Planet Habitat Displays?

A forum for chatting about in-development game features.
User avatar
sven
Site Admin
Posts: 1599
Joined: Sat Jan 31, 2015 10:24 pm
Location: British Columbia, Canada
Contact:

Planet Habitat Displays?

Postby sven » Sat Mar 28, 2015 11:55 pm

icekatze wrote:While I have figured out that mixing the races present on colonies can increase the population cap, I still have no idea how exactly that mechanic works. I would recommend having some sort of indicator that tells the player how much unused space on the planet there is, and of what might be able to fill that. At least, it would be nice to know without trial and error of finding a planet with a certain population, and dragging that population over the colony to see how much it would increase. Also, how this interacts with terraforming is not entirely clear.


Yes -- this is a hard one. Arioch and I have both spent a fair amount of time thinking about different ways that we might visualize the habitat occupancy status of a planet. But, neither of us have come up with a candidate UI we're particularly happy with.

This is a case where I think the underlying model may be complex enough that hiding the gory details from the player, and just telling them about the implications, is the best game design choice we can make. There's always a chance we've missed some clever idea though, so, if you have any suggestions about how, exactly, to improve the current population cap displays, please let us know :)

The core problem, really, is that each race has the potential to impact the cap on each planet in a different way. And any combination of races on any planet type will potentially imply a different effective cap.

We could, perhaps, take the current hinting system displayed during population move orders a little further. Say, by outlining in green any planets that would receive a cap boost from the currently selected population type. We might also do some hinting around candidate terraforming projects, say, by showing how much the effective cap for each species currently present on the planet would go up or down if a given terraforming option were applied.

We'd still be effectively requiring a process of trial and error from the player -- but, it could perhaps be a simpler, less tedious trial and error process ;)

User avatar
sven
Site Admin
Posts: 1599
Joined: Sat Jan 31, 2015 10:24 pm
Location: British Columbia, Canada
Contact:

Re: Suggest - Features and Improvements

Postby sven » Sun Mar 29, 2015 12:16 am

sven wrote:This is a case where I think the underlying model may be complex enough that hiding the gory details from the player, and just telling them about the implications, is the best game design choice we can make.


But... to get into said gory details a little: Formally, each planet provides a couple different habitat zones. The maximum population any particular species can grow to in any habitat is the habitat size X the species affinity for that habitat. So, for example, if you have an world with 1.5 space worth of reef habitat, then Phidi (who have a reef-afinity score of 4.0) will get 6 pop worth of space from that habitat. How much adding a new species type to a world will improve the total population cap is a bit complicated, because what matters is how much of an improvement the new species habitat affinities can offer, relative to the species that are already present on the world.

I.e., adding Phidi to a water world is pretty useful, if the planet is currently colonized by an amphibious race like the Gremak, but, it's much more useful if the only colonists on the planet are the strictly land-dwelling Ashdar. On the other hand, if the planet already has Threshers, adding Phidi probably won't affect the cap at all -- as Threshers are just as comfortable in water habits as the Phidi are.

It's a complicated system. But, my hope is that the system's consequences are fairly intuitive, even if the number-crunching going on behind the scenes is less so.

User avatar
icekatze
Posts: 30
Joined: Mon Mar 23, 2015 1:27 am
Location: Middle of Nowhere

Re: Suggest - Features and Improvements

Postby icekatze » Sun Mar 29, 2015 1:38 am

hi hi

Arioch wrote:In tactical combat, you shouldn't have to click Move or Attack; you can move to any valid destination or attack any target in range just by right-clicking on the target.
Right click is a thing? You just blew my mind, right there. :shock:

sven wrote:There's always a chance we've missed some clever idea though, so, if you have any suggestions about how, exactly, to improve the current population cap displays, please let us know :)


This is kinda what I thought might be helpful. It may not be 100% in line with the math that is used, but even something that is roughly similar might neat.
race_indicator_idea.png
race_indicator_idea.png (35.57 KiB) Viewed 9278 times

User avatar
sven
Site Admin
Posts: 1599
Joined: Sat Jan 31, 2015 10:24 pm
Location: British Columbia, Canada
Contact:

Re: Suggest - Features and Improvements

Postby sven » Sun Mar 29, 2015 2:03 am

icekatze wrote:This is kinda what I thought might be helpful. It may not be 100% in line with the math that is used, but even something that is roughly similar might neat.


The habitat bar-chart is the kindof layout I imagined implementing in my own first-draft mockups, only to eventually discard. The core problem, I think, is that it takes up a whole lot of space, but, doesn't immediatly communicate the consequences of adding or removing a particular species.

It's also misleading: an important low-level detail of the population modeling system is that populations are always free to move from one habitat to another, if doing so will make room for more colonists. So, for the purpose of game mechanics, where, exactly, any species is living on any planet doesn't actually matter. A habitat bar layout makes it look like it does, and so it actually makes the game appear to be more complicated than it honestly is.

There probably are ways we could fill in that 2-axis graph that would be informative, and practically helpful to some theory crafters. That said, I don't want players to feel like they need to digest a collection of multi-variable line graphs in order to play the game properly. More generally, my philosophy is that line graphs, pie carts, and other things liable to remind people of math homework are probably best left out of the core gameplay experience. Though something like a game wiki or community forum is certainly an appropriate place for that kind of content ;)

User avatar
icekatze
Posts: 30
Joined: Mon Mar 23, 2015 1:27 am
Location: Middle of Nowhere

Re: Suggest - Features and Improvements

Postby icekatze » Sun Mar 29, 2015 2:18 am

hi hi

The percentages of a biome on each planet are already displayed on the planet's information. Perhaps there is a simple way to describe whether any given biome is being utilized or underutilized? You mentioned having a green outline for planets if moving a species to it would improve the population. I think that's a good idea, but you could put a similar outline around each biome's listed percent, and say green means that biome is being well utilized, and red means it is not. (Or something similar.)

User avatar
sven
Site Admin
Posts: 1599
Joined: Sat Jan 31, 2015 10:24 pm
Location: British Columbia, Canada
Contact:

Re: Suggest - Features and Improvements

Postby sven » Sun Mar 29, 2015 2:40 am

icekatze wrote:The percentages of a biome on each planet are already displayed on the planet's information. Perhaps there is a simple way to describe whether any given biome is being utilized or underutilized? You mentioned having a green outline for planets if moving a species to it would improve the population. I think that's a good idea, but you could put a similar outline around each biome's listed percent, and say green means that biome is being well utilized, and red means it is not. (Or something similar.)


Hrm... I think this might work. It's a little tricky, because the spreadsheet of racial affinity scores is currently pretty fiddly. Behind the scenes, habitat affinity scores vary from 0.8 to 4.0, and there's enough distinct values in the current definitions that they wouldn't really map nicely to easily distinguishable colors. But... maybe they should. I don't think we'd need many more than 4-5 standard levels of habitat affinity -- and that means we're in range of a hierarchy that can be naturally described using words or colors, rather than numbers. Something like "very poor" "poor" "ok" "good" "very good". The sort of scale that could be translated well enough into these kinds of UI hints you're proposing.

User avatar
icekatze
Posts: 30
Joined: Mon Mar 23, 2015 1:27 am
Location: Middle of Nowhere

Re: Suggest - Features and Improvements

Postby icekatze » Sun Mar 29, 2015 2:56 am

hi hi

If you stick to 4 or 5 colors, you can make any given color represent a range of values. People are going to be most concerned with the highest value, since that is the desirable goal, so a perfect 4.0 might be the only single digit that needs its own color. Any range below that, people will know there is still room for improvement.

User avatar
sven
Site Admin
Posts: 1599
Joined: Sat Jan 31, 2015 10:24 pm
Location: British Columbia, Canada
Contact:

Re: Suggest - Features and Improvements

Postby sven » Sun Mar 29, 2015 3:07 am

icekatze wrote:hi hi

If you stick to 4 or 5 colors, you can make any given color represent a range of values. People are going to be most concerned with the highest value, since that is the desirable goal, so a perfect 4.0 might be the only single digit that needs its own color. Any range below that, people will know there is still room for improvement.


The interesting thing is, 4.0 affinity scores are very rare -- only occurring for reefs, forests, and swamps at present. An airless moon is just inherently less useful than a productive forest. And that makes sense, I think.

But it makes any display of affinity scores less intuitive. What's worth understanding about any particular race is whether or not it's affinity for certain habitats is above average -- the absolute value is less important. So, for example, one of the significant bonuses I'm currently giving to the Yoral is that they actually have a 1.5 affinity for airless habitats -- rather than the 1.0 affinity that just about everyone else gets. That means they're far above average in their ability to colonize barren worlds. But colonizing a barren moon is still difficult and inefficient -- even if you're using hardy Yoral settlers to do it.

Maybe a barren planet with Yoral colonists should have it's airless habitat outlined in grey, where other colonies should show it in dark grey... but, it will look like a subtle distinction... and risk frustrating players who are looking for ways to make everything turn bright green.

User avatar
sven
Site Admin
Posts: 1599
Joined: Sat Jan 31, 2015 10:24 pm
Location: British Columbia, Canada
Contact:

Re: Suggest - Features and Improvements

Postby sven » Sun Mar 29, 2015 3:49 am

sven wrote:Maybe a barren planet with Yoral colonists should have it's airless habitat outlined in grey, where other colonies should show it in dark grey... but, it will look like a subtle distinction... and risk frustrating players who are looking for ways to make everything turn bright green.


Again, the fundamental issue here is that the habitat modeling system is, in truth, a complex one. And I think it needs to be complex, in order to have the kinds of consequences I want it to have. But -- I don't want players to feel like they have an obligation to fully understand how the system works. And that means that leaving it under-described may actually be a good idea. If I start color-coding habitat descriptions, it's going to draw players attention to a world of details that, ideally, they shouldn't actually need to pay much attention to.

edit: As I keep mulling this over, I'm once again leaning towards the conclusion that the best approach may just be to show less -- i.e., to leave the particulars of the habitat types and numbers out of the planet summary pane entirely. If the system is working as intended, then reading the text description of the planet, and the backgrounds of the different species, ought to be sufficient to give players a sense of which colonists are happiest on which planets. More UI hints (like some glows around colonies that would get a cap boost from the queued population transfer order) would help make the trial and error component of mixed species empires less tedious, so that's probably a good idea. But what I should be focused on, I think, is doing a better job of drawing the player's attention to the consequences of the population model, rather than trying to explain the causes.

User avatar
Gyrfalcon
Posts: 162
Joined: Tue Feb 03, 2015 2:58 pm
Location: The Peninsula

Re: Planet Habitat Displays?

Postby Gyrfalcon » Mon Mar 30, 2015 4:39 pm

The other interesting question is whether the Phidi Rush will become a strategy where players try and capture a Phidi world early on to fill up the oceans on their colonies.
Summer grasses
all that remains of great soldiers'
imperial dreams - Basho

User avatar
sven
Site Admin
Posts: 1599
Joined: Sat Jan 31, 2015 10:24 pm
Location: British Columbia, Canada
Contact:

Re: Planet Habitat Displays?

Postby sven » Mon Mar 30, 2015 4:56 pm

Gyrfalcon wrote:The other interesting question is whether the Phidi Rush will become a strategy where players try and capture a Phidi world early on to fill up the oceans on their colonies.


My general intent is that lucky map setups should sometimes offer you opportunities that really change the way the whole game plays out. Getting early access to a useful secondary colonist type is intended to be one of those sorts of opportunities. But, it certainly won't be the only one.

User avatar
Gyrfalcon
Posts: 162
Joined: Tue Feb 03, 2015 2:58 pm
Location: The Peninsula

Re: Planet Habitat Displays?

Postby Gyrfalcon » Mon Mar 30, 2015 4:59 pm

And will there be a way to lure Phidi colonists to my colonies without having to kidnap them?
Summer grasses
all that remains of great soldiers'
imperial dreams - Basho

User avatar
sven
Site Admin
Posts: 1599
Joined: Sat Jan 31, 2015 10:24 pm
Location: British Columbia, Canada
Contact:

Re: Planet Habitat Displays?

Postby sven » Mon Mar 30, 2015 5:01 pm

Gyrfalcon wrote:And will there be a way to lure Phidi colonists to my colonies without having to kidnap them?


When the diplomacy features go in, yes, definitely.

User avatar
icekatze
Posts: 30
Joined: Mon Mar 23, 2015 1:27 am
Location: Middle of Nowhere

Re: Planet Habitat Displays?

Postby icekatze » Mon Mar 30, 2015 6:15 pm

hi hi

It may be the case that less information is the way to go, but I still feel like it would be helpful to at least have some information. To use an analogy, I don't know what exactly the color coded population growth figures for each race in a colony mean, but I don't think having them detracts from the experience. If I just need a relative understanding of which one is growing faster than the others, it works quite well.

Even if it just used a relative scale for each biome, the basic terms "Underused, used, well used." would provide some contextual information for people. If letting people know that they've fully utilized a colony's potential is making things too easy for them, it might still be useful to let them know when their race doesn't care for one of the biomes they have. Whether it is with a frowning face icon, or just putting the affinity number below the biome percentage, it could help.

Mezmorki
Posts: 8
Joined: Tue Apr 14, 2015 6:12 pm

Re: Suggest - Features and Improvements

Postby Mezmorki » Thu Apr 16, 2015 6:07 pm

sven wrote:edit: As I keep mulling this over, I'm once again leaning towards the conclusion that the best approach may just be to show less -- i.e., to leave the particulars of the habitat types and numbers out of the planet summary pane entirely. If the system is working as intended, then reading the text description of the planet, and the backgrounds of the different species, ought to be sufficient to give players a sense of which colonists are happiest on which planets. More UI hints (like some glows around colonies that would get a cap boost from the queued population transfer order) would help make the trial and error component of mixed species empires less tedious, so that's probably a good idea. But what I should be focused on, I think, is doing a better job of drawing the player's attention to the consequences of the population model, rather than trying to explain the causes.


I don't know if this is a good way to go. Player's not being able to understand the numbers behind something so intrinsic to the mechanics as population caps is worrying. It suggests to me that (a) you need to find a way to streamline the presentation of all of this; or (b) reevaluate the underlying systems and see if they can be simplified while retaining the core of what you want to achieve.

What's the design goal (e.g. dynamic you are trying to create) behind allowing multiple-populations + having a variable CAP based on different region distributions within the planet? It's complex - and why do you hope to get out of that complexity?


Return to “Testing”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Dragar and 13 guests