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RE: [gamedesign-l] Startopia additions

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  • Wayne Imlach
    Many of the suggestions below where considered for Startopia, but never made it beyond concept due to limitations in team size and time - we had to be very
    Message 1 of 4 , May 31, 2002
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      Many of the suggestions below where considered for Startopia, but never made
      it beyond concept due to limitations in team size and time - we had to be
      very strict in keeping our feature list realistic, and avoid any feature
      creep while in production.

      - Camping on the biodeck
      Original designs called for three animals to be present on the Biodeck,
      useable as both a commodity to be converted to goods, and as a source of
      entertainment for visitors. They where a land creature called the Gloath, a
      sea animal called the Phinray and an aerial creature known as a Pteraglyde.
      I believe concept art for these creatures might be found in the Prima Guide.
      In addition, given time we would have provided some additional activities
      for visitors beyond swimming and strolling - sledding on hills and fishing
      being two examples.

      - Transportation
      We did have a concept for a space Taxi service based on the vehicle from
      "The Fith Element" and the automated taxis from Total Recall - these robot
      cabs would hover around and could be hailed by visitors to be taken to their
      destination.

      - Operations Control
      In hindsight some aditional interface for such global control would have
      been a good addition - I underestimated just how large and complex running a
      full scale station could become.

      - Saved layouts
      A nice idea - again overlooked due to our underestimation of final scale of
      the game.

      - Bigger and smaller stations
      One of the constraints of the game was that the initial game engine on which
      I had to base my design was a graphics demo for a Torus Space Station, and
      was optimized for a very specific three deck, 16 section architecture. I
      suppose if I began another project like Startopia, I'd opt for something a
      little more flexible to allow not only torus spacestations, but planar
      Spacecraft Hulls or Dyson Sphere style enclosed environments.

      - Cover
      - HMG
      Originally the combat system was more complex with the combatatnts
      advancing, retreating, taking cover and fighting hand to hand. But with only
      a single programmer and a limited time in the schedule, it had to be trimmed
      down considerably into it's bare bones state to even make it into the game.

      - Friendly fire
      There is friendly fire - while combatants are generally accurate when they
      fire, the laser beam they shoot will collide with intervening objects,
      including bystanders if they happen to run across the line of fire!

      Had Startopia been more of a financial success I'm sure many of these
      features would have made it into a sequel - but alas money talks, and
      Startopia was perhaps the right game but at the wrong time.




      -----Original Message-----
      From: Brandon J. Van Every [mailto:vanevery@...]
      Sent: Friday, May 31, 2002 12:42 PM
      To: Gamedesign-L (E-mail)
      Subject: [gamedesign-l] Startopia additions


      A drill I've been doing after every game I sink a lot of time into, is
      to design a number of *unique*, *strongly differentiated* features to
      add to a game. Not just monsters with different artwork and stats. For
      Startopia I have a growing list:

      - Camping on the biodeck
      People would spend time sleeping and possibly hunting and fishing on the
      biodeck. The latter would require the creation of more fauna. As a
      game design element, it would make the most sense for a *huge* biodeck,
      like the entire station. Campers need their solitude, if there's too
      much farming or recreation going on, people don't camp. The advantage
      of camping would be that certain races, I suppose visitors?, would get
      big mood improvements without needing other kinds of attention or
      services. The disadvantage would be that they're not spending any money
      while they're camping.

      - Transportation
      Because I'm an optimizational tightwad, I really don't need 20 decks
      worth of redundant stuff to run a station or conquer it. I don't see
      any gameplay value in repetition, once I've laid out a "perfect" deck
      element I don't see why I should have to lay out other ones elsewhere.
      Rather than build everything several times on the station and have
      everyone walk to their local hospital etc. on foot, they'd jump on the
      monorail.

      - Operations Control
      I really shouldn't have to individually turn on all the facilities, I
      should be able to do it by deck at least. I shouldn't have to
      individually queue up factories. Operations Control would give you a
      centralized place to do these sorts of tasks. You'd really only need
      one OC.

      - Saved layouts
      This is an addition I'd make to any "builder" game that goes past a
      certain scale. It's appropriate if you own the entire station. I
      should be able to slap down a composite set of building plans in a
      particular arrangement.

      Incidentally, I'd note that one of the strengths of Startopia as a
      builder game is that you can repack your buildings. You're not stuck
      with your floor plans, you don't have to demolish stuff and just lose
      money. Startopia is amenable to prototype planning; the main
      constraint, in my experience, is the amount of time you have available
      to plan. Of course once you've conquered the station this isn't an
      issue anymore.

      - Bigger and smaller stations
      I know that in the past I've said "one map size should be good enough
      for anyone!" It certainly creates efficiencies for the AI and graphics
      programming, and probably even for artwork planning and game design
      since you only have 1 size to deal with. The choice that was made is
      definitely appropriate for RTS. However, when I get into "builder" mode
      I'd like a lot more room to build, particularly if your model of
      building is transportation networks + military strongpoints like I'm
      outlining in these design ideas. Conversely a tiny station, say a
      cylinder of 4 or 8 decks instead of the typical 20, would really force
      people to optimize, compete for space, and engage in close quarters
      battle without the luxury of Security Columns with wide open fields of
      fire. Although for artwork, the station curvature would be pretty
      noticeable with 4 decks.

      - Cover
      How differently the combat units would fight if they sought cover! No
      more stupid AIs running through the security column fire. Cover would
      actually allow some tactics in the fighting, instead of just picking a
      reasonable massing point and hoping for the best. There would be big
      tradeoffs of putting Security Columns in wide open, undeveloped areas
      vs. close proximity to all the other buildings. Easy for a Gor commando
      to slip past a column and detonate a satchel charge if there are a lot
      of buildings around. I think the Gors with that specific responsibility
      should be the ones with Skill level 5. They could have little green
      army helmets and a backpack full of explosives.

      - HMG
      If you *really* want to get tactical in combat, give the troops a heavy
      machine gun that can only be dragged slowly by your troops and can shoot
      the width of 2 decks. You'd want to position your HMGs to have
      commanding views of long corridors. This would radically affect deck
      design and tactics. You'd do the old Squad Leader "block busting" drill
      of isolating an area you want to take over with your fields of machine
      gun fire. Might need to increase the range and firepower of Security
      Columns though. Then again, you could make HMG accuracy at a given
      range depend on the skill of the gunner. Manning the HMG should
      probably be a Gor job, maybe it takes Skill 4 to man a HMG. In
      peacetime they'd wander off and leave the HMG sitting where it is, then
      come back to it. A saboteur might grab it meanwhile, so you'd better
      have enough Gors to man the HMGs! Maybe you'd also need an Armory to
      store HMGs, an electric fence would keep the civvies from getting access
      to it.

      - Friendly fire
      I don't think I've noticed innocent bystanders getting blown away, it
      seems like only the guilty combatants suffer. Then again, maybe the
      innocents are just good at running away? The Prima Strategy Guide says
      the innocents get shot up but I've never actually seen someone die from
      it. I'd like to see those kittens bite it in a crossfire, so they don't
      turn into ravenous beetles later! Also, I notice that nobody misses.
      Can't have friendly fire if even the most unskilled Salt Hog hits with
      pinpoint accuracy.

      - Make hill climbing slow
      If people didn't move as fast going up a slope as they do on flat land,
      you could devise all sorts of advantageous choke point terrain lest
      someone tries to invade you. Commaned by your HMGs, of course. The
      presence of HMGs on the biodeck would make Karmarama farmers refuse to
      farm there. In peacetime they might even quit working on any biodeck
      and stand around protesting with peace signs! Nobody will use the
      biodeck for recreation or camping when there's a HMG nearby.

      You could of course add military stuff forever, but that's not my point.
      My point is to create some actual combat tactics since Startopia is weak
      in that department. Small arms combat tactics are really interesting,
      you can do a lot with just infantry and machine guns.



      Cheers, www.3DProgrammer.com
      Brandon Van Every Seattle, WA

      Use 2 keyboards, one for each hand and spread far apart! Your shoulders
      will thank you. One USB and one PS/2 keyboard will work, coordination
      is easy.
    • Brandon J. Van Every
      ... Well, speaking from the experience of designing for spheres, it is *not* trivial! Torii and planes are just rectangular arrays, all you have to do is
      Message 2 of 4 , Jun 1, 2002
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        > - Bigger and smaller stations
        > One of the constraints of the game was that the initial game
        > engine on which
        > I had to base my design was a graphics demo for a Torus Space
        > Station, and
        > was optimized for a very specific three deck, 16 section
        > architecture. I
        > suppose if I began another project like Startopia, I'd opt
        > for something a
        > little more flexible to allow not only torus spacestations, but planar
        > Spacecraft Hulls or Dyson Sphere style enclosed environments.

        Well, speaking from the experience of designing for spheres, it is *not*
        trivial! Torii and planes are just rectangular arrays, all you have to
        do is provide wraparound code. Spheres of any topology, beit
        rectangular or icosahedral, require not only wraparound code but
        orientation rules at points of singularity. At a minimum you'll have
        singularities at 2 poles; if you opt to spread your errors out over an
        icosahedron, you'll have singularities at the 12 vertices. Meaning,
        suddenly you're moving through a pentagon instead of a hexagon and that
        messes things up.

        The only "easy" way to do a sphere is to represent it analytically as a
        sphere, just use equations for surface movement. And even then,
        singularity problems don't go away, you still have to be careful about
        how you deal with them. Plus you get all the joys of quadratic equation
        intersection, yielding higher order quartic equations. I backed off of
        that task, I decided the horsepower of a modern computer was far better
        spent on something less complicated. A discrete measurement size of "a
        hex" has numerous advantages for computation and game mechanics.



        > - Cover
        > - HMG
        > Originally the combat system was more complex with the combatatnts
        > advancing, retreating, taking cover and fighting hand to
        > hand. But with only
        > a single programmer and a limited time in the schedule, it
        > had to be trimmed
        > down considerably into it's bare bones state to even make it
        > into the game.

        I don't think all that advancing/retreating crapola is much fun. Smacks
        of micromanagement. I think you'd get the most bang for the buck out of
        "units seek cover" and "HMGs control lanes of fire."

        > - Friendly fire
        > There is friendly fire - while combatants are generally
        > accurate when they
        > fire, the laser beam they shoot will collide with intervening objects,
        > including bystanders if they happen to run across the line of fire!

        Well, the fire can't be *that* friendly, because otherwise these huge
        clods of units would mow themselves down when restricted in a corridor.

        Incidentally, this was a less than satisfactory termination of one of my
        sandbox games this evening. I put a lot of time into it, I tried to get
        ahead by doing trade and blowing off research (cuz it's rather tedious
        really). Well, I think the AIs are better multitaskers than I am.
        Finally one of 'em decided to invade me, and I was absolutely astounded
        at the number of units he overran me with.

        So then I restarted, this time doing lab stuff and blowing off trade,
        which is the way I'd won previous games although it took forever. Not
        long into the game, a saboteur planted a bomb. I picked up a previously
        defused bomb, thinking this was the correct bomb. BOOM! my dining area
        blows up and kills just about everybody on the station. So, I go to
        repack the dining room. Well, it's bye-bye. I quit. That kind of
        punishment is not much fun at 3 am, I'm a little tired to be dealing
        with saboteurs that can take out the basis of my station with just 1
        bomb.

        I am thinking that Startopia is always going to require a tedious game
        opening, some combo of trade and research, and you're just going to have
        to slog through it to get to a more comfortable midgame. The problem
        is, if you don't get there soon enough, the AIs develop overwhelming
        force and just destroy you. I'm not liking the implications of these
        mechanics, but I'll suspend final judgement until I've tried a few more
        iterations of sandbox play.

        I hope it turns out I haven't already identified the sole winning
        strategy for a human against the AIs: build lotsa security columns, let
        the AIs kill themselves on your columns.

        > Had Startopia been more of a financial success I'm sure many of these
        > features would have made it into a sequel - but alas money talks, and
        > Startopia was perhaps the right game but at the wrong time.

        Didn't you say that something bad happened regarding Eidos' marketing
        support of your title? Like, totally inadequate advertizing or
        something?


        Cheers, www.3DProgrammer.com
        Brandon Van Every Seattle, WA

        20% of the world is real.
        80% is gobbledygook we make up inside our own heads.
      • Wayne Imlach
        - Spheres: Of course, spherical designs would rely heavily on some clever programming! At the least I would have liked simple flat maps to represent the decks
        Message 3 of 4 , Jun 3, 2002
        • 0 Attachment
          - Spheres:

          Of course, spherical designs would rely heavily on some clever programming!
          At the least I would have liked simple flat maps to represent the decks of a
          spaceship - which would have introduced interesting deck shapes for players
          to fit their room designs into.

          - Fighting:

          I was referring more to the AI of the combatants being improved, rather than
          increasing the players interaction, though I had designed a very simple
          interface for managing the battle had our little alien fighters done more
          than choose the nearest target and blast away! A note about the Security
          Column Strategy - very effective, but expensive too as when the columns fire
          they use up energy. However, if you are at the level where money is no
          problem, then this is a valid way of crushing your opponents. Note that if
          you haven't installed the patch, the game is geared toward easy management,
          with it being quite difficult to not make energy. The patch allows you to
          change the economic balance if you want a game that is challenging
          economically, even with war between admins turned off.

          - Saboteurs:

          Assassins and saboteurs can be something of a hindrance if you're
          concentrating on design rather than competitive play - either switch them
          off in the sandbox settings, or develop the station with them in mind and
          avoid concentrating facilities in one area. That said I'm surprised a single
          bomb was so devastating - when you mention 'dining area' do you mean all
          your dinomats where concentrated in a small space? If so, then that's a risk
          you need to consider with that design method.

          - Eidos:

          Yup - minimal marketing support and crippled manual because they would only
          pay for a small booklet and nothing more. There is an electronic version of
          an extended manual with the game (I think a link gets installed) which
          includes much of what is mentioned in the tutorials, along with a few
          additional hints and tips.


          The game itself is very customisable by the way - there is a small modding
          guide available from the Muckyfoot website, and it explains (roughly!) how
          to not only design your own missions, but how to rebalance the game if you
          feel certain aspects are hindering your play style.

          Regards,

          Wayne.


          -----Original Message-----
          From: Brandon J. Van Every [mailto:vanevery@...]
          Sent: Saturday, June 01, 2002 3:53 AM
          To: gamedesign-l@yahoogroups.com
          Subject: RE: [gamedesign-l] Startopia additions


          > - Bigger and smaller stations
          > One of the constraints of the game was that the initial game
          > engine on which
          > I had to base my design was a graphics demo for a Torus Space
          > Station, and
          > was optimized for a very specific three deck, 16 section
          > architecture. I
          > suppose if I began another project like Startopia, I'd opt
          > for something a
          > little more flexible to allow not only torus spacestations, but planar
          > Spacecraft Hulls or Dyson Sphere style enclosed environments.

          Well, speaking from the experience of designing for spheres, it is *not*
          trivial! Torii and planes are just rectangular arrays, all you have to
          do is provide wraparound code. Spheres of any topology, beit
          rectangular or icosahedral, require not only wraparound code but
          orientation rules at points of singularity. At a minimum you'll have
          singularities at 2 poles; if you opt to spread your errors out over an
          icosahedron, you'll have singularities at the 12 vertices. Meaning,
          suddenly you're moving through a pentagon instead of a hexagon and that
          messes things up.

          The only "easy" way to do a sphere is to represent it analytically as a
          sphere, just use equations for surface movement. And even then,
          singularity problems don't go away, you still have to be careful about
          how you deal with them. Plus you get all the joys of quadratic equation
          intersection, yielding higher order quartic equations. I backed off of
          that task, I decided the horsepower of a modern computer was far better
          spent on something less complicated. A discrete measurement size of "a
          hex" has numerous advantages for computation and game mechanics.



          > - Cover
          > - HMG
          > Originally the combat system was more complex with the combatatnts
          > advancing, retreating, taking cover and fighting hand to
          > hand. But with only
          > a single programmer and a limited time in the schedule, it
          > had to be trimmed
          > down considerably into it's bare bones state to even make it
          > into the game.

          I don't think all that advancing/retreating crapola is much fun. Smacks
          of micromanagement. I think you'd get the most bang for the buck out of
          "units seek cover" and "HMGs control lanes of fire."

          > - Friendly fire
          > There is friendly fire - while combatants are generally
          > accurate when they
          > fire, the laser beam they shoot will collide with intervening objects,
          > including bystanders if they happen to run across the line of fire!

          Well, the fire can't be *that* friendly, because otherwise these huge
          clods of units would mow themselves down when restricted in a corridor.

          Incidentally, this was a less than satisfactory termination of one of my
          sandbox games this evening. I put a lot of time into it, I tried to get
          ahead by doing trade and blowing off research (cuz it's rather tedious
          really). Well, I think the AIs are better multitaskers than I am.
          Finally one of 'em decided to invade me, and I was absolutely astounded
          at the number of units he overran me with.

          So then I restarted, this time doing lab stuff and blowing off trade,
          which is the way I'd won previous games although it took forever. Not
          long into the game, a saboteur planted a bomb. I picked up a previously
          defused bomb, thinking this was the correct bomb. BOOM! my dining area
          blows up and kills just about everybody on the station. So, I go to
          repack the dining room. Well, it's bye-bye. I quit. That kind of
          punishment is not much fun at 3 am, I'm a little tired to be dealing
          with saboteurs that can take out the basis of my station with just 1
          bomb.

          I am thinking that Startopia is always going to require a tedious game
          opening, some combo of trade and research, and you're just going to have
          to slog through it to get to a more comfortable midgame. The problem
          is, if you don't get there soon enough, the AIs develop overwhelming
          force and just destroy you. I'm not liking the implications of these
          mechanics, but I'll suspend final judgement until I've tried a few more
          iterations of sandbox play.

          I hope it turns out I haven't already identified the sole winning
          strategy for a human against the AIs: build lotsa security columns, let
          the AIs kill themselves on your columns.

          > Had Startopia been more of a financial success I'm sure many of these
          > features would have made it into a sequel - but alas money talks, and
          > Startopia was perhaps the right game but at the wrong time.

          Didn't you say that something bad happened regarding Eidos' marketing
          support of your title? Like, totally inadequate advertizing or
          something?


          Cheers, www.3DProgrammer.com
          Brandon Van Every Seattle, WA

          20% of the world is real.
          80% is gobbledygook we make up inside our own heads.
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