Archive for September, 2013

Research Complete 2 – A design philosophy

I really hope that this idea eventually gets implemented someday (also hopefully by me). This would be for a computer version as a forum really wouldn’t do the calculations justice. It’s sort of my idealized vision of what a civilization-building game would go like, and I’ve played quite a few civilization games (and even their modded counterparts) – Civilization 3, 4, 5, Rise of Nations, Age of Empires 2, 3, Europa Universalis 3, Victoria I and II, ostensibly Starcraft, Starcraft II (to a very limited extent), Warcraft III, and a bunch of mods for Civilization 4. I particularly enjoyed Civilization 4 and Rise of Nations. Of course, I like the Blizzard crafts as well, but they’re less related to a semihistorical context.

EDIT: I forgot to mention Sins of a Solar Empire (not relevant here) and Galciv 2 (very relevant to some of the ideas).

I would suggest at least getting a feel for Research Complete (1) which can be found in the AoPS forums. It was designed to have a heavy emphasis for research with a branching out as enabled by tech.

RESEARCH

Not much I would change here. It would probably have to be a tree-like structure with some techs unlocking other techs. Since I probably want an RTS feel, I would have to ensure that the time standards are reasonable. Early techs would take a few minutes to maybe half an hour, and later techs may take a few days. That would be if the game is persistent multiplayer, which is probably the most reasonable genre to host such a game. (that said, I’ve played quite a few persistent multiplayer games (tribalwars, ikariam, civworld) and they all seem to play the same way. I want to break out of this mold).

I like to keep a mystery of exploration. The first time RC was created, nobody knew what was the best thing to maximize, and this mystique keeps the game interesting. If things are consistent and never-changing, people quickly determine the best possible way to do things, the fastest way to do things, and do them. They make guides: “oh, do this and that and then that for the fastest possible victory” and the game becomes boring and solved. Randomness is one way to do so, but it has to be implemented in an interesting fashion. AI would be one (although the investment to make a worthwhile AI is probably too much to ask for). However, I believe that it may be worthwhile pursuing RANDOMIZED TECH TREES!

They would still make sense, and the gameplay would still have to be viable – core gameplay function should still be intact, although some secondary modules could probably be done away with as an interesting twist. A game without most military function would certainly change some warmongers’ strategies. Also, you would not be able to see most of the tech tree until you unlock them – this is an important characteristic of RC which largely prevented such tunneling.

However, people largely adopted strategies from other people because it was too tedious to copy-paste everyone individual data every day. So people would know what everyone was doing very quickly on. This can be mitigated with a computer version, a persistent multiplayer online game. Collaboration to explore the tech tree is definitely a possibility and I would encourage such alliances. But to prevent large alliances from fully traversing the tree the tree would have to be somewhat big.

(New!) TOOLS

This would play out similarly to Doodle God. It’s a simple minigame to pass the time, and this time there are actual effects. You can unlock more starting items with more techs, of course. Timesinks like these can reward active players. Of course, Doodle God is also susceptible to walkthrough-ization, but hopefully randomized tech trees mitigates this (so random items). This provides a crafting aspect to the game, and perhaps this can be an itemsink: you might damage a resource beyond use if you try to combine things incorrectly, and it might take time before you get good at combining even correct recipes (think of it as learning)

(Sort of new!) LAND

In RC1, this manifested itself as the construction module, but now I’ve split this up into two modules: the use of open land for raw resources (such as metals, rocks, trees) and expansive plots (like farms), and the urban center filled with lots of buildings. I neglected the land aspect in RC1; I hope to include it in RC2. Notably, you will need lots of resources to fund your little city, which comes from the use of land. You can apportion a certain number of people to farm, others to mine, and so on, and in the land module you do not make buildings but rather improve infrastructure. (maybe improve your mining capability or something). Land will have some sort of terrain modifier that makes certain lands more conducive to mining and others for farming or quarrying. With that said, food is important for growing your population which is important for the workforce.

CONSTRUCTION

And this is the building part of things. Buildings will involve the conversion of lower resources into bigger and better resources.  They require people to operate (of course (ok, maybe until you get robots to operate the buildings for you)). You have a lot more control here: you can set the number of people in each building which affects the efficiency of each building.

I like the construction space gating mechanism as much as the next person, but it makes less conceptual sense if we are operating on the premise of such expansive lands. While there will still be a land cost, it will be rather minor. The real cost comes from the construction costs, and the costs to house people into these buildings. Efficiency will operate on sort of a logistic curve: it takes a critical mass of people for a building to become effective, but stuffing too many people into a building and you run into diminishing returns (and perhaps people might die due to bad conditions, etc.). So one would need to create duplicates of the same building, i.e. expanding the building outwards. Food will be a more relevant concern.

MILITARY

I had a dream last night. It would make the game rather simple, really. And that is to create the concept of NEIGHBORS. What I didn’t really like was the monotony of the maps found in Tribal Wars and Ikariam. Each island looked the same, every village was so perfectly aligned to a grid. I get rid of the map, at least partially. Everybody, upon starting the game, is assigned a few (perhaps 6-10) neighbors. These neighbors are not all neighbors with each other though! Instead of a cluster system, there is an abstract map where you have neighbors, which is probably assigned partially based on your join time (so that your neighbors should be of approximately the same relative strength). You can only perform your military exploits on your neighbors (although you can resort to more peaceful measures such as trading and such). However, the catch is this: when you inevitably try to expand your land area via military exploits by carving out land from other people, you might acquire additional neighbors, who could possibly be quite large! The number of neighbors you have should roughly be proportional to the perimeter of your empire, which can either be well-managed or perhaps less well-managed.

Military actions are still much of the same: raid for resources, conquer for some lands, attack for actual military conflict, etcetera.

ESPIONAGE

This was a thorn in the foot in RC1. But with an online interface (and with an actual need for espionage with hidden values and such) espionage might actually work well here. With more powerful spies you can get more information from your neighbors.

MARKET

Another painful aspect of RC1. You can offer resource trading between neighbors and probably a range around them (so perhaps a 4-5 neighbor range). It won’t be a stock market implementation (until perhaps later with stock markets). It could also function in that you have a certain resource that someone else doesn’t have, and a trade could occur.

INVENTIONS

Now, inventions are tied to technologies, so you won’t get irrelevant inventions or anachronistic inventions. You can only invent things that you have already researched. I think Victoria II does a good job exemplifying this aspect.

OTHER MODULES

May add later.

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English Homework

PRETEXT: There’s English HW and I decided it might be a good idea to post something after a ton of time of not posting. This is not the longpost, by the way. This is probably very cynical, sort of irrelevant to the prompt, perhaps grammatically incorrect, and I did no planning or editing (other than this PRETEXT) although I did backspace a few times to actually make sentences or catch spelling mistakes (which I habitually do, although this was discouraged in the context of the assignment). Hence, no closure. And stream of consciousness.

 

Are you prepared for the next step? (20 min)

In this essay-thingy, I will attempt to answer a question in 20 minutes. This is for English homework, by the way. The question is as stated, “Are you prepared for the next step?” No planning or editing whatsoever (although my pride sort of cheats this by backspacing quickly) But I digress. One minute in. The real world seems like a whole new world. There is no obvious shelter that is provided, and you need to provide it yourself with your own hands and labor. It is this that this is very different from the circumstances that I face today. Of course, there is college to bridge the gap.

Bridging the gap is a very overused expression. In 3rd grade, I’m pretty sure they said that 4th, 5th, and 6th would be used to bridge the gap to junior high, and in 6th grade they said that junior high was the bridge to high school. In a sense, yes. In a sense, no. I did not really feel the accomplishment of actually crossing the bridge – it was so streamlined. It feels rather as if instead of crossing a discrete gap, a river to cross, I was seamlessly moving from one to the next. I’m pretty sure the bridge is supposed to have this effect. But I never actually feel as if I actually crossed this bridge.

School has been much the same for all these years. While the addition of the period system introduced a variety of teachers that I hold a varied amount of respect to, it really wasn’t so different from before. After all, in elementary school we had to go to different “labs” every week or so for “specialized activities”, and inclass we definitely did a whole host of things each day. It’s basically a schedule. Scheduling appears to be a very integral part of college and beyond as well.

The commitments were basically the same as well. There are school assignments to do each day, and there are extracurriculars. However, testing largely phases out in college, with just a final (which of course has been introduced in junior high, since I don’t remember having to test for finals in elementary school). The claim is that grades now count for high school instead of junior high, which is in a sense true (after all it dictates which college you go to to some extent) but these grades are essentially thrown out in college, and life starts anew. Then college grades are thrown out after you get your second job. These grades are really quite transient, and nine minutes.

It feels as if the world doesn’t really need any given person. And in a sense, this is true as well. Your achievements are essentially for naught after a while, and as the ages pass, you die. Those lucky enough to be an impact to society pass on their legacy. But this is such a chancey thing. How will I know that my legacy will carry on hundreds of years from now? Science is probably the best way to get “immortalized”, and even we don’t know how immortal this is, as science (at least renaissance and beyond) is such a new concept, it’s only about 500 years old. But other things of relative time have mostly faded away. I wouldn’t be able to name most of the Renaissance leaders of the time, for instance. But in their time, I’m sure they felt a lot more important than the scientists did.

So there is the question of how to get a good legacy. Perhaps science will go out of vogue in another few centuries, but who am I to judge? I’m sure people will forget of basically everything in the event of a post-apocalyptic society. They will remember those who brought back any semblance of civilization, and clearly I should try to initiate an apocalypse and save a small collective of people (I’M JUST KIDDING). But really, does it matter what we do? Of course, our hivemind would completely collapse if everyone had this mindset.

If nobody thought they had any commitments, then modern society would probably collapse within a few weeks, if not days. It’s really quite scary how we, who aren’t hardwired to be excessively social (of course, more social than lone warriors like tigers, but I’m talking social at the level of ants or bees) manage to live in such a fragile weave of society. We do have primal, hardwired tendencies – greed, for instance, but society has managed to utilize these tendencies to incentivize stability to a sense. Money is definitely something to go after – the embodiment of wealth. But nothing in our minds has the inherent desire to become intellectual, and it appears as if this value is declining with the rise of the corporate world.

War – it comes up, and this is mainly due to our primal warlike tendencies. We were not meant to live harmoniously as a society of seven billion. But we somehow managed to do so, albeit quite shakily. And this is why war happens.

But back to the question, as I have like two minutes left. Am I prepared to enter this extremely unstable world? Yes and no. Of course, the phrasing “unstable world” should already sound warning bells, and of course I am probably not ready to handle such a thing. But in the end, does it even matter?

There are a few things that would indeed transform this mentality. Immortality would be something that changes the legacy problem on its head, and even the small changes that you make over time would add up to a large amount when you multiply this by an infinite value. But it might eradicate desire, as people lose motivation. But time is up.