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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!





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Small .4 preview – some new UI teaser screens!

Hey everyone!

Wanted to show you some WIP screens as we work on getting .4 out the door. It’s been a while, but we’ve made tremendous progress with the new build! We’re going to have all 3D planets and stars, a completely new UI, and we believe even easier ways to access the information you need in conjunction with the Command Modes! Anyway, with the exception of the Project Screen, all screenshots are from a live build of Imperia!

New Main UI WIP 6.9.16

This is the mostly-ready-to-go main UI. Note the resource bar on the top, the Projects in progress bar to the left, and the sub screen buttons have been completely redesigned and moved to the upper-left, while the next-turn button has been segregated and the date added. The huge addition is the Emperor Status bar, with your remaining AP in bright white, as well as your Power, your Popular support, and your location in an immediate place to find always. We rebuilt the UI with the viewpoint that you, the player, are the Emperor and what is most important for you to know always?

project mockup clean.png

This is the new WIP Projects Screen. Along with Actions that you do with Characters in the game, Projects are the most powerful tool you have to shape your Empire and change the game. They also define how you shape your relationships with your Characters – it is considered prestigious to be part of an important Project, but having different Characters from different Houses – especially ones that do not like each other – will slow down the progress. Actually creating a Project is as easy as dragging and dropping in an Administrator, then adding additional Contributors that add money and ADM to the project, and we wanted the window to reflect the information that you need to know, as well as creating several filter tools to best find certain Characters.

Also note the 3D planet spinning in the background with real-time lighting and lights depending on the level of civilization on the planet! (Yes, this stuff is not new, but for a small indie game we’re pretty proud of it!)

Opening Screen WIP 6.9.16

We now have a new front end as well – the pics don’t really do it justice, but everything you see is 3D and moving! The planets slowly spin around the sun, and the option panel is a 3D object. We’re not done tinkering with it yet but this will give you an idea of what we are shooting for…

New Game Setup WIP 6.9.16

The start of the Setup New Game screen. You will also be able to select your empire’s emblem here, as well as set the # of AI civilizations. The next step is where you will design your Emperor.

We’ll post more pictures soon, as well as a new video so you can see this stuff in motion! But we’re very excited about the direction of the UI in Imperia!


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Territory in the 31st Century: Houses, Holdings, and How Empires Work

Hi all, Oliver here! This week I’ll be talking about how territorial ownership and soverignty work in Imperia.

One of the problems we came across designing Imperia was the seemingly simple question: who owns what? We knew we were going to have chains of command involving characters from different Houses, but how, precisely, would that work? How were Houses to relate to the game’s civilisations? How would a House declaring independence work?

What we came up with is (we think) quite an elegant solution. Each House in Imperia has Holdings – planets over which they’re sovereign – and may or may not swear fealty to another House. But a House’s holdings need not be administered by House members. The House Head can bring in characters from other Houses within their jurisdiction to administer their territories, meaning that each character is simultaneously a member of two different power structures. So there’s always a potential conflict of interest going on. The elegant part is that this structure means there’s nothing more to civilisations than independent Houses – even your Empire. Your Imperial worlds are simply the Holdings of your House.

This opens up multiple ways to expand your empire. Do you try to build a loose federation of powerful vassals, or claw fresh Holdings for yourself out of the carcasses of enemy Houses? Do you tempt sovereign Houses to join your growing domain with their territories intact, or help their treacherous inferiors overthrow them to become a puppet government, in hock to you? Do you trade away your existing Holdings in return for the loyalty of your vassals, or does that risk making them to powerful? You can promise a share of the spoils to House Heads who send Forces to aid you – but are you planting the seeds of your own overthrow? What if, instead, you empowered smaller Houses, presently without territory, by giving them Holdings of their own – along with the obligation to raise a Force and fight for you when the time comes? The conflicting imperatives of feudalism will (we hope!) create all sorts of fascinating gameplay opportunities in the universe of Imperia.

Next week, Steve’ll be blogging again, and over the coming weeks we’ll also be starting to show off some sections of our Game Design Document on the forum. Now that the design is mostly in place, we’re going to be getting back into the cycle of producing regular alphas, which I’m really excited for. Watch this space!


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Imperia Unity Developer Journal #1: Realistic Universes, and Planets that Make Sense…

Hello all!

Well, we’re hard at work on Imperia Unity (IU). We’re already got 3 very early alpha builds out the door, and Pavlos has been instrumental in creating a realistic universe for your emperor and his annoying sidekicks to play in! I highlight some of his work below.

In Imperia XNA, star development was very basic; while the overall distribution was more or less accurate, the stellar generation process, especially with planets, was very random and had nothing to do with the actual star. This will be completely different in IU. Stars will be generated procedurally, and realistically, including size, age, stellar class, secondary stellar class, special traits, and more importantly, stars will have metallicity which will (along with other factors) generate a quantity of pmaterial that will determine both the type and amount of planets on a star. Stars can also now be binary or trinary, and have additional specials depending on that. Here are the different types of stars that will be in IU:

O-B blue giants
A (white green)
F (white)
G (yellow)
K (orange)
M (red dwarfs)
L (hot brown dwarfs, deuterium fusion)
T (cold brown dwarfs)
C (carbon stars)
SG (Sub-Giant, early red giants, red, orange or yellow)
RG (Red Giants)
D (Degenerate, or White Dwarfs)
Neutron (Neutron Star)
BH (Black Hole)
WR (Wolf Rayet)
SP (Special)
SP2 (Special 2)

And the specials (incomplete list)

highly variable
material shedding, nebula
accretion disk
strong solar winds

As you can see, a much more complex and realistic galaxy to play with! Systems will still have from 0-6 planets, but the planets (and their distance from their star) will be realistically determined by a combination of planetary material, the type of star, the age, companions, and the size. Planets have been expanded from the prior 6 types to 16(!) Here they are:

0, no planet
1, asteroid belt
2, barren
3, greenhouse
4, desert
5, terran
6, ice
7, dwarf jovian
8, jovian
9, ice belt
10, lava
11, irradiated
12, super-earth
13, ocean
14, brown dwarf
15, organic
16, dust ring
17, city

Here’s an example of a probability table for a planet on the above table to be in one of 6 positions for a fun star, a neutron star:

spectral class 13, Neutron star

– spot 1: 0% chances of having a planet
– spot 2: 0% chances of having a planet
– spot 3: 5%+( Pmaterial x1)-(# of companions*10) chances of having a planet
1-90%: planet-type=2
91-100%: planet-type=6

– spot 4: 20%+( Pmaterial x2)-(# of companions*10) chances of having a planet
1-45%: planet-type=2
46-60%: planet-type=7
61-80%: planet-type=8
81-100%: planet-type=6

– spot 5: 30%+( Pmaterial x2)-(# of companions*10) chances of having a planet
1-30%: planet-type=2
31-50%: planet-type=7
51-65%: planet-type=8
66-100%: planet-type=6

– spot 6: 40%+( Pmaterial x2)-(# of companions*10) chances of having a planet
1-30%: planet-type=2
31-70%: planet-type=6
71-90%: planet-type=7
91-100%: planet-type=8

And here’s the table for a more common star, a yellow (G) star:

Spectral class 4, G

– spot 1: 50%+( Pmaterial x4)-(# of companions*15) chances of having a planet
1-10%: planet-type=1
11-60%: planet-type=2
61-75%: planet-type=4
76-85%: planet-type=3
86-90%: planet-type=10
91-95%: planet-type=11
96-100%: planet-type=7

– spot 2: 70%+( Pmaterial x2)-(# of companions*10) chances of having a planet
1-5%: planet-type=1
6-30%: planet-type=2
31-50%: planet-type=4
51-70%: planet-type=3
71-80%: planet-type=5
81-90%: planet-type=12
95-100%: planet-type=7

– spot 3: 65%+( Pmaterial x3)-(# of companions*10) chances of having a planet
1-10%: planet-type=2
11-20%: planet-type=3
21-30%: planet-type=4
31-60%: planet-type=5
61-70%: planet-type=12
71-80%: planet-type=13
81-90%: planet-type=7
91-97%: planet-type=8
98-100%: planet-type=6

– spot 4: 60%+( Pmaterial x3)-(# of companions*10) chances of having a planet
1-10%: planet-type=2
11-15%: planet-type=3
16-20%: planet-type=4
21-40%: planet-type=5
41-50%: planet-type=12
51-60%: planet-type=13
61-75%: planet-type=7
76-91%: planet-type=8
92-100%: planet-type=6

– spot 5: 50%+( Pmaterial x3)-(# of companions*5) chances of having a planet
1-10%: planet-type=2
11-15%: planet-type=5
16-20%: planet-type=12
21-50%: planet-type=7
51-80%: planet-type=8
81-95%: planet-type=6
96-100%: planet-type=14

– spot 6: 50%+( Pmaterial x3)-(# of companions*5) chances of having a planet
1-5%: planet-type=2
6-10%: planet-type=12
11-35%: planet-type=7
36-60%: planet-type=8
61-85%: planet-type=6
86-100%: planet-type=9

The more ‘fertile’ the star the better chances of a planet that is suitable for human life. This is stark contrast to the previous game, where it was more or less totally random. This will make surveying systems more of a calculated gamble if you know your astronomy!

More to come…

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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