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Official CommentsQSI Posts on the Discussion Boards — Part One

Updated March 28, 2001:

Alan Emrich, Lead Designer

Can controlling battles be disadvantageous? Your "active hand" is done using your Big Leader as a puppet for you to control (in all matters; military, political -- the works).

If he brings his own problems to the table, you have to work within them. In other words, YOU may be speaking through him, but if he's an insulting ninny that everyone disrespects... well, there's only so much you can probably do. The authority of his position will always get you SOMEWHERE, but his Ability and other attributes are also inherently factored into the equation when determining the success (and timing) of his orders.

The Big Leader: Who rises in your empire to sit in the highest seat is not entirely your decision. You can help and hinder Leaders, but the choice, ultimately, is not yours.

You (the player) represent the CIVILIZATION now, not just a particular Leader who happens to be in the spotlight at the moment. Don't worry, that guy on the stage will run out of lines eventually and the next Leader will assume the spotlight. Change happens. It's something you'll have to deal with.

Disputed Territory: >>I would like to see it where who ever visits a planet first, automatically has a "claim" to that planet. So if someone else comes along and colonizes it, you could take it to the Senate and ask for a ruling on who owns the planet. I like this, cause the Senate could agree with you, and kick the other race off the planet, or they might rule against you.

You peeked at the design doc, didn't you?

We have a system for establishing and legitimizing claims and political resolution along those lines in the design.

Senate's agenda: The Senate is NOT there to establish or maintain order in the Orion Sector. Quite the opposite. Yes, membership has its rewards, but it also comes with a price.

And if you're not a member of the Senate, they could care less about your welfare (and for that, you might be grateful).

Customizing IFPs: Brace yourselves, guys. I don't think this will be a pre-game definable feature. Doing so would wreak havoc on play-balance between various species, races, government types, etc., etc.

Will there be a military strategy A.I. data dump? I don't know if we'll do that data dump. Might save that inside info for the Strategy Guide. Don't want you out-foxing the AIs too easily now, do we?

The kind of Strategy Guide we can expect: Excuse me! When in the HECK have you EVER seen anything equating to the amount of information on a game's overarching strategic AI that you see in one of our Data Dumps in an in-box game manual? Or posted on a bulletin board or web site? Or even in most strategy guides!?

I'm sorry, man, but I believe that there is a LINE where information goes. If you need to PLAY the game, it goes in the box. If you want the nitty-gritty here's-what-all-the-numbers-and-formulae-are-running-behind-the-scenes, it goes in the Strategy Guide (at least is SHOULD, in a GOOD strategy guide). That latter kind of mineutia is too intimidating for most users to put in the box (and will be WAY too much material for MOO3 -- they'd have to sell the game by its WEIGHT if we put all that in there). I believe, despite your remark above, that those kinds of details, and how to "undo" the AI and beat the game, are STRICTLY within the perview of the Strategy Guide.

Sorry, but that's the philosophy I live and write by. You'll get more information in the box in MOO3 and from our web support than most games would give you in a SERIES of today's so-called "Strategy Guides." And the Strategy Guide we WILL do for this game should be nothing short of a heavy tome full of detailed data that, in my opinion, is EXACTLY what you'd expect to pay extra for when you buy a Strategy Guide.

Why not ask some of the others here who've read the MOO or CIV or MOM strategy guides that I've co-authored. Ask them if they got their money's worth! Ask them if we delivered all of the out-of-the-box goods that a Strategy Guide SHOULD have. Go on, ask!

Choosing initial ethoi: >>I know in MOO3 your Ethoi will change, but the player should be able to define the Series [no real game effect in that and it adds a lot to the feel, so that should be for a minimum of points] and at least one Ideal [a real game effect so this should cost points] of one of the 2-4 major ethoi of the starting world. This way, the other Ethoi, which make up 60-70% of the population, are still random, and the second ideal of the "chosen" ethoi is also random.

Um... no. Here's why:

I do NOT want players "bogged down" on the Race Picks screen. If they have a bajillion ethos to wade though and learn about before they can make a reasonable decision before starting the game, that's bad. A player should be able to breeze through the Race Picks the FIRST time using their innate knowledge of what the Race Picks do based almost solely on what we CALL THEM.

If you see "Superior Farming," you should be able to say, "Yeah, that sounds good." If you see, "Initial Ethos: Revenge," you'll say "What the ____?" and break down to do a crash study of Ethos in the game.

BUZZ! Wrong! That's bad game design. NEVER slow the player down from entering the game like greased lighting while making cool decisions along the way.

So, rather than force you to learn all about ether Ethos so that you can make a competent decision before the game commences, we give you some round choices that make sense by the nature of their very names and move on from there. Sure, you don't get pin-point anal-retentive control, but hey... you get SOME. And it's our job to make sure it won't make you want to put your fist through the monitor (unless you deliberately went for something bad to pick up a few Pick Points to spend elsewhere).

More on the same: One great observation you guys have made, and one I want the design team to consider, is "shaping" the initial Ethoi selection to conform with other initial race picks for consistency's sake. That's an excellent point. If you pick "superior science" (or whatever it gets called) a Luddite Ethoi should NOT be 'in the cards' at start for you. I completely agree.

Race Pick being uncomplicated: And that's the key, people. The Race Pick needs to be fast, no need to look anything up, and ultra-intuitive. Having people stop for a lesson in Ethoi (or anything else, for that matter), is NOT what the Race Pick screen will be about.

Strategy guide: FYI, it looks like Prima / Infogrames / Petra Schlunk will be the "iron triangle" of the MOO3 Strategy Guide. Looks like a good team to me. Naturally, Petra will have me helping her, but she did an bang-up job on the MOM manual and Strategy Guide.

More on the same: Truly, it's in everyone's best interests to get it out as close to game-ship as possible. HOWEVER, our Infogrames producer Constantine has ASSURED us that the Strategy Guide is to be RIGHT (like all the old Strategy Guides I've written -- he's a big fan of those and THAT'S the kind of Strategy Guide he wants for MOO3; I think everyone does).

BUT, the MOO3 Strategy Guide has some delicious inside advantages going for it. For one thing, I've written the design doc in a Strategy Guide style (which, apparently, everyone reading it finds quite refreshing). Thus, Petra will have some "building blocks" of text to work with and arrange to suit her needs. Second, she has very short, very wide connection to the entire MOO3 team. (Hmm... that didn't come out sounding right, as I wasn't necessarily referring to myself -- but it reads too funny to delete, so there's some self-deprecating humor for you.) Basically, she lives 10 minutes from Quicksilver, has done strategy guides with this team before (for Conquest of the New World), and both her brother and husband work here. So, the lines of communication are very short. This bodes well, as she can always get a quick answer as to what a particular formula is or to get a data dump of some table or other.

So, from a "hard facts" perspective, the MOO3 strategy guide has a big inside jump. Way more than most Strategy Guide writers could ever hope for. NO ONE makes a game with the Strategy Guide in mind, but MOO3 has had that possibility being worked on since its inception and we're planned accordingly right from the start.

Now, from a "here's how you play to BEAT this game" perspective, that's going to be tougher. If the book comes out anywhere near the product ship-date, YOU guys will be the experts, not us. So, while we can give you some pointers for undoing the AI and other human players, it will be up to someone out there, I expect, to put a web site with every idea everyone has ever posted on the internet about it and share it with all. We'll give you some good stuff, but it's hard to be definitive on that particular count and still be timely. Still, you KNOW we'll do our best.

Defensive spies: We have counter-intelligence and a social "Oppress-o-meter." That is what is used to counter spies and guard State Secrets.

Submarine style battles: EVERYONE concerned has long loved the idea of "space submarines" for MOO3.

That said, there is a quagmire of things to deal with on this subject and lots of questions to answer.

First, submarines are primarily a "strategic warfare" weapon. Off on their own hunting easy prey. You can't really do that in the MOO3 paradigm short off adding a whole new system/anti-system, and we're got plenty of new systems already (thank you very much).

So, if you rule out their strategic application, then you have their tactical application (i.e., in combat). Here, they model more the Japanese WW2 approach to submarine doctrine, which is to shun merchant ships in favor of "more honorable" targets, like capital ships.

But ships work in Task Forces. Subs need to be more "free form" in their 'battlefield' maneuvers. Do we attach subs to existing TFs as "also ships," or make submarine-only restricted TFs? And if we do the latter, won't it need a whole separate ship combat AI to make subs "do the right thing" as opposed to conventional ships?

So, there's a lot for us to think about here, and we ARE still thinking about it. Subs (well, "very stealthy ships") ARE on our 'wish list' of stuff we'd like to do. There's just a lot questions to answer first (and then to find the time).

More on the same: A "submarine Task Force" (for lack of a better term) would have to THINK and MANEUVER completely differently than standard task forces. That is, it must be able to close on an enemy TF (and remember, that includes planets and their defenses) and then blast them concurrently from opposite directions. In effect, setting up a cross-fire with a single TF (which other TFs cannot easily achieve). It's a whole different ball game.

Currency: Well, there IS an AU "standard" in MOO3. And that's the common medium of exchange. HOWEVER, each civilization also has its local currency (though, for game purposes, we convert everything to AUs just to protect player sanity). That said, there is the chance to inflate/deflate and play other "monetary games" with your civilization's own currency (and, thus, have it strengthen or weaken in comparison to other civ's currency). In other words, there's a RELATIVE measure of currency strength in MOO3, not an absolute one.

What does that do in practical game terms? Well, we keep it all pretty simple, really. If you're in a trade deal with another civ, the guy with the stronger currency gets a percent "bonus" on his end. If people are looking to immigrate, having a strong currency is a "pull factor." When measuring the fabric of your civilization, we'll consider (among a zillion other things) the strength of your currency. Stuff like that. Nothing you really NEED to worry about, just stuff for us to factor into the equations to explain WHY some things happen the way they do in MOO3.

The term "COW": Everyone,

Often you will read someone on the team (or, now, others as they learn it) use the word "COW" to describe some aspect of the design for MOO3. Allow me to explain the vernacular here once and for all:

"COW" means "Comes Out in the Wash." In other words, if we put two aspects into the design that would, in effect, "cancel each other out" or put in an aspect that simply would not have any real effect in play that would be cool or even noticed, then we think the best thing to do is leave all that stuff OUT of the design and say "COW." That is, those aspects will come out in the wash, so why bother? (The hardest part of game design is deciding what to EXclude, after all.)

The term COW comes from the great Jim Dunnigan, board wargame design guru from the 70s, who (among others) took the time to teach Alan Emrich a few of the mysterious arts of Game Design.

It's only a simple irony that COW and MOO ended up used so often on these discussion boards.

Diplomacy: While diplomacy in MOO (NOT MOO2) was laudable, it lacked a certain suppleness and sensitivity that we sentient players possess. THOSE are the qualities I'm after. Lately I've hammered into the model such factors as spite, malice, and pragmatism. You can tell me if I'm just blowing smoke once we post up more on this, but I think it's starting to shape up pretty well.

Will telepathy be in MOO3? I believe that we will have telepathy in the abstract, not in the applied. That is, you might see the word mentioned here and there, but it's not something you research and build in the game. So, while we pay tribute that that aspect of science-fiction, we hardly dwell on it.

Counter-intelligence: Much of counterintelligence depends of what kind of society you have. The more open it is, the harder the job of counterintelligence. Of course, the ability of your Spymaster will also have a considerable bearing on matters.

The weakening Orion Senate: Fortunately, over the course of the game, the Orion Senate's power SHOULD wane in comparison with the REST of the civilizations out there, so between yourselves you should be able to must enough votes to pass things over their objections (which is impossible early on) or stop their fleet.

Species distinctions: I have the "first pass" at the list you're seeking, but am not ready to put it out there yet.

Oh, heck, here's a "teaser:"

Lithovore [Geodic species]
Cybernetic [Cybernetik species]
Environmental Adaptability: [Saurian species]
Social Order [Insectoid species]
Ruthless Efficiency [Etherean species]
Ingenuity [Humanoid species]
Heightened Awareness [Ichthytosian species]
"The Need" [Harvester species]

Again, these are subject to change, but that's looking like a good list right now. Of course, I've left off all the details of what each means in actual game play. (Hey, you're lucky I got Rantz to okay that much about the Harvesters!)

 

David "Stormhound" Craft, Assistant Designer

Multiplayer: Multiplayer has been designed in from the ground up in MOO3, rather than being tacked on as an afterthought as happens in some games. We think you'll be satisfied with what you get in that regard.

Fleet interception: One of the earlier design decisions that I saw was that all combat would occur at significant points like systems. Intercept capability (a la Stars!) has never been planned into the game, and won't be.

Ship names: Here is the ultimate, we're-done-fiddling-with-this list:

Ship type
==================
Lancer
Cutter
Corvette
Frigate
Destroyer
Light Cruiser
Cruiser
Battle Cruiser
Battleship
Dreadnought
Superdreadnought
Titan
Behemoth
Leviathan

Orbital type
==================
Defense Sat
Light Defense Platform
Defense Platform
Heavy Defense Platform
Light Monitor
Monitor
Heavy Monitor
Star Base
Heavy Star Base
Battlestation
Heavy Battlestation
Star Fortress
Heavy Star Fortress
Citadel

 

[ VIEW COMPLILATION FROM MARCH 12, 2001 ]

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