The XX Show #8 – 4X Problems?

Join Nate and Troy as they discuss the state of 4X in 2017 as well as the community sentiment. Is there something wrong in 4X? Have we become overly critical? Is nostalgia the bane of new games? Come and listen to what we think.

eXplorminate Music by MangaDrive

Show notes: Notes? Notes? We don’t need no stinkin’ notes.

27 thoughts on “The XX Show #8 – 4X Problems?

  1. I never listen to podcasts.
    Takes too much time and too much data.
    I don’t even view youtube clips longer than 20min. Not to mention livestreams.

    I want text dammit! ,)

    It has become kind of reversed.
    You can do a podcast quickly, and it takes time for users to listen to it.
    While it used to be that it took time too craft an article and could quickly be read by users.

    Shouldn’t there be programs that translate easily between textaudio today?


    1. I get where you are coming from, but I haven’t found any software that could do this, and with my weird accent, I suspect that my phone’s autopredict/correct feature would make the show notes equally illegible since my text-by-voice/phone messages come out really “weird” sometimes.


      1. You have an accent? O_o

        It isn’t a Quebecois accent, by chance? I spent a lot of time in La Belle Province working and I have a few friends that have (Quebec) French as their first language, I think maybe I just don’t hear the accent any more.


      2. Do you have the software to tag different portions of the podcasts so we can just skip to the subtopic or just list in the comment section which topic starts in the timelog?


  2. On the other hand, one cannot read articles while exercising (or otherwise away from the monitor) or working on a presentation, etc.

    I like text for reviews because I tend to jump back and forth or re-read bits. But for general news I find it more enjoyable to listen to Nate and company discuss/ramble/complain/joke. English is also my native tongue, so I suffer no disadvantage there.

    I’m sure there are free podcast-to-text translators out there, the big question is – who has time to clean up the transcription? As frazzled as Nate and co. get from time to time, an unedited transcription would most likely be hilariously bad.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Good discussion! I really enjoy all of your podcasts, but these kind of in-depth ones are especially great. I just bought endless space 2 based on your recommendations and as soon as the next patch drops I’m going to dive in :)

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Interesting show. Kudos guys for systematically discussing many of the issues with the 4X genera. While I am all for cataloging and discussing the flaws I feel that it needs to be balanced better by constructive criticism. That may well exceed the mandate of any single show but the approached that was used, to highlight games that did something well, caused the show to finish just a bit flat because one of the big complaints was that current 4X games are derivative while the final comment was a list of games that are “interesting” that designers/developers should look at for inspiration.

    And to avoid looking too much like a hypocrite myself, here is a constructive thought. Wouldn’t it be great if there were some way to rate individual games based on these criteria (perhaps a few others) as a community? Perhaps these could be explicit criteria present in the reviews? But perhaps even better there could be a community based measure of these criteria for existing games? And wouldn’t explorminate be the perfect site to host such a view?

    Coincidentally, this show mirrors the poll that is currently running which I have several issues with which I will use this space to mention. This topic is not well addressed by “plurality voting” but would be much better served by a “ranked-choice voting” because all of these issues probably important to most gamers. Rather than forcing them to pick a “most” important it would be interesting to how people rank the relative issues. Perhaps that is a limitation of the software but it would be much much valuable ranks rather than top pick were captured by the poll.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. OK – another small issue with the podcast… Dominions. I really like this game and I was glad to hear it mentioned a couple of times in the show… alas it was mentioned vaguely without highlighting ANY of the specific attributes that make it great despite being a prime example for many of the topics you discussed. This game is not derivative, it has a great deal of lore, asymmetric game play, and incredibly deep game play. Endless Legend has nothing on Dominions 4 (EL is fine just fine IMO). Shame on you for not making those points clear. Nate and Troy, its almost as if you have never played the game or not played it for more than a few minutes, or even worse – didn’t like it, could it be so?!?!?

    Is Dominions perfect – no way. It took me several tries before I actually overcame the learning curve and really started playing it. Could it just be my opinion? Definitely it is my opinion but there are a lot of other hard core fans out there. Have I played more than the 625 hours that steam says I have? Dang straight I have! Perhaps triple that. And I am still learning new things when I do play.

    I know this game is older and has relatively poor graphics but it still shines on nearly all other fronts especially game play such as strategy and tactics. It still gets regular love and care including significant updates from the indie developers and it is relatively bug free. The multiplayer games can be gripping to play and fun even to watch (I would recommend DasTactic’s and WadeStar’s youtube channels to see an interesting multiplayer role playing free for all with all the players streaming their moves).

    Just giving a shout out to an still relevant obscure gem that gets lost among all the glittery new games (Endless Space 2, Civ 6, Stellaris) and the sentimental favorites of yesteryear. Thank you for letting me get this off my chest.

    This was NOT a paid advertisement.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yes, I can honestly say that I have never played it. Being a known graphics snob, this should not be a surprise. I certainly appreciate the game, but I will never play this version. I’ve played enough graphically challenged games in my life to last 3 lifetimes.


      1. Totally valid position to take from a personal perspective. Coming from only having played text based rogue-like games though Dominions graphics are awesome! Just kidding (mostly). But when trying to speak broadly about the entire 4X genera, experience (or lack thereof) does color the presentation. While it may not be personally enjoyable, I think academically it would be valuable to spend some time with Dominions 4 to understand its mechanics and novel contributions to the 4X genera especially if you want to speculate about where 4X could go. Cheers!

        Liked by 3 people

  6. As an experienced 4X gamer the weak AI is the worst problem in my opinion. I feel that all the depth and magic the game might have is lost when you have figured out yet another predictable AI.

    It seems most of the issues have already been addressed by some of the games you mentioned. Now we just need a game that combines them all.

    And these MoO/MoM clones seriously need to stop.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree but partially. I think repetitive game play is the biggest problem but I would also say that weak AI is among the chief causes of repetitive play. If you have a winning strategy that the AI never counters why change it?

      Many of the multi-player games (think multiplayer online battle arena aka MOBA’s) have a game play meta that changes as players devise strategies and counter-strategies and counter-counter strategies. Since the AI never does this many 4X games have stale game play. At least that is my current opinion. If I ever get around to writing my own game I would love to fix that!


  7. There is weak AI and then there is civ 6 AI. Firaxis should be ashamed. I bet they are ashamed, but just can’t tell us because their corporate take 2 overlords won’t let them communicate

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Dominion is one of best 4x ever bar gfx. It took me 3 years owning it before I learned and played it.

    The game doesnt offer a good SP experience its meant for MP. Third MP game I won uterly over experienced players. I got all saves saved and would be a great writeup if I ever get time (I played strong Diplomacy becoming trade hub and friendly to all.).

    The programming it has as orders for commanders and units that you give before tactical battles is best ever. I wish someone would just take it and use for other esp SF games. Like ES2 – that would be revolutionary.

    I come from 8bit gfx age and am allergic to poor gfx but I overcame it and the rewards were great.

    The other thing it shines in is PBEM – easy, functional, visible and easily manageable from admins sida.

    I would love you guys to try it – if only to get beaten by others time and again…..

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Diablo, Space Empires 4 and 5 also have a very robust system of orders and tactics given to ships and task forces before battles so it’s not like it has never been done in space 4X games. They also shine in multiplayer (that is with simultaneous turns PBEM or PBW) and I wish such solutions were more often used by developers.


      1. PAwleus, I played some variant of Space Empires (probably 3) but can you be explicit and describe the way combat is set up? A quick look on YouTube just showed a couple ships circling each other and zapping away endlessly until one blew up and it wasn’t clear how much control the player might have. If you want to suggest a video or lets play that would be helpful too!


  9. Sorry but I don’t know about any good video that shows how combat is organized in eg. SE5 – there are just too much details to see. I could try to describe it in short.

    The game is based on the idea of fixed in length simultaneous turns which is very multiplayer-friendly allowing easy PBEM or PBW setups and amazing levels of role-playing by diplomatic notes between players. Orders to colonies, ships, task forces, fleets, creating designs, testing them in the combat simulator against known enemy ones in chosen fleet compositions – all these (and activities connected to research, diplomacy and spying) players do in the form of planning them and then they send their encrypted end of turn saves to a host (or a PBW site) where the game turn is executed and results send back. If there was a battle relevant players might see it at their leisure in as much detail as they want to the point of seeing the most interesting parts in slow motion. How a player can predict where and when a battle will occur? Each turn is executed in 30 ticks and battles happen when hostile fleets meet in the same sector (they are units in which the space of star systems is divided) in the same tick and to do informed predictions strong players have to take this under consideration together with expected enemy movements (how fast fleets are, what are their probable objectives and how sneaky their opponents are). More casual players can just order to intercept enemy fleets (or chosen ships from those fleets) that they see in their sensor range or defend in fixed positions. How a player can influence how his assets behave during a battle? First of all by designing his ships in a certain way and based on it and their expected roles by giving them their default tactics (they can be overridden by task force tactics), which are sets of modifiable behaviors regulating eg. range at which a ship tries to stay away from the enemy, at which point it tries to disengage, priorities of its fire (including types of enemy ships, how much they are damaged, whether it should prioritize weapons or engines damage etc.), whether or not it should board or invade, when they should break formation, whether or not launch units (such as fighters or drones), when stop defending a fixed position (such as a colony or warp-point)… Then players can form fleets with task forces in formations from doctrine sets, add ships to task forces in formations from the sets as well and give task forces general tactics that are as detailed and modifiable as ship tactics. Eg. you could set up a task force as to try to destroy enemy noncombatans such as supply or repair ships and try to achieve a battle in which one of your fleets attack from the front of enemy formation occupying his combatants while the second one attacks from the rear destroying supply ships making their combatants very vulnerable (when their supplies are depleted they are just sitting ducks) to a follow up battle (it’s possible to arrange that the enemy fleet is attacked many times during the same turn even by the same fleets). In SE5 both doomstack and dispersed fleets arrangements based on delaying enemy and zone defense are viable. Even much weaker fleets can defeat a strong one there when a player is able to create specific circumstances using fleet movement on the strategical level and task force compositions supported by relevant tactics on the tactical one.

    This robust system, even despite bugs, implementation shortcomings and a very far from perfect combat AI, allows diligent players to achieve surprisingly smart ship behaviors on both the strategical and tactical levels. It’s perhaps too complicated for many players to deeply get into but I consider the idea to be perfect for PBEM/PBW space4X games that have battles on the level of thousands of ships (in SE5 battles of hundreds of ships and thousands of fighters are common).



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