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Official CommentsQSI Posts on the Discussion Boards — Part One

Updated June 11, 2001:

Alan Emrich, Lead Designer

Ship design interface: >> But the ship design screen downright scares me. It's scary, Alan! It doesn't really look like ships are designable... do you still stick all the equipment on yourself? <<

"Scary?" Please.

Yes, yes, yes, ships are designable. Here's how it works in a nutshell. You set the three "high parameters" on the top-left side of the screen (size, type [orbital, system, starship], and mission. Optionally, you can flip the "stealth" toggle (if you have cloaking technology). That's all you HAVE to do. So, if ship design ain't your thing, you can click the "Done" button and leave at that point.

Hmm... I don't see any of you leaving, so let's continue.

With those parameters set, you are automatically presented a draft "blueprint" of a ship that fits those parameter specifications. At that point, you can modify it all you want or simply clear the screen and start from scratch. You can add things, remove them, and even arrange them (where they go in relation to the interior/exterior of the ship matters when taking damage).

So, yes, ships are designable.

Tactical deception: >> I think it'd be cool to have ships that could fool scanners into believing that a large fleet was headed towards an empire. The empire would either A)run away like cowards because they can't defeat a fleet that size or b)move a sizeable chunk of their fleet to engage. <<

This is something we've been kicking around at the office. "Strategic Disinformation" is one thing (that is, making the other player believe you have more, fewer, or no forces on the Galactic Map). What you're talking about is certainly tactical (and possibly operational) deception. Let me just say that is an idea currently in development. What we'll be able to make of remains to be seen, but we're quite intrigued by this concept and will be pushing it.

Multi-player emphasis: >> I realize that the main focus of MOO3 is "singleplay". <<

That's an incorrect premise. MOO3 was designed every bit as much for multi-play as single-play. We've put emphasis on both sides of gameplay.

Revolutions and loans: >> Alan, if a government could cancel its debt by just having a revolution, then every government would just have a revolution every couple of turns. <<

Unfortunately, such "revolutions" are not a simple switch that a player "flips" to make them occur. They occur "naturally." They're more a calamity that must be survived. You get them when you get them.

>> I like the idea of having the Senate guarantee the loans. If you default you are kicked out of the Senate and you can not rejoin until you completely repay the loan. Maybe that could be one of the perks of being in the Senate. <<

You're working under a false assumption about the Senate. It's not there to preserve order. It's there to maintain disorder. Whether someone defaults on a loan is, at least initially, no concern of the Senate's. Now, someone could always propose a law and see if the membership passes it. But I doubt the New Orions will support such a "stabilizing" influence.

More on the same: >> One way to counter the Revolution every few turns (other than the fact that revolutions are messy) is to have new governments have a lower base rating of diplomatic trustworthiness, i.e. they have to prove themselves over time to get trustworthy again. <<

We have something like that. We refer to it as a government's "Legitimacy." The longer it's around, the more "legit" it becomes. Naturally, that might affect its current debt service interest rates.

Winning at high difficulty levels: You should be able to win at the highest levels without ever dirtying your hands on any of that stuff you list. I'm not saying that it will be particularly easy, but it should be possible. At those more advanced levels, however, you'll need every advantage you can get, and that's where "tinkering under the hood" can give a skilled player and edge here and there.

Imperial Focus Points: Let me give you all "the word" on this Imperial Focus Points issue. This is not the final word, but until we can see the entire game working in beta, it's what we're going by (design philosophy wise).

You'll have a handful of IFPs each turn. That's, like, 6 to 9 each and every turn. That, conceptually, is where we're at. The design goal here (and this is a vitally important design goal) is to get you to finish this turn and get on with the next turn. Eventually, over several turns, you will get to everything you think is important. (It's not like we never want you to have the opportunity to micromanage.)

Remember, you can do anything during a turn, just not everything. That's why the game has so many turns; and we want to keep things moving (and there's always "tomorrow" to get to that micromanagement detail you didn't get to "today").

Stormhound following up: And lest we forget, there are various macromanagement tools, like the ability to group worlds and issue orders to whole groups at a time. Want all your border worlds to put the latest defense screen in the build list? One order, bang, done. Smart spending of IFP will stretch them quite a bit further than the folks who're still stuck in the MOO2 paradigm realize.

Ship design: Ship designs (et al) may or may not work "just as well," as you put it. Some may work better against some races, for example. So, one must consider, "who am I designing this ship to use against?" The guy in charge of ship designs might not be reading off the same page as The Leader (or you, The Spirit) as to the answer to that question. It could greatly affect matters. Instead, the guy who designs your ships could have a bone to pick with a particular neighbor, so will tend to make ships best suited to deal with them.

"High Finance": Everyone,

Thanks to this thread, I have just sent out my "high finance in MOO3" outline to the design team. It deals with such matters as debt limits, 'fixed' and 'floating' currencies (based on the Antaran Unit) and their benefits/consequences, currency strength, inflation & deflation, and the movement of interest rates.

Now, as those of you who have borrowed money know, there's all kinds of loans out there -- everything from borrowing from your mom to borrowing from a loan shark (which is redundant in the case of my family, but that's another story <g>). In order to keep banking sanity, we'll probably boil this down to a single loan type (interest only, no repayment schedule; after all, there is a debt ceiling — so the system will work very much like a credit card).

At the moment, I am loath to set up inter-civilization / Senate "loans." To do that, I would have to design all kinds of "credit worthiness" comparison formulae and design an AI that could tell whether it was getting a fair interest rate or not. Better to just let a civilization "borrow from itself" and beg others for cash gifts or sell stuff to raise capital. That way, if a government changes and defaults on a loan, players won't be thinking about how much they can make others suffer in so doing, but only how much their own civilization will suffer.

Sorry, guys, but I got to keep you financier-types in check (not "in cheque"). I'm taking the safe gameplay approach here and trying to give you lots to play options with without over-engineering things for those who are not into High Finance and would prefer that the whole thing be kept very simple and more abstract level.

Commanding ships: You won't be able to command individual ships. They have Captains that do that. You'll have to extend your thinking of your "killer combos" at the next higher level of design (the one you can command), Task Forces. That is, the right balance of Mission Ships, escorts, and pickets.

As for individual ships, the AI knows how to use each system on a ship in the way it was designed to be used. Their Captains will thus use them.

Resolution: Resolution will be 600 x 800 only.

Real-time combat: The space combat paradigm in real-time has been shaping up very well in MOO3. The structure, organization, command level, involvement, etc. all seem like they'll "click." Now that I look back, I wish I had developed that same paradigm for land combat (the one we have is a more abstract/resolution-oriented approach). Well, who knows? Maybe Santa will come down the chimney some year in the future and give me a chance to do that. But making a quick bit of RTStrategy land battle (on the MOO3 scale, mind you) after your space battle would be kind of cool. :-)

Play by e-mail: Well, PBEM (play by email) won't be featured in MOO3, much to my regret. Floyd Grubb (another designer) and I really wanted it, too, but like Hot Seat, it's just not practical from a time-in-QA standpoint to implement before shipping the game. [sigh]

Number of turns: Unlike CIV3, MOO3 isn't a "race game." We don't know when the last turn is. It's more of a "space opera." That is, it will run as long as you (the "writers") have a story to tell. Until someone get to the words "the end," the game just continues.

Garrison fleets: Don't go poo-pooing Garrison Fleets out of hand. The more well developed a system is (and the more your government is into oppression, the more extreme your Global Social State is, etc.), the bigger the garrison fleet you need to "cover" a particular system.

Now, that Garrison Fleet is there to spread out and: A) combat pirates, and B) monitor the Space Lanes (and protect/hinder commerce). But when a battle is about to pop, that fleet concentrates its Task Forces and gets them fighting formation and can probably slug it out very respectably, thank you very much. So, don't lightly disparage Garrison Fleets. They're neither toothless nor to always be scoffed at.

MOM2: You think MOO3 could be a long game, when I cornered the Marketing Guy from Infogrames at E3 and explained my vision of MOM2 to him, I said the marketing pitch could include players "with no hope of parole." Now, that's a long game! :-)

Mac: The Mac deal is "done." We even had our demo running on a Mac at E3 — we're doing both versions in parallel. (Actually, I saw some screen shots with OS X — looked pretty awesome.)

Reserves and surprise attack: >> But still, if you can choose instantly where you wish to mobilize your reserve fleet, that gives you a powerful defensive tool: The enemy invades an outlying system, and one turn later your entire reserve fleet materializes one system away. <<

All right, sports fans, let me get you privy. The subject here relates to ships being mobilized from the Reserve. The Reserve is where your ships go (probably immediately) when newly constructed or when removed from the map (after a delay of a variable number of turns).

Now, let me tell why this isn't really the "ultimate defense" (holing up your ships in reserve). Here's how I see a surprise attack (a "Pearl Harbor," if you will) shaking out in MOO3....

Turn 1, you whomp on me with a surprise attack. Now, you could have moved guys out 10 turns ago and had them enter my star system via "off-road" movement and they just got here (undetected) or you sent "submarines" (i.e., cloaked ships) — whatever. You got the job done and boned me with total surprise. It happens. So, turn 1, you wipe out my garrison fleet on our border and start dropping on my colonies there (you %$#*>#).

Turn 2, I'm still a bit cheezed off. First, I put my economy on a Limited War footing to get the military gearing up in case this is going to be a long war. Next, I do "The Speech" (something about a "Day of Infamy") to get my Casus Belli really cranked up against you so that I can shift to Total War or even Holy War against you in the future without offending pushing plebs faster than they want to go. So, I lay the groundwork for that happening tomorrow by giving The Speech today.

Also on turn 2, I make sure that Task Forces are being mobilized at the Sector Government in the system nearest to (or in) the one that you dared defile along our border. Naturally, you get another turn to chew the chit out of my solar system that you surprised attack. Probably some colonies are falling already. The press at home is looking grim.

Turn 3: again, you ravage that system or, if that job is done, you move on to the next one or fall back behind your own borders and seek a settlement (HA! We'll never settle!). For my part, my newly mobilized Task Forces form up into fleets and head out to the system where we plan to confront you.

Turns 4-?: My fleets are in transit heading out to where I might find you. Gawd knows what your surprise attack forces are doing to my civilization in the meantime.

Later: We finally meet in battle. By now, you've probably spent a small fortune maintaining your striking force, but may have recouped your losses by taking over several of my worlds in the meantime.

So... there's the envisioned drill for a "surprise attack." Keeping all of your strength in the Reserve is not a handy and immediate "fire brigade" for dealing with incursions. It takes time to mobilize and deploy those guys.

I thought I'd share that with you.

Sector government and the reserve:

Sector Governments and The Reserve in Master of Orion III

Key Concept: Both "Sectors" and "The Reserve" are administrative abstractions in MOO3. Their function is to serve as a bureaucratic "bridge" between the Imperial Government level and "Local" (i.e., System) Government levels.

Sectors are, literally, represented by a square grid superimposed over the Galaxy Map. Beginning with the upper-left grid square as "Alpha 1" with their names increasing incrementally by Greek letters and Arabic numerals, one can quickly find a given "piece of space" on the Master of Orion III map.

When a civilization has established 3 or more System "Seats of Government" in a Sector of space, one of those System Seats can build a Sector Seat of Government. Establishment of a Sector Seat allows the planet where it exist to build Sector-level buildings (that might have a sector-wide effect / benefit), collect sector-wide taxes, and distribute funds and edicts on a sector-wide basis. Each Sector, in addition to its political leader (a Governor) also has a single Army Marshal and Fleet Admiral. It is their responsibility to oversee all matters within that sector (and neighboring sectors, too, until they develop enough to establish their own Sector Seats). Thus, when fleets clash, both are lead (at the highest level) by their respective Sector Fleet Admirals. (Yes, there's a whole hierarchy of Leaders in MOO3 and a complete chain of command. Sector Leaders are the highest ones below the Imperial level.)

The other gift that Sector Government bestows is a Mobilization Center. Not surprisingly, this works hand-in-glove with that civilization's "Reserve."

The Reserve is where existing military units rest when they are not "mobilized" (i.e., on the map). While ships and troops are "in Reserve," green units will receive basic training while veteran troops will "rust" a bit, thus averaging out their experience levels. Also, destroyed systems on ships will be repaired/replaced as the fleet has a "dry dock" at each Mobilization Center. Naturally, the maintenance costs for will be very, very low while they exist in the Reserve. One can (and should) amass a considerable force and maintain them very cheaply merely by stockpiling them in the Reserve. How long a civilization can sustain a war is in part measured by the depth of its Reserves (i.e., the ability to quickly mobilize forces and replace front-line losses) as well as the size of its treasury (maintaining active duty forces is quite expensive). When military units are called up from or sent back to the Reserve, it is always done through Sector Seat Mobilization Centers (or the Imperial Seat of Government).

It has been asked, do forces in Reserve "literally exist" within a civilization? Well, yes and no. Remember, the Reserve is an abstraction. Force in it are "here, there, everywhere and nowhere." They're amorphous. If a planet rebels, can they take some military units with them? You bet. Can you attack another civilization's Reserve? Not directly, but spies and events can certainly affect the secrecy and security of an enemy's reserves, as can the Lex Galactica (the laws of the Orion Senate) which might, for example, impose Reserve Minimums or Maximums.

Now, as an adjunct to the abstraction of the Reserve, each civilization's Reserve has a "Delay Box." That is where we put forces to simulate transit, training, R&R, overhauls, and other such time consuming expenditures that occur between removing them from the map and having them once again in good (and cheap) standing stored and ready in that civilization's Reserve. How long forces are "in delay" varies by distance, engine technology levels, obstacles, one's war footing, leadership, and a good, old-fashioned random die roll added in to simulate innumerable variables and uncertainty and, thus, complete our abstraction to achieve the desired effect. (In game designer parlance, these kind of abstractions are called "design for effect.")

The Reserve and Delay Box work on many levels of the game. For example, if you want to buy ships from or sell them to another civilization, they go from one civilization's Reserve to the other's via its Delay Box. (These deals take time, including delivery and retrofitting.) Again, nothing is instantaneous save for a player attempting to seize a sudden opportunity when a window of opportunity opens but how prepared that player will be should a surprising opportunity come along, one can only guess.

So, the guiding rule here is that you can't demobilize a fleet on one side of the map this turn and remobilize on the other side next turn. It simply doesn't work that way. Instead, every ship in a disbanded task force it must spend its allotted time "in Delay" before it is again available in Reserve. And even once there, it must be remobilized elsewhere and then steam off from that Sector Mobilization Center to the actual "front line." One cannot teleport fleets around the map nor even move them with the ease of a pistol. Instead, planning ahead and preparing for the unexpected will be hallmarks of good play in Master of Orion III (as it should be).

More on the same: >> Wouldn't it be simpler just to have reserve ships fly to the nearest sector capital when they enter reserve, and stay there in a little box until returned to active duty? I get antsy whenever actual units travel through "abstraction-land" on their way from one place to another. Hell, it even bugs me that in Starcraft you can use minerals harvested at base A to build stuff at base B... <<

I hear you, and believe me we had this argument when first cooking this part of the design. However, "abstraction land" opens up some pretty nifty game design doors and closes some pretty nasty ones.

The neat doors it opens many of you people have already surmised. Intelligence and espionage, events, etc. plus myriad technological possibilities become available to us as more of a "game within the game." We can also build into this system certain racial tendencies, government efficiencies/inefficiencies, as well as technological goo-ga's (to use the technical name) to affect such things as Reserves, Delays (and Logistics, another abstraction of this ilk). All of this we can do very neatly with very simple mechanics for players (who care to know about this stuff) to grasp. We have a system here that should not be overly burdensome on players to keep track of.

The nasty doors it closes all have to do with "performance hits." Remember, MOO3 is a game with a bajillion places for folks to live and where oodles and oodles of ships can exist. The one thing you want to avoid is having all of those oodles needing to be accounted for on the map all the time (because then you have to check them every turn). If we put them "in abstraction land" (a.k.a. in the Reserve or Delay), they can exist in the game without being a huge hit on either your computer's CPU or yours.

That's right, I'm sweating the player's own gray-matter here. We're going to give you mind-numbing quantities of stuff that you can potentially concern yourself with. As I read on these boards about the fears of those just learning about the game, many center around being buried alive in minutiae. Well, if you had to micromanage everything, like having every ship you own at your fingertips on active duty every turn, then yeah... those fears would be founded.

That's why we have Leaders doing the "grunt work" of the management in your civilization. That's why we've simplified (i.e., abstracted) the Logistics and Reserve functions of one's military. That's why we've introduced a whole system of Macromanagement features. Keeping one's fleet growing but in mothballs until it's pressed into service is a very fitting concept for the story we're trying to tell in MOO3. At the end of the day, I think most players will look at the design decisions we made (i.e., that we tried to include everything yet tried to keep it all as simple and manageable as possible) as the right approach, when considered as a whole.

Path to victory: Let me give you my brief take...

Even though there are added challenges to achieving any of the game's victory conditions, they are all possible to achieve. What you shouldn't have is a "smooth path" that leads to victory. Instead, whichever road you take will have its share of bumps, potholes, and on some turns landmines. (Sort of like life.)

So, what I expect players will do from time to time is to tidy up their lines, mend their fences, put their ducks in a row, and then sally forth once more into the breech. In other words, pausing occasionally to get their own house in order before venturing out to progress themselves further along the path of victory. One must tend to one's own garden (as well as pilfering thy neighbors').

Thus, there will be windows of opportunity constantly opening and closing for players. When there's trouble at home, those windows might be closed while you deal with domestic matters. When your neighbors have such problems, those windows might be open for you to take advantage of (if your own house is in order). So, there will be times to push ahead and times to regroup, that's all.


David "Stormhound" Craft, Assistant Designer

AI IFP: The AI opponents will have IFP and have to make priority decisions too.

This is where the "unlimited IFP" argument gets amusing. Who wants to play "let's out-micromanage a computer?"

More on the same: The computer will make exactly the same sorts of choices as a human player. I really don't know how much more clearly I can state this.

More: >> What is, technically and philosophically, the difference between the AI using an IFP to control something directly and the AI trusting the AI to handle the situation (and save an IFP)? <<

The difference, in both terms, is that you may get a different outcome. An internal policy may be different (and policies cover such details as taxation and the government's response to unrest among the citizens), a diplomatic outcome may be different...if the top-level AI doesn't like an outcome, IFP give a chance to shift in favor of a preferred outcome. What could be more fundamental than that?

It works the same way for a human player.

IFP in combat: We've got things arranged so that prior to combat you'll have your FULL load of IFP.

So it's more a matter of "how many do I need to save up for non-combat use?" You can battle away, just beware that the empire doesn't crumble while you're off playing Alexander.

More on the same: >> Does this mean that the player will be able to choose what level of interaction they want in a combat, and spend IFP's accordingly in different amounts in a combat situation? Or does this refer to the potential for multiple battles in a single turn? <<

Multiple battles. Subject to playtesting of course, 1 IFP should give you control over one space battle, with no need to spend more.

Release date: This question pops up about once a week, it seems. The answer is Q1 2002.

Difference of leaders from MOO2: The whole leader concept will be different than MOO2. You'll have a whole host of leaders which form your government, and they'll be shuffling around to new jobs or retiring with some frequency. It's not the "hire a hero" concept any more.

Hotseat: Sorry, but no hotseat, for reasons already quite well explained. Alan would've loved to have had a play-by-email option too, but that just wasn't going to work for pretty much the same reasons. Further requests on this vein are going to be rather futile.

Multiple empires being of the same race: You're not playing MOO1 or 2, where race was the determining factor. You can have multiple different empires of the same identical race, and each empire is treated as a completely separate entity. Heck, you could have a game with 32 different Silicoid empires, all at war with one another!

It's really no different than having all of these separate nations on Earth, each of which is an independent political entity despite the fact that we're all humans. The United Nations seems to be able to tell the Canadians from the Cambodians.

More on the same: The race selection screen offers you the chance for your government to start as a member of the Senate. That choice is on the race selection screen because it fits well there, and it's a starting choice. Two players, A and B, might both elect to play Tachidi. Player A might choose for his government to have Senate membership, while player B doesn't want hers to have anything to do with it. These are completely independent choices, and nothing that player A chooses will affect player B (and vice versa). The two players will start out in completely different systems, quite possibly in very distant parts of the galaxy from one another. As to how anyone who's not a member can become one, that's really a whole different topic, but there will be a process in place. But even if both Tachidi governments end up in the Senate, they will each be treated as individual members in every way.

Rantz following up: You should (if you wanted to) be able to play with 32 of the same race, to see who's the best with the same 'toolset' so to speak.

Hiding the numbers: We're after consistent behavior, so we're not going to go out of our way to hide the numbers. You may have to dig a little to find them, but you should be able to find them, especially if you can read the spreadsheets where most of them will be stored.

We'll maintain fog-of-war where we think it will be genuinely useful, but our primary objective is not one of frustrating the player.

Owning worlds: There are several ways of determining ownership, though. First off, it's not the number of regions controlled, but the size of population. Once one empire hits critical mass, the planet is theirs. It's also possible for a planet to be neutral, but once they hit critical mass they'll make a decision whose they are (if anybody's).

However, systems can be contested in the Senate. If you press a claim for a given system, and the Senate agrees, it's all yours, baby. If you lose to a rival claimant, however...

Starship reserve pool: When you build starships, they go into a reserve pool. When you create task forces, you draw on the ships in that pool. That should limit the amount of worrying you have to do...

(I specified starships, because obviously things like satellites would stay where they were built.)

Leaders: a) Leaders will not improve in abilities over time. When you see them in the game, they'll be at the peak of their careers skill-wise. You're getting people with experience, not wet-behind-the-ears/dewflaps/tentacles/fins newbies.

b) Leaders will not stay in the same job nearly so long as you think (they want promotions too, and expect to get them!).

So no, long-lived races won't have an advantage. Nor will hive mind races operate nearly so much as a collective as would obviate the need for good leaders (otherwise, they'd be playing a whole different game...and you have to keep in mind that elements of the game have to work similarly for everyone).

Production efficiency: Infrastructure is a necessary part of the economy, as is production capacity. Both are essential to cost-efficient production. Sure, if you want to fire a copy of the blueprints for the latest thingamajig out to your barely-scraping-by border colony, they'll start building widgets for you...slowly, and expensively. If you want faster, it'll be even more hideously expensive; if you want cheap, you'd better not want it soon.

On the other hand, your highly developed planets will crank 'em out like there's no tomorrow and for less cost.

Where do you want to build today?

Governments: I hope we'll be able to put out a full data dump sometime soon, but here's the list of governments. Before all the howling starts (and it will, I've been here long enough to know that), keep in mind that governments in MOO3 are more a structural thing than a Flavor of the Week. We've eliminated some (like Communism and Fascism) because you can emulate them perfectly well by setting government policies on the economy, religious and political freedoms, forced labor, state security vs. individual liberty, and other items (over 50 items, by the way).

Here's the list, official at this point but subject to change if we find a *really* good reason to do so:

Unique Series

  • Unique (i.e. some very strange structure)

Tribal Series

  • Kin-based
  • Group-based

Absolutist Series

  • Despotism
  • Monarchy

Transitional Series

  • Oligarchy
  • Constitutional Monarchy
  • Corporate

Representative Series

  • Democracy
  • Parliamentary
  • Republicanism

Collectivist Series

  • Hive
  • Unification

Ok, cue the rioters...

More on the same: >> Are many of these intended to be 1st/2nd stages of development, like in MOO2? For example, Unification = better Hive, Corporate = better Oligarchy, and so on. <<

As has been noted before, there is no "1st/2nd stage government" nonsense as was in MOO2. Further explanations are going to have to wait.

Leviathan size: While someone else gets to make the final "decision" on this, my best guess based on the relative sizes in hull spaces (which are numbers that I *do* have in the design doc) is that Leviathans are unlikely to be much bigger than 1 km (which is a pretty darned big ship when you get down to it, Hollywood silliness notwithstanding).


Kevin Dill, Programmer

Tactical manoeuvres: Sorry for the late response on this one— I've been busy working on developing these (seriously - that's what I've been doing for the last week!). None of it has gotten past the designers yet, to say nothing of making it into code, but I think it's safe to say that your ships will do more than line up and slug it out. :)

On the flip side, keep in mind your role in the combat. You are a political leader, with authority even higher than that of the admiral. Your job is to tell your forces what to accomplish, not how they should accomplish it. Micromanagement = bad.



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