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Official CommentsQSI Posts on the Discussion Boards — Part One

Updated May 29, 2001:

Alan Emrich, Lead Designer

Concurrent worldwide release: I don't think Infogrames will keep people outside of America waiting for their games. They'll localize MOO3 in a bunch of languages and ship them all at the same time, I would bet. They've been doing that for a long time with other products.

Can colonies spontaneously form? Yes... and no.

Your guys can migrate on their own to some planet somewhere, where they will live in peace and obscurity. In other words, you'll have PEOPLE there, but it WON'T be a "state run colony." ONLY after it reaches a certain "critical mass" of population does the state claim it as a colony and start to "manage" it.

So, you'll see these POTENTIAL colonies out there as your citizens wander the cosmos settling here and there. But they'll have to "cook" for a while before they are integrated into your "Imperial system." After all, the Empire can't be responsible for every little pack of settlers who wanders off somewhere. They need a compelling case to assert Imperial authority over those guys and [add] them to the growing list of governmental headaches.

Two races settling one planet: Remember THE TROUBLE WITH TRIBBLES? (Not the tribbles, but the underlying plot.) It was a "race" to develop Sherman's planet.

Attacking Planets: A couple random thoughts here.

First, certain acts are "universally" condemned in MOO3. Among them, using nukes, bioweapons, chemical weapons, and in particular blowing up planets. Don't expect to do a lot of those activities and keep your friends/remain at peace for long. There's more than one way to skin a planet -- and you'll figure them all out.

As for protracted ground battles, those are more likely on larger worlds (particularly where the forces and leadership are roughly even) and less likely on smaller worlds or where the ground forces/leadership are unevenly matched. Ground combat on the smallest moons are always completely resolved each game turn, for example. It is their nature. As for protracted ground battles, those are more likely on larger worlds (particularly where the forces and leadership are roughly even) and less likely on smaller worlds or where the ground forces/leadership are unevenly matched. Ground combat on the smallest moons are always completely resolved each game turn, for example. It is their nature.

Finally, there is a point of "diminishing returns" when bombarding a planet from orbit. After a while, you've hit all the "easy" targets and find yourself shooting rubble. The more sparse the targets become, the less damage you'll do. So, short of blowing up the planet (by either side), at some point there comes a moment when it's faster to send in the ground troops and "finish the job" then to try and win "victory through airpower" alone.

Oh, and did we mention that planet-bound targets of space bombardment will have natural terrain features and "civil defense" to fall back on to improve their survivability?

Speaking with factions and diplomacy: Members speak individually for a faction. When you speak to one, you'll know that the weight of their faction is behind him. (Of course, if that member is an idiot starting unwanted wars, he won't be a member of that faction for long.)

As for diplomacy, the simplest way to explain it is that you ask at the beginning of the turn and generally hear back at the end of the turn.

Will you be given notification of upcoming votes? You'll have warning. The Orion Senate moves at the speed of ooze.

Economic model: In a nutshell, there's a new economic model in MOO3. Most of the stuff on a planet that "does stuff" (like Manufacturing DEAs, or "Dominant Economic Activities" -- think of these as "zoning" parts of a planet) has TWO ratings, capacity and efficiency.

As for money being spent to augment production, that can still happen in MOO3. But the local output capacity determines the "size of the funnel." You can push money through that funnel and get 1 "production point" (or whatever) for 1 buck -- up to the capacity level. After that, the bang for your buck begins to drop.

I believe that some items even have minimum time requirements (going by the old adage, you can't put nine women together to make a baby in a month).

Edicts holding weight: Edicts have a certain amount of "weight" behind them. This is a combination of the CLOUT of the Leader issuing that edict, where that Leader sits (i.e., your Big Leader gets extra clout by benefit of sitting in that chair), and the FORCE that Leader puts behind that edict (on a scale ranging from the merest suggestion to "or else!"). Now, the more "oomph" that goes into an edict, the longer it will resonate.

But eventually, old policies can be modified, or dropped, or be ignored. The "further away" another Leader is in distance and time the more likely they are to shuck off the old dogma and ply their own ideas. It's the way of things.

Will MOO3 be fun? So, the question is: "Will MOO3 be fun?"

Obviously, that's what we're aiming for. To ensure that we hit that mark (and knowing that there is more than one definition of "fun" out there) we're taking a bi-polar approach in the MOO3 design philosophy.

First, for the "keep it simple, keep it snappy, keep it high-level" crowd, we have your average game turn. Full of interesting, high-level information where you make some key high-level decisions in response, and then on to the next game turn. There's a whole bureaucracy to manage the details, so the only thing that you HAVE TO worry about in this regard is that you agree with any IMPORTANT decisions your Leaders make. (I.e., anything your Leaders decide that's "acceptable" to your Grand Master Plan you can ignore.) If some of their decisions you DON'T like (and that will happen), you spend Imperial Focus Points (IFPs) to change them. In other words, at it's heart, MOO3 is a game of "big picture strategy" where you "steer a stellar empire to your vision." It is at this level where managing diplomacy, the Orion Senate, domestic politics, military strategy, and Events will keep players busy. Hopefully, people will find this high level of play simple, snappy, and engrossing.

Second, for the "more, More, MORE!" crowd (many of whom read these message boards regularly), we have what I call the "under the hood" level of MOO3. This is the part of the game that you don't HAVE to play, but many people will want to pop the hood and fine tune a thing or two within their civilization. It is here where you design ships, organize them into task forces and fight battles with them. It is here where you recruit spies and can do a bit of "social engineering;" where you can swing on the Tech Wheel and micro-manage the affairs of a single planet. Believe me, there's LOTS of stuff to twiddle with at this level of play. None of it you'll HAVE to, nor can you manage all of it every turn even if you wanted to, but it will be there, beckoning to the micro-managers out there with its siren song of anal-retentive euphoria.

So, those are the two prongs. 1) Keep people focused on the Big Picture to win the game, and 2) have wonderfully elaborate (yet easy to control) sand boxes built for them to play in when they want to micromanage. Where we put the design fulcrum between these two points we'll discover during playtesting, but the balancing edge of that fulcrum are Imperial Focus Points. And THAT is where some of you guys will come in -- during beta testing.

Following up on beta testing: No, that's not an official announcement.

Look, we're going to need at least SOME of you to "blind taste test" MOO3. It's so full of new stuff and different paradigms that we'll want to constantly monitor "cold reaction" (i.e., that of a first-time player) over a long period of time. Consequently, again at the very least, we'll need to add the odd "first timer" to the beta test team from time to time to make sure that, at the very least, we get the "first time" stuff right.

That means: is the interface intuitive? Are the any glaring omissions? Which parts are the most frustrating (design or interface wise)? Are we stating anything unclearly? Are sounds appropriate? Did you want to play "just one more turn" before ending your session?

That sort of thing. That all important "first impression" will require a steady influx of first timers over the beta testing lifespan of MOO3, and I don't know of a better place to find them than here among you guys. So, at the very least, I'm sure some of you will be recruited here and there.

Now, officially, I DON'T know what the exact plan is, nor when we'll make an announcement. The above is my informed opinion only, NOT a statement of policy. :-)

But... as a former Boy Scout, I would urge you to "be prepared."

Will races have natural enemies? Oh, yeah. There will be "natural enemies" in MOO3. You better believe it.

Leaders: Remember, leaders' ABILITY and CLOUT ratings are two different things. The worst thing you could get is someone with no Ability and a lot of Clout. If you off one of those guys, their Clout will come back and bite you (politically).

Release date: It AIN'T "November-December," that's for sure. Think Feb-March 2002. So far, we're on track but A) it's been a while since we've done a thorough reexamination of the schedule, and B) you never can really sight the "finish line" exactly before beta (and we're not there yet).

Balancing: Well, of COURSE games like Age of Empires 2 could have "balance" among its unit types. Players didn't get to DESIGN the units in that game, did they? The peril we face is that players get to create the strengths and weaknesses of their ships in MOO3. Thus, there is always the danger of "Min-Maxxing." That is, designing a ship that has so little of one thing so that it can have so much more of another that it is completely unbalanced.

Assisting us in redressing this problem are a few key concepts.

First, every ship has a "mission" that it is designed around. Ships designed for each type of mission have certain "minimums" that they must meet. That is, if something is supposed to ACT like an ECM ship or a "carrier" in battle, it must have at least "enough" ECM thingies or fighter bays on it to qualify as that type of ship. After that "minimum design specification" is reached, the rest of the ship is pretty much yours to fill up with whatever goo-gaas and wonder widgets you like.

Second, every ship's mission defines its role in a task force. Scouts go out on the Picket Ring, Mission Ships occupy the Core, the various Escort types surround the Core in the Escort Ring.

Third, because each ship is part of a "team" (a task force), designing the "one perfect ship" is NOT an imperative in MOO3. Instead, you want to orchestrate the best "teams" (task forces) for the various task force missions (such as Space Superiority or Planetary Bombardment).

Fourth, there are new combat paradigms in both the nominal effect of weapons and in the orchestration of their use. They're very clever. Again, these are to emphasise the "team game" that ships play in task forces, as well as rewarding surprise and maneuver (in addition to quantity and quality of the ships, crews, and Leaders).

Hopefully, all of the above will "stunt" the "killer unit" problem. Or, at least, put in a new enough light that players can figure out on their own how to "scissors, rock, paper" the other guys' "killer ships" without play balance problems. (And, yes, we'll have AI that helps in that department.)

Vague assurance that people living outside the USA can be beta-testers: I don't think you need to be in the US to be a candidate. Again, I'm not sure that's true, but I didn't hear any mention of restricting things to the US.

Can crews change ships? Crews and ships are inseparable. (It saved us a lot of headaches.)

Nukes: Guys, you're probably right about various kinds of nukes in the future. However, the way things stand now in MOO3, we've got a "one nuke fits all" approach in the design. Its purpose is to be the generic "kill people and break things" enhancement decision that a player can make if they're willing to risk potential "moral outrage" for doing so.

Military build-ups and its effect on Casus Belli and the economy: >> Will the AI respond to such kinds of military buildups with counter-buildups, without there being an actual Casus Belli?

The buildup itself does affect the Casus Belli scale. It can LEAD to war, though there are other factors involved.

>> In these cases, can an empire get into "the red" by overspending on military, at the expense of other areas, or perhaps by borrowing money from other empires? Or is it impossible to do so...

Hmm... I haven't thought of a "loan" mechanism from other empires (though I find that idea intriguing). As to spending yourself into the "red," yes, that's a feature I'm definitely after in MOO3. Though you could do that for any number of reasons, and not just military spending (such as social spending, corruption, overzealous colonial development for economic sinkholes -- think of European development of Africa circa the latter half of the 19th century, etc.)

Will the designers’ political ideologies influence what’s "good" and "bad" in the game’s political systems? Don't worry, the political stuff isn't as "heavy handed" as I am. :-) We have our resident New England Liberal on the design team was has been working hard to undo all my "good works" in the design doc, don't worry. (And he knows who he is; whether he says anything to you guys I'll leave up to him.)

There are lots of vectors in government for you guys to play with. Political Ideology, Centralization, Enfranchisement, and Taxation are the biggies that come to mind. With those four elements alone, you can pretty well "cook up" just about any type of government imaginable. Then once you start playing with POLICY SETTINGS, which is the kind of stuff we've been talking about (Bread & Circuses, Monetary Policy, etc.) then you've got all the shades to completely color your political rainbow: from Emrich "true" blue to Leftist red. ;-)

It's up to you. HOWEVER, let me add one note... about 2 years ago an article came out in the WALL STREET JOURNAL (that's a "propaganda sheet" to you on the left). It noted that a remarkable number of our favorite 4X games have their economic models showing the rewards of free markets and low taxes as the engine of economic growth. :-) So, it's not just ME who is foisting this truism upon you. Civilization was specifically cited as an example in that article, so I'm proud to say that I'm in good company with the likes of Sid Meier.

Helping colonies build faster: We're using the "Red Cross Disaster Relief" model. Instead of donating actual supplies of goods, the Red Cross prefers that you simply send them money. That's because it's more cost-effective to just "buy things locally." We use that paradigm in MOO3. You can send money to fledgling colonies allowing them to "overspend" and, thus, get their building-up process jump-started. Same effect, just an easier way of handling it (and a similar approach was used in MOO1, by the way).

Localization: Well, the MOO franchise is "under new management," folks. And, in the case of "localization" (industry jargon for "translations into other languages"), that is Infogrames bailiwick. Now, since they are a French mega-corporation with TONS of experience localizing releases for Europe, I think we have less to fear with MOO3 than MOO2.

Will there be disarmament treaties? No.

Strategy guide: I will have a hand in both the Strategy Guide as well as the online Encyclopaedia Galactica. As always, expect to see numbers in tables and formulae sprinkled throughout.

E3 press reactions: Our demos for the press have been going well. The game seems to be well received, as well. Something of a "pleasant surprise" to most. Few, it seems, knew what to expect and most of them seem well pleased at what they see and hear. Two more days of this, though... I'm exhausted already!!

Fleet maintenance: >> One question I have: is it going to cost money to bring ships out of reserve? If it does, is there going to be a limit, or diminishing returns for how much you can spend on it in a turn? I'd love to see costs for activating ships be 'funnelled' through repair or supply infrastructure.<<

Not exactly. It's just that their maintenance costs go way up when they're taken out of Reserve and put on Active Duty. Of course, those maintenance costs go up even higher as they operate further from friendly bases.

The sinews of war will be the size of your war chest and the depths of your reserves. The [two] really go well together.

"Total war" vs. "holy war": >> I'm not sure what the difference would be between Total and Holy war, in both cases you are attacking "civilian" targets and mobilizing your whole society.<<

You're right, but it's a question of degree. In essence, how much are you willing to let your economy and foreign obligations go to hell so that you can completely focus on burning down this single enemy civilization with extreme fanaticism and dedication? "Holy War" is not a state to be entered into lightly.

Reply to interface complaint: Rune, sorry you don't like the interface, but nobody bats 1.000. Considering there's, like, 100+ screens & screen states, "clean" is a mandate if players are to navigate the entirety of the game without exhaustion. It also makes our "you can get from wherever you are in the interface to wherever you want to be in 2 clicks" philosophy (which is a very ambitions goal) even remotely possible. A lot of people saw that interface "in action" this weekend at E3, and although Rantz might be in a better position to judge their reactions on this subject, I'd say the interface was a very well received feature of the game. It "plays" very well "live."

Deficit spending and inter-civ loans: Deficit spending? Yes. You have the "full faith and credit" of that civilization to "borrow against." Now, I still need to design in all the "over the cliff" effects of debt. That is, the Imperial Treasury's inability to make interest payments could tank the strength of your currency and give rise to a revolutionary change in government (i.e., one that "cancels" the debt unilaterally to give that civilization a "fresh start"). This is a delicate matter, however. and I'm not sure I want players "driving their civilizations off a cliff" like that. Perhaps I'll just have to "cap" the debt a civilization can take on to X% of its GDP (Gross Domestic Product). I'm still thinking about that one.

Inter-civ loans? I'm thinking about that one, too. Seems real cute, but again, if I let a civilization's interest payments grow to such point that they can't service their debt, I need to design the potential "dire consequences," and I may not want to let things go there. I'm still thinking about that. (Pretty honest answer, huh?)

 

David "Stormhound" Craft, Assistant Designer

Two races settling one planet: If two races settle on the same planet, we do have a way of deciding who will eventually "win" the planet, but we aren't saying just yet. (g)

Buying votes: You can buy people's votes. One of the diplomatic trading options is offering someone something (and there are a lot of possible somethings) in exchange for their vote on a Senate bill. Nor will Senate votes be something that are decided with the same immediacy as other games...

Why technologies are fully fledged after development: The "development time" includes the potential for running into problems (as noted in the developer diary at http://www.gamespy.com/devdiary/november00/moo32/index2.shtm ), which represent things like unexpected bugs.

The inefficiency is represented by the ability to refine items through later understanding of how they work.

And you definitely won't have the MOO2 problem of suddenly switching your points into something else to get full credit...in MOO3, you only get credit for where you've actually spent the effort.

You CAN have too much detail in a game, and we've trimmed out some that didn't really seem to advance anything or be fun. I happen to think the tech system rocks. (g)

Multiracial worlds: Each REGION on a body can have only one type of race, but any given body (assuming it has more than one region) can have more than one race on it.

Problems in multi-racial worlds: You're absolutely correct that mixed-population worlds will have certain problems.

I assure you that this is entirely intentional. (eg)

Being insulting in diplomacy: It's already quite possible to be downright insulting in DiploMatic; you'll just have to wait until you see some of the possibilities.

Timed turns (for multi-player): Yep. Any turn timer is optional. Alan may like cut-throat games, but I don't.

 

Floyd Grubb, Designer

Armo(u)r: Armor has several variables. Tech Level and Thickness are both options that are armor specific. Then there are additional systems which can alter certain properties of Armor, such as Hardened Armor.

Weapons: Even relatively small ships can have Turrets; they are not limited to the larger ships. Also, since the game is real time, having all your weapons fire on one arc is not necessarily the best idea. If someone manages to flank you, you need to be able to fire back. This makes extended arc weapons more desirable than a spinal mounted weapon in many cases...but not all.

Ship size compared to MOO2’s doomstar: In MOO2, a Doomstar with battlepods and megafluxers had 2100 spaces (approximately). MOO3's largest spacefaring ship is about twice that size. Starbases and System ships are even larger. A Titan is about the equivalent to a MOO2 Doomstar.

Hull space: A Hull Space on a human ship holds just as much as a Hull Space on an Sakkra ship...despite the fact that the Sakkra ship may be 3 or 4 times the physical size of the human ship. Don't use physics here, folks, this is strictly in the realm of game balance. When it comes to volume, the only meaningful measurement is Hull Spaces.

Choosing weapons: Just to whet your appetites a bit more...

Step 1: Select Weapon Technology (Laser, Fusion Cannon, Death Ray, etc)
Step 2: Select Tech Mods (Armor Piercing, Continuous, etc)
Step 3: Select Weapon Mount (Point Defense, Light, Ultra Heavy Spinal Mount, etc)

Step 4: Select 1 or more Facing (Fore, Aft, Port Starboard or any combination)[Spinal Mount weapons are limited to only 1 facing]

And, before you ask, yes that means that currently you can have spinal mounted weapons that are aligned other than with the direction of Thrust. Yes, I am well aware of the fact that that is NOT smart design in terms of physics. If I can get it fixed so that Spinal Mount weapons can only have the Fore or Aft weapon facings, I will.

Spinal Mount Weapons are Larger than equivalent Turret mount weapons, and thus do more damage and have greater firing range. Spinal Mount weapons require significantly more time to acquire targets. Spinal Mount Weapons are more space efficient than Turreted weapons. They are also less expensive when it comes to 'Bang for the Buck' equations.

 

Kevin Dill, Programmer

Countering: If you have an opponent who has better drives and sensors, I would highly recommend building some very high speed, stealthy scout ships. Or build smaller ships (which will be faster). Or work on your stealth technology. Or...

Point is, there are a number of ways to counter any given advantage. Finding one is the fun of the game.

 

Vince Tagle, UI programmer

Address for more screenshots: Now typically I don't keep up with the discussion boards much less post on them (that's what we got Irene, Rantz, Floyd, etc. for) but with most of the office at E3, it's a slow day around here (don't worry, I'm still getting work done!). Anyway, with all this clamouring for screenshots and stuff, has no one noticed that Infogrames has released some artwork and screenshots on their website?

http://www.infogrames-expo.com/pagesus/jeux.asp?jeu=150

Assuming you can get in, of course. Darn thing is slow as a dog today. Not that I haven't seen them already in the game. :)

 

[ VIEW COMPLILATION FROM APRIL 27, 2001 ]

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