Species: Nerada

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Jaumito
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Species: Nerada

#1 Post by Jaumito » Sun May 20, 2018 6:45 pm

(Sorry for not following the proposed guidelines for new species here, the reason being this one is already near-complete and all the blurb can be found in the Encyclopedia.)

Status: working, but needs some more tweaking and polishing.

Reason for leaving er, existing: pick the two most (in my opinion, at least) crippling traits a species can have and still make them viable. Specifically, that means NO_RESEARCH and NO_OFFENSE_TROOPS. This won't change, ever, since it's the whole point of the species. Anything else is up for debate.

How it all started: as three different species, really - but it's only when I merged them recently that I thought I was on something interesting (i.e., a different enough playing experience.) For the record, the inspiration for these species were -
  • The Vashta Nerada (from the Doctor Who series) - that's where the Nerada got their name from (obviously!), plus the Scototrophic metabolism and stealthiness (I dropped stealthiness at the moment but may reintroduce it later, just for thematic reasons.)
  • The planet-creature from Stanislaw Lem's novel, Solaris - not much left of it except the inability to communicate with other species (in game terms, to 'invade'.)
  • The Alternate Reality PRT from the old Stars! game - a remote-mining race living in orbit (here, it means on asteroids), thus the Kilandow-like bonus.
Note on the Scototrophy metabolism:
(It should be skototrophy, actually, just like in skototropism - but since it's a neologism, I claim ownership on the term and I like this spelling better, so...)
scototrophy.png
scototrophy.png (68.75 KiB) Viewed 1052 times
About the implementation: I have no idea how to write a true new metabolism in FOCS, so I just reused the "light sensitive" code from the Banforo. It's a hack but it works transparently enough, except the metabolism won't show in the Census menu.

So basically it's Phototrophy in reverse, although not exactly a mirror image. The numbers aren't arbitrary, the math guys here will probably notice there's a Fibonacci sequence lurking in the progression. In my experience so far, I think it's slightly worse than Phototrophy but that's OK, I believe that metabolisms don't have to be strictly balanced as long as the playable species are.

About the species itself:
nerada.png
nerada.png (136 KiB) Viewed 1052 times
You'll notice there are two 'good' environments. I wanted to make Barren planets adequate only, but it had an annoying side effect: you could then terraform your planets but it wouldn't actually do anything. So until this is fixed, enjoy the better habitability.

Nerada normally start on an asteroid field, and their sun is set to 'orange' if generated as yellow or brighter. You'll notice sometimes you don't get full production on the homeworld when this happens (well, I think the loss of production is related to the sun's reset although I have no hard evidence for that), but I don't know how to fix that yet.

It doesn't show in the species' description, but Nerada build colonies one fifth as fast as standard species (0.8 multiplier.)

Communal vision is there for a reason: the AI sucks at handling Nerada, so you can start a new game if you don't want to play against Nerada AI.

Files specific to the metabolism and the species are attached. Modifications to the pre-existing ones follow:

default/stringtables/en.txt (sorry, no localization yet)

Code: Select all

# Star types (full labels)
BLUE_STAR
Blue Star

WHITE_STAR
White Star

YELLOW_STAR
Yellow Star

ORANGE_STAR
Orange Star

RED_STAR
Red Star

NEUTRON_STAR
Neutron Star

DARK_STAR
Black Hole

# Metabolism: Scototrophy
SCOTOTROPHIC_SPECIES_TITLE
Scototrophic Metabolism

SCOTOTROPHIC_SPECIES_TEXT
'''[[encyclopedia SCOTOTROPHIC_SPECIES_CLASS]] species prefer to live on dark or dim worlds. These species' max population is greatly influenced by the brightness of the local star - the lesser, the better. Growth specials do not benefit them.

Population changes:

* [[STAR_BLUE]] star: ([[SZ_TINY]] -10) ([[SZ_SMALL]] -20) ([[SZ_MEDIUM]] -30) ([[SZ_LARGE]] -40) ([[SZ_HUGE]] -50)

* [[STAR_WHITE]] star: ([[SZ_TINY]] -5) ([[SZ_SMALL]] -10) ([[SZ_MEDIUM]] -15) ([[SZ_LARGE]] -20) ([[SZ_HUGE]] -25)

* [[STAR_YELLOW]] star: ([[SZ_TINY]] -2) ([[SZ_SMALL]] -4) ([[SZ_MEDIUM]] -6) ([[SZ_LARGE]] -8) ([[SZ_HUGE]] -10)

* [[STAR_ORANGE]] star: (No changes)

* [[STAR_RED]] star : ([[SZ_TINY]] +1) ([[SZ_SMALL]] +2) ([[SZ_MEDIUM]] +3) ([[SZ_LARGE]] +4) ([[SZ_HUGE]] +5)

* [[STAR_NEUTRON]] star : ([[SZ_TINY]] +2) ([[SZ_SMALL]] +4) ([[SZ_MEDIUM]] +6) ([[SZ_LARGE]] +8) ([[SZ_HUGE]] +10)

* [[STAR_BLACK]], [[STAR_NONE]]: ([[SZ_TINY]] +3) ([[SZ_SMALL]] +6) ([[SZ_MEDIUM]] +9) ([[SZ_LARGE]] +12) ([[SZ_HUGE]] +15)'''

# Species: Nerada
SP_NERADA
Nerada

SP_NERADA_GAMEPLAY_DESC
'''Semi-sentient microscopic beings which thrive in darkness.
Prefer [[PT_ASTEROIDS]] and [[PT_BARREN]] planets.
[[encyclopedia SCOTOTROPHIC_SPECIES_TITLE]], [[encyclopedia TELEPATHIC_TITLE]]
'''

SP_NERADA_DESC
'''Description:
The Nerada look like tiny amoebas made of pure darkness, which form planet-spanning colonies. While individually they are barely sentient, the colonies themselves have a form of telepathic intelligence capable of communication with similar lifeforms across interstellar space. When they land on a new world, they start to multiply dazzingly fast. Their ubiquitous presence, and lack of both a central decision organ and a command structure, make them very hard to dislodge from places they inhabit. However, their inability to properly understand other lifeforms make them unable to invade previously inhabited worlds. Since they're unaffected by gravity (or the lack of) and don't need to breathe, they can thrive on asteroids belts that look like the barren wastelands they favor most.

Social Structure:
Strictly speaking, the Nerada don't really have one, since usually there's at most one Nerada colony per planet. They're more akin to the cells of a multicellular being than to ants or bees. They don't really understand the concept of scientific research, yet they're very industrious - sometimes through the mind-controlled bodies of larger species, but they can also form 'bodies' of their own when they need one.
'''

starting_unlocks/items.inf

Code: Select all

Item type = Building name = "BLD_COL_NERADA"
default/scripting/building/colonies/col_bld_gen.py (add this where appropriate)

Code: Select all

    ("SP_NERADA", "Nerada", "icons/species/amorphous-03.png")
default/scripting/species/common/population.macros (you probably can omit this, if memory serves it didn't seem to have the expected effect when I tried.)

Code: Select all

SCOTOTROPHIC_BONUS
'''     EffectsGroup
            scope = Contains Source
            activation = AND [
                Planet
                OR [
                    OwnedBy affiliation = AnyEmpire
                    Star type = [BlackHole NoStar] // Natives are allowed to have bright or dim stars
                ]
                HasTag name = "SCOTOTROPHIC"
                Turn high = 0
                Star type = [Blue White Yellow]
            ]
            effects = SetStarType type = Orange // start with a normal star to be balanced
'''
List of attached files with paths (relative to $FREEORION/default/scripting)

encyclopedia/species/SCOTOTROPHIC_SPECIES_CLASS.focs.txt
encyclopedia/game_concepts/metabolism/SCOTOTROPHIC_SPECIES.focs.txt
buildings/colonies/SP_NERADA.focs.txt
species/SP_NERADA.focs.txt

(Note those last two have the same name but different locations, but you probably know which is which.)

That's all for the time being, I hope I didn't forget or mess something up (I always do.) Comments are welcome, including about the spelling, grammar, and general wording in the 'pedia entries. I'd like the species' description to be a little less 'bland', but writing good, funny prose is still beyond my writing skills (English isn't my native language.)
Attachments
SP_NERADA.focs.txt
(5.62 KiB) Downloaded 12 times
SP_NERADA.focs.txt
(4.48 KiB) Downloaded 12 times
SCOTOTROPHIC_SPECIES.focs.txt
(226 Bytes) Downloaded 12 times
SCOTOTROPHIC_SPECIES_CLASS.focs.txt
(222 Bytes) Downloaded 12 times

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Oberlus
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Re: Species: Nerada

#2 Post by Oberlus » Sun May 20, 2018 7:51 pm

Awesome work.

They remind me of the "monster" of one of Dean R. Kontz books that I read when child. It was a huge, single-mind, distributed "organism" with a composition related to petroleum that could separate parts of it and mimic other organisms/animals shapes (although in black, IIRC) and capabilities. It lived deep in the ground, getting out every few centuries to eat anything that moves. It could sense others thoughts and memories, and use it against the victims, and was very intelligent, but didn't have feelings and the such and could not really communicate to the other beings (that in any case are just prey).

A suggestion:
The Nerada could justify its good defense troops and absent offensive troops by chemical/environmental stuff: they naturally (and unconsciously) produce many kind of toxic agents (to which they are immune) to keep their environment free of foreign organisms. Those agents are not just some "venom in the air", they include chemical and mechanical (like explosive spores) stuff that can break appart armor plate and be a challenge for invading mobile troops. But appart from that, they have no real means to exert violence on other beings, and this defensive environment can only be built up with time and effort (which renders it useless for invasion, since natives will wipe out the pest/infection that the Nerada seem to be).
In some sense, the Nerada, made of darkness, full of "hate" to the light, and which will always kill anything that tries to cohabit with them, could be seen as "evil".

An idea inspired on Nerada: an ultimate-research, no-industry, phototropic, no-offensive-troops, communal vision, asteroid-dwelling species to be the "bright" counterpart/nemesis of the Nerada. Good or great planetary stealth, or great planetary defenses (if that exists), probably needed.

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Re: Species: Nerada

#3 Post by Jaumito » Sun May 20, 2018 9:45 pm

Oberlus wrote:A suggestion:
The Nerada could justify its good defense troops and absent offensive troops by chemical/environmental stuff: they naturally (and unconsciously) produce many kind of toxic agents (to which they are immune) to keep their environment free of foreign organisms.[etc.]
That's actually close to what was in the first draft but I eventually ditched it as unnecessary. Think about it: how do you fight what's basically a huge mass of goo that's everywhere and without a central brain or a command structure you could target? That alone would make them the ultimate defenders. Similarly, the lack of offensive power is due to the need to achieve critical mass to fight (or actually do anything) effectively, and to achieve that critical mass, the Nerada have to grow peacefully on an uncontested planet for a few turns. You just can't squeeze enough of this "Nerada goo" into troop transport ships and expect them to be sentient enough to grok concepts like strategy and tactics on arrival.

A good analogy would be the way gravity works: at large scales it's the most potent force in the universe, but it peters out to nothing if you haven't trillions of tons of mass at hand. Nerada intelligence is basically a function of their mass.
An idea inspired on Nerada: an ultimate-research, no-industry, phototropic, no-offensive-troops, communal vision, asteroid-dwelling species to be the "bright" counterpart/nemesis of the Nerada. Good or great planetary stealth, or great planetary defenses (if that exists), probably needed.
No industry - it didn't even cross my mind. Probably because there's no counterpart to DTC for industry. Could be fun, I'll have to try that.

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Re: Species: Nerada

#4 Post by Jaumito » Mon May 21, 2018 12:28 am

A few tips for playing the Nerada:

1. Stop reading NOW if you want to figure out all of this by yourself. Nerada are supposed to be a challenging species, why wouldn't you want to keep the challenge up?

2. ... but don't make the challenge harder by picking 'Young Galaxy' on your first try. You'll be punished for it. With extreme prejudice.

3. Use your superior industry to colonize aggressively. You want to milk Nascent Artificial Intelligence's flat bonus out of every world you can live (or survive) on - even if it's rated 0.25. Lots of crappy planets is better in the early game than a few fat and juicy ones. At least until you research Distributed Thought Computing (which should be an early priority by the way.)

4. You have bad supply and thanks to your abysmal research, that won't improve for a while, so consider outposting some uninhabitable tiny/small planets for the supply bonus. Again, great industry helps there.

5. Ancient ruins are more valuable to you than to anyone else, because extinct species. Kilandow are the real prize here.

6. In Neradenese, the sentence "There's no ancient ruins in sight" translates as a single word, and that word is "Exobot". Too obvious for a hint? Maybe. The real reason I'm talking about Exobots here is - don't forget to set them to research (as I do way too often.)

7. Avoid turtling. You can't conquer enemy empires early, but you have all the tools you need (good industry and weapons) to make their own expansion as miserable as possible. Don't let their better research overwhelm you.

8. Blue stars are your sworn enemy. They're lethal and will remain so the whole game, even when you've researched every growth tech there is. Just pretend they don't exist. By the way, you did read (2) above, right?

9. Planetary starlane drives are your friends. Especially if you ignored (2) above.

10. The Laenfa are heretics and the Chato an abomination. Exterminate them on sight. Exterminate everything that looks blue-ish on sight.

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Re: Species: Nerada

#5 Post by Oberlus » Fri Aug 24, 2018 8:54 am

I've tried Nerada (love them).

Got a problem with them that maybe have easy solution:
I can outpost asteroid belts but I won't be able to build Nerada colony building in there. Is it because there is no such building? (I mean, the attached FOCS files are missing something?)
There is a workaround that makes expansion a bit slower: wherever you want Nerada to live, use only colony bases or ships.

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Re: Species: Nerada

#6 Post by Jaumito » Fri Aug 24, 2018 2:38 pm

No idea on what might cause the problem yet, but I'm still running 0.4.7 - too many unfinished games I want to complete!

I'll look into it. They *should* be able to build colonies on asteroid outposts.

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Re: Species: Nerada

#7 Post by Ophiuchus » Mon Aug 27, 2018 12:24 pm

Oberlus wrote:
Fri Aug 24, 2018 8:54 am
I've tried Nerada (love them).

Got a problem with them that maybe have easy solution:
I can outpost asteroid belts but I won't be able to build Nerada colony building in there. Is it because there is no such building? (I mean, the attached FOCS files are missing something?)
There is a workaround that makes expansion a bit slower: wherever you want Nerada to live, use only colony bases or ships.
Did you add the building as starting unlock (in the items.inf as described in the OP) ?
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: Species: Nerada

#8 Post by Oberlus » Mon Aug 27, 2018 10:43 pm

Oops... Good catch, Ophiuchus. Thank you.

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Re: Species: Nerada

#9 Post by Jaumito » Tue Aug 28, 2018 8:58 am

Oberlus wrote:
Fri Aug 24, 2018 8:54 am
I can outpost asteroid belts but I won't be able to build Nerada colony building in there.
Aha. I thought this meant you had a problem building colonies on asteroid belts only (excluding other planet types). While a missing BLD_COL_NERADA unlock would prevent you to build Nerada colonies on any kind of planet. So which is it? Can you confirm your problem is gone for good?

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Re: Species: Nerada

#10 Post by Oberlus » Tue Aug 28, 2018 5:25 pm

I could build colony ships and colony bases, which I used for the first colonisations... Then I went out on holydays.
I didnt change that .inf file so I think that will solve it (once I get to my home next weekend).

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Re: Species: Nerada

#11 Post by Ophiuchus » Wed Aug 29, 2018 10:35 am

Oberlus wrote:
Tue Aug 28, 2018 5:25 pm
I could build colony ships and colony bases, which I used for the first colonisations... Then I went out on holydays.
I didnt change that .inf file so I think that will solve it (once I get to my home next weekend).
I think for the saved games that wont do. I think instead you have to unlock the missing building in a tech before you research it instead (or maybe an effect?).

Not sure if there are better methods.
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Re: Species: Nerada

#12 Post by Oberlus » Sat Sep 01, 2018 7:41 am

Thanks, Ophiuchus. Anyway, I don't care about saved games, I seldom finish a game and I'm fine with starting new ones.

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Re: Species: Nerada

#13 Post by Oberlus » Sun Sep 02, 2018 4:24 pm

In my current game (150 systems, mature 4-arm spire, everything high) playing Nerada, against 10 AIs, there is another Nerada. I started "trapped" in a cluster of three systems, two empty and my homeworld's (that contains only my asteroid belt), fenced by a system with a few static monsters. So I had to build up my forces (standard cruisers) before doing anything else. And after that there were few barren and asteroid belts available. At turn 120, I am the second strongest empire in the Galaxy, way over the other 9. The strongest one (+30% PPs+RPs) is the other Nerada. So I don't think AI really sucks at playing Nerada (at least not the AI of 0.4.8). Or maybe they are OP.

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Re: Species: Nerada

#14 Post by Oberlus » Mon Sep 03, 2018 8:39 am

@Jaumito
I think I found a "bug".
Population effects on techs and population.macros use "Target.HabitableSize", which values 3 for asteroid belts.
You define the population effects of the stars in the species file using "Source.SizeAsDouble", which values 6 for asteroid belts. This has a weird consequence: In systems with white stars, Neradas can live in barren planets but can't on asteroid belts. E.g. a medium barren gets a "White star -15" effect while an asteroid belt gets "White star -30". Should this be changed?

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Re: Species: Nerada

#15 Post by Jaumito » Mon Sep 03, 2018 4:46 pm

Oberlus wrote:
Sun Sep 02, 2018 4:24 pm
In my current game (150 systems, mature 4-arm spire, everything high) playing Nerada, against 10 AIs, there is another Nerada. I started "trapped" in a cluster of three systems, two empty and my homeworld's (that contains only my asteroid belt), fenced by a system with a few static monsters. So I had to build up my forces (standard cruisers) before doing anything else. And after that there were few barren and asteroid belts available. At turn 120, I am the second strongest empire in the Galaxy, way over the other 9. The strongest one (+30% PPs+RPs) is the other Nerada. So I don't think AI really sucks at playing Nerada (at least not the AI of 0.4.8). Or maybe they are OP.
Good to know. Also, weird. I haven't tried a 0.4.8 Nerada yet, but in 0.4.7 they went from abysmal in young galaxies, to below average in old ones, and I've played dozens of observer games just to evaluate them. That's actually part of the reason why I gave them good, then great weapons - yet more often than not, AI Nerada would still be conquered by an advanced tech AI who would then slaughter everyone else with Nerada warships.

I'll give them normal weapons again if their OP status gets confirmed in 0.4.8 - they never were supposed to be good at fighting to begin with, anyway.
Oberlus wrote:
Mon Sep 03, 2018 8:39 am
@Jaumito
I think I found a "bug".
Population effects on techs and population.macros use "Target.HabitableSize", which values 3 for asteroid belts.
You define the population effects of the stars in the species file using "Source.SizeAsDouble", which values 6 for asteroid belts. This has a weird consequence: In systems with white stars, Neradas can live in barren planets but can't on asteroid belts. E.g. a medium barren gets a "White star -15" effect while an asteroid belt gets "White star -30". Should this be changed?
I've never noticed this in 0.4.7. Maybe something has changed here? The code you're alluding to I borrowed from the Banforo (the "light sensitive" stuff), and it applies to planets and asteroids just the same, so medium barrens and asteroids being the same size, should have the same hab and the same maluses applied, whatever the star type. At the moment, I have no clue on what's happening here. Anyway, I certainly remember I could colonize asteroids in white star systems with Nerada in 0.4.7, once I had researched all the required growth/hab tech. Only blue stars were off-limits forever.

Well, time to install 0.4.8, I guess :?

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