Three Moves Ahead: Lost in Space

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Re: Three Moves Ahead: Lost in Space

Postby Iron Sky » Thu Jul 23, 2015 9:02 pm

To Win MOO2:
Racial picks - +population/production picks. Stuff like: unification(always), tolerant, subterranean, rich/large homeworld, +pop growth +production with -spying, ground combat, accuracy

Strategy - Sell your starbase on turn 1. Save up your money as you make a beeline for Automated Factories, then use your extra cash to buy them early. Start colonizing any decent planet nearby. Make a couple 1-shot MIRV-nuke ships that fire then jump out with an unarmed scout or two hiding at the back of the battlefield until the missiles hit to destroy anything up until mid-game. If you run encounter an enemy, send in your MIRV ships to trash his forces, bombard his people to nothing, colonize. Build bigger ships with more and more 1-shot MIRV-nukes. Repeat. Win.

I grew up on MOO2 and my buddies would spend whole weekends running 4-player hotseat games, shuffling into the closet where his parent's computer lived to take our turns.

The closest thing I had played before MOO2 was Lords of the Realm II and some New World conquest game that I can't find the name of but had chess-board style combat. In a side note, LotRII was neat since rather than just making soldiers, you'd make their weapons and armor. When you had the proper equipment, you could take some conscripted peasants, throw the right equipment on them and, viola! Men-at-arms or archers or whatever.

Back to MOO2, the main things we liked about it was the array of race customization options. Later, we found out many were traps and several were generally pretty optimal but until then it was neat seeing how different custom combinations worked out. There's also a fairly optimal path through the tech tree, but until we figured it out, it was neat seeing how different tech choices effected your game.

Essentially, it was an optimization puzzle that was fun until you found the top couple paths, then there was little reason to play any more.

Another fun game from around the same time as MOO2 was Imperium Galactica II. My favorite parts (from probably-flawed and somewhat idealized recollection skewed by time and nostalgia) were, in no particular order:

• Part of a government instead of running it the whole thing. You were a local governor given one planet and a couple fleets to manage. If you managed to survive and complete the quests your government sent you, they'd reward you by giving you a couple more planets and more fleets to manage and your challenges would get correspondingly more difficult. In a semi-related aside, the general 4X tech and population growth rates always seemed to fast to me - having a population double in 10 years or advancing tech so fast that your most recent upgrade was obsolete by the time the first ship carrying it was finished building always bothered me.

• The quests were neat. You might have a quest like "this freighter of yours has an alien virus on it, if it reaches its destination planet, the virus will kill millions - and the captain refuses to turn around". Stuff that made it feel a bit more lived-in and like you were actually part of a government rather than the usual omniscient dictator floating across your empire of slaves whose only form of self-will was dropping your morale %.

• Building ships was cool. Each ship size simply had a few slots of particular types. A cruiser, for example, might have two turret slots, two defense slots, and engine slots, and a miscellaneous slot. A cruiser MKII would cost a lot more, but add another turret slot or something.

Once you built the ship hull, you'd have to build the stuff to put on it separately, then drag it onto your new ship. It made refitting neat as you would just send your ships back, drag their Laser Turret MKIIs off and put your new Fusion Turret MKIs on. Then you had to decide to sell those old lasers or keep them in case there was a sudden pirate invasion and you needed them to throw on the corvettes you'd scrap together to fight the pirates.

• Because of situations like the last one, you might have situations where you had your Top of the Line battlefleet that had powerful ships with all the latest weapons, defenses, and sensors, then a couple back-water reserve or back-up fleets with equipment that was two-generation-old hand-me-downs from your main fleet since you could afford to build all new ones.

• Sim-city style planet building. This was cool as each planet had a unique terrain map and structure limitations that prevented you from just building identical copies of all your other colonies. Also, when your planet was invaded, the map was the battlemap your units would fight on and buildings would take collateral damage from the tanks fighting in the streets.

• Slow(ish) tech advancement. Tech was focused pretty specifically and there were tough decisions even within tech areas. Do I take Lasers to MKIII so they are cheaper and incrementally more powerful or go for the crazy-expensive but vastly more powerful Fusion MKIs that will make the two cruisers I can afford to equip them on almost unstoppable? Do I upgrade my Arena buildings to Stadiums to help with my morale issues or go for the better Weaponry Research Labs to help get better weapons for the looming conflict with my neighbor?

Never enough money to do everything you want. There was always more stuff to build and you never had enough cash to do it all. Hard decisions like "Do I upgrade the guns on my back-up fleet or upgrade the power plant at the planet they are protecting so I can build more stuff" was always coming up. I think these sorts of brutal hard both-right (or both wrong but have to pick one!) decisions are my absolute favorite moments in gaming in single player games - multiplayer have the "pulling off some crazy and/or incredible plan your opponent never anticipated" moments that can be as good or better, but they aren't really a factor in single player.

With all the cool stuff, there were a few big limitations that severely limited the game, the worst of which were:
- Pre-scripted plots. While there were a few small random events, the main campaign for each race had the same challenges come down from your superiors in the same order. The first time you played the campaign it was great, but there was little-to-no replayability.

- Space combat was lame. You could have no more than 6 stacks of ships (I have never liked stacking units as I want to see my 100 cruisers blasting away instead of a cruiser with 100hp shooting) and there was pretty much no maneuver. They'd just start in battle range and start blasting. Early game when you only had a handful of ships in a fleet it was fine, but late game the battles just never felt epic.

- Sim-city style planet building. With a few planets it was neat. When you had 12, trying to remember which planet you were putting the Civic Research Labs on and which one was the one that had the food shortages or needed a new generator was a drain. I'd have a couple sheets of paper just keeping track of what I needed on which planet.

- No "open-universe" games. The campaigns were scripted and there was no "non-scripted" option. While there was some variability in replays, the it was never enough for me to complete a campaign more than once.

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Re: Three Moves Ahead: Lost in Space

Postby Tyrel Lohr » Sun Aug 02, 2015 1:40 am

Iron Sky wrote:To Win MOO2:


That is one of the biggest problems with MOO2 in a nutshell: there was definitely an optimal path to victory, and doing anything else was suboptimal to the point that in a competitive environment you'd be overwhelmed. Of course, my experience is that 4x multiplayer games stop being fun once you have one or more players that have "figured out the game" because at that point you can't experiment with different strategies because if you don't play to a specific winning strategy you're screwed. It's like Civ V and being forced to go Tradition=Tall and save up Great Scientists for a massive tech boost later in the game. If you don't do it you've lost the game. It just makes the game not fun to play at all.

Stars! had a similar problem when a set of min/maxers figured out that you needed to keep your populations at a certain level to grow optimally, and then continue expanding to keep all of your worlds at that level of population growth rate. It became a case that if a race couldn't hit a set resource threshold by a specific date you wouldn't be competitive and, again, there would be no way you could keep from losing.

MOO1 had similar problems with racial trait balance, but it wasn't as bad. You had several top-tier choices that outclassed the rest, but it was close enough that you could still do alright with the bottom-tier races if you knew how to play to their strengths (or just wanted a more difficult game).

Another fun game from around the same time as MOO2 was Imperium Galactica II.


I never got the opportunity to play that game, but I remember that the reviews were favorable when it first came out.

In a semi-related aside, the general 4X tech and population growth rates always seemed to fast to me - having a population double in 10 years or advancing tech so fast that your most recent upgrade was obsolete by the time the first ship carrying it was finished building always bothered me.


I've never liked games that did this to the player. It created a situation where you were constantly saddled with the choice of either building an already obsolete piece of tech now or waiting until you absolutely had to have something before you committed to construction. Worse, most games made this entirely reasonable either because production growth kept increasing over time so that you were better to wait, or because you could build everything in a short period of time so why bother preparing?

The extended construction times in 2e owe a lot to the super extended construction times that Jay used in a few Wing Commander VBAM games that we played over the years. It kind of sucked in a PBEM to have to wait so long to replace ships, but it also provided a better impetus to try and save crippled ships rather than destroy them outright, and it made you really appreciate the importance of your capital ships because they can't be easily replaced. I've found it also makes you really think hard about what you'll need if your empire does go to war, as you'll have to be preparing for it for a good year before the first shots are fired (if not longer!).

• The quests were neat. You might have a quest like "this freighter of yours has an alien virus on it, if it reaches its destination planet, the virus will kill millions - and the captain refuses to turn around". Stuff that made it feel a bit more lived-in and like you were actually part of a government rather than the usual omniscient dictator floating across your empire of slaves whose only form of self-will was dropping your morale %.


With a Purpose tries to address this in the VBAM rules, along with zooming in to a level where you're more of a military governor than a grand galactic emperor.

While it's not a space 4x, I found that the Wants system in the Sims franchise seems to be a pretty good implementation of such a quest system. You have a fixed number of slots that are filled with (semi-)randomly mini-objectives that, when fulfilled, give a small bonus and then refresh with a new objective.

Once you built the ship hull, you'd have to build the stuff to put on it separately, then drag it onto your new ship. It made refitting neat as you would just send your ships back, drag their Laser Turret MKIIs off and put your new Fusion Turret MKIs on. Then you had to decide to sell those old lasers or keep them in case there was a sudden pirate invasion and you needed them to throw on the corvettes you'd scrap together to fight the pirates.


This is actually a pretty cool idea. It is kind of analogous to building weapons/armor in XCOM (new or old), where the ship is your "soldier" that you're outfitting.

• Because of situations like the last one, you might have situations where you had your Top of the Line battlefleet that had powerful ships with all the latest weapons, defenses, and sensors, then a couple back-water reserve or back-up fleets with equipment that was two-generation-old hand-me-downs from your main fleet since you could afford to build all new ones.


I tend to see this happen a lot in my VBAM games that go on for an extended period of time. You end up with your core battle fleets that have the best construction, then all of your old ships can cycled off the line and moved to less important stations elsewhere throughout the empire. Granted, those kinds of situations happened most when I was using Starmada X to design units and could introduce ships as needed rather than tying it to a tech advance unlock.

I've seen some players that just methodically scrap their old units, and very few that decide to mothball units to maintain a strategic naval reserve. I guess it's because most campaign just don't tend to last long enough for those situations to come into play.

Never enough money to do everything you want. There was always more stuff to build and you never had enough cash to do it all. Hard decisions like "Do I upgrade the guns on my back-up fleet or upgrade the power plant at the planet they are protecting so I can build more stuff" was always coming up. I think these sorts of brutal hard both-right (or both wrong but have to pick one!) decisions are my absolute favorite moments in gaming in single player games - multiplayer have the "pulling off some crazy and/or incredible plan your opponent never anticipated" moments that can be as good or better, but they aren't really a factor in single player.


I think this is the most important part of a good 4X game. You need to make sure that the resources that players have available are limited enough to make them valuable and then give them enough applications for those resources so that they can make interesting decisions about how they are spent or used. You have to make sure that those decisions are meaningful and not filled with trap options, however. Going back to Civ V, you pretty much are stuck going with some variant of Scout => Worker => Granary => Library as your starting build queue if you want to stay competitive. And to really maximize things, you want to axe the Worker and just steal one from a City State to save the hammers. Sure, you *could* build things in a different order, but it will set you behind enough that you might not be able to catch back up later in the game.

- Space combat was lame. You could have no more than 6 stacks of ships (I have never liked stacking units as I want to see my 100 cruisers blasting away instead of a cruiser with 100hp shooting) and there was pretty much no maneuver. They'd just start in battle range and start blasting. Early game when you only had a handful of ships in a fleet it was fine, but late game the battles just never felt epic.


Stars! had the ship stacks, too, but you could have to 16 designs and each were combined into a single stack. They at least has maneuver there, though, so your ships could move around to get in and out of engagement ranges. But you also ended up with situations where of the Range 1, 2, or 3 guns, you always built Range 3 because usually the shorter range guns would never be able to maneuver into position to fire (unless you got lucky with multiple stacks causing the AI to reposition in such a way so that the shorter range ships could get close enough to fire).

- No "open-universe" games. The campaigns were scripted and there was no "non-scripted" option. While there was some variability in replays, the it was never enough for me to complete a campaign more than once.


This is really a downfall in a lot of games, and I still run into some these days where you get one playthrough out of it and you've about seen or done all that there is to do which makes for minimal replayability. In situations like that you have to rely on the modding community to (hopefully) improve upon the formula if it's possible with the hooks that were left available to them. Kind of like how Long War expanded upon XCOM in a considerable fashion and breathed new life into that game.
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Re: Three Moves Ahead: Lost in Space

Postby Iron Sky » Mon Aug 03, 2015 6:38 pm

Tyrel Lohr wrote:That is one of the biggest problems with MOO2 in a nutshell: there was definitely an optimal path to victory...


At least back in the day you had to figure it out on your own. A internet search and you've got instant top-level optimization and trap warnings at your fingertips. Rare is the game balanced enough that a couple optimal choices are online within a couple months.

Tyrel Lohr wrote:...a situation where you were constantly saddled with the choice of either building an already obsolete piece of tech now or waiting until you absolutely had to have something before you committed to construction. Worse, most games made this entirely reasonable either because production growth kept increasing over time so that you were better to wait... It kind of sucked in a PBEM to have to wait so long to replace ships, but it also provided a better impetus to try and save crippled ships rather than destroy them outright, and it made you really appreciate the importance of your capital ships because they can't be easily replaced.


This is the thing I miss from games nowadays - they tend to hold your hand and cushion the blow of defeat or mishap but ends up devaluing whatever it is they protect. That's why PC games with "Ironman mode" as an option - or implicit in rogue-likes - tend to be the few I play now. I remember in Wing Commander Privateer having times where I was trying to decide whether to sell my radar or my missile launcher to buy fuel to jump out of the system I was in or trying to decide whether to repair my guns or my shields after a mission I barely escaped from...

One thing I really liked about Myth: the Fallen Lords - the units you started with were all you got. Lose an archer and the rest of the mission you have to figure out how to make it without them.

Tyrel Lohr wrote:With a Purpose tries to address this in the VBAM rules, along with zooming in to a level where you're more of a military governor than a grand galactic emperor.

While it's not a space 4x, I found that the Wants system in the Sims franchise seems to be a pretty good implementation of such a quest system. You have a fixed number of slots that are filled with (semi-)randomly mini-objectives that, when fulfilled, give a small bonus and then refresh with a new objective.


Hopefully I'll have some time this Fall to actually play some VBAM/WaP...

Never thought of the Sims wants that way. Hm...

Tyrel Lohr wrote:This is actually a pretty cool idea. It is kind of analogous to building weapons/armor in XCOM (new or old), where the ship is your "soldier" that you're outfitting.


One of the reasons (plus the permanent loss of troops) that I liked the old XCOM so much. New one was too "gamey" for me - i.e. "It will take me exactly 3 shots to kill this muton" vs the old XCOM's obscured and unpredictable combats.

Tyrel Lohr wrote:I've seen some players that just methodically scrap their old units, and very few that decide to mothball units to maintain a strategic naval reserve. I guess it's because most campaign just don't tend to last long enough for those situations to come into play.


Do you anticipate 2e games lasting longer do to the streamlining you've been working on?

Tyrel Lohr wrote:You need to make sure that the resources that players have available are limited enough to make them valuable and then give them enough applications for those resources so that they can make interesting decisions about how they are spent or used.


Agreed. When I played the Sims, I'd refuse to download player-made content regardless of how cool it was if it cost §0. A lot of games use resources as "points" rewards and/or feature-unlock mechanics instead of an option-limiting, choice-forcing one. See the Fable series and most free online Flash games for the 1st, Privateer, old Mechwarrior Mercenaries and the like for the latter. Maybe there's a modern PC game that does the latter, but I can't think of any off the top of my head.

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Re: Three Moves Ahead: Lost in Space

Postby Tyrel Lohr » Mon Aug 03, 2015 11:58 pm

Iron Sky wrote:This is the thing I miss from games nowadays - they tend to hold your hand and cushion the blow of defeat or mishap but ends up devaluing whatever it is they protect. That's why PC games with "Ironman mode" as an option - or implicit in rogue-likes - tend to be the few I play now. I remember in Wing Commander Privateer having times where I was trying to decide whether to sell my radar or my missile launcher to buy fuel to jump out of the system I was in or trying to decide whether to repair my guns or my shields after a mission I barely escaped from...


Part of that "hand holding" comes part and parcel with games baking the tutorial into the beginning of the game. Which works well when you're first learning to play, but gets really old on your third or fourth replay. Some games do better with this than others, such as Cities: Skylines where the unlocks come soon enough on regular play that you're not stuck with scrub roads and buildings for too long until you can start doing some real building.

Iron Sky wrote:Never thought of the Sims wants that way. Hm...


The Sims franchise has some pretty interesting design concepts baked into it. Some of it has gone off the rails with the later expansions, but it's pretty remarkable how well they do the real-time equivalent of "just one more turn" using their positive feedback loops from the wants/needs and other objective based goals.

Iron Sky wrote:One of the reasons (plus the permanent loss of troops) that I liked the old XCOM so much. New one was too "gamey" for me - i.e. "It will take me exactly 3 shots to kill this muton" vs the old XCOM's obscured and unpredictable combats.


You should really give Long War a try if you already have the Enemy Within expansion. Long War on Normal with Dynamic War turned on works pretty well for recapturing some of the feel of the original and adding more randomness to the game. That's another game where there was enough bits and pieces left functional in the background that the modders have been able to work wonders reshaping the flow of the game.

And there are Second Wave options that reintroduce variable weapon damage, random troop leveling, etc. that adds all that good stuff back into the game.

BTW, totally unrelated, my Steam ID is tyrellohr if anyone wants to friend me on there. I've been tempted to start a VBAM Steam group before because a lot of us seem to play a similar selection of games.

Iron Sky wrote:Do you anticipate 2e games lasting longer do to the streamlining you've been working on?


The slower construction rate and smaller economies help in this regard. On the other hand, because system populations can grow faster you reach the mid-game stage faster than you did before. Most of it comes down to if you're playing an objective-based scenario or a free form sandbox campaign. In my experience most campaigns end once a certain major galactic event has come to pass, after which the falling action becomes less interesting to play out (everyone wants to fight the war, no one wants to shepherd the reconstruction).

Iron Sky wrote:Agreed. When I played the Sims, I'd refuse to download player-made content regardless of how cool it was if it cost §0. A lot of games use resources as "points" rewards and/or feature-unlock mechanics instead of an option-limiting, choice-forcing one. See the Fable series and most free online Flash games for the 1st, Privateer, old Mechwarrior Mercenaries and the like for the latter. Maybe there's a modern PC game that does the latter, but I can't think of any off the top of my head.


I've always found that same thing annoying, as well as the Sims custom content where it would cost the same as a starting item but have the needs fulfillment of something 10-20x the cost. There was a few times I tried to figure out how to get SimsPE to work to change those, but the interface made it difficult and I ultimately gave up.

I have an alternative tech system for 2e that is similar to how Endless Legend handled tech, where you'd have a pool of units broken into Eras, and then you research a certain number from each era before unlocking the next bunch. It would work well for games where you want a simple tech tree, but don't want to design the units yourself. That concept could almost be combined with a MOO1 approach, where once you've taken your final pick from an Era it locks itself off completely.

I still think the MOO1 tech system was the best in any 4X game that I've played. There were enough different techs and you never knew which ones would even appear in any give game.
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Re: Three Moves Ahead: Lost in Space

Postby PaulB » Thu Aug 20, 2015 2:26 am

Iron Sky wrote:One of the reasons (plus the permanent loss of troops) that I liked the old XCOM so much. New one was too "gamey" for me - i.e. "It will take me exactly 3 shots to kill this muton" vs the old XCOM's obscured and unpredictable combats.


I'm not fond of the new Xcom either for similar reasons.
#1 being that it is, as you say, Gamey. They have this system where when you explore the map you "active pods" of enemy soldiers that you need to defeat. Gone are the old days of Xcom where you explore the map and catch an enemy unawares because in the new game they always know you're there when you first see them.

It almost completely takes away any reason to explore. On the old terror games of XCOM you'd advance your guy a little at a time because you don't know where the enemy might be, but on the new game you advance and you get within range and 4 guys pop out and all get into cover right away and then you need to deal with them. Where is the interest in moving that way in the first place?

#2 To be honest I rage quit Xcom because frankly it didn't match my expectations.

Last mission I played was supposed to be some VIP extraction. I spent most of the mission losing my guys and by the end of the thing, I had only two soldiers left plus the VIP. I saw the Extraction Zone, but I knew a man in black guy had line of sight on it. So what did I do? I ran my soldier to the EZ, knowing he'd get shot at in order to preserve the VIP. He got shot at and the enemy missed. Then I ran in my VIP, and intended to follow that up with the 2nd soldier so I could you know, EXTRACT. When my VIP hit the zone, he disappeared. I was then given the new mission of "secure the area".

Secure the Area? What the ****? If my goal is to extract this guy, why am I securing the area? Why is the helicopter sitting or hovering nearby and still in danger? Anyway, the guy I risked drawing fire with was left in the middle of the street. Come the alien turn, he gets wasted. And I pop out the disc and the box has collected dust ever since.

From a game design standpoint, that just strikes me as poor design quite frankly. It speaks to me of the idea that, every mission is going to end with "kill all the aliens". When personally when I'm playing a game I want a more varied set of victory conditions, one of which may be "escape by the skin of your teeth".


Another game I tried was Xenonauts but I find it difficult to get past the graphical interface of that game. Also I'm not fond of the game telling me what my percentage is. It's a game where you need to aim up with your guy to raise his percentage and then fire. I don't want to be worrying about what numbers my guy has. I want to be worried about broad-stroke ideas like snap, aim or rapid.

Tyrel Lohr wrote:The slower construction rate and smaller economies help in this regard. On the other hand, because system populations can grow faster you reach the mid-game stage faster than you did before. Most of it comes down to if you're playing an objective-based scenario or a free form sandbox campaign. In my experience most campaigns end once a certain major galactic event has come to pass, after which the falling action becomes less interesting to play out (everyone wants to fight the war, no one wants to shepherd the reconstruction).


One of my understandings about reading naval books is that, often times the ships that a country fights a war with are those ships which were built before the war. Like WW1 for example lasted four years, and a ship like the QE Battleship class took sometimes 2-3 years from "laying down" to being "commissioned". The IJS Yamato took four years from starting to commissioning.

So longer build times, particularly for larger ships seems to be "historical accurate" as Bruce from 3MA would say haha.

The idea that two powers largely fight a war with the ships they have at the beginning.

Also I do wonder about the idea of the speed at which time elapses in both peace and war to be different. Like in a game like Xcom, largely you're going to be playing at pretty high speed on the strategic map then when an enemy bogey comes out of nowhere you speed it down to set up the intercepts then the plane battle maybe takes a few hours then you send in your troops and that takes even less time. So building and fighting are largely very different, though even so build times for like an aircraft seem very compressed (1 month or whatnot)

Conversely in a game like civilzation, maybe it takes 16 turns to build a battleship, but on a large map your existing battleship in 8 turns can get across the pacific. So 8 months to sail across the ocean? If the turns are in months?

If you have an ancient war, your war can be lasting for millenia.

To me it really seems that peace and war should be at different speeds. Peace is for the strategic decisions, base building, building forces, tech development, etcetera. Then when war comes around everything slows down and micromanagement comes into play with strategic positioning, tactical battles, etcetera. Your fleet you built for 12 years might be reduced to say 40% in 6 months. Then you sue for peace or you're on the defensive with what you have left knowing that you won't be getting many reinforcements or maybe you rush things into service with faults and bad crews, etcetera.

Applying this to something like VBAM however would be very difficult, as would any multiplayer game, since you can't really slow down the game for 2 players and not the others.

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Re: Three Moves Ahead: Lost in Space

Postby Tyrel Lohr » Thu Aug 20, 2015 2:53 am

The "gamey" feel from XCOM is based largely on the fact that its design is rooted heavily in board game style mechanics. The strategic layer is effectively Pandemic, after all, with very minimal serial numbers filed off. That is probably why the strategic layer of that game is the most disappointing. Long War has managed to salvage that to a degree, but replaced it with a bullshit air war that is unfun unless you just throw it on Normal.

The pod mechanic was also a poor choice for the game, but one that I think was forced on them as a technical concession to get the game to work on consoles. It sounds like they had to pull a lot of tricks to get it to work on those platforms, which is why I'm hoping that the PC-only XCOM2 release will be able to be better optimized both on the technical and design fronts.

I do have to recommend that those that didn't like the new XCOM at least try out the Long War mod (assuming you have the Enemy Within expansion). The mod developers were trying to replicate elements of the original game as best they could in the XCOM system, and it does improve game play considerably, even if the late game is still a slog (and play on Dynamic War, your life isn't long enough for a normal Long War game!).

Varying game speeds based on war and peace is difficult to achieve. Single player games can get away with it by using the Paradox realtime-with-pause model where a player can set to high speed when nothing is happening and then slow down when events start firing in a rapid fire manner and they need to issue commands to his forces.

The same can be achieved in VBAM if you only process the Economic Phase once every so many turns. For example, you could do 1 Economic Phase per 3 Turns. That way you have 4 Economic Phases per year (January, April, July, October). This would force construction times out so that a battleship would take 2.5 years to complete, which as you point out is probably closer to the reality of the situation.
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Re: Three Moves Ahead: Lost in Space

Postby PaulB » Thu Aug 20, 2015 4:27 am

Is the Pod mechanic truly a tech requirement of the consoles? Xcom EU is also on the Ipad3, which is said to be comparable in some ways to the 360/PS3 but not sure it's more powerful across the board. I suspect the pod mechanic might be a dumbing down of mechanics for the audience? In the same way that say Halo Wars or Civilization Revolutions was a bit simplified for the consoles.

Don't have Enemy Within, so probably wont try the long war but I may revisit Xcom EU some time at a later date. Though honestly I'm probably more likely to play TFTD again, to try and finish it for once, before doing EU. Though TFTD gets bogged down mid-game with a crap ton of alien bases and transmission sites all over the place and very long 3-stage terror missions onboard super tankers or whatever. Never got too far in Apocalypse either but have heard that game is exceedingly long as well with a multi-stage dimensional invasion of the aliens.

But yeah the economic mod for VBAM sounds cool and like it would do the trick. Not sure how much fun that would be for the players in practice.

On the subject of Xcom, if anyone is interested in a light squad shooter then I played a game called Halfway which was pretty decent. It's not very deep, not very replayable and some of the weapons seem a bit imbalanced but for what it is, it's pretty fun. Cool pixel art too and some . . . passable story telling.

http://www.gog.com/game/halfway

Also of course there's the Shadowrun Returns and Dragonfall RPG games which came out (and Hong Kong this week) which are also similar in some ways. Dragonfall in particular has a good story.

http://www.gog.com/game/shadowrun_returns
http://www.gog.com/game/shadowrun_drago ... ectors_cut
http://www.gog.com/game/shadowrun_hong_kong

Also it's not sci-fi but Banner Saga is another squad-based tactical game. It's more boardgame like, and some of the story elements are . . frustrating, or inconsequential but is pretty engaging. I also have Massive Chalice, but have not yet given it a go and the reviews seem a bit middling.

http://www.gog.com/game/the_banner_saga
http://www.gog.com/game/massive_chalice

Funny thing about Massive Chalice, I've been backing some kickstarter games and have also subscribed to that Indie Box program ( https://theindiebox.com/ ) and I'm realizing that my two desktop computers, which are both running Windows XP, can't really play my games haha. Because a lot of them are expecting Windows 7. Fortunately I also have an ASUS tablet with detachable keyboard and USB for a mouse to play some of these newer games but it's not super powerful for hardcore gaming. Massive Chalice when I loaded it up seemed a bit sluggish so, may need to wait to play it.

Most or all of these games have borrowed some mechanics from the new Xcom, particularly the cover-based and 2 AP style move and shoot.

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Re: Three Moves Ahead: Lost in Space

Postby Tyrel Lohr » Thu Aug 20, 2015 4:48 am

PaulB wrote:Is the Pod mechanic truly a tech requirement of the consoles? Xcom EU is also on the Ipad3, which is said to be comparable in some ways to the 360/PS3 but not sure it's more powerful across the board. I suspect the pod mechanic might be a dumbing down of mechanics for the audience? In the same way that say Halo Wars or Civilization Revolutions was a bit simplified for the consoles.


I remember something from an article or interview that said that the pods were there largely because low end hardware (read: consoles) couldn't handle tracking and moving the aliens individually on the map during the alien turn. I'm not sure if this was a purely speed problem, or more of a fluke of the Unreal engine. I think it ties back into a problem that a lot of modern game engines have where everything is being rendered, even if it is in the fog of war or not being displayed at the time. I remember Civ V having a similar bug with one of its strategic view (I think?) where you'd see a performance hit because it was still trying to render the 3D version of the map behind it.

But everything pointed to it being at least originally a technical limitation. The fact that the patrolling aliens bugs (where they could patrol into the middle of your squad) persisted until a late patch (or Long War fixing it, I can't remember now) makes me think that the pods were very much a kludge that was implemented haphazardly later on.

But yeah the economic mod for VBAM sounds cool and like it would do the trick. Not sure how much fun that would be for the players in practice.


I think it would be fine in a two player wargame scenario, like a Narn/Centauri War game, when you have two empires fighting a fixed conflict. In that case everyone would be equally affected. In a game with exploration and diplomacy going on, it would become interminable unless you were playing face to face with your local gaming group and could let the warring factions play out their "tactical turns" in rapid succession while the rest of the players ran some filler board games while they wait for their turns to come up.

Also of course there's the Shadowrun Returns and Dragonfall RPG games which came out (and Hong Kong this week) which are also similar in some ways. Dragonfall in particular has a good story.


I played through part of Shadowrun Returns and was not enamored, and haven't tried Dragonfall yet. I own it, because of course I do (Steam addict), but just haven't gotten into it yet.

I can recommend Darkest Dungeon and Invisible, Inc. for those that want to play something a bit different. Darkest Dungeon can be a bit frustrating and is best taken in small chunks, but it is a decent rogue-like. Invisible, Inc. is a good puzzle/resource management game with an interesting art style and is relatively short, which is good for those that don't have a lot of time to game. You can play a mission in about half an hour, I think, and the main campaign is only about 7-8 missions long IIRC. I really enjoyed it.

On the RPG front, I played through Pillars of Eternity in the spring and really enjoyed it. I couldn't beat the game because my party got to the final encounter too soon and with only a single tank, which got them all slaughtered, but I still felt that I had a positive experience over all.

I'm really trying to get all of my VBAM work done and out the door by November, because XCOM2 is going to wreck my schedule. And if I break down and pick up Fallout 4, too, then I will probably be in a gaming coma for several weeks.
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Re: Three Moves Ahead: Lost in Space

Postby PaulB » Thu Aug 20, 2015 6:15 pm

Tyrel Lohr wrote:
But yeah the economic mod for VBAM sounds cool and like it would do the trick. Not sure how much fun that would be for the players in practice.


I think it would be fine in a two player wargame scenario, like a Narn/Centauri War game, when you have two empires fighting a fixed conflict. In that case everyone would be equally affected. In a game with exploration and diplomacy going on, it would become interminable unless you were playing face to face with your local gaming group and could let the warring factions play out their "tactical turns" in rapid succession while the rest of the players ran some filler board games while they wait for their turns to come up.


Well, it might also be possible in a game wherein each turn had a few more decisions. If economic turns only happened every 3rd turn then on a "regular turn", if a player not even engaged in conflict has enough interesting to do then it could work even for the players who aren't in conflict.

Tyrel Lohr wrote:
Also of course there's the Shadowrun Returns and Dragonfall RPG games which came out (and Hong Kong this week) which are also similar in some ways. Dragonfall in particular has a good story.


I played through part of Shadowrun Returns and was not enamored, and haven't tried Dragonfall yet. I own it, because of course I do (Steam addict), but just haven't gotten into it yet.


Dragonfall is much better; gameplay wise it's probably 10-20% better with more of a hub system and optional missions. In terms of story it's 100% better with a story that will probably stick with me for years.

Tyrel Lohr wrote:I can recommend Darkest Dungeon and Invisible, Inc. for those that want to play something a bit different. Darkest Dungeon can be a bit frustrating and is best taken in small chunks, but it is a decent rogue-like. Invisible, Inc. is a good puzzle/resource management game with an interesting art style and is relatively short, which is good for those that don't have a lot of time to game. You can play a mission in about half an hour, I think, and the main campaign is only about 7-8 missions long IIRC. I really enjoyed it.


Darkest Dungeon looks cool but is still Early Access I believe so I'll wait til it's done done before I check it out. Also in general I'm not a fan of steam and most of my collection for that system comes from humble bundle, I restrict my choices generally to GOG or the consoles.

Tyrel Lohr wrote:On the RPG front, I played through Pillars of Eternity in the spring and really enjoyed it. I couldn't beat the game because my party got to the final encounter too soon and with only a single tank, which got them all slaughtered, but I still felt that I had a positive experience over all.


Had a similar problem when I played through Baldurs Gate somewhat recently. I did finish that game, but some of the optional content was nigh impossible with some huge demon in a basement which I fought innumerable times but couldn't take down.

From a D&D perspective I'm still on Baldurs Gate 2, which I started before quit after a few hours. Might come back to it. I'm a bit turned off by the steam punk aesthetic though. It seems like the only way for people to advance fantasy settings is to introduce steampunk, like Thief vs Thief 2. I much prefer the Elder Scrolls sort of setting where fantasy stays fantasy; there are some steampunk elements but they tend to be relics of a bygone age.

Tyrel Lohr wrote:I'm really trying to get all of my VBAM work done and out the door by November, because XCOM2 is going to wreck my schedule. And if I break down and pick up Fallout 4, too, then I will probably be in a gaming coma for several weeks.


I was also playing through Fallout 2 as well but have largely given up on that game, the combat system is seriously terrible and makes me pine for Ultima games from the 1980s and thus I'm one of the people who really appreciates Bethesdas work in taking an interesting universe and putting a better game on top of it. Some people however seem to really rock the nostalgia glasses and see these old, outdated games as the pinnacle of their experience.

I likewise am working on my game system but have been distracted by console and PC games. Been playing through some old 360 games including a few gears of war knockoffs like Quantum Theory and Inversion. There's nothing that helps a person appreciate a top-rated game more than playing one of its much inferior knock-offs. QT is done but playing through Inversion I am for the moment stuck on a late-game boss battle, where I fight a certain boss type for not the second time, not the third time, but the fourth time. Any game which makes you fight the same type of annoying boss four times automatically looses about 2 points in my book.

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Re: Three Moves Ahead: Lost in Space

Postby PaulB » Fri Aug 21, 2015 1:23 am

Tyrel Lohr wrote:That is one of the biggest problems with MOO2 in a nutshell: there was definitely an optimal path to victory, and doing anything else was suboptimal to the point that in a competitive environment you'd be overwhelmed. Of course, my experience is that 4x multiplayer games stop being fun once you have one or more players that have "figured out the game" because at that point you can't experiment with different strategies because if you don't play to a specific winning strategy you're screwed. It's like Civ V and being forced to go Tradition=Tall and save up Great Scientists for a massive tech boost later in the game. If you don't do it you've lost the game. It just makes the game not fun to play at all.


Personally by the way I find the notion of any game having an "optimal strategy" to be a big turnoff.
I'm someone who always like to do sub-optimal strategies, particularly using sub-optimal units.

In VGA Planets for example, akin to Stars!, there's units and weapons worth building, and units and weapons not worth building. I build the ones that aren't worth building, even if only a couple, just for the sake of fun.

Or in a game like Xcom, the original ones, I would often equip my guys with Plasma Rifles because I enjoyed the concept of a rifle. But from my understanding, most players would just give everyone on their squad heavy plasmas not the rifles.

I suspect that part of the problem is that these games snowball. Things you build compound your advantages and so once you get ahead you start to get ahead quite far. And maybe the thing is that these games should incorporate a more granular system, or perhaps one that is less predictable. A game built on hard numbers or with one way to achieve something can usually be figured out by and large.

Whereas if you have multiple options with both do the same thing and add something else it can perhaps give different ways to achieve something. Particularly if those choices are mutually exclusive.

Mind you one can be like Total Biscuit, who plays sub-optimal Hearthstone Decks with specific gimmicks, my understanding is that he usually loses or does somewhat poorly but when he does win, he wins with a suboptimal deck so it's all the better.

Either way, I suspect that creating a strategy with multiple, balanced ways to victory is rather difficult.

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Re: Three Moves Ahead: Lost in Space

Postby mwaschak » Mon Sep 21, 2015 11:16 am

Tyrel Lohr wrote:I think it would be fine in a two player wargame scenario, like a Narn/Centauri War game, when you have two empires fighting a fixed conflict. In that case everyone would be equally affected. In a game with exploration and diplomacy going on, it would become interminable unless you were playing face to face with your local gaming group and could let the warring factions play out their "tactical turns" in rapid succession while the rest of the players ran some filler board games while they wait for their turns to come up.


This was always one of those war cases for me I liked to test in both 1e develpoment (which is a long story) and 2e development for balance. Assuming no Shadow involvement, how long exactly would the Narn/Centauri War have lasted? IMHO there were not a lot of distance between the two party's major systems and it would be pretty easy for a fleet to cover it quickly. So it could end very quickly since fleets can concentrate and force decision battles.

If I was not playing something with specific objectives (humiliate the Centauri, capture some key Narn system, rally the League, etceteras....) it could be over quick enough that some tech progression was just not worth the investment.

-Jay

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Re: Three Moves Ahead: Lost in Space

Postby Tyrel Lohr » Mon Sep 21, 2015 1:51 pm

The problem with the B5 star map is that there's not much room for any of the powers to maneuver. All it takes is for one side to push hard towards the enemy's homeworld and usually within a few jumps they'll be there. That makes defending your territories more difficult, and rewards more defensive play. With 2e I tried encouraging players to have more spread out empires so that they could use a "defense in depth" strategy to provide extra maneuver on the strategic map.
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Re: Three Moves Ahead: Lost in Space

Postby PaulB » Tue Sep 22, 2015 5:58 pm

Ironically the only map we actually saw in Babylon 5 seemed to be that galactic arm map where Londo and Morden were discussing the shadow/centauri split. While a bit ridiculous it's a far cry from the rather limited node-based map of B5Wars. For a campaign game, something more in the middle might be a bit more playable and more realistic for that matter.

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Re: Three Moves Ahead: Lost in Space

Postby mwaschak » Tue Sep 22, 2015 6:59 pm

Yeah, I would rather see the frontier and other "empty" space that was implied to exist among all the major empires. It would certainly make for a better campaign experience. When I was working on that CTE project for AoG years back they had implied that their map only showed the important systems, maybe 20% of what we supposed to be there.

When you read the source book fiction though it played out on a very limited P2P map.

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Re: Three Moves Ahead: Lost in Space

Postby Tyrel Lohr » Wed Sep 23, 2015 1:19 am

The danger with larger maps is that you end up being overwhelmed by navigation and colonization options; or, if the map is already mostly inhabited, you are forced to manage these gigantic and largely unwieldy empires. Even at the scale of a standard VBAM game, it can get pretty overwhelming for players.

I'm hoping that 2e has found a middleground between the two extremes when it comes to game play. 1e had maps that were closer to the B5W model, where everything was very compressed and there wasn't much room to maneuver. Now there are more systems on the map, but all of them are slightly poorer in resources (especially player homeworlds) to balance things out a bit. That helps push players out more, even if they are still relying on their home systems for the lion's share of their resources (at least during the early game)
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