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Distant Worlds Mentioned by PlaySF

 
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Distant Worlds Mentioned by PlaySF - 6/25/2012 2:09:35 AM   
RooksBailey


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Here is a great article on why 4X sci-fi games might be stagnating...except for DW, that is:

Explore And Expand, Or Exploit And Expire?

quote:

In the recent Endless Space preview, I mentioned a concern that the 4X genre might be running out of ideas. Even in the short time PlaySF has been running I’ve seen quite a few, and I’m coming to the conclusion that we need more X in our 4X games, or risk stagnation.

...

Exploration is my favourite of the four, and also my biggest disappointment. While most of the 4X games on the market contain some kind of exploration gameplay, once more it falls into one or two basic structures. We explore the galaxy, most of which is invariably hidden from us when we begin the game, and we occasionally happen across random events. But these events are nearly always interpreted in terms of boosts or nerfs to existing systems – you discover an ancient alien artefact that boosts your science production, or unlocks a new technology, and so on.


But it never feels as if we’re inhabiting a real universe. There is almost no sense of a ‘living’ galaxy....The only standout in my mind here is the retro-styled Distant Worlds, which populates its galaxies with odd lifeforms, wormholes and snippets of storyline, as the only 4X where I’ve felt a genuine sense of exploration – that feeling that something, anything could be out there.


And good god, there needs to be something out there. I’m tired of approaching my 4x games solely from the perspective of one Empire that must beat all others. We take component-based ship building almost for granted now (and I can still remember when the notion of being able to design my own ship was awe-inspiring), but where is that level of interaction in exploration, in colonisation, in diplomacy? If I discover an ancient, ruined city while exploring a system, give me a little text quest, tell me about the dead species! Show me that the Galaxy I’m going to war over isn’t a randomly generated blank slate – make me feel like there’s some history to the spaces between these stars. Make a colony more than just a collection of building upgrades -give it a culture, a history, even if it’s just assembled from random text selections.



I agree with his praise of Distant Worlds. This is the only recent 4X game that has truly tried to innovate the 4X genre. Unfortunately, it has gone largely unnoticed because of its limited distribution on Matrix, not to mention its high price point.

As I wrote in the comments section of the article, 4X games have showed precious little innovation, and worse, little sense of a real “living” environment. This thought hit me with the release of the movie, Prometheus. Like the editorialist wrote, the discovery of alien ruins in a game rarely leads to more than a boost to tsome aspect of research. How boring for such a fantastic discovery! I would love to see a game develop such an event appropriately. Maybe the player would need to build a special survey ship? And then the researchers would request colonial equipment to stick around a while. And maybe there is x% chance that the investigation goes Prometheus bad? In other words, have the event play out over many turns, and have it truly involve the player in an ongoing research sub-plot with a potentially big good/bad pay off.

Same goes for other phenomena. Maybe a star starts to flicker on the galaxy map. The player should be able to organize an investigation into why. After a lot of effort and money, it turns out the star is becoming unstable and now the player needs to lead an evacuation effort of the area. Again, another epic story arc that occurs as a random event and sweeps the player along.


And don’t even get me started on the silly nature of combat in most 4X games. The sad reality is that modern warships have capabilities and engagement ranges far in excess of what is portrayed in just about all sci-fi games.



< Message edited by RooksBailey -- 6/25/2012 2:10:46 AM >


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RE: Distant Worlds Mentioned by PlaySF - 6/25/2012 3:02:07 AM   
Bebop Cola

 

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I've been thinking lately that the 4X genre could benefit greatly from more focus being put on the tools of empire. Namely Diplomacy, Economics, Espionage, and War.

Exploration is fine and good, you have to find the resources to build your economy, but after a game or two the race to discover all the ruins with secret tech and exotic resource sites can become somewhat tedious. What I'm looking for is a game where I feel like I'm guiding as real of a society as possible.

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RE: Distant Worlds Mentioned by PlaySF - 6/25/2012 3:13:51 AM   
Gelatinous Cube


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Distant Worlds is very much about exploration and discovery. In my mind, that's where this game really does stand out.

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RE: Distant Worlds Mentioned by PlaySF - 6/25/2012 5:30:15 AM   
Bebop Cola

 

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I dunno. I just don't get a sense of real exploration from Distant Worlds after the first couple games. I think the addition of story elements is a good thing, and the ultra-rare resources is kind of neat(though I'd like to have the ability to either cultivate them on local colonies or hold control of the remote planet with a defense base), but the ruins and everything else isn't particularly original from game to game enough to keep my interest. I honestly can't say I look forward to the initial exploration rush of a new game. To keep my interest, exploration needs to have a bit more dynamism in it, something that keeps it fresh and at least somewhat surprising each game. That said, I don't have any suggestions for how to improve it, so take my opinion for what it's worth.

Ultimately, the part of the game I find interesting isn't the exploration, but the idea of managing a society and how it interacts with other societies. I'd like the ability to dig a bit deeper into that with a more robust system of trade(trade goods, trade routes, the ability to adjust foreign trade with tariffs and incentives), a more interactive local society(more detailed private sector with corporations and task requests, a more detailed criminal element), and more control over espionage. The latter is fairly decent as it is, though I think Legends' character system stifles it a bit. Having to wait for espionage agents generally means you don't have many to use at any given moment for either attack or defend, those you do have tend to be too precious to risk on anything more than a sure thing, and the inability to direct their skill progression in any real sense means your hands are pretty much tied regarding what types of missions you can do and making those agents you have often useless for counter-espionage. I'd prefer to see characters more as department heads that provide their bonuses to agents you train, and agents to be trained for specific types of missions.

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RE: Distant Worlds Mentioned by PlaySF - 6/25/2012 7:50:19 AM   
jpwrunyan


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I have never found a wormhole while exploring in distant worlds.

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RE: Distant Worlds Mentioned by PlaySF - 6/25/2012 2:02:03 PM   
Kayoz


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quote:

ORIGINAL: jpwrunyan

I have never found a wormhole while exploring in distant worlds.

Neither have I. I wonder if the reviewer actually played the game.

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RE: Distant Worlds Mentioned by PlaySF - 6/25/2012 3:13:55 PM   
Gareth_Bryne


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Maybe he meant slug lairs?

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RE: Distant Worlds Mentioned by PlaySF - 6/25/2012 5:11:18 PM   
Beag

 

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Apart from Silvermist monsters aren´t really relevant. Unlike (lol here I go again) MoO 2 were dragons and such really limited expansion and created some nasty decisions - risk your precious tiny fleet to get that rich planet or not?

Also legendary pirates are cool, the others eventually are only a nuisance and potential for exploit (easy reputation, maps for abandoned ships etc). Even then, it´s still a real 4X game unlike Sins of a Solar Empire, which is definitedly a RTS in space. All it needs is economic and population management improvements.

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RE: Distant Worlds Mentioned by PlaySF - 6/25/2012 6:10:42 PM   
ASHBERY76


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I think the DW engine has enormous potential for exploration and discovery gameplay.The game models loot drops,tombs,events,minor races,space monsters,space terrain and resources but the issue is there is not much variation or some aspects have not been fleshed out very well.

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RE: Distant Worlds Mentioned by PlaySF - 6/25/2012 9:15:24 PM   
onomastikon

 

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I agree with Ashbery76. The first 20 minutes of my first DW playthrough were exciting, because those popups featuring tombs to uncover seemed to actually promise something; I didn't realize that none of them actually hid anything exciting. There is a lot of room here for development and improvement, but the tools seem to be there.

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RE: Distant Worlds Mentioned by PlaySF - 6/29/2012 10:09:19 AM   
jpwrunyan


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Stop.
Derail time!

I find monsters other than the silvermist to be very damaging to expansion. Particularly early game when an ardilus suddenly awakens from a gas giant AFTER my exploration ship told me there are no threats in the system. Now my gas stations and /or constructors are destroyed. Since I play harsh homeworld I cant afford to build ships to deal with the problem and so must expand elsewhere.

Cant touch this!

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RE: Distant Worlds Mentioned by PlaySF - 6/29/2012 4:25:08 PM   
Webbco


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Haven't logged in for ages but felt I wanted to chip in here as exploration has always been one of my fave aspects of these sorts of games. I find exploration in DW to be one of its weaker points in many respects...simply because it feels so shallow as Ashbery was saying.

Although it's probably more "realistic" (as far as that can go), the fact that all stars, black holes, supernovas, nebula etc are visible from the very start really hinders the enjoyment of manual exploration for me, something that I'd like to see more of. I just build a bunch of exploration ships at the start and tell them to auto explore. Job done, leave them to it. I liked the Imperium Galactica 2 model of tech upgrades to reveal more of the map and side quests that you can choose whether to undertake or not.

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RE: Distant Worlds Mentioned by PlaySF - 6/30/2012 5:36:22 AM   
jpwrunyan


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What? Why would you suggest starting without knowledge of star locations? Are advocating something simulating the Zone of Avoidance or are you just being daft?
I guess I see where youre coming from on a gameplay level. But I think star locations is an obvious given for the theme.

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RE: Distant Worlds Mentioned by PlaySF - 6/30/2012 9:02:15 AM   
Webbco


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Just to clarify, on one level it should be a given that star locations and other locations of high energy/radiation emitting objects should be seen from the start, but it really damages exploration potential...for me, anyway. I also know what I expect to find when I send my explorers to these places...so I don't really consider it 'exploring' but more 'revealing'.

Maybe one possible change would be to have a type of nebula that sensors cannot penetrate through? So that if you are "south" of the nebula, you cannot see star systems etc to the "north" of it. Much like the situation here on earth at the moment, where we can't see other parts of the milky way.

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RE: Distant Worlds Mentioned by PlaySF - 6/30/2012 7:17:03 PM   
ehsumrell1


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quote:

ORIGINAL: Webbco

Maybe one possible change would be to have a type of nebula that sensors cannot penetrate through? So that if you are "south" of the nebula, you cannot see star systems etc to the "north" of it. Much like the situation here on earth at the moment, where we can't see other parts of the milky way.


Put that one in the Master Wishlist Webbco!

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RE: Distant Worlds Mentioned by PlaySF - 7/1/2012 11:27:12 AM   
Data


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Wohoo, me likes this one as well. And I'm not surprised the son'a loves it

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RE: Distant Worlds Mentioned by PlaySF - 7/1/2012 8:22:43 PM   
tjhkkr


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I agree with Webbco too...
I do not think it would be overly difficult to code, BUT...
With as many objects as are in the game... how will this effect game performance?
But that is very real and a very cool idea Webbco has...

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RE: Distant Worlds Mentioned by PlaySF - 7/2/2012 6:00:34 AM   
jpwrunyan


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Frankly, we have the technology today to image planets in other star systems. We just havent implemented it because of cost (and imo stupid budget priorities). Nebulae and the Zone of Avoidance are also largely invisible under infrared. If the game were to be more realistic we should already be able to see planets (at least knowing their compositional type) in other stars without sending a scout. So DW fails reality on that point already for the sake of "exploration". You guys are arguing to make space exploration even less realistic than it already is. Thats fine, but just be aware of that. I would rather not see the game go this way. FTL, humanoid disney aliens, and a universe where telescope technology hasnt evolved beyond the 20th century are about as far as I wish to suspend my disbelief currently.

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RE: Distant Worlds Mentioned by PlaySF - 7/2/2012 8:59:58 AM   
Webbco


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The idea is totally for gameplay's sake, nothing else...I just want to see exploration a bit more dynamic. I've actually already mentioned it in the wishlist thread aaages ago but maybe I'll put it in again

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RE: Distant Worlds Mentioned by PlaySF - 7/2/2012 4:19:34 PM   
Bebop Cola

 

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quote:

ORIGINAL: jpwrunyan

Frankly, we have the technology today to image planets in other star systems.

What technology is that?

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RE: Distant Worlds Mentioned by PlaySF - 7/2/2012 8:50:17 PM   
tjhkkr


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I know what he means...
Frankly the technology is not all that good at the moment -- jpwrunyan is correct, the do image planets somehow with spectometers and star dimming and things of this nature... It is probably not terribly accurate at the moment but...
he is correct in presuming that the technology would improve over time.

If you have good knowledge of the universe though, the planet grab at the beginning is going to be greater than it is now... you probably really need to cut fuel ranges even more....


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RE: Distant Worlds Mentioned by PlaySF - 7/2/2012 9:51:59 PM   
Bebop Cola

 

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We can detect planets, typically mathematically, but I'm not sure we can actually perform any spectrometry. I could be wrong on the latter, but I think our conjectures regarding planetary atmospheres of extrasolar planets is based on mass and distance from their primaries, both of which are based on mathematical calculations developed from measuring stellar wobble and primary star luminosity variances(when the planet passes between the star and us).

The term "imaging" connotes that we are obtaining an actual image of the planet, which I'm unaware of any ability to do in the commonly understood sense.

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RE: Distant Worlds Mentioned by PlaySF - 7/3/2012 3:53:15 AM   
jpwrunyan


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Guys, yes, we can actually see planets with our telescopes. Think about it, we can see galaxies billions of light years away. They are far fainter than a planet 10's or 100's of light years away would be (and smaller to a viewer on earth). The thing that prevents us from seeing the planet is glare from the parent star itself. We have the technology to deploy orbital telescopes that can block the glare from a star so we may optically image a planet. In some ways they would be easier to image than much closer objects in the oort cloud because they actually emit more light from their surface. Ok the last bit is speculation on my part. But obviously, a hypothetical planet reflecting light from alpha centauri could easily have a greater relative magnitude than many stars we already look at today.

In fact, in exceptional cases we have already directly imaged some planets with telescopes on earth. Not surprisingly these images are not the kodak moments you would hope for or that we are capable of. Anyway all this information is on wikipedia so no need to take my word for it.

But yes we can "see" extra solar planets in the visible spectrum with today's technology. Mail your senator/congressman.

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RE: Distant Worlds Mentioned by PlaySF - 7/3/2012 3:15:37 PM   
Bebop Cola

 

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Could you link the wikipedia page you're referencing?

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RE: Distant Worlds Mentioned by PlaySF - 7/3/2012 7:43:22 PM   
ASHBERY76


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I would like a maximan range for ships based on warp tech which would make exploration relavent for the whole game.At the moment you can explore the whole galaxy in two years with fuels cell stacking.I think map trading also ruins exploration as the A.I cannot WAIT give you his maps fast enough it seems.

SpaceEmpires5 based space terrain effects would also be great.

< Message edited by ASHBERY76 -- 7/3/2012 7:45:45 PM >

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RE: Distant Worlds Mentioned by PlaySF - 7/3/2012 8:59:12 PM   
Ralzakark


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quote:

ORIGINAL: Bebop Cola
Could you link the wikipedia page you're referencing?


The Astronomy Picture of the Day for 14 November 2008 shows the first visible light image of an exoplanet, one orbiting Fomalhaut, 25 light years away.


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RE: Distant Worlds Mentioned by PlaySF - 7/4/2012 12:32:21 AM   
Dracus

 

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I have to agree with the orginal article, 4x games needs more wonder, the idea of limiting to 19 races needs to end. Make a game with say 50 races. Set it where you select your race than have the game randomly pick say 19 other main races to go against you. Take the remaining races and use those to populate other worlds. So that you get a sense of discovery. Maybe take the best ideas fom a number of games to spice things up even more.

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RE: Distant Worlds Mentioned by PlaySF - 7/4/2012 3:30:39 AM   
jpwrunyan


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quote:

ORIGINAL: ASHBERY76

I would like a maximan range for ships based on warp tech which would make exploration relavent for the whole game.At the moment you can explore the whole galaxy in two years with fuels cell stacking.I think map trading also ruins exploration as the A.I cannot WAIT give you his maps fast enough it seems.

SpaceEmpires5 based space terrain effects would also be great.


This. I dont know a simple way to fix this, but being able to cross the galaxy with starting tech rubs me wrong too. The logistics of space travel should involve more than just having enough fuel. Maybe if there were a time limit that a ship could safely stay in hyperspace before getting eaten by the spaghetti monster or V-Giny that would limit exploration range without requiring an overhaul of the fuel system. Or maybe if your ships REFUSED to fly further than their fuel amount would allow them to return (ie do away with the 0-fuel impulse mechanic). I dont have a good answer but exploration range should be limited by more than just fuel supply. This is space travel after all, not rocket science.

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RE: Distant Worlds Mentioned by PlaySF - 7/4/2012 3:37:32 AM   
MisterBenn

 

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I also agree that the exploration brings a lot of richness and flavour. I've played several games to completion though and have never seen many of the plot events, once I saw the refugees but never a single Shakturi. A bit surprising considering the amount of warnings / messages relating to them that you get as you explore around.

In the realm of suggestions: I would love some MOO2-esque megacreatures that stay at home and guard some of the planets with best / unique resources. Captial ship sized with decent area or direct weapons that you have to build up to take down. Oh, and the Korrabian Spice planet should be independent with a unique militia of sand worms. I can't believe that's been overlooked for so long!

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RE: Distant Worlds Mentioned by PlaySF - 7/4/2012 7:42:22 AM   
jpwrunyan


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Meh, the MOO2 megacritters were never too hard to defeat though. 16 mirv nuclear missile frigates would destroy any beast with maybe 50% casualties. The best thing was simply that the megacritters gave meaning to the existence of frigates. I find the current hordes of lobsters and pirates to be more of a threat than anything that was in MOO2.

That doesnt mean I disagree with the larger point that there could be stronger kaldors that heal faster than you can plink them. But meh, not really important to me.

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