Gameplay prototype: Planet exploration & resource discovery

This week I’ve been working on a prototype of the planetary exploration feature discussed on the Colonisation page. The plan was to split each planet up into a grid, and then have the player survey squares to find out what’s there. Exploration only needs to be done once for every planet, and it’s the only way to find resources or increase a planet’s maximum population. The idea is that every time you colonise a new world you’ll explore it and decide how to capitalise on what you’ve found. You might find the planet has a lot of ore deposits, for example, and build extra factories to take advantage of it. Or you might find ancient ruins to build research outposts on, or a uranium deposit that would let you put up a nuclear power plant.

As you progress in the game, you’ll get technologies that make scanning a planet faster and easier, like scanning tech that can spend reserve energy to scan a square, several squares, or a full screen instantly. Ultimately, you’d get the tech to automatically scan all planets from orbit so that when you’re in the late game war stages you don’t have to deal with the micromanagement of exploring new planets. Below is a video of the current gameplay prototype of this exploration system (using massive placeholder models for ore deposits etc). Watch in 1080p fullscreen if possible:

Things you can discover:

  • Ore deposit — One required per factory.
  • Ancient Ruins / Scientific curiosity — Build research outpost on this. Not sure if it’ll increase research output of colony by a percentage or if you’ll need 1 per lab like ore deposits for factories.
  • Food — Particularly good food source that you can build a farm on. Not sure how I’m going to implement this bonus.
  • Settlement location — Start settlement here to increase planet population. Cost of gathering resources is based on distance to nearest settlement.
  • Coal/Oil — Required for fossil fuel power plants, which output more energy than solar/geothermal.
  • Uranium deposit — Required for nuclear power plants, highest energy output.
  • Random discovery — Find new technology, stuff you can salvage for money, or something else.

What I’d really like feedback on is the exploration/scouting system itself. You currently send scouts out from the nearest colony/settlement, and they travel to the location, survey it, and return home. This doesn’t feel very fun as the scouts all come home at different times and you have to send them out individually again. If you go for a few turns without sending one out again, it’s a waste of a limited resource. Being forced to send them out constantly isn’t really fun, and I don’t want the player spending a lot of time in this screen.

So I’ve been thinking of removing the limit on the number of scouts and just charging the player a fee to send a scout mission. That way it becomes a financial consideration, and you don’t feel obligated to send a new scout mission out every few turns. You could wait a few turns, build up some money, and then send 10-15 scouts at once. It also means that when you colonise a new planet you can spend a large amount of cash to rapidly survey the surrounding area. and start building factories etc quickly.

Anyone have any ideas or suggestions on making this exploration process more fun?

About Brendan Drain

Director @ Brain and Nerd
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