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Official CommentsQSI Posts on the Discussion Boards — Part One

Updated July 3rd, 2001:

Alan Emrich, Designer

Reserves "teleportation" tactic: >> I'm aware that there are penalties and modifiers applied when deploying a reserve. But still, with the example I gave with your empire cut in two, can you send reinforcements to the cut off colonies faster if they went 'off-road' into deep space? I don't think the reserve delay would be that slow. Hence the "ship teleportation" device in the form of reserve deployment can be a major and somewhat unrealistic factor. <<

I think a little faith is in order here, guys. The answer to your question is: "it depends." Obviously, distance and engine technology are huge variables to the rate of off-road movement.

But I believe that you're also wrong to think that Reserve Delay "won't be that slow." Mentally, on average, think 3-4 turns. (And the more Sector Seats you have, by the way, the longer Delay takes as you have to "spread things out" over a greater distance.) Of course, once you get ships back into your Ready Reserve, they still have to be re-mobilized (assuming the right mix of ships arrives concurrently to make the task force(s) you desire – something you can't guarantee) and then, on the next turn, begin moving to where you want them. This ain't a speedy process if you're in the midst of a shooting war. Especially a multi-front one! And by draining your reserves, you invite envying neighbors to seize the opportunity to kick you while you're down. It's a very delicate matter…

Finally, Sector Seats are important. If you "cut their empire in two" and failed to capture their Mobilization Center (Sector Seat) in the process, then you're right to have the concerns you expressed (assuming nothing else is distracting the neighbor you recently bisected). After all, you've left the job half done. You'll know why Rome had to defeat Carthage in three separate Punic Wars instead of getting the job done in one. Remember how Cato the Elder used to close every speech to the Senate: "And Carthage must be destroyed!" :-)

Mobilization Centers: Okay, this thread begat a discussion, and here's where we at.

First, you ain't gonna get to do Pearl Harbor or Taronto, per se. That is, you can't "bomb a guy's reserve ships in port." We'll leave that for Events and Spies, thank you very much. The location of reserves will remain safely in "abstractionland."

However, the argument for Mobilization Limits has been heard and is now the subject of a lively internal discussion. The consensus is "there will be one." How it might work is outlined as follows:

Mobilization Centers:

Only allowed on System Seats & Imperial Seat.

Is defined as a "Sensitive Asset" according to the Target Priority List when a planet is targeted in space battles.

Limited Mobilization Capacity when built; add components (/improve technology) to increase capacity. For example, a "basic" Mobilization Center might allow 16 Ships to be mobilized at that location per Game Turn. For each "wing" you build onto it, you get another +8 ships per turn that can mobilize there. That's a simplistic model, but you get the idea.

Space battles (and sabotage, etc.) can disrupt/damage/ the Mob Center itself (or its subcomponents), costing money to repair and/or sending the Mobilization Center itself (or its component) into the Delay Box (where they will return from whence they came upon exiting the Delay process). So, for example, I could sneak attack your Sector Seat, charge right for it, and try to cause wrack and ruin to that planet in hopes of at least disrupting your Mobilization Center there to give me a greater "edge" in the campaign.

Okay, that's presently where our thoughts are. Again, we're not going to compromise the abstraction of ships in Reserve, but we will give you unabstracted Mobilization Centers to nail instead. Figuring weight for age and computing the time-value of forces, that should net us about the same effect.

Stormhound following up: And obviously (before someone jumps all over the numbers) the "16" and "+8" are just made-up numbers that will have to be determined as we go. They're there for illustration, not chiselled in stone.

Disinformation: >> OK, everybody knows what the oppressometer is, but what about Disinformation and Codes? Who will we be able to disinform, only the other empires or our own people too? And what happens if the people find out? <<

The high concept is simple. Disinformation (which comes in three flavors) is the value we use to "defend" information. It's the "defense strength," if you will, of information about our civilization. Should your intelligence surmount my defense, then we also use disinformation as a value to distort what you do find out to determine the level of accuracy (or, more appropriately, inaccuracy) it has. You can't believe everything you read, you know. (For example, your spy might have found a secret document that says we have 20 new Leviathans in production. He may even accurately report the number 20 – which is not always the case, by the way; spies can "filter information through their own eyes." But, that value of 20 could be a lie in the first place; a fake number we planted in case anyone discovered our new Leviathan construction program. The intelligence game is not for anal-retentive types.)

Codes (which also some in three parallel flavors) are another "shield" to our sensitive information that you might be after. Everyone is automatically assumed to be trying to crack every other known civilization's codes every turn, and with each "crack" they make in a particular code, the intelligence data becomes more "gettable" and more reliable. Now, a civilization can change their codes (thus eliminating everyone else's "cracking" of it and resetting their opponent's "crack" values for that code to 0). But that changing a code comes at some cost, both in money and (temporarily) the Ability ratings of the Leaders who depend on those codes. One will not change them lightly every turn, but after they "age" a bit, one will feel compelled to lest the whole Orion Sector be eavesdropping on you!

Oh, and currently in the design (and I hope this makes it into the game), when you "chat" with another player, each chatting player picks a code channel to use. Others who have cracked any of those codes will get a partial message of your chat -- the better they've cracked them, the fewer distorted words will be in it. (Muhuhahaha)

Quest events: >> Wouldn't it be cool if you could have a special mission, where you had to build a special device, so you could outfit a special ship, or transport, or freighter, to bring it to a special place, so you could have something special happen? <<

Yes, we call those "Quest Events" and hope to support them in MOO3.

No free home world micromanagement: >> What if we were allowed to micromanage our homeworld for free, with no IFP cost? <<

No, and the reason is simple. When you have only the one planet, you'll have lots of IFPs with which to micromanage it. As your empire grows, micromanaging single planets will presumably drop lower and lower on your IFP "priority list." And even then, you should feel the points of the "horns of a dilemma" deciding between your perfect pet Home World and those cry-baby fledgling colonies that seems to always demand your attention.

In other words, the tension in the setting of your own priorities is what the IFP system is all about. Information is free, action requires IFPs.

Multiplayer imbalance: >> I don't like the idea for maximum of 1 battle commanded in MP. After all, this favors builders above warriors. Builders will macro/micromanage as much as they want, while warriors will be stuck in using their IFPs in activities they don't care about and/or don't understand well. <<

Oh, boy... where do I begin to rail against that statement?

First, I would suggest that it balances the game between builders and warriors. I would further state that most games of this genre (where there is detailed combat) are quite unbalanced in favor of warriors over builders. I believe that to be the general case. While you may personally like this imbalance I perceive (and, hey, I'm an old wargamer, so doing the "warrior thing" is something I quite enjoy), it is my job as a designer to redress all these perceived imbalances, this among them. So, to the fact is that the fulcrum between warlord and other player types is being nudged away from the warlord character, I say "good." I might also add, "it's about time."

And that "Builders will macro/micromanage as much as they want," oh please! I've been getting nothing but grief for over a year now about how we're limiting a player's ability to micromanage every colony and every build queue every turn. IFPs cut the same for every type of player, be they spymaster, diplomat, builder, warrior, or what-have-you. They should all feel that the needs of the other hats they have to wear are often a bit too distracting. Likewise that the constraints of the IFP system makes the tailoring of their actions each turn feel occasionally tight about the shoulders. It might even pinch a bit on some turns.

So, the design goal here is to extract from players a certain minimum "balanced approach" to their play, such that they will want to personally deal with every type of fire in the game at some point. Even builders will want to fight some battles, and even warriors will discover that not every problem has a military solution. Having talents as one of these "player types" or another will give one an edge when dealing with fires of that variety (so that one must learn to "care/understand" a little bit about everything), but one should not> be able to "club their way to victory" with one specialty alone (as the warriors have always been able to do in previous games of this ilk). Instead, the best overall player will win. That is, the one who can manage every situation with the greatest tenacity and aplomb – the true Renaissance player.

Do leaders get better with experience? The short answer is that they don't "gain experience." They're born with an Ability Rating and a Clout Rating, and that's pretty much how they go through life. It's their "innate ability," not their resume that we focus on.

Planet environmental parameters: Atmosphere, temperature (and, hence, moisture) are all abstracted in MOO3 which makes it easier to compare (and terraform) all kinds of different planet types with ease during play. It's a new system, but I think you'll like it.

And, yes, you can multiple races inhabiting the same planet (assuming it's bigger than a rock). By the way, just because you're ABLE to do so doesn't always make it a bright idea…

How are diplomatic relations displayed? It's really very simple. You've got the old-style RELATIONS Bar. That shows you the current state of affairs. You've also got a CASUS BELLI Bar with each other civilization. It has a sort of "gravitational" effect upon relations, but it also tells you what your civilizations wants vis-a-vis that other civilization. Conversely, you can also look at their Casus Belli Bars toward you, called the PERCEIVED IMAGE Bars. Thus, you'll know if the people of that other civilization generally want to kiss you or kill you.

The final "gravitational" influence on relations, of course, is your "natural relations state" (some civs just naturally do or don't get along, as per the game's storyline). Then, of course, there's the "immediate" influences, such as diplomatic and military initiatives.

Build queues: >> There's more than one queue, which means more than one thing is being built at a time. <<

And better than that, there's three items in each queue... so you can get all three out on the same turn (if they're cheap enough and you pay enough).

"Interest bar" seen in the middle-top of the Dev Diary #9 screen shots: >> If we spend less time on a turn [in the real life world], then we essentially get some more money [in the game world] <<

That's correct. According to Einstein's Theory of Business Relativity: Time = Money.

>> This is not an option? (because I know how Alan hates options), or is it only for games with timed turns? <<

Sweet Mother of Pearl, Alan does not "hate options." I just said that they're often a crutch for designers who aren't sure what they're trying to do.

And, yes, it is an option. Both in multi-player and solitaire play.

More on the same: I am very much against an in-game benefit (like extra money) for finishing your turns quickly. I think it would put too much time pressure on the players. Once you start rewarding people for doing things fast, the game starts moving towards the RTS style, in which the ability to think on the fly and act without hesitation is more important than careful weighing of options.

First of all, you might not gain or lose a nickel. After all, we adjust interest rates based upon the speed of your play (if you choose this option). If you have a balanced economy (0 in all your treasuries), playing fast or slow will have no effect whatsoever.

As for turning into a click-fest, I doubt that based upon my intimate experiences with a Danielle Berry (nee Dan Bunten) game called Global Conquest which I cribbed many of the timer's ideas from. (Yet another game I wrote the Strategy Guide for.)

No, in essence (having just designed the details of this system this past week), the timer bar works thus:

However long the turn length winds up being that turn, if you're a sentient player and using the timer option you could be affected. If you finished within the first 20% of the time used / allotted (depending how you "designed" the timer system -- yes, it's flexible; not bad for someone who "hates options," huh?) then you get a 1 1/2% bonus on your interest earned and a 3% break on your interest owed (I think... it's first thing in the morning and I can't remember the exact numbers right now). If you finish in the second 20% it's 1%/2%, the third 20% is 1/2%/1%. If you make it within the 60-70% of time slot, there's no change in the rates you pay. If you're in 70-80%, 80-90%, or 90-100% time slots, you earn an increasing 1/2% point less in interest income and a rising 1% more in interest expense per level.

So, basically, you've got the lion's share of the time to manage things. Only if you press matters to the far end is there any real pressure to finish.

Response to fans thanking the developers for their time on the forum: Thank you, everyone. We try.

I remember where I came from, and that's why I try to take to the time to answer so many of your emails and postings here on the message boards. I've even called a few of you out there who had so many questions or comments I simply didn't have time to write. :-)

Now, I know that Quicksilver has a very user/fan supporting philosophy, but I also have a personal philosophy about this. Once a game (or book or movie) is published, it really belongs to the people who enjoy it – to the fans. They're the ones who really take (and deserve) the "emotional ownership" of the thing. So, at the end of the day, I know that MOO3 is going to belong to you guys, not us. Long after we've moved on to the next project, you'll be the "parents" of "my child" and will have to care for it and raise it up. That's why I want you to know not just HOW things work in this game, but WHY – like everyone else on the team, there's a big part of me in it, so when you're left in charge of MOO3's future I want to leave you all of the notes I can.

These boards, by the way, have been a very good experiment in game development, I think. Any game with a fanbase like Master of Orion's really should open up to the fans. There have been ups and downs (with more to come), but it's been nice sharing the process with all you. I'm glad that so many of you really appreciate the access to us that you have. There's no "man behind the curtain" here; no powerful Wizard of Oz type character (okay... maybe Rantz <g>). We're just a bunch of folks like you blessed with the opportunity to make really great games like MOO3. And it's only fair that if you keep supporting us, we'll keep supporting you – and in our personal, open manner.

On behalf of everyone at Quicksilver, and the good folks at Infogrames who allow us to be so open with you about the work we're doing for them, let me thank all of you back in return. With you, we've been both teacher and student, and I'm happy to say that we've made some great associations and even a few friendships along the way.

On a personal note, I really look forward to all that remains to be shared, both the uplifting and the dispiriting (as such things are always a part of the game development process). I'm sure you'll be there to celebrate achievements completed and mourn failures realized as the development process continues – nothing designed is guaranteed to be in the finished product, after all. But most of all, I want to thank you all for being such excellent "playtesters" of the theory of the design (as much as has been posted). You've provided focus, challenged ideas, caused re-evaluations, contributed some fine ideas of your own, and generally kept us from getting lax. You're a fine bunch, and I'm happy to be serving with you on this project.

More on the same: >> I was just reminded of a story I had read when I looked at your sig after reading your heartfelt post.

A young boy approached two men. One had a smile on his face and was enthused the other was scowling a bit and generally in a rotten mood. The boy approached the man with the scowl and asked, "Mister, whatcha doing?" "I'm laying bricks."

The boy walked over to the other man and repeated his question, the man replied energetically "I'm building a Cathedral!"

The one man saw laying bricks as a menial task to be completed. The other man saw it as a wonderful work in progress towards a great goal. <<

Then there's the story about the guy in the circus whose job it was to sweep up the elephant dung as the parade when through town. When a bystander on the sidewalk asked why he didn't get another job, he said, "What? And give up show business?" ;-)

I'll share an important personal story with you. I was about 8 years old and had ridden my bike down to the "dime store." (They used to be "5 and dime" stores, but I guess there wasn't a lot left you could get for a nickel in the 60s.) This store, Kress, was where you could get just about anything; it even had a fountain and grill. Just the place for a young man to take his savings and buy a new model kit. (I loved building model cars; the Tom Daniels wacky racing cars being my favorites.)

Well, there in the model kit aisle is some ancient old geezer (probably in his 40s, but remember I'm 8) who no doubt shares my hobby as we're both perusing the kits very carefully. I find the one I want and get excited, then reach into my pocket and pull out the crumpled bills and change that constitute my fortune and begin counting. I'm short (and I don't have enough money to buy the kit, either). Crestfallen, I drop my chin to my chest and replace that model car kit (the "Dragon Wagon," I'll never forget it), and put it back on the shelf and started to shuffle away.

Walking by that guy, he stops me and says something like, "You don't have enough to buy that one?" I explain that I almost do, but that I certainly couldn't afford the tax in any case (a recurring theme in my life, as it turns out). So the man digs into his pocket and hands me four bits (that's two twenty-five cent pieces for the rest of you) so that I can realize my dream. With it comes this proviso:

"Someday, you'll be standing here instead of me, and some kid won't quite have what he needs. You remember what I did for you just now and help that kid out, okay?" I promised I would, then bought the model kit. As I built it, I had time to think about that stranger who made my joy possible, and built that kit with more care and panache than I ever had before in hopes of meeting him there again someday and showing it to him. I never did, but entered it into a model contest instead (and won my first ever trophy for a 3rd place finish).

But I never forgot that guy. So when I was shopping at Toys R Us for some new Hot Wheels cars for my little boy not too long ago, I admit to being a little giddy at all the cool selection of toy cars. (A lot more than when I was a kid.) But I did notice a young man there, about 9 years old, who found a car he clearly needed to fill a missing part of his collection. Like me, though, when I was his age, he didn't have enough scratch to buy it (again, not enough to pay the tax). Oh, man, he must have thought I was a loon, 'cause I got a bit misty-eyed seeing that kid there, just like I was once, and reached for my wallet. I peeled out a dollar and handed it to him and gave him the same proviso that I'd received over 30 years ago and the kid promised.

I hope that kid's happy and goes on to do great things. And I hope he remembers his promise to me, 'cause it's gonna change his life for the better when he fulfils that promise. You see, that was about the time I started getting all of your emails for MOO3 and opened up this message board, and it's made a lot of difference ever since. I remember being a fan where most of you are, and I'll help you out when I can. I made that promise over 30 years ago, and I'm sticking with it.

The state of the MOO3 design: The MOO3 project is undergoing an internal review right now. The kind where the schedule is re-evaluated and decisions get made about either adding time and/or resources or cutting features. We'll break it to you gentle if the re-eval means the game ships later or has features cut.

Now, a word to those new to the software publishing business: This stuff happens all the time, folks. Projects are regularly reviewed and hard decisions get made that affect them. That's just life in the software biz. For my part, I've been deliberately "overdesigning" MOO3 to make sure there would be plenty of material for whoever comes after me to do expansions/sequel products. [No, none are scheduled or even being discussed; chill out, people.] Now, so far, all the "overdesigned" stuff is stuff you guys don't even know about, but it should surprise no one if some previously mentioned features just can't be done on time/within budget and they get related to that same status of "next product." I mean, designing is cheap – art and engineering are expensive! :-)

How many buildings will be in MOO3? I'll give you a brutally honest answer: "we don't know yet." We've designed and engineered a lot of flexibility on this count, so basically anything we can think of can be added in with relative ease. So, as for how many? "Enough."

 

Thomas Hughes, Designer

Planets and moons: >> I've heard that a planet and its moons will be created pretty much at random, and then the largest body becomes the planet and all of the others become the moons. <<

Not quite. The planet is created first (planet size is influenced by the mass of the star) then that resulting planet influences the size and number of moons created. I went into greater detail in a previous post, which I will reprint for you below.

>> Well, my question is, will there be gas giant moons? I'm fairly certain that those don't exist, I've never heard of a moon that isn't made of a solid material. <<

Yes, there can be gas giant moons in MOO3. True, we don't have any gas giant moons in our own solar system but that doesn't eliminate the possibility of them existing elsewhere.

Let me add some additional comments about 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).

 

David "Stormhound" Craft, Assistant Designer

Improved starlanes increasing trade: >> Since Star Lanes are intimately involved with trade, I expect that there will be financial benefits to your Empire for improving them. No need for a toll booth, really – just increasing the efficiency and speed of local trade should increase your revenue. Probably. <<

Not just "probably". Definitely. The more trade, the more tax revenue you get. In essence, the "toll booth" is already abstracted in.

What are collectable "event cards"? It's a planned feature, and we view it as a better way of handling events than the random "thunderbolts from the blue" that characterize most games. Most events... and this includes GOOD events too... would be things you'd play on someone else. If you're a big empire, you'll likely get beneficial events to play on those who want your favor; if you're a small empire, you're more likely to get nasty events with which to smack the nose of your bigger neighbor.

Details of specific events or the "collection procedure" are not available at this time.

Alan following up: There is much to say, and will be said, about the Events engine in MOO3. It will not be said at this time, however. Closer to the end of Summer. Until then, you'll just have to speculate away.

As a related aside, however, those who have "seen the elephant" seem to be pleased with it and tend to remark on its cleverness, so early feedback from those who know indicates we might be onto something here.

YOUR patience, folks, in the meantime, is greatly appreciated.

Alan with more: One last comment on Events. I'm going to design the Event engine, and with you guys as my "theoretical playtesters" (when I clue you in how it works), develop that engine, too. But I will only be able to scratch the surface of the Events we want to consider for MOO3. I'll be counting on all of you to help me do those when the time comes (NOT NOW!). At that point, I'll cull all our best Event suggestions together, go hat-in-hand to the engineers and see which ones can be implemented in time, and that's what will be in the game.

So, the rule for the type of Events is: A) whatever we can think of within the guidelines that I'll give you [generally, that each Event = 1 "plot device"] and that B) the engineers can handle it without blowing a gasket or taking until doomsday to get it done.

If you come up with a simple "economic boom" that give a civilization a global -X (random 1-6%) drop in its unemployment rate on each of its planets every turn for X (random 2-20) turns, then that's probably real "doable" to the engineers. If you come up with "and take the average mineral production over the last 50 turns and divide it total number of civilizations that have been destroyed by X/2 where X=the game turn number..." Well, now the engineers might have a problem with that (I know I would).

But, like I said, that's the Events' content and I'm not ready to receive that from you guys yet. You'll want to know more about the Event system before you hit me with your own personal "data dumps" anyway. But as for the System itself, that's still under wraps, but think "windows of opportunity that might not always work in the direction you want them to."

 

[ VIEW COMPLILATION FROM JUNE 18, 2001 ]

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