"No Master of Orion 2 for You"

General Stars in Shadow Discussion Forum
gaerzi
Posts: 81
Joined: Wed Jul 10, 2019 1:30 pm

"No Master of Orion 2 for You"

Postby gaerzi » Fri Nov 08, 2019 11:14 am

I found this essay mentioned elsewhere, and I found it interesting
https://medium.com/@skonar/no-master-of-orion-2-for-you-9202cb614e56

They go quite far with the idea of having each faction get a very different approach to empire management, beyond just giving them different bonuses on an otherwise identical interface.

User avatar
sven
Site Admin
Posts: 1560
Joined: Sat Jan 31, 2015 10:24 pm
Location: British Columbia, Canada
Contact:

Re: "No Master of Orion 2 for You"

Postby sven » Sun Nov 10, 2019 2:20 pm

gaerzi wrote:They go quite far with the idea of having each faction get a very different approach to empire management, beyond just giving them different bonuses on an otherwise identical interface.


Yeah, I'm also a big fan of asymmetric designs. And I think the design space for asymmetric races in a moo2-like game is huge, with a lot of interesting ground still left uncovered.

I also still think one of the best examples of asymmetry I've seen in a 4X was the Hivers design from SoTS. It was notable for how simple the core change was. Hivers move between star systems very slowly, but they start the game with the ability to build Stargates. In terms of specialized game mechanics and UI, there's really not a lot to it. And yet the impact on gameplay is profound. Playing Hivers is a very compelling experience, but it also feels very different than playing any of the other SoTS races.

I think skonar2 may be over doing things a bit in some of his designs. Many of the race-specific mechanics he's proposing would seem to require a lot of complex and specialized UIs to go along with them, and those are hard to do well. So my initial advice would be to try and distill some of it down -- with the Machine faction, for example, if you just give them the ability to thrive on barren worlds from the start of the game, but no access to social or economic techs, you're already creating a fairly radically different gameplay experience for players of that faction. That by itself might be enough to make for an interesting asymmetry. All the "corruption" mechanics seem cool, but in practice they’d require a lot of specialized UI, and massaging the corruption ruleset to the point where it’s playing well in game would be a challenge.

That said, you may notice that I’m not exactly practicing what I preach here. The Gardeners designs Arioch and I are looking at right now are comparable in complexity to shonar2’s “Machines”. There’s a simple premise, yes, basically “early terraforming, crippled diplomacy”. But there’s also a pile of extra complicating mechanics around population and colony management, race-specific tech lines, and unique tactical weapons.

It's, um, easy to get caught up in a concept that's feeling compelling ;) And I do think that not every asymmetric faction design can or should be as elegantly simple as the Hivers' specialized travel mechanics. More complex rulesets (like the Machine's corruption mechanic) can really add something interesting to the experience, in addition to better selling the theme and lore of the faction. You do need to keep an eye on how big a task you're taking on in terms of UI specialization though. Implementing specialized mechanics is easy -- implementing specialized UIs that do a good job of integrating those mechanics into the core gameplay experience can be much harder though.

zolobolo
Posts: 1236
Joined: Fri Nov 25, 2016 3:49 pm

Re: "No Master of Orion 2 for You"

Postby zolobolo » Sun Nov 10, 2019 3:51 pm

sven wrote:Hivers move between star systems very slowly, but they start the game with the ability to build Stargates.

That sounds awesome :)

Already saw this approach for SiS though (think it was also mentioned on the webpage somehwere): most of the races follow the endgame tech already available from the starts and a negative trait (or ship loadout defficiency logic)

Notable exceptions are the Phidi and Humans: while Phidi do have a small advantage with starting market tech, Humans only have a Heavy Cruiser to fall back onto - these two starting advantages do not make the race feel diferent to play veyod the first 50 turns notl ike the other races

My favorite are the Gremak in this aspect as cloacking + plasma torps give them an edge way into the mid-game

skonar2
Posts: 3
Joined: Fri Nov 15, 2019 10:55 am

Re: "No Master of Orion 2 for You"

Postby skonar2 » Fri Nov 15, 2019 11:14 am

Just wanted to say thank you for giving my hobby-writing project the time of day, let alone looking at it seriously. ^^;

I was seriously considering highlighting Stars in Shadow as a game that took real steps towards achieving the kind of subgame to subgame balance that I theorize made MoO2's feel work so well, but then I was like, well, I'd have to start digging into what parts of SiS work for me and which didn't work for me, and then I better talk about Stardrive 2, and then maybe go into SotS/SotS2... and if I went down that rabbithole I'd stop talking about MoO2 entirely.

I totally agree that in the first-draft-ethos of the piece, I completely neglect just how to inject the elements of handling the various empires into the overall game flow. Maybe something like a large/fleshed out diplomacy segment with a lot of flexible one-off menus? I think I took it for granted that the UI would be built on something relatively easy to overhaul repeatedly - something that could be implemented with something like a markup language ala CSS and thus be flexibly iterated on everywhere? But that starts getting into engine choice/custom engines, and the last time I touched software development or coding beyond tiny stuff was 5+ years ago, so, that's actually an issue to take real seriously should one ever move past just doing that thing as hobby-writing.

In any case! Great job with SiS, and thank you for making a really cool game that's contributed to thinking on the genre. c:

User avatar
sven
Site Admin
Posts: 1560
Joined: Sat Jan 31, 2015 10:24 pm
Location: British Columbia, Canada
Contact:

Re: "No Master of Orion 2 for You"

Postby sven » Fri Nov 15, 2019 6:17 pm

skonar2 wrote:Maybe something like a large/fleshed out diplomacy segment with a lot of flexible one-off menus? I think I took it for granted that the UI would be built on something relatively easy to overhaul repeatedly - something that could be implemented with something like a markup language ala CSS and thus be flexibly iterated on everywhere?


Maybe! I'm not saying it's impossible to create the kinds of mechanics you're proposing. But, I do think that some of the ideas you've put out here -- even, say, some something as simple as the Diplomat's various social/economic balance sliders, would require a level of faction-specific UI specialization beyond anything I've ever seen in a 4X.

One of the unpleasant truths of developing a working game is that you'll spend a lot more time than you'd like agonizing over UI designs -- and I think that's part of the reason that you so rarely see significant interface specializations in practice. If you can design an interface to your mechanics that feels like it's playing well, it's very hard to break it all up, and rework things to put in another collection of buttons and widgets. Particularly given that you'll usually have a large TODO list filled with interesting things you can do or features you can add without tearing apart the existing UIs. You might notice that even Starcraft keeps all its asymmetries to mechanics that don't require specializations to their standard HUD interface.

That said, the menu explosion in Stellaris provides a fairly convincing argument that you can cram a lot of different specialized interfaces into a 4X and still end up with a compelling game. So one solution here might just be to anticipate a sortof Stellaris-like endless dropdown menu of different config screens, and just have some screens that are faction specific. I can see something like this working for the Diplomats special mechanics -- but with the Machine's emergence mechanic, it potentially gets trickier, as there I think you might want a lot of the emergence data to be overlayed on your standard ship and fleet UIs, and that means you're potentially looking at doing customized versions of those UIs that change the way players interact with ships in game if they're playing as the Machines.

Again, I've never seen a 4X that goes that far with specialized UIs. But that doesn't mean you couldn't build one ;)

User avatar
Arioch
Posts: 1223
Joined: Sun Feb 01, 2015 12:56 am
Location: San Jose, California
Contact:

Re: "No Master of Orion 2 for You"

Postby Arioch » Fri Nov 15, 2019 6:56 pm

skonar2 wrote:I was seriously considering highlighting Stars in Shadow as a game that took real steps towards achieving the kind of subgame to subgame balance that I theorize made MoO2's feel work so well, but then I was like, well, I'd have to start digging into what parts of SiS work for me and which didn't work for me, and then I better talk about Stardrive 2, and then maybe go into SotS/SotS2... and if I went down that rabbithole I'd stop talking about MoO2 entirely.

Thanks for posting. If you have the time and inclination, I'm curious to know what in SiS worked for you and what didn't.

skonar2
Posts: 3
Joined: Fri Nov 15, 2019 10:55 am

Re: "No Master of Orion 2 for You"

Postby skonar2 » Fri Nov 15, 2019 9:22 pm

sven wrote:One of the unpleasant truths of developing a working game is that you'll spend a lot more time than you'd like agonizing over UI designs -- and I think that's part of the reason that you so rarely see significant interface specializations in practice. If you can design an interface to your mechanics that feels like it's playing well, it's very hard to break it all up, and rework things to put in another collection of buttons and widgets.


Arioch wrote:Thanks for posting. If you have the time and inclination, I'm curious to know what in SiS worked for you and what didn't.


It's interesting that you're so focussed with UIs, Sven, given Arioch's question.

I'd really need to sit down for a weekend with SiS to get all technical analysis on it, but after dipping back in for half an hour just now to refresh myself? You guys did some amazing stuff with some of your UI, and then inadvertently made some other stuff unnecessarily difficult. Like. The shortcuts - being able to click a wrench on a system to go directly to the empty build queue, clicking through turn-summary to go straight to the relevant screen, all that? That stuff is beautiful and adds SO much to accessibility, which is desperately needed. (And I love that it's possible to click on a pop unit and get the encyclopedia entry below their stats.) But then we get to fleet management and differently sized ships show up in the fleet view in a way that stacks them kinda unevenly, and we need to mouse over each type of ship to get the name - since the visual look of the ships aren't necessarily very dissimilar...

Then we get to the tech tree, and, like. It's really hard to navigate it to find what node does which thing - again, it involves mousing over little icons to look for tool tips, turning a search for information into an imposing quest through a vast tech tree. But then you guys flip the script again, and stuff like queuing the technologies? Being able to click through prerequisites with hyperlinks in the text and the tree itself? It's like y'all found a thousand convenience features we desperately need in everything, and made them happen, and, it's just, wow.

(I think looking at the way text can hyperlink through your game may have made me have my original thoughts about a markup language based UI with CSS or something, too?)

Structurally - and I recall this from my earlier playthroughs I was doing a few months ago in the run up to my hobby-writing - there's this concept I have around how 'subgames' link to each other. Which specifically comes in with stuff like the tech tree, and the way it's presented quite imposingly, and like the ship designer? On the one hand it feels like there's a lot of possibility with it, but actually playing it's hard to design a ship - it felt more like a ship upgrader? And these factors hurt the way the game links structurally with your ship combat - which flows absolutely beautifully.

It's really interesting, because, like... Stars in Shadow does a lot right. A hell of a lot right. So much right that picking it apart from the outside and dissecting where it didn't go so right is an actual technical challenge. Because, I mean, some stuff did go wrong - otherwise SiS would be much better known. And If I had to guess - and I could be wrong - at some point there was a decision to aim for simplicity, mechanically, which was absolutely the right choice - a good simple game is a thousand times better than a bad complex one. Stuff like diplomacy being largely currency based, the improvement slots thing on planets so you can build a mine or a farm or whatever rather than this infinitely stretching list of new buildings, all that? Completely the right call. Why? Because you built something huge from scratch. I mean, obviously you've borrowed a lot from MoO2 and similar, but it feels a lot more like you looked at it, examined the parts you liked, and went of to integrate what you liked into something you built fresh and new?

In short, when remaking or cloning a game, if you remake the game by focusing on the surface level elements of the game — the simple things you can point at — you are not likely to make something nearly so fun to play as the original.


<--- From my essay hobby thing. By doing it the way you did it? You clearly dug very deeply into how you were going to make your own game, rather than how you were going to remake somebody else's. I admire you guys for it.

So yeah. I think you guys have every reason to be incredibly proud of what you've achieved.

And I need to get and play your Legacies DLC. Between that, and this Gardeners thing you mentioned? Sounds like you may be iterating in a really interesting complexity now that you've got so many good things going on the accessibility side.

User avatar
Arioch
Posts: 1223
Joined: Sun Feb 01, 2015 12:56 am
Location: San Jose, California
Contact:

Re: "No Master of Orion 2 for You"

Postby Arioch » Fri Nov 15, 2019 10:12 pm

Thanks for the feedback.

I think Sven's point was not that we agonized over making the perfect UI designs (as I'll be the first to admit that most of our UI is far from perfect), but rather that UI affects game design more than you might think. Sometimes we have to drop a cool idea because we can't figure out how to present it to the user in an effective manner, and sometimes the UI's become obtuse or unintuitive or overloaded because we're trying to hammer a round peg into a square hole, or -- even worse -- our ideas changed and we are trying to twist the UI to accommodate the change without redesigning the whole thing.

skonar2
Posts: 3
Joined: Fri Nov 15, 2019 10:55 am

Re: "No Master of Orion 2 for You"

Postby skonar2 » Sat Nov 16, 2019 6:11 pm

Arioch wrote:Thanks for the feedback.

I think Sven's point was not that we agonized over making the perfect UI designs (as I'll be the first to admit that most of our UI is far from perfect), but rather that UI affects game design more than you might think. Sometimes we have to drop a cool idea because we can't figure out how to present it to the user in an effective manner, and sometimes the UI's become obtuse or unintuitive or overloaded because we're trying to hammer a round peg into a square hole, or -- even worse -- our ideas changed and we are trying to twist the UI to accommodate the change without redesigning the whole thing.


Oh, yeah, no. I may have misspoken slightly - what I meant to highlight is that the way that UI and SiS's presentation to the player are, like. There's a LOT going on there. It's interesting! :D

Kind of thinking I may need to see about taking a short course on UI design sometime, see if I can wrap my head around the art a little more.

User avatar
Arioch
Posts: 1223
Joined: Sun Feb 01, 2015 12:56 am
Location: San Jose, California
Contact:

Re: "No Master of Orion 2 for You"

Postby Arioch » Sat Nov 16, 2019 7:09 pm

skonar2 wrote:Kind of thinking I may need to see about taking a short course on UI design sometime, see if I can wrap my head around the art a little more.

If you're curious, it may be quicker, less expensive and probably more illuminating to just build a simple project yourself. I find the best way to learn is usually by doing, and that academics sometimes have very little notion of how things are actually done in the real world.

gaerzi
Posts: 81
Joined: Wed Jul 10, 2019 1:30 pm

Re: "No Master of Orion 2 for You"

Postby gaerzi » Sun Nov 17, 2019 9:45 am

I've been recommended this library for prototyping game UI quickly, though I haven't tried it yet.

nweismuller
Posts: 331
Joined: Wed Apr 29, 2015 2:33 am

Re: "No Master of Orion 2 for You"

Postby nweismuller » Mon Nov 18, 2019 9:00 am

Skonar2, a question I had after reading your essay: operating on the assumption that there should be reasons to want to operate on either end of any of the three spectrums you listed for the Diplomats, what, exactly, is the advantage supposed to be associated with being more individualist? As it makes it harder to do labor allocation *and* harder to reshape your society.


Return to “General Forum”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 2 guests