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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 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

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Now that .7 is out… what’s next? A sneak peak of .7’s evolution!!

Hey everyone!

Well, it took a little longer than I intended, but finally .7 is out the door and ready to be played! Now, please remember that this is still an alpha version, so there are still plenty of things to do and fix! I wanted to give you a revised update of what’s to come and what the broad timeline is. I do want to say that I will be changing the update schedule to have one or two updates every few weeks, and more if people want it. The updates tend to be very large downloads (working on that) so once I get the assets cut down in Unity, that should help the file size significantly!

Anyway, the very first priority with .7 is to finish adding the economic system and riot system. They weren’t quite ready to go so with the first update you’ll see riots and the affiliated Actions/Projects that you can use to fix them. That should be about a week-2 weeks. Also, you’ll have working sliders and a new category of Actions: Economic. This is where you’ll be able to set tariffs, embargos, etc. These are not ‘choicable actions’ meaning that a character won’t have a choice about whether they happen, but you’ll still see their reactions (and any relationship change) in them. Also, obviously, any major bugs will be fixed during this time.

Next comes the save/load system. That’s a huge priority for me and in truth, there’s already save capability – the trick is loading. Really, the only issue is structuring the scene flow so that the program can redraw a new galaxy with saved data. The vast amount of data is deterministic – in other words, it generates based on some core saved data, so that should cut down on save game sizes. I hope to have that working within 2-3 weeks after the economic/Riot systems have been added and tested.

After that, I’m going to start adding the intel system, Challenges, and secrets, along with the required AI and Command Mode. This is a huge system that will also be integrated with the Character AI. Basically, you’ll be able to deploy and train Inquisitor squads that can be sent to planets to either gather information (spying, essentially) about a given planet/system/province, or they are there to actively investigate a potential Plot that you might have intel about on either you or another character. They are also used to execute black ops on specific characters, which include assassination, smear campaign, bribery, extortion, blackmail, and theft. Inquisitors basically gather op intel on a specific character for a period of time – until they have enough intel, they can’t act at all! Once they have a baseline amount of intel, they’ll be able to execute certain black op Actions; the more intel they can gather, the better their odds of success. If they are interrupted, they can try again, but the intel they have gathered will decay, and they may have to ‘re-intel’ what they’ve already learned.

Challenges are in the game, but nothing happens with them as of yet. With the Challenge addition, you will be able to challenge another character in the game, and then there is a 6 month period where you ‘recruit’ Characters to support your Challenge. Your challenged character is doing the same, and at the end of the period, whoever has the most support wins the Challenge. Winner gets a proportional increase of Power and Love from their respective Pops, while the loser loses Power, Love, and may have to give up their post to the winner depending on the Challenge.

Secrets are scraps of Intel that you might get from either gossip or from your Inquisitors. They are parts of a puzzle that the more you attain, the more info you have to potentially stop a Plot. I will be writing a full blog about this concept soon, but it’s really cool!

So after that is added, .7 will round out with the Science/Reform system. In AotSS, you don’t research like you do in a typical 4X. Your academics don’t research hard science as much as they do doctrines that allow you to take or unlock more Actions and more powerful Projects, especially with military and planet development. The thing is that your Cultures may approve or disapprove of the Reforms that you are undertaking, and they may react poorly if they have an Idea that is at odds with that specific Reform, so you do have to keep in mind who will react if you start researching world-killing lasers.

Finally, .7 will end with expanded House to House diplomacy and more intelligent House AI. Currently, Houses have relationships but they don’t really change and there is no specific alliance or war code for Houses who are opposed or allied with each other. This will be added in .7 leading up to .8.

And as always, the UI will be improved, more tooltips will be added, more Event pictures and descriptions will be added and the Grand Vizier will have more influence, including giving suggestions as to what to do next, how a character might react with a specific Action, and giving you a monthly report on what has happened and some advice based on that.

That’s what’s coming during the .7 development roadmap – No ETA, just ‘coming as soon as I can code it!’ Hope that sounds exciting – thank you for your interest in AotSS – please let me know what you think!

-Steve

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Video Development Diary #2 is out!

Hey all!

Thanks for everyone’s patience on the video thing. I’m terrible about always wanting to add one more thing or fix one more bug, and I have to remind myself that it’s just a pre-alpha and people will understand. (ha!) Seriously, though, it’s a good overview of the new stuff that we’ve been working on. There was so much that I didn’t cover, I’m going to do another video on Sunday. Anyway, sorry for the echo sound, but there’s some good stuff in there. Check it out!

Here’s the link: https://youtu.be/xhIZidSxZOw. Enjoy!!

-Steve

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Update and DD #4 – How a Universe is Created, and what it means to you!

Hello everyone! Wow, what a week it’s been! We went from living life to evacuating our home within 45 minutes due to Hurricane Harvey. While we didn’t end up suffering any damage, it certainly did a number on Houston and Texas in general. We’re fine, but this is a storm that we’ll remember for a long time. (And oh yeah, as I write this Irma is about 4 days away from the US. Joy.)

Anyhoo, I wanted to wrap up the economic series of DDs by talking about the planets themselves. Now, everything around AotSS revolves around power. At the end of the day, those that have it, make things happen, and those that don’t, can’t. So the most important building blocks of power are…you guessed it, planets.

When I sat down to design Imperia years ago, I knew even early on that I wanted detailed planets. Maybe not Aurora-level detailed, but certainly more detailed than 3 stats and a planet type. I feel that in a good 4X game, a player should see planets (and systems) not as disposable entities but as things that they care about and actively guide throughout the game. Cheesy as it may sound, I feel that a successful 4X-type game allows each planet to tell its own story, to write its own history, and to contribute its own glory.

In Imperia, once I met Pavlos, the design really started taking off. Pavlos brought the idea of planets down to a science, and proposed no less than 14 different star types with 15 different planets that could be generated. After months of working on different generation models, we designed a model that is both true to science and playable.

To start with, each star is generated randomly and can be a single, binary, or trinary star. This affects things like gravity and what types of planets are generated. Stars also have a spectral class from OB all the way to a D star, with our good old sun (‘K’) and red giants (RG), supergiants (SG), small blue stars, white stars, brown dwarves, neutron stars… they’re all here, and each modeled by size, traits, and metallicity. These determine what types of planets and how many minerals are on each planet.

Once stars are generated, they are placed into constellations. This is another ‘true to life’ way of generating stars in a realistic manner. Not only does it provide a way to create provinces in ‘grouping areas’ but it makes it easier to find systems when you know what constellation it’s in. The game has 30 constellations, each named by the game lore, but the only one that’s guaranteed to show up in any given game is Enosis, your home constellation.

So now that you’ve got your stars and your constellations, what about planets? Well, planets (and asteroid belts and ice belts) are procedurally generated from the type of star that is currently being generated from. There are only certain types of planets that can be generated, and each type has a weighted chance of being created. So you won’t find a SuperEarth planet in a Red Giant, for instance, but you might find a Barren or Ice planet. Each system has 5 spots, from closest to farthest from the star, and the planets types are generated as well based on how far the planet ‘slot’ is from the star. So closer to the star, you will have lava and barren planets, while farther away you will have more ice and ice belts, as well as gas giants. Again, just like science.

So once the planet type is generated, we’re not done! Next comes size and axial tilt (determines habitability) to determine how habitable the planet is to humans. Basically, the closer it is to a star, and the more tilted it is (violent weather changes), the Bio rating of a planet is generated, based on the base type of planet, size, location, and some variability.

Next, the industrial multiplier is generated. Certain planets are easier to build things like factories and mines (like desert planets and barren planets) as opposed to gas giants and lava planets, both for mineral richness and tectonic stability. This effects output of mines and factories.

Next, moons! Moons provide a few traits to a system, and tides, that sometimes improve the Bio of a planet.

Now we drop minerals and energy resources onto a planet! Again, each type of planet has a range of minerals that it may have, depending on the type of star and the metallicity of the star. Some planets are very likely to have a lot of energy (gas giants, lava, greenhouse planets) but lower levels of minerals, and vice versa. Since a huge part of the game is building up a strong resource economy, and since mining outposts and colonization projects take a lot of resources and time, finding the best planets and systems is part of your responsibilities as emperor to direct!

The types of planets in AotSS are:

  • Asteroid Belt
  • Barren
  • Greenhouse
  • Desert
  • Terran
  • Ice
  • Ice Giant
  • Gas Giant
  • Ice Belt
  • Lava
  • Irradiated
  • Super Earth
  • Ocean
  • Brown Dwarf
  • Organic
  • Dust Ring
  • City

Some of these planet types are created rather than generated, especially City (think Trantor/Coruscant) and Organic (think living planet) but most can be found out there in the void. What will you find?

The last part of planet generation is the concept of regions. Now, regions are interesting in that most of the time, the player will not be aware of their existence. If you play a flight simulator, and you want to turn the plane left, you don’t have to know the lift forces acting on the ailerons, nor do you have to know the yaw forces acting against the body to provide lift, drag, and spin. Nope, all you the player have to do is turn the mouse/stick to the left, apply some rudder, and voila! The plane turns left. Good simulations work under the radar, while immersing the player in their model of reality without them actually having to know how it works.

AotSS’s region system works in much the same way. When a planet is generated, it’s not one contiguous planet. Just like Earth is not all grassland, mountains, etc. most planets are an amalgamation of different terrain and biome types that put together create the overall planet structure and resources. Small planets might just have 4 regions, while large terran planets have as many as 20, and gas giants might have 36! (Of course, the vast majority of them will not be habitable!) Each region is generated procedurally, and depending on the planet type, your planet will have some of the following types of regions:

  • Plains
  • Mountains
  • Lava
  • Volcanic
  • Ocean
  • Forest
  • Grassland
  • Jungle
  • Barren
  • Uninhabitable
  • Frozen
  • Desert
  • Helium Islands
  • Dead

Each type of region is more conducive than others to support life. That said, with the proper infrastructure ANY planet can sustain life, but your Pops don’t have to like it (one reason why it’s so important to build outposts in the right places – build it too far from other planets and you’ll have a hell of a time convincing miners and engineers to come join, even if you are paying top dollar, if it’s on a raging inferno planet)

So each region has its own type, but it also has unique modifiers for activities in the game, such as farming modifiers, bio modifiers, manufacturing modifiers, and even for ground combat (attack and defense mods). A plains region is going to be more attractive to a Pop than a lava region, obviously, but when a planet is colonized cities will be built in the regions that are most conducive to high production.

Cities, you say? Of course! Regions also have an infrastructure rating, from uninhabited to tiny outposts to small towns, all the way to super cities and megalopolises. The more resources your viceroy puts towards infrastructure, the larger your cities can grow, which will allow more people to be housed comfortably. That’s the key. Each region has a maximum safe population level at which Pops will not grow discontent. You can exceed it, but then Pops will start to get unhappy with living stacked on top of each other, so they will eventually move to another region, or if there’s not another region with jobs and there’s a better planet nearby, they’ll simply leave. Building more infrastructure will prevent this.

So planets are not just a box of ratings and values, but a tapestry of regions that collectively form the planet. Again, as the player, you won’t see most of this. You’ll know how many regions the planet has, what types they are (percentage wise), what the base development level of a planet is, and the base population level it will support, and as infrastructure is built, you’ll know how many more Pops the planet can support without Pops going haywire. Regions can be bombed from space or destroyed during ground combat, so losing a region with a Large City and numerous developments such as academies, factories, etc. will really hurt a planet’s output. But the region system is why you will have one Terran planet with an 80 bio rating that has so-so farm output, and another Terran planet with a 75 bio rating that has awesome farm output, because the second Terran planet has a lot of ocean and plains regions with high output farming modifiers, while the first Terran planet has a lot of grassland and jungle. Still great for life, but not so great for farms. With mountains, however, it might be great for minerals! This is one facet of how planets tell their story and start to become unique.

And yes, Pops migrate around the planet looking for a better job, or a better opportunity (*just like us! Hmmm) I haven’t decided yet if I will allow the player to see this – it’s happening on a scale that you as the emperor wouldn’t control (you’re not able to manipulate regions; that’s your viceroy’s job) but it might be nice to see the living world a little closer. But yes, if you have a region on a planet that just opened up a new batch of farms, your farmer that is living with 4 other people on the other side of the world just might move to that new region for the same job, but now he’ll be a lot happier. As Emperor, you can create an Infrastructure Project on a world where you can send a massive construction armada to build more cities and towns, but this is much more expensive than to allow the planet to grow organically (a certain percentage of the planet’s build points ALWAYS go towards expanding infrastructure, and automatically go where growth is creating the most problems). You can ask the viceroy to focus on infrastructure as well.

So what happens if you don’t have enough materials (basic and heavy) to maintain your planet’s infrastructure? Well… it starts to decay. And Pops don’t like that so much. So it is incumbent on a good Viceroy to make sure that they beg, borrow, trade for, mine, or steal whatever they have to to ensure enough materials are on their planet to keep their lights on, their buildings up, and their roads from collapsing.

Well, that was a long post, but the region and galaxy creation system are what I consider a defining feature of AotSS. We give you a richly detailed world to work in, culturally, literarily, and scientifically. What happens in it is up to you!!

Excelsior, Your Majesty!

-Steve

 

 

 

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DD #3: Economy, Production, and The Circle of Life: Part 1

Hey everyone!

Today, I wanted to talk a little bit about how the production side of the economy works, and specifically what the materials do, and how they are used.

So first, an overview of the system. There are 3 main materials that represent various minerals, materials, goods, and resources, collectively called ‘basic’, ‘heavy’, and ‘rare’ materials. Basic materials are used for virtually everything in the game – from building and maintaining infrastructure to building everything from mines to spaceships. Fortunately, basic materials are fairly easy to produce and mine. Heavy materials are used mostly for space installations and ships, so any Projects that have space-based applications will use a lot of heavy materials, as well as upkeep. Rare materials are mostly used for science and for energy stations, as well as labs. While they are rare, they are not generally used much, especially for agriculture-based planets.

So how do you get these materials? Easy – they need to be mined. All planets have a basic, heavy, and rare material rating, that represents how easy it is to get materials from the planet. This is done by miners, using mines. The more mines on a planet, that are staffed by miners, with high skill ratings (and backed by a Viceroy with a high Mining aptitude) the more materials that can be mined. These are raw materials that are then stockpiled for use. A certain percentage of the goods are set aside for maintaining existing infrastructure, and another percentage of goods are set aside for trade, while another small percentage is set aside for retail (explained earlier, if you are allowing basic goods to be traded). Now we get to the second part of the process, which is creating Build Points (BPs) that actually go towards construction of infrastructure, ships, etc.

BPs are split into their three types – basic, heavy, rare. Each structure that you build in AotSS takes a certain amount of BPs. For example, to build a new farm takes 30 basic BPs, 5 heavy BPs, and 0 rare BPs. By contrast, to build a new power generator (High-Tech), it takes 70 Basic BPs, 40 Heavy BPs, and 15 Rare BPs. These BPs are generated each turn and accumulate based on the build plan of the viceroy. The actual math to determine how a BP is generated is rather lengthy, but the basic calculation is to take how many factories are online (meaning they are staffed, one Pop to one factory), take the amount of raw materials that are allocated (based on the build plan; this can be overdriven as well if you have an aggressive viceroy) and take into account the engineer’s ratings and the viceroy’s Engineering aptitude (if any) plus their House’s engineering skill, take a industrial multiplier (kind of like the overdrive in MOO3) that the viceroy can use to overwork their engineer pops to get more build points at the cost of unhappiness and possible revolt) and voila! BPs fresh out of the oven. Next, the BPs are allocated to the planetary build plan.

The build plan is basically how the viceroy chooses to allocate the BPs that are generated monthly. So, for example, if the viceroy focused on farms, they might allocate 50% BPs to farms, 25% BPs to infrastructure (houses, apartments, and the like), and 25% to high-tech. So each month, farms would get half of the BPs, infrastructure would get 25%, and so on. Focuses can swing these build plans, and are one way you as the emperor can change the build ratios of a planet.

You also need to be able to pay for the upkeep of each level of development on your planet, which takes materials. If you are running out of materials, your most high-tech structures will start to decay and shut down, putting your Pops out of work (and they won’t be happy about it). Eventually, your farms will shut down, your food supply will dry up, and you’ll be living on stockpiles and/or trades until you get your development rebuilt. In game terms, there is a percentage chance that increases slowly each turn a level of development can’t be maintained. Once it’s shut down, it effectively needs to be rebuilt and restaffed.

So that’s the process in a nutshell. As the emperor, you want to make sure that your planets have enough raw materials to ensure that their factories can run at maximum efficiency. You also want to attract engineers and miners with high skill ratings, and you want to install a Viceroy who comes from a strong engineering and mining House (probably Ilioaia or Hawken) (Now you start to see why you might want to keep certain Houses in your good graces – it’s hard to build a manufacturing powerhouse world if you can’t get a Viceroy who’d be suited to run it!) You will be able to bring ‘prefab’ factories to planets in emergencies, but this is a Project and will cost much more in materials and coin than building factories would in the first place, but if you let your factories go this may create a ‘death spiral’ where you don’t have any factories left to rebuild! Don’t let this happen.

Well, that’s about it for now! Have a great day and we’ll talk soon in DD#4 about how food and energy work and how they factor into your Pops!

-Steve

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Developer Diary – Production System!

Hey everyone! Not dead, just busy, but the clouds have cleared in my work schedule and we’ve been hard at work on the Game Design Document! I wanted to take a moment and explain how production will work, since it’s somewhat novel and fits in line with the ‘you don’t micro each building on your planets’ theme.

At its core, the production system contains 2 major elements: Build Points (BPs) and Build Plans. Build Points are generated though factories for each raw mineral in the game (Basic, Heavy, Rare) which are then allocated to Build Plans. Build Plans are essentially the plan for how BPs will be divided up among building areas on the planet. There are 10 different allocations that can be built:

  • Farms
  • High-Tech
  • Factories
  • Mines
  • Admin
  • Academies
  • Military Research Labs
  • Ground Military Factories
  • Starship Shipyards
  • Living Infrastructure

Not all areas will always be built at any one time. Generally, Build Plans will be generated depending on a planet’s Focus (formerly Designation in the first game) that you set as Emperor. For example, if you set a planet’s Focus as an Agriculture World, the viceroy will build at least 50% farms from the BPs that are generated, and the rest will be dependent on the viceroy’s House leanings (some Houses prefer more economy, some more military, some more research, some more trade, some are a combination, etc) as well as their personal preferences.

Build Plans can change every 6 months, but can be adjusted if a planet can not provide enough food or power organically. In other words, viceroys will try to make a planet self-sufficient within the bounds of the planet’s Focus limitations, and prioritize food and power production over all else unless the Focus does not allow for it.

As Emperor, you may change the Focus of a planet as a Project, but keep in mind that while a planet is changing Focuses, production drops to almost nothing as factories are retooled, zoning is changed, Pops are retrained, etc. Making this a Project reflects the enormous amount of work to change the development of a world so much.

Viceroys can also Overdrive their Build Plans if they deem it necessary. It is what it sounds like; it tasks your Engineers to make more BPs in order to allow things to be built more quickly. This will use up a lot more resources, as well as piss off and exhaust your Engineers (and Miners, as a secondary effect). Viceroys who are less empathetic will tend to do this more, but they run the risk of revolt from their engineer Pops and possibly even losing them to immigration. You do NOT want to lose your Engineers; they are almost as hard to come by as Science and Academic Pops. If you do not want Overdriven production as Emperor, you can set limits for this as a Policy.

That’s a sneak peek into Production – more to come soon!

-Steve