Every single 4X game has the same basic flaw — as the game progresses, the micromanagement that was fun gameplay at the start becomes a bother later in the game when colony numbers scale up. Building up one colony is fun, but building up dozens that are all at different stages of development is irritating. When you’re busy sending ships all over the galaxy and playing the political endgame, there’s usually no time for colonisation or to direct conquered worlds. The only game to solve this issue was perhaps Master of Orion III, and it only did so by putting an AI in control and making the game essentially play itself. That’s not a solution, it’s a disaster.
I propose a simple, elegant solution to the colony micromanagement problem that should let people continue colonisation well into the endgame, but without taking direct control away from the user. Read More
Exploration and colonisation are two of the four fundamental pillars of game design in a 4X game, and I’ve been thinking a lot recently about how I want to handle them in my game. I’ve put up a new page on the site with all my thoughts and prototype designs for colonisation, but I’m going to cover each idea in its own blog post.
Exploration at a planetary level:
At the start of the game, you have a single colony on an unexplored planet. You’ll send out scout ships to nearby areas of the map on search missions to find resources and other things. A mock-up of a part of the map is below: Read More
In showing people screenshots of my game project, it’s sometimes difficult to get across a sense of scale. Below is a visual update to show the scale differences between the game’s three main zoom levels. The top one is zoomed out to orbit, the second is the level at which you’ll send scout ships on survey missions around the area to push back a “fog of war” style map and uncover resources etc. The third is the level at which you’ll manage the colony. The camera angle is different there just because buildings will look better with it. Read More
I came up with a new terrain shading technique that combines some clever texture packing tricks with normal approximations in the pixel shader to produce some awesome results. The lighting on the terrain is now extremely highly detailed, and zooming down onto the terrain looks perfectly smooth. I can also feasibly add more lights for particular buildings or the cursor to make some awesome effects. Below are a few screenshots of the current work in progress: Read More
Most of this week’s work on my space 4X game has been in putting together a good system for placing items like 3D models of buildings on a planet’s surface. Part of the difficulty is in the fact that the planet graphics are generated entirely on the GPU, so the CPU doesn’t have access to that data. I came up with a fantastic system that works around that issue and gives access to not only height data but also details like what type of terrain is on a particular spot or whether it’s in an ocean.
So now I can place buildings on the surface of a planet, zoom out, rotate the planet and the building appears to stay put on the surface. When placing certain buildings like a water extractor, I can make it only placeable on water or make it fulfil any other criteria I want. I could make mining drills that you move around to find the best spot, or geothermal power stations that can only be placed on fault lines. There’s a lot of versatility in the system, so it’s been fun to work with this week. Read More
Predestination 4X game Galaxy Map: System window demonstration
Please watch fullscreen (1080p available). The video’s a bit darker and a lot blurrier than the actual game because YouTube is bloody awful at encoding videos, but you get a clear enough idea of the effect in fullscreen. Read More
A video of the 3D galaxy map for Predestination. Please watch it in 720p fullscreen, otherwise a lot of important small details like the lines between stars and the galactic plane are lost. Read More
I’ve been doing mostly under-the-hood code optimisations today so I don’t have any pretty screenshots to show for it, but I do have an idea to share that I’ve been wanting to run by other people. Master of Orion II is my touch-stone for game design, and it only had sandbox style games. But when I introduced a 3D map I realised that also adding singleplayer missions or challenges might actually be really cool. One example mission might be set up so that you own one planet that’s surrounded and you win if you can hold out until a doomsday technology is researched to let you smash your aggressors to pieces. Another might have a colossal galaxy and the challenge might be to find and secure a wormhole hidden somewhere in the chaos, then launch an attack fleet through it. Read More
Space 4X games are typically played on a 2D map, not because of any technical limitation but for gameplay reasons. 3D maps are difficult to visualise and strategise on, for example they make it more difficult to see the area of space owned by a particular enemy. Those games that do have a 3D map tend to mechanically simplify it with a “star lane” mechanic where ships can only travel along set paths between certain stars. For all intents and purposes, that isn’t a 3D map any more; it has eliminated any mechanics that actually use the third dimension. The alternative is to use a 2D map (like this one below), which is requires a bit more suspension of disbelief.
While I don’t want to diverge too heavily from the fundamental mechanics of the genre’s previously successful games, I do want to have a crack at bringing a third dimension to the map in a way that avoids these problems. If you’re interested in space 4X games, please leave a comment on this post about whether you’d want a 2D map or 3D, or answer the post with anything else you’d like to add. I’d really appreciate it! Read More