a personal question to the devs

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enpi
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a personal question to the devs

Postby enpi » Thu May 28, 2015 12:40 pm

If you dont mind I would like to ask you what 4x games you played alot and which of them you liked best?
Which features of them did you impress most?
Thanks.

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Arioch
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Re: a personal question to the devs

Postby Arioch » Thu May 28, 2015 7:50 pm

I spent a lot of time playing the PC DOS Empire game (both the early ASCII version and the later graphical "Wargame of the Century" version). That was pretty much the original "cities produce units" computer 4X game. Though I guess it was a 3X game, as there wasn't really an "exploit" feature.

Civilization was essentially Empire with technology. I've played all of the versions and their expansions. I think my favorite was Civ IV, just because it was the best combination of gameplay. I liked vassals and the random events system. I liked the one-unit-per-tile combat system in Civ V, though I would like it better the AI knew how to use it properly.

Master of Orion was, of course, a series I spent a long time playing. I preferred MOO2, for the more detailed tactical combat and the Civilization style planet improvement system (as opposed to MOO1's sliders). I liked the leader system in MOO2, though I think they could have done more with it.

I enjoyed KOEI's series of strategy games (Romance of the Three Kingdoms, Nobunaga's Ambition, Genghis Khan, etc.). They made good use of characters and the historical settings.

Master of Magic and Age of Wonders (its spiritual successor) is a favorite series of mine; I really like games with dual strategic and tactical modes, especially when the units are upgradable/customizable so they gain individual importance, and I especially like it when battles take place in and around structures that you've built. I also really liked the story-based campaign of Age of Wonders I.

I enjoyed a number of the RTS games, from Dune II to Command & Conquer, Age of Empires, Warcraft, Starcraft, Homeworld, and Company of Heroes. These days I tend to dislike real-time games unless they are pause-able. I don't mind action games, but I don't like having to be multiple places at once in real-time.

It's not exactly a 4X game, but I really enjoyed XCOM and its sequels, and other games in the same model (Jagged Alliance, Silent Storm, UFO Afterlight). Again, I really like the dual-mode strategic/tactical play, and the ability to have encounters in structures you've built.

Other 4X-style games that I've played include: Strategic Conquest, Warlords, Incunabula, Spaceward Ho!, Space Empires IV, Stellar Crusade, Alpha Centauri, Star Wars: Rebellion, Star Trek: Birth of the Federation, Shogun: Total War, Haegemonia, Starmageddon, Galactic Civilizations II, Star Wars: Empire at War, Lord of the Rings: Battle for Middle Earth, Warhammer 40K Dawn of War, Sins of a Solar Empire, Disciples II, and Endless Space.

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Re: a personal question to the devs

Postby sven » Thu May 28, 2015 9:36 pm

The first 4X-ish game I got seriously into was "Legions" from mindscape (not to be confused with various post-90s games that have been released under the same name). I was about 14 at the time, and my memories of it are hazy -- but I had an adolescent obsession with the Punic wars, and I really enjoyed being able to create my own alternate histories for the ancient world. There were war elephants and berserkers, romans and gauls, and that was about all I needed for many happy hours of escapism.

That said, my own “big 3” 90s era strategy games were Alpha Centauri, Master of Orion 2, and Heroes of Might and Magic 3. Taken together, those 3 titles may well account for the majority of my total lifelong gaming time. I could probably write extended essays on just what I liked and didn’t in each, though of course separating the warm glow of nostalgia from what actually works on a game design level is a tricky business.

I spend less time gaming now -- but, as I’ve said in other places, one of my core obsessions of the last few years has been Sword of the Stars. On some level, the reason SiS exists is that I was so simultaneously excited by and frustrated with SOTS. It’s the only 4X game I’ve ever spent much time playing multiplayer. I actually have written a rambling mutli-page essay on my reactions to SOTS -- which I suppose I could post somewhere, for people who really aren’t afraid of massive walls of text. But, the executive summary is basically “wonderfully inventive gameplay, awesome world building, but the real-time tactical battles prove problematic for a whole range of reasons.”

After SOTS, I got very into XCOM: Enemy Unknown. Again, just what I liked and didn't in XCOM is another large tangent (if you ever want to kill a few hours, ask me about my XCOM modding projects). But, basically, as someone who loves turn-based tactical combat, Firaxis's XCOM is necessarily a major landmark title, and I've certainly played plenty of it.

Edit: I'm not sure if an exhaustive "game's played" list is really that useful, and, in any case, mine would certainly be shorter than Arioch's. But it's worth noting that while I have played all the Civs, I've actually spent less time in Civ V than I have playing Warlock: Master of the Arcane. Which I think is reasonably good evidence that I tend to lean towards "lighter" "faster paced" titles, inasmuch as any games in this genre can really be said to lean that way.

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Re: a personal question to the devs

Postby enpi » Fri May 29, 2015 10:32 am

thanks alot guys for the informations. The reason I asked was I wanted to find out, WHICH type of game we have to expect in the long run. I have the experience that we often want to dive into something we have experienced in our past.

For example one of my pet peeves in every 4x game I experienced was the fact that research and economical developement was so interwoven that most times the player with the best economics (most planets/cities etc.) is also the one with the highest tech level. Which leads always to a rush to control very fast alot of the board. This can be fun in the beginning but after a few dozen/hundred games this lack of choices can become boring. The pacing of research and the close relation of research/(battleship?) production capacity is IMO one the main problems of todays 4x genre. In other words, you cannot choose a strategy to play a small but compact empire with fewer battleships but a better tech than the neighbouring 400 pound gorilla, because it all depends in the end on raw production capacity. To be the gorilla will always the way to go. That bothers me. A solution could be to give every empire the same research points per turn independently of its size. I did this in one of my board 4x games I developed, and its a blast everytime we play it in our group because while all the empires have a similar tech level they invest the flat rate points in totally different techs. This "trick" enables them to stay technologically competetiv without the pressure to constantly expand their production base. As I mentioned above I find constantly expanding ok as a strategy, but in todays 4x games this "strategy" is not a strategy because there is no second option to constant land grabbing, you have to do it or will loose, a fact which I find a big problem because it makes the gaming boring in the long run.

Which leads to my second pet peeve in 4x games. Lack of options. IMO most rules should be made by the devs with the question in mind: is this really an option or is it the only way? For example in MOO2 I had the option to choose from 3 technologies and the other 2 were lost. In the new galciv 3 they introduced so called "specializations" which pop up in the tech tree from time to time where I can choose 1 of 3 options, the other 2 are lost. Thats a great mechanic, because if you choose 1 thing you also loose 2 permanently. Loosing and winning makes every choice critical and adds to the strategy and the suspense. It also adds to the technological diversification of empires which is always a grand theme in space opera. (empires which develope the warp gates but not the warp drive and vice versa) I think its critical to introduce a tech system where not all empires have the same techs and are looking like a clone of each other in the end. MOO2 did this with its wonderful 3-tech option system.

Oh man, long post. :o Nonetheless, thanks for your time.

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Re: a personal question to the devs

Postby Arioch » Fri May 29, 2015 5:50 pm

The first X in "4X" is "expand." The early land-grab that is the first phase of 4X games is an important part of this genre, and for some players is their favorite part of the game. If you make research and/or production flat and not based on number of bases or population, then there's no point in ever expanding, and the player can simply turtle in his home system and start mashing the End Turn button. I personally find the expansion phase compelling, because you have to balance speed of expansion against your ability to defend what you grab, at a stage of the game in which your military assets are limited.

I am keenly aware of the importance of interesting choices in gaming, and of trying to avoid the illusion of choice. That's one of the reasons I am wary of automation, because if you can rely on the AI to make a decision for you, then that decision is probably not very interesting and shouldn't be in the game.

Making choices mutually exclusive can be appropriate in certain circumstances, but it's not always necessary to make a choice interesting, and being mutually exclusive doesn't by itself make a choice interesting. A good example of this is in the building quest system in Civilization: Beyond Earth -- every time you construct a new type of building, the game prompts you to make a choice between two different bonuses for that building. In most of the cases, the choice is a complete no-brainer -- one of the choices is usually clearly better than the other -- and the player will always pick that choice. In the few cases in which there's no clear superior choice, the impact of the choice (+1 energy or +1 science) is mostly meaningless. It's the illusion of a choice, and the fact that it's mutually exclusive doesn't really help.

Making technologies mutually exclusive doesn't make logical sense to me. There's no reason that researching a Neutron Blaster should make it impossible for me to later research a Neutron Scanner; on the contrary, it should make it easier. I think that the way to make a tech tree interesting is to offer branches that provide meaningfully different benefits, and balance the costs of techs so that the player won't always be able to research everything that he wants at a given moment.

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Re: a personal question to the devs

Postby luciderous » Fri May 29, 2015 8:16 pm

Arioch wrote:The first X in "4X" is "expand.

Don't want to sound nitpicky here, but AFAIK - the first X is for "eXplore", no? ;)

Anyway, I agree with the idea of the necessity of expansion in general - this makes sense in a way that the more resources are available to you - the more options you have on how to spend them efficiently (be it on production or research or food or whatever). What bothers me in most 4X games, however, (and I am with enpi on this one) - is that eXpansion phase is way too overrated in most rule sets. I mean, it is always a symmetrical decision - either you expand as much and as quickly as you can, or you suffer almost certain defeat in the long run - there is no effective way around it unless you are aiming for some cultural (less often diplomatic or research) victory, like in Civ 5. On a side note, my favorite 4X strategy of all times - Master of Magic - had this particular problem exposed as an infamous "AI city spamming" behavior. Other games have this issue in different forms and flavors as well. Few try to solve it, and even fewer succeed. One way to deal with this problem, would be to hard cap expansion options (tabletop rules style), or soft cap - with severe penalties applied. But I digress, this is easily a topic for its own heated debate thread ;)

Arioch wrote:Making technologies mutually exclusive doesn't make logical sense to me.

True, it doesn't if you think of the game as a miniature of some real "Empire-building". But given the notion that it is still and foremost "a game" - such decision may be one of the most viable options to boost the variability and replayability of such given game, design-wise. It requires more meaningful decision making on part of the player, and therefore makes the game more strategic and fun.

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Re: a personal question to the devs

Postby Arioch » Sat May 30, 2015 12:21 am

In SiS, you can only settle planets, and only if they're habitable; you can't spam cities the way you can in Civ or MoM (or AoW3 -- and yeah, I play with "found cities off" because it's a problem). So there is already an inherent limitation to how much you can expand. You will definitely want to grab every habitable world within reach as quickly as you can -- assuming you can defend them. I don't think that's a problem of any kind. The rate of expansion can be tweaked, if necessary, by adjusting the costs of colonies and the growth rate of colonists.

luciderous wrote:True, it doesn't if you think of the game as a miniature of some real "Empire-building". But given the notion that it is still and foremost "a game" - such decision may be one of the most viable options to boost the variability and replayability of such given game, design-wise. It requires more meaningful decision making on part of the player, and therefore makes the game more strategic and fun.

I agree that realism is secondary to gameplay considerations, but it shouldn't be entirely ignored. Games worlds that are internally consistent and logical are both more immersive and more intuitive to play. Trade-offs should feel natural and not artificially imposed. Mutually exclusive choices are great, where they make sense. (Do you put this captured vessel into service, or disassemble and reverse-engineer it?) I think technology is a case where they don't make sense.


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