or any gameplay purpose, but which do make the galaxy seem more full of life, diverse and interesting for players who like exploration. And for exploration-oriented players, any addtional variety of space life or features that could be discovered during exploration and perhaps read about in the encyclopedia would actually add to gameplay, even if not strategic gampleay.
That's somewhat reassuring. While classic space monsters such as the dragons, aomebas and squids fit easily into the game (they are essentially ships with special AIs and graphics) i don't see an obvious way that most of the examples in your top post would fit into the interface. Nor do most of them seem to have an obvious gameplay function, but i realize that is more flexible.

I understand how "non-functional" content when well-designed can enhance the game experience even if it doesn't help you win. I'm not really a powergamer, that only cares about maximizing my numbers. And this is a brainstorming thread, people can think up as many crazy ideas as they want. But i still don't think it's wise to encourage at this point the development of content that isn't gameplay related.

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Re: Space Life

#15 Post by Babylon Drifter » Tue Feb 23, 2010 8:09 am

Back again, 3 years later ... project looks beautiful, wish I could help.

Space beasties ... here's some ideas I had:

The Black Ooze: You enter a system, and all planets are shiny black Toxic worlds, coated in a kilometer of ooze, and uncolonizable - anything landing on them is destroyed. However, said planets would show up as enemy targets for bombardment (most likely just showing a normal population stat - 20 million cubic kilometers of ooze or the like). Once the bombardment begins, the fun starts - The Black Ooze defends itself by launching globules into space, which then must be engaged as if they were enemy ships. Globules close to range and attack by contact, smothering ships and reducing their movement/attack stats and damaging them (or by launching projectiles, if that's easier to model in-game). Each Ooze planet can launch a number of globules commensurate with its size. Once the globules are defeated, the planets can be bombarded until they become barren (should take quite a lot of bombardment). Until they are made barren, new globules form every few turns, based on planet size. Once planets are barren, they can be colonized.

Dire Comet: A massive, sentient comet that enters a system with malign intent. It's purpose is to impact on a chosen world, thus seeding the planet with its spores. It would have limited defensive abilities (perhaps only close-range energy attacks, or none at all) but would be able to absorb an incredible amount of damage. Fleets would have to destroy it before impact, or the planet suffers massive population loss and possible reduction in habitability (Terran to Tundra, etc.).

Sleeper: A small, toxic moon in the system is actually a powerful, ancient creature in hibernation. It is awakened by a trigger (any colony in the system reaching a certain population threshold, for instance). Once awakened, it reveals itself and ravages the system. The Sleeper must be dealt with by the fleet. It can bombard planets and destroy ships. Artwork could be anything; it might look like a rocky crustacean or have lots o' tentacles and eyeballs. Alternatively, it could use telepathy to randomly "possess" ships for use against other ships in the system, and only be triggered when the moon is disturbed by colonization, mining, or bombardment.

Arachnoids: Essentially a group of giant spider/crab things that travels through space to feed on organics on planets and breed. Arriving in a system, they infest a planet and begin to strip it of organics (if there is a colony, it is gradually destroyed - possible advanced ground combat can slow/stop them). Once planets are barren, they spawn a new swarm or two and move on to a new planet. In space, Arachnoids can spit projectiles at range, and spawn young to impact and grapple ships, destroying systems and slowing them. It should take a long time for them to strip a world, so they would most often be encountered as a planetary infestation, but they could also arrive in-system from a nearby infested system. Artwork could be a huge, rocky, spider-crab that folds its limbs in space but shows up visibly on the surface of infested planets. If game mechanics prohibit directly infesting the planet, they could remain in orbit.

Asteroid Lurker: A heavily stealthed monster that lives in asteroid belts. Impossible to detect without advanced scanning, it occasionally reveals itself to attack ships in the system before fading back into the belt. Disrupts mining and trade to some extent (possibly using sabotage game mechanics) and is annoyingly hard to engage but not particularly difficult to defeat if you can detect and target it. More than one could occur in a system. It's physical appearance could be anything the artists could dream up, or just a mass of shimmering darkness or distorted space.

Warp Vapors: Glowing, semi-intelligent gas clouds appear out of nowhere to randomly teleport in and out of existence while zapping ships and planets randomly with energy beams. Not particularly deadly, but interferes with commerce and reduces planetary populations and infrastructure, similar to very low-level bombardment (they wouldn't zap a planet every turn, and would only zap ships that happen to be nearby). To defeat them, you have to use fast ships and get lucky; most battles against the Warp Vapors would end in a draw. They show up in a system without warning, causing a case of "The Warp Vapors".

Star Leech: A plasma-worm that inhabits the surface and corona of stars, feeding on them. Causes the star to become turbulent, irradiating planets in the system and reducing population and productivity slightly. Defends itself by belching plasma if attacked.

Fun stuff to think about ... for me, anyway!

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