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NOTE As ideas are refined in the design threads parts of this document will become out of date. Read with discretion. Parts may be updated and revised as relevant parts of design are nailed down.


Multi-Species Empires fascinate me. In a game with a whole galaxy for playing field, an entire sapient species take the place that an individual would in a story of a smaller scope. A species collectively can have a personality, goals, and create an emotional connection that is impossible in a game focused solely on science, steel, and stars.

A player won't be forced to have a multi-species empire, but they have these advantages:

  • Confederations of diverse alien species, united in a single civilization are a favorite staple of sci-fi.
  • Other species are likely to flourish on planets that your original species finds inhospitable, making colonization easier.
  • Other species are likely to have advantages in production, warfare or research than your original species doesn't have.

To offset those advantages:

  • Various species won't have the same goals and aspirations (ethos), so no matter what you do, you'll upset someone, especially in an empire with many species.
  • It may provide an opportunity for espionage, especially if a species was incorporated forcibly.
  • Some governmental options would be incompatible with a multi-species empire, and/or assigning additional members higher status levels.

Disclaimer: Not all these ideas are originally mine. I've gathered ideas from many of the old threads on the subject. More than once i've found a solution in an old thread to an issue i couldn't resolve. Nor do i really expect all these ideas to be used, but here they are. Also there will generally be some contradiction between the various sections as i refine my ideas. But i've tried to harmonize and elaborate the best ideas in one place, in preparation of the design discussions.

Don't edit this page. If you wish to discuss these ideas, please use this topic.


One Species Per Planet

All the following presumes the precept: "One species per Planet". This precept exists for simplicity of gameplay and interface, (and because the population sorting of MoO2 really annoyed people). After reading the discussions, i think it's a very important idea.

However, a very plausible sci-fi explanation can be devised to "explain" this rule: In FO, aliens are actually quite different from each other— even those which prefer similar planet types. Understandings and experiences of of Music, Humor, Manners, Communication, Property, Food, & Personal-rights, etc. are usually so different that it takes a years of study to begin to understand what another species is thinking. A Star-Wars cantina just can't exist. Many of the substances for eating/drinking/absorbtion would be poisonous, noxious or socially repugnant to other members, and any amount/color of light, the amount/kind of noise, decor etc. could only really appeal to a single species. Even if you could build a bar that Wookies, Jawas, and Mon Calamari wouldn't find offensive, such a "generic" space would appeal to none of them. And the aliens in FO are much more unique than those in StarWars

The same kinds off problems would occur if you tried to build a multi-species city. How do you build a sign that works for beings that primarily "see" using echolocation, smell, and various non-overlapping portions of the EM band? How do you design mass-transit that accommodates beings both the size of a cat and of a whale?

You may imagine small populations of "aliens" on planets run by other species, but the vast majority of inter-species interaction occurs "on-line" thoroughly translated by sophisticated computers, while each can remain in the relative comfort of his/her/its own lava-pool, ocean, flower-garden, atomic-oven, or cave.

Rulers / Government

Throughout, I make reference to "Empires" and "Emperors". These terms are used as a handy catch-all term for multi-stellar nations and their rulers, regardless of their form of government. FreeOrion will likely offer multiple Governmental options, some of which may be unknown on Earth.

It should also be mentioned, that the player (or AI) takes the role, not necessarily of a specific being (i.e. The Emperor), but as a personification of the whole Government. Thus, if he includes several species in his empire, and has the Government type "Confederation", the player's choices represent the major decisions of Confederation's High Senate. The player does not interact with the High Senate, he is the High Senate, or Universal Consensus, Supreme Archon, or whatever.

Furthermore, while an Emperor starts out with species, X, that species does not necessarily play a special, dominant role in his empire. The initial species may ultimately become a minority among many species, a group of specialists on a few core worlds, extinct, or even enslaved to newer members of that empire. The AI Emperor has only one goal— to win. Frequently that will be most expediently done by (more or less) following the ethos of the original species, but if the AI calculates that another path is more likely to lead to success, it will choose it, just like a human usually would. I believe it's rather important that the AI be equally free to succeed. It's hard enough to make a good AI that doesn't cheat without trying to teach it to role-play. Similarly there shouldn't be special diplomatic bonuses/maluses which force an AI empire to like/dislike another empire. These effects do not work on human players and thus are cannot be balanced unless the ratio of AI to humans is constant (which it isn't).

Social Effects

To give species the appearance of living beings rather than mere game-markers, each species could attitudes toward war, peace, science, subjugation, genocide, the well-being of their own species, and other species etc. The behavior of empires in these areas would effect their overall happiness/allegiance/whatever. So the overall contentment of the Zuggibol as part of your empire depends not only on the condition of Zuggiboli within your empire, but the over-all opinion of the Zuggibol throughout the galaxy. Thus believable and interesting difficulties occur when you try to incorporate members of an empire you are at war with into your own empire.

NOTE: this topic is under intense revision. More up-to-date presentation is here.

Social Meters

Social Meters measure the state of the inhabitants of every planet. They are not specifically qualities of a multi-species empire, but are important considerations when describing such an empire, so i've proposed some additional ones to fill in for what doesn't yet exist in the reqs. (see here) There is some discussion that the function of happiness can be assumed by allegiance. I'm not entirely convinced, and it's a bit harder to understand, so for now i'll include happiness.

  • Note to self: "Happiness" and "Health" are probably similar enough that any necessary functions could be combined into a single meter. Need to investigate.


Over time the social meters, happiness and allegiance will even out over a species. This is called Empathy. The rate at which this happens is determined by the level of Unity (see below). I.E. if the Red empire attacks some of the Glurff planets, initially only the attacked planets will change their allegiance towards Red. However, over time the opinions of various Glurff planets about Red evens out, so that they all like Red less than they did on average before the attacks.


The social meters: allegiance, and happiness of a particular species while they may be different on different planets, usually tend to even out over time. The rate at which this happens is determined by the level of unity. Unity ranges from "collective-mind" to "extreme individualism". A species with maximum unity experiences joy and suffering as a collective whole, therefore empathy is total and instantaneous, i.e the allegiance and happiness meters do not vary from planet to planet. A species with no unity is utterly unconcerned with the status of it's members on other planets, therefore it's social meters are not effected by the meters on other planets. These effectively have no empathy. Most species have moderate levels of unity which tend to even out social meters over time, but probably never quite do because new inputs are constantly being added.

For example, an event that causes unhappiness, starvation, occurs on Zed Prime. Lets say it causes -20 happiness per citizen of Zed Prime per turn. The Zedians of Zed Prime are 25% percent of the entire Zedian population. If the Zedians have a complete collective-mind, the entire Zedian population will at the next turn be -5 happy.(-20*.25=-5) If the Zedians were extreme-individualists, none of the other Zedians would be ever be made unhappy by the starvation of others. However, chances are the Zedians are somewhere in-between— so that the starvation-caused-unhappiness of Zed Prime would gradually be distributed to the entire Zedian population— perhaps equilibrium would be reached in 20 turns (assuming no other happiness-effecting events.) Simultaneously the relative happiness of the non-starving Zedians would blunt the despair of the starving ones. Thus the negative happiness of starvation runs more rampant if the whole empire is starving.

If Zedians lived in more than one empire, different border settings might moderate how much the opinion meters would spread into into other empires.

Range of Empathy (simple)

A planet will equalize allegiance and happiness with members of it's species according to it's level of Unity. The same thing will happen with the members of the same empire, depending on the allegiance meter, but only with the happiness meter.

For instance the Voib belong to the Green Empire, which also contains Znazii. If the Voib at 100% loyal they will equalize allegiance & happiness with the Znazii or Green at the same rate (according to unity) as they do with their own species. If the Voib are 100% Disloyal, the social meters are effected in reverse, i.e. If the Znazii are unhappy, it gradually makes the Voib happy, and visa versa. If the Voib are equally balanced between loyalty and disloyalty, they will be indifferent to the happiness of the Znazii. Of course, if the Voib had a Unity of zero (i.e. were extreme individualists) they wouldn't care about the happiness of the Znazii no matter what sort of allegiance they had toward their common empire.

Possibly this empathy could be extended to allies, perhaps at a unity level half their normal level.

Range of Empathy complex)

It could be argued it's more complex than it is worth, however i find it interesting and will describe it . This concept can be discarded without effecting the rest of the multi-species proposal, which assumes the "normal" empathy level of "Species Only".

Generally ordered from lowest to highest:

  • Species within this Empire Only
  • Species Only
  • Empire Only
  • Empire & Species
  • Empire & Allies
  • Empire & Allies & Species
  • Non-Enemies Only
  • Non-Enemies & Species Only
  • All Sapient Species

Playing a species with high unity and empathy for all sapient species would be rather weird, but could at least be an interesting type of NPC.

Ethos (ideology)

e•thos, noun: "the characteristic spirit of a culture, era, or community as manifested in its beliefs and aspirations." plural: ethoi.

A detailed ethos system was famously planned for MoO3, but apparently no one every figured out how to implement it and integrate it into the rest of the gameplay. Here i will try to describe an ethos system for FO that is a natural component of the core game rather than a system that aspires to be a game on it's own. Ideas are liberally borrowed from Alpha Centari and other sources.

An ethos is considered to be essentially inherent in a species— through genetic hardwiring and/or as part of their dominant culture. It doesn't mean that all individuals openly endorse their species' ethos, but considered as a whole species, strong tendencies towards liking or disliking certain things become apparent. A species' Ethos may be something or much philosophical debate, or it may be totally instinctive and assumed. Imagine that dogs, ants and tortoises were sapient and civilized while still retaining their basic "personality". Each might invent hundreds of belief systems, some only comprehensible to members of the species. All Tortoise thought, however would probably have some marked distinctive from Human, Dog and Ant thought. These distinctive are the species ethos.

The ethos is primarily used by a species to evaluate the actions of the various Empires. So the elements of an ethos will be practical (i.e. Honesty vs Spying) not esoteric (i.e. Determinism vs Free-will). It's hard to imagine how an empire could be played that would upset citizens who disbelieve in determinism, but it's easy to understand how citizens who hate spying could be upset.

Many of the elements of an ethos (Issues) will be pairs of opposites, such as the following off-the-top-of-my-head examples:

  • Environmentalism <-> Industrial development
  • Honesty <-> Spying
  • Killing <-> Preservation of Life
  • Peace <-> War
  • Diversity <-> Monoculture
  • Slavery <-> Full Enfranchisement
  • Idealistic <-> Pragmatic

Other elements (Values) have no opposite:

  • Science
  • Wealth
  • Happiness
  • Exploration
  • Expansion
  • Development
  • Military Might

Each Specie's ethos is made up of a few (perhaps 3) of these elements. They are presumed to be less interested in or disunited about the other Ethos elements.

  • complexification:
    • Each Value or Issue may be held with varying degree of fervency— probably at one of a few levels. I.E. A species might be 1) Highly Bloodthirsty, 2) Bloodthirsty, or 3) Slightly Bloodthirsty.
    • Alternatively the order of the ethos elements are listed in could determine their relative importance. I.E. a species with the "Bloodthirsty, Honest, Expansionistic" ethos, is more pro-violence than one with a "Expansionistic, Bloodthirsty, Honest" ethos.
  • Indigene's ethoi could be made of fewer elements in order to make them easier to get along with and in order to make up for their lower stats.

Remember, most large empires may be made up of several species, so any particular action may anger and please different portions of the population. But of-course the Emperor (AI or Human) is not bound to follow the ethos of any of his citizens. State-craft is often the art of choosing the action which will cause the least unhappiness. Certainly the Life-loving Smee will be upset if their empire removes an enemy base with a planet-buster. But they probably would be more unhappy if the base remained, supply lines were cut and their planet began to starve.

So each empire's actions are judged according to each specie's ethos. The positive or negative total is then used to modify the opinion of the inhabitants of each planet. (See allegiance). Empires made up of species with Compatible ethos elements will be more stable. Alliances between empires with citizens of compatible ethos elements will tend to last longer because their citizens won't have much reason to hate the other empire.

Compatibility of ethos also provides a basis for the decision of Indigene species to join or reject a PC empire.

But "compatibility of ethos" is a relative evaluation. No species should have an identical ethos with any other. Perhaps each indigene's ethos should be assigned according to which options haven't been used by PC species, in order to keep things interesting.


Within each Multi-species Empire there are various roles and tasks which can be assigned to the various members possibly including:

  • Farming, Mining, Industry, Science, & Trade — by setting planets of certain species to these foci.
  • Leadership
  • Espionage
  • Military
    • Ground Forces
    • Fleet
  • Foreign Relations / PR ?

Many of the Racial Bonuses in MoO1 and MoO2 make sense in a context where empire roughly equals species. With's FO's multi-species setup some of the classic bonuses are hard to apply. Production bonuses (like the Psylon's plus to research) are easy, but what about the Human's diplomacy bonus, the hooded guy's espionage bonus, of the Alkiri's piloting bonus? "Roles" are a very macro-managment way to include these type of species bonuses.

Each empire would have several "roles" that need to be assigned to a specific species. These roles correspond somewhat to departments or branches of the imperial government. The branches might be "Spying", "Diplomacy/PR", "Space Fleet", and "Ground Combat" -- these are examples which may or may not work out depending on how that aspect of the game is developed. For instance if you assigned the Alkiri to the Space Fleet role, all your ships would get the Alkiri's space combat bonus. They would also have the Alkir's allegiance to your empire, so the most qualified species is not always the best choice. The alternative is to either build each ship for a specific species, or to assign it a species after the fact, but that seems to micromanagy to me. (Note: ships are not built on planets, but on "shipyards" rare, expensive orbital structures, so assigning species by which planet it was built on doesn't work well). And one of my least fond memories of MoO3 was sorting though mobs of ground troops of various species, types and skill levels, trying to put together a force that wouldn't get slaughtered, but admittedly the GUI was stupid, and part of the trouble. I think it would be better, if less realistic to be able to magically assign a species to your ground troops, so you don't have to sort through ground troops by species.

Diplomacy/PR is a little different. We don't want to include game mechanics like the MoO "Charismatic" trait that only work on AI Empires. But we can do something similar. A "charismatic" species in charge of Diplomacy/PR would provide a bonus to the allegiance of involved species allegiance when favorable treaties were made with his empire. And visa versa.

Leaderships is a little bit special. There would be two leadership posts, only one of which can be filled, "Leader" and "Overlord".

  • If "Leadership" is filled, then the leader species gets a medium bonus to allegiance, and all other species get a small malus to allegiance.
  • If "Overlord" is filed the overlord get a large bonus to allegiance, and all other species get a medium malus to allegiance.

While you can't have an Overlord in a single-species empire, you can have a Leader, this represents the natural stability of a single-species system.

(old text that needs to be incororated) Naturally an Emperor would want to take advantage of the various talents of member species. The game makes it easy to take advantage of Farming, Mining, Industry, Science, & Trade, with production foci. Obviously colony ships will need to have a specific species. Is seems a small, logical leap that all ships should be manned by a particular species, so that their racial advantages can be cleanly applied.

However care should be take in whom is allowed in military positions. Obviously if slave-planet/species are implemented, it would be dangerous to give a slave-species control of your fleet. Given an opportunity, a rebellion could leave you defenseless.

Indigenes (natives)

("Indigene" is the noun form of "indigenous", it sounds more sci-fi than "native")

A galaxy filled mostly with empty planets and handful of distant player species all franticly trying to build an empire feels unnecessarily barren— especially in the opening stages of the game. To mitigate the emptiness of the galaxy, i propose adding two or three times the number Indigene species to empire-building player (including AI) species. Each indigenous species if left alone would never make it to another star. Basically they are minor characters in the game rather than players of the game— NPCs. They have no chance of galactic domination on their own, but can help or hinder the PC species. They have noticeably fewer positive pics than the PC species, which provides the great benefit that they don't have to be balanced against the PC species, or even each other.

Migration / Evacuation

It will inevitably happen that once you include another species as part of your empire, you'll have some of the wrong beings on the wrong worlds. You may want to give the newly incorporated Deila (with great farming bonuses) some of your worlds with food-growth specials. Or you may want to keep the services of the newly conquered Bjeek, but you don't want a population with uncertain allegiance on a contested border. Or a world may become overcrowded, and there's nothing you can do for them move them elsewhere.

The original FO designers were justifiably annoyed with the micro of MoO2 involved in moving your population around. Especially since FO will have a lot more planets, such a mechanism would be a huge pain. It's more or less an official point of FO's design that we won't manually shuffle citizens like MoO2. However that doesn't mean there aren't less problematic ways to move population.


For whatever reasons the player may declare an evacuation from a planet. He doesn't manually move citizens around, but simply delivers an eviction notice to the entire planet. The migration proceeds at a steady pace until the planet is empty, or the empire cancels the evacuation. All production ceases during an evacuation or migration.

Evacuations may or may not upset the citizens, depending on their allegiance, and how closely the planet matches their EP. Citizens will be eager to leave an undeveloped planet of an incompatible EP, but could be very angry if forced to leave a developed planet of the ideal EP.

There should be several methods of evacuating a planet. Geoff has a list of several here. Here are i think the important ones:

  • Normal Emigration: minimum unhappiness, slow
  • Forced Emigration: more unhappiness, faster
  • Repatriation: allowing conquered citizens to return to their original empire
  • Genocide: use your ground forces to kill everyone

Once the evacuation is complete, you have two basic options

  • Turn colony over to Species X (who must be a member of your empire)
  • Offer colony to Empire X (as a gift or appeasement)
  • Destroy colony

Spontaneous Migration

It always bothers me in 4X games when population can grow in a city/planet to the point that they are starving to death, but there's nothing i can do to move them to the near-by city/planet with excesses of farms. Or that unhappy/disloyal citizens always just sit in their city/planet and make trouble instead of simply going somewhere else.

While citizens should normally stay at their planet of origin, i expect them to have some desire for self-preservation. When conditions grow bad enough a spontaneous migration event will be triggered-- the population is voting with their feet.. A planet with high allegiance to their empire will attempt to travel to other planets of their species in your empire. If the allegiance is low they may migrate to neighboring empires. Of course slave planets can only migrate after a successful rebellion.

When a spontaneous migration has begun, you get a sit-rep message. Otherwise, spontaneous migration has the same mechanics as Evacuations, except the player cannot directly cancel it. He may however, restrict the freedom of the migrating planet/species so they cannot leave... i.e. make them slaves or make the world a prison planet. It is also possible to stop a migration by ending the condition that caused it, for instance terraforming an awful world, reattaching supply lines to avoid starvation etc, though the response will probably not be instant (due to the normal workings of social meters).


Each species has a homeworld which provides special benefits and has special significance for that species alone. If another species takes over a homeworld they get none of the homeworld bonuses for it, however if the original owners regain their homeworld the bonuses are restored.

  • The max population is higher
  • there is a defense bonus when protecting a homeworld

Additionally a homeworld will have special significance to a species. The empire that owns a homeworld gets a happiness bonus for all citizens which originated on that planet.


There are a lot of ideas in these pages, not all of which are equally important. I'll attempt to list the features from most to least important, taking into account the fact that many are dependent on other features.

  • Each species has a preferred type of planet, i.e. Environmental Preference (EP)
  • Each species has varying stats for the different forms of production, population growth, combat, etc.
  • Each species has an ethos that judges every empire's actions

(to be continued)

Relevant Threads

Depreciated Ideas

Status (Rank)

Depreciated: I think this is a cool idea, but it is overly complicated in practice. The core of the concept can be implemented via "Roles".

(see this post, and the last portion under races here)

Various species in a multi-species empire could have different levels of freedom and responsibility within an empire. The particular names and number of levels are rough. The most important distinction is: "citizen" and "slave".

  • +2 aristocrat
  • +1 elite
  • 0 citizen (default for starting species)
  • -1 associate
  • -2 servant / subject
  • -3 slave
  • -4 vermin

Species higher on the status scale would have a flat bonus to allegiance towards their empire, while those lower would have the obvious malus. Species with lower status would also be less productive, but have less possibility of riot rebellion, or of negatives to production due to low happiness or starvation. They would of course be more eager to join other empires if conquered. Vermin is a special status in which the species are actively exterminated.

If we use more than citizen and slave, there would be special rules for ranks above "citizen".

  • For mono-species empires "citizen" is as highest status possible, though it could go lower.
  • For multi-species empires, status higher than "citizen" cannot be granted unless another species is lower than "citizen".

In other words, a simple way of doing this is to require that the sum of all + and - status levels be 0 or less. To grant a +2 status level to a species, an empire would need to have at least 1 species with a -2 status level, or 2 species with a -1 status level. No nobles without peasants.

Justification This concept has a low priority. It's hard to predict for certain weather something like status will be needed for managing a multi-species empire. It is possible this whole concept can be omitted from the game, as long as the player has the ability to declare any of his planets "prison" planets. This would be functionally similar to slavery, but on a planet-by-planet basis, rather than species-by-species.