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How things will go pew pew, part II

Hey everyone!

This is part 2 of the military system blog. Let’s get into it…

First, I wanted to get into the tactical of what happens when two Forces move into combat range and start firing at each other. Here’s what happens:

Combat Basics

Combat takes place in the turn resolution phase (i.e. after the player has clicked ‘next turn’). In combat, units on each side do damage of various kinds to units on the other. All combat is fought simultaneously – across the universe, all targeting is done, then all rolls to hit, then all damage allocated – so a unit which is destroyed in a turn’s combat will still get its attack off. (NB: this means the turn sequence must be such that each force engages in at most one battle each turn.) In a given turn, a unit might be attacked from the ground and from space, by however many different enemies, but each individual unit can only conduct one kind of attack in a turn, once. So (with the exception of orbital combat, where each unit gets three space-to-space attacks against units in the same Planetary Orbit location for the price of one) units only ever get one attack per turn.

First, units pick targets. The target unit each unit picks is, by default, random. If there are more than two sides involved, all of a side’s enemy units are treated as one big mass of enemies for them to target, without distinction as to controller. In space battles, non-transports are more likely to be picked than transports, due to being in front of the ‘battle line’.

The units then roll to hit. The actual rolls required vary by the type of combat. Devastation damage in ground combat doesn’t target units, and is rolled separately to other damage.

Damage is then dealt. Units have a set amount of damage they do per hit. This is reduced by the target’s relevant armor (a percentage) to give the actual damage done. Any excess damage after the target is destroyed is discarded with no further effect. (Some units have the Multi-Target ability. This means that any damage left over after any of their targets is destroyed is passed on to another random enemy unit, which then counts as another of their targets this turn, so if they are destroyed, the cycle continues. This continues until they have run out of damage to allocate. Multi-Target units’ hits’ damage is resolved after non-Multi-Target hits’ damage, to make sure the best use is made of their diabolical power, and the excess damage is not affected by previous targets’ armor.)

If a Force is trying to do something else as well as fight, their chance to hit is reduced, and their effectiveness at doing the other thing is also reduced, whatever that thing may be.

MILINT (Military Intelligence)

Many aspects of combat rely on military intelligence, or MILINT. MILINT – info on Force movements, etc – can be gained by infiltrators in enemy war plans or spies on territories through which a Force’s supply lines pass. (The former provide more information on orders, and higher MILINT Quality than the latter, all else being equal – see below, and also the Subterfuge system.) Both infiltrators and spies are ordinary characters, with whom the controller has engaged in a Plot to Spy On War Plan/Troop Movements.

When you successfully Spy On War Plan or Spy On Troop Movements, as well as receiving some information about supply lines and future orders, your ‘MILINT Quality’ on that force increases. Despite the name, this is actually a quantity. The Quality of your MILINT on a Force decays over time, falling by a fixed amount every turn, down to 0. Even if your info about a Force’s future orders goes out of date, your MILINT Quality is unaffected, as it reflects information about formations, officers, troop morale, and so forth which is not modeled in the game systems.

War Effects

Pillaging and attacks on Planetside targets do Devastation damage to the planet. This causes civilian casualties, wrecks facilities and buildings, causes public anger against the perpetrators, and in extreme cases reduces the Bio rating of the planet. Each point of Devastation damage done has a random chance of killing a Pop or wrecking a facility, and increases that planet’s public resentment of the perpetrating Force’s controller, general, and Culture (if different from pops/planet’s majority) by a percentage point or so. The defending forces get their resentment production reduced by 75%, with exception of Pillaging Devastation, which causes Resentment at the full rate. Resentment means both Love reduction towards characters and increase of Animus against cultures and religions. Additional Resentment is created when a planet is conquered.

Resentment is not restricted to the affected Pops if the Force, their commander, or their controller are of a different culture or religion to them. A certain amount of Resentment grows – either globally, or throughout the area you’ve explored, or throughout the area with trade access to the planet – among Pops of the same Culture/Religion as the Pops affected. This will be less than the Resentment accrued at the source, but still a non-negligible amount, proportional to that inflicted.

Certain especially devastating war machines, such as nuclear weapons, will have the Bio Damage special rule. This means that the Devastation they inflict will also reduce the planet’s Bio rating fractionally.

Garrisons

A planet may have Military pops but no Force based there. These Military pops represent reserves, militia, police units and so forth. They are there to do two things: defend against invaders and suppress restive locals. If combat breaks out on the planet, and the planet’s Viceroy is not neutral in the conflict, they become troops under that character’s command. They may not leave the planet, although they may go In Hiding as usual. Indeed, they will have a Home Field Advantage since they are fighting on their Homeworld. The units they become will be a distribution of the cheapest units that Civ has suited to fighting on that planet type – most likely units will be flagged as ‘militia – planet types XYZ’ and which forces appear will be selected from the available appropriate units, using support units and cheap generic militia units if no appropriate fighting units are available.

In Hiding units

Some units (such as local partisans) can go In Hiding (hiding among the local population or otherwise evading detection). This means they cannot be attacked or make attacks, and are invisible to the enemy. Forces can be ordered to move their units to and from the In Hiding space on the board. A unit in a planet’s In Hiding space still counts as being in that planet’s Planetside location.

In Hiding units may be exposed by any enemy that has units Planetside on the planet. Said enemy’s chance of detecting your In Hiding units on a planet (all of them at once) and thereby forcing them out of the In Hiding into the ordinary Planetside space is proportional to their highest single MILINT level or quality against any of your Forces that have units In Hiding on the planet. Their forces may increase this chance by engaging in Counterinsurgency Operations. Enemy spies on the planet increase their MILINT on your Force as usual. Detection checks happen before combat, so if your units are detected, they will immediately enter combat with the enemy, that turn.

When you attempt to send units In Hiding, the enemy immediately makes a detection check, with a bonus. If they succeed, you fail. Your troops will keep trying to obey the order every turn until and unless it is cancelled by you or by your commander. Units attempting to go In Hiding will not make attacks, but if they are detected by this check, the enemy can attack them.

All this can also be conducted with the roles reversed, so you can find yourself looking for In Hiding enemies.

Attached Inquisitors

An Inquisitor can be attached to a Force in a commissar-type role, to purge them of spies and traitors. This is Tyrannical, increasing Fear of you among their Homeworld’s military pops, and reducing their Love for you. It does, however, increase your chances of getting Secret parts about spies in the Force’s War Plan, and about plots by the Force’s commander. They also slowly reduce your troops numbers in that Force as they imprison and execute ‘subversives’.

How are ships/ground units built?

New units are ordered from a Force’s ‘Manage Force Composition window, accessible from the action zone when the Force is selected. This window allows new units to be recruited, existing units to be upgraded, and units to be disbanded or mothballed. Troops and crew are always recruited from the Force’s Homeworld, but their ships, vehicles and equipment may be purchased from other worlds, which can be chosen manually by the player or auto-selected to minimise either cost, production time, or time to arrival at the Force’s deployment zone (including production time). Ships are built using starship factories (using BPs as with any other construction) and ground units are built using ground factories. The units will be automatically built as the request is made IF there is not already a suitable Unit in garrison or available status that can join the Force.

Units can only be built up to the number of military pops on the Homeworld divided by a constant factor. The number of pops different units ‘take up’ may vary. If the number of military pops falls below the required number, they will suffer under staffing penalties as described in ‘On Duty/Off Duty’, above (despite On Duty/Off Duty not applying in general), and no further units may be built whilst this state of affairs persists.

Garrison/protection

A planet that is near enemies whom the populace do not Love or with whom they share no cultural affinity, or which has been recently Pillaged by an enemy, will be flagged ‘People demand protection!’. This means their Love and Fear for their controller will fall if a garrison or Force of a certain minimum anti-Space strength is not stationed on the planet. Ideas will also play a large part, specifically Xeno-Tolerance and Tolerance in general.

Intimidation

A force can be instructed to enforce martial law on a planet. This increases the Fear of the force’s controller and its commander among the population, whilst reducing their Love for them; it is Tyrannical. It is useful on a newly-conquered planet, as there’s not a lot of Love going around there anyway. (Once Fear has built up, martial law can be ended without the planet rebelling again, which will allow some Love to grow.) If the Force does this to its own Homeworld, they will not build up as much Fear among the Military Pops there. If the Force doing this is of a different culture or religion to the majority on the world, they will build up Resentment against them on that world just as though they were dealing Devastation damage to it.

Whew! Lot to cover, so much that I’m going to write a Part III to go over military reforms and how you can build/discover the technology required to defeat the Xyl (and your enemies!) once and for all!

-Steve

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How We Go Pew Pew: The Military System, Part I

Hello everyone!

So as we make the march to .8, a question that has come up frequently is ‘how is the pew pew going to work?’ Well, given that AotSS is a 4X at its core, that is certainly a fair question! Let’s get into a little more detail about how that will work.

To start, please note that AotSS is about grand strategy. The normal process of building individual ships, kitting them out, naming them, and grouping them with a leader to send to a planet to take it over doesn’t necessarily apply to AotSS. You are the Emperor, after all, and you would have little or no interest or say in that process. What you would be involved in is setting up high-level target priorities – i.e. “I want to take that star system by force” or “I want to show military might to the people of planet X” or “I want to improve our military presence in the northernmost constellation of our Empire”. This is called a Military Plan, and will be discussed shortly.

The Emperor would also be responsible in a broad sense for making sure that logistical/supply networks are built and maintained where he/she expects to see conflict, so building logistical networks and expanding them to systems where forces are expected are critical.

Finally, the Emperor would want to make sure that forces are being raised from planets that are loyal to the Empire, and not likely to rebel, and that the general who is in charge of that force does not ‘go rogue’ with the most advanced force in the Empire.

So let’s first talk about Forces.

No, it’s not the Star Wars trope, but a combined space/ground unit that is assigned to perform a mission. Forces may contain up to 6 different Units, which are basically Fleets (space warfare) and Armies (ground warfare). Forces are named, gain experience, are commanded by a General, and move and fight together on the Galaxy View.

All units have hit points. All starships have Speed and Defense values. Anything that can attack starships in space has Sensors and Space Damage stats (referred to simply as Damage in the discussion of space combat, because we know it’s in space already). Anything that can attack units planetside has Tactics, ie. chance to hit, and Lethality and Devastation stats, which describe how much damage they do to units’ hit points and the planet’s infrastructure respectively. All starships have Space Defense, and all planetside units have Planetside Defense and Space Defense.

Starships

  • i. Space-to-Space

These craft are there to attack other spacecraft. Some can be used for Space-to-Ground attack too, at reduced effectiveness.

ii. Space-to-Ground

These craft are designed to bombard ground targets from orbit. Some can also attack other spacecraft, at reduced effectiveness.

Planetary troops

These include aircraft, ground troops, and naval vessels. Different units will gain bonuses and maluses on different kinds of world – naval units, for example, will be very effective on water worlds, moderately effective on terrestrial-type worlds, and useless on worlds without oceans.

  • i. Planet-to-Space

These are planetside forces that can attack ships in orbit. Some may also be used against other planetside forces, at reduced effectiveness.

  • ii. On-Planet Combat Units

These are planetside forces that can attack other planetside forces. Some may also perform Marine duty, i.e. fighting in boarding actions against starbases.

So where can a Force go? They can exist in one of 5 possible locations: Planetside, Planetary Orbit, Interplanetary Space locations, Starbases, and Deep Space. These will be explained in more detail in Part 2.

So as Emperor, you want to be sure that Forces are kept up properly. This requires 4 things per Force:

  • Crowns (money)
  • Food
  • Energy
  • Ammo (built from heavy and rare materials)

These resources come from your Empire Stockpile (the money comes from your Military Budget). When Forces are inactive (i.e. not part of an active Military Plan) they only consume Money and Food. When deployed, they also consume Energy. When actively in combat, they consume Ammo.

Now, let’s talk about Characters that can be involved in your Military. There are 4 different types of Characters:

  • Commander – This is the main leader of the Force. Their military skill has a large impact on the success of combat.
  • Captains – These are the leaders of your notable ‘capital starships’ that have additional impacts on their abilities (and thus your Force’s ability)
  • Coordinating Commanders – These are the leaders of other Forces who are involved in the Military Plan but are waiting for a trigger to proceed (aka wait for order x to be executed by force y)
  • Plan Commander (PC) – This is the overall leader of the Military Plan, and the Coordinating Commanders are subordinate to them.

Finally, let’s talk about Military Plans. As Emperor, you will set high-level targets and it is up to your Plan Commander to create a Plan that gets that done. You will have an overall strategic objective which consists of a Target and an Military Action. Targets can be the following:

  • Planets
  • Systems
  • Provinces
  • Pops on a world
  • Starbases not owned by you
  • Logistical stations not owned by you
  • Ground Forces
  • Space Forces

Once you have selected a Target, you can generate an appropriate Military Action to act on these targets. Military Actions are as follows:

  • Attack (Forces)
  • Destroy (Starbases, Logistical Stations)
  • Pillage (planets, systems)
  • Invade (planets)
  • Bombard (planets)
  • Enforce martial law (planets, systems)
  • Conquer (systems, provinces – basically chains numerous Invade orders)
  • Engage in genocide (Pops – specific Pop cultures)
  • Gather intel (planets, systems)

From there, the PC will generate a Military Plan. You can also specify specific Forces you want to participate, but you don’t have to – you can simply specify a force level from ‘Minimum’ to ‘Overwhelming’ and the PC will try to add enough Forces that can engage that Action to meet your force level.

Coming in part 2: Inquisitors, Spies, Building Military Units, effects of Warfare on Planets, Science considerations, and more! That’s coming tomorrow!

Enjoy!

-Steve

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Developer Diary 7.15 – Let’s Talk About Fear!

Hey everyone!

Steve here, with a poppin’ fresh development diary. In this episode, I want to talk about a concept that is being added significantly with the upcoming .7.5 update and will be a prominent factor in how you play your game: fear.

Fear actually works on 2 levels: how Characters fear you and how your Pops fear you. Pop Fear mainly determines whether you are seen as Benevolent or Tyrannical, which is its own discussion for a later time (it doesn’t affect game play yet beyond your title). Character Fear, however, will very much determine game play.

For starters, every Character has a Fear level of you from 0-100, where 0 = fearless and 100 = shit-your-pants terror. Of course, you won’t see this number (when was the last time you said to someone, “I’m 42% scared of that guy!”)  but you will have this information in 3 areas: character tooltips, the character screen, and the conversation screen. It will be presented as a phrase, depending on your Intel Progress with that character, and the higher the IP the more specific the phrasing (much like attributes).

Simple. So what does Fear affect? Many things: a character’s willingness to ask you for a demand or threat vs a favor or request, their strategy towards you, it adjusts their Decision Score (higher Fear = lower DS), and having a high Fear level gradually builds up their Grudge level.

How can you affect Fear? Easy! Do hostile things that succeed (challenges, exiles, public reprimands, etc), as well as Inquisitor Spec Ops like Intimidation or Blackmail, and sometimes by simply being more powerful than them! (Power truly is everything in AotSS. You can’t overstate its importance either way for your success or failure.) Over time, Fear will decay as the things you have done are forgotten, but a Character’s Grudge level will not decay, and a high Grudge level leads to Plots against you (FYI, Grudge levels are NEVER public, but you might get Rumor Intel saying that a certain Character is very unhappy with you) so keep in mind who you strong-arm!

Since creating Fear also virtually always increases your Power, this may seem like an easy road to keep your Power high and get things done, and indeed it might be, but since a Character’s Grudge level never decays, you will find yourself having to work harder and harder and expend more and more AP (Action Points) to get Characters to do what you want them to do, because at a certain Grudge level they will NEVER ally with you or even become indifferent, they will ALWAYS be an enemy – it’s just a matter of controlling them at that point. In addition, people who have a high Fear of you also pass along their Grudge levels to people that they are Allies and Friends with, so you will basically piss off a lot more Characters than you might expect when you do things that jump the Fear level on a Character who is heavily connected.

Fear works alongside another stat that is handled in a similar way: Trust. That will get the next DD – so signing off!

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Power – The Lifeblood of AotSS

Hey everyone!

I wanted to take this time to write a quick dev blog about the concept of Character and Emperor Power. It’s actually critically important to the game, but I don’t think I’ve spent that much time on it. It will be very important to understand how you win and lose Challenges, how likely characters are to do what you want, and what happens when you gain and lose Power as the Emperor.

The first thing to understand about Power is that there are actually 2 types of Power: Inherent Power and Accrued Power. Inherent Power comes from your rank, your House Power, and your personal possessions. House Leaders’ Inherent Power is the same as their House Power since they are essentially the one and the same for practicality’s sake. Accrued Power is what can fluctuate the most throughout the game. This is the Power that you can gain or lose through Projects, Actions, Events, Comms, and Challenges. It can go below 0 which means that it can drive your overall Power lower than your Inherent Power.

Remember that Accrued Power is in many respects a perception of your influence throughout your Empire. You can have the trappings of power like a military, government, and Holdings (which make up your Inherent Power) but if people perceive you as weak or that you can’t control these levers of power effectively, you have an effective Power much lower than what you might otherwise be able to project. This is what AotSS models – not just the tools of power (which virtually every other 4X game does) but your perceived ability to use and intelligently wield it!

Anyway, so when is Power used? It’s used many times throughout the game, but most notably in 3 areas: when a Character is determining whether or not to do an Action, when a House is deciding whether to take action against you or your House, and when you have been Challenged (not in the game yet, but added soon!)

I am going to be rewriting the Action check to be much simpler – currently there are a whole raft of factors influencing it, but the reality of this is that you the player have to have a reasonable understanding going into the interaction of what will happen, without being quite sure. So the calculation will be greatly simplified to this:

(CHARACTER POWER + (HOUSE POWER / 3)) * RELATIONSHIP MODIFIER) + TRAIT MODIFIERS – PRESSURE = DECISION SCORE.

If the Decision Score of the Character is LOWER than the Emperor’s Power, then the Character will agree to the Action request. If it is HIGHER or EQUAL, then they will not. Period. Characters who are your Friends will ALWAYS agree with an Action request. I want to make this process much more simple and transparent. So as an example:

I am asking Viceroy Thedonoius to increase production on the planet Vesuvius. He has a personal Power of 95 and his House (Hawken) has a Power of 315. We are Allies, which is a positive Relationship and has a modifier of .25. He is Industrious, which means he is more willing to back Actions that improve Industry in his COI (Chain of Influence) and gives a modifier of -50 to any positive Industry Action (and vice versa). He is not being Pressured by anyone above him, so his Pressure is 0. My power is 318. So:

(95 + (315/3 = 105)) * .25) – 50 – 0 = (200 * .25) – 50 = (50 – 50) = 0. Is 0 (Decision Score) lower than 315 (Emperor Power)? YES. Character will AGREE to Action.

You as the Player will have access to these modifiers on the decision screen. They will replace the Grand Vizier’s information. Originally the GV was going to give you a hint as to whether the character would say yes or no, but I felt that losing an AP to what essentially is a weighted guess would be too punitive in a game where every turn counts and you’re essentially racing the clock.

Note: Characters who are currently Blackmailed will also always agree, but then they will immediately make a Blackmail Break check to determine whether they stay blackmailed for future requests.

This will also make it clear what you need to do in order to sway a Character to your cause, and whether it’s better to go the slow route and build up a relationship with them or to be more devious and Pressure/Blackmail them, or simply strip their Power. That part is up to you as the player, but you will now have better tools to make that decision.

Let’s now talk about what Power means for you beyond Actions and Challenges. Generally, you want to keep your Power above 200 at a bare minimum. As to why, let’s take a look at an Action request to a higher-level Character, like a province governor with a Power of 150, a House Power of 410, and a Relationship of Shunning (1.25 modifier). So:

(150 + (410/3 = 137)) * 1.25 – 0 = 187 * 1.25 = 234. Is 234 lower than 200? NO. Character will NOT AGREE to Action.

When you have even stronger negative Relationship Modifiers (Rival = 1.5; Vendetta/Vengeance = 3.0) you need very high levels of Power to ‘break through’ their refusal. (In these cases, you can think of it as strong-arming them to do what you want. They won’t be happy about it, but since your Power imbalance is so great they are compelled to do so.) So if you have a Character who is acting as a roadblock to do what you want, you basically can work on 5 levers to change that:

  • Increase your Power
  • Reduce their Power (negative lever)
  • Reduce their House Power (negative lever)
  • Improve your relationship with that Character
  • Blackmail/Pressure the Character (negative lever)

A Negative Lever will hurt your relationship with both the character and with their House, so be careful if you go that route!

When your power gets below 100, you are in serious trouble. At that point, your assassination chance goes way up as rival Houses see weakness. You would want to take immediate steps to gain Power ASAP. If it ever ends up at or below 0 at the end of a turn, you lose the game due to becoming a Figurehead and the strongest House at that time claims the Celestial Throne.

So how do you gain Power? Great question! Lots of ways:

  • Complete (not just start!) Projects. Each Project has a Power Rating. As Emperor, you get half of this when the Project is completed. Projects that expand your Empire like claiming Systems, Colonizing planets and building Logistical Networks will greatly increase your Accrued Power, and in some cases also increase your Base Power if you are adding Holdings.
  • Improve your Holdings – i.e. increase their Production, GPP, etc. Planet Holdings have an overall Planet Value that take into account the overall productivity of a planet, as well as its size and influence. These then affect your Base Power)
  • Win Challenges (will grow your Accrued Power)
  • Increase your Military Budget (will grow your Accrued Power)
  • Build Fleets and Armies (will grow your Base Power) (coming soon!)
  • Grow your House by adding Holdings and powerful Characters (this will increase your Base Power)
  • Get Married (coming soon!)
  • Refuse a Demand or Threat from a Character
  • Publicly shame or denounce a character, with an Accrued Power boost proportionate to their Power. Keep in mind that they may then declare a Challenge, and their House won’t like it either, but your Pops and other Characters will see it as a sign of strength.
  • Completing Favors for Houses (coming soon!)
  • Build Inquisitor Squads
  • Events that pop up from time to time (coming soon!)

As important, how do you lose Power? Again, lots of ways:

  • Give in to a Demand or Threat from a Character
  • Lose a Challenge, or fail to accept a Challenge
  • Lose Holdings (i.e. weaken your House)
  • Have your Holdings become less efficient, usually by losing population, riots, or lack of productivity
  • Fail in Claiming a System
  • Fail at completing a Favor for a House
  • Reduce your Military Budget below the minimum threshold to maintain a reasonable threat posture (this will be indicated on the Budget Screen for now and expanded when the Military System is installed)
  • Disband Inquisitor Squads
  • Have an Action refused by a Character
  • Accrued Power will naturally attrit each turn a few points (the ‘what have you done for me lately’ effect)

The Power tooltip will be rewritten to show what factors are going into your current Power so it will help you make better decisions about what to do!

Last, let’s talk about Challenges. They are not really in the game yet but they will be soon! Basically, Challenges occur when a Character ‘challenges’ your authority in some way and ‘calls you out’ publicly, while ‘bidding’ an amount of Power at stake no more than 20% of their total Power.

At that time, you can decide whether to accept or decline the challenge. If you decline, you will lose 20 Power automatically. If you accept, you will have up to 5 turns to ‘recruit’ Characters to support you in this Challenge. This will be a personal Action. If they agree, they will add their Power to the Challenge Power (CP). You will have a general idea of the other Character’s current CP depending on the level of Intel you have on the Character (Max Intel will always show you their exact CP) After 5 turns, whoever has more CP wins the challenge, and gains the staked Power as Accrued Power while the losing Character loses that Power.

As you can hopefully see, Power is super important to how you rule, and you can’t forget about it as you consider your strategy. This is why it’s important to make friends with both Characters and Houses, and why it can be beneficial to ‘build up’ certain Characters whom you have a very positive relationship with to support you in Actions and Challenges.

That’s it for now… have a great day!

-Steve

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The Intel System – A Deep Dive!

Hello everyone! It’s Steve with a new dev diary. It’s been a while but I’ve been hard at work on a major new system that will be implement fully over the next several weeks. I am super proud of this system, and I think it will expand game play significantly without being overly ‘fiddly’. Anyway, here’s how it works!

INTEL RATINGS

There are 2 overall Intel ratings to track: Intel Progress and Spec Ops Progress. Every Character, Planet, and House has this rating. Intel Progress refers to how through (or not) that entity is being surveilled, from 0-100. 0 means that you know basically nothing about that entity, while 100 represents maximum surveillance/intelligence gathering ability. In practical terms this means:

HOUSE:

  • 0-24 IP: No information about plans or strategies, no information about House resources, no information about Plots. You always know Holdings. No information about Projects other than Claims.
  • 25-49 IP: Limited information about plans – you know the House Grand Strategy, but not the secondary strategies. You know a wide range of resources, example a House may have between 25-300 Basic Materials. You know a House has active Projects, but you don’t have a target or expected time to completion.
  • 50-75 IP: You know a House Grand Strategy, and you have a 50-50 chance each turn to learn the Secondary Strategy. You know a much narrower range of resources and Power. You know all House Projects and their target, but not their expected time to completion.
  • 76+ IP: You have essentially complete information about a House (think pre-Intel version).

CHARACTER:

  • 0-24 IP: No practical Intel on this Character. You do not know their skills or any of their relationships. You do not know how they feel about you (they will be considered neutral/indifferent). You do not know their resources such as money and you do not know their personality traits such as Intelligence or Charisma. You have no chance to learn any part of a Secret/Rumor on a Plot, if any, with this character.
  • 25-49 IP: Low Intel on this character. You know a few Skills and you have a small chance to learn additional Skills each turn. You may reveal up to one Trait. You have a range of resources known, and you have a significant spread of their personality traits.
  • 50-64 IP: Moderate Intel on this character. You know about half their Skills and you know their relationship towards you. You may reveal up to 2 Traits. You have a narrower range of resources known, and you have a smaller spread of their traits. You still do not know their relationships with other Characters.
  • 65-79 IP: High Intel on this character. You know most of their Skills and you may reveal all Traits. You know their exact resources and you have a very close spread of their traits. You know all relationships with other Characters. You have a small chance each month (turn) (roughly the IP/20 chance) to learn a part of any Secrets/Rumors for Plots.
  • 80-100 IP: Max Intel on this character. You know all Skills and all Traits, and you have exact ratings for their traits. You also have a larger chance (roughly the IP/10 percent chance) of learning a part of any Secrets/Rumors.

OCCUPIED PLANET (unoccupied planets use Scan Levels to determine ratings)

  • 0-24 IP: No Intel. You do not know the current Population of the planet, the GPP, or any significant demographics. You do not know the Planet’s Fear or Love rating, nor do you know their Unrest Level. Practically speaking, you will have at least some intel on all of your Empire planets; this primarily applies to planets owned by other civilizations that you meet. You have no chance to increase IP levels on any Characters on the planet.
  • 25-49 IP: Low Intel. You know the Population of the planet, and you know the reported GPP and employment levels. You do not know significant demographics, including happiness and reasons people do or do not have unrest, and you will have a range for Fear and Love, as well as Unrest. You have a very small chance to increase IP levels on any Characters on the planet (~1%)
  • 50-64 IP: Moderate Intel: You know the population of the planet, GPP, and demographics. You do not know planet happiness demographics but you do know all other demographics, including culture breakdown. You have close ranges on Fear and Love and Unrest. You have a small chance to increase IP levels on any Characters on the planet.
  • 65-79 IP: High Intel: You know all statistics on the planet exactly, and you have a somewhat greater chance to increase IP levels on any Characters on the planet.
  • 80-100 IP: Max Intel: You know all statistics on the planet exactly, and you have the highest chance to increase IP levels on any Characters on the planet.

IP can be increased by the following each turn:

  • Informants on Planets can increase Planet IP and Characters on that planet IP. If the Planet is a House Throneworld, House IP can increase as well.
  • Inquisitors that are investigating (using an Active Intel Mission) a specific House, Character, or Planet will greatly increase the IP of that entity. Inquisitors that are using a Passive Intel Mission will increase a small amount depending on scope. An Inquisitor can be assigned to a planet, system, or province, with a corresponding loss of effectiveness the wider their assigned scope is.
  • IP can randomly increase depending on the overall Intel Budget.
  • Active Empire Intelligence Centers.
  • Random events.

IP can decrease by the following each turn:

  • Lack of budget for Informers (you will know the break-even point to maintain this budget)
  • Characters going into Exile/Hiding status.
  • Houses going into Lockdown (this is an Action they can take to decrease their IP level)
  • Planets can decrease by moving away Inquisitors that are actively surveying or by a Viceroy increasing a Planet’s Autonomy Level.
  • IP will gradually decay each turn about 2-3 points due to attrition and information age.

Spec Ops Progress (SOP) is also a number from 0-100 and represents an Inquisitor Squad’s ‘preparation’ to execute, pardon the pun, a special/black Operation (Op) on a Character or a House. Planets are generally too large to impact, although they can be impacted indirectly by Ops that affect their Viceroy or Governors. Generally speaking, the larger the number, the more Ops that become available and the higher the SOP number is over the minimum required, the better chance the Op has of succeeding. You will be able to see accumulated SOP points on each Character and House, as well as a general chance of success for each Op. For example, Assassination requires 70 SOPs to be accumulated. This is done by assigning an Inquisitor Squad to ‘Spec Op Preparation’ status and their scope is the targeted Character. Once the SOP threshold reaches 70, the Action will unlock and it may be attempted at any time. The closer the SOP is to 100, the better chance of success, although an Op with a low SOP requirement will have a much better chance of success since you can go much higher over the threshold than a higher SOP requirement. Once an Op is activated, one of 5 things can happen each turn:

  • The Op did not go off for whatever reason. The Inquisitor Squad will try again next turn.
  • The Op failed, but the Inquisitor was not caught.
  • Critical Failure. The Op failed, and the Inquisitor was caught attempting it. This will result in a loss of Intel Skill for your Inquisitor, and a large uptick in Fear from your population, as well as a violent reaction from the Character and their House that was attacked.
  • The Op succeeded, and the Inquisitor was not caught.
  • Pyrrhic Success. The Op succeeded, but the Inquisitor was caught during the egress phase. See Critical Failure results, but with the addition that what you wanted to happen actually did.

INTEL LEVERS

INFORMERS: These are passive Pops that depending on the intel budget allocated to informers on that planet, will act as a passive intel net. They will (very) slowly raise the IP of planets, and can randomly raise the IP of Characters on the planet. There is also a chance they will hear of a Rumor and will pass it long as an Event. There is no Fear effect from using Informers. Pops will only act as Informers if their unrest level is below 40, and certain Cultures are more likely than others to act as Informants. Beyond allocating the budget for each planet and the overall Intel budget, you can not control Informants directly.

INQUISITORS. Inquisitors are the heart of the Intel System in AotSS. You initially start with 3, and they act as your eyes and ears (and blasters, and lasers, and knives…) of the Empire. They are always 100% loyal to you, and they can only be trained in Empire Intelligence Centers that can be built on your Holdings. EICs can be Level 1, 2, or 3, and the level represents how many Inquisitors they can support. So if you have a level 2, level 3, and level 1 EIC on 3 different planets, you can support up to 6 total Inquisitors.

Inquisitors are actually squads – the Inquisitor is the actual investigator and leader of the squad, while the squad (around 15 highly trained soldiers) are used for protection, muscle, and intimidation when needed. Inquisitors can be sent to any planet in the Empire at any time, and travel twice as fast as merchant ships. There is no limit to the number of Inquisitors that can be on a planet at any time, or assigned to a House, although only one Inquisitor can be attached to a Character at a time.

Inquisitors have 3 main ratings: Intel Skill, Ops Skill, and XP. Intel Skill is a rating from 1-10 and represents how able the squad is in gathering Intel passively and actively. This skill is somewhat of a logarithmic progression, so a jump from 1 to 2 is greater then a jump between 6 and 7. Still, it’s worth having highly skilled Inquisitors since they are rare commodities. XP is a number from 1-100, tracked for both Intel and Ops, and represents the experience that the Inquisitor Squad is getting from activities. XP decreases slightly each turn when a Inquisitor Squad is stood down, and if the XP drops below 0 a random Skill drops a level. Once the XP reaches 100, the relevant skill will increase by 1 point and the XP will drop back down to 0.

Inquisitors cost a lot of money, especially more skilled ones. They may be loyal, but you pay them to be loyal! You will see the base cost to maintain your squads on the Intel Window, as well as the Budget window when you set your yearly budget. You can stand down individual Squads as a Mission, and they will count for very little against your budget, but each turn that they are stood down will require that many turns to be reactivated. In addition, if they are stood down more than 2 years (20 turns) there is a greater chance each turn after which they may disband forever to pursue personal goals (and get paid). You must be able to pay the cost per month of each Inquisitor Squad that is active during the previous year for the upcoming year, or they will disband. This is prorated during the year, so if the cost for an entire year is 200 BC for a squad, and they are stood down for 5 months (half the year), you will be responsible for 100 BC for the following fiscal year, or else they will disband. In addition, they will take 5 months to reactivate to readiness. Once a Inquisitor Squad is disbanded, they are lost forever – you will have to raise, train, and equip a new one from scratch! It takes 10 turns to raise a new Inquisitor divided by the level of the Empire Intelligence Center that they are raised from.

Inquisitors also have another effect: they raise Fear throughout your Empire. Pops are unsettled to know that you wield highly trained, unflappable, professional killing squads at your beck and call. Thus, you will always have a small amount of Fear per month as a ‘baseline’ based on the number of Inquisitors you have active. If they perform Active Intel on a planet, they will significantly raise the Fear level. This effect will be dampened somewhat if they are performing Passive Intel, and even less if they are at a System or Province scope. Stood down Squads have no effect since the populace do not know they are stood down – they are assumed to be lying in wait for their next mission! Missions like Target Unrest will have a large effect on Fear on the target planet, and act as a ‘wave’ of Fear moving to other planets in the system and outward to the province (with less effect with distance).

MISSIONS: Inquisitors can perform several Missions.

  • PASSIVE INTEL: This is simply information and intelligence gathering, with a planet, system, or province scope. This is the least impactful of Fear levels, but also the least effective, and the least experience gathering.
  • ACTIVE INTEL: This is active information gathering on a Character or a House. This will quickly raise the IP much more quickly and on a specific target, but will raise Fear levels somewhat. This will also not do much for your relationship with this Character and/or House.
  • SPEC OPS PREPARATION: Use this Mission when you are looking to use a Spec Op on a Character or a House. Each turn that your Inquisitor is in this status will add Spec Ops points to the targeted Character/House.
  • INDICT CHARACTER: If you are reasonably sure of a Plot’s initiator, you can move to Indict a Character, basically sending them to trial. The result of the trial will be known after 2-4 months. If you’re right, the Character can be sentenced to exile or death, and your Power and Love will soar, but if you’re wrong and they are innocent they and their House will be justifiably pissed, and your Love rating and Power will take a large hit.
  • TARGET UNREST: The Inquisitor Squad will look to find instigator Pops that have the highest Unrest levels and ‘silence’ them. In game terms, they will disappear from the game, put in prison or killed outright. Naturally, while quite effective in lowering Unrest on a specific planet, it will significantly raise Fear and lower Love on the planet and radiate throughout the system. It will also have the effect of lowering Unrest to a degree in any other planets in the system.
  • STAND DOWN: If you can’t afford to have all your Inquisitor Squads active, you can stand them down so your budget will be less next turn.
  • TRAIN: You still pay full price for the Inquisitors, but they will accumulate XP faster and across both types of skills (intel and ops). They can also be assigned a new mission at any time.

The following are Spec Ops:

  • BLACKMAIL CHARACTER/HOUSE: This is a Spec Op that looks to find compromising information about a House or a Character. If successful, they will always accede to your requests for at least a year. Failure means that no information was discovered. In rare instances, if the Inquisitor is caught snooping, the Character/House will use it for propaganda against your rule, and you will lose Power and the Inquisitor will lose Skill.
  • INTERROGATE CHARACTER: This is a Spec Op that will basically do what it says; the Character will end up in an intelligence room and they will be strongly coerced to talk about what they know. This is a very quick way to increase IP on a character, as well as learn about any Plots they may be a part of, but they will be very unhappy about the process, as will their House. This Op can not fail.
  • ASSASSINATE CHARACTER: What it says. It’s a hit on a character. If successful, the character dies and is removed from the game. If a failure, and the Inquisitor is discovered, you will take a massive Power and Fear hit, and if the Character is a high-ranking House member the House may well declare Limited or Total war.
  • DESTROY HOUSE RESOURCES: The squad looks to sabotage House resource holdings such as materials or energy. If successful, the resources are destroyed and can not be used by anyone.
  • STEAL HOUSE RESOURCES: Similar to destroy, but much harder. The difference is the resources will go to your House instead of being destroyed.

AUTONOMY LEVEL

Viceroys have one significant defense against intel: they can decrease the Autonomy of the planet. This will affect GPP, happiness, and unrest in a negative way, but it will make it much more difficult to raise the IP of Houses or Characters on the planet. A proactive Viceroy may decide it’s worth the negative effects to keep you from critical Characters or protect the House throneworld! Autonomy has 4 levels – Full, Significant, Moderate, or Limited. The ‘less’ autonomy on a planet, the less migration occurs, the lower the PDL drops (since people are more controlled, they do not shop, eat, or entertain as often), and in a nice bonus, it will actually increase production somewhat! (This may be offset by eventual unrest and happiness penalties, however). You can not control this level – other Houses do not have spy networks and you do not need to defend against ‘rival’ Inquisitors.

So that’s a fairly in-depth overview of the Intel system. Hopefully it will give you some idea of what to expect when the entire system is added in about a month! It will be added over the next several releases, so be ready – it will radically change the way the game is played!

Enjoy!

-Steve

 

 

 

 

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Threats, Favors, and Requests… The Comm System At Work!

Hey everyone!

This is Steve, here with another exciting dev diary. Last week, I talked about the Plot system as one part of the Intel system. The Comm system is sort of the other major part that will be integrated over the next month or so. It’s very exciting, and here’s why!

If you’ve been playing, you’ve probably noticed that communication is a one-way street. You have to initiate all the talking. The Comm system will change all that – you will soon be getting requests from House Leaders, Viceroys, Governors, and even the common courtier! You are free to respond or ignore any or all comm request, but if you don’t respond, the Character will see it as an insult. Anyway, here’s how it works.

At the start of a given turn, there are 3 main types of Comms that can be generated: Threats, Favors, and Requests.

  • THREATS don’t start appearing until at least 15 turns into the game, once you’ve had a chance to establish a baseline of behavior towards characters and Houses. When they start, a threat is basically a demand that you can either accept (do) or refuse (don’t). Examples can be as simple as a request for materials or money all the way to requesting a Governorship or Primeship, or even a whole Planet/System for a given House! As Emperor, you will see the results of your decision. If you accept, you will improve the relationship with that Character/House but at the cost of some personal Power (you are seen to have given in) and if you refuse your relationship may plummet, and a possible Plot may activate depending on the magnitude of the request.
  • FAVORS are things that you can request of a Character that you are willing to do. It will be an Personal Action that you can take. Basically, you’re letting a character know that ‘you owe them one’. This has the effect of a major relationship increase. When they are ready to ‘cash in’, usually within 10 turns, they will comm you with what they would like. They are generally less onerous than threats, but not honoring them will cause your Power and Love to drop (nobody likes a welshing Emperor!) and your relationship will suffer greatly. In addition, your overall Trust rating will drop throughout the Empire and characters will be less likely to allow you to grant a Favor in the future. Note that Characters will not ask for Favors of you, just respond to offers to them. If you never offer a Favor, you will never get a Favor request.
  • REQUESTS are straightforward requests, usually from House Leaders or Viceroys, for a need that that planet/House needs. Fulfilling the request will lead to a nice Relations bump, while declining will not hurt your Power, just tarnish your relations slightly with that Character.

These Comm requests will show up in the Alert Bar using the character’s portrait, an icon for the Comm type, and a countdown timer showing how long you have to answer the Comm before you take a significant relationship hit. There is no AP cost to answering a Comm request, but you can not ‘back out’ once you open it up – you have to answer for good or ill!

This system, along with the Plots system, should bring some life to the world of AotSS. Finally, you will not be the only one driving the events of the world. You will be able to shape it and Characters will start to respond and react to your actions in the world, and you will have to deal with the consequences of pissing off powerful people in AotSS beyond their simple refusal to help/support you. I am really excited about it, especially since the XML format of the Comms make it easy to create dozens of new Comms in a relatively short period of time! This will also be the backbone for the Events system, coming closer to .8 (it will use much of the same UI).

Here’s a preview of what the comm will look like (WIP):

Communication Requests Mock

More to come next week, but until then please don’t forget to download the latest update – .7.1.2b!

-Steve

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It’s Time To Plot… But Not what you Think!

Hello everyone! Steve here, with a new dev diary. I know, it’s been a little while, but I’ve been busy with putting out some quality of life updates and bug fixes. It’s almost time to start a whole new system… and I’m super excited!

For the next several weeks, I’m going to be talking about the next major system to be installed in AotSS – the intel system! Some of the initial parts have already been completed, such as rolling intel on character’s traits and skills, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Plots, Rumors, and Secrets are about to come in a big way!

Let’s talk about Plots first. Despite the nefarious-sounding name, Plots are not necessarily always about killing the Emperor. (Though they certainly can be!) Think of it like something that a Character wants to accomplish within the game. It can be as simple as acquiring a title, all the way to knocking off a House Leader or even you!

A Plot has 4 parts:  Target (what they want to accomplish/get/achieve), Help (who they can get to assist them with it), Method (what strategy(ies) they are willing to use to accomplish it)  and Time (how long they are willing to take to accomplish the Plot). Plots generate Secrets (intel that can be gained to uncover a Plot) and Rumors (intel that can lead to discover who is involved, but are not as reliable as Secrets).

Let’s see how this system works with a real-world example. Say a Character wakes up one fine morning and they decide they want to get a new job that pays better than their own job. That’s their Target. Their Help would be possibly their friends, their LinkedIn contacts, their former bosses, their family, etc. They need to get a new job within a month, and will stop looking if they don’t find a better job after that time. That’s Time. Depending on what kind of person they are and the skills they have, they might go on a spate of interviews, carefully target one company that they really want to work for, or even start a rumor that gets someone fired from the job that they want, and then they arrive to save the day! That’s Method.

Now, during all this, if their best friend who is actively helping them get in the door tells someone about their job search, that’s a Secret. They have first-hand information about the Plot (since they’re part of it) and thus anyone investigating what they’re doing can plug in that information to better understand what’s happening. If, however, my coworker heard from their coworker who heard from their best friend that they were looking for a job, that’s a Rumor. It might be true, or it might not. Think of it as potentially flawed information.

So, if I’m an Emperor trying to figure out what this Character is doing (since they are hostile to me, for example, and have a high Power) I would begin by possibly sending an Inquisitor Squad to their planet to investigate. They will then pick up Rumors and Secrets, and slowly they will begin to fill in any Plots that they might be hatching. There are 4 levels of intel to Plots:

  • No Plot Intel means that there is no knowledge whatsoever, and it won’t even show up in their Plot Panel as an option to track.
  • Basic Plot Intel means that there is knowledge that a Plot exists, and you can start to investigate people attached to that Plot.
  • Moderate Plot Intel means that there is enough information about the Plot to act – meaning you have at least the Target and Help. Time and Method are optional, but the more you know the better chance you have to stop the Plot.
  • Max Plot Intel means that you know everything about the Plot with full accuracy, meaning that either someone confessed, or the Plot was stopped.

So, returning to our above example, let’s say that I was suspicious about this Character, and I thought he was trying to start a Plot to kill me or someone close to me. So, I set an Inquisitor Squad to the planet where he currently is, with orders to ‘Investigate a Possible Plot’. This is the default order when you have no knowledge of a Plot. After 2-3 turns, they might uncover a Secret or a Rumor. That info gets added to the Plot Log and would look something like this:

Viceroy Biggs is trying to get a new job that is better than the old one. We have heard that System Governor Blossom may be included in this Plot.”

So there can be up to 4 ‘pieces’ of intel per Plot. Green means that it is a Secret (high confidence) while Yellow means that the intel is a Rumor (low confidence) This would be a Moderate Plot Intel because while you know that a Plot exists, you have a Target, and Help, even if it’s not confident.

Once you believe you have at least a Moderate Intel Plot, you can act by either doing nothing, attempting to blackmail the parties involved, or if the plot is Illegal, having them openly arrested. At that point, an Inquiry is held, led by the Grand Inquisitor. If the Character is found guilty, they are executed or imprisoned depending on the Severity of the Plot. If the Character is found innocent, they are freed, you lose an amount of Power consummate with the Characters that you set to Inquiry, and they will have a huge grudge against you, as well as a nice Power boost representing public anger at your high-handed tactics.

So in the above example, since it is a Moderate Intel Plot, you are free to act on it, but if you’re wrong and you send an Inquisitor Squad to arrest the people ‘involved’ and it turns out after an Inquiry that you were wrong… sometimes the risk is too great even compared to doing nothing. But if you wait too long for further evidence, you risk the Plot developing and completing, doing what it’s supposed to do… even if the Target is you.

Another way to gain Secrets and Rumors is by talking to Characters who you think may be connected to the Plot. When you “Get to Know Character”, depending on their skills, they may just tell you something that adds to a Plot Intel – maybe one you didn’t even know was brewing!

The more you devote towards Intel, the more Inquisitor Squads you can train and maintain, as well as having a stronger low-level intel net. You will get Alerts about new Plot info, and a Critical Alert when a Plot moves to Max Intel or Moderate Intel.

So that’s the basic system about Plots – more to come soon! Enjoy!

-Steve

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Help Me, Rhonda: The In-Game Help Dilemma

Hey everyone!

Steve here, to talk about what will be by far the primary feature in this weeks’ update: a complete revamp of the help system, starting with this update. I wanted to talk a little bit about what it will look like, what’s coming, and why it took so long to add!

First, a look into help in general in games, and where I stand on it. As a developer, I think I suffer from ‘game immersion’ where you play a game literally for years – you know every nook, cranny, and line of code. You know exactly how to do everything in the game, what everything does, and you can visualize what’s happening ‘under the hood’ – so you know why something did or didn’t happen, even if there’s no feedback with that info.

Here’s the obvious issue; your players don’t have that same feedback and insight. So what you know to be gameplay working correctly might come across to a player as a broken feature, a bug, or something that just doesn’t do anything. If that happens enough, they will most likely quit out of frustration, and will have a negative impression of your game! Fairly enough. This issue multiplies when you’re trying to do something ‘different’ whose game mechanics are not common.

As an example: If I’m playing Dominus Galaxia, a great MOO1 update currently in development, as a 4X gamer I already know many of the concepts I’m working with. Research, colonization, economy, build queues, combat, diplomacy, etc. Even though I haven’t read a manual of the game, I can still get around and use and play it with very little help because I have a grounding in the basic concepts. Maybe I need help with specific UI conventions, or some new twists on features, but generally I can pick up the game and play with little help.

A game like AotSS, on the other hand, has several unique concepts that are not common to other 4X/strategy games (Projects, Actions, trade system, production system, etc). While the ‘back of the box’ feature list would lead one to believe that these games are similar (Colonize! Expand! Explore! Exploit!), in truth the systems are different enough that it’s much harder, if not impossible, to ‘pick up and play’ AotSS as it currently stands.

When developing a game, it’s a lot more fun to add features and AI than it is to document it, and I think almost any game developer would agree with that. So help and documentation often get kicked to the back burner, but with the growth and sales of AotSS, I have enough feedback to see that the game can’t grow and gain an audience without stopping to plan and implement a real, thorough, in-game help system. So at last, players can wrap their arms around this huge game.

So what will the help system look like? It will be made up of 6 key components, 2 of which will be implemented this week and 1 which is already in:

  1. Tooltips for every single icon and value, explaining in greater detail what the value is AND how it can be affected (key change) – In for .7.1
  2. A larger help screen for each panel that explains what you do in this panel and how to do it – In for .7.1
  3. A grand vizier window that reviews current goals, opportunities, gives advice, and game progress – In as of .7.0.3
  4. A grand vizier chat for each screen that gives advice on what to do with this panel and some strategies – TBA
  5. An in-game Alliancopedia (working title) that goes into detail into concepts, history, Houses, etc). – TBA
  6. In-game links to the written documentation and tutorial videos – TBA

Hopefully, this will be enough to get players up and running. With AotSS poised for growth and on the verge of being known to a wider audience, the last thing I want is some influencer trying to play the game and not having a clue about what to do. Plus, the game has evolved enough that customers need and deserve a comprehensive help system.

So here it is. I would love your feedback as it evolves!

Steve

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Dev Update 2.2.19: The Living Galaxy, and a Lack of Control

Hey everyone!

This will be a pretty short diary, but I did want to touch on a topic that has come up a few times lately and I wanted to make sure that people understood the design behind it and the gameplay that will result.

Even though AotSS is a turn-based game, it has a living world around it. You can do nothing, and planets will still grow and develop, Houses will expand and/or execute their grand strategies, Characters will (soon) look to fulfill their personal goals, etc. and this will happen with or without you. Unlike many other 4X games, since you’re already starting from a base (you have an established empire that you’re trying to rebuild/corral) it’s a different style of gameplay than you having to build your empire from the ground up. AotSS will never be a game about maximizing build queues, it is a game about maximizing your relationships and best placing your talent throughout your Empire in a way that benefits you and benefits those you most want to benefit (e.g. Characters & Houses).

The idea of APs completely changes the game and makes AotSS what it is. Think about it. In most other 4X/GS games, you can really do everything. Even in Paradox ‘real-time’ games, you can pause and execute 200 orders if you so desire. APs give you tradeoffs and don’t allow you to control your universe in a way that you can with most other games. One big balance point is how many APs to give the character every turn? Too few, and there’s almost nothing you can do from turn to turn, and too many would almost defeat the purpose.

So the target feeling is that you as the player are not trying to control the empire and the galaxy, but influence it from turn to turn. Enough so that you can gradually shift your strategies over the course of a year or two, but not so that you can completely burn your strategy down to the ground in one ‘turn’ and start completely over. That’s not how life works, and it is highly illogical that a star-spanning empire can be driven and turned direction like a Maserati, but that seems to be how too many games give you that kind of power. Running an empire should be about almost hanging on for dear life, trying to nudge something or someone JUST A LITTLE BIT so that you have an advantage in the next nudge you want to make. Change should be numerous nudges, with the occasional Imperial hammer (military action, Projects, etc) to nail down an important piece of strategy.

That said, you can’t just sit around and do nothing. There is a game mechanic called Power Decay. Each turn, your Power drops about 3-5%, depending on several factors, and more if you’re more powerful. This represents the fact that at the end of the day, humans are very much a ‘what have you done for me lately’ bunch of people, and the longer you sit ensconced in your palace, not doing anything of note, the less Power you are willing to be given by others. After all, Power is as much perception as reality, at the end of the day!

So if you want a game where you can control all around you, AotSS isn’t that game. You won’t have the ability or the resources. But if you want a game where your results come one chisel and hammer at a time, where hard choices have to be made, and the realization that not all opportunities can be take advantage of, then AotSS just might be the best game you’ve ever played!

Look for the big .7.0.3 update Tuesday, with (at last!) save and load functionality, some bug fixes, and the start of a Grand Vizier screen!

Until next week!

-Steve

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The Humble Viceroy: Your Field Guide

Hello!

This is Steve with another blog post about an important topic of AotSS. This time, we’re going to talk about viceroys, since they play an incredibly important part of the game and in order to be successful, you need to understand how they work.

First, what do Viceroys do? Basically, they head your planetary government and are the House who holds that planets’ representative to the Imperial government (you).

Viceroys have a thankless job, really. They are accountable to 3 levels: their House, you, and their Pops who are living on the planet. Any one of those entities could cause issues for the viceroy, but it is essential that a good Viceroy understand how their Pops feel about them. They must also try to set forth the goals that their House Leader has set for their House, whether it’s raising cash, creating more infrastructure, building up the planet, or generating more materials for the House to use; this may or may not be at odds with what you want that planet to be doing and how the Pops feel about it!

So let’s talk about about the plight and month in the life of a viceroy on a fairly minor planet, and some of their considerations:

Rural Triglav, in the Kathy System

So what’s the situation? This is a small system capital, with no other planets in the system worth a damn, so it is unlikely there will be any neighbors soon. The planet has just under 100M people, but even though it has a system trade hub, there are not enough merchants to generate even one trade fleet! In addition, the planet is hemorrhaging money, and is a serious drain on the Empire (it’s a holding). Let’s take a closer look, shall we?

Not a great economy.

Woof. The planet’s base GPP is only $11 billion credits, and its retail sector is barely making an impact (probably due to the lack of merchants – see the efficiency is only 4/100! Also, there is no trade going on, and the infrastructure of the planet (it’s a desert planet to begin with) is very expensive. Looks like Viceroy Malhin has decided to focus on admin buildings since the base ADM is so low (3 ADM, which is terrible for a system capital – ideally they should be at 50+) with secondary needs for food (makes sense, on a desert planet) and mining (might make sense – depends on the planet mining values) There are plenty of open jobs for engineers and miners, but there are a ton of administrators that are unemployed, so it makes sense that he would prioritize the admin sector. He has decided to run the manufacturing sector at almost 80% of capacity – that’s quite high, and will result in higher build points, but over time engineers will get more and more unhappy. Let’s take a closer look at the viceroy’s information now:

Here’s a close look at the good viceroy’s character screen. For our purposes, we’ll consider his admin skill, his traits, and his personality matrix to try to understand what he might do. He has an admin skill of 1 (not to be confused with the government skill which can go from 0 to 200; we’ll look at that in a minute) which isn’t great for someone who is running a system capital, no matter how crappy. On the positive side, he has high Honor and Empathy, which mean that he will tend to take care of the Pops under his rule (hence the high Food build). He has a low Charm trait, meaning that he’s basically not a great politician, but fortunately he’s a decent guy so his people are generally OK with him (40% Love, no Fear).

The important stat for a Viceroy is their Intelligence, basically how smart they are and what they consider when faced with multiple priorities. Rosko is pretty stupid, meaning that he will often make a poor choice when faced with a task; i.e. recruit certain Pops to the planet, create an intelligent build plan, or run the economy and make good trades that make sense for the planet. It also explains why he’s running his manufacturing sector flat out when there’s not really a critical need (and he’s in the negative with net production of all materials!) So ol’ Rosko will probably need to be micromanaged to some extent to make him useful, but that’s probably not the best way to spend your APs with a sprawling empire to run.

On the down side, he’s avaricious (basically a highly material person) which explains why he has managed to accrue a $28 billion personal account even though he’s on a backwater world, a sybarite (meaning he’s highly likely to take bribes) and superstitious (meaning that he is very likely to change his planetary strategy after an event of some kind). This last won’t matter as game events aren’t in (yet!) but the first two certainly will.

He already has a friendly relationship with me as the emperor, and characters who run Holdings that are of your House are already highly disposed to do what you ask them, unless it really goes against their personality or they really, really, REALLY hate you. So I probably won’t need to bribe him, even though it would most likely work.

Let’s take a look at Rosko’s skills:

Well, the low Intelligence is borne out by his skill values. Remember that they go from 0-200, where 50 is average, 100 is skilled, and 150+ is exceptional/genius level in a skill. From left to right, his Government Skill is 28 (used mainly for determining ADM that can be pulled out of a planet’s administration infrastructure), his High Tech skill is 4 (used for adjusting the High Tech/energy production on a world/system), his Academic skill is 0 (determines how effective Academies are on a planet, how many Pops they can take, and how likely Academics are to want to migrate there), his Engineering skill is 10 (determines how effectively the planet can generate Build Points and attract Engineers), his Farming skill is 7 (determines how effectively the planet can generate food and attract Farmers), his Mining skill is 9 (determines how effectively the planet can mine materials from the surface, how quickly the planet exhausts its reserves, and attract Miners) and the Economic skill of this savant is 10 (determines how much GPP the planet generates, how effective trades are with other hubs, how effective the retail sector is, and how much Merchants are willing to relocate there).

This is not a smart man. Small wonder that the planet is struggling to make money and mine enough materials to stay positive. In addition, he’s wasting some nice Trade infrastructure – a Level II starbase will allow at least 2 trade fleets to run each month, but merchants don’t want to set up shop on his planet (he’s an economic idiot, meaning on a local level he’s not passing laws that help merchants, making it harder to open/stay in businesses, etc.) so they’re steering clear. So what’s the effect of all this foolishness? Well, let’s first take a look at the planet details to see what context all of this is being placed in:

Well, that’s not exactly Gaia, now is it? 8 regions are desert, 2 mountainous, and the rest are so inhospitable that they are uninhabitable. The bio level is 43/100 which is on the very low end of what you would want a planet to support a large population with. Food will be difficult to grow. Energy reserves are pretty good (65) which is what you would expect from a desert world, and heavy materials are pretty abundant (68) but basic and rare materials are in very short supply. In short, this is a crappy world, and getting the most out of it will take a lot of work. And it is clear that this viceroy does not have many of the answers.

Which is where you, the astoundingly wise emperor, come in! You have several choices! You could:

  • Replace the viceroy with someone else who is currently not in a post in your House. Brutally effective, but it will create Fear in your Empire, and specifically in that planet/system.
  • Manage the viceroy build plan to one more of your liking, perhaps skewing towards mining? Friendly way, but eats up APs that you could be using for (many) other things
  • Find someone from another House (who is willing to serve) to take the reigns of the planet, possibly a courtier from House Ilioaia with their huge mining tradition? If that House is not friendly with you and their members won’t work with you, you’ll have to do something else…
  • Make a Designation Project for the planet. This is sort of a scorched-Earth way of bending a planet to your will, but it will take a lot of the decision work out of the planet’s growth and future plans
  • Stay the course and hope that the Viceroy will learn from experience over time (coming to a version soon is character skill growth if they are in positions where they can learn)
  • Give the planet as a Holding to a House who might do more with it. Maybe Ilioaia won’t allow their House members to work for you, but give them the planet and they’ll put one of their own in charge who might be able to at least take the loss off your hands and get some of those materials into New Terra eventually. Of course, this will upset the other Houses, so choices must be balanced…
  • Reassign the Viceroy to a less-critical planet. You can do this instead of simply removing them, but you have to find them a new posting within 3 months or it will be treated as a broken promise with Fear effects (and the character won’t be thrilled either)
  • Or find your own way to deal with it! Experiment!

Hopefully you can see a taste of what a Viceroy means to a planet, some of the decisions they make, and the options you have to deal with a low-performing Viceroy. This is some of the high-level strategic gameplay that AotSS is aiming to develop and create.

Thanks for reading!

-Steve