Tech tree fundamentals

For what's not in 'Top Priority Game Design'. Post your ideas, visions, suggestions for the game, rules, modifications, etc.

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Geoff the Medio
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#31 Post by Geoff the Medio » Fri Jul 30, 2004 9:37 pm

I think the difficulty in finding what you want is mostly resolving by having only a single "vague" category ("Theoretical Physics"), that's specifically meant to include things that are hard to classify in other more application-focused categories (like "Ship Weapons"). The application categories are specific enough to cover anything you might want to find with one or two tries at most. If they don't, there's only one other place to look.

(And not having "Theoretical Physics" doesn't eliminate the need for a few tries with some of the categories. That's due to probably unavoidable overlaps in categories no matter what we call them.)

"Theoretical Physics" could even be renamed "Pure Research" or "General" if that helps. imho, "not categorizable" is almost as important to have as "Socio-Economics" or "Psycho-Sociological". Calling it "Theoretical Physics" is just more atmospheric/fun.

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#32 Post by Aquitaine » Fri Jul 30, 2004 10:20 pm

I appreciate what you're saying to some extent, in the same way that I appreciate the mystique of not showing the whole tech tree at game start -- but after you've played the game a few times, you've memorized it, and what the techs are stop being the focus so much as how you prioritize and achieve them.
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#33 Post by Geoff the Medio » Sat Jul 31, 2004 1:06 am

Ok, call it "General" or "Miscellaneous" rather than "Theoretical Physics" or "Natural Philosophy", so that the first three games' tech tree progress is as "boring" as the next 80...

That's not a reason to not have the category at all though, is it?

(I can't tell if you're still rejecting the idea or not... I thought I'd covered most of your concerns though...)

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#34 Post by Aquitaine » Sat Jul 31, 2004 1:37 am

I just don't see a point to highly generalized categories, and as far as I'm concerned, the idea was already rejected, so what I think of it now doesn't make too much of a difference. :)

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#35 Post by Geoff the Medio » Sat Jul 31, 2004 9:22 pm

While generalized categories were rejected (or rather, specific ones passed), did the decision specifically reject having a single HoI nulclear and electronics-like category of bonuses and unlocking in other categories, in addition to the specific ones?

And really, this one category is specific... just not to a particular application, like the others.

If set up properly, it wouldn't be necessary to hunt in it for the theory that unlocks something in an application category... the theories would unlock stuff in all other categories.

I'm not asking for MOO2-esque generic categories that go completely against the passed plan. What I propose is just a small addition (which I believe you said are possible).

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#36 Post by Aquitaine » Sat Jul 31, 2004 10:23 pm

Yeah, that's possible, and you're right in that we didn't explicitly reject that sort of thing. Probably we'll have a public review on categories before we start the actual content submissions.
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#37 Post by emrys » Thu Aug 05, 2004 10:11 am

Damn, wrote this whole thing out then lost it when I tried to submit because I wasn't logged in... I hate that. As a result this may not be as well thought out as the original version I wanted to post.. I'll probably edit it as I remember the stuff I wrote first time, so bear with me.

General Idea

categories should relate to the game directly, such that they relate to and support player strategic choices. Sci-fi fluff for names is o.k. if people like it, but shouldn't distract from the idea that the category is supposed to actually group things meaningfully, so perhaps we shoud worry about 'fluffy' names later. So the acid test should be "What does discovering a player's relative tech level in a particular category tell me about their likely capabilities/strategy/playing style?".

If the answer is mostly "nothing" (e.g. Moo3 categories) then this is a very poor category name. (IMHO 'theoretical physics' is edging into this direction.

If the anwswer is "lots of overlapping and uncertain stuff to some small degree", then the category is probably too wide and should be split.

However, if the answer is "one or two clear and disctinct facts" then it's passed the goldilocks test, and is "just right".

Identification

So, using this reasoning, if we had just two categories, they should be "Build" and "Conquer".

Expanding the level of detail, build naturally splits first into industry and research driven as the major split in strategies of 'builders'. Next is a split between continual expansion (i.e. mostly colonisation) and buidling up the worlds you already have to their maximum potential (requiring teraforming etc.)

A Conquest strategy first splits on the emphasis between trade and diplomacy vs. espionage vs. actual fighting. Actual fighting would seem to involve defending your planets, and then the fairly large area of ships.

* As a side note: ships, although a large part of the game and so deserving of several categories all to themselves, are probably best left as a single category for now (v0.31) until we sort out the ship/combat model, which will determine the different strategies that can sensibly be persued. For illustrative purposes however, I'll pre-empt that a little bit and stick in my personal preferences a an example of possible furture useage.

Which brings us to:

Suggestion

-Industrial Development (mining, industry, basic shipyard techs, other things that use industry)
-Advanced Research (techs with medium-long term payoffs in research speed, general techy stuff)
-Expansion (colonisation, exploration)
-Planetary Adaptation (terraforming, food, health/growth)

-Diplomacy and trade
-Espionage
-(Planetary Defences / starbases / other 'turtling' techs)

[edit]-ships* i.e. { -Escorts (small/medium starships)
{ -Capital ships (large/huge starships)
{ -Stand off tactics (e.g. missiles/torpedos/fighters) [/edit]

-ships* i.e. { -Attrition/Flexibility (small/medium starships, stealth,light weapons~"small ship strategy")
{ -Fleet Superiority (bigger,stronger hulls, heavy weapons~"big ship strategy")
{ -Stand off tactics (e.g. missiles/torpedos/fighters)
p.s.

@Aq did we/ have you banned 'micro-trees' of multiple semi-parallel "strands" within categories or not. I think it would help to reduce need/tendancy to split categories, by supporting multiple varieties within a category , e.g. the "metal box/bio/rock" ship types suggested in other threads, or to allow you to persue espionage/counter espionage strategies without needing to bloat the number of categories.

Edits:

-should have been clear that the suggested list is meant to be a refinement of Aq's.
-changed names of suggested ship categories per Geoff's observations
Last edited by emrys on Fri Aug 06, 2004 6:43 am, edited 1 time in total.

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#38 Post by Geoff the Medio » Thu Aug 05, 2004 5:08 pm

emrys wrote:General Idea

categories should relate to the game directly, such that they relate to and support player strategic choices.
I don't think different categories for different strategies is really a workable way to divide up techs. There are far too many variations or sub-strategies for each specific one to have its own category, and even with fairly general categories, there is a lot of overlap. In that case, categories would end up being little more than convenient sorting filters, with relevant techs for a given stategy grouped together... (with lots of overlap between the contents of different filters). In fact, splitting up strategy categories into more focused and specific categories would seem to me to actually increase the overlapping between similar categories, as each category would have only as mall difference from the others similar to it, and much of the same "general" or unchanged stuff... I don't see how to avoid this without a huge selection of far-too-specific techs...

Mostly applications-based grouping is much more workable, and is just as "meaningful" as grouping by stragegies, if not more so, imo.

Perhaps a middle ground could be found, with more HoI-esque categories, with one devoted to each "class" of weapon, such as long range indirect, short range direct, fighters, etc. Doing this and calling it "strategy" would probably mean having the same blancing between all of the classes throughout the game, which is a bad limitation to impose just to make your tech tree divisions work better...

Regarding "theoretical physics" in a strategy paradigm system: it would have a meaningful role. If an empire has a lot of research in theoretical physics, that means they're persuing the strategy of not building up a powerful refined military now, but are racing ahead to more poweful later technologies.


All that said, your suggested categories don't look that much different from the previous suggestions of mine and Aq's... your adv. reserach basically is my "theoretical physics", even if the connotations of the names aren't quite the same...

Also, I don't see how "escorts" is a viable strategy. Wouldn't you want categories like "naval superiority" for a huge fleet of powerful ships (which includes smaller ones for combined fleet operations in the open), "stealth and attrition" for smaller, less powerful but harder to track ships to raid behind enemy lines, as well as relevant ship techs in the diplomacy/trade/espionage categories?

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#39 Post by emrys » Fri Aug 06, 2004 6:39 am

Geoff the Medio wrote:Regarding "theoretical physics" in a strategy paradigm system: it would have a meaningful role. If an empire has a lot of research in theoretical physics, that means they're persuing the strategy of not building up a powerful refined military now, but are racing ahead to more poweful later technologies.

All that said, your suggested categories don't look that much different from the previous suggestions of mine and Aq's... your adv. reserach basically is my "theoretical physics", even if the connotations of the names aren't quite the same...
I agree entriely that they are essentially the same, so long as other people continue to use "theoretical physics" in the way you envisage it, i.e. as "tech tha improve research ability or unlock weird applications/improvements", and not in the way it will likely drift to, "anything physicsy sounding, e.g. most weapons, shields, engines, probably some hull techs etc.". The difference is that I think we need to be fairly careful not to introduce the 'sci-fi flavour fluff' (as Drek calls it) too early, i.e. when there isn't concrete stuff behind it to clarify it. It's best to choose category names that are fairly clear and indicative in and of themselves. For that reason I think "Advanced Research" is a better name for this category than "Theoretical Physics".

As for my suggestions not looking that different from your's and Aq's (closer to Aq's I'd hope), that's one of the "gone missing in the second post things". The first time I wrote it I included a bit which acknowledged that my list was mostly meant to be a refinement of Aq's.
Also, I don't see how "escorts" is a viable strategy. Wouldn't you want categories like "naval superiority" for a huge fleet of powerful ships (which includes smaller ones for combined fleet operations in the open), "stealth and attrition" for smaller, less powerful but harder to track ships to raid behind enemy lines, as well as relevant ship techs in the diplomacy/trade/espionage categories?
And on this point, yep, you're right. Hoist on my own petard there I think... "Escorts" is a crap name, because as you point out it implies supporting or second rate ships in a big ship strategy, not smaller ships used in their own right, I'll adopt your naming I think.

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#40 Post by Geoff the Medio » Fri Aug 06, 2004 8:54 am

This post is huge. There's a final listing of categories at the end if you don't want to read the bulk of my rambling...
emrys wrote:As for my suggestions not looking that different from your's and Aq's (closer to Aq's I'd hope), that's one of the "gone missing in the second post things". The first time I wrote it I included a bit which acknowledged that my list was mostly meant to be a refinement of Aq's.
I'm not Aq, and am not in his head, but I don't think your "strategies" paradigm is really a refinement of what he suggested. To me, his categories seem weakly appliations focused, though his whole set of suggestions is a bit odd and "off-the-cuff" and hard to understand the logic behind...
Aquitaine wrote:Energy Projection (contains ship and ground weapons and shields)
Ballistic Projection (contains ship and ground weapons and shields)
Resource Development (Food & Mineral techs)
Planetary Construction (PP, Shipyard tech, perhaps planet defenses)
Propulsion and Mobility (interstellar engines, starfighters, ground vehicles)
Starship Development (Small & medium starship hulls and equipment)
Capital Ship Development (Large & Huge starship hulls and equipment)
Socio-Economics (Trade & Diplomacy)
Government & Development (Government & Science)
Espionage and Law (Spies & Morale/piracy stuff)
I guess there's a bit of an overlap between "strategy" and "applications" focus, depending on how consistent are the strategic values of particular applications. For example "ballistic" vs. "energy" could represent a game-long preference for a particular empire, which has strategic consequences not immediately apparent in the names. That said, the names aren't those of the strategic consequences. Thus they're (rather "fluffy") application-specific, imo. Similarly, I get the feeling that the separation between small & medium starships and large and huge captial ships is only similar to your strategies along those lines by coincidence (though I could be wrong). The categories seem to be grouping of techs thath are useful on a particular kind of ship you can build, but not related the the "grand strategic" role that those ships play.


Regarding applications vs. strategic categories: I think there's a lot of overlap between these systems. Paraphrasing, you have:
-Industry (inc. shipbuilding)
-Adv. Research
-Expansion
-Planetary Adaptation (terraforming, growth & "food")
-Diplomacy (inc. trade)
-Espionage
-Turtling
-"small ship strategy"
-"big ship strategy"
-"stand off tactics"

Whereas I have:
-Spacecraft General
-Spacecraft Offensive
-Spacecraft Defensive
-Industrial
-Biosciences (terraforming, health / growth, farming, biowarfare)
-Pscyho-Sociological (social engineering, government, security, psychokinetic, culture)
-Xenological (diplomacy, espionage, archaeology, exploration)
-Theoretical Physics (same as adv. research)

The similarities bewteen these systems are the industrial category, biosciences = planatery adaption, and physcics = general research.

I have no objections to breaking up my psycho-sociological and xenological categories into more functional groupings, inspired by your suggetions:

A nice middle ground might be a category for "Diplomacy & Espionage", which I think are sufficiently related that they should be the same category even in your system. What would the strategic difference be between them? Presumably if you're using diplomacy rather than force, you'll need a strong spy system to gather the info needed to interact directly with the population of another empire, to prevent them from going to war against you.

I'd like to know where in your system are the techs for culture, governments, social engineering, xenological studies not related to diplomacy and advanced mind powers?

A similar dichotomy between "Fleet Superiority" and "Turtling" might be between "Diplomacy and Espoinage" and "Sociology and Culture". The former in each case is the "offensive" branch, while the latter is "defensive". You'd use diplomatic and espionage efforts to control another empire's actions towards you, whereas you'd use cultural and social engineering to prevent others from doing the same to you.

Other categories that might be worth having are "Economics and Trade" and something for mind powers and such. I'm not sure how much will be made of trading and economics in the game, but if there's a lot, it might warrant its own category. For now, it's probably better to subsume this in "Sociology and Culture" and "Diplomacy and Espionage" as appropriate for whether the releavant tech is economically offensive or defensive / developmental.

I'd really like to have psychokinesis and telepathy and clairvoyance and such in the game, but they don't really fit into the strategies paradigm. They're useful in many different strategies, as both ship-based and cultural/diplomatic weapons... But they shouldn't be stuck into the relevant strategy categories completely isloated from other techs of the same psi-power related nature, as they don't really fit in with the other more technological based stuff.

A possible solution would be to stick psi powers into the "Advanced Research" category, along with physics stuff, and they would unlock lots of different stuff in strategic/applications focus categories... I think that would be reasonable.

I do think "Advanced" should be replaced with "Theoretical" or somesuch... "advanced" sounds silly.

Regarding "exploration" and such... including my own "archaeology" note under xenological. I don't think this is sufficient to warrant its own category. It really falls under several other categories, like small ships or general ships for getting places while exploring, and theoretical reserach to some degree once you do get there and start digging stuff up. Archaeology doesn't fit under the offensive/defenive groupings in sociology and culture or diplomacy and espionage... and isn't signifant enough to warrant its own category... so... I'm not sure what to do... thoughts? Is it even an issue (should there be archaeology techs at all? I can see not bothering with them at all quite easily).

Before I get into ship tech stuff in detail, regarding "stand off tactics"... First, that's a horrible name... "indirect fire" is much cooler sounding, imo. Second, how is that a separate strategy? It doesn't seem to fit in the paradigm. It's really just like Aq's ballistic vs. energy... it's a tactical issue, not a strategic one. If you want a strategic focus, you need to explain what the role of a "stand off ship" is that's different from a big or small ship, and why thy aren't big or small ships themselves. To me, it seems like missiles/torpedoes/beams/fighters etc. are all types of weapons that either one or both of the ships in the "big ships" and "small ships" categories would use.

Now, the ship technologies. I don't think strategic focus is appropraite for ships. There is just too much overlap to usefully differentiate between "fleet superiority" and "smaller ships" categories. Why do advances in engines need to be separated into these two categories? What about a particular class of weapon... why reserach them in two places, and how to decide which has the "top-level" tech if one comes before the other? You've also stuck in the "stand off ships" category, which I've discussed above.

IMO, ship technology is best represented by applications categories, such as the ones I've suggested: ship general, ship offense and ship defences. This way it's easy to find what you want to research, and there's much reduced redundancy and unclearness between categories.

Regarding your "turtling" category... I don't think this is necessary. If you want to turtle, you'd just make bunch of slow (for FTL travel, not necessary in-system), powerful ships to defence your border worlds. There's some debate still about whether to have planet-based defences at all... and I can sort of see the point of not having them, since they're redundant if sufficient options for fleets are available.

I could go on a bit more about this, but this post is mammoth already, so I'll just summarize the new suggestions for categories:

-Industry (industry, mining, construction, planetary and in space)
-Biosciences (terraforming, farming, health/growth)
-Diplomacy & Espionage ("offensive" xenological studies, classic espionage, subversion)
-Sociology and Culture ("defensive" social engineering, governments, security, trading and economics)
-Spacecraft General (hulls inc. fighters, starbases, shipyards, sublight/FTL engines, sensors & misc.)
-Spacecraft Offensive
-Spacecraft Defensive
-Theoretical Research (prerequisites, general, abstract stuff, both physics and psi-powers)

Most of these are equal part "application" and "strategy" (in your conception) related categories. Ships is an exception, but I don't see how categories by strategic value really would work for ships (no cleaer separations, too much overlap, etc.)

In order to distinguish "industry" from biosciences-related planet development, I've suggested going with "biosciences" for terraforming/farming/growth, rather than "planet development" which is vague.

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#41 Post by emrys » Fri Aug 06, 2004 9:46 am

Quick question, given those ship categories, are you realistically expecting to see empires with spacecraft tech levels that read:

general = 2, offensive = 8, defensive = 3
and
general = 2, offensive = 4, defensive = 8
and
general = 7, offensive = 3, defensive = 3

or are we basically likely to always see pretty similar degrees of development in all the categories? This is really my worry with non-strategy realated categories, that in order to actually pursue any strategy, everyone basically has to research everything anyway, which makes ALL the categories a bit pointless.

p.s. also I'm o.k. with "biosciences", though I would point out that i'd suggested 'planetary adaptation', not development. My only worry is that it's another one of those names like "theoretical physics" that just tempts content creators (and later designers) to go outside the original intended scope.

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#42 Post by Geoff the Medio » Fri Aug 06, 2004 11:18 am

emrys: Under my categories, if you wanted to use ships you'd probably need to research in all the ship categories about the same to do well. The non-ship categories would likely be less codependent, though you would likely need industry to build ships, probably about the same level as your ship techs, I imagine (what else is industry for, really?).

I broke down the ship categories as I did mainly for lack of a better system. Categorizing ship techs by strategy is not wise, imo, as there's too much overlap between the ships suitible for different ship-related strategies. Unless you want to have completely different engine, weapon, hull, defence and misc. ship techs for each identified strategy that involves ships, then you get basically meaningless categories.

The two (three?) strategies you've identified are also don't independently cover all possible strategies. By this, I mean there might be some useful viable strategies that use a subset of the "big ship" and "little ship" techs, but which your categorization would make overly difficult. (Whether this is the case or not we can't really say now, but it's possible).

The categories given are also too broad, in a sense, as there's more to a given strategy than just picking big or small ships... there are subsets of big and small ships that are useful, like the "small" subs or destroyers and such, which wouldn't necessary need to work together to be useful (indepedent of whether or not they would work with big ships).

Other categorizations such as "long range indirect" "short range direct" and such for weapons and "shields" and "armour" are not really useful in a strategic sense, as their roles may change... and there's no reason not to just lump them together anyway, so you get back to "offense" and "defence".

Thus I went with a fairly simple parts-breakdown categorization into "offense", "defence" and "general" for ships.
This is really my worry with non-strategy realated categories, that in order to actually pursue any strategy, everyone basically has to research everything anyway, which makes ALL the categories a bit pointless.
Keep in mind that reseraching from different categories doesn't mean you have to research everything in a given category... As above with your "strategy" categories, the particular subset of stuff in a particular category that you research would depend on the specific strategy you're persuing. This might mean you'd reasearch stuff for subs, rather than extra fast engines, despite both being in the "general" category... or it might mean you'd research lasers, rather than fighters or missiles, despite all being in the "offensive" category.

Categories aren't necessarily pointless just because you need to / chose to research from all of them. As Aq mentioned, in MoO3, finding a particular tech was hard because you never knew what category it would be in. With applications (and "offense", "defence" and "general" for ships), there should be no ambiguity for the location of a particular tech. This is helpful in of itself, even if all categories get sampled equally.
p.s. also I'm o.k. with "biosciences", though I would point out that i'd suggested 'planetary adaptation', not development.
My mistake. Sorry. Still like biosciences better though... even if I can't justify it.
My only worry is that it's another one of those names like "theoretical physics" that just tempts content creators (and later designers) to go outside the original intended scope.
I called it "Theoretical Research" in the latest version... obviously not for applications, so nobody should make "high tech weapons" or such things in the theory category. We can also give it a descriptor "most prerequisites for stuff in other categories".

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#43 Post by emrys » Fri Aug 06, 2004 2:48 pm

I think however we categorise things, we are going to end up with one category holding many things, of which the player will only really want to follow some.

Partly this is dealt with by the theory/application structure, since you don't have to research all (or any) of the applications under a theory.

However I can see that we are quite likely to end up with situations where there are several 'themes' going on within a category, and at a particular level, all the applications from these 'themes' just don't nicely sit coming off one theory, or even as newly unlocked apps in a different category.

That's why I'd like to get a view from Aq on whether we're restricted to 'each theory = a tech level' or whether it's legitimate to have several theories effectively sitting side by side in a category, i.e. a little micro-tech tree of interwoven strands within the category.

Right, I think we've bashed this round for as long as is productive. At this point we probably either need new voices or for Aq to have the unenviable job of dragging any useful points either of us have made out of this ramble...

p.s. Unless you have any last points to make of course, don't want ot sound like 'lalala I'm not listening', more like 'I'll be being quiet 'cos I've run out of stuff to say...'

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#44 Post by Geoff the Medio » Fri Aug 06, 2004 4:47 pm

emrys wrote:whether we're restricted to 'each theory = a tech level' or whether it's legitimate to have several theories effectively sitting side by side in a category, i.e. a little micro-tech tree of interwoven strands within the category.
I can't speak for Aq, but the HoI CORE mod seems to have only one theory per tech level per category. That said, we've deviated quite a bit from the CORE mod already, and I don't see any reason to have only a single theory per tech level per category... it's almost essential that we not, given the broad range of stuff in some of the categories in any of the proposed systems.
Partly this is dealt with by the theory/application structure, since you don't have to research all (or any) of the applications under a theory.
I don't see how this is a specific advantage of theory/application... any system in which some techs are optional would have the same result...
'I'll be being quiet 'cos I've run out of stuff to say...'
Well, I tore apart your whole strategic categories for ships, and showed it's basically the same as application categories otherwise... have you nothing to say in their defence? (or do you agree with my interpretation now?)

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#45 Post by emrys » Fri Aug 06, 2004 5:57 pm

Well, I , and ... have you nothing to say in their defence? (or do you agree with my interpretation now?)
The short answers would be

"Tore apart your whole strategic categories for ships" - Considering both of the two meanings of 'tore apart', I agree you attacked many points, I don't feel all the arguments you presented were conclusive or even entirely convincing, but we're unlikely to converge any further, so lets see what others have to add

"showed it's basically the same as application categories otherwise" - agree to some extent, as covered in previous posts.

"have you nothing to say in their defence?" - lot's, some of which I said and you don't agree with, some of which simply wouldn't be productive.

"do you agree with my interpretation now" - Some yes, some no, I feel that by taking on board those arguments you presented that I thought were well valid, and investigating where those I didn't fell down and why, I now have a better and more solid proposal than I did before, and await the opinions of others on the result. That's the point of discussion and collaboration after all. To produce a product better than either party would have done alone.

hmm, some of those answers weren't so short after all. Fortunately it's friday, so the weekend will hopefully give others a chance to get in on this discussion.

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