4X games are inherently complicated. So special care must be taken that the complexity is manageable, comprehensible, and not excessive.
One of the ways that MoO1 & 2 (to a slightly lesser degree) kept things manageable, where MoO3 failed, is in the layering and depth of screens. In the earlier MoOs you played most of the game from the galaxy map, or from other top-level screens that related to your empire or the galaxy as a whole. You can almost always see the big picture, the over-all strategic context of what your are doing. There's never much chance to forget your context, to wonder how the thing you are looking at fits into the rest of the game. Combat is partially an exception to that, but since the battle is more or less self-contained, and all you need to take from the broader context is weather it is more important to preserve your fleet, or retain the system-- there's not too much chance of a disconnect.
On the whole, MoO1 & 2 give you the galaxy as your game-board. It's it relatively easy to see and understand the big picture, to form your strategy on a galactic level.
MoO3 fails here, with many levels and layers of screens. You frequently need to drill down through various screens to find out what's going on, or to change it. And once you've drilled down, it it can be easy to forget how the thing you are looking at fits into the big picture. “Wait, which planet is this? What is it next to? Which ships are already here?” No doubt some of you with patience learned to feel comfortable with MoO3, but there is a lot more clicking and navigating that must be done to figure out what's going on. It's not nearly as playable.
I'm not primarily complaining about the GUI, but they way content and information is nested and layered. Galaxy > System > Planet > Region. A lot of information and content at each level. The GUI is bad too.
FreeOrion so far has done a number of things to minimize drilling down, and allowing the focus to remain on the high-level strategic game.
- * Highly streamlined/simplified planet management that fits in a sidebar, thus your location in the galaxy is always visible. This is why we don't have regions, moons, multi-species planets or MoO2-style buildings.
* Fleet management in a floating window, allowing the galatic position to still be visible when you review/split your fleets.
* Fleet position is indefinitely "in the system somewhere" except during battle-- no specific position that you can’t learn from glancing at the galaxy map.
* Things that take you away from the galaxy map (i.e. Research, Design) are "global" - there's no local context.
* Avoiding "flashy" stuff like 3D galaxy map, or 3D combat, in the name of practical accessibility.
We obviously have a lot left to do, but the foundation has been laid for a game that could really work, without bogging the player down.
Proposed mechanics should be evaluated on weather they support or undermine FO's established top-level strategic style. Because adding additional layers not only makes the game more harder to play, more complex to balance, but requires more stuff to be coded to reach 1.0.