designed nature of exploration

For what's not in 'Top Priority Game Design'. Post your ideas, visions, suggestions for the game, rules, modifications, etc.
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Please no more ship management!

#46 Post by Dreamer » Sun Mar 13, 2005 7:48 am

I agree on most of what have been said here. The only thing that bothers me is that it involves a lot of ship micromanagement. One of the things I really hate is the need to manually design/construct/move units for scouting, survey, diplomacy, colonization and trade.

I think that the best would be a exploration ministery (a game tab) where you can set exploration rate and focus (unknown systems/deep details/space phenomena). This makes exploration a direct part of the military budget and can be regulated as any other expence. You still have all the hidden stuff, tech importance, etc but you dont have to manually send ships everywhere to "clean" the map. You stiil get the exciting pop-up every time something new is discovered.

If you really need to put enfasis on one item there can be a sort of queue like a mp3 player, something like "explore this" so it can take precedence. Also you don't have to deal with the inevitable piont when all your scouting fleet becomes useless.

(Sorry about my english... still learning)

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Beam us down, Scotty

#47 Post by herbert_vaucanson » Mon Mar 14, 2005 10:08 am

I like the "hidden starlane" concept - changes geography of the galaxy with the development of tech.

About esploration: certain things should happen automatically when reaching a system, like identifying the gas giants. Then maybe one extra turn to get the "rocks", planets or satellites. This should be so because this identification includes size, eventual presence of life, general clima and an indication of mineral richness.
Some planetary specials should be seeable from space (a planetary ring - good for starship building, a huge impact crater - good for mining, huge planetary storms - bad for, well, almost everything) but some others (the evil virus, the secret ancient trap weapon, the ancient artifact/base/shipwreck, the huge sand worms, the unpleasant quackyness of the crust...) should take a turn of exploration on the planet to be discovered - or equivalently, a colony pod landing. A "explored" flad should be a nice option, to recall us if a planet has been extensively explored or not.

Another cool feature would be a set of "directives" for first contacts, which shoud be a consequence of the sociopolitical choices of the empire. Maybe first contact should have their own subscreen, with a (random?) situation (we get them in a bad moment, they get us after a booze party) and a limited capability of understanding alien psichology depending on our development (our translator still sucks, our xenopsichologist is a former pet doctor, we have the nice tendency of hailing ships with a couple of fake shots, etc). Then the resolution of this first contact (with a limited interability) determines the starting relation with the new friends (or enemies).

And about the coolness - or lack thereof - of exploration: what was Star Trek all about??? If we could also have, here and then, the occasional sexy green female alien, it would be just perfect...

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#48 Post by eleazar » Thu May 24, 2007 3:09 am

Well, i know this thread hasn't been touched in two years,

Exploration is one of the things i enjoy most about 4X games. A lot of the emphasis on exploration can be provided by varied and interesting specials, minor powers, and space monsters.

But after reading the previous 3 pages, i like these two ideas best.

>• Hidden StarLanes
Assuming the minimum connections were in place to get around, it would be neat to discover additional lanes as the game progressed.

>• Delayed Discovery
This one sounds appealing, but would need to be balanced carefully.
The simplest implementation i can think of is this:
Any ship passing through a system will detect all planets (and their size) and any asteroid belts or giant. However the planets are displayed merely as flat, grey featureless spheres. The EPs, and specials are unknown because ship hasn't taken the time to investigate anything yet.

If there are only a few planets, or mostly unusable giants/asteroids, the player may choose to move immediately on to the next system.

If the player lets the ship stay in the system for a turn it will automatically spend it's time exploring the system. On the next turn the player will learn the EPs of all planets and most or all of the specials in the system.

* this makes exploring a system an actual choice, but with the minimum of busywork.
* It's abundantly obvious if a system has been explored, just by looking at the planets.

* some players may consider even that much thought and interaction a waste of time.
*? can the AI intelligently decide weather to take this step or not?

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#49 Post by marhawkman » Sun May 27, 2007 2:40 am

One thing I've noticed with AIs is that "intelligence" is a misnomer. It'd be pretty easy to come up with a few criteria that would usually produce the best results. the AI doesn't really make a choice it simply uses a preset game plan.
Computer programming is fun.

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Re: designed nature of exploration

#50 Post by WebSnozz » Sun Jul 22, 2007 8:48 pm

Geoff the Medio wrote: 2) Exploration is fun, and should be made to represent an involving activity and as interesting as possible, at least at the start of the game.

In this case, it seems reasonble to delay the availability of information about a system. When a scout arrives in the system, it would likely immediately know the number, size and perhaps environment of the planets. It would not, however necessarily know all the more interesting details, such as mineral richness and natives, and especially not ruins or specials.

In order to learn more about the planets in the system, it would be necessary to have the scout stay in the system for several turns. Thus a decision is created for the scouting player between getting to the next system to check for habitable planets, and thoroughly searching the current system for any extra information.

I imagine it would be necessary to have a few extra perks to spending a couple turns scanning a system... I would imagine that you'd be able to locate any hiding / sleeping space monsters in the system, without waking them. Thus you would know whether you need to send a good combat ship to clear out the monster before sending a colony ship that it would otherwise eat.

Whether or not this could be fleshed out enough to be really worth making the distinction, I'm not sure... I suppose whether or not this gets looked at depends on whether people really like exploration or not.

Personally, I like the human-vs-nature aspect at the start of the game. Does everyone else just want to get to fighting the other empires, or is anyone else want to flesh out the other aspect?
I had actually been thinking about something along these lines. Anything that adds a "mysterious" element to the game will make it more interesting. I also think that this could be fleshed out to make it difficult to determine the location of other players in the early game, making it more difficult to "rush" other players.

First thing that comes to mind is unmanned probes containing various instruments:

Even your starting system should be something like this. You start out with knowledge of only a portion of planets, and know little about them other than they "appear" to be gaseous or solid. Your scouts that explore systems could be loaded with a payload of sensor modules that you can drop into the atmosphere of the planets to determine various things about the planet. Manned modules could also be used that can bring back samples to be examined, telling you even more detailed information such as the presence of bacteria . Once your scouts have dropped all modules, they can still explore systems to discover planets, but little could be gathered about the make-up of the planet.

The more information you know about a planet, the less resources should be required to colonize it since you can prepare for that very specific environment. Otherwise, trying to colonize a planet that you know nothing about could be risky. There would be so many "what-if"'s that you'd have to prepare for every possible scenario, which could be very expensive since the equipment needed to colonize various types of planets would vary greatly, and you'd have to take everything you'd possibly need.

Here are some ideas. I think the first one alone would be worth implementing this to at least some extent.
+The chance to determine if another race has already colonized a planet could be a combination of the size of the colony and the strength of scanners/sensors that your scout is using. Thus in the early game it would be difficult to determine where your enemies are, and thus it would be hard to "rush" your opponent. Your opponent could adopt strategies to try and "hide" on planets by limiting their population, living underground, or only colonizing gas giants where it would be more difficult to discover them.
+Chance to discover a large colonizable moon orbiting another less desirable planet such as a gas giant.
+Knowing more about a planet decreases resources consumed in colonizing it.
+Knowing more about a planet increases the number of colonists that survive initial colonization since you are better prepared for its environment.
+Depending on the type of surveying performed on the planet, there would be a chance to become aware of the presence of hazards or bonuses such as treasure or dangerous organisms.
+As scouts make "discoveries" they generate research.

+Scouts can be manned or unmanned. Unmanned scouts must have a preplanned course(which includes criteria that the scout uses to determine when to drop probes and when it should orbit a system a few times before continueing to another) through the galaxy when launched, but can carry many more instruments. Manned scouts can changed course at anytime, but have less space to accommodate personnel and life support.
+The criteria used to "program" unmanned scouts could be saved and reloaded from game to game for those players who want an exploration process that doesn't have to be micromanaged.
+Scouts have a limited number of unmanned and/or manned modules to drop on planets. Once exhausted, the scout can continue to scan planets for basic information, explore other systems, or return to base to be resupplied with more modules.
+Successfully returning to a base generates additional research since it allows samples and data to be studied in more detail.
+Instrumentation can be researched and added to modules or scouts, each of which provide or increase the chance of disocvering certain types of things or properties about a planet. I think the names used for the Galileo probe instruments are pretty cool, even if we have to give them abilities that they wouldn't actually have in real life such as making the Magnometer responsible for measuring the gravity of a planet.
I'm excited!

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Re: designed nature of exploration

#51 Post by eleazar » Mon Jul 23, 2007 4:41 am

WebSnozz wrote:I had actually been thinking about something along these lines. Anything that adds a "mysterious" element to the game will make it more interesting. I also think that this could be fleshed out to make it difficult to determine the location of other players in the early game, making it more difficult to "rush" other players.
With the large number of stars in a FO galaxy (up to 500) early game rushing is unlikely to be a problem.

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Re: designed nature of exploration

#52 Post by Rho » Wed Jul 25, 2007 12:34 am

There should probably be different stages or phases of the game, one where exploration and development for the sake of exploration is key, another where interaction and development for the sake of competition is key, another where you're threatened by war and have to fight (or you're the one doing the threatening). This means that the micromanaging would dissappear should different phases have different amounts of automation, so that you can list your priorities on a world and let the AI deal with it. Then just say "all colonies with >50p production that have build missile bases and fighter garrisons - build a warship", and not worry about every single world.

There being things left to explore even tho you have the whole galaxy "explored" is important. What if there's something that can create new worlds, or even new star systems? Random changes (with no status message/galactic news report saying it changed climate from ocean to terrain because X) that change the terrain or add stuff could be cool. An ancient civ that camouflaged its worlds as gas giants would also be cool, as would invaders from another galaxy (and/or wherever the Antarans in MoO2 came from).

You'd still want to know the most evident things of a planet just by entering the system, so what are, realistically evident? Color, spectrum... number. Earth has currently detected over 200 planets outside our own solar system, and from a distance found signs of water on some (whether or not this checks out will have to wait until we get there... which won't be anytime soon, I fear). You would probably see gas giants from other solar systems, given the science to do so - but even when you enter a solar system, you can't see how much of what and in what forms it exists, you'd have to get far closer to explore a planet to learn it's climate (in relative detail), how much ppl it supports, et cetera. Say, stay a turn or two if there's any planets of the right size to check out.

Anything on, or in, these planets would be difficult to find. Ruins, other civs that don't have anything in orbit (or a glowing urbanization display (at night) such as the one our world has (or is) at night), mineral bonuses, stuff like that.

Also, what if, at a later stage, space battles leave a lot of scrap behind, that other players can come and salvage. There could just as well be those around in space at the beginning of the game (unless enforcing some kind of young-life/civ creationism or something on the game). Regardless, ruins on a world could contain not only a resource bonus, but a defensive one as well. Just think of what Atlantis can do in Stargate Atlantis. Aside from giving a research and possible industrial bonus, why not include the feature to learn how to use, although not (at first) reproduce the weapons and shield technology present in old advanced cities?

Derelict scouts from other worlds where the crew went nuts and killed themlseves would also be interesting... or unmanned ones whose computer froze or crashed.

Just, what could there be at the end of the game worth exploring? Maybe a competition to capture comets for the resources they provide in terraforming worlds (they're mostly some kind of ice, I hear). Crashing a planet into another is a little too ambitious, but igniting a gas giant far from the sun to terraform its moons isn't a new idea to scifi.

Okay, back to exploring... Maybe the center of the galaxy cools down enough to form new systems in there? Maybe there's a way of manipulating the sun of any specific solar system to terraform its planets.

Look, I got stuck on finding worlds to colonise and once again returned to terraforming. But building a generic terraforming device shouldn't be an option for every world. The worlds are different, as are their needs. So aside from shipping water from an Ocean world to a Desert world, we could need some options on that.

But now, back to exploring. Some spatial ripple could produce new solar systems, black holes might be manipulated into becoming white ones and spew out a cloud of matter that over a great number of turns may form new systems.

Besides, if there's some meter tracking the age of stars (which I, a young-Earth creationist, would likely find quasiscientific), new solar systems could provide elements not present in older ones. Different stars likely have different planets, so whether or not the meter is tracking age or just type, the stars could change type, given enough time (some kind of gradual change (or one when there's no-one there), not a GNN headline: "Generica has changed from red to yellow and now contains two Terran worlds etc").

If the starlanes would be connected to a planet (as in a fixed position in the system), rather than to a solar system as a whole, you'd go from, say, Earth to Generica II, but still need time to go from Generica II to Generica III which might be colonizable, given the time to explore it and the rest of the system. That makes detailed exploration take more time, sure. Maybe that's not a particularily good idea.

Let's consider it anyway. You enter a system, you get the sensor report that there are six planets there. You're on #2, and it's radiated. Your sensor tell you #4 might be terran. You get closer. You get the sensor report on #3 (or not, they can be on the other side of the sun, so whether or not you get one should probably be random) it's desert. You get to #4. It's terran. It doesn't belong to anyone yet. You colonize it. Next turn, you learn it has dangerous wildlife. Construction is halted to build defenses. Two turns later, you learn the planet is mineral rich. Nice. It doesn't help you yet, you need to build a mine befopre it's of any good to you. Four turns later, you find it's atmosphere causes some medical problems. The scientists on the planet would fix that in four turns, so you add some to get it down to three turns. An enemy arrives in the system, through a star lane connected to planet #6. You rush some defenses through production. You just saved your colony.

At a later stage, this is too much micro-managing, but when it's your first colony, it's fun. Or, it could be. I dunno. :) It's exploration, albeit on a smaller level.

At a far later stage, you'd enter a colony and get most info from your superior sensors... But some remain unknown. Plus then it could be more of a way to find the best resources to terraform with, finding a dry but otherwise good planet to terraform by using water from a nearby icy moon or meteor or ocean world or whatever. Or dump asteroids into an ocean world. Or crash meteors into a radiated to give it more atmosphere and more material to synthesize ozone from. Then the exploration and strategy lies in finding the best resources to use.

Whoa, I have a lot of ideas. Or a difficulty phrasing them any shorter than this.

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