StarLords3K - An on-line strategic 4X space game
Why would I create yet another 4X Space game?
Because all 4X I have played had poor AI and a lack of strategic & diplomatic scope.
I define strategy as the following :
Planning : This is a time element thing. Games usually permit a player to react fairly quickly to an unexpected situation. Fast reaction time eliminates the need for planning.
Logistics : Dealing with the logistics must not be onerous, but its effect has to be there so it affects decisions. This aspect can present many strategic opportunities, like cutting lines of supply, interdicting re-enforcements and the need for intelligence regarding it.
Intelligence : Lack of information can really add a lot of intrigue to a game. For this, fog of war is a must and it has to be persistent (what I mean is, if you have no assets at a location, you have little, none or old info about it).
Manoeuvre : Major & minor battles, feints, diversions, supply & trade disruption, siege, retreat, looting and scouting all add to strategic scope. Many games seem to devolve into placing the majority of assets in one big fleet and going on a rampage. Basically a FPS and about as far from the type of strategy I am talking about as you can get.
All these aspects of strategy are available in other genres, but rarely in a 4X.
As for the AI issue, I think breathing humans are the best opponents.
So here is my answer to that :
Game overview :
- 4X space game
- Browser based, only runs in Firefox (maybe Chrome soon)
- Closed Beta status
- Basic 2d graphics
- Strong focus on grand strategy & diplomacy
- No action, not a RTS & no tactical control
- Role play possible
- Not commercial, this will never be a pay to play. (it's my hobby)
Here are some screen shots & reasons why this 4X may be different :
The manoeuvre element is the fleet. Fleets move between stars by an instantaneous jump, but then must wait while the jump engine re-charges. This slows down the pace of the game, giving you time to plan. It creates the feel of a turn based game, even though it is a persistent universe.
Fleet movement may be automated.
- Patrol routes may be created to look for enemies.
- Gathering routes take minerals to stars with a refinery. This works kind of like railway tycoon.
- Other routes may be configured to move new ships to the front, return the battle weary for R & R, etc.
There is an emphasis on diplomacy.
Much effort has gone into creating organic "situations" that evolve into diplomatic crisis. These come about from conflict between several realms of influence. These being political relationships, trade, military actions, resource access and a feudal hierarchy.
Trade is encouraged by a mechanism whereby the number of types of minerals governs the efficiency of your refineries and thus your limits to production of assets. Since only a few mineral types are found locally you must trade with other areas to gain more mineral types.
The game is not played in "binges" (hours in a session) but in short play sessions. Think of a normal 4X that has its play session sliced into bits. This is by design, so that those with real lives may fit it into a busy schedule (or a fanatic gamer can play a session between all those other games) allowing them to play a deep, involving game even though "they have no time".
Fog of war is constant. If you have no ship or spy at a star you do not know what is there, you only know what was there last time you visited. This permits a "cat & mouse" situation, where cunning can win out.
Building assets takes a long time. This creates pressure to plan, as you cannot react immediately to a new threat by "popping out" fleets of new ships at a moments notice. You can build & assign additional builders to speed up a project, but there is cost there as well.
A large selection of technologies are available that affect all aspects of the game. There is no "tech tree" you just research the areas you want an advantage in. you may choose to be mediocre in all or focus on a few that complement your overall strategic direction.
There is a robust economic model that provides many ways to gain income and many ways to lose it. Taxation, tribute, piracy, export contracts, asset support, salaries are some of the factors.
There is a whole game within the game in regards to spies. Covert agents may conduct espionage, sabotage, incite labour or student unrest and incite rebellions. They can embezzle, slander and assassinate as well.
In the beginning you manage all aspects of your realm, but as your empire grows you may opt to do less micro-management and automate repetitive tasks.
The game progresses though stages; exploration, build-up, contact and then the core game play begins with diplomacy, trade & conflict.
There is a play through of a typical 1st session on the website. The game begins slowly as you are mostly exploring and colonising, so the video may be a bit boring. Any suggestions on how to present a "cerebral" game and not make the presentation boring?
This slow start is intentional as the game is complex and is designed so that a new player is not overwhelmed and has time to get his bearings.
We need a few more play testers, pm me if interested.
All feedback is welcome.
I used to play Endless Space before they screwed up the handling of secondary monitors on the Mac. There was a little bit of true strategy sprinkled into the game, but not as much as I would prefer. It looks like you are trying to do better on that score.
Anyway I posted a "Guide" on steam that highlighted a tactic that I pulled off in Endless Space using the Warp Drive. It showed a way to grab more space without going to war. The "Guide" just consisted of some screen snaps interspersed with comments. If you could do something similar to highlight specific example strategies or tactics it might give a better sense for your game.
So far I have spent 15 minutes looking at your snaps and videos and all I saw was basic early stage 4x stuff. I look forward to seeing examples from the more unique parts that you have put into the game. (Yes you can assume that the people here have played MOO or Endlass Space or something like that before so you don't have to expain the details of the basics that these games have in common even though the details are likely different in your game.)
So far I have spent 15 minutes looking at your snaps and videos and all I saw was basic early stage 4x stuff. I look forward to seeing examples from the more unique parts that you have put into the game.
I've been pondering how I can answer this. The reason I only show basic concepts is because without knowing the mechanics of the game is it hard to describe more "advanced" examples. Its like trying to give an example of chess or go to someone who has no idea of the rules. You must tell them the rules to explain the strategies. But I will try a few...
A problem with on-line PvP is how you get the tactics to work. One side may not be on-line, so the tactics have to be limited to the one who is, or have them pre-programmed. The way I have dealt with this is to eliminate the tactical level and make the manoeuvre element the fleet, so combat is more strategic. This allows for the delay mechanism (engine charging) to give time for the opponent to respond.
The fleets do have standing orders and decide how to respond based on these and their stats. Usually combat only happens when both fleets wish it to. This is very different from most other games as a major battle will only happen if someone decides to "make a stand", this usually occurs at built up stars or choke points.
Most of the time the weaker fleet retreats. This creates a skirmish like situation where small fleets push each other to retreat. When a large fleet is found then it is a matter of assembling your forces and engaging (or running) as the case may be.
The game should not be mistaken for just a wargame, even though the military strategy can be entertaining, if you focus on conquest you will be outdone by those engaging in diplomacy.
For more on strategy in the game see the strategy forum on the website.
As for other innovative ideas, some basic ones are mentioned between the pics in the first post. One thing I did not mention was routing. This allows you to automate your fleets, so they can move while you are off line. They can pickup and drop off assets, wait for repair, training or morale to rejuvenate. The routing can get quite complex if you want it to.
Feel free to ask for clarification on any of this or the aspects I described in the previous post.
The episode "Cave Mercatura Furta" has begun.
New game features:
UTS Delivery Service : Send resources to remote stars and territories.
Sector Markets : Resource trade via UTS.
New ship components :
- Engineer Unit : Required to capture transponders.
- Supply Dock : Reduces support by 50% for system ships.
Checklist : Programmable reminders.
Jumpgate Agreement : Required for foreign jumpgate use.
Join Route Option : For new ship builds.
Dragable Map : The map is now dragable!
The episode "Mercatus Volgus Ubivis" has begun.
New game features:
- Dogfights : Takes place during short range combat by fightercraft
- Thrusters, Generators and Ion Cannons : Only usable on Fighters & Interceptors
- Civil Markets : Similar to black markets but deal in legal goods
- Luxuries : Demand now based solely on each star, rather than realm
- Civil Defence Fleets : Replace tribute ship building. CDF's build automatically based on habitat level
- Monuments : May now be dedicated to science, fertility, productivity or shipping. This results in bonus output