Author Topic: The greatest space 4x to conquer them all  (Read 1031 times)

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Online Jarhead0331

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The greatest space 4x to conquer them all
« on: October 06, 2018, 08:45:42 PM »
...doesn't exist yet. My quest to find it has revealed that even the best tend to excel in a few areas, but then render key details and features abstract, or just omit them altogether.  I think the game that comes closest to what I consider the "perfect" 4x is Aurora. The near limitless complexity and and ability to do pretty much whatever your mind can dream of.  Alas, even Aurora has its limitations...much of which are painstakingly obvious.

I'd love to someday be involved in the development of the last space 4x game that hardcore fans of the genre will ever need or want to play. Until then, lets talk about the ingredients that would be essential to making such a dream game. I'm going to start the discussion with this post and I will continuously add to it with additional ideas over time. I don't think I'm going to get through much tonight since I'm really tired and fading fast, but while my mind is thinking about it, I wanted to begin.

The game must focus equal depth in all four of the "x's" in "4x". eXplore, eXpand, eXploit, eXterminate. I translate this loosely into the following core components:

I.  Government/Political/Cultural

   A. Empire creation

   B. Domestic systems
       i. social policy
      ii. religion and racial traits
     iii. bureaucratic institutions
 
   C. Foreign systems
       i. Diplomacy
      ii. Espionage

II.  Economy

   A. Industry/Production/Distribution/Consumption
   B. Resources
   C. Taxation
   D. Trade

III.  Research

    A. Physical Sciences
       i. Physics
      ii. Biology
     iii. Chemistry
     iv. Geology
      v. Astronomy

   B. Applied Sciences
      i. Engineering
     ii. Mathematics
    iii. Medicine
    iv. Computers

   C. Propulsion

   D. Construction

   E. Weaponry

   F. Theory

IV.  Ship/Vessel/Craft/Weapon Design

V.  Combat

   A. Fleets
       i. Deep space
      ii. Orbital

   B. Armies
       i. Planetary invasion

VI.  The Universe

   A. Modes of travel
   B. Discovery
   C. Planets, planetoids and stellar objects
   D. Anomalies

To be continued...
« Last Edit: October 07, 2018, 09:54:34 AM by Jarhead0331 »
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Offline SirAndrewD

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Re: The greatest space 4x to conquer them all
« Reply #1 on: October 06, 2018, 09:02:35 PM »
You know, it's funny, I agree here. 

But what's funny is that space 4x seemed to be moving in the direction to create the game you describe around the MoO2 days. 

But no one has brought it all together, even though it seems a no brainier.  They always want to cut down or leave something out. 

It doesn't seen crazy to just do something like you describe.  It wouldn't even need millions of dollars to pull off.   They just always want to skimp and leave something out.

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Re: The greatest space 4x to conquer them all
« Reply #2 on: October 06, 2018, 09:28:56 PM »
Recreate Emperor of the Fading Suns.
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Offline Anguille

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Re: The greatest space 4x to conquer them all
« Reply #3 on: October 07, 2018, 03:19:47 AM »
Yeah, i have the same dream. The working document for Master of Orion 3 was pretty good i think.
My all time favorite games:
Master of Orion, Civil War II: Generals,  Armada 2526 Supernova, Star Trek: Birth of the Federation, Emperor: Rise of the Middle Kingdom, Imperium Galactica I, Conquest: Frontier Wars, Master of Orion III, Spartan, Civilization III, Knights of Honor, Takeda 2 and 3, Horizon, Master of Orion Conquer the stars.

Favorite games by Haemimont:
Rising Kingdoms, Omerta: city of gangsters, Celtic Kings: Punic Wars, Glory of the Roman Empire, Imperium Romanum and Grand Ages: Rome

Offline sandman2575

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Re: The greatest space 4x to conquer them all
« Reply #4 on: October 07, 2018, 08:25:16 AM »
Very much agree with JH's assessment.

I'd be curious to hear what you guys consider the best Space 4xs in each of the 6 categories JH lays out?

My own two cents:

I. Government/Political/Cultural:  Not sure I have a clear front-runner here. I just bought the "Intrigue" expansion on sale for Gal Civ III, which is supposed to enhance this area, but to be honest the game still bores me too much to see what the expansion brings to the table. I'm inclined to give Endless Space 2 pretty high marks here, as in many categories.

II. Economy:  Distant Worlds is still the gold standard here IMO, with its independent civilian economy and very detailed resources management, trade, etc.

III. Research:  Will give the edge to Sword of the Stars II, which does some great things I have not seen replicated in other space 4x, for example, the need to carry out 'feasibility studies' for techs, the possibility of simply failing research, randomized tech trees, the need to build expensive Prototypes of new ship designs before you can start mass producing them.

IV. - V. Ship Design/Combat:  Again, SOTS II is my winner. There's no Space 4x I've played that has better combat, damage modelling, actual 3D battles -- all this hampered by a clunky and half-baked UI. Still, it's great when it works. I also love designing ships in SOTS II more than any other game. Lots of flexibility here.

VI. Universe:  Distant Worlds for me. Even though it's only 2D, I actually genuinely love the exploration phase of DW, which in most games really just feels like a chore. Stellaris has a good, but not great, exploration mechanic. SOTS II is to my mind the most interesting out there in terms of modes of travel, with different races / techs making very different ways of getting around possible (Endless Space 2 is also good on this front -- it initially looks like 'just star lanes,' but tech advances open this up in very interesting ways, plus the Vaulters have a unique capacity to stargate, like the Insect race (can't remember name) in SOTS.

Anyway, a very quick and dirty run-down, but I love this topic, so very interested to hear the thoughts of youze guyz.


Online Jarhead0331

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Re: The greatest space 4x to conquer them all
« Reply #5 on: October 07, 2018, 10:04:02 AM »
Filled in some more details for research.

Overall, I take my inspiration from games like (not an exhaustive list): Aurora, Master of Orion 3, Polaris Sector, Distant Worlds, Emperor of the Fading Suns, Star Wars Rebellion, Sword of the Stars I and II, Stellaris, Space Empires IV, Solar War, War in the Pacific, Crusader Kings II
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Offline bbmike

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Re: The greatest space 4x to conquer them all
« Reply #6 on: October 07, 2018, 02:08:25 PM »
I'd argue your core components listed should apply to any genre 4x game and not just space.  O0
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Offline Ian C

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Re: The greatest space 4x to conquer them all
« Reply #7 on: October 08, 2018, 05:41:21 AM »
Edited: deleted non-constructive rant about why companies don't make good games and should listen to the opinions of middle-aged wargamers.
« Last Edit: October 08, 2018, 08:26:55 AM by Ian C »

Offline Rayfer

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Re: The greatest space 4x to conquer them all
« Reply #8 on: October 08, 2018, 07:58:26 AM »
JH...just speculating.  Could it be that the complex interrelationship between all those various game functions (in you original post) can't be handled by current game AI's running your opponents in a single player game. Maybe today's AI's just aren't up to the task?  I could see it working in a multi-player game.

Offline sandman2575

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Re: The greatest space 4x to conquer them all
« Reply #9 on: October 08, 2018, 09:41:52 AM »
@Rayfer -- I'm sure AI limitations are part -- maybe a significant part -- of the reason why 4X games tend to all play somewhat similarly, with similar mechanics and similar weaknesses.

Which gets to my biggest pet peeve about Space 4X, which is that the paradigm Sid Meier created for Civilization some, what, 30 years ago at this point, *still* dictates the overall template and mechanics of these games.

I'm awaiting the next brilliant Sid Meier to come along and rewrite the paradigm, but it sure doesn't seem like he/she is anywhere in sight.

I'm sure the reason that the Civilization template is still so widely used is that programmers know the drill in their sleep at this point. I can understand the reluctance to try something truly new because of the programming challenges that would entail.

But man do I want some devs to come along and truly shake things up in a Space 4x genre that has become predictable, and to some extent, boring at this point.

Case in point -- I tried booting up a Gal Civ III campaign the other night. Two dozen moves in, and I'm bored to tears and putting it back on the shelf. I had a similar experience with Stellaris. Really the only Space 4x that really holds my attention these days is Endless Space 2.

The early stages of most Space 4x games are just hideously boring at this point. Single home planet -- not even outposts on nearby planets. An single explorer ship is the sum total of your civilization's fleet -- maybe you get a colonizer too, but that's it. Basic technologies that, by any reasonable standard, would have been mastered by a civilization so advanced have to be slogged through, because them's the rules. Also, you can only ever build small corvettes and frigates -- large capital ships are completely beyond the capacity of your civ. to build-- again, for some reason. Most of the galaxy completely terra incognita for some reason (I guess even though these civs are capable of interstellar travel, they lack any advanced astronomical/research infrastructure at all. Powerful radio-telescopes? What are those?).

I could go on but you get the picture. Well past time for this formula to be shake up -- or even completely discarded.



Online Jarhead0331

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Re: The greatest space 4x to conquer them all
« Reply #10 on: October 08, 2018, 10:01:52 AM »
@Rayfer -- I'm sure AI limitations are part -- maybe a significant part -- of the reason why 4X games tend to all play somewhat similarly, with similar mechanics and similar weaknesses.

Which gets to my biggest pet peeve about Space 4X, which is that the paradigm Sid Meier created for Civilization some, what, 30 years ago at this point, *still* dictates the overall template and mechanics of these games.

I'm awaiting the next brilliant Sid Meier to come along and rewrite the paradigm, but it sure doesn't seem like he/she is anywhere in sight.

I'm sure the reason that the Civilization template is still so widely used is that programmers know the drill in their sleep at this point. I can understand the reluctance to try something truly new because of the programming challenges that would entail.

But man do I want some devs to come along and truly shake things up in a Space 4x genre that has become predictable, and to some extent, boring at this point.

Case in point -- I tried booting up a Gal Civ III campaign the other night. Two dozen moves in, and I'm bored to tears and putting it back on the shelf. I had a similar experience with Stellaris. Really the only Space 4x that really holds my attention these days is Endless Space 2.

The early stages of most Space 4x games are just hideously boring at this point. Single home planet -- not even outposts on nearby planets. An single explorer ship is the sum total of your civilization's fleet -- maybe you get a colonizer too, but that's it. Basic technologies that, by any reasonable standard, would have been mastered by a civilization so advanced have to be slogged through, because them's the rules. Also, you can only ever build small corvettes and frigates -- large capital ships are completely beyond the capacity of your civ. to build-- again, for some reason. Most of the galaxy completely terra incognita for some reason (I guess even though these civs are capable of interstellar travel, they lack any advanced astronomical/research infrastructure at all. Powerful radio-telescopes? What are those?).

I could go on but you get the picture. Well past time for this formula to be shake up -- or even completely discarded.

Have you looked at Aurora? It seems to address the vast majority of your complaints. You can start your civ at any technological level and state of expansion and discovery. You can gift the technologies that you feel your civ should have already discovered. Its an extremely complex, well thought-out and flexible system...of course it sometimes looks and plays like a spreadsheet, which I think is where it fails, but really, for a one-man operation, Steve Wamsley has accomplished something truly remarkable.
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Offline sandman2575

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Re: The greatest space 4x to conquer them all
« Reply #11 on: October 08, 2018, 10:44:46 AM »
I've never tried Aurora, for all the obvious reasons. Some things about the complexity and flexibility definitely appeal to me, but in the end, I can't bring myself to play a game that looks mostly like a bunch of Windows XP windows and menus. I have enough difficulty with CMANO in that regard (which probably accounts for the "20 minutes" game-time logged according to my Steam account...)

I know it means I miss out on some good stuff, but I have a minimum graphics & UI appeal threshold for games I'm willing to devote time to. I can't bring myself to play any of the John Tiller games, for example. The Gary Grigsby "War in the X" titles are probably the minimum I'm willing to put up with.


Online Jarhead0331

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Re: The greatest space 4x to conquer them all
« Reply #12 on: October 08, 2018, 12:18:52 PM »
The "look" of Aurora kept me back for a long time too, but once I forced myself to start learning the fundamentals it really became fascinating. Again, its not the perfect 4x, otherwise, I wouldn't have started this thread  :crazy2:, but in terms of features, depth and complexity, it pretty much checks all of the boxes.
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Offline Phantom

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Re: The greatest space 4x to conquer them all
« Reply #13 on: October 08, 2018, 12:24:10 PM »
I share the frustration. It seems we either get a graphically superb no brainer or a well thought out and beautifully complex exercise in accountancy. Surely its not beyond the wit of man to combine the two?
I speak not as an expert on space 4x (Space Empires V here!) but as someone who has encountered the issue with other genres. The best thought out, technically accurate and playable age of sail sim is the DOS program "Clear for Action" - it's a truly a wonderful piece of work, and was actually designed to support miniature play. I'm frustrated that someone hasn't put this (or Aurora) in front of some graphics whiz with the brief "great game, don't fuck about with it - just make it look nice"
How hard can it be?

Offline joram

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Re: The greatest space 4x to conquer them all
« Reply #14 on: October 08, 2018, 03:27:30 PM »
Aurora should be subtitled 'Spreadsheets in Space'.  Granted its been awhile (maybe 3 years now) since I tinkered with it but what it really needed was a story mode.  No amount of graphics would fix that there didn't seem to be much of a point to it.