Updated April 27, 2001:
Alan Emrich, Lead Designer
Moons: Moons can't be larger than planets. In fact, if they're the same size as the planet, they're "twin planets." Don't worry, that's all covered in the formulae that generate the map. We're cool there.
Why Big Leaders are mortal: We wanted a game built around "windows of opportunity." Where luck is the meeting of preparation and opportunity and someone will to take a risk on a NOW endeavor instead of continuing to prepare to do something totally safe and predictable can sail through the game like a corsair and upset other player's best laid plans.
To that end, civilizations have often prospered and failed by the nature of the leader on throne at a particular time. When you're blessed with an Alexander or a Sulieman, you'd better make hay while the sun is shining. When you have Ivan IV or Bill Clinton in command, it's best to wait it out before venturing beyond your own frontiers.
There may be a turn or two in every MOO3 civilization's existence that see a windfall or near-ruin. There will be turns that, when things start to slide and nothing BAD happens, you'll consider it a GOOD turn. Think of those as the "seasons" of a civilization. There will be cycles; and the convergence of your civilization's cycle and mine may mean an advantage for one or the other, but the wheel may yet come around again.
That is why your Big Leader isn't "you," but someone you must guide. Big Leaders come and go. YOU are forever. Exploit the good leaders when they come, hide the bad ones, and hope that Louis XVIII or Czar Nicholas I is not on the throne when the Revolution starts...
Saving games: It's been a long time since we discussed saved games for MOO3. Cory Nelson could find out the REAL answers (if they've been decided "for sure"), but I do remember some of our discussions.
If my failing memory serves me, I believe there will be all the save game slots you want (whatever your hard drive will hold, pretty much). It's the AUTOSAVE that people rely on the most, however.
I believe that the Autosave will occur twice each game turn. Once before you start your planning phase, and again immediately after the Planning Phase has ended before Combat commences.
As for when you can MANUALLY save, that I'm not so sure of. I recall discussions about there being times and places where such saving would be allowed, but don't recollect the details.
Cory Nelson following up: The current plan is to have a hard number of save slots so that we don't have people filling up hard drives with save games. We were thinking something like 20 though so that you still ended up with plenty for those that like a lot of games saved. This number isn't set in stone, we'll probably make the final decision when we do that screen.
We were also planning two autosaves as you mentioned and I haven't heard anything to change that.
As for when you can save the game, you'll be able to save at any time however the save it makes will be the status of the turn before you make your moves. This deters the 'load and save' type of playing (although doesn't stop it) and helps in keeping the size of the save game down to a reasonable size. :)
Temporary modifiers in diplomacy: In the diplomacy model, among the numerous "temporary modifiers" to diplomacy, you'll find the influence of various "moral outrage" events. If you use banned weapons, blow up planets, or commit other acts egregious to the sensibilities of the Orion sector, you will be tarred with a broad brush. But, over time, that tar will eventually come off.
Editing: The team is killing itself to make things easy for you guys to twiddle with stuff post-purchase. Because of the depth of the game running "under the hood" and the mind-boggling length and breadth of the technology component of the game, you'll be adrift in a potential sea of numbers the likes of which it might take a digital Columbus to cross, but we'll make it pretty easy for you to dip your oar in those waters and go very far, indeed.
Harrying opponent's systems during peacetime: You can do that (indirectly, of course) in MOO3 by encouraging piracy in your neighbor's territory.
Will there be gravity? Of course! Just hold the MOO3 game box above the ground, let it go, and watch what happens. Viola! Gravity.
Now, INSIDE the box, gravity affects ground troops in battle. The RTCombat battle zone blocks out "gravity wells" around the planet and its moons (so you can't get too close to them, just "close enough").
New opponents arriving throughout the game: >> AFAIK there won't be any new "player" races (either played by humans or AIs) entering during a game.
Don't be so sure about that. This is a feature I would like to very much incorporate.
>> Cool. VERY cool. Could make long multiplayer games MUCH easier to get going, too.
That's one of the dreams I'm after.
IFPs: >> I do mind having to keep IFPs to adequately defend myself...
I would mind that, too. I believe we have a VERY simple design solution to that problem (all the best design solutions are simple). That is, your get your fresh "turnly" dollop of IFPs in the "middle" of each turn, just prior to combat. Thus, you'll have the maximum possible amount to use for battles at all times. Of course, if you blow them all gallivanting around the stars PERSONALLY overseeing every space and ground conflict... well, you'll know how Napoleon felt when he was sitting in Moscow while rumors about an overthrow of the French government started to swirl around. :-)
So, it's not the IFPs you "save" for combat that will be your concern; but the IFP's you "save" for administration of policies NEXT turn that you need to sweat.
>> If the IFP feature is too restricting for me tom enjoy the game, I'm pretty sure that in time someone will build a 'fix' for it...
I'm certain sure of that, too.
One tiny point, though. Judging from the whole of the design, mucking with IFPs will, from my vantage point and in my own personal opinion, have a seriously detrimental impact upon play balance. IFPs are designed to be the FULCRUM upon which all play balance in MOO3 rests. So, take this cautionary note for what it's worth. I'm sure everyone else knows "best" and I won't be listened to on this issue, but hey -- I tried.
Turn sequence: At its most general level, the turn sequence is shaping up to be:
Simultaneous Planning Phase (press "done" to commit and end your activity for this phase)
Combat Phase (Space, Ground)
Diplomatic Resolution Phase
Now, there's some various segments in each phase, plus some "housekeeping" stuff here and there, but you get the idea.
Quality assurance: Our producer, Cory Nelson, is a VETRAN from the trenches of QA. Believe me, MOO3 is going to be put through its paces for a LONG time before we ship it. Including "blind testing" feedback from some of you hard core types to gauge your reactions to the innumerable new things in MOO3. We know and we've planned to shake the heck out of this thing before it ventures off onto the store shelves. There's a lot of new stuff here, so we expect to do a lot of bug-hunting and play-balancing prior to release. I mean, it just makes sense, right?
So, have a little faith. At some point prior to release, I'm sure you can expect to find a video on the MOO3 web site that will show you what a space battle will look like. (With the help of some good luck, we may even have something along these lines to show at E3.) So, keep the faith. We'll show you stuff when there's something to show you. You know we've been very open about things, and space combat is no exception. You just have to be patient. You guys are NOT being forgotten out there!
Can being over-enthusiastic in crushing a rebellion create further unrest? Oh, yeah, baby. Stormhound has the details, but you can definitely hose yourself with the way you handle a seemingly small "local" rebellion.
Viewing battles: You'll get INFORMATION about ALL your battles. You just won't get to see them "on film." Instead, you'll have the commanding officer's "After Action Report."
More on the same: >> As far as I can tell the primary objection [to not show after-combat films of space battles] is because it will mess up pacing in multiplayer, so perhaps have that as an option...
Or, better still, it could just be a rule. If you DON'T buy a ticket to the show, you don't see it and have to read about it in the papers the next day. That might ENCOURAGE players to buy some combat tickets from time to time who might not otherwise.
(Oh, and yes, it could also really screw up the pacing of multiplayer, but I'm not too worried about that as turns are generally finite in duration.)
Look, I know that YOU guys want to fight every battle. But some people (and you'll have to use your "marketing imagination" here) won't want to fight out ANY battles. Well, at some point, their curiosity will get to them and they'll have to buy a ticket to the show to see it. Who knows? With all that gee-whiz stuff going on in front of them, they might even be tempted to issue and order or two. Soon, they'll be making up battle plans and trying out different things in space combat. Before you know it, they're "hard core" and posting with you people here on the discussion boards. :-)
I've got to design this game with ONE set of rules for ALL the players. To me, "Option" isn't always an option. Often it's a design cop-out for unfocused designers who can't make a hard-and-fast decision and lay down a real rule. I believe that's the case here. I want you to have to make tough choices. Buying a ticket to the show will be one of them.
More: >> Basically, I am NOT asking to FIGHT every battle, just WATCH.
Well, let me THINK about that one.
Perhaps if it was the ONLY thing you did (i.e., you couldn't COMMAND somewhere and watch someplace else in the same turn) during the Combat Phase. Hmm... There might be some engineering problems. I'd have to talk to Greg about those and make sure he's okay with it.
Yeah, let me think about that one.
Retreat: 1. In ship battles will your fleet keep on fighting until its been completely destroyed?
Every ship, task force, and fleet has to live by its "battle intensity" and "morale." The lower they are, they more likely they are to bug out; the higher, the closer "to the death" they fight.
2. What about ground troops, are they going to retreat when they cant hold a planet? can your troops hold part of a planet and wait for re-enforcements?
Yes (they can be "pushed off" a planet) and Yes.
3. When fighting another empire (if your losing) will the other empire seek to impose a peace treaty or will they want to finish you off?
Depends on a lot of factors. Their Casus Belli rating, the Relations Bar, their Core Reaction Rating, Temporary Peace Modifier, etc. Things could break either way.
AI too independent? >> **What the...where'd my battlefleet go, ahh there it is attacking my neighbor that I just made peace with. Well, that's what I get for having a militant ethos race.**
Now, now... you remember the MOO paradigms about treaties, including Peace Treaties. Peace Treaties give you X # of turns of "enforced peace." So, at the very least, that's not a plausible example.
And while you may have the odd crackpot leader get a burr up his butt and do something wildly unexpected, generally your civilization's people and leaders will "do what comes naturally." So, once you get the vibe on what THAT is (and it shouldn't take you too long to figure out), then you'll be able to manage what their likely future actions should be with some degree of certainty.
Look, we're not designing this game to simply throw pies in your face and not give you enough IFPs to wipe off the banana cream. Give us a little more credit than that!
Why the term "species" is being used instead of the proper term "genus": PERCEIVED "realism" is WAY more important in a game than "realism." You're much better going with common misunderstandings than teaching truths in a game (because you're trying to be accessible and fun).
Population movement: Population will get around in MOO3. We'll still have Colony Ships (to move big hunks of people to a government sponsored location) and outpost ships (moving a much smaller hunk of people to do a specific job). But mostly, people will "up and go" on their own. They'll look at their lot in life where they are, and if it stinks sufficiently, some will split. Where they go depends on where they think they'll get what they want.
The principle is really quite simple. People (or fish or Harvesters or whatever) will strive for a "better life" (as they define it). This means, sometimes, "voting with their feet" (or fins, or tentacles, or what-not). In MOO3, they'll do that. If you're doing such a lousy job running your civilization, they'll even move next door. Of course, if you rule, you might just end up with immigration problems as those pesky aliens come flooding in across the borders!
A spy's fate: Everyone, pay attention. I only want to say this once and cannot elaborate further at this time.
Many fates await spies. They can succeed in penetrating another civilization or be turned back or even caught on the border. They can succeed in a mission (and escape, die, or get caught), forced to "lay low," fail and escape, fail and die, fail and get caught.
They could also simply quit and never be heard from again. (It happens; more often than you'd think.)
If they're caught, they could be killed outright (from any number of reasons) or captured. If they're captured, they could escape or be exchanged. They could also be squeezed.
If they're squeezed... well, you get the idea. Imagine all the standard plot devices in a spy novel and those are the kinds of results we're designing into the topsy-turvy world of spies and their missions. The design isn't finished on this section, but it's roughed-out pretty well. I just need to design a whirly-gig to generate the above "spy novel" outcomes. Those familiar with my boardgame design TOTALER KRIEG! will see shades of the Random Campaign Game Generator in the spy tables when they're finished.
For those of you disappointed with the "Dynaverse" part of STAR TREK: STARFLEET COMMAND, that was my brain-child too, but I was never allowed to design it and no one else, it seems, was able to execute on my "vision" for it. Again, look to the spy tables in MOO3 to see the methodology I would have employed to create Dynaverse as well.
David "Stormhound" Craft, Assistant Designer
Can your Big Leader's personal agenda disrupt your goals? After a fashion, but the problem's going to be less severe than you might think. Once someone sits in the top seat, you get a LOT more control over them, though you still have to deal with whatever drawbacks they bring to the position.
Changing governmental system: It won't be the Civ-style change in any respect, that's for sure. While it will be possible to induce a change, the player will have relatively little control over what comes out of it, though each race has its own preferences in the matter.
As to bad things that can happen when government changes...well, let's just say that you temporarily lose control of a LOT of things. It's a very risky business, and likely not something you should seek unless the one you've got is just unbearable.
Battleoid units: It might be worth pointing out here that when you create things like battleoids, you are *not* merely creating one big tin can. You're creating a unit...and if you'll look at modern armies, units tend to have other sorts of forces attached to them than just the main type. So a battleoid unit will certainly feature battleoids, but that doesn't mean those are the only combatants in the unit. (And no, before someone asks, you won't get to the point of deciding exactly how many of what go in each unit.)
Spacelanes: No, they won't have junctions.
Depends on what you mean by "alter". You can improve or degrade them, yes. But you can't move them around or such.
You can only enter them at either end, not in the middle.
Will there be a linux version? Right now, PC and Mac versions are what's in the works.
Oppressometer: The oppressometer is a different little beastie from the religious and racial "persecution" settings. If you turn it up, it goes up for *everyone* in your empire, costs you more to maintain it, and will seriously tick off certain races and factions.
Of course, certain races and factions like it high, so as always you can't ever please everyone...
Hitler-like leaders: It will be possible to have:
- Grossly incompetent leaders
- Leaders whose affiliation with certain interest groups or persons affects their actions/judgement
- Leaders whose corruption affects events
Anyone wanting to see an interstellar Hitler up close and personal will have to wait for another game (or, if their playing style warrants, look in a mirror...).
Turn length: Turns are between 1-2 Earth years in length.
Development progress: We're cranking on development to keep the coders coding; there are some large chunks of code done by this point. There's plenty of art too. It's just that we're saving it up for E3, so that we can make a nice splash at the show. We're aiming for somewhere between "slack-jawed with amazement" and "drooling uncontrollably", so we have to keep a surprise or two. ;-)
Thomas Hughes, Designer
Moons: I used our solar system as a model to pattern the average distribution of moons among planets. It's the only solar system we know very much about.
The only difference between a moon and a planet is that one orbits the other. They are the same in all other aspects.
A larger planet can have a slight effect on its moons climate (might increase this effect later).
As far as number and size of moons around any one planet, I'll share some overarching rules I used in creating these formulae.
A planet can have a moon of any size up to the size of that planet(a double planet).
The larger the moon (in absolute size) the lower the probability that planet will get a moon of that size.
The closer the moon is to the planet size the lower the probability that planet will get a moon of that size. Also, the closer a moon gets to the planet size the fewer additional moons that planet is eligible to have (ultimately allowing no additional moons in the case of a moon the same size as the planet I.e. double planet).
The net affect of the overarching rules is that:
A larger planet will tend to have a greater number of moons of smaller size(when compared to the planet size, like Jupiter or Saturn) while a smaller planet will tend to have a smaller number of larger moons(Vs planet size, like Earth or Pluto). It follows that the chance of a planet getting to be a double planet is lower the larger the planet (much more likely to find a double planet the size of Pluto than Jupiter). Actually, Pluto is almost a double planet (Charon, Pluto's moon, is only 1 size increment smaller than Pluto).
Well….this may be more than you wanted to know but, at least, it gives you yet another hint as to the incredible amount of work we have put into this game(believe me, I only scratched the surface of planet and moon creation in this post).
Floyd Grubb, Designer
Weaponry: There are 4 basic types of Direct Fire Weapons, 2 types of Indirect Fire weapons and Special Weapons.
Direct fire weapons do damage by shooting directly at a target. These
Beam Weapons (Lasers, Phasers, etc). These are Long Range weapons. They do not usually do the most damage of the various weapon types, but have a high rate of fire. Beam weapons can have the Mods: Auto Fire (Fires multiple shots per cycle instead of just one, each subsequent shot having a reduced accuracy), Armor Piercing (reduces the effective coverage of armor), Increased Range (Increases maximum range by 25%), No Range Dissipation (Damage potential is not reduced by Range).
Particle Weapons (Neutron Blasters, The Death Ray, Ion Cannons, etc). These weapons are also long range weapons. In general, they will not do as much gross physical damage as a beam weapon, but they have additional properties that make them desirable, such as the Death Ray killing Marines or the Ion Cannon's ability to disrupt engines. Mods for Particle Weapons include Continuous (Increase in basic accuracy) and Shield Piercing (Partially or completely ignore shield effects).
Mass Drivers (Mass Drivers, Guass Cannons, Disruptors, etc) Mass weapons are short range weapons with a fixed damage. If a target is struck, the damage is always the same. Mass weapons have lower basic accuracy and range is dramatically lower than other weapons, being about 1/3rd that of an equivalent technology Beam weapon. Modifiers available for Mass Weapons include: Auto Fire (Fire multiple shots each with a lower accuracy), Armor Piercing (reduces the effective armor coverage) and High Explosive (increases the damage to Internal Systems).
Plasma Weapons (Fusion Beam, Plasma Cannon, Mauler, etc) These weapons are highly accurate and do the most damage of any equivalent tech direct fire weapon. However, the damage fall off for range is tremendous, so these weapons are really only truly effective at very close ranges. Modifiers available for Plasma weapons include: Continuous (Increase in basic accuracy), Enveloping (Damages all shield facings at once), Imploding (Damage is always applied to the weakest shield facing).
Indirect Fire weapons include:
Missiles. Warhead Mods include: Area of Effect (May hit multiple targets in a given area), Armor Piercing (reduces the effective coverage of armor), MIRV (Warhead breaks into multiple warheads, each doing the same damage as the base Warhead type), Dirty (increased Crew deaths) or EMP (Lower overall damage that cannot do Hull damage, but ignores Armor completely.) Chassis Mods include shields, armor, cloaking devices, ECCM, Scanners or a kitchen sink if you really want. Warheads may be placed in 5 different sizes of chassis (which in turn effects how much damage potential the warhead has) and the Warhead (and it's Mods) plus the Chassis (and it's Mods) determine the missiles final size. You then put a rack of said missiles into a ship.
Fighters: Fighters are miniature ships and can have virtually any system a ship may have. They are completely customizable. Fighter Bays, however, I would like to have a few options. Currently, the ideas for this are limited to Fast Turnaround (Fighters require less time to rearm) and Transporter Tubes (Allows launching of fighters without breaking Cloaking -- Fighters may not rearm unless the Carrier is decloaked, though)
Special Weapons include all the other weapons that do not fall into the above categories. Examples from MOO2 include Tractor Beams, The
Gyro-Destabilizer, the Black Hole Generator, and the Lightning Field
Generator. Special weapons do not have Mods. Special weapons do not have variable mounts. Some Special weapons are limited to one per ship, while others may be placed in multiples.
So, now that you know the basic categories of weapons and how they
work...what is your Dream Weapon? Let me know, and I'll try to design it into the game. Try to write it up in both in terms of the actual effect (ie: what category does it fall into, is it long range, short range, low, mid or high tech, etc) and in terms of how it works (ie: A Black Hole Generator does gravitic damage to a target, works at relatively short range for it's tech level, is considered a Special weapon since it is not effected by mounting or facing. Damage is caused by creating a small, temporary singularity in the flight path of the target. The target flies into the miniature black hole and massive damage is caused. [No, this is NOT necessarily what a BHG will do in MOO3 -- it is an example.])
More on the same: Just a couple quick notes:
First, there are no external systems allowed on ships. That is to say, EVERYTHING on a ship goes inside the hull. No real fiction reason for it, just a design decision we made to make ship design easier to understand and code.
Next, yes, we have mines. They are not fully developed yet by any means. And, yes, that also means that ships can be built with a 'minesweeper' Special that reduces the effects of mines.
And finally, a comment on shields: Weapons can do additional damage to shields, but the damage is never 'fake damage.' There have been a few suggestions that state that they temporarily weaken the shields -- for purposes of MOO3, to me that means that the weapon takes shields down faster or that the shield stops less of the damage.
Oh, and one more thing, Direct Fire weapons can only have 4 Mods applied to them, no more. No direct fire weapon in MOO2 had more than 3 MODS (Discounting Heavy and Point Defense which are Mounting options now rather than Mods) so this allows more range than the previous MOO products.
Torpedoes: Plasma Torpedos as written in MOO2 don't exist in MOO3. However, there is a Chassis Mod called an "Energy Carapace" that makes the missile act exactly like Plasma Torpedoes in that they cannot be targeted to be shot down. You CAN put a Cloaking Device on a Missile with an Energy Carapace, but it will never provide any stealth bonus. This happens because there is no concept of exclusive Mods.
More on weapons: Yes, it is certainly possible to build the equivalent of a PT boat and Destroyers in MOO3. Yes, there is a limit on how many missiles a ship can carry. Yes, there is a limit to how many missiles may be fired in a salvo (it's equal to the number of Missile Racks on the ship, however having 4 Racks of 1 missile takes 60% more space than 1 Rack of 4 missiles.)
In MOO2, Torpedoes were Energy Weapons which could not be shot down by enemy weapons. In MOO3, missiles with the 'Energy Carapace' Mod cannot be targeted by enemy weapons. It is debatable at this point whether these missiles will be able to be shot down or off target using 'Flak' or Area Effect weapons.
Last, what do you suppose an enemy fleet would be doing while a group of ships are going through a delicate series of docking maneuvers in order to bring a humungous weapon to bear on them? Exactly, they do everything possible to disrupt such a weapon system from working. It'd be like the Trojan Horse -- the trick MIGHT work once, but then forever after the group of ships would be high priority targets (since killing ONE eliminates a majority of the enemy firepower.)
Fighters: Fighters have either Point Defense Weapons or Fighter Mount Weapons. Point Defense can be fired indefinitely, with no need of reloading. Fighter Mount Weapons do CONSIDERABLY more damage but only a limited number of them may be placed on a fighter. They also require 'reloading'.
Multiplayer considerations: Combat in MOO3 is realtime, between 2 of the players. In a multiplayer game (say 6 people) the people not involved in the combat do not necessarily have anything to do during the combat. We can design in things for them to do (there are good reasons to avoid fighting every turn!) but eventually there will come a time where a player is sitting thinking "Geez, when are these two morons going to finish fighting?" It is for this reason we have a limit to the length of a real time combat. Given that, and the size of the fleets we are discussing, don't expect your ships to have the longevity they had in MOO2. If you make a poor tactical decision, your bigger ships, with better armor, shields and weapons can and will lose to a force that is inferior in everyway.
That having been said, there also will NOT be the "Well, I just fired a salvo from my Capital Ship and wiped out half the enemy force before they could retaliate."
Realistic weapon strengths: You're absolutely correct about the fact that gravity is not a (pardon the pun) strong force. Realistically, I would not think Gravitic weapons would be feasible at all. Of course, I also don't think a 'Stellar Converter' is good science either.
What we as game designers are doing is the same thing that writers do. We're creating a universe that is hopefully as internally consistent, and follows the known rules of physics except for where we chose to ignore them (either through ignorance or choice -- generally the difference is pretty clear to a reader/player educated on the topic.) First and foremost, MOO3 has to be fun. It has to appeal not only to hardcore science fiction fans, but also to fans of Space Opera and sims in general.
What does this mean? Well, mostly it means that, yes, there WILL be a Gravity Weapon that inflicts more damage than a Laser. I'm sorry that steps on one of your pet peeves, but at this point it cannot be helped.
Fighters: Oh, and yes, fighters can have Torpedoes if you design them to. :)
Weapon descriptions: What is MOO3 [plasma weap.] Mauler Device: A Mauler send out huge waves of contra-aligned, non-ionic Plasma which causes energy fields it contacts to implode and matter it contacts to explode. The resulting cataclysmic forces result in massive damage to whatever may be in the path of the weapon's fire.
What is MOO3 [plasma weap.] Stellar Converter: Looking at the Stellar Converter movie in MOO2, I'd say it's simply a TREMENDOUSLY powerful Plasma beam.
What is MOO3 [particle weap.] Death Ray: According to MOO2, this device uses "cosmic rays" to inflict massive damage, in addition to killing marines. It's open to discussion what a Cosmic ray is, although if I recall correctly, Cosmic Rays are what gave the Fantastic Four from Marvel Comics their Super Powers.
What is MOO3 [beam weap.] Phasor: Fires a 'trans-warp' energy beam.
Now, that having been said, as a player, don't get too caught up in how things SHOULD work. I've said before, but this bears repeating, we are making a Space Opera game. Yes, we are trying to stick as close as we can to known scientific principles, but when inconvenient we can bend and/or break them. That's what allows us to have functional space combat at all. If we were trying to be totally realistic, the rule of "The person at the bottom of the gravity well always loses" would have to come into play...and that wouldn't be very fun.
Shields: Shields and Armor work together to defend a ships internals from damage when hit by enemy fire. Shields operate by reducing the damage from the incoming weapon fire and then armor either deflects or absorbs the blow. If the damage is sufficient to punch through both systems, then an Internal System is struck, people die and the ship is a bit less effective in the future until repaired.
More on the same: As currently designed, a shield is a shield. It varies by Tech Level, Shield Generator Size and by the Ship Size, but other than that, all shields are the same.
Shields do not have Mods, however there are other ship systems that can effect shields ala the Hard Shields special from MOO2.
More: The combinatorics involved in a multiplayer game where defenses are essentially a shell game makes it impossible for a player to adequately defend his empire vs. threats. That would NOT be fun.
Instead we have a standard set of defenses, and weapons have functions that alter the effectiveness of those standard defenses. On top of that, we have additional SYSTEMS (not mods) that can offset some of those weapons functions (such as Shield or Armor Piercing), without having to go into a shell game or Rochambeaux (and yes, I did have to look up how to spell that!)
Kevin Dill, Programmer
Combat AI: The short answer is, the decision was made before I got here not to use a scripting engine for the ships. Although it was originally part of the design, it was found to be too slow for our purposes (at least that's my understanding, perhaps Alan or Bill could shed more light on this decision). From my point of view, this is an advantage because it means I'm not constrained to use scripting for the AI -- I'm much more flexible in the techniques I can use. There has been some talk of finding ways to release the AI so that players can toy with it -- I have no idea at this point whether or not that will be feasible (or whether or not it will be allowed).
All of that aside, you're missing a critical point of the design mentality of MOO3. Although you can define the "doctrine" for individual ships (which tells them in general terms how to fight) you do *not* control them in battle. Remember, we're trying to give you the experience of being a civilization leader. No civilization leader is going to take the time to tell an individual ship captain how to do his job. All of that has to go through the chain of command. So, if you choose to spend an IFP to attend a battle (I believe it will be only 1 point per battle) then you interact with the Admiral. This basically allows you to give any order he would be able to give. All of his orders are given to the task force commanders, who then decide how to implement them and pass more detailed instructions down to the individual ship captains, who again make their own decisions concerning how to implement their leader's orders.
I know that sounds like a lot of layers between you and the individual ships, but if you think about it the military has been working in exactly this way for millennia. These guys are soldiers, they are going to do what you tell them. However (if I don't screw up too badly) they are going to be smart about *how* they do it. They won't just suicide, except in the most desperate situations. If a situation comes up that prevents them from accomplishing their mission they will deal with that situation first, and then return to their mission (relieving you of the burden of having to babysit them).
AI quality: A word of warning, though. AI is not going to be as smart as players want it to be any time soon. One of the things I've learned is that compromises have to be made, and what they are. I expect that we will deliver very good AI, probably better than you've seen before. I expect that you will still be frustrated with it from time to time. My goal is to minimize that frustration as much as possible.
Greg Marsters, Lead Programmer
Alt-tab: The idea is people who must have their alt-tab will use the initial release *.exe out of the box (and of course we'll supply patches to upgrade/fix it), but later on we'll make available for download a more secure version that will also have its internals re-arranged and data structures scrambled differently, as well as support for alt-tab removed (not disabled, I mean gone) and other creepy evil stuff. A sort of use at your own risk version that probably isn't compatible with any other version of the game, but meant for paranoid multiplayer types... like me.
[ VIEW COMPLILATION FROM APRIL 10, 2001 ]