Discussion: The Future of 4X

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Home Forums Age of Wonders 3 Discussions Discussion: The Future of 4X

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  • #241764

    Lennart Sas
    Keymaster

    This week Rob Zacny at Rock Paper Shot Gun, wrote an article with the title “The 4X Genre Has Grown Stagnant, Here’s How To Fix It

    I’m curious about your comments on this: Do you agree or disagree? What sort of direction would you like the genre to develop in?

    • This topic was modified 4 years ago by  Lennart Sas.
    #241766

    alyra
    Member

    I have played quite a few 4X games, Age of Wonders series being the one I have played most but I think the article is right and wrong at the same time.

    What I tend to find is the games that are very stagnant and boring tend to be the more promoted ones!

    An example I will compare with Age of Wonders (all) and Endless Legend, spells cast on the world map and tactical (although only world map for EL) I get the feeling of power when I cast them in Age of Wonders, they are truely spectacular however in EL, I feel like I have just cast the most rubbish spell ever and do not feel emersed in the game. Also the sheer variety in Age of Wonders 3 surpasses EL.

    The research system in Age of Wonders 3 also surpasses EL in my eyes. This is because there is a variety of combinations that could end up appearing in your book based on the character you create and it is random, this can change the game you play ever so slightly if you start off with a different selection. In EL you know what you want before the game even starts and this is just dull to me.

    I have played similar games to EL and I just find I don’t feel like I am drawn into the game, they have some interesting ideas like the quests are fun and something I would like to see further developed in Age of Wonders 3, random quests that effect the environment.

    Some of the current 4x games seem very similar to each other but the battle system is way more enjoyable in Age of Wonders 3 with getting to experience an environment away from the world map which I greatly appreciate. Maybe if they talked about Age of Wonders 3 in the article instead of just posting a screenshot of it they would realise the game is quite different from the others in a good way!

    #241767

    I agree with parts of it and disagree with other. I do play 4x (and most Strategy games) for the tactical and strategical aspect not because it has a fancy history behind, I do enjoy some depth in any kind of game I’m playing and I think the amount of depth that AoW 1, 2 and 3 has is – almost – the perfect amount*

    *What I would change on AoW 3 is to add a bit more quests on the random map/scenario game, just like when you play Endless Legend random map it has a main quest for each race and also the sub quests that you get on the map. AoW currently on a random map has only some sub quests (granted by the vassals) and no main quest, altought the Empire Quest did helped a bit. Maybe each race and each class could have some sort of quest when you start the game. Examples: Goblin could have a quest to own 3 cities either on blight or wetlands terrain? Dwarfs could have a quest to build 3 siege workshop? Sorcerer could have a quest to summon X units and so on…

    I also think that the past few years 4x games are getting much more interesting and complex, on the strategic and tactical aspect. At least the series I play (AoW, CiV and HoM&M). To be honest the best 4x game I’ve ever played is AoW 3, so I can’t say that 4x is getting ‘stagnant’ if AoW 3 is a game from the past 3 years.

    #241768

    Gloweye
    Member

    TBH, I dunno what an AoW sceenshot does in that article. AoW is all about the combat, which is the one factor not adressed in there. It’s also the combat in AoW that sets it apart and prevents it from being boring. Tho I think it’d be good to have a larger range of power in strategic sites – start with the current power levels, then build another series of harder sites on top, with more epic rewards, and possible multi-stack guardians. Would give some more progression.

    As for narritives, fits slightly less in random AoW maps than in equivilents for Alpha centauri or Civ. After all, we can build far more interesting scenario’s and campaigns to give that.

    #241769

    Jolly Joker
    Member

    The first more involved game (not things like Tetris) I played on PC was “Starflight”, so I’m at it more or less from the start. I’ve spent a lot of time with SSI games, including every game of the General series, I’ve been playing Civilization, but even more so Master of Orion and all the Fantasy 4X games there are.

    I disagree with the article. Yes, 4X Genre has grown stale, true that. But in my opinion the reason is a different one than Rob names in his article. In my opinion it has grown stale because MOST (but thankfully not all) don’t have enough original aspects in their visions of game which is especially true when looking at games that come with a number at the end, Roman or otherwise. In other words – in my opinion only a small percentage of the 4X games released have a good reason for their release other than the fact that it was time for an “update”. I mean, is GalCiv 3 really the game everyone waited for? Might & Magic Heroes 7?

    I already said a couple of times that I think AoW 3 is the best game I’ve played. While that is based on the fact that the mix of strategy and tactics in the game is EXACTLY right for me (I love to sink myself in unit details more than empire administration), probably the most important thing here is that AoW 3 is a JUSTIFIED release: while it builds on its two predecessors, it’s fundamentally different. In other words: someone (or a team of someones) had a couple of fabulous ideas to give the game a new twist, and starting from there it has been a brilliant effort.

    It’s just an inspired design.

    Another example for a good idea is Sorcerer King. Making a game based on the fact that you will always boost the AI with a material advantage and building on that, is simply a good idea. Thea The Awakening is also a pretty original concoction.

    So that’s the problem for me. While there are lots and lots of 4X games around, in reality there’s only a few sufficiently different ones, and if games are not sufficiently different they must at least be better than the games that came before, whih isn’t always the case and in reality not even most of the time; in reality only a couple is really “a new reference”.

    #241772

    I think the author makes a number of points that are true on a thematic level of social commentary, largely but not entirely irrelevant on the level of gameplay, and utterly unrelated to Age of Wonders, which isn’t the kind of game he’s talking about at all.

    To make an analogy: I could complain that Warcraft III has nothing interesting to say about the horrors of war and the way it shapes the societies that fight it. I’d be technically right. I would also be missing the point by several orders of magnitude.

    Fundamentally, 4X games are stagnating because they are ultimately games about progress that nevertheless have nothing whatsoever to say on the subject. Their version of progress is almost universally boring.

    Look, this guy isn’t wrong when he says that Civilization’s view of technological and societal progress is superficial. Doesn’t mean they’re not fun games. Hell, the examples of “good” 4X games he mentioned are Civ2 and Civ4. The genre is stagnating because other games try to copy Civ’s trappings without adding any new ideas. Like JJ said: it’s because these games aren’t justified, they don’t add anything new to the table. It’s not because the games espouse a weird kind of Whig history. (Which Civ does.)

    The author of that article praises Victoria 2 for its ambitions. Now, I love that game because it tries to actually model societal change and the effects of industrialisation and nationalism. I’ve had a great time playing it. Or… well, playing around with its systems. Because as a game it’s a giant mess of barely coherent systems. It isn’t a very good game. Moreover, it’d be fairly terrible if all games tried to do stuff like Victoria 2 does. It’d get old even faster than Civ’s formula.

    The author of that article praises Alpha Centauri for having good writing and lots of atmosphere in everything it does. Well, sure. That makes games better. But that goes for anything, from a first person shooter to a text adventure.

    Now to relate all this to Age of Wonders 3. What AoW does is pick a narrow focus (turn-based tactical combat with a secondary strategic layer) and executes this extremely well. The tactical combat system holds up and informs every other system in the game. Because the battles are fun, people keep playing. Because the battles are important, decisions made on the strategic map that impact those battles are meaningful.

    AoW isn’t about progress. It doesn’t have anything to say about history or society. It isn’t about technological advancement or growth.
    It’s about waging war. It’s about choosing different strategies, to achieve the same goals.
    It’s about exploration. It’s about giving the player a world that has things to discover (and exploit) around every corner, about danger always lurking in the fog of war.
    It’s about giving the player an endless variety of tools to use in uncountable combinations. (Classes, races, spells, dwellings, artifacts, heroes, shrines, events, and so on, and so forth.)

    Story- and setting-wise it’s pretty standard. Is it a “dull fantasy world?” Eh… kinda. I certainly don’t play the game for its setting or story. I wouldn’t judge it nearly as harshly, of course. AoW’s world has charm and humour, the art-direction is very good, the DLC stories are well done, and the sheer variety of concepts and locations it throws at you does a pretty good job of evoking the eponymous wonder. But compared to something like Alpha Centauri, Endless Legend, or Sunless Sea, the setting is not a strong point.

    But would I enjoy Age of Wonders more if it were set in some quirky or deep or entirely original setting? Or would it just end up distracting me? I honestly don’t know. All I can say for certain is that I like the “ordinary” fantasy world just fine, and if I don’t get any insight in the nature of progress when my Orc Theocrat burns his way across the landscape with his army of evil cherubim… well, I wasn’t looking for any.

    #241776

    Shakey
    Member

    The author makes some good points and some I disagree with.

    First, my bonafides: I’ve been playing turn based games for over two decades. I’ve scripted several of my own. I was a MP developer for Battle for Wesnoth. I created a few dozen pieces of content for Wesnoth…some of them made it into the actual game and some as add-ons (and many more rest in the graveyard). My AoW3 hours currently total about 1,500.

    The genre hasn’t grown stale, the format has. The days of one human sitting in front of a computer clicking turns vs. an AI are dying. It’s sad, but true. Like rock & roll and network television, once unstoppable behemoths are dying.

    One of the lessons I’ve learned is that 4X games are not great vessels for storytelling. If your goal is to tell a story, then I’d argue the Tell-tale format is currently the pinnacle. If you want an action game, it’s hard to compete with the Witcher series and it’s ilk. If you want a great 4X game, the atmosphere and mechanics are more important elements. Let’s be honest, combat in these games are really just cleverly disguised math puzzles. I enjoy them very much.

    The most important element in all of gaming is community. A shared experience. The sense that though separated by 1,000s of miles, humans are connecting to other humans. This is the reason that an MP community keeps games alive long after their lifespan. It isn’t the game, it’s the friendships created by the game. The game is just something to do while we enjoy company. “Oh, you like orcs and castles too? and you like doing tactical battles too? Let’s hang out and kill some elves.”

    To this end, I’ve written a post about this nearly two years ago, in this very forum, asking for a shared experience. (my username was jb then, but there was an issue with usernames of only 2 characters). http://aow.triumph.net/forums/topic/mp-lobby-feature-requests/#post-100434

    Here is the gist of it:
    -Create a dynamic lobby/server which does the following
    a: Show all players currently online
    b: Show all players currently in game/in lobby via color coding the nicknames
    c: Allow public and private chat
    d: Show all currently hosted games
    e: Color code games full of players, games looking for players, and reloaded games vs new games
    f: Allow any player to watch any game being played (unless set to private)
    g: Allow non-player observers to chat with in-game players
    h: Allow the host to swap players at will, so if a player drops or leaves another player can be slotted in
    i: Allow players to type on the map with both public display and team only display (i.e. move your unit here)
    j: Keep more game-wide stat records that players can compete for (i.e. most damage in single attack = 103 by player Lennart on March 11, 2016)
    k: Allow games to convert between live and PBEM at will. We play together when possible, on our own terms otherwise

    When you mix all these flavors together, you create a shared experience. On Friday nights, you can just hang out at the AoW server…you don’t even have to play. You can watch high level players compete, you can chat with friends, or you can just play SP and kill elves. But you’re not doing it alone!

    I know many will disagree with this. There are some salty grizzled veterans that are not interested in sharing their experience. But, this is about growth and moving the genre forward, not catering to the elderly. Just like the print newspapers & 6:00 PM news on network TV, this audience will die out eventually.

    #241785

    Zakharov
    Member

    I agree with Rob. I think being able to tell a story is not necessary in a 4X, but is valuable. Age of Wonders doesn’t do a very good job of that, largely due to the fact that it’s not a conventional 4X but rather a cross between a 4X and an RTS-style skirmish map (I didn’t like the campaign very much, but I don’t like RTS campaigns either). I’d rather that AoW was a full-fledged 4X game, but I’d guess most AoW players are AoW players because they like what the game is offering.

    The focus of Age of Wonders is on the tactical combat, and it’s got the best tactical combat of any game I’ve played. Having good tactical combat doesn’t necessarily mean having a bad strategic layer, though, and to be honest I think AoW does have a bad strategic layer.

    A game of Civilization 5 tells a story. I start as Venice, and discover the Shoshone. They turn hostile, but I don’t have nearly the military strength needed to attack them, so I ally with the Persians to contain them. Trade and religious links strengthen our relationship; I assist the Persians in their war with the Polynesians. I focus for a time on exploration, economic development, and spreading my religion. In the Modern era, factions take form, with the Persian-Venetian Communist block facing off against the Shoshone-Babylonian democratic bloc. A world war erupts, and by the end of of it a third of the world is occupied by the city-states I armed and funded. Eventually my influence over these city-states results in me being elected world leader and ending the game.

    Age of Wonders can’t tell a story anything like that. Part of it is due to the game length and the almost 100% military-focused strategic layer. The biggest part is due to the weakness of the diplomatic system. I can’t form any kind of meaningful relationship with another player. Wars don’t occur on well-defined fronts; armies are running around wherever and undefended or lightly-defended cities are flipping to stacks of doom. Once I conquer another player, I’ve almost instantly snowballed to twice my original strength and victory is guaranteed.

    What I want to see is a game with the excellent setting and writing of Alpha Centauri, the pacing and storytelling ability of Civilization 5, the mechanical innovations of Endless Legend and the unit diversity, tactical combat and fascinating exploration of Age of Wonders 3.

    #241786

    SeeR
    Member

    Alright my path of games that has led me to enjoy the current Tactical/Stragtegy/RPG that’s is AoW e kind runs along the following.

    From Nobunaga’s Ambition (Conquering Feudal States of Japan) KOEI on the original Nintendo……

    Ghengisk Khan – Similar in nature with more mercantile options ( also KOEI )

    The Start of The Final Fantasy Series & other NES and SNES RPG / tacticals
    Final Fantasy Tactics
    Ogre Battle Tactics ( Quest also Japanese developer )
    Uncharted Waters
    Tecmo Super Bowl ( I liked managing a roster of Players )
    Aerobiz ( Managing a fleet of Aircraft )
    Romance of the three Kingdoms 3 – 10 ) KOEI on varios Platforms
    Other Games such as Shining Force on SEGA Platform
    Age of Empires 1 was the first Real-Time Strategy I got into much back in the day.
    then I Discovered Age of Wonders 1 back in Gamespy Days but player base was quite small.

    I never did play AoW2 / SM much except very briefly when it was first released and found at that time that I still preferred AoW1.

    After AoW1 from around 2003 to to 2013 , I restricted myself to console games (mostly KOEI games ) & Some Sports etc.

    Now……… Video Games is not my whole life , im quite active Doberman Pinsher Owner , Competitive Soccer Player & Liquor Store Manager….. but still always love a good multiplayer strategy game , just wish there were more players available to play with …. I remember the old Age of Empires One Server being able to jump in and find games easily.

    Still like my shiny new PS4 and having the latest KOEI games but they have converted to First Person Hack and Slash , which I prefer with swords to guns…..but its one of those games where you really don’t blink and end up rubbing your eyes at the end of a battle.

    Im sure there are many other strategy or RPG or Tatics games forgotten along the timeline that I have tried or played.

    ……Now to the Point / my opinion

    I agree wholeheartedly with almost everything SHAKEY has posted.

    A few points.

    Some type of progression for learning to play from beginner level to advanced to pro.

    Options for an Arena Mode as mentioned in other posts ( not have time for a full strategic map game ) so then you get XXXX amound of Skill Points to distribute among selecting units / Heros / Skills / spells etc.. for a single battle against another Human opponent. ( With the common method most MP AoW3 players seems to play along the Empire Building Settings …. avg game length is too long at pretty much minimum of 4 hours ) Sure Ive played some games 10 hours and loved it , but its not realistic to do that too often.

    Now I don’t have millions of spare hours to test all of them , but many of the Mods that users have created are re-kindling my interest in AoW3 , however its very difficult to find somebody to play with the SAME 8-12 mods that I happen to be using at any given time. Myself I used to enjoy the MapMaking for AoW1 , The depth and Detail involved for Designing Maps for AoW3 is far more challenging. ( So Far all I have managed is to make a Map that looks like a Soccer Pitch that is 11 stacks vs 11 stacks )

    The Sub-Class and Sub Race developments are incredibly fun to play for example.

    I could probably Ramble on for ages on the subject , however I am not any kind of expert opinion , just a guy who loves the Genre.

    Don’t Change anything about AoW3 , but there are so many steps in between this and games such as the Victoria mentioned in the article. But layering them from beginner to advanced , to pro player as a path for people to learn is in my opinion a large part of the key to answering the question of why the genre is “Stale”

    Hoping for AoW #4 as are many more silent fans I am certain.

    #241787

    Draxynnic
    Member

    Having recognised an AoW3 screenshot, I have to wonder if the writer actually played AoW3 through, or whether he(?) grabbed a random screenshot and threw it in.

    “Few 4X games have a point of view or attempt to tell a story beyond “claim territory, make progress, get stronger than your neighbors”. They’re not even very interested in what one victory path implies versus the others. These endgames are supposed to represent the culmination of meaningful choices, but are themselves almost entirely meaningless. That lack of purpose or vision is palpable in games like Beyond Earth, the 4X equivalent of a shrug, or in the dull fantasy worlds of a half-dozen 4X pretenders.”

    When it comes to the ‘explore and expand across a random-generated map’ basic mode of most 4X games… well, what do you expect? Such modes typically pretty much give you back what you put in – a procedurally-generated map is not going to create Game of Thrones, you need to either use your imagination to create your own context or play a custom-made scenario or campaign… of which AoW3 has plenty.

    “Most 4X games tell the following story: a society gets more and more advanced tools and infrastructure to satisfy the same basic needs throughout its history. Its competitors go through a similar or identical progression so that relative gains remain fairly small. Meanwhile, the society itself changes hardly at all. Where it once needed “5 food” now it needs “50 food” but it’s fundamental relationship to the resource or the means of production hasn’t evolved one iota.

    Progress is more interesting and complicated than that in reality, and games can embrace that rather than reduce it to a series of buffs. Two important games provide examples of promising approaches.”

    I think it’s telling here that the author earlier mentions the Civilisations as the games he’s looking back to. Civilisation runs from pretty much the Stone Age to the dawn of the Interstellar Age, so there’s plenty of room for the sort of changes he’s talking about: Civilisation has things like the important resources changing over time (from what I’ve heard, some late-game resources don’t even appear until a civilisation is advanced enough for it to start being important, since earlier civilisations just wouldn’t consider them to be) which might be what he’s referring to by the “5 food becomes 50 food” quip.

    For games which run across centuries or millenia during which such changes happen, this makes sense. Most fantasy 4X games, however, run across shorter periods (even the old reference, Master of Magic, generally only runs to a century or so in a game) – you don’t have time for societies to have the structural resource changes that he’s talking about, and it would be unrealistic for that to happen. Imagine, for the sake of argument, a 4X game set during World War 2: there’s certainly opportunity to research military technologies there, but the important resources were basically food, oil and steel from start to finish. One could argue for special resources that become more important in the later game: Heroes of Might and Magic did this, for instance, in high-tier units requiring special resources (sulphur, crystal, gems or mercury) as well as simple gold. However, there just isn’t the opportunity to have the societal transformation that leads to a complete change in what resources are important when a game covers, at most, a couple of centuries during the quasi-Middle Ages of most fantasy settings (even if you allow for progress rather than having the typical Tolkeinesque fantasy stasis, how much change was there really between the 1200s and the 1400s? There was technological development, but the important war materials were basically food, iron, wood and livestock throughout that period).

    Now, if you’re looking to do something with Civilisation’s scope, or a sci-fi that might have similarly transformative technologies over the centuries, then there’s room for changes in the resources used. For games in fantasy universes with scopes of a century or (usually, much, much) less, I don’t think it really makes a lot of sense. Maybe have some special resources for the high-end stuff, but you’re not going to suddenly stop using food and start using oil instead.

    “Look at the levels on which that bit of text is operating. It’s telling me what the hell I just built, beyond its mechanical effect. If I don’t get that kind of feedback, then the building might as well be called “unrest reducer, Tier 2″ and suddenly the game could be any other 4X. Second, the flavor text ties into the game’s factional identities. It’s another window into who the Morganites really are besides just the “corporate faction”. By telling me what the Gaians are building besides a hippie commune, this passage adds detail to its setting while letting me decide what I think about the Gaians’ ambitions. Finally, it forces a bit of reflection on both what these structures imply about each faction, but also what your own entertainments say about me.”

    This basically says “give flavour text”. Age of Wonders has always been a frontrunner here by 4X standards. There probably is room to do more, such as giving descriptions about what differentiates an elven shrine from a human one, and I wouldn’t turn down more lore… but that’s basically what this paragraph is saying.

    “Victoria’s fundamental insight is an important one: progress reshapes societies around the new needs it creates. That’s a fascinating theme that’s applicable to a lot of 4X games, but that hardly any of them touch.”

    Again, it’s telling that he comes from a Civ perspective here. What’s being asked for here is a detailed civilisation simulator.

    While there’s nothing inherently wrong with that, such games tend to fail due to being overly bloated and trying to squeeze too much in (Master of Orion 3, anyone?) so that you spend more time basically keeping your civilisation running than taking part in military activity. Some players like this – I note again that the author is coming from a Civilisation perspective, where combat is very simplified. Every 4X game forms its own balance between how much attention you have to spend on management versus how much you spend on generalship. AoW3, by design, leans mostly into the latter category. This may simply mean that it’s not the game that the writer of the article is looking for – and that’s okay. The game the writer is looking for may not be the game we’re looking for, or that the general gaming community is looking for.

    “Dull, rote progress undercuts every aspect of 4X games. Combat scarcely changes except that the statistics on units and weapons get a little larger, so that the war you fight at the dawn of history is almost exactly the same as the war you’ll fight at the end. Once settlement is over and development is underway, it becomes all too easy to hit “end turn” a few hundred times until the score screen, because there’s little to admire or enjoy in the process of building. Friends and rivals become abstract collections of math to be manipulated with trade offers and military strength values, rather than fellow actors on a heroic stage. You’re all there competing to build a better civilization, but with no idea of what you’re actually building towards.”

    Rote progress is, yes, often a factor in 4X games. However, I don’t see the other points that the writer has brought up changing that – they’d just be creating more variables to optimise along the way. Don’t get me wrong, adding more variables can add to the complexity of the game (which can be either a good thing or a bad thing), but I don’t think there’s any magic wand that can be waved to completely eliminate end-turning your way to victory (apart from making it real-time, of course, and that just introduces the equivalent phase in a real-time strategy).

    The important thing is that you’re doing something meaningful every turn. The worst of end-turning is when you’re in a phase where you’re simply waiting for something to be able to continue: maybe it’s building up your army to attack an enemy strongpoint (or waiting for an army to heal); maybe it’s waiting for a particular research to complete; maybe it’s waiting for a particular item to finish construction or a timeline to wind down. Conventional AoW3 does a pretty good job of preventing this feeling – you’ve generally got exploration to do, sites to raid, and so on that makes it uncommon to be in the passive state of waiting for something to happen which is what I think of when someone talks about end-turning to victory. Seal and unifier victories are somewhat more problematic, as by nature they DO rely on holding strategic locations for a certain amount of time which can lead to end-turning if the enemy isn’t presenting a credible threat to taking them – however, those are optional alternate victory conditions that people asked for, and can be turned off if they’re not wanted.

    Also the sheer variety in Age of Wonders 3 surpasses EL.

    I remember checking out EL, which included having a look at the rosters for various factions. Which basically boiled down to “what, three units per faction? Is that IT?!?”

    I get the feeling that EL offers much more customisation within those units, but even so…

    *What I would change on AoW 3 is to add a bit more quests on the random map/scenario game, just like when you play Endless Legend random map it has a main quest for each race and also the sub quests that you get on the map. AoW currently on a random map has only some sub quests (granted by the vassals) and no main quest, altought the Empire Quest did helped a bit. Maybe each race and each class could have some sort of quest when you start the game. Examples: Goblin could have a quest to own 3 cities either on blight or wetlands terrain? Dwarfs could have a quest to build 3 siege workshop? Sorcerer could have a quest to summon X units and so on…

    Interesting idea. Such quests, in an AoW3 context, could be a means of building up your relations with particular races. A future game might have very different mechanics to AoW3 there, but nevertheless…

    I disagree with the article. Yes, 4X Genre has grown stale, true that. But in my opinion the reason is a different one than Rob names in his article. In my opinion it has grown stale because MOST (but thankfully not all) don’t have enough original aspects in their visions of game which is especially true when looking at games that come with a number at the end, Roman or otherwise. In other words – in my opinion only a small percentage of the 4X games released have a good reason for their release other than the fact that it was time for an “update”. I mean, is GalCiv 3 really the game everyone waited for? Might & Magic Heroes 7?

    I already said a couple of times that I think AoW 3 is the best game I’ve played. While that is based on the fact that the mix of strategy and tactics in the game is EXACTLY right for me (I love to sink myself in unit details more than empire administration), probably the most important thing here is that AoW 3 is a JUSTIFIED release: while it builds on its two predecessors, it’s fundamentally different. In other words: someone (or a team of someones) had a couple of fabulous ideas to give the game a new twist, and starting from there it has been a brilliant effort.

    I think there’s a balance to be struck here. Some innovation is good. Too much, and you risk alienating the player base (see, for instance, Master of Orion 3…). Age of Wonders, I think, has struck the right balance.

    I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad thing if a “new” game is essentially an old game with a technology update and some new units and such. If someone did that for Master of Magic, for instance, people would probably be overjoyed (although given the question marks over who owns the copyrights for that or even if they’re all owned by one entity… it’s probably never going to happen). The litmus test is, I think, frequency of releases. When it feels like there’s a new offering every time you turn around (like, for instance, most IP owned by Electronic Arts…) then you have to wonder if it couldn’t have been an expansion. Do we really need Rome, Medieval, and Empire Total War games when we could have one that runs across all three periods, with the player able to start at the historical period of their choice?

    #241791

    iceboy
    Member

    Want to know what no one has ever done? Created a whole world to play in.

    There are scenarios. There are campaigns. There is sandbox. Done done and done.

    But has anyone ever set out to create a giant world? Where everything is already set?

    There is no build up. There are limits to everything. All factions are specialized and have their strengths and weaknesses. They have what they have and they produce what they produce and you have no control over that aspect.

    The only thing you have control over is diplomacy and what happens and what armies go where. No micro. Every unit matters. Every resource matters. Just strategy in a giant world that has a story and a history already. And it is always a different game depending upon the nation you choose and strategies and diplomacy you take. This could be space or fantasy. One game that I can think of that came close to that was Empire of the Fading Suns. And it is one of the most requested reboots since Master of Orion and Master of Magic.

    I’ve always wanted this.

    • This reply was modified 4 years ago by  iceboy.
    #241794

    Jolly Joker
    Member

    I disagree with the article. Yes, 4X Genre has grown stale, true that. But in my opinion the reason is a different one than Rob names in his article…

    I think there’s a balance to be struck here. Some innovation is good. Too much, and you risk alienating the player base (see, for instance, Master of Orion 3…). Age of Wonders, I think, has struck the right balance.

    If it was easy to make brilliant games, there would be more of them. Of course AoW 3 struck the right balance – that’s what I wrote. The problem is, most don’t. How many games have been more or less Master of Orion 2, even if they were called differently? (The irony is, that in my opinion MOO 2 is in many regards not as good a game as MOO, as is for example HoMM 3 in some respects not as good as 2, but the successors have the advantage to ADD a lot, upping the scale and the content and the immersion, and even if that comes with a price, you still got games that click. However, most turn-based 4X space games since then are MOO 2 in disguise, and THAT is what makes things so stale.
    I will give you an example of what I hate in all space games after MOO. MOO had stack-based combat. If you played that game (if not you should), do you remember how awesome it felt when the Mrrshan or Alkari came with their stacks of 32.000 small ships (and I think even 64.000 tiny ships)? Space EMPIRES, right? It just felt right to put out a dozen of those ships each turn on a highly industrialized world. It felt right to build stacks (not to mention the effect that you had to really be careful with changing ship designs). In contrast – SINGLE ships? Are they kidding? I need 10 years to build a destroyer class ship? That’s ridiculous. 3 ships aren’t a fleet – 3 ships are nothing. So that aspect is more like Dog Fights in WW 2, not space empire battles.
    Anyway, I digress. To make a good game, if it’s based on something – and today nearly all games are based on something – you need a new angle. Like AoW 3, which could be used as a blueprint, of how to do it (and think about how much time is between 2 and 3). (The problem is, AoW 3 is so good, AoW 4 will be quite a mountain to hike, if that game is supposed to be good.) While the game has all the characteristics of the 2 AoW games before, the game concept is massively changed, and the scale broadened. You could obviously add AoW 3 Shadow Magic, if you wanted to, adding a Warlock and/or Demon class, and you can add a number of dwellings and races plus a few specializations. Making the game really, really big.
    However, I DO think, you need a vision because a good game isn’t that much different from a good movie or record or book.

    I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad thing if a “new” game is essentially an old game with a technology update and some new units and such…

    That’s not the issue. [/quote]What the guy complains about is that there are no games anymore (or only a few) that he plays for YEARS.
    The reason is simply, that with a back catalog like we have a game must be special for people to play it for years. Most games are not special, but pretty ordinary and more of the same.

    #241795

    I dunno, the article feels kinda aimless. Not sure what the authors is trying to say really.

    Gameplay wise 4x has a lot of variation. For example:

    Europa Universalis – high level administration and statecraft
    Crusader Kings – family and court management and intrigue
    Hearts of Iron – high level army operation management
    Age of Wonders – focus on diverse tactical combat and rpg elements
    Aurora 4x – high degree of realism and detail, 4x simulation of sorts
    Sins of a Solar Empire – a more rts-like type of 4x with focus on real time combat
    Civilization – balanced and accessible allowing one to equally engage in economic management, combat, diplomacy, religion, technology, etc.
    Total War – accessible 4x with focus on large scale battles in various historical settings
    Dominions – highly detailed, geared towards pbem multiplayer and scripting unit behavior for auto-resolved battles

    There’s more of course. Some of these games have stronger narratives while others have “emergent narratives” that are derived from gameplay. Gameplay variations are many and pretty unique. The 4x genre is probably more varied than fps or Diablo clones are.

    While more innovation is certainly welcome it feels to me like the author has simply gotten older and doesn’t enjoy the games the way he used in his younger days. I also wonder just how many 4x games is he familiar with.

    Conquest of Elysium, Eador and Thea: The Awakening are yet three more games that are very different from anything listed above. Not to mention the Heroes of Might and Magic series which is fairly “lite” but heavy on flavor. Ultimately the 4x genre is mechanics oriented and if that doesn’t do it for you then you’re simply not a fan and it’s a pointless complaint.

    Alpha Centaury had amazing flavor but that sort of thing is a luxury and ultimately has nothing to do with the gameplay or the genre itself. You can make flavor/narrative arguments with regards to any type of game, it’s a moot point.

    #241797

    Zakharov
    Member

    I wonder how difficult it is to have flavor as evocative in Alpha Centauri in other games. My view is that Alpha Centauri’s success comes mostly from two things:

    • A small number of leaders each with unique flavor and personality, expressed in diplomacy, with every game (by default) having exactly one of each leader.
    • Voice acted quotes, often by said leaders, when you research technologies or build buildings for the first time

    Good writing, of course, ties this together.

    I think Age of Wonders could do something similar. Alpha Centauri has seven factions; Age of Wonders has seven classes. If you gave each class a single leader and constructed a backstory for the world involving those leaders, that’d be a start. Give the leader a set of values and a personality (AoW goes the opposite direction; you can have good Theocrats and evil Theocrats). Making the cities of each class look different would be the next step. Give some flavor to the technologies, make the flavor of units and buildings more prominent.

    #241800

    Draxynnic
    Member

    That’s not the issue. What the guy complains about is that there are no games anymore (or only a few) that he plays for YEARS.
    The reason is simply, that with a back catalog like we have a game must be special for people to play it for years. Most games are not special, but pretty ordinary and more of the same.

    I think this is a valid point. Nowadays, it’s possible to build up a pretty big library from making use of sales (particularly humble bundles if you keep watch on those) and gamers generally have a pretty good idea of what’s out there. And the people who cut their teeth on the early classics in the genre while in their teens – the early Civs, the first two Orions, Master of Magic – are now approaching middle age. This means that on the one hand we’ve got more money to buy the games that catch our fancy, but paradoxically due to the responsibilities of adulthood we have less time to actually play them.

    So where a teenager or college student in the ’90s or even early 2000s might have only a handful of games and all of the time in the world in order to play them, that same person in the mid-2000s is likely to have more games that they want to play than they have time to play, which means that the bar is set pretty high for a game to be something that you keep playing for years and years.

    I think Age of Wonders could do something similar. Alpha Centauri has seven factions; Age of Wonders has seven classes. If you gave each class a single leader and constructed a backstory for the world involving those leaders, that’d be a start. Give the leader a set of values and a personality (AoW goes the opposite direction; you can have good Theocrats and evil Theocrats). Making the cities of each class look different would be the next step. Give some flavor to the technologies, make the flavor of units and buildings more prominent.

    I’m not sure about having the same set personalities in each game…

    However, I think AI personalities is something that does add to a 4X game. Master of Magic, for instance, had some broad personality archetypes – if you meet a Maniacal wizard, for instance, you know that’s going to be a different experience diplomatically than a Peaceful one. AoW3 pretty much only has ‘some leaders will usually choose the good option, some leaders will usually choose the evil option, some try to stay neutral, and some don’t care about alignment’ in terms of personalities, and that was only introduced relatively late on (largely, but not entirely, so Peacekeepers/Grey Guard/Shadowborn AI leaders don’t mess themselves up).

    What I would have liked to see in the leader customisation options is a third screen which allows you to customise the priorities of leaders. Will they seek an allied victory or declare war on everyone? Do they have some races they like and some they dislike? What about classes? Do they build tall (relatively few, well-developed cities) or wide (more cities with less development)? Do they have preferences for certain units or tiers?

    Naturally, the default leaders would also have personalities. So, for instance, take Lucian van Kesburgh, from Court Scenario 2. He’s clearly a human supremacist, with a particular dislike for elves and draconians, so he might have a positive prejudice for humans (making him more likely to ally with human leaders and take actions that result in a positive relationship modifier with humans) and a negative prejudice for elves and draconians (making him more likely to attack elven and draconian leaders, and take actions that result in a negative relationship modifier with elves and draconians). It’s implied in Edward’s fourth mission that he’s not Shadowborn, simply a bigot and mindlessly loyal to the Commonwealth, so he could additionally have a preference for allying with classes that are more associated with the Commonwealth (such as other dreadnoughts, and to a lesser extent warlords and theocrats) while disliking classes that are more associated with the old ways of the Court (sorceror and archdruid). Moving more into the realm of speculation, we could imagine that he dreams of wiping out the Court by flushing them out of their forests, so he might put a high priority on climbing the tree of dreadnought units for flame tanks and juggernauts, and focuses on a small number of well-developed industrial centers so he can churn out war machines quickly.

    This would make him quite different to, say, Bormac Orcbane, who gets along well with elves, dwarves and halflings while hating orcs and goblins, has no particular class prejudices except a hatred of necromancers, and prefers a more traditional dwarven lineup supported by artillery rather than going straight for the machines.

    Such a system would mean that if Lucian shows up in a game, you can have a pretty good idea of how he’ll behave (and it’ll be different to Bormac). If you decide you want the game to have a flavour that requires specific personalities, then once you’ve made or found leaders with those personalities, you can use the option in the map generator that allows you to select AI leaders in order to pick out leaders that will create the kind of game you want.

    • This reply was modified 4 years ago by  Draxynnic.
    #241802

    Jolly Joker
    Member

    And that’s why it sucks that development of AoW 3 is over, because there is still so much you could add.

    #241805

    Fogcrow
    Member

    AoW 2(and SM) had a very small number of premade leaders(wizards) and yes, that made individual background descriptions for them possible and so on, but that came with:
    # repetitiveness (fixed race/sphere combos[one could break this up when designing a scenario, but it felt off], few different looks…)
    # the feeling of never having really beaten the enemy(fighting the same guy in 10+ missions of various campaigns)
    # In scenarios/random maps I have a strong preference playing with and against leaders that don´t have a lore/campaign background to avoid “against the lore” situations. And there weren´t any. You could create them through the customize leader option, but there was only one model and portrait, the hooded guy, which didn´t already belong to someone.

    I think the AoW3(and AoW1) approach is far superior to that.

    #241837

    Sunicle
    Member

    I do sort of agree with the article, I also think it does apply to AoW, otherwise they shouldn’t have put that screenshot there.
    AoW III is a good game, but personally find the economic and strategic fundaments of the gameplay poor.
    I’ll make two points to illustrate:
    1) You choose your race, class and 3 talents all at turn zero. That’s too many decisions at set-up, some of those could have been in-game strategic decisions.
    2) Your resources for building up your clan are always gold and mana, and there’s always plenty of that about, so also here no in-game strategic decisions. Being able to build a unit never depends on a certain game situation, it instead always follows the same rule: need building X first then you can make building Y, from which you can produce unit Z.

    Strategically this is simplistic, and offers little variation between different play-throughs. I believe a game like AoW cannot do without resource scarcity being a bigger concern in gameplay. Civ 5 vanilla had almost no resource dependency, horses and iron were best sold away. The game won a lot of depth when they added a religious system in the first expansion, and the first building block of that, the pantheon, is about resource dependency and making a decision after you’ve had a good first look at your surroundings.
    AoW’s way of letting you choose a magic sphere before you’ve even entered the game is bad in my view, because it takes away strategic decision making. You can after some turns transform a node to your sphere, but this is a must-do thing once you’ve saved up some mana and CP points.

    A strategy game is better if it makes you adjust your strategy based on available resources. An old game like HOMM III did it well, also a new game like Thea: The Awakening is big on resource management, although admittedly comes with a lot of micro management. Thea: The Awakening also offers a new take on the genre, it is a very original game and the dev team of AoW should play it if they haven’t yet.

    If there’s going to be an AoW IV I wouldn’t mind if there would be no originality, but the economic systems in the game needs to be better and give the game more strategic depth and variation between play-throughs.

    #241839

    Starfleck
    Member

    In a word: story. What I got from the rockpapershotgun article was that Story is the most lacking in the 4x genre, and I actually agree there. (Not that CivII had any, mind you.)

    AoW1 had story, and that is why it’s still one of my favorite go-to games of all time. I’ve played a handful of other 4x games but so far between Civ’s and T-War’s. Nothing has yet come close to the sense of grand scale storytelling that AoW1 had.

    Actually, I take that back, because one strategy game comes to mind that had a beautifully designed set of campaigns that really held my interest: Starcraft, and it’s expansion the brood war. But that’s RTS… The thing is, the comparison works.

    Technology progression in Starcraft wasn’t something that nullified previous progress, because in the story campaigns you still had maps sometimes which stripped away the buildings and made it a real-time-tactics game, or which stripped units and gave you a strategy game with much less tactical. That kind of back & forth restricting is something that AoW1 did somewhat in places, like the race to the halflings’ 5 cities.

    And again, another well-told story in a strategy/tactics setting, is in the Myth series. Units would get only slightly stronger from map to map, but that was beside the point. They gave you a certain set of units each map, and it was your job to beat it with just what’s available. So each and every map had you making tactical decisions that were unique to that map, and the campaign flowed with peaks and valleys.

    What about AoW3, though? Thing is, I haven’t played the AoW3 campaigns like, at all… The reason is painfully simple: because I can’t choose my character. That one really bit me in the ass when I bought the game, and killed all the excitement I had at first. Because there was no way to play the grand campaign with MY character, it lost all interest for me.

    The strength of AoW3, is, like JJ pointed out, you added a lot to the series when you made a class choice that runs parallel to race and spheres of magic. You added a lot with rock/paper/scissors -like damage channels. In a huge way it’s, like Shakey pointed out, a huge, complicated, enjoyable Math puzzle! But then you stripped all of that away when you designed the campaigns! >_<

    Where to go, in my opinion, with the genre:
    * Risk side by side with reward. In Rob’s blogpost, he mentioned Victoria2 as a good example of progression creating new challenges, and simplified, it’s just adding risk to your rewards. Increasing something good makes a demand in another area. All it does is create a sense of realness about your city’s inhabitants, and that’s always welcome.
    * Smaller maps. More choices during the campaigns. Short incremental steps that make a larger story of getting stronger, then weaker, then stronger, then weaker again before a final fight.
    * Different win conditions, but only for campaign maps.
    * Or, alternatively, larger maps but with more ability to see and travel across them, specified routes, specific obstacles to be overcome in a natural way (like seeing a group of Knights in advance and knowing you’re supposed to produce pikemen).
    * Support for shorter Multiplayer games, maybe like the “arena mode” like SeeR said, which is something T-Wars has done very well like in TW:Shogun2.
    * Observe mode, ala league of legends, to showcase what makes for good strategic or tactical decisions.
    * Simplified Mode, for a multiplayer environment with down-to-basics settings that will allow turns to be played faster. Stripping it down to certain base elements will let us play without second-guessing our tactical decisions during a multiplayer game, resulting in games that could last as little as one hour, like an RTS game, while still preserving the pikeman>cavalry>archer>pikeman elements that we so crave.
    * Continue with designing “different” races or classes, or specializations, only to add more options to the table that are neither stronger nor weaker than predecessors.
    * Start each and every game or expansion with storyboarding the campaign, including a number of branches. After that, design exactly how you’re going to make the Multiplayer portion playable so that maps take no more than 2-4 hours (or one month of PBEM). After that, design the campaign and the rest mechanically, and the UI, coding, visit structures, etc.

    What not to do/ not to change/ do less of:
    * Cosmetic microtransactions, never. This is sort of a culmination of very badly directioned Facebook games. Most devs seem to try and tap into this market somehow or another in order to stay profitable. Unfortunately in 4x it’s largely meaningless. The closest I’ve seen so far to this working is in Battle for the Overworld where your entire dungeon changes skins for having a DLC, but it seems like an oddity.
    * Structures (nodes, visit, treasures, etc.), don’t add more. Unfortunately there’s a dichotomy between adding new complex resources and adding resources that are valuable for your empire. The more wildly varied the possible resources are, the more likely you’ll be to get sites that don’t benefit you at all, or not in the way you wanted. The more possible sites, the less they help your particular strategy.
    * Flavor text, don’t change what you’re already doing. It’s great as-is, and I think out of all the 4x companies you’ve been consistently a top contender in this area.
    * Endgame scenarios, keep it the same as it is now in random/multiplayer. With Seals and Unifier, as well as allied victory, you’ve already got the makings of great win conditions, so keep it as simple as it already is. In the campaign you can play around more with different types of quests/wins, like achieving a certain ally, alignment, researching a spell, producing a unit/item/building, traveling to a place, holding out for a time, etc.. All of that goes into the shorter maps bullet point above, and doesn’t belong in random maps.
    * Don’t allow random maps and multiplayer to be your only format for “playing your own way”. Don’t put more effort into making more overpowered classes and races that people have to pay for, at the cost of campaign depth. People will buy the game’s expansions for story, as long as they read other players’ reviews saying that the story is worth it.

    But that’s just my opinion, of course, and I’m a 30-something fuddy-dud with kids and a regular job, probably not unlike Rob. Maybe not the target audience. That said, I would love to enjoy a popular (large player base) fast-paced 4x game with it’s more relaxed turn-based play to escape from the shooters and MMO’s that dominate the industry right now, and I don’t see that happening with complex systems, long matches, and high learning curves.

    #241841

    I am surprised noone has mentioned the end game in 4x. It can be…painful.

    In my opinion, if there is an Aow4, actually same advice for Project x, is to make the end game scale.

    In AoW3, you have 6 stack armies, which works really well, upto mid to late game, and then what I call “busy work,” which I measure by how many clicks it takes to accomplish something, increases while the fun and payoff stays the same, or decreases.

    This excessive (to me) clicking is one of the main reasons I dislike one unit per tile, and by extension Civ and Warlock.

    But that’s only a part of it, albeit a big part for me.

    I think the 4x genre as a whole needs something to punctuate the end game, and to, you know, end the game, instead of the 2 basic options we have currently, which are to exterminate everything, or watch a counter go down.

    That’s why I like the idea behind EL’s quest system, even if the implementation was..not so good. I also like the idea behind Thea, where the end game/success state is finishing the story quest.

    Racial or class quests in AoW3 would, imho, work really rather well. They would ofcouirse be an extra way to end the game. It would also create more tension if player 1 is pushing to complete his Dwarven heritage campaign, and player 2 is holding onto a Seal, because player 1 might sacrifice his forces to slow down player 2’s counter…

    so, this idea in a nutshell – assymetric win conditions, whereby player 1 is doing something and player 2 is doing something else, but with a bit more teeth than the current kill/seals/unity system, and by teeth I mean tension and direction.

    Getting this right is very difficult. XCOM 2 is a fun game imho, but I stopped playing once I had 2 Colonels in my team, because I could only lose missions through carelessness, or the game throwing in some stupid curveball (like 5 90%+ chance to hits shots missing in a row, as in miss a shot, miss a shot, miss a shot…) or triggering new enemies in what felt like an arbitrary set-up. Basically, not fun past a certain point because of powercreep, which the game tries to mitigate by just becoming silly, or adding tonnes of armour and hp etc.

    AoW3 in sp has a similar issue, in that powercreep can get to the point where you know you’ve won the map but there’s a mop up phase.

    This is a problem in every single 4x game, and I’m not sure what the solution could be, short of simulating something like war weariness etc.

    There is room, imho, for a game that is a cross between Crusader Kings and AoW3, so you have to manage your realm, and as it gets larger emergent factions could emerge (I believe Stellaris has something similar planned, and the RPS article mentioned Victoria 2 as having something similar) and you have to appease these factions or your realm could implode. That would handily deal with several mechanical issues such as infinite city sprawl, uberpowercreep etc. Being able to model in AI personalities as mentioned by Drax would also help, as would being able to model diplomatic/political influences and factors. BY this I mean more than trade mana for gold etc, and more simulating things such as the Thucydides (?) issue (i.e. where a rising power causes fear in established powers, leading to war, as happened between Athens and Sparta).

    Basically, CK2 for me was quite fun because it was the story of my dynasty managing England or whoever. How much more fun could that be if I was managing BBB of the Orc’s Kingdom?

    so, tldr:

    4x games suffer, imho, from the following issues:

    – direction for the player, in the form of quests etc
    – scaling the fun factor of the early game (e.g. in aow3 the tight tactical combat and exploration) into the late game (avoiding busywork and powercreep)

    #241843

    I forgot, organic reasons to go to war could make for a very different and interesting game.

    For example:

    resources that other people have that you don’t (could be anything really, even people for certain races and factions – think a possible Shadow Demon class/race).

    Religious reasons

    Political/population reasons.

    Because you are an Orc (self explanatory, could be the only race in this fictional game that requires no cassus belli)

    #241846

    Jolly Joker
    Member

    BBB, I think, you don’t think the problem quite to the end.
    The real problem is, that a game stops to be thrilling, once you know you’ve won. Every turn after that knkowledge registers is more or less a chore, because you just have to execute what you already know.

    There is a very well-known board game that offers the solution here: RISK. Not only are there different VC conditions, you also don’t know the opponents’s VCs! See how that solves the proble? You NEVER know when you have won until you HAVE won. Opponent may win when their biggest town counts 100.000 people – may happen while you control 90 % of the map.

    Of course, in SP YOUR VC has to be eliminate everyone and be the last player standing. The AIs may have different VCs, though. Kill all units of a specific race might be a possible VC for an evil race/class combo. Build 10 (number depending on maps) Hospitals might be a possible VC for a good player.

    Now, information is power, so there should be ways to spy out opponents’s VCs…

    #241851

    The Mentat
    Member

    Not only are there different VC conditions, you also don’t know the opponents’s VCs!

    I really like this idea!

    Of course, in SP YOUR VC has to be eliminate everyone and be the last player standing. The AIs may have different VCs, though.

    I think also for the player there could be an alternative random victory condition, maybe even based on quests.

    Concerning the article and implementing narratives:

    In games like Civ its appropriate to tell stories about civilizations and how they change during centuries on a whole planet. But in AoW there is no such background. However a different way to expand narratives is by characters, either leader personalities as Draxynnic suggested – or heroes get more personality. For example their character could be formed in some way during the game based on their interactions on the map.

    As BBB mentioned XCOM 2: XCOM also doesn’t have much story (or at least always the same) but interestingly it’s imho not really a problem because you simply create your own story as you feel more and more associated with the recruits and their experiences.

    #241855

    Jolly Joker
    Member

    That would work only in campaigns.

    #241858

    @ JJ, you describe the problem same as I did. You say it’s a chore because you’ve already won, whereas I use the term mop up phase.

    You say differing victory conditions, I say assymetric conditions. Ergo, not sure where the disagreement is? Not knowing your opponents VC would be a natural extension of having differing VCs that aren’t counting down a timer or extermination. In such a hypothetical game, this would open up some interesting mind games. IN the above example, I as player 2 could throw all my forces at your seals so you think I’m obviously committed to a quest victory (else why throw my forces at you) whereas I might just be focusing your attention there and going for your throne.

    I think we agree here even if you seem to insist otherwise!

    P.S, did you test that mod?

    #241862

    Starfleck
    Member

    Biggest bore/chore in the mop-up phase tends to be what, do you think? Moving vast distances over multiple turns? Finding where their leader or capital is hiding? Building enough troops to take them out? At what point do you get the feeling you’ve already won?

    More importantly, what are some ways this can be alleviated? Perhaps having the dual objectives of keeping both leader and capital alive is what causes that feeling. Perhaps the game doesn’t ramp up enough in the end because it’s structured around 6-unit armies when you clearly can build much larger. Perhaps Advanced Logistics can be locked into a later phase of the game and instead give massive movement boosts so that your new 18-dragon army doesn’t take an extra 20-30 turns just to cross the map (like only 5 turns instead).

    #241868

    Jolly Joker
    Member

    @ BBB
    No, I’ve been waiting for a mail and didn’t visit Steam – downloading now.
    Will give it a go.

    For this discussion, I was just thinking that you are not going far enough. I did just generalize, that when you SP, the thrill of a game stops not when you have to “mop up”, that’s just a symptom; the thrill stops when you know you’ve won.
    Generally, alternative VCs don’t change things except that they shorten the mop-up, but they don’t solve the basic problem.
    Alternative VCs that would be logical (VCs you can guess) don’t change a lot either. Instead what you need are Risk-like VCs that keep you guessing and may still lose you the game, even though you control a large part of the map.

    There is another way to see things. In my experience every game has kind of an “optimum working range” which has something to do with the build-up, research, economy and so on. Exceeding the working range with the set-up will diminish the game experience, Victory Conditions or not.

    That said, it’s somewhat logical that the bigger maps and empires get, the more they will profit from “individualizing”, that is, an agenda giving it specific goals.

    #241876

    NEHZ
    Member

    Articles about the 4X genre have grown stagnant, writers always believe there is one real reason why they didn’t like the last couple of 4x games they played. That reason is af course this one thing they want to see next. It’s fine you want to see that next, but don’t generalize a whole genre as being stagnant for not having met your desire yet.

    Slightly more seriously, about the problem described:
    There have been a couple of 4x games that are downright boring. If you want name a single problem as a cause for all of them because you want something to discuss, I’d go with the development process. Specificly: the vision.
    Wether these games had a unique vision behind them or not, they very much feel like: “Let’s make this the next MOO!” or “Civ hasn’t been giving us what we want, let’s make a better one!” or “I love 4x. I’m going to make my game 4x”. Next, they ‘check the boxes’. And being unique is just another box to check.
    These games are 4x first and actual fun games second. They’re bound by their genre. The phrase “Kill you darlings” is repeated over and over as being an important rule for game development. 4X games fare best by ignoring that phrase. But not completely.

    If you really don’t want to remove something because you put so much effort into it, but maybe it doesn’t really work, kill it. That’s what that phrase means. But if it’s a small thing that you don’t want to remove, not because it’s yours or because it cost so much time, but because despite it not working, it just feels right, ignore the phrase. Keep it in. Rework it and add to it until it does work. It might get quirky, but that’s fine, that’s what a lot of these games lack.

    What I’m trying to say is: these games should have killed their desire to be a 4X game and tried to find something that makes them tick. But this is probably not so much a 4x thing as a thing for games in general: some games are great, some games suck.

    p.s. A bit about visions: wanting big empires to duke it out is a wild dream. Wanting big empires to duke it out in a specific way because that way seems fun is a vision. Wanting big empire to duke it out just like they did in that other game is trying to copy something and is prone to misinterpertation and nostalgia.

    #241877

    NEHZ
    Member

    Now for a double post, because I completely forgot to write about the thing that the write of the article wants to see next.

    Seen abstractly, what the writer wants is Non-incremental progress in games. (if incremental is just higher numbers)
    This basicly means new content for later stages in the game. You can have new written content, through flaver text or object names. You can have visual content, through new models, pictures or a changing UI. You can have new content through having new game mechanics. This last one is hard because it means that the nature of the game changes, which means a lot more game design, balancing and testing. So much testing.
    There aren’t a lot of games that do this. Spore is a widely known example. One that I haven’t played because it looked like multiple seperate games.

    Many games have a ‘core gameplay loop’ (phrase stolen from TB). This means changing that loop throughout the game. That can mean that something that players liked at first can end up disappearing. All 4X games already have this in the discovery. Early game, you scout to discover terrain and features, useally for goodies and future prospects. However, when you’ve discovered everything nearby, priorities will change. Then change again when you’ve discovered even more. In AoW, you can keep on scouting later on to keep tabs on your opponents, but the context of this scouting is different from the early game. It plays and feels different. The loop also changes when you enter the ‘mop up phase’, this can be a very subtle change over many turns or it can be a sudden change after an important battle. These changes in gameplay are very difficult to keep tabs on, as they happen dynamicly. It’s not after turn x. It’s not even at the same time for every player in the same game.

    I would be very interested to see a game do this on purpose and to great extend. But I suspect such a game would fail big time if the changes are too disconnected (spore) or if it tries to adhere to a genre to strongly.

    • This reply was modified 4 years ago by  NEHZ.
    #241882

    No, I’ve been waiting for a mail and didn’t visit Steam – downloading now.

    Mea culpa, I didn’t write down your address quickly enough and Steam doesn’t record conversations.

    For this discussion, I was just thinking that you are not going far enough

    Ahh, fair enough.

    that keep you guessing and may still lose you the game, even though you control a large part of the map

    Alternate VCs, or other mechanics, would help here. I feel Seals do this to a degree, because it is entirely possible to lose or win a seals game irrespective of how much space you control.

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