This section is divided up into three major sections:
- Technology System Overview and Technology System Glossary of Terms
- Technology: The Player Experience
- Technology System: Under the Hood
1. Technology System Overview
Master of Orion III is designed to break new ground in gameplay for technology research and development.
This document starts by reviewing the technology system design requirements for MOO3. The document then presents technical details of how each element of the technology system will be implemented. A glossary of terms is also included, since there are a number of complex interrelationships between elements of the technology system that must be kept clear.
Designer's Note: this is a preliminary and incomplete draft of the document. At this point, the Design Requirements and Design Constraints are firmly in place, although a few of the details may be refined as the design process continues. The basic plan is well-established, however, and is not expected to change dramatically.
2. Technology System Glossary of Terms
The following definitions of terms related to the technology system are used in the game, ordered such that they make sense when read from first to last:
Fundamental Research = "Theoretical Research." This basic scientific research is entirely theoretical in nature. As it advances, it opens up possible paths for Projects that will create Applied Research results.
School = one of the (currently six) major areas of Fundamental Research designated in the Technology Wheel: Biological Sciences, Mathematics and Computers, Macrosciences, Microsciences
Field = one specific Fundamental Research subject within a School. For example, "Astronomy" or "History." Note that not all existing Fields are available to the player at the start of the game. Some have Precursors. For example, Transwarp Physics might require Level 7 in Quantum Mechanics and Level 9 in Number Theory before it is revealed as a researchable Field.
Level = the current degree of progress in a given Field of Fundamental Research. The Level is measured numerically, with Level 1 being the starting point for each Field. Levels do not have names. There is no specific upper limit defined for the level in a given field, though of course eventually there will be no more research gains from increasing the level further. It is generally assumed that there will be 20 or more meaningful levels in each Field.
Advance = the incrementing of a Level by one in a specific Field of Fundamental Research. Note that achieving an Advance is not guaranteed to produce any new Applications. In fact, the player may need several consecutive Advances in a given field in order to achieve a new Application. Example: "In the School of Education, we have Advanced in the Field of Theology."
Research = the process of applying Research Points to a particular Field of Fundamental Research, which will eventually result in an Advance. The stages of Research are: unknown - even the existence of knowledge at that Level is not known to the player
- foreseeable - the player can see that knowledge at that Level could potentially be Researched, and has an idea of when it may become researchable for the first time. The new Level is grayed out or "ghosted" in any lists of potential research topics, and cannot be selected, though the player can find out what Precursors remain to be completed in order for it the become knowable
- knowable - knowledge at that Level can be Researched at any time
- understood - the Research process is complete. Any Applications which specify this Level as a minimum
Precursor will now become knowable if their all other Precursors are also satisfied
Project = the process of implementing a practical Application of one or more Fields of research, or of developing a Refinement to an existing Application or Institution. The stages of each Application are the same as those for Research:
- unknown - even the existence of the Application is not known to the player
- foreseeable - the player can see that an Application could potentially become available, and is given a list of the remaining prerequisites. The item is grayed out in any lists of potential Applications
- knowable - a project to create this Application may be initiated by the player at any time
- understood - the Project is complete, and the given Application can now be used by the player
Example: If you steal an Optical Computer 12, but you have only Researched up to Optical Computing 8:
- you now know how to build an Optical Computer 12, so you can use it on your ships
- you don't understand Optical Computing 12, so you cannot yet Research Level 13 in that field
- but now Optical Computing Levels 9-12 are knowable and less time-consuming/costly than before (you get bonus RPs in Optical Computing)
Application = the concrete, quantifiable result of a development Project. This can be a blueprint for a physical object, or the discovery of a civilization-wide benefit (see also "Institution"). For example, a building, a system on a ship, a class of ship, or equipment for ground troops.
An Achievement (a special category of Application that does not require any further objects to be built, but instead applies globally throughout the civilization)
Institution = a social improvement that is created as the result of a Project dealing with Social Fields. Such items are created automatically for the player; the player need only Refine the Institution. For example, the player is at Psychology Level 1, but has achieved Advances to Psychology Level 5. Until these new Advances are "Institutionalized" via a Project initiated by the player, they do not have any effect on the civilization.
Primary Field = the most important theoretical precursor to a specific Application. When an Application becomes knowable, it will be listed under this category in the list of possible Projects.
Refinement = the process of improving an existing Application. This is comparable to the "Miniaturization" feature of MOO II except that it requires the player or the Leader AI to initiate and fund a Project and is not available until the Project successfully completes. The higher the Level in the Primary Field related to a specific Application, the greater the benefits from Refinement. There is a limit to the number of steps by which a technology can be refined.
Roadblock = a problem encountered during the course of Research or a Project. The odds of hitting a Roadblock are reduced for every Level beyond the minimum in each Precursor Field. See also "Precursor."
Note: A Roadblock which is overcome may confer special benefits in Fundamental Research once the Project is completed. Bonus RPs may be added to one Field, in recognition of the special Advances achieved by the researchers in surmounting the Roadblock
Precursor = a certain Level in a Field at which a given other Field, Application, or Institution first becomes knowable. At such a Level, though, there may be a significant risk of encountering a Roadblock related to that specific Precursor. This risk is expressed as a chance of such a problem arising. There is another per-Level reduction in this number, such that increases in the Level of the Precursor Field will eventually cause the risk to drop to zero.
For example, the Phaser Application just became available because Optronics just Advanced to Level 9. But the risk of encountering an Optronics-related Roadblock is 20%. In order to minimize risk, the player first researches an additional two Levels of Optronics, each of which reduce the risk by 7%, so that the risk of this Roadblock is now 6%.
Designer's Note: the exact percentages used for the Precursor risk will vary from game to game. It is assumed that the variance will be approximately +/- 20%.
For variety, the number of Levels in a non-Primary Precursor Field required for any Application or Institution will vary from game to game and from player to player within a narrow range that is pre-set in the technology tree data structures. This prevents players from creating a "perfect" game schema.
Gene = a specific alteration to one named data element in the game. For example, "raise shield facing strength by 20%" or "increase weapon armor piercing strength by 10%."
Modification or Mod = a specific named package of Genes designed for a particular purpose. For example, "Long Range" would include Genes that change the Dissipation Start and End values for a weapon, and perhaps affect its accuracy values as well.
One Mod may contain Genes for unrelated fields. A single Optical Technology Mod, might improve weapon targeting and also improve navigation. Some Mods may be race-specific.
Breakthrough = A reward for Research, which provides benefits in one Field when an Advance is achieved in a related Field. The game generates a small random chance of a Breakthrough each turn for each Advance achieved that turn. If a Breakthrough occurs, a number of Research Points equivalent to a specific fraction of one Level of increase in the adjacent Field are added to its total Research Points. This may or may not cause an immediate Advance in the adjacent Field, but it will certainly grant a significant advantage.
Research Points (or "RPs") = the "currency" that a player spends when performing research. Research Points are created by Research DEAs and, to a limited extent, can also be purchased.
NEXT IN TECHNOLOGY: "Technology: The Player Experience"