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The 5 Levels of AotSS, Explained. AKA ‘Who Are You Playing Against, Anyway?’

 

Good morning everyone! Just so you know, as we get closer to launch, you will see more and more blogs explaining various things about AotSS, and this particular blog was inspired by a comment on the YouTube channel – basically, the question was ‘Who are you playing against?” It seemed like a silly question, right off the bat, honestly… until I thought about it. It’s actually a complicated question, and one that is significantly different from most 4X games. So I want to talk about it here.
There are basically 5 levels, each more or less sitting on top of each other, and part of your challenge as Emperor is to determine which level needs attention at any given time. As the game continues to develop, more of these levels will become more emergent, which will give you more interesting choices as the player to decide how best to use your very limited time!

LEVEL 1: You

Yup, everything starts with taking care of ol’ number 1. You are an entity in the game, much like Crusader Kings, and if you die, humanity’s screwed, so you need to keep yourself healthy, learning new skills, stay (relatively) popular (or feared, either works) by your Pops, and striving to keep yourself out of bad situations. For example, just because you CAN travel to a planet where you have a 5% Popular Support doesn’t mean you SHOULD travel to said planet. Improving your skills and keeping your popular support high enough to avoid widespread revolt is the absolute foundation of AotSS, and almost every decision and action you take should address that in some direct or peripheral way.

 
LEVEL 2: Your Pops
A Pop is the basic unit of population in the game, and it is the smallest entity that you can see results and interact with, albeit not directly. Pops do just about everything in the game – they settle new planets, they manufacture materials to build more stuff, they fight wars, they grow food, they mine minerals, they accumulate knowledge, they generate Admin points, etc. They also act as an additional pressure point for characters in the game to support your initiatives when your popularity is high. This is all good stuff.
What’s not so good is when Pops are unhappy or there’s tension between 2 (or more) Cultures on a given planet. Then bad stuff happens, like strikes, desertion to other civilizations, riots, and even full scale takeovers of a planet. Not good stuff. And even worse: If enough of them are unhappy with your rule, your reign may become very short, Emperor. So you can’t just ignore the signs of discontent smoldering around your Empire, unless you enjoy watching the world(s) burn…

 
LEVEL 3: Your Houses
Especially Great Houses, but Minor Houses can become a pain as well, these institutions can make or break you as an Emperor. At the most basic, Houses who hate you will strongly discourage their members from being a part of your government, which may make it difficult for you to find competent Viceroys with skill sets you need. Remember, at the heart of AotSS is about finding the right people for the right post. There are very few ‘amazing characters’ with high stats across the board, and even a great-looking character may have a hidden cost (psychopath, backstabber, etc) So the more people you have available for a given position, the better.
At a more advanced level, having Houses on your side means they will trade with you, share more of their Holding revenue with you, and be at your side when other Houses attempt to expand their territory or even attempt a breakaway war against you. Keeping your empire as strong and united as possible is a huge part of the game (esp. for Level 5) and while you (almost) can’t make everyone happy, you do need to have several strong allies, or else Houses will band together to achieve goals. Remember, Houses have relationships with each other and some Houses are mortal enemies who will never join together, but the vast majority are more or less neutral towards each other, and are simply looking out for what’s best for them, not necessarily you or your Empire. Don’t forget about your Minor Houses! If you can’t find an ally among the Great Houses, maybe you can construct one from a Minor… and perhaps even lift them up to become a very, very grateful new Great House… at the cost of another Great House… who will most likely be very, very angry at this state of affairs. Be careful!

 
LEVEL 4: Breakaway Civilizations
The Celestial Empire, nee the Terran Alliance, once stretched across the parsecs before the Xyl came for the second Xyl war. As a result of that war and the interregnum of weak leaders that followed, many colonies and even whole provinces simply lost contact with New Terra over the ensuing centuries. At this point, those systems, planets, and Pops have developed whole new cultures and technologies after half an eon of living alone without Empire support, and with the Empire’s resurgence under you, some of those civilizations are looking to get some back by taking back some of the current Empire. Most of the civilizations are angry with the Empire, but in order to deal with Level 5 and ultimately ‘win’ the game, you will have to expand into uncharted space and see what’s out there. You will need a strong and united Empire with as many able bodies as possible to fight, so it is to your advantage to try to reclaim systems and provinces that once belonged to the Empire, long ago. Whether through diplomacy, espionage, or old-fashioned military force, a significant investment at this level could make or break your long-term game. Because at the end of the day….

 
LEVEL 5: The Xyl Rescension
Without giving too much away, at some point (50+ years) in the future you will have to deal with the return of the Xyl, and they are not happy about your continued existence. Humanity battled them to a draw 500 years ago, and they are finally back to finish their job, which is to bring their ‘god’ back into this universe by using the power of billions of human souls… and there aren’t too many sources of human souls around anymore, if you catch my drift. All that you do in the previous levels of play lead to this level, and you will be given clues throughout the buildup phase as to when the first Xyl attacks may happen and the size of the overall force, as well as the countdown to Rescension that, unfortunately, due to an unknown (to them) flaw in the Xyl’s Rescension gate, will end life in the entire universe. So yeah, you gotta deal with that as your endgame. Pretty important.
So there it is. Your 4 increasingly complex and expanding levels of play. They will build upon each other – you will probably spend the first 10-15 years or so reshaping your empire, building up your military, researching technologies and Progress projects to advance your capabilities, sorting out your planets and systems, and possibly tending to your Houses’ affairs before you go charging out for any galactic adventures, but you are certainly not forced to wait – that’s the freedom of play in AotSS: nothing’s stopping you from pursing any strategy you want, when you want!!
Good luck, Emperor!
-Steve

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Developer Diary: In-Depth – Trade System

Hello everyone! As we prepare for the first EA release in a few months, I will be writing some extensive diaries and focusing on specific systems that are already in the game, so you have a better idea of exactly how they work. The first system that I am going to explore in detail is trade. We wrote a trade primer several months ago, so this is going to build on that and focus on more detail, including using internal error logs to help readers understand how the system is thinking when trades are considered!

First, a short reminder of how the trade system works, macro-scale. There are 3 types of trade ‘hubs’: Empire, Province, and Secondary. Trade can only happen within these spheres of influence (SOI) that they generate- if a planet does not have at least a secondary hub, it can only receive goods, not create profit-generating trades of its own. If a system is not within any SOI, it can not receive any trades at all, just emergency goods shipments sent by a special Project from the Empire (at great cost, both materially and politically) Province spheres of influence are much larger than Secondary spheres, but any number of Secondary hubs can be built (one per system limit). The more merchants there are in a hub, and the more skilled they are, the more influence a hub can have. It is possible, though not likely that a planet with only a Secondary hub, but with many skilled merchants, can generate an SOI almost a large as a Province hub with fewer and less-skilled merchants. Contiguous SOIs create a Trade Group, from which any trade can take place as long as a system is within them. Empire Hubs can trade with any hub regardless of distance; Province Hubs can trade with any other Province Hub regardless of distance. You will be able to initiate Projects that increase a hub’s SOI permanently (this represents creating fueling stations in deep space, more docks, transfer stations between outlying systems, staff, etc.) Fleets are generated by Merchants that are at these hubs, and usually it takes 15 Merchants to create a trade fleet. While a trade fleet is active, these Merchants are not available for other trades.

So now that the areas where trade can occur are established, let’s talk about how they are generated. Basically, trade happens in these steps:

  1. A viceroy of a planet determines what the needs of their planet are. This depends heavily on the current production of the planet, what the Focus of the planet is, and their Humanity, Intelligence, and Caution. Humanity determines how likely they are to take care of their people as opposed to their projects, and make sure that things like Food and Energy are well-taken care of. Intelligence lets the viceroy make better decisions about what is most beneficial for the planet, and Caution influences how much of a planet’s total budget for trade they are willing to use (Viceroys with low Caution will blow the budget out early in the year, while more Cautious Viceroys will ensure that there is a reserve throughout the year). Here’s an example of a planet determining their needs through an internal error log – note: you do not see this log as a player but we use it for balance and to make sure all the systems are working as they should!
TRADE ANALYSIS THREAD FOR PLANET ISCANDRANIA OF THE CIVILIZATION CELESTIAL EMPIRE
VICEROY HUMANITY: 25 INTELLIGENCE: 57 CAUTION: 87
Viceroy Hiraniamalie Guerin on planet Iscandrania is calculating Importances….
Food Importance: 0.0
Energy Importance: 0.0
Basic Importance: 24.5
Heavy Importance: 0.0
Rare Importance: 0.0
Total Import Budget for this month is calculated at 20.5 based on a GPP of $52.0 less trade expenses this year of $0.0 and a percentage dedicated to trade of 45 %.
Viceroy allocates $0.0 MCs towards food imports this month.
Viceroy allocates $0.0 MCs towards energy imports this month.
Viceroy allocates $11.8 MCs towards basic imports this month.
Viceroy allocates $0.0 MCs towards heavy imports this month.
Viceroy allocates $0.0 MCs towards rare imports this month.
After allocations, there is 8.7 remaining this month to use for adjusting import bids, or if not used, to return to the yearly import budget.
With a monthly shortfall of 0.4, 0.2 food units are requested from the viceroy this month.
With a monthly shortfall of 0.2, 0.2 energy units are requested from the viceroy this month.
With a monthly shortfall of 19.3, 44.1 basic units are requested from the viceroy this month.
With a monthly shortfall of -7.1, 0.0 heavy units are requested from the viceroy this month.
With a monthly shortfall of 5.8, 13.2 rare units are requested from the viceroy this month.
New Trade Request generated! Taking export budget into account, Iscandrania requests 13.33 units of Basic at a max price per unit of 0.9.
No trade generated for rare – adjusted unit need was zero.
No trade generated for heavy – adjusted unit need was zero.
TRADE ANALYSIS COMPLETED FOR Iscandrania…

So let’s see what happened here. First, the viceroy determined the importance of each trade good for that month, up to a 100 point scale (100 is critical; 0 means no need ACCORDING TO THE VICEROY!)  In this case, since the viceroy has a low Empathy, they are not prioritizing food and energy, even though there are small shortfalls in those areas. They are prioritizing basic materials (the materials from which everything in the game is built from and maintained) and requesting 44.1 basic units to build a surplus IF POSSIBLE. Note that even though there is a shortfall with rare units, the viceroy is not prioritizing them, either because there is a decent surplus or because they do not forsee a need to use rare materials due to the Focus on the planet, their plans, etc.

Second, with the importances of the trade goods determined, the viceroy then proposes up to 3 trade proposals that are ‘broadcast’ throughout their SOI. In this example, the viceroy has allocated $11.8 BC (billion crowns) of their yearly trade budget, and because of their high Caution and reasonably high Intelligence has kept a reserve. They are asking for 13.33 units of basic materials and is willing to pay up to .9 BC per unit. Keep in mind that a ‘unit’ on this planetary scale is several thousand tons of materials (or several million kW of energy supplies, including oil, fissiles, battery power stored, etc.) Since even though there is a need for rare and heavy, the viceroy determined that the much greater need was for Basic. they did not allocate any money from the planet trade budget to buy anything but Basic.

OK! So each planet goes through that calculation, and from there a galaxy-wide list of trade proposals are generated!

2. Now, it’s time for the trade hubs to ‘go shopping’ as such. They start to look through the trade proposals that are within their SOI and make 2 passes: first, to see if they have enough goods to actually fill the trade request, taking into account the importance of that good for their own planet, and the amount of their stockpile they are willing to part with (influenced by Gluttony and Caution traits). Here’s what that looks like for the empire trade hub, New Terra. Since it’s the imperial hub, it can reach most all planets, so it’s a long list for the viceroy to consider.

I have highlighted the planet example listed above. Iscandrania, so that you can follow the trade flow through one specific example:

Looking within NEO-SIRIUS TRADE GROUP….
Checking civtradehub: New Terra.
Viceroy trade tendency for hub New Terra is 65; caution is 11
Checking on valid trades for planet Iscandrania….
Basic material request found for Iscandrania! Checking stockpiles to see if it can be considered…
Basic materials requested: 13.3 units. Basic materials allocated for export on New Terra: 1,981(includes 17 % allocated from stockpiles)
Trade request has been accepted and is now under review: 13 Basic units of basic for 0.9 MCs requested from New Terra to Iscandrania.
Checking on valid trades for planet Dreamland….
Energy request found for Dreamland! Checking stockpiles to see if it can be considered…
Energy requested: 0.9 units. Energy allocated for export on New Terra: 5,772(includes 29 % allocated from stockpiles)
Trade request has been accepted and is now under review: 1 Energy units of energy for 0.8 MCs requested from New Terra to Dreamland.
Heavy material request found for Dreamland! Checking stockpiles to see if it can be considered…
Heavy materials requested: 0.1 units. Heavy materials allocated for export on New Terra: 4,328(includes 87 % allocated from stockpiles)
Trade request has been accepted and is now under review: 0 Heavy units of heavy for 1.9 MCs requested from New Terra to Dreamland.
Checking on valid trades for planet Falacer….
Basic material request found for Falacer! Checking stockpiles to see if it can be considered…
Basic materials requested: 0.9 units. Basic materials allocated for export on New Terra: 1,981(includes 17 % allocated from stockpiles)
Trade request has been accepted and is now under review: 1 Basic units of basic for 2.9 MCs requested from New Terra to Falacer.
Heavy material request found for Falacer! Checking stockpiles to see if it can be considered…
Heavy materials requested: 0.7 units. Heavy materials allocated for export on New Terra: 4,328(includes 87 % allocated from stockpiles)
Trade request has been accepted and is now under review: 1 Heavy units of heavy for 1.9 MCs requested from New Terra to Falacer.
Rare material request found for Falacer! Checking stockpiles to see if it can be considered…
Rare materials requested: 0.1 units. Rare materials allocated for export on New Terra: 233(includes 23 % allocated from stockpiles)
Trade request has been accepted and is now under review: 0 Rare units of rare for 3.9 MCs requested from New Terra to Falacer.
Checking on valid trades for planet New Jove….
There are no active trade proposals on New Jove.
Checking on valid trades for planet Huanxiang….
Energy request found for Huanxiang! Checking stockpiles to see if it can be considered…
Energy requested: 5.9 units. Energy allocated for export on New Terra: 5,772(includes 29 % allocated from stockpiles)
Trade request has been accepted and is now under review: 6 Energy units of energy for 0.8 MCs requested from New Terra to Huanxiang.
Basic material request found for Huanxiang! Checking stockpiles to see if it can be considered…
Basic materials requested: 2.2 units. Basic materials allocated for export on New Terra: 1,981(includes 17 % allocated from stockpiles)
Trade request has been accepted and is now under review: 2 Basic units of basic for 2.3 MCs requested from New Terra to Huanxiang.
Checking on valid trades for planet Wuxiaci….
Rare material request found for Wuxiaci! Checking stockpiles to see if it can be considered…
Rare materials requested: 0.4 units. Rare materials allocated for export on New Terra: 233(includes 23 % allocated from stockpiles)
Trade request has been accepted and is now under review: 0 Rare units of rare for 3.9 MCs requested from New Terra to Wuxiaci.
Checking on valid trades for planet Verdancy….
Basic material request found for Verdancy! Checking stockpiles to see if it can be considered…
Basic materials requested: 0.1 units. Basic materials allocated for export on New Terra: 1,981(includes 17 % allocated from stockpiles)
Trade request has been accepted and is now under review: 0 Basic units of basic for 2.4 MCs requested from New Terra to Verdancy.
Heavy material request found for Verdancy! Checking stockpiles to see if it can be considered…
Heavy materials requested: 0.1 units. Heavy materials allocated for export on New Terra: 4,328(includes 87 % allocated from stockpiles)
Trade request has been accepted and is now under review: 0 Heavy units of heavy for 1.2 MCs requested from New Terra to Verdancy.
Checking on valid trades for planet Adawia….
There are no active trade proposals on Adawia.
Checking on valid trades for planet New Ceres….
There are no active trade proposals on New Ceres.
Checking on valid trades for planet Orcus….
Basic material request found for Orcus! Checking stockpiles to see if it can be considered…
Basic materials requested: 3.2 units. Basic materials allocated for export on New Terra: 1,981(includes 17 % allocated from stockpiles)
Trade request has been accepted and is now under review: 3 Basic units of basic for 2.0 MCs requested from New Terra to Orcus.
Heavy material request found for Orcus! Checking stockpiles to see if it can be considered…
Heavy materials requested: 1.4 units. Heavy materials allocated for export on New Terra: 4,328(includes 87 % allocated from stockpiles)
Trade request has been accepted and is now under review: 1 Heavy units of heavy for 1.7 MCs requested from New Terra to Orcus.
Checking on valid trades for planet Conlong….
Basic material request found for Conlong! Checking stockpiles to see if it can be considered…
Basic materials requested: 0.7 units. Basic materials allocated for export on New Terra: 1,981(includes 17 % allocated from stockpiles)
Trade request has been accepted and is now under review: 1 Basic units of basic for 2.3 MCs requested from New Terra to Conlong.
Heavy material request found for Conlong! Checking stockpiles to see if it can be considered…
Heavy materials requested: 0.4 units. Heavy materials allocated for export on New Terra: 4,328(includes 87 % allocated from stockpiles)
Trade request has been accepted and is now under review: 0 Heavy units of heavy for 1.3 MCs requested from New Terra to Conlong.

Hooray! Since New Terra has a s*itload of Basic in stockpile, they have put the proposal in their ‘shopping cart’, so to speak. This only means that they are willing to part with the resources. At this point, no analysis has been done regarding profitability, or whether they want to trade with that viceroy (their Houses are enemies, they personally hate each other, etc). That comes next.

3. So we have a list of possible trade partners. (By the way, a trade can be picked up by multiple parties). Now we need to look at profitability. This is a complex equation that simplifies into ‘the farther away trade partners are, the more energy and ships are required, meaning that the convoy will need to haul either less goods at a very high price (special delivery) or more goods at a lower price (shipping in bulk). Each viceroy has a ‘cutoff’ amount beyond which they will not consider a trade – it is not profitable enough for them! This is very heavily influenced by their Humanity and Gluttony. Let’s take a look:

Now determining trade profitability for the Celestial Empire.
Viceroy Gluttony: -15 Trade Aptitude: 0 Humanity: 41
Trade hub New Terra’s viceroy will not consider trades with less than $1.1 MCs per trade.
Viceroy is considering trade with Iscandrania for Basic. The current profit per unit based on prices and energy needed for the trip is 0.6 MCs, with total profit of 7.8.
…. After careful consideration, this trade is provisionally accepted, pending sufficient fleet availability! Final cost of trade, including fuel and shipping: $25.1. Total expected profit: $7.8.
Viceroy is considering trade with Dreamland for Energy. The current profit per unit based on prices and energy needed for the trip is 0.5 MCs, with total profit of 0.4.
…. After careful consideration, this trade is denied! Not enough profit to make the trip.
Viceroy is considering trade with Dreamland for Heavy. The current profit per unit based on prices and energy needed for the trip is 1.2 MCs, with total profit of 0.2.
…. After careful consideration, this trade is denied! Not enough profit to make the trip.
Viceroy is considering trade with Falacer for Basic. The current profit per unit based on prices and energy needed for the trip is 2.2 MCs, with total profit of 2.1.
…. After careful consideration, this trade is provisionally accepted, pending sufficient fleet availability! Final cost of trade, including fuel and shipping: $3.7. Total expected profit: $2.1.
Viceroy is considering trade with Falacer for Heavy. The current profit per unit based on prices and energy needed for the trip is 0.8 MCs, with total profit of 0.6.
…. After careful consideration, this trade is denied! Not enough profit to make the trip.
Viceroy is considering trade with Falacer for Rare. The current profit per unit based on prices and energy needed for the trip is 2.2 MCs, with total profit of 0.3.
…. After careful consideration, this trade is denied! Not enough profit to make the trip.
Viceroy is considering trade with Huanxiang for Energy. The current profit per unit based on prices and energy needed for the trip is 0.1 MCs, with total profit of 0.6.
…. After careful consideration, this trade is denied! Not enough profit to make the trip.
Viceroy is considering trade with Huanxiang for Basic. The current profit per unit based on prices and energy needed for the trip is 1.6 MCs, with total profit of 3.4.
…. After careful consideration, this trade is provisionally accepted, pending sufficient fleet availability! Final cost of trade, including fuel and shipping: $7.3. Total expected profit: $3.4.
Viceroy is considering trade with Wuxiaci for Rare. The current profit per unit based on prices and energy needed for the trip is 1.6 MCs, with total profit of 0.6.
…. After careful consideration, this trade is denied! Not enough profit to make the trip.
Viceroy is considering trade with Verdancy for Basic. The current profit per unit based on prices and energy needed for the trip is 1.0 MCs, with total profit of 0.1.
…. After careful consideration, this trade is denied! Not enough profit to make the trip.
Viceroy is considering trade with Verdancy for Heavy. The current profit per unit based on prices and energy needed for the trip is 0.0 MCs, with total profit of 0.0.
…. After careful consideration, this trade is denied! Not enough profit to make the trip.
Viceroy is considering trade with Orcus for Basic. The current profit per unit based on prices and energy needed for the trip is 0.9 MCs, with total profit of 2.9.
…. After careful consideration, this trade is provisionally accepted, pending sufficient fleet availability! Final cost of trade, including fuel and shipping: $10.2. Total expected profit: $2.9.
Viceroy is considering trade with Orcus for Heavy. The current profit per unit based on prices and energy needed for the trip is 0.3 MCs, with total profit of 0.4.
…. After careful consideration, this trade is denied! Not enough profit to make the trip.
Viceroy is considering trade with Conlong for Basic. The current profit per unit based on prices and energy needed for the trip is 1.2 MCs, with total profit of 0.8.
…. After careful consideration, this trade is denied! Not enough profit to make the trip.
Viceroy is considering trade with Conlong for Heavy. The current profit per unit based on prices and energy needed for the trip is 0.0 MCs, with total profit of 0.0.
…. After careful consideration, this trade is denied! Not enough profit to make the trip.

So what does this mean? First of all, the viceroy of New Terra has a negative Gluttony score, meaning that they are not very greedy, and aren’t looking for a huge profit margin. They have a 0 trade aptitude, meaning that they have no special skills in trade that will increase profit per trade (or decrease it), and they have a decently high Humanity, meaning that they will be more likely to accept lower-profit trades, especially on food and energy. So in Iscandrania’s case, they will be making enough from the trip even though it is a longer-based trip to make it worth the expense of merchants, fleets, and energy (remember that it costs the sending hub Energy to create a fleet, and the longer the trip, the more energy it costs – and energy ain’t free) So they have accepted the trade request, will be charging a total of $25.1 BC to ship 13 units of Basic. This will generate a profit of $7.8 BCs after paying for the energy for the trip, as well as the cost of the basic supplies themselves. Note that the viceroy likes some trades, but not others, so it’s worth going through the trades that were denied to see their ‘thinking’. Almost there! Now since there are enough fleets for the Imperial trade hub to send all this stuff, this example is done, but if there’s not enough fleets for all the accepted trades, there is one final step.

4. So let’s say there’s 5 trades that the viceroy likes, but they only have 3 available trade fleets! Bummer! So now hard choices have to be made. Generally, the most profitable trades will win out, but sometimes a high Empathy viceroy will green-light a trade for food or energy at less profit.

So that’s trade in a nutshell! This system still needs to be balanced a lot along with the general economic model, but hopefully it will answer some questions about how trade works. If you have other questions, please ask in a comment and I’d be happy to answer them! I will also post a video soon with this information in video form, for a more visual representation. Thanks for your time!

-Steve

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So what’s Alliance of the Sacred Suns all about? And what’s with the 5th ‘X’? (UPDATED!)

IMPORTANT NOTE:  This blog has been significantly updated, to the point where I am considering posting it as a new blog since much has changed.

PREMISE:

Alliance of the Sacred Suns is a 4X game where you have just reached your majority as an 18-year old trying to rebuild humanity’s old empire after a cataclysmic war forced humanity to move to a new quadrant of the galaxy. It is over 1000 years later and you are thrust into a position where, after a string of weak emperors, everyone from planetary viceroys, to system and sector governors, to scheming Primes (basically cabinet heads) is forward to taking advantage of your inexperienced and timid rule.

But you have no such intentions.

You were born with a strange ability: to read and change the minds and thoughts of others. As a leader, this ability is very valuable to determine who you can trust. Your goal is simple: to restore the Empire, to reclaim your standing as Emperor of Human Space, and – perhaps – to guide Mankind into a new and immortal era.

But there is another threat, looming beyond the light-years: the Xyl. Hybrid life forms that first appeared over Earth’s skies over a thousand years ago and forced humanity from their dying world after 2 bitter years of total war in the Exodus of 2033.

Nearly 400 years later, after humanity had found refuge in another corner of the Milky Way Galaxy – escaping through a star-gate of mysterious origin – the Xyl attacked again, and this war stretched out over 2 decades. Finally, humanity managed to introduce a nanovirus that appeared to stop the alien threat, but the ancestors of the year 3050 may have sealed humanity’s fate – just in slow motion.

CONCEPTS:
In AotSS, you do not have unlimited power. Unlike virtually every other 4X game out there, you can not do anything at anytime. You have a small pool of Action Points that you spend to do basically anything, from planning empire-spanning Projects, to communicating with characters in the game, to meeting with your cabinets, to even going hunting. As you age, your pool will gradually increase, reflecting your increased familiarity with how to ‘make things work’ as an Emperor. Most importantly, the Action Point limit puts the kibosh on micromanagement, allowing us to simulate your empire in unprecendented depth without thereby forcing you to spend hours optimising every last trade fleet. Your choice of where to intervene becomes a matter of careful deliberation – the Emperor’s time is precious!

Project are another major difference from other 4X games. In Imperia, you might simply change a planet’s name by clicking the button, typing in the name, and that’s that. In reality, changing an entire planet’s name would have serious repercussions! So what you might have used to simply ‘do’ in other games now require Projects. Projects are massive undertakings that can only be done with stellar-level hardware and resources. Projects allow you to do things like reorganize sectors, change a system or sector capital, build or upgrade starbases, change what a planet produces, etc. Where this mechanic radically differs from most 4X games is that it is your Characters who actually enact the Project – they contribute a portion of their available administrative clout or ‘ADM’ (gained from their position as viceroy, system governor, etc) as well as providing the financial backing to enact the Project. Characters who back a large part of a Project will expect favors and prestige, therefore you must balance allowing Characters who stand against your Empire to grow more powerful, with how important the Project is to your long-term strategies. ADM represents all the planning, infrastructure, transport, ships, manpower, etc. to do planet-shaping things, and abstracts nicely the concept while eliminating micromanagement.

While your word as Emperor is law, there is no way to force how long an Project actually takes to plan, execute, and complete. And this is where the other major system of Imperia comes in – the character system.

Characters populate AotSS(much like Crusader Kings games) – they have their own stats, age, wealth, traits, and ambitions, like you or me. They can be manipulated to do what you want – if you’re cunning. You will often find yourself bribing or sweet talking a system governor who is holding up an important economic stimulus in their system, or perhaps calming down a sector governor who you just took away an entire system from to give to a closer sector, or promoting a loyal viceroy all the way to a sector governor who will be absolutely loyal to you – the character system in Imperia is a powerful and immersive aspect of managing your empire. Character stats are hidden from you until you reach a certain intel level (increased from interacting with them through Actions, or placing your dread Inquisitor squads in positions to gather information), and even then the number is a wide range until your intel increases sufficiently. This is a problem when a character’s love or fear of you is reported as 88 (out of 100) but it it actually a 41! The rule of thumb: Watch what characters actually do, not what they say. They also gain traits that affect their decisions and relationships with you as they age. They can die and retire, or be ‘retired’ by you – either by forcing them out of office or by more ‘direct’ measures. Don’t get caught!

The containers that are populated by Characters are called Houses. These are multi-generational organizations that have been around for centuries, and they often have their own Holdings of planets or systems. In fact, the Celestial Empire consists of the sum of the member House’s Holdings (most of which are held by the ruling House, yours). There are 3 sizes of Houses: Great Houses, which typically have Holdings, a personal military, and a vast amount of resources; Minor Houses, which are still formidiable but generally do not have Holdings, nor the great resource reserves that Great Houses enjoy, and Common Houses, which are all the ‘normal’ Houses that do not have a special history or any real power in the Empire.

Great House Leaders are, other than Primes, the most powerful and important characters in Imperia. Anger a Great House enough, and they may try to break away from the Empire – or to take it for themselves!

You yourself have a starring role as well through Influence. As you make choices through your rule, you will start to gain different types of Influence. Benevolent Influence is the ‘good’ Influence, which calls people to action for your Empire and the pride of humanity. Tyrannical Influence is the ‘evil’ Influence, which is used to threaten and intimidate characters into doing your will – but using it will have other repercussions. In addition, craven characters will gravitate to emperors who stray into Tyrannical decisions, and vice versa – you may have to make some tough choices about removing (or trying to!) governors who can’t stand your alignment!

The game is about less micro and more about making the large-scale decisions that shape an Empire. You will not be building 10 Science Labs to accelerate research; instead you will designate a planet as a Scholarly Conclave and try to install a viceroy that is aligned to the need for research, allowing that planet to grow organically – they will build Academies and attract academia themselves, with a few nudges along the way. You will not be building transports and endlessly clicking materials to go from planet to planet – instead, you will set up trade hubs that serve as collection centers and build starbases of appropriate sizes to move materials and food along from your Imperial capital to sector capitals to system capitals to normal colonies.

From an ‘explore’ standpoint, no longer do you have to build and design scout ships, set a destination, and micromanage exploration and colonization fleet. Would a real emperor do that? Projects cover just about everything you would want to do as an Emperor on a exploration level, from surveying new planets and unexplored systems to creating outposts to creating colonies. You just create a Project on an unexplored planet or system and your people will do the rest (eventually).

As mentioned earlier, planets are not micromanaged. They are very complex entities whose actions are governed in part by their population, the stats of the planet itself, its viceroy, and most importantly its Focus. All planets have at least one Focus – examples would be a farming world, a manufacturing center, a heavy military world, a scientific conclave, a prison planet, etc. Focuses basically shape how a planet will evolve. Depending on the size of the planet, up to 2 additional ‘secondary’ Focuses can also be assigned to more round out a planet’s development.

The population of your Empire will ultimately decide whether you live long and prosper (ha) or die at the business end of a pulser. Populations have their own unrest, age, type, job class, popular support, and needs. Each 1 million people are considered one ‘pop’ (similar to the Victoria system, but much more granular) and they can change jobs, age, die, have kids, migrate to other planets, or even leave your Empire altogether! They can also starve, grow angry, and revolt. They have their own cultures and House affiliation, and careful massaging of public opinion will be needed to ensure your vital Reforms pass without trouble.

And looming out there, making their presence known through your psychic abilities, are the Xyl. They have returned… but when? And will humanity be able to stand against them when their seeds have shattered across the quadrant?

You must pull together the Celestial Empire once more, research military and social technologies that will aid your efforts, unite your Houses against a common enemy, and prepare your subjects for war… a war that no one knows is coming… but you.

That is, if you’re not killed by your people first… in Alliance of the Sacred Suns, the 5th X is… eXist.

Good luck, Your Grace.

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Imperia .410b Change Log (IMPORTANT INFO!)

Hey everyone!

Hope you are enjoying Imperia! I know that some people are having issues with the game not loading – the new installer that I am using is not correctly checking for prerequsites (namely XNA 4.0 redistributable) so if you are using this installer you will have to download and install it manually. Many computers have this already so you may not need it but if you are getting a white screen or an error on startup, that’s why. I have added the old OneClick version to the download folder that works normally if you don’t want to mess with that.

Here’s the changelog!

Imperia V.410b R2 Change Log/Readme 2.6.15

Notes
* Please uninstall any previous version of Imperia before installing a new version. I have not yet added patch ability. The good news is that the install is relatively quick.
* I am updating the WikiDot Imperia wiki periodically and this will be the best document for questions and how to play Imperia. Please refer back to it frequently.
* If you are using the Actual Installer version, please note that you will have to download and install the XNA 4.0 redistributable if you do not already have it on your computer. The OneClick (the zipped file) will do this automatically.

Fixes
* Fixed some issues with lower resolutions
* Fixed bug with calculating edict times with low Emperor power
* Fixed a few save/load bugs
* Fixed issue with budget not calculating correctly
* Fixed issue with going into negative ADM in certain situations

Changes/Additions
* Added numerous new graphics, including planets, starbases, stars, and other spacey things
* Complete UI overhaul – everything in the game has been revised as a new look is created
* Added additional info panels for Production
* Added system nav bar for widescreen monitors >= 1600 px
* Added army system, generals, and the UI to support moving them, disbanding them, mothballing them, and changing their mission/stance
* Totally revised intel system, splitting into domestic intelligence (gives you more information about your planet’s people) and political intel (take actions against characters)
* Added allies and enemies system, affecting your Power rating as emperor
* Added Pressure and Persuade system, allowing characters higher up a chain of command to pressure or persuade characters who report to them, increasing the chance actions are effective
* Added more character portraits and names
* Added event portraits and event response UI for future events/comms
* Added Develop Specific Economic Sector Edict, to allow focus on a particular sector instead of a whole shot to an entire planet
* Added more events dealing with riots and using your military against your people to lower/suppress unrest
* Added many more conversation strings and stubs in preparation for the ‘HawkTalk’ conversation engine conversion
* Added foundation for Fear/Love mechanic re: Popular support
* Hundreds of small tweaks and changes

Balance
* Increased maximum Total Development Levels across the board – this made starting smaller planets more room
* Increased population per level of economic sector to 1.2 million
* Gave more minerals and food to starting planets
* Lowered ADM costs across the board for Edicts
* Added more starting ADM for the Emperor (more to do now!)
* Added more to starting sector treasuries (they were going bankrupt too quickly!)
* Added Fear modifiers to certain events and stances
* Tweaked popular support and unrest factors to be less punishing
* With more options to control unrest, reset wage factors on unrest
* Decreased Admin/Gov costs, making it easier to build more ADM on planets
* Made System Edicts less reliant on Emperor power (since it starts much lower

Unresolved Issues
If you use the mousewheel to scroll up and down intel lists, it also effects the zoom level of the quadrant map. I can fix this, but it will require a rewrite of the zoom function and is not a huge priority at this time.

Thank you! If you are still having issues with Imperia, please post at www.imperia5x.com and I will help!

-Steve

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Imperia LP – Video 1: UI/Changes Now Live!

Hello all!!

Sorry it took a few days longer, but I had some issues with audio mixing and my first attempt was a video that ended up being over an hour long! Going forward, I will post smaller videos that cover different parts of the game; this one is an overview tutorial and shows the current UI. The next video(s) will show a tutorial LP that explains more about how to play, and will be updated as newer versions of the game are completed!

Here is the link:

Enjoy! Oh, and .410 should be available by the end of the week!

-Steve

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Feedback time… I want to hear from YOU!

Hello everyone,

I’m astounded at the amount of traffic this blog has generated. I’ve really only been updating for about a week, and there are already 100+ views a day, and growing steadily!! Your interest gives me the motivation to work even harder on Imperia and make this project that everyone who likes 4X games and something different can hopefully enjoy!

With that in mind, from time to time I will post poll questions to get anonymous feedback about certain concepts of Imperia. I would love the 15-20 seconds it would take for your input. Thank you so much in advance!

-Steve

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Imperia Concepts #4: Planets And Pops, Part I

Ah, planets. What 4X worth its salt would not be without them? Planets are the people of the drama that is typical space strategy. You have your science planet, and your manufacturing planets, and your jack-of-all-trades planets, and of course that crazy frontier planet that you only have as an early warning tripwire against the evil neighboring aliens, and whatever happens, hey, they’re just planets, right? After all, you have hundreds of ’em; you’ll never miss just one… right?

Not in Imperia. Here, planets are your tools to shape your empire.

A small, struggling frontier planet.
A small, struggling frontier planet.

Planets in Imperia are very complex entities. They are governed by viceroys who have a relative amount of autonomy to govern the planet. Depending on their personality, they may adjust taxes (income and corporate),  work to expand and contract sectors that they deem appropriate for the planet’s situation and designation(s), build planet-level structures, and in certain cases, initiate planet-level Edicts (that you as Emperor can overturn). Viceroys are also responsible for the results and execution of Edicts that you initiate, generally with their Intelligence and Power stats.

Since they do have a large amount of control over the planet,  it is important to have viceroys that are aligned to your wants and wishes, and whom are at least fairly loyal to your cause, and you will probably spend quite a bit of ADM in personal interactions with your viceroys in order to make your Edicts run as smoothly as possible.

Your planet screen presents you with a lot of information about the planet. A note here: I am not a professional programmer (I’m actually a sales manager!), nor am I any kind of trained UI artist. As I realize how much data will be available to the player, I will probably be tweaking the look and feel of these screens to present data in the most effective manner (hello, artists out there?!?) For now, I have settled on a primary display with a subdisplay that can be configured into several modes: demographic, economic, production, and intel (construction and military submodes to follow). Let’s look at the main panels of Imperia’s stars:

Your main planetary information display. Always displayed on any scanned planet.
Your main planetary information display. Always displayed on any scanned planet.

Here you have your primary info display, showing the planet sector, system, and planet name. The astrographic data of the planet is also displayed, depending on the scan level of the planet. If there has been at least an atmospheric scan, you will see the biological rating of the planet, from 1-100. If you have conducted a geologic scan, you will see the resource ratings as well. Planets have tectonic ratings that determine the chance of events, costs of planetary maintenance, and production costs. The last item is a planetary description.

Planets have 5 size ratings, from 0 to IV(4). The size of the planet determines primarily how many secondary designations the planet can support, but it also determines the maximum development level of the planet. Let’s take a look at the political display for more insight:

The political display of the planet.
The political display of the planet.

This persistent panel shows the planet’s ADM that is available for use, and the total ADM available that the planet generates through their government staffing, size, primary designations, and government seat status. Next comes total development level (TDL) that shows how many levels of development combined that the planet can support. For example, this planet being a class I world with a fairly low bio rating (51) is only able to support 16 total levels of development. It could be 8 in manufacturing and 8 in agriculture, or 4 in each including science, but the planet can not expand until either the planet is terraformed, new technologies are developed, or a sector is deconstructed to make way for a different one. Your viceroys will determine what should be done – it is your responsibility to make sure that your planets can grow!

Next comes the planet Popular Support. In a way, this is the most important number on the screen: not only does it help to determine your empire Popular Support (PoSup) but if it falls too low your viceroy (who has their own planetary PoSup) may decide to effectively ‘ignore’ your requests knowing that his or her people will back them over you, the emperor. When this occurs, it may be extremely difficult to get any Edicts to progress, and you even run the risk of a plot developing on that planet to overthrow your government! As with many UI elements in Imperia, you can get a tooltip when you hover over the PoSup showing what your people are saying to influence it the most.

The census panel shows your population, and you can mouse over it to see how your population changed in detail from last month:

Demographic Tooltip Spotlight
A tooltip showing how your population changed in detail from last month. Tooltips are a consistent way to add additional information for the player when needed.

Finally, your unrest level and the past month’s change and your colony government seat, if any is shown, and your viceroy’s name is also shown. You can click directly onto the viceroy’s name to go to the communications screen or hover for a tooltip of information.

To show the difference in a larger planet, here is your empire capital’s political display and demographic submode:

New Terra's demographic and political information.
New Terra’s demographic and political information, showing desirability factors, unrest trend, and population trend over the last 10 turns.

Note the much larger total development level and admin. Also notice the positive and negative influences that determine how ‘desirable’ a certain planet is. Part of your job as Emperor is to encourage migration to worlds that need labor, which reduces unrest and increases PoSup by giving your pops new and better opportunities, thus making them happier (temporarily). You can do this essentially by providing safe, healthy worlds with good infrastructure and with good economies.

So that’s great, you think. Just take all the large planets you see. What’s the downside? Well…

Here is your Edict Panel:

The Edict Panel.
The Edict Panel.

It shows eligible Edicts for that planet (and their ADM cost), and if there are any active Edicts, it shows remaining estimated time, status, and allows you to cancel them to return the ADM to the governing body(ies) that supplied it.

The ADM for many Edicts is fixed, but many like surveying, terraforming, and changing designations increase time and ADM depending on the class of the planet. So yes, large Class IV planets can hold a lot more development and can be customized more with secondary Designations, but they will cost more to initially survey, colonize, and upgrade. Tradeoffs abound. A small, well run, very high Bio level Class I planet with near optimal resources can actually be more efficient and desirable than a large, dirty, poorly run Class IV planet.

The Planetary Orbital Display.
The Planetary Orbital Display.

Finally, the Orbital Display shows any starbases, defense platforms, fleets, and any blockades or planetary issues graphically.

There are a lot of factors in play to have a successful planet. Designations themselves have tradeoffs: some, like Military Production worlds, pay a lot in wages and are economic powerhouses but damage the Bio rating of the planet over time, and Unrest is generally higher since they are dirty, industrial worlds with a more ‘rough’ populace. By comparison, while Agriculture worlds may be a loss leader (and require a subsidy from the Sector or Empire treasury) they may be critical to growing enough food for your Empire – and with a high Bio rating, more babies will be born healthy, ensuring long-term stability and labor for your Empire. Taxes must be modified as unrest rises, and you may have to coax your Viceroy into doing so – or perhaps finding another way to manipulate your erstwhile servants??

To be continued…

NEXT: Planets and Pops, Part II

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Imperia Concepts #3: Trade

Ah, trade. The blood that flows through a nation’s arteries. In Imperia,  trade serves no less important a purpose. Let’s take a look at trade, Imperia-style!

TRADE HUBS: Any planet can send and receive goods once they have at least a level 1 Starbase, but only trade hubs can receive non-emergency goods from upstream entities. Trade hubs work like this at each level:

  • SYSTEM TRADE HUBS  – Collect excess food and processed materials at full efficiency from PLANETS WITHIN THAT SYSTEM WITH STARBASES. 20% of excess of collected materials are sent downstream to a SECTOR TRADE HUB if one is set up (with minor efficiency loss), otherwise sent to EMPIRE TRADE HUB (your empire capital) (with high efficiency loss). If materials  or food are needed by a planet in the same system (alert generated), this hub will send as long as there is available material/food.
  • SECTOR TRADE HUBS – Collect excess food and processed materials from SYSTEM TRADE HUBS WITHIN THAT SECTOR if available, otherwise PLANETS WITHIN THAT SECTOR WITH STARBASES (with efficiency loss). 20% of excess of collected materials are sent downstream to EMPIRE TRADE HUB. If materials or food are needed by a planet in the same sector(alert generated), AND THERE IS NOT A VALID SYSTEM TRADE HUB in that system (either does not exist or there are not enough items to send) this hub will send as long as there is available material/food (with efficiency loss depending on distance, especially food)
  • EMPIRE TRADE HUB – Collect excess food and processed materials from SECTOR TRADE HUBS, or SYSTEM TRADE HUBS where there are no SECTOR TRADE HUBS.  Sends replenishment cargo upstream to SECTOR TRADE HUBS, or SYSTEM TRADE HUBS if no SECTOR TRADE HUBS exist (with efficiency loss), and will send emergency materials or food to INDIVIDUAL PLANETS WITH STARBASES at a high efficiency loss if no other option exists.
Trade view on the quadrant map - green represents empire trade hub, yellow represents sector-level trade hubs, and red represents system-level trade hubs
Trade view on the quadrant map – green represents empire trade hub, yellow represents sector-level trade hubs, and red represents system-level trade hubs

You can see at a glance how your trade network is set up by setting the trade view on the quadrant map. Systems that are inhabited and do not have a red circle will only receive emergency materials and food from their sector hub at a huge efficiency loss, and if there is no sector hub, the Empire will lend a hand, but between corruption, inefficiency in moving materials into a starbase that was not designed for it, and distance, you will lose a lot of the materials and (especially!) the food. This is why it is so critical to build a solid trade network as soon as possible – you don’t want planets with large surpluses just sitting there, unable to contribute to their sector or system network.

Sector View With Trade Hub
Sector view showing a sector trade hub in effect.

Due to the organization required, hubs can only be created at government seats, so system hubs can only be created within system capitals, and sector hubs can only be created within sector capitals. Any planet can build a starbase, and there is no minimum level for starbases to be to have a hub, but there is a throughput maximum for each level per turn as follows:

  • LEVEL I: 5000 materials/food total can be moved in/out
  • LEVEL II: 10000 materials/food total can be moved in/out
  • LEVEL III: 20000 materials/food total can be moved in/out
  • LEVEL IV: 50000 materials/food total can be moved in/out
  • LEVEL V: 100000 materials/food total can be moved in/out

It is recommended, but not required, to have at least one starbase level more than your trade hub level to ensure ease of moving resources; i.e. a level II starbase for a system trade hub, etc. Eventually, trade technology will make these throughput levels increase per level of starbase.

While you can not directly control what is moved through the network, nor will you see the freighters on the quadrant map, you can set a trade embargo on a certain planet/system/sector. Obviously, this will piss off the affected planets/systems and their respective leaders, so why in the world would you want to do this? In some cases, it may be a matter of survival of the fittest. If you have a backwater system that has a low population but is sucking up materials and food at a high rate, and you have a more, ah, politically important system that is struggling as well and your empire depots are getting low on materials, sometimes you have to declare ‘survival of the fittest’ and let the have-not systems figure it out on their own.

So as an emperor, all you have to do is insure that you have a solid trade network in place with planets that are creating a surplus to fuel the network. Your capital planet is a production powerhouse, but it can not single-handedly sustain your entire Empire, especially if unrest rises or changes are made to the planet economy. That is where manufacturing and agriculture outposts can be very handy – they focus exclusively on the resource they are set up for and they come with a level 1 starbase as part of the cost of setup!

Trade and resource production will make or break your reign as Emperor. People need food and your planets must grow with materials to survive. Sometimes, hard choices must be made for the good of the whole, and it is up to you to make those choices!

NEXT: DEVELOPMENT ROAD MAP

-Steve