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Distant Worlds 2 - Dev Diary #4

 
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Distant Worlds 2 - Dev Diary #4 - 9/14/2021 2:28:53 PM   
Mantuvec

 

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Galactic Terrain in Distant Worlds 2

Welcome to a new Distant Worlds 2 Dev Diary.
Before we start, check out PCGamesN's interview with the developers.

This article focuses on a problem common to all space strategy games: how do you get terrain or ‘geography’ into a galactic map?

We explore how other games have approached this problem, how Distant Worlds 1 handled things, and how Distant Worlds 2 has a ‘best of both worlds’ solution to allow free movement while having natural barriers to movement.



Terrain in Strategy games

Most strategy games have a map. Many strategy games have a historical setting and thus their map has natural terrain like hills, mountains and oceans. These natural geographic features form barriers that define the shape of the map and how a player can travel across the map. So mountains and oceans can block travel or at least slow it down.

Space strategy games do not have such obvious natural terrain. Usually all of the game action occurs inside star systems, where planets are found. Space ships must travel between star systems, usually via some kind of hyperdrive or jumpdrive.



To provide natural terrain in a space game, developers often employ arbitrary restrictions on travel. The classic example of this is the idea of ‘star-lanes’ where each star system has a limited number of paths to other nearby star systems. To reach a distant system the player usually has to traverse multiple intermediate systems. These ‘star-lanes’ thus form the geography of the map or galaxy, often entirely preventing any other route to a destination.

Star-lanes definitely add shape and terrain to the map. But many players dislike them because they are very artificial and contrived.

Inter-system travel in Distant Worlds 1

Distant Worlds 1 took a different approach to inter-system travel. In DW1 you could jump to any point on the map that was within fuel range of your ship. You could even travel into deep space, far outside any star system. Many players liked this flexible approach. However there were some problems with this.



This free-movement approach, without star-lanes, meant that there wasn’t as much ‘geography’ to the galaxy. Star systems were less likely to appear in nebula clouds, so nebulae formed natural gaps between star systems. But really the only geographical constraint for movement was the varying distances between each star system.

Distant Worlds 2: Galactic Terrain without star-lanes

In Distant Worlds 2 we wanted to preserve the open travel mode of DW1. But we also wanted to add better galactic terrain: natural barriers that added interest and function to different parts of the galaxy.

The answer to this was to use nebula clouds as the natural barriers to travel. In DW2 nebula clouds dramatically slow hyperspace travel. The impact on travel time is so significant that it is usually faster to travel around the nebulae rather than through it. Thus nebulae effectively become the ‘mountain range’ analog of a terrestrial map.

In addition hyperdrive components work slightly differently in DW2. All hyperdrives have a defined jump range. This jump range limits how far a ship can travel in a single jump. Ships can still travel as far as their fuel allows them, but usually their fuel range exceeds their jump range.

The effect of these 2 new features (nebulae that slow hyperspace travel, limited jump ranges) is that ships often have to plot a path of multiple jumps between star systems to reach a destination. The precise path they choose is not fixed. It depends on their current location, their chosen destination, and their jump range.



Some star systems may thus be in naturally strategic locations, e.g. in a gap between nebulae that many ships will pass through. These locations may be good choke-points, or at least good monitoring points to keep an eye on traffic passing through the area.

Nebulae Effects

Nebula clouds can also have other effects on ships and bases. As in DW1, some nebula clouds are the locations of galactic storms that can cause damage to ships with inadequate defenses. However we have broadened the range of effects to include different types of damage to various ship components. Galactic storms can also have other effects like interfering with sensors or draining shield strength.



Some star systems can be found inside nebula clouds. You can still travel to these systems. But due to the impermeable nature of nebulae, these star systems can be some of the most remote parts of the galaxy.

Nebulae also affect long range scanners. Ships and bases are very difficult to detect when they are inside nebulae. In addition scanners cannot ‘see’ through nebulae. So you cannot scan objects on the other side of a nebula cloud. This can lead to ‘blind spots’ in scanner coverage.

Summary

Distant Worlds 2 preserves the free movement of Distant Worlds 1. You can travel to any part of the galaxy, even locations in deep space.

However you must now navigate around nebula clouds and perilous galactic storms, often jumping through multiple systems to reach your destination.

This new approach to galactic terrain and travel provides even more options for fun and strategy.



We hope you enjoyed this look at the galactic terrain of Distant Worlds.
We’ll be back later with more information about other features in Distant Worlds 2.
Post #: 1
RE: Distant Worlds 2 - Dev Diary #4 - 9/14/2021 4:35:26 PM   
SirHoraceHarkness


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This sounds fantastic for the player. But what about the AI? Will it be able to navigate like a human to bypass bad terrain or will it beeline for its objective not taking nebula and jump range into consideration and so gimp their expansion and war fighting ability? Not trying to be a negative nancy but this seems like a huge increase in complexity for an AI to resolve.

edit: Oh and those carriers spitting strike craft out of dedicated bays looks Sweeeet! Good lord can't wait for this game to release!

< Message edited by SirHoraceHarkness -- 9/14/2021 4:37:00 PM >

(in reply to Mantuvec)
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RE: Distant Worlds 2 - Dev Diary #4 - 9/14/2021 5:37:31 PM   
scotten_usa

 

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Nice! I like that you didn't switch to jump lanes/gates. It works, but it's contrived.

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RE: Distant Worlds 2 - Dev Diary #4 - 9/14/2021 5:45:20 PM   
Cauldyth

 

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I have to admit that after reading this, as well as the previously answered questions on the matter, I still don't really understand how this limited jump range thing works in practice.

Why does a ship have to stop at a system in order to initiate a second jump in order to continue its journey? What's to prevent it from stopping in deep space and then initiating that second jump from there?

(in reply to scotten_usa)
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RE: Distant Worlds 2 - Dev Diary #4 - 9/14/2021 6:16:35 PM   
SirHoraceHarkness


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quote:

ORIGINAL: Cauldyth

I have to admit that after reading this, as well as the previously answered questions on the matter, I still don't really understand how this limited jump range thing works in practice.

Why does a ship have to stop at a system in order to initiate a second jump in order to continue its journey? What's to prevent it from stopping in deep space and then initiating that second jump from there?



I think that is how it works. You can jump to any point on the map but the ship will stop and exit hyperspace when its range limit is hit. Then it recharges and jumps again till it reaches its destination with distant destinations needing multiple stops and starts.


quote:

ORIGINAL: scotten_usa

Nice! I like that you didn't switch to jump lanes/gates. It works, but it's contrived.


Dunno. I think that jumpgates as an end game tech might be useful and fun since it would allow you to easily reposition forces within your borders bypassing jump engine limitations and maybe even use another empires jump gates if treaties allow it. Maybe limit the gates to a certain amount of ships traversing it before it becomes unstable and has to restabilize to allow more transits.

< Message edited by SirHoraceHarkness -- 9/14/2021 6:48:40 PM >

(in reply to Cauldyth)
Post #: 5
RE: Distant Worlds 2 - Dev Diary #4 - 9/14/2021 7:22:00 PM   
USSAmerica


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Good stuff! As SirHorace mentioned above, the only concern would be how the AI handles the added strategic and tactical complexity. I am, however, quite sure this has been taken into account by the development team and will not be an issue!

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(in reply to SirHoraceHarkness)
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RE: Distant Worlds 2 - Dev Diary #4 - 9/14/2021 8:00:43 PM   
WiZz

 

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Personally, I don't like any limitations in a game like this. Should the terrain be present in DW? We play the game in space you know. The biggest issue with hyper in DW1 was HUGE ship ranges. Was it right when your starting scout could fly through 2/3 of galaxy? I don't think so...

(in reply to USSAmerica)
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RE: Distant Worlds 2 - Dev Diary #4 - 9/14/2021 8:06:06 PM   
SirHoraceHarkness


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quote:

ORIGINAL: USSAmerica

Good stuff! As SirHorace mentioned above, the only concern would be how the AI handles the added strategic and tactical complexity. I am, however, quite sure this has been taken into account by the development team and will not be an issue!


Given they said the game will use as many cores as you have available if needed including logical cores and that the game can intelligently create as many threads as needed to meet performance needs I'm inclined to agree with you. But no harm in asking after all.

(in reply to USSAmerica)
Post #: 8
RE: Distant Worlds 2 - Dev Diary #4 - 9/14/2021 8:41:58 PM   
StormingKiwi

 

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If the pathfinding is a problem for the AI, it will also be a problem for the human player.

But I dont believe it will be a problem, it is trivially easy to make the pathfinding consider travel time rather than distance.

(in reply to SirHoraceHarkness)
Post #: 9
RE: Distant Worlds 2 - Dev Diary #4 - 9/14/2021 8:48:08 PM   
ncc1701e


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This is awesome. Hide a fleet in a nebulae, ready to attack...

< Message edited by ncc1701e -- 9/14/2021 8:49:07 PM >


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RE: Distant Worlds 2 - Dev Diary #4 - 9/14/2021 8:49:04 PM   
SirHoraceHarkness


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quote:

ORIGINAL: StormingKiwi

If the pathfinding is a problem for the AI, it will also be a problem for the human player.

But I dont believe it will be a problem, it is trivially easy to make the pathfinding consider travel time rather than distance.


When I say pathfinding I mean the intangible things a human mind can do that is hard to replicate in an AI. You at a glance will be able to route your fleet around terrain with simple visual input. The AI has no eyes and will have to use a complex formula to figure out the optimal travel path. Not saying it can't be done just asking if it was.

(in reply to StormingKiwi)
Post #: 11
RE: Distant Worlds 2 - Dev Diary #4 - 9/14/2021 9:17:29 PM   
elliotg


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quote:

ORIGINAL: SirHoraceHarkness
This sounds fantastic for the player. But what about the AI? Will it be able to navigate like a human to bypass bad terrain or will it beeline for its objective not taking nebula and jump range into consideration and so gimp their expansion and war fighting ability? Not trying to be a negative nancy but this seems like a huge increase in complexity for an AI to resolve.

edit: Oh and those carriers spitting strike craft out of dedicated bays looks Sweeeet! Good lord can't wait for this game to release!

Don't worry, the AI ships know how to navigate around the nebula clouds :)

(in reply to SirHoraceHarkness)
Post #: 12
RE: Distant Worlds 2 - Dev Diary #4 - 9/14/2021 10:19:03 PM   
SirHoraceHarkness


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Oh goody then.

My only real complaint about DWU was the AI could go a bit wonky mid to late game or on really big maps with lots of empires.

I guess you solved that little issue.

Now giev us game!

(in reply to elliotg)
Post #: 13
RE: Distant Worlds 2 - Dev Diary #4 - 9/15/2021 2:19:45 AM   
Galaxy227


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This is all so well put together! Genius method of mixing the previous freedoms granted in DW:U, while still adding new & interesting terrain tying into established game mechanics (shields, space travel, etc). Really looking forward to the interesting strategic situations that arise.

I am curious to see exactly how important "choke-point" systems are (if at all), and whether it's actually worth securing control over them, regardless if they have colonies or not. I imagine as the game progresses and technology improves, it'll be easier to ignore the potential benefits of controlling choke-points. With better fuel efficiency, longer jump ranges, and higher jump speeds, I doubt choke-point systems will remain relevant.

Lastly, I had a question about the last image in the diary. Is the camera angle one of the new "ship" views? It looks different compared to what we've seen before.

(in reply to Mantuvec)
Post #: 14
RE: Distant Worlds 2 - Dev Diary #4 - 9/15/2021 2:39:24 AM   
SirHoraceHarkness


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Looks like a cinematic view due to lack of ui. I wonder if that is a human carrier because it looks like a ww2 flattop with the side bridge. Grrrr I want to play this so bad.

(in reply to Galaxy227)
Post #: 15
RE: Distant Worlds 2 - Dev Diary #4 - 9/15/2021 3:03:25 AM   
elliotg


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quote:

ORIGINAL: Galaxy227
This is all so well put together! Genius method of mixing the previous freedoms granted in DW:U, while still adding new & interesting terrain tying into established game mechanics (shields, space travel, etc). Really looking forward to the interesting strategic situations that arise.

I am curious to see exactly how important "choke-point" systems are (if at all), and whether it's actually worth securing control over them, regardless if they have colonies or not. I imagine as the game progresses and technology improves, it'll be easier to ignore the potential benefits of controlling choke-points. With better fuel efficiency, longer jump ranges, and higher jump speeds, I doubt choke-point systems will remain relevant.

As tech increases the preferred routes for ships can change (greater jump range, etc), so over time choke points do diminish in importance. But even in the late game you're still going to be travelling around nebulae, not through them.

quote:


Lastly, I had a question about the last image in the diary. Is the camera angle one of the new "ship" views? It looks different compared to what we've seen before.

Not completely sure as it's one of the tester's images. Must be either low-angle or bridge view.

(in reply to Galaxy227)
Post #: 16
RE: Distant Worlds 2 - Dev Diary #4 - 9/15/2021 3:05:55 AM   
elliotg


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quote:

ORIGINAL: SirHoraceHarkness
Looks like a cinematic view due to lack of ui. I wonder if that is a human carrier because it looks like a ww2 flattop with the side bridge. Grrrr I want to play this so bad.

Yes, you can hide the UI, which is what's been done for this shot.

That is indeed a human carrier model. It really does have a WW2 naval feel :)

(in reply to SirHoraceHarkness)
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RE: Distant Worlds 2 - Dev Diary #4 - 9/15/2021 4:57:56 AM   
SirHoraceHarkness


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quote:

ORIGINAL: elliotg

That is indeed a human carrier model. It really does have a WW2 naval feel :)


Is this a theme for the rest of the fleet? As in capital ships with huge turrets and big guns and destroyers and cruisers with smaller guns? Or maybe big missile turrets if you go that route etc but in general a gun/weapon ww2 like layout?

< Message edited by SirHoraceHarkness -- 9/15/2021 5:06:40 AM >

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RE: Distant Worlds 2 - Dev Diary #4 - 9/15/2021 6:32:20 AM   
OnePercent

 

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I love it!

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RE: Distant Worlds 2 - Dev Diary #4 - 9/15/2021 8:57:25 AM   
Gertjan

 

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I was sceptical at first when terrain was announced, but if it is not too much (ie there should be a galaxy generation setting to modify it), then I am perfectly fine with it. I like the fact that multiple jumps are necessary to cover greater distances. This is really one of the most important things to make 4x games better and stay away from boring starlanes other games use.

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RE: Distant Worlds 2 - Dev Diary #4 - 9/15/2021 1:03:34 PM   
ASHBERY76


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I like this.Open space while it might be realistic but is very boring in a strategic sense.

The ships in this diary are a lot better visually than the SpaceEmpires5 era ones shown so far.

< Message edited by ASHBERY76 -- 9/15/2021 1:05:37 PM >


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RE: Distant Worlds 2 - Dev Diary #4 - 9/15/2021 4:17:14 PM   
praetorreich36

 

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quote:

ORIGINAL: ncc1701e

This is awesome. Hide a fleet in a nebulae, ready to attack...


You do know sensors are useless in the Mutara nebula right?

(in reply to ncc1701e)
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RE: Distant Worlds 2 - Dev Diary #4 - 9/15/2021 5:14:56 PM   
ncc1701e


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quote:

ORIGINAL: praetorreich36


quote:

ORIGINAL: ncc1701e

This is awesome. Hide a fleet in a nebulae, ready to attack...


You do know sensors are useless in the Mutara nebula right?


Saavik: Trouble with the nebula, sir, is all that static discharge and gas clouds our tactical display. Visual won't function and shields will be useless.
Spock: Sauce for the goose, Mister Saavik. The odds will be even.

_____________________________

Chancellor Gorkon to Captain James T. Kirk:
You don't trust me, do you? I don't blame you. If there is to be a brave new world, our generation is going to have the hardest time living in it.

(in reply to praetorreich36)
Post #: 23
RE: Distant Worlds 2 - Dev Diary #4 - 9/15/2021 5:19:00 PM   
SirHoraceHarkness


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I wish this forum had upvotes.

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RE: Distant Worlds 2 - Dev Diary #4 - 9/15/2021 11:03:22 PM   
Hazard151

 

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Will there be engines that are (perhaps) on the average slower but faster than the average engine in nebulae?

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Post #: 25
RE: Distant Worlds 2 - Dev Diary #4 - 9/16/2021 12:17:16 AM   
SirHoraceHarkness


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Good question. If not then as long as the modding access is the same or better than DWU then it should be able to be implemented in a mod.

(in reply to Hazard151)
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RE: Distant Worlds 2 - Dev Diary #4 - 9/16/2021 8:43:08 AM   
Gertjan

 

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If the devs needs further inspiration for space terrain used in other games, two interesting games come to mind:

Conquest Frontier Wars, great use of nebula's and astroids etc.

Star Trek Armada, idem dito

< Message edited by Gertjan -- 9/16/2021 8:44:36 AM >

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RE: Distant Worlds 2 - Dev Diary #4 - 9/16/2021 9:18:33 AM   
Ranbir


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quote:

ORIGINAL: Galaxy227



I am curious to see exactly how important "choke-point" systems are (if at all), and whether it's actually worth securing control over them, regardless if they have colonies or not. I imagine as the game progresses and technology improves, it'll be easier to ignore the potential benefits of controlling choke-points. With better fuel efficiency, longer jump ranges, and higher jump speeds, I doubt choke-point systems will remain relevant.




Choke points will definitely be important, since that is going to be the preferred routing of private sector trade/mining ships. This will thus develop a natural busy space lane. In DW1 since everything was going in a straight line there were many scattered lines. This new stuff will make it look more akin to how sci-fi shows present the idea of important 'shipping lanes', but thankfully they're not hardcoded lanes but just the more naturally preferred route for speed and safety.

This will make managing patrol ships better.

< Message edited by Ranbir -- 9/16/2021 10:37:32 AM >


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RE: Distant Worlds 2 - Dev Diary #4 - 9/17/2021 1:01:00 PM   
Hanekem

 

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on the one hand I like the idea of adding some geography, so nebulas having an effect is interesting....
What about black holes also having an area of effect around them? or pulsars?

On the other hand, space is mostly empty, nebulas, and what other phenomena one can think of is going to be rather tiny in comparison to... everything else. Ultimately, I am a nerd, so space with no discernible geography is appealing to me. (or with very isolated geographical bumps that are very, very circumstantial)

(in reply to Ranbir)
Post #: 29
RE: Distant Worlds 2 - Dev Diary #4 - 9/19/2021 1:28:05 AM   
wetpig

 

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This is fantastic, when stellaris first came out before they made it hyperlane only, the lack of stellar "geography" was a big sticking point for me. Travel is Distant Worlds 1 even felt a bit to quick for me so this is a welcome addition in my book!

(in reply to Hanekem)
Post #: 30
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