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Official CommentsQSI Posts on the Discussion Boards — Part One

Updated June 18, 2001:

Alan Emrich, Lead Designer

Random starting races: >> Along with random galaxy layouts and randomised starting races, how about allowing the number of starting races to be chosen randomly? <<

I had not thought of that. That's a very good idea. I'll have to whip up a formula to get the "right number" of random civs on the map at start based on the starting size of the galaxy, but yeah... that's a great idea and we should include it!

Score another one for the MOO3 fans. It's great having you guys "playtest the design" in its theoretical stages like this and offering us such good suggestions.

Starting location as a Senate Member: If you start as a Senate Member, you'll be nearer the center of the board and vice-versa. However, let me also add that the stars are more densely packed toward the center of the board as well.

"Wonders": All right, here's "the word" on "wonders."

This issue is still TBD (to be determined). If (repeat, if) we have them in MOO3, they will not work exactly like they do in other games. Instead of being nailed onto the proverbial Tech Tree, ours would probably function hand-in-glove with the more chaotic Orion Senate or the Events engine (i.e., these would come about as unpredictable "windows of opportunity"). Presumably, they would also be "custom fitted" for the civilization endeavouring to build them.

Consequently, they bear much thinking about from a design standpoint. We don't have to "nail these down" just yet, so we're off in other design directions at the moment.

How big is a "Sector?" >> 1) How big will a sector be? I was wondering more along the lines of how many systems one might find in a typical system, but I suppose I'd like to know how long it would take to cross a sector at various tech levels. Of course, if this hasn't been nailed down yet, that's understandable. <<

This hasn't been nailed down yet. (You understand.) Presumably, it will vary with the size of the map. However, sectors must be "standardized," people. They can't be weird-shaped to bend to the economic or political geography of the galaxy. So, yes, you could have a system in a sector that is not "connected" directly back to the Seat of the Empire. Poop happens. Heck, if a guy's planet rebels 8 sectors away and wants to join my civilization (and I accept them), how in the heck would you sort that out?

No, sectors must mean the same thing to everyone. Borders are a different matter, naturally. Also claims, but I don't want to get into those discussions here.

>> 2) You mentioned something about possible senate imposed minimum/maximum reserve levels. <<

That was an example based on current conjecture. That's not definitely "in" the game at the moment. We'll get to the Orion Senate agenda items later in the game's development.

>> First of all, I hope this can be changed through bills forwarded by senate members. <<

That's how pretty much everything gets changed in the Orion Senate.

>> Secondly, and this has a rather broad scope, will the senate "just know" when a member (or even non member) violates its rules? <<

Possibly. But even so, they won't do anything about an infraction unless someone puts forward a bill to "punish" the appropriate parties. If everyone "looks the other way," their window of opportunity to make a stink about it closes and the matter is moot.

>> The broader issue here, in my mind at least, is that there is a difference between reality and one's perception of reality. I sure hope the game distinguishes itself in reflecting that fact better than previous games. <<

So do I. Punishment is neither swift nor sure in the Orion Senate. However, it can be quite wrathful when greatly aroused. Think of a parent with several hyperactive children. This one is hitting another, that one is juggling knives, another is making a huge mess, that one just flipped the bird... Whom do you yell at first? Or at all? Especially when the kids can vote? It's a madhouse, that Orion Senate, but it still wields a big stick and has a lot of family members to fear if you manage to unite them against you...

Is MOO3 becoming too sim-like? I understand your concern. In fact, I share it.

But allow me to explain why, although MOO3 has a certain 'SimGalaxy' aspect to it, it remains a hard-core strategy game.

In Master of Orion III: we've "raised the focus" of the traditional 4X galactic conquest game, both literally and figuratively. Literally, because we've raised the player's perspective from that of "emperor" to the "spirit of a civilization" that transcends mere emperors. And figuratively by adding in that "5th X" element of eXperience to the game -- attempting to create a "you are there" mindset.

To both of these ends, the 'SimGalaxy' approach works well to simulate all of the "low level decision-making" that a player might want to examine and occasionally alter. Where we're not a "Sim" game, however, is that MOO3 is definitely turn-based and we have clear, competitive victory conditions that players are vying for (the "sims" in our game don't know how to "win," that's what players bring to the table).

So, the "sims" do the "modelling" of the galaxy — its people, political factions, religious movements, etc.; a model specifically created for you, the player, to put your stamp on and see the impact of your decisions (often, again, as told by the "sims").

Caught enemy spies: If you catch an enemy spy, we roll on a bunch of "fate" type tables. There are myriad results: the spy could commit suicide, could escape, could be captured alive and "squeezed" (with many different outcomes from that), etc.

Double agents: Agents can be "doubled." If you discover that one of your agents has been doubled, you may get a chance to "triple" that agent. It won't be easy or likely, but it could happen.

Two diplomacy wins? >> Just wondering, is the basic difference between Senate Presidency and Orion Heir that one is through the Senate, and the other is going around the Senate? <<

There's a difference.

The President of the Senate gig will work along the lines of a Senate Vote on pretty much anything else. Votes will be by population size (except for the New Orions, who get votes by their own nefarious means).

The Heir, though... that's a different matter entirely, but it does require the Senate to exist and put the final bit of "legitimacy" into the mix. You see, getting other civilizations to recognize your heir (as opposed to their own phoney-boloney candidate) is a "big deal" politically. It's a major coup with considerable diplomatic gravitas. Supporting (or withdrawing support once it's given) is a "big deal" in the game. Also, adding things that "legitimize" your heir are also important. You get a "legitimate enough" heir and proffer it... well, that could be the ballgame.

Spying, battles, and leaders, posted by forum user "Xentax:" Alan elaborated on some topics in chat today, and gave me the go ahead to summarize them for 'the group'.

Unfortunately, My IE instance crashed out big time midway through posting it, so the details will all be coming from my head rather than quoted directly. Plus, the new chat client scrollback is too short, so the first half is all from memory anyway.

Alan covered three main topics: Spying, Battle Reports, and some of the details of the Leader-Driven empire.

Spying

Alan talked to us about the "Spy Grid".

Basically, this is a cross-reference between mission type (Subversion, SIG (Secret Intelligence Gatherer), Blunt Instrument, and Sharp Instrument (and there are others, I believe)) and target circle. This is the part that is previously unexplained, I think. There are two types of circles in this list:

1. Primary Circles -- These areas are where an AI Leader's 'job' is defined. Examples are Military, Social, Scientific [and, extrapolation on my part: Economic, Political]. Every leader will have [I think a single] primary circle. This is the type of target.

2. Secondary Circles -- These are what Alan likened to hobbies. A leader may have one of these; I don't think more than one. Examples were Outlaw, Sports, and Vices [sounds like there are lots more too]. Also, if the leader is "active" in their ethos, that would count as a secondary circle. This is an 'area' where the target might be 'acquired', though I think the primary circle is valid as well.

So, given the circle, and the mission type, the spy now has a potential target list. For example, if the choices were subversion, military, and sports, your spy might work his way into a Sporting event where a likely military officer is also frequently contactable. I'm not sure if the spy can be assigned to a primary area or not – i.e., work his way into the military, THEN try to subvert members of the military.

The spy then goes through the "Spy Novel Generator" to decide the outcome — i.e. good or bad with some levels of detail. If it was a 'happy' outcome, the prize is chosen from a lottery based on the assignment. The above example would be an Army or Navy Officer, a Supply or Reserve - oriented leader, perhaps, or some other Military-oriented leader.

The details of the "novel" will be viewable through the 'files of the intelligence office' — I believe at no cost to your IFP, but I didn't confirm that.

Hopefully, Alan will fill in details and fix errors on my part.

Next, we talked about

Battles

Specifically, I clarified for my own mind what you get from battles that you don't participate in. If it's your own battle and you didn't spend an IFP, you get an after-action report from one of the present Leaders. Whether this is the highest ranking officer that survives, or what, I don't know. Depending on this leader's ability, you'll get more or less information, and more or less analysis (which is more or less accurate, whee!). So, if it's a good leader, you might get some information along the lines of "We need better missiles" or "We aren't hitting them hard enough".

If there's an ally or an espionage source at a battle in which you're not directly involved, you'll get something along the same lines, report-wise.

For your battles, If the leader is good enough, and there's enough information, your empire may get one (or more?) "I Need" reports, which leads me into the next topic.

Leaders

Specifically, we talked about how... well, progress... in your empire is driven by these "I Need" requests. In the above battle example, if the leader said "We need better missiles", this "I Need Better Missiles" request from the military might go into several "in baskets" — the Spymaster, the R & D people, even the diplomatic people. Each leader getting such requests responds to these based on their ability and their possible responses. So, your spies might work on stealing better missiles, your research people might work on inventing better ones, and your diplomats may make discreet inquiries into trading for better ones.

This "I Need" request/response model is across the board, not just for battles. Planetary Governors might cry out for better terraforming technology, or better crowd control, [or maybe more food or more industrial development?]. I suppose your diplomats might even ask for spare ships to trade in exchange for technology or something else? I don't know the whole story, but I suspect that might be the case — needs in one area might spawn needs in another, and so on. It'll be interesting to see.

And finally, addressing leaders directly, Alan answered some of my clarification questions on good and bad leaders. You can spend X (maybe just one, but I was being general) IFPs to show your opinion of a leader...what Alan called casting "The Imperial Eye" on that leader's career. You choose whether you want to help or hinder that leader's career, based on your personal pique of course. He added that your Big Leader can do this as well; of course, if he's a moron, that means you'll be spending IFP cleaning up after his ineptitude rather than improving elsewhere. But if he's rewarding and punishing the way you would, you'll be hot to trot.

I didn't get an answer (yet, hopefully) on whether or not this affects the nature and tendencies of the leaders you get over time, or whether this is purely based on other factors (what ethoi and government your empire currently has, etc). I assume the range on leadership abilities (to both ends of the spectrum) will always be randomized.

That's the feast, everyone dig in ;)

Demo: We're not planning on releasing a demo for MOO3. Besides there being no time to veer off schedule and make one, how could we possibly show all the depth of this game in a mere demo? Whatever it would be would be a gross distortion of a very large and complex design. I'm afraid that we'll all have to count on the postings of those who play the pre-released versions of the game (beta testers) to fill in the "information gaps."

Instant payment in trade: Everything is a "cash and carry" deal. That is, if you make the deal, you've got to have the goods in hand and it applies immediately. No "take backs." If you promised a vote, you HAVE TO deliver it. I'm not planning on letting players monkey around with that kind of stuff. (I can see the AI getting blamed for all sorts of "foul play" if we did!)

So, you can't buy 10 of my Floyd class Heavy Cruisers for AU50,000 if you don't have the scratch in your Imperial Treasury and I don't have the ships in my Reserve.

Does a potential heir have a lifespan? "No." Your heir is "generic." No "career span" required. After all, if your heir kicks off, there's always someone malingering around as "next in line." So, rather than an individual, you're really trying to get a line of them to fly.

Simultaneous turns: While you're planning out your turn prior to committing to it by pressing the DONE button, the computer players will be doing the same. Everyone plans simultaneously. The computer shouldn't "peek" at your move before making its own decisions about what to do this turn.

More on the same and phases: The gist is this:

I start my turn. I have the IFPs I didn't spend in battle or parlay from the end of last turn left to spend during my Planning Phase.

I commence my Planning Phase by reviewing my SitRep (Situation Report). It's the "boiled down" version of what happened last turn, the consequences of which I will want to consider this turn. These are prioritized for me and summarized on a To Do list as well. At any time during the turn, I can reference either one to make sure I don't forget/skip anything important.

After examining the SitRep I review what I feel are key elements of "the plan" for this turn and make sure my Leaders and I are on the same wavelength. Where we're not, I burn up my IFPs to impose my will upon the situation. When that's over, I press the DONE button and await the Combat Phase. While waiting for the Combat Phase (assuming you guys are still dinking around doing your Planning Phase while I'm waiting for you to finish), I can look at anything and even give "pre-orders" for next turn. That is, orders I can go quickly through on next turn's To Do list and confirm in an instant; this might be diplomatic offers, ship designs, putting "the imperial eye" on a Leader, etc. (A real time saver that, and saving time can make you money in MOO3, but that's another story.)

So, now it's the Combat Phase. I get my fresh ration of IFPs at this point (possibly saving 1 unspent IFP from the previous Phase) and "pick my battle." Then I do the pre-battle dance, RTcombat, ground combat, and post combat Segments and that ends the Combat Phase.

Next is the Diplomacy Phase. All of the "outgoing" messages people shot off during their Planning Phase at the beginning of the turn come home to roost at this point. After reading them over and checking my Leaders' responses (who is our Ambassador to the Ithkul and why is she agreeing to trade with them?), I use a couple IFPs to alter two of them. The Diplomacy Phase is over with another DONE click.

Then a new turn begins.

Diplomacy: >> Stupid question coming up... so this means that diplomacy isn't realtime? (working on that premise for the next q...) How will counter offers and counter-counter offers be treated? Will we just have to wait several turns to hammer out negotiations where this happens, or will there be another mechanism for handling this situation? <<

Yeah, if you're going to do a lot a back-and-forth to work out a single deal, expect it to take multiple turns. (Welcome to another round of GATT agreements.)

IFP in battle and battle review in single-player and multi-player: Since this isn't set in stone yet, I'll share my thoughts with you (while donning my flame resistant suit).

If you're playing solitaire, I'm leaning toward letting you control all the battles you want at 1 IFP each or watch all the battles you want for free. (Hey, it's your time and your dime.)

If you're playing multi-player, I see that as a different kettle of fish for two very important reasons: First, because you will occasionally see how battles are fought by non-AI players (i.e., you might actually see something "new," "novel," or "breakthrough" in tactics -- learning about the skill or psychology of an opponent, perhaps). Second, to keep the pacing of the game moving along, we can't have some players dawdle all day watching and fighting battles while others are trying to "get a move on." So, here I'm inclined to let players either control a battle at a cost of 2 IFPs or view a battle for free (or use that time that other players are watching/fighting battles to put their own plans for next turn into pre-motion).

Alright, again, this is not set in stone. This is merely a look into a designer's head. Now, about the only variation on this that I'm likely to seriously entertain is this: in multi-player providing a "max battle" setting where one civilization can fight / view X number battles per turn (with each increasing the length of a Game Turn by another two minutes -- or whatever the time limit for RTCombat will be balanced to).

Stormhound following up: I batted a slightly modified version of your suggestion at Alan, and here's what he likes at this point:

Single-player:
1 IFP to command one battle
0 IFP to watch
(no freebie on command)

Multi-player:
1 IFP to watch one battle
2 IFP to command one battle
First battle of each turn (whether it is watched or commanded) costs one fewer than above. So if you watched one and commanded one, it'd cost 2 IFP regardless of which order you did it.

>> Wouldn't a turn time limit provide any necessary restrictions on battle watching in multiplayer? <<

No, it wouldn't with the timer as designed. The timer applies to the planning phase (which is turn-based) not to the real-time stuff after

That's not to say that it couldn't be redone, but that's the way it is right now.

Various questions: >> During times of war, will birthrate decrease to account for most able-bodied young men/women/fish/bug/things being off planet fighting? <<

Actually, war increases birthrates. Deathrates, too, of course, but particularly birthrates.

>> Is "Discovering the Secret of the Antarans" or whatever, the equivalent of winning through technology? <<

No.

>> You expect HUGE space battles, and each ship is supposed to be 3d right? Well.... won't that in turn create HUGE strain for graphic cards and cpus? What are the min and recommended system specs anyhow(if they are on the main site, they are well hidden)? <<

No. You can run MOO3 on a PII 266, I believe. How? That's "engineer magic" and I couldn't begin to explain it.

>> Population are supposed to be opposed to too much new technology too fast right? Are there certain Religious/Political ways around this? <<

Not exactly, no.

>> It seems I remembered Dealing with Spys to be a "Under the Hood" type thing... well, then, I hope that means that they won't be as necessary as a defensive unit as they were in MOO2. <<

You have your State Security screen to "manage your defenses" including: Oppressometers, Disinformation, and Codes.

>> Will different races have different ending sequences? Will some even have exclusive victory parameters? <<

No, I don't believe so. That would take the entire art budget and schedule to do.

>> Ok, spies can operate in various "Sectors" (military, science, population, etc) Is there a way that you can keep your spy defences concentrated on one or more of those "sectors" to give advantages to someone who can second guess their opponents, or to sacrifice other "sectors" security to make sure that new technology doesn't "get in the wrong hands"? <<

Actually, those are "circles," not "sectors." And, no, you can't play "guessing games" like that. Intelligence defenses are pretty much there to "defend everything," not "ignore everything else and defend one thing."

>> Will we be able to disable certain victory conditions (for example, everything but Taking over the Counsel) to provide a more varied multiplayer experience? <<

We're planning on including that feature.

 

David "Stormhound" Craft, Assistant Designer

The Reserve: Unless Alan has rewritten things lately, there's no such thing as a "Sector Reserve". There's only ONE Reserve, and ships can be mustered from it at Sector Seats or the Imperial Seat.

Senate: If the Senate can set something, then a member can introduce a bill to change it.

Multiple civilizations of the same race: It will be QUITE possible to have multiple civilizations of the same race to start the game, and this will likely happen later in the game if civs split due to rebellions, etc.

Events: There will be Events in MOO3, though the mechanic is going to be radically different...no more of the "bolt from above" type of stuff. I don't recall whether Alan's said more, so I won't, except to say that the method Alan devised is quite clever and I think the players are really going to enjoy it.

Moving population: There's been some discussion on this before, let me see if I can give you the condensed version:

1) You won't physically move people as in MOO1/2. You CAN'T. You can give them inducements to leave a certain place and/or go to another certain place, but you can't just move them like chess pieces. If they don't want to go, they won't. If they don't like things where they are, they'll leave. Get them mad enough, and they'll leave your empire.

2) You can purposely create colonies, but sometimes your people will do so on their own, if there's a nice enough place to do it.

So far as the space movement blunders of previous versions, I think that won't be a problem in MOO3.

IFP management: As a management tool to help you use IFP more efficiently, you're given the abilities to:

* Designate worlds as belonging to one (or more!) groups (like "science world", "border world", "industrial world", and possibly including the ability to define several of your own groups), and change those designations as desired

* Give build orders specific to an entire group of worlds with a single order (instead of having to manually manipulate build queues on a dozen or more planets individually)

This is in fact probably the single feature most often overlooked by the people who complain about limited IFP.

Leader autonomy: Leaders can "go maverick" on some decisions, effectively ignoring your dictates. It depends on a number of factors that we haven't really revealed yet, but in basic form it depends upon just how independent their position makes them, and how loyal they are.

More on the same: The first thing I'm going to say at this point is that the discussion is getting beyond what I'm allowed to reveal. What I can say is this:

It's not just a case of leaders ignoring you willy-nilly. They can only do it on certain types of orders, or under certain conditions. Just for example, let's say you set an imperial-level policy on how you'll deal with unrest. The leader responsible for a given planet that's having unrest problems MAY decide he knows better how to deal with this specific situation. If he's good enough, he may be right. You then get to decide whether it's worth your while to micromanage this guy and spend an IFP to overrule him, or whether to let him run with it (especially if he's successful). In short, do you reward success, or adherence to policy?

You can put a degree of emphasis on policies that'll make underlings stick to them more frequently, if you want.

More explanation is going to have to wait for when we get into details of how IFP work, and how leaders work, but we are NOT trying to make the game about fighting your leaders to get them to do what you want. We're keeping a careful eye on this sort of thing, including the potential for problems like what some people are mentioning.

Being the "Guiding Spirit": The phrase is deliberately vague, but there is no single leader you can point to in the game, and say "that's me". There will be leaders "on top" (depending on the type of government, it could be a president, emperor, CEO, etc.) that come and go, and that you will employ to work your will. Some of these leaders will be better than others, but none of them are "you".

Another way to look at it is that "you" isn't a single entity at all...maybe "you" are some sort of Illuminatus group that sits quietly behind the scenes, pulling the strings and minding the clockworks of your civilization, and trying to avoid anything that would bring unwanted direct attention to your existence.

There are various possibilities, but no reason to pick any one of them as "the one", so for all practical purposes the phrase is a metaphor...fill in the intentional blanks with whatever makes you happiest as a player.

Waiting between turns: >> If you've finished your turn in singleplayer will you have to wait until all computer players have made there moves (Like CTP) or will the next turn start immediately after that (I believe like MOO2)? <<

That's more a function of how things get displayed, and how many decisions have to get made. The computer had to take some amount of time to take its turn in either case. There will be a lot going on between turns, especially as the game advances, but beyond knowing that we're keeping an eye on how much time those things take, I can't really give you any hard info.

Refugees: They'll be handled as with any other population movement: if there's something that causes people to leave, and they CAN leave, then they'll seek out a place to go that's to their liking and that they can get to...obviously, if you're blocking the border, it'll be hard for them to get there.

How the player reacts is up to the player, but the same policies as your "protagonist" is using[, being ‘ethnic cleansing',] would apply here as well.

More on the same: Physical blocking is a lot easier than you think...don't forget that most travel is by Star Lane.

>> If [the refugees are] a totally alien race, how will this race mix be demonstrated on your worlds? Because in the "postings by developers" section under "official comments" it says you can only have one race type per region... If planets are full will they seek out empty regions on your other worlds? <<

You've practically answered yourself. You can't have more than one race in a given region, so they'd have to go somewhere where there was an empty region. They may even settle a completely empty world, since in your example they're a different species and would probably prefer worlds that your main race didn't like so much.

Scientific aptitude: Certain races or even governments might be better at some tech, or at fundamental research vs. applied, or whatever. Lots of room for variety...

In multiplayer, will a player be able to review his empire after pressing "done" and waiting for the others to finish their turn? You'll not only be able to review, you'll be able to "plot ahead" orders for the next turn. How's THAT for giving you what you asked for? (g)

How many IFP per turn? The number isn't set yet, but it's likely to fall in the 6-10 range.

Race specific terraforming: Races will engineer planets (the word "terraforming" doesn't really fit any more, does it?) to be like what they want. The old MOO style of terraforming is gone, gone, gone.

 

Greg Marsters, Lead Programmer

Will multiplayer games have a save function? Yes, we intend to be able to save multiplayer games.

 

Kevin Dill, Programmer

Why 800*600 resolution? Many of these decisions are artistic, others are made on the basis of how big we can let things get and still be able to process turns in a reasonable amount of time. Remember that all this fancy AI we're doing has a tendency to be CPU intensive (which is why games haven't always had great AI). And, of course, being geeks we tend to think in powers of two. I don't think that memory was the limiting factor on this particular decision, though I could be wrong...

Task Forces without a core: Ok, a couple tidbits seem in order. Hopefully I won't get in trouble for saying too much! :) Just keep in mind that everything is subject to change until the game actually ships...

You can think of a task force as being made up of four sets of ships, located in three rings. The outer, or "picket," ring contains ships whose main job is to provide early detection and (possibly) engagement of incoming threats. The middle, or "escort," ring is composed of ships whose job is to protect the core in one way or another. The inner ring (not actually a ring at all) is the core. It contains two types of ships - close escorts and mission ships. The close escorts, like the escort ships in the escort ring, protect the mission ships. The mission ships do whatever the task force was designed to do (they would be assault ships in your example).

Note that a ship is not necessarily designed for a specific location in a task force, though there may be only one place it can go. Thus an assault ship would only reasonably be able to go in the core (as a mission ship), but a ship that is specialized for shooting down missiles could go be either an escort or a close escort (and thus be in either the core or the escort ring).

As for not having any core ships, well, Alan and I have talked about that. The example you gave is the most obvious one of a case where it doesn't make sense to put the mission ships in the core. However, conceptually there are other examples. A close-range space superiority task force might want to put its mission ships in the escort ring, for instance, so that they would be more spread out and less subject to area of affect weapons. The problem with doing things this way is that it becomes hard for the AI to decide which are the mission ships, and treat them accordingly.

Bottom line: I don't think this will be a problem for recon task forces. I doubt that it will be an option for other kinds of task forces. It would be nice, but my time (and that of the other space combat programmers) is better spent in other areas...

Military doctrine examples: Doctrine covers things like this:

- This particular ship type is specialized for shooting down missiles. It should target those first. If there aren't any missiles around, then target fighters, or space superiority ships, or commando ships, in that order of preference.

- That fleet should fight conservatively.

- The forces of our empire are permitted to use nuclear and chemical weapons, but not biological.

 

[ VIEW COMPLILATION FROM JUNE 11, 2001 ]

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