Blueprints & Tech

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Blueprints & Tech

Postby Tyrel Lohr » Sun Jul 05, 2009 10:21 pm

As part of my recent tech-related info dumps here on the forums, let me make a brief mention of blueprints and how they relate to technology.

In 2E, players will be restricted as to the kinds of technical information that they can exchange with one another. Players will likely be able to exchange unit schematics, but with limitations on how they can build or operate them (those rules are up in the air).

For the most part, however, two empires that wish to exchange technologies will do so via blueprints. A blueprint will represent the transfer of basic technical knowledge about a technology field at a given tech level. For example, an empire that has already research Anti-Ship TL 7 could provide another empire with Anti-Ship blueprints up to TL 7.

What blueprints do is reduce the recipient's cost to research that technology. This total cost reduction is variable, and is based on a comparison of your empire's current TL in that field to the TL of the blueprint you were provided. When calculating the cost of a tech level increase, take your current TL in the field divided by the blueprint's TL and multiply the result times the normal tech advancement cost, rounding fractions up.

To illustrate how blueprints work, let's set up an example scenario. Your empire has achieved Anti-Ship TL 4 and the aforementioned power has just given you a TL 7 blueprint. The cost reduction for researching Anti-Ship TL 5 would then be 4/7. If our empire has 23 Census, the final cost would be:

(5 + 23) x 10 x 4/7 = 160 TP

The cost to research Anti-Ship TL 5 is reduced from a normal cost of 280 down to 160, a savings of 120 TP!

If you then research Anti-Ship TL 6, the cost would be:

(6 + 23) x 10 x 5/7 = 208 TP

If you then research Anti-Ship TL 7, the cost would be:

(7 + 23) x 10 x 6/7 = 258 TP

Now that the empire has reached Anti-Ship TL 7, the blueprint is discarded because the recipient has increased its tech level in this field to that level.

One thing that players may have inferred from the above tech formulas is that the cost to increase a tech level is as follows:

(Next TL + Total Census) x 10 = Tech Advancement Cost (in Tech Points)

Also, "Total Census" has a minimum value of 10, in order to prevent a very low-population empire from making rapid tech advancements.

Census is used in the new tech equation in order to scale tech advancement costs to empire size. Larger, more populous empires will require proportionally more Tech infrastructure and Tech Points in order to increase their technology. The intent is to reduce the rate at which larger empires can gain an unassailable technical advantage over other, smaller powers. This is a problem in most 4X games, especially in ones where tech costs are more or less fixed so that empires with larger economies can always out research smaller empires. With the above formula, small empires at least have a chance to maintain parity for awhile, although chances are the larger power will overtake them eventually.

Another "bonus" side effect of including Census in the tech cost formula is that it provides a mechanic to somewhat simulate the increasing lethargy or decay that large, well-entrenched empires oftentimes succumb to. If the costs of modernization (i.e., tech increases) becomes too high, the empire's advancement may slow or stop altogether. It also means that conquerors will run into problems once they start overrunning their rivals, as their tech costs will become increasingly untenable. [ed: It shouldn't be too hard to provide rules that would allow an empire to split off some of these assets as puppet government, ala Hearts of Iron 2.]

Also, to allay some fears probably caused by the tech costs above, most empires will have a total amount of Tech infrastructure equal to their Total Census. That means that the 23 Census empire from the example would be generating about 20-25 Tech Points per campaign turn. Tech infrastructure isn't tied to Census in any way, either, so it can be purchased at 0 Census colonies (outposts or military bases) at the player's discretion. That means that, unlike VBAM 1E, in 2E you will be able to establish small science outposts like you saw in Star Trek or Mass Effect (or most space opera, for that matter) in your territories. The downside to doing so, of course, is that it is still another colony to defend and can still have Morale problems later on, so there is a non-trivial cost associated with maintaining such colonies.

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Postby wminsing » Mon Jul 06, 2009 5:59 pm

[ed: It shouldn't be too hard to provide rules that would allow an empire to split off some of these assets as puppet government, ala Hearts of Iron 2.


Awesome idea- I take a weird but real pleasure in HoI 2 in setting up new countries when I've overrun my enemies and decide I don't want to deal with the partisans.

I could easily see myself setting up little buffer stats between me and my enemies. :lol:

On a more general note, the tech concept looks good. It should also make dealing with stuff like old alien ruins/derelicts much easier- the game effect could just be 'gives player blueprint for random Tech Area at current TL + 1D3' or something similar.

-Will
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Postby Tyrel Lohr » Mon Jul 06, 2009 7:08 pm

wminsing wrote:Awesome idea- I take a weird but real pleasure in HoI 2 in setting up new countries when I've overrun my enemies and decide I don't want to deal with the partisans.


I think it would help to make things a bit more interesting diplomatically. You roll them off as puppet states under a Protectorate Treaty (or something similar), and you start at a Relationship of 100. That could go downhill later, and they could potentially get you into trouble later on, but otherwise they would be their own empire and take care of themselves. In the meantime your tech costs will go back to normal, and I would even say that releasing the nations would give you a bit of a relations boost with other powers (more for releasing them as free nations, less for puppeting them).

wminsing wrote:I could easily see myself setting up little buffer stats between me and my enemies. :lol:


Releasing them as free nations would work even better for that, too, because then a declaration of war on the buffer state wouldn't instantly drag you into the war. You could even be particularly devious and break a single large empire into a mix of free/puppeted rump states that individually couldn't do much to challenge you but would be an imposition for enemy forces to attack. This is especially true on a jump map if one of the empires could be positioned in an untenable defensive location -- you could position your defenses at the one linchpin system that defends access into your space, and let the buffer state worry about protecting the open expanse of interlinked systems beyond.

Given how some of the 2E mechanics work (like tech), it would also allow you to divest yourself of some worthless colonies or other territories that you don't want to hand over to an enemy, but that are dragging your economy down.

wminsing wrote:On a more general note, the tech concept looks good. It should also make dealing with stuff like old alien ruins/derelicts much easier- the game effect could just be 'gives player blueprint for random Tech Area at current TL + 1D3' or something similar.


I had the same thought. Instead of getting instant tech boosts, you would just be able to gain blueprints for various technologies at a certain level beyond your current tech level.

In regards to ruins/derelicts, I have written some additional rules that would make it so that neither encounter will give you "freebies" just from finding them. Instead, you would have a variety of "missions" that you could assign your units to each turn that would allow you to try and gain information from the ruins/derelicts. Each mission would required a D100 roll, plus a modifier tied to one unit statistic. For example, a player could use Attrition Rating to "Loot Resources" from ruins (convert ruins into EP); use Science Rating to "Scavenge Technology" (convert ruins into blueprints); or use Sensor Rating to "Search for Artifacts" (convert ruins into artifacts). Each attempt to perform a mission has a potential for success/failure similar to most other 2E activities, so you are rarely going to be guaranteed success.

The reason why I came up with the above is that it makes finding and exploiting these special encounters a more interesting and rewarding process. It also gives the player a reason to have small ground units to function as archaeology teams to go explore the surface of a planet. Throw a point of Cargo Rating on your explorer ships and you can take these teams with you to explore the universe. It also creates a situation where multiple players might rush to fight over access and/or control of ancient ruins and derelicts, which is something that doesn't happen too often in 1E.

As a final note about alien ruins, any Tech infrastructure built at a planet with ruins produces 2 Tech Points per turn instead of just 1 -- so they are excellent sites for scientific outposts.

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Postby wminsing » Tue Jul 07, 2009 1:11 am

and I would even say that releasing the nations would give you a bit of a relations boost with other powers (more for releasing them as free nations, less for puppeting them).


Indeed, I think in HOI liberating nations and then unpuppeting them reduced your 'bad boy' points and helped to patch up relations. Or one could keep his array of puppets and create a new world order. :lol:

You could even be particularly devious and break a single large empire into a mix of free/puppeted rump states that individually couldn't do much to challenge you but would be an imposition for enemy forces to attack.


Yes, that's exactly the sort of plan I would like to put into operation. I am sort of weird in that I HATE to eliminate factions by conquest in games, I much prefer it when I can simply overthrow the other faction's government or break them up into several new factions.

Another way they could help you economically is to serve as a market for ships and flights you want to sell off with something like the old Naval Treaty. Rather then scrapping your obsolete ships you can sell them for something to one of your puppet governments.

In regards to ruins/derelicts, I have written some additional rules that would make it so that neither encounter will give you "freebies" just from finding them.


I really like the sound of this- researching old ruins should be a time consuming process, and sometimes you'll only find things of interest to your archeologists, and not your military R&D teams. Also make sure you throw in the chance that something will go HORRIBLY wrong and the crew wakes up something that should have been left alone.
:lol:

The bonus tech points also sound good- I really like the concept of colony specialization, fits the genre and will make empires more interesting.

-Will
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Postby Tyrel Lohr » Tue Jul 07, 2009 1:59 am

wminsing wrote:Indeed, I think in HOI liberating nations and then unpuppeting them reduced your 'bad boy' points and helped to patch up relations. Or one could keep his array of puppets and create a new world order. :lol:


That's what I remembered, too. Luckily, I think our Relationship model precludes the need for a 'bad boy' track like HOI used, so long as annexing nations and other hostile actions drops Relationships with all non-Allies.

For campaigns using the government rules, too, it might be interesting to vary the Relationship modifiers based on the government of the empire being conquered and the observing power. For example, a Representative government would experience more Relationship loss with a rival who conquers another Representative government.

The mechanism for liberating or puppeting a nation could be about the same, with the difference being that liberation creates a truly free nation, while puppeting just creates a Protectorate. The potential Relationship shift compared to the points lost by annexation in the first place could be 1/2 for liberation and 1/4 for puppeting. That way when you liberate a nation you could at least get half of your lost Relationship points back. I think it should all depend on the success of a diplomacy check and be variable, but it would make things very interesting.

Yes, that's exactly the sort of plan I would like to put into operation. I am sort of weird in that I HATE to eliminate factions by conquest in games, I much prefer it when I can simply overthrow the other faction's government or break them up into several new factions.


I think it would be a great new avenue to explore in 2E. I am in the same boat as you, Will, in that I like to keep the conquered empires around to a certain degree. In Sean's B5 game, my Narn "conquered" the EA, but then we gifted much of their territories back to form a remnant state that I was hoping would act as something of a puppet -- well, that and I didn't want to come off as being a complete despot :)

There would have to be some rules to limit how small a section of territory can be in order to be liberated as its own government. I would be tempted to say that homeworlds could always be liberated regardless of their size or adjacent territories, but other minor worlds would probably have to meet a minimum Census or economic output so that the resulting state would be more or less viable. Otherwise I could see some players liberating a whole bunch of little bit one-system "empires" that the CM would then have to worry about monitoring and conducting diplomacy for. Ack. I think 10 Census or 10 economic output would be a good "10/10" guideline for liberation. That way the empires could at least take care of themselves.

On the diplomacy front, the CMs workload for NPEs shouldn't be quite as tough as in 1E, as we will be strictly enforcing diplomatic contact rules in 2E that will require two empires to have some sort of official presence in order to conduct diplomacy. This means either establishing embassies at each others worlds or else dispatching diplomatic vessels or envoys to conduct diplomacy. If a small state can't afford to establish/maintain an embassy in another empire's space, then they will have to send a negotiating team there when they want to negotiate a new treaty. This does add a bit more foot work to negotiations, but on the up side it also curtails a bit of metagaming as empires that don't have contact with one another can't sign treaties or engage in diplomacy -- they can conspire out of game still, but they won't be able to sign Alliances or anything in the game unless the prerequisites are met.

Another way they could help you economically is to serve as a market for ships and flights you want to sell off with something like the old Naval Treaty. Rather then scrapping your obsolete ships you can sell them for something to one of your puppet governments.


This would especially be true for Protectorates, as they would be fully under the player's control, so they could have the Protectorate pay an exorbitant fee for the sub-standard cast off military hardware in order to line their own coffers.

I really like the sound of this- researching old ruins should be a time consuming process, and sometimes you'll only find things of interest to your archeologists, and not your military R&D teams. Also make sure you throw in the chance that something will go HORRIBLY wrong and the crew wakes up something that should have been left alone.
:lol:


Yes, there will always be the chance of some very bad things happening to your teams. You might end up recovering an alien virus that infects your team, a computer program that wipes out your existing Tech Points, hidden defenses that wound or kill your forces, etc. That will make poking around in the ruins or derelicts a perilous undertaking, but potentially very rewarding.

The bonus tech points also sound good- I really like the concept of colony specialization, fits the genre and will make empires more interesting.


We wanted it to be possible for players to build more specialized colonies to meet their needs. The way that we have rearranged the infrastructure stats, too, allows a player to build some specialized colonies without any Census present (negligible population size). Decoupling Productivity from RAW, too, makes it so that you can actually build industrial colonies at key locations that have a lot of production output even if they have minimal economic output. Those RAW 1 planets suddenly aren't quite as bad as they were before; sure, a RAW 3+ planet is still best, but if the RAW 1 planet has decent Carrying Capacity or a good Biosphere you will probably be interested in colonizing it.

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Postby mriddle » Tue Jul 07, 2009 11:44 am

Tyrel Lohr wrote:
Yes, that's exactly the sort of plan I would like to put into operation. I am sort of weird in that I HATE to eliminate factions by conquest in games, I much prefer it when I can simply overthrow the other faction's government or break them up into several new factions.


I think it would be a great new avenue to explore in 2E. I am in the same boat as you, Will, in that I like to keep the conquered empires around to a certain degree. In Sean's B5 game, my Narn "conquered" the EA, but then we gifted much of their territories back to form a remnant state that I was hoping would act as something of a puppet -- well, that and I didn't want to come off as being a complete despot :)

There would have to be some rules to limit how small a section of territory can be in order to be liberated as its own government. I would be tempted to say that homeworlds could always be liberated regardless of their size or adjacent territories, but other minor worlds would probably have to meet a minimum Census or economic output so that the resulting state would be more or less viable. Otherwise I could see some players liberating a whole bunch of little bit one-system "empires" that the CM would then have to worry about monitoring and conducting diplomacy for. Ack. I think 10 Census or 10 economic output would be a good "10/10" guideline for liberation. That way the empires could at least take care of themselves.



The size limit could be based on a percentage of the original "conquered" empire. I could not see an empire being quickly broken into more than 3-4 pieces. So a limit of 20% Census of the original empire might be reasonable.

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Postby wminsing » Wed Jul 08, 2009 4:23 pm

That's what I remembered, too. Luckily, I think our Relationship model precludes the need for a 'bad boy' track like HOI used, so long as annexing nations and other hostile actions drops Relationships with all non-Allies.


Oh, I think VBAM's diplomatic system will handle this sort of thing better then HOI's did- 'bad boy' points were fine, but they existed mostly to stop a human player from running a muck against the AI.

For campaigns using the government rules, too, it might be interesting to vary the Relationship modifiers based on the government of the empire being conquered and the observing power. For example, a Representative government would experience more Relationship loss with a rival who conquers another Representative government.


Yes, that is a reasonable assumption, would also allow Cold War style conflicts to develop, where's government structure vs. government structure.

Another interesting idea that comes from 'Starships Unlimited' was that each race was assigned a 'philosophy' at the start of the game- Big Endian or Little Endian. What this actually represented was abstract, but the idea was that all races that were Big/Little Endian shared similar government and social philosophy, meaning they were by default more sympathetic to other Big/Little Endian cultures and more hostile to the opposite type. You could still fight against the races with the same philosophy of course, but it was often easier to trade with them anyway. I remember quite a few games were the galaxy was wracked by Big vs. Little Endian wars. :D

<snip> I think it should all depend on the success of a diplomacy check and be variable, but it would make things very interesting.


Sounds good to me!

I'll reply to the rest of the post in a separate message!

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Postby Tyrel Lohr » Wed Jul 08, 2009 7:12 pm

mriddle wrote:The size limit could be based on a percentage of the original "conquered" empire. I could not see an empire being quickly broken into more than 3-4 pieces. So a limit of 20% Census of the original empire might be reasonable.


The "3-4 pieces" maximum sounds good. The limit could then be set so that at least 25% of the conquered empire's Census and/or economic output have to be included in any new nation that a player creates. Allowing the 25% minimum to be applied to either Census or economic output would allow ensure that any new state created would either have a substantial population or enough economic output to support itself.

Of course, since economic output is equal to Census x RAW, the two may be synonymous enough to just tie the 25% minimum strictly to economic output. That would allow an empire to satellite a number of small, high RAW colonies as their own state -- a strategic move to ensure that they could always be easily re-conquered at a later date.

In relation to this discussion, I think a player should only be allowed to release colonies that still have the Conquered colony trait, indicating that they have not been fully-integrated into the conquering power's territories yet (cultural assimilation, essentially). It doesn't make much sense for an empire to release its own territories outside of a civil war event. It also ties into the HOI2 mechanics in that the decision to release/liberate Conquered colonies might be made just to escape from the Morale and output penalties that the worlds suffer from.

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Postby wminsing » Wed Jul 08, 2009 7:23 pm

I think it would be a great new avenue to explore in 2E. I am in the same boat as you, Will, in that I like to keep the conquered empires around to a certain degree. In Sean's B5 game, my Narn "conquered" the EA, but then we gifted much of their territories back to form a remnant state that I was hoping would act as something of a puppet -- well, that and I didn't want to come off as being a complete despot


Good to know I'm not alone! I find these sort of political compromises to allow for better games- it's less about being 'king of the hill' against a decreasing # of enemies and instead it creates much more 'organic' looking political worlds.

There would have to be some rules to limit how small a section of territory can be in order to be liberated as its own government. <Snip>


Yes, throwing out all the 1 Census, 0 everything else worlds into single system 'states' isn't fair. I agree that something like 10 census/10 output, being the lower limit for creating a new nation is appropriate. In HOI 2 you had to have a minimum # of associated provinces to 'liberate' a nation after all. I'd also add that the territory should be contiguous- you can't create a nation out of three widely separated systems. Another factor for the CM is if the player gets a little 'splitty' and sets up 3 or 4 minimum-size nations there could be a move towards reunification....

On the diplomacy front, the CMs workload for NPEs shouldn't be quite as tough as in 1E, as we will be strictly enforcing diplomatic contact rules in 2E that will require two empires to have some sort of official presence in order to conduct diplomacy.


Interesting, putting together a ship with diplomatic functions as a traveling embassy would be really cool. Something like the Klingon D7N from SFB. I also like that it will take sort of an investment to start and maintain relations.


The size limit could be based on a percentage of the original "conquered" empire. I could not see an empire being quickly broken into more than 3-4 pieces. So a limit of 20% Census of the original empire might be reasonable.


That might be a good rule as well, though would it require a player to overrun an entire empire before breaking it up? What if I only capture a small part of the empire, peace breaks out, and I decide I want to spin off these new conquests as a nation? My other concern is there could be special cases. Such as Species A conquering Species B, and then sometime later Species C captures the worlds of Species B and wants to 'liberate' them- even if they are less then 20% (or whatever) of the population in the empire of Species A wouldn't it make sense that Species B could form a new state?

-Will
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Postby Tyrel Lohr » Wed Jul 08, 2009 7:30 pm

wminsing wrote:Oh, I think VBAM's diplomatic system will handle this sort of thing better then HOI's did- 'bad boy' points were fine, but they existed mostly to stop a human player from running a muck against the AI.


VBAM's Relationship system can handle it, so long as the penalties make sense. Now, admittedly, modifiers or diplomacy checks for these events will only apply to species with which the offender has some form of diplomatic contact, so an empire could just keep bumping off other empires with few repercussions so long as no other empire knows about it.

Yes, that is a reasonable assumption, would also allow Cold War style conflicts to develop, where's government structure vs. government structure.


It would make things interesting if you governments had a relationship bias towards other empires with similar governmental forms. You would have the government type and focus as two different variables that could combine to provide major diplomatic bonuses/penalties depending on whether you were signing, breaking, or declaring. They would also likely impact the "difficulty" of diplomatic checks.

The Cold War analogy is an apt one. Two empires that are both Social Totalitarian (Stalinist Communism) would have better relations with one another than with a Trade Representative (Capitalist Democracy). If the latter government shifted to a Social focus, then there would be some common ground, but probably not as much as if they both shared the same government type. If shared government types had a 2x modifier, shared focus would probably just provide a 1x modifier. So a perfect alignment would give a cumulative 3x modifier.

Another interesting idea that comes from 'Starships Unlimited' was that each race was assigned a 'philosophy' at the start of the game- Big Endian or Little Endian. What this actually represented was abstract, but the idea was that all races that were Big/Little Endian shared similar government and social philosophy, meaning they were by default more sympathetic to other Big/Little Endian cultures and more hostile to the opposite type. You could still fight against the races with the same philosophy of course, but it was often easier to trade with them anyway. I remember quite a few games were the galaxy was wracked by Big vs. Little Endian wars. :D


I think the government modifiers above would weave the governmental philosophy of the above concept into the game, though it does leave the social philosophy angle a bit untouched. The social aspect can be seen in the government's focus to some degree, but that doesn't really broach the larger philosophical view of the empire or species as a whole.

One way to incorporate that into play would be to assign an empire up to three cultural modifiers based on their AIX stats. Essentially, you would roll once against each stat to see if it is "activated", and then roll a second time relative to your AIX to see what the philosophy is. Or the second roll could even be random, with three options presented, one each for Low (0-33), Neutral (34-66), and High (67-100) AIX results. Each philosophy would then apply additional modifiers here or there.

It would add enough extra rules cruft that it would have to be wholly optional, but it would provide a bit of added motivation to an empire, especially in a solo campaign where the added detail would help the player to decide what actions make sense relative to the NPE's cultural background.

-Tyrel
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