Exoplanet simulation

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LienRag
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Exoplanet simulation

#1 Post by LienRag »

I met yesterday an Ubuntu volunteer who's doing her thesis on exoplanet simulation.
I talked with her and she's interested by freeorion, which she had no previous knowledge of.

Every free software volunteer knows that life can get in the way, and thesis are capricious beasts than can and often do swallow any free time available, but if she manages to overcome these obstacles and come to involve herself in game design development, I seriously believe she could be of tremendous help towards a more realistic but still playable and enjoyable planet design and usage.

Since, in the way freeorion works, planet description and colonizing species design are closely related, I'd like to add that I have myself a quite good (though not PHD) level in biology, with emphasis on ecology.
Also, I dabbled with BASIC as a kid and dabble with Python nowadays, which doesn't make me a developer of course, but gives me a relative grasp of what can be coded and how to segregate between ideas which can be approached by quantitative data (and as such integrated in a computer game) and which are qualitative by design and as such cannot be implemented.

So I think that if she does come to work with us, together - with of course any freeorion fan knowledgeable about actual xenobiology, ecology, general biology or sci-fi xenobiology - we can plan a major overhaul of the whole planet colonization system, all while keeping the general gameplay similar - improving it, not altering it.

Of course it would still be a huge modification of the way the game works and quite a change of the codebase, so it's not for 0.4.9 nor 0.4.10 or 0.4.11, it's for 0.5.0 or even for 0.6.0 if needs be.

Basically, the main change will be that instead of having ONE criteria for planet suitability ("planet type") we'll have many, and that instead of having, like Star Wars got us used to, one-ecosystem-planets (though the reviled Phantom Menace gave us the incredible luxury of a planet with TWO ecosystems - one of prairie and one of ocean!), we'll have more realistic planets with a variety of habitable zones.

We COULD go (though that's not a decision that is mine to take) towards planets inhabitable by different species, but that's not an obligation. Instead, we could have a "habitable surface percentage" which can evolve with technology, and which can have many interesting gameplay effects, both for colonization procedure (multi-stepped) and ground assault (hiding troops in zones that are hostile to the owning specie but suits the invading specie), and even other domains like technology with different trees (terraforming, genetic engineering of the colonizing specie, mechanical adaptation to protect colonizers, all of them not necessarily cumulating), having genetic diversity as a new resource with effects on Research and some parts of the Green technology tree, space combat (adding ground guiding or relay stations that could be hidden in uninhabited parts of enemy planets) and more diverse buildings (I've played enough civ games to understand the wisdom of game mechanics working against micromanagement, but having "Forest dynamic labs" on a planet which would then benefits every forest-suitable parts of all Empire's planets seems good to me).

One pitfall, since I thought of most of this after leaving her, and so didn't ask her the question, is that the main orientation of her thesis could be exoplanet simulation in the sense of "how the planet fits in the system", and not exoplanet simulation in the sense of "what would be the conditions at the surface or surface layers of the planet", only the later being of interest for the colonization process simulation used in freeorion.

Of course, the former can still be used to get a realistic system generation in freeorion, but that's not of much use for the gameplay. That is, except if we choose to overhaul the combat system itself, with the inclusion of gravity wells, taking into accounts the distance to the sun, the ability to hide behind planets, and so on. Having ships able to (and then specializing into) fight differently around gravity wells of different magnitude, planets with or without atmosphere, getting close to the sun or hiding in deep-space darkness, etc. would amplify considerably the variety and strategic importance of ship design, itself a very interesting feature of freeorion. And it still can be done while keeping entry-level ships that are versatile so that beginners can avoid being lost, while having more specialized ship parts later in the technology tree so that experienced players can have fun experimenting.
It could also make for system-wide engineering rather than just planet engineering... I'm sure we can get nice ideas from that!

Anyway, with the questions about the possible emergence of life at the tip of any exoplanet-related research nowadays, even if surface conditions are not her primary research topic, she may have given it a thought in some part of her thesis, and still be able to help us with defining a better and more granular suitability system for exoplanets.

I've read the Philosophy post and I think it never forbids to work towards better realism when it's not at the expense of playability, and can bring better immersion...

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The Silent One
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Re: Exoplanet simulation

#2 Post by The Silent One »

LienRag wrote: Mon May 20, 2019 2:14 pmBasically, the main change will be that instead of having ONE criteria for planet suitability ("planet type") we'll have many, and that instead of having, like Star Wars got us used to, one-ecosystem-planets (though the reviled Phantom Menace gave us the incredible luxury of a planet with TWO ecosystems - one of prairie and one of ocean!), we'll have more realistic planets with a variety of habitable zones.
I think I'm not assuming too much by saying this is something we don't want. In our philosophy, what you describe is micromanagement. FreeOrion, however, is about grand scale tactical gameplay (and thus, avoiding micromanagement).
Of course, your friend is very welcome to join us nonetheless!
If I provided any images, code, scripts or other content here, it's released under GPL 2.0 and CC-BY-SA 3.0.

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Re: Exoplanet simulation

#3 Post by LienRag »

It certainly can be used for micromanagement, but I don't think it requires to be.
At least if one differentiates between fine-tuning and micromanagement.

As for it being something you want to do or don't want to do, the decision is (collectively) yours.

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Re: Exoplanet simulation

#4 Post by Krikkitone »

We sort of already have the "multiple environments/planet" Each planet has a certain max population for a particular species....if it is low that means you can't use some of the planet, but you can still use a different part of the planet (even though you can colonize it)

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Re: Exoplanet simulation

#5 Post by Ophiuchus »

LienRag wrote: Tue May 21, 2019 6:54 pm It certainly can be used for micromanagement, but I don't think it requires to be.
At least if one differentiates between fine-tuning and micromanagement
One interpretation of fine-tuning is that there is a small change having a small effect and so is optional behaviour.
If the optional behaviour does have an effect (everything counts in large amounts) it leads to micromanagement if the user does not restrain themselves - so in freeorion we also do not want optional micromanagement if we can help it.
If on the other hand it does not have an effect it does not have an effect so is irrelevant for "winning".

Exoplanet simulation for visualisation of game values would be nice of course. E.g. following up on Krikkitones post, a planet could look differently if a different species decides to live there (e.g. you see infrastructure/lights only in the desert regions of a terran planet if a narrow-environment (desert) population lives there).

Also you guys could write a new galaxy generation script closer to the current state of research - starting a game you choose an algorithm for galaxy layout, so that could be the "realistic"ally option.
Any code or patches in anything posted here is released under the CC and GPL licences in use for the FO project.

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Re: Exoplanet simulation

#6 Post by Oberlus »

LienRag wrote: Mon May 20, 2019 2:14 pm[...] I talked with her and she's interested by freeorion, which she had no previous knowledge of. [...]
Even if what you (or she) have in mind is not very welcome by developers for whatever reason, you can always fork the repository for your purposes (just not expect your modifications to get into master).

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Re: Exoplanet simulation

#7 Post by LienRag »

Krikkitone wrote: Tue May 21, 2019 8:15 pm We sort of already have the "multiple environments/planet" Each planet has a certain max population for a particular species....if it is low that means you can't use some of the planet, but you can still use a different part of the planet (even though you can colonize it)
You've got a point....
Still, a finer suitability model would allow to have more diverse species without resorting to extreme bonuses that imho tend to drive one's strategy rather than expand it (right now, if one has Misiorias or even Mu Urshes, one won't have the need for a more diverse fighter fleet; if one colonize a planet with Scyllors there's no real point to use it for something else than research).
Note too that a unique meter (population) doesn't allow for extensive vs intensive colonization strategies (exploiting more parts of the planet vs harvesting more from the parts that are suitable).

Ophiuchus wrote: Wed May 22, 2019 9:35 am
One interpretation of fine-tuning is that there is a small change having a small effect and so is optional behaviour.
If the optional behaviour does have an effect (everything counts in large amounts) it leads to micromanagement if the user does not restrain themselves - so in freeorion we also do not want optional micromanagement if we can help it.
If on the other hand it does not have an effect it does not have an effect so is irrelevant for "winning".
What we have here may be failure to communicate.
What you say is indeed right, but imho is doesn't apply here.
My interpretation of fine-tuning (sorry, English is not my first language) is settings things carefully and precisely: like delicately crafting one's research path to get what you want as soon as you want it (usually gaining at least one turn in the process), thinking hard about the order in which you'll colonize planets and conquer other planets, choosing precisely which ships will go into an important battle (and eventually planning ahead so they'll be there when you'll need them), and things like that.
It only turns to micromanagement if it's repetitive. If I understand well, that's why the "focus setting" costs more than it produces if one changes it regularly: it's still fine tuning, but it's not micromanagement as it is counterproductive to fine-tune it turn after turn.

In the same way finely tuned planet suitability may certainly be implemented in a way that favors micromanagement, but it doesn't have to.

Ophiuchus wrote: Wed May 22, 2019 9:35 am
Exoplanet simulation for visualisation of game values would be nice of course. E.g. following up on Krikkitones post, a planet could look differently if a different species decides to live there (e.g. you see infrastructure/lights only in the desert regions of a terran planet if a narrow-environment (desert) population lives there).
If you so wish, but it's a hard work for a meager result...
Ophiuchus wrote: Wed May 22, 2019 9:35 am
Also you guys could write a new galaxy generation script closer to the current state of research - starting a game you choose an algorithm for galaxy layout, so that could be the "realistic"ally option.
It's definitely a possibility, but to be interesting in game it would need a huge rework of how species and suitability work, and as a consequence of the tech tree.
Having two sets of rules for the same game is doable and probably enjoyable for the players, but the maintenance costs would be quite heavy.
Oberlus wrote: Wed May 22, 2019 3:26 pm
Even if what you (or she) have in mind is not very welcome by developers for whatever reason, you can always fork the repository for your purposes (just not expect your modifications to get into master).
It's of course an option, but in addition to the huge maintenance cost of it, I feel quite confident about my ability to craft a good planet-adaptation system for organic species in general, but I know nearly nothing about crystallography so won't be able to do myself the same for lithic species, less so even for weirder life forms. So it would need a team, willing to fork and maintain the fork - not sure that it's such a good idea.

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Re: Exoplanet simulation

#8 Post by Ophiuchus »

LienRag wrote: Thu May 23, 2019 5:43 pm In the same way finely tuned planet suitability may certainly be implemented in a way that favors micromanagement, but it doesn't have to.
I pretty much doubt it. If one pulls this of it would pretty much revolutionize 4x games I think.
LienRag wrote: Thu May 23, 2019 5:43 pm
Ophiuchus wrote: Wed May 22, 2019 9:35 am Also you guys could write a new galaxy generation script...
It's definitely a possibility, but to be interesting in game it would need a huge rework of how species and suitability work, and...
No I meant only a generation script using the current environments and species, nothing else. That is probably a chunk of complexity one or two people for dabbling with freeorion can handle. Not a huge task but still difficult enough.
Any code or patches in anything posted here is released under the CC and GPL licences in use for the FO project.

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Re: Exoplanet simulation

#9 Post by Vezzra »

Ophiuchus wrote: Sat May 25, 2019 9:12 pm
LienRag wrote: Thu May 23, 2019 5:43 pm In the same way finely tuned planet suitability may certainly be implemented in a way that favors micromanagement, but it doesn't have to.
I pretty much doubt it. If one pulls this of it would pretty much revolutionize 4x games I think.
Indeed. If we managed to pull this off, that would certainly be amazing. FO would be the new gold standard of space 4X... 8)

Meaning, if a small team of volunteers working on their project only in their free time could pull it off, big game developers with the resources at their disposal would have done it a loooong time ago. Most likely, that is...

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Re: Exoplanet simulation

#10 Post by LienRag »

Ophiuchus wrote: Sat May 25, 2019 9:12 pm No I meant only a generation script using the current environments and species, nothing else. That is probably a chunk of complexity one or two people for dabbling with freeorion can handle. Not a huge task but still difficult enough.
Yes, it would be possible. But to what use?
I'm not a planetologist myself, but as any sci-fi fan I take interest in astronomy news.
So from what I understood about exoplanets, a realistic model would give a lot of gas giants, barren and radiated planets, and a very small number of planets suitable for organic life.
That's why a realistic planet generation model requires for the good of playerkind a redesign of suitability rules, in order to allow humans to colonize mars poles, venus clouds, Jupiter's moons, and so on (I know you chose to make moons not separate objects than their planet, and I agree with that design, but it doesn't prevent from considering moons as specifically colonizable parts of a planet-moon ensemble).

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Re: Exoplanet simulation

#11 Post by Ophiuchus »

LienRag wrote: Sat Jun 08, 2019 10:44 pm Yes, it would be possible. But to what use?
To learn the galaxy creation code and a way to contribute.
Any code or patches in anything posted here is released under the CC and GPL licences in use for the FO project.

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Re: Exoplanet simulation

#12 Post by LienRag »

That is certainly a valid objective.

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