4X

Interstellar Space: Genesis Pre-Alpha Preview

The universe of space 4X games has expanded rapidly in recent times. In the past five years, we’ve had roughly 20 space 4X games released (give or take depending on your definition of 4X), along with some of the biggest names and developers in the industry releasing flagship titles: Master of Orion: Conquer the Stars, Endless Space 2, Stellaris, and Galactic Civilizations 3. While these big names have launched to varying degrees of critical and commercial success, popular consensus is that all of them still need more work to reach their potential. Shockingly, there are even more space 4X games still on the horizon.

Unsurprisingly, many of my colleagues at eXplorminate are getting burned out by the glut of space 4X games. I am not unsympathetic to their plight, and I would love to see more 4X-style mechanical juice pumped into original themes, as well. Where is the post-apocalyptic 4X game? Or a steampunk 4X game? Or a zombie survival 4X game? (okay maybe not that one).

But at the same time, I personally haven’t connected with the big space 4X games that have been released recently. A lack of polish, a lack of depth, too sprawling of a design scope, and other quibbles prevented me from falling in love with any of them. So I’m still searching the stars for my perfect fare.

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One of these space 4X games still on the horizon that has piqued my interest is Interstellar Space: Genesis (IS:G). That mouthful of a title aside, the game is developed by Praxis Games, which draws its ranks from the now retired Space Sector website. Indeed, gaming critics- turned-development studio offers a tantalizing proposition: Does the experience of playing and critiquing so many strategy games, specifically space 4X games, give the developers a chance to deliver a compelling title amidst the host of competition? More importantly, can they succeed where so many other indie developers have fallen short?

Perhaps it is best to start with what Praxis Games stated as their intentions for IS:G:

Our mission, with Interstellar Space: Genesis, is to develop a spiritual successor to Master of Orion 2, the turn-based space 4X strategy game from the 90’s that we love so much.

This will be a faithful successor, that is true in spirit to the series. We believe that by sticking to its fundamentals we will please the fans who want to feel the atmosphere and that “feeling” of Master of Orion 2, but also want to experience something new and fresh, with all the complexity and depth of a big 4X game.

A tall order. Many developers have made similar claims, and in nearly every case the resulting games failed to capture the hearts and minds of MoO fans. It is, perhaps, hallowed ground, or a fool’s errand, or a quest for the holy grail.

Part of the challenge facing such endeavors is identifying the “fundamentals” of the MoO series in the first place – let alone building on those mechanics to provide “something new and fresh” that also simultaneously meets modern expectations and transcends the nostalgia barrier. The developers note the MoO fundamentals as: turn-based combat, ship design, free movement with range limits (no star lanes), race customization, leaders, deep colony management and espionage.

The “new mechanics” added to the MoO2 fundamentals include: remote exploration, deeper terraforming, leader trait advancement, strategic resource system, space culture, and a dynamic event system. Not all of these new features are currently implemented in the pre-alpha version of the game.

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Kickin’ it Old school: The whole galaxy on one screen.

Having played the “pre-alpha” for IS:G, I can say one thing rather enthusiastically: the developers have done their homework. It’s clear to me that they spent years thinking about the problems and pitfalls of the 4X space genre and designed a system of mechanics that leverage the best of the past with newer innovations. They injected just enough novelty into the design to make it feel like it’s own thing. So far, the developers appear to be well on track.

Mechanical Fundamentals in IS:G

The core mechanics of IS:G draw heavily from a cross section of both MoO and MoO2. The game features turn-based strategic gameplay. There is open space travel between star systems limited by fuel-range (i.e. no starlanes). Combat uses a classic turn-based IGOUGO system ( one side moves all their ships, then the other side moves all their ships). Star systems can contain a number of different planets, asteroid belts, gas giants, and other anomalies which can then be colonized or secured by constructing outposts. The game is also designed so that the entire galaxy is viewable and fully functional while fitting on one screen (in fact the screen is locked to that one view). Overall, the basic economy of generating tax revenue, upkeep costs, and managing fleet capacity will feel very familiar. Fundamentally, it is all very MoO-like.

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Remote, deep space exploration overlay.

However, IS:G departs from the MoO mechanics in a number of interesting ways. The exploration system is a great example of the developers addressing a long-standing point of criticism in 4X games: that exploration becomes dull or irrelevant by the mid-game. Star systems have multiple possible levels of exploration, which can be conducted using survey ships or by conducting “remote exploration.” Remote exploration slices the entire galaxy into a grid of sectors. By default, up to one sector (or more with certain culture advancements) can be explored at a time, and each sector ultimately requires multiple exploration rounds to fully explore it.

The interesting innovation here is that beyond revealing more details about identified star systems and planets, remote exploration can even uncover entirely new star systems or other hidden anomalies (black holes, etc.) in a sector. This in turn changes the galactic landscape over the course of the game as new locations (not just wormhole connections or similar movement pathways) come into play. It’s pretty slick.

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The technology tree in 6 fields.

IS:G also incorporates a strategic resources system with its own novel twists. Strategic resources are discovered by surveying star systems. But utilizing strategic resources dovetails with an outpost construction mechanic, allowing players to exploit asteroid belts for production, research, or trade bonuses. Furthermore, when strategic resources are first found, an event pops up asking you to decide between mutually-exclusive technology pathways. Based on your decision, certain technologies will become available in the technology tree. In a way, this starts to get at the MoO2-like research system with its hard choices.

That said, the technology tree itself is more conventional in its overall approach. Imagine MoO2’s technology system, except picking one choice doesn’t preclude you from going back and taking one of the other choices later. The resulting trade-off is then between choosing to research more lower level technologies versus pushing further down a technology field more quickly. The balance will be important to get right for this to feel like a highlight of the game – but overall it functions similar to the system in Endless Space 2.

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A star system with a full complement of planets.

Planetary/colony management takes an inventive approach to minimizing micromanagement while keeping the focus squarely on big important decisions. Instead of dragging population units (pops) between tasks (a la MoO2 and countless other games) there is a slider system (a la the first MoO) for allocating production between construction, infrastructure, and ecological engineering projects.

The resulting production system is compelling. Construction feeds into a typical build queue system, but these are kept focused and more manageable as planets are limited to a certain number of building slots. Infrastructure projects utilize a mini-tech tree system that allows you to specialize planets around certain tasks, e.g. boosting ship production versus boosting fleet capacity, or even increasing building slots. Ecological projects enhance habitability and population growth rates, but also include opportunities for terraforming. Overall, I like the direction this is going. Development decisions feel important and rarely like “busy work” or mindless micromanagement.

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Planet screen – production full speed ahead.

Another aspect of empire development is the “space culture” system. In addition to acquiring galactic credits and research points, your empire also generates culture points. Excess income can also be diverted away from the treasury to increase your rate of culture gain. At certain cultural thresholds, you can choose a perk for your empire from three different branches of culture. It is a nice compliment to the research system, allowing you to specialize your empire’s overall focus. Eventually, the plan is for the space culture system to dovetail with other mechanics (like diplomatic relationships), and thus have an impact even beyond the perk selections.

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Space culture! Get yer Space Culture!

When it comes to space combat, IS:G’s ship designer uses a hull- and weight-based approach, giving players latitude to design ships with a wide range of modules, defenses, and weapon systems. Most modules can be further customized with special attributes (longer range, faster fire rates, etc.). It reminds me a bit of a combination between StarDrive’s system (minus the need to manage a physical layout) with the original weight-based system from Endless Space. Again, it finds a nice balance point between level of detail and impactful choices. One design choice I’m less enthusiastic about is that players are limited to only half a dozen ship design slots. While this was present in earlier MoO games, I don’t think this was for any gameplay reason (rather a technical limitation), and I fail to see the appeal of reusing a limitation that feels arbitrary.

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What is this?  A battleship for ants?  It needs to be… At least three times that size!

The tactical combat system is turn-based (as advertised) and I really like the direction it is going in. The controls are intuitive and it’s relatively easy to understand how your ships are performing. Handy overlays for movement and weapon range let you plan out your movement and target priorities easily.

One nice addition to the tactical system is that you can issue special orders to ships that do things like boost shields or engine power but generate additional “heat” for the ship. If the heat meter gets too high, your ship is at risk for more catastrophic damage. So far I have no major complaints about the tactical combat system and it seems poised to be a standout feature.

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Leaders for hire!

Last on the feature list, IS:G has a leader and hero system, providing a bonus to colonies or fleets respectively. The leader system is a bit more in-depth than in many other games (Endless Space 2 is probably the closest comparison). Leaders earn XP and their primary attributes can be upgraded to benefit specific tasks (e.g. boosting colony production or fleet capacity). But leaders also earn special talent abilities when they level up, which can be quite impactful depending on the situation.

The Pre-Alpha Status

IS:G is currently in a pre-alpha status. Despite this, I’ve played a number of games through to completion without experiencing any game breaking bugs (yes, seriously – no major bugs for me). Some planned features are still not, or are only partially, implemented. Diplomacy is fairly barebones at the moment and games are limited to no more than three empires on the map. There are also only three factions currently in the game. The technology tree appears to be only 50% complete, with many of the special technologies that are linked to strategic resources not yet implemented. And there is some sort of ground combat, bombardment, and planet defense system in the works. Last, the developers also plan to add in starbases, ship refitting, espionage, race customization, and many more special events as development moves forward.

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Turn-based tactical combat interface.

Regarding the UI and visual elements, the pre-alpha version is certainly functional and does the job, although of course more work needs to be done. I’m not sure about the aesthetic direction of the game and how much that will change (or not). IS:G has a “throwback” feel to its visuals, particularly on the galaxy view, and I worry that it might not capture the attention of newer gamers, who might be nonplussed by the vintage look. Certainly much of this will change as development proceeds, but it’s still a worry.

One specific complaint of mine is that, while the game is designed to function with the full galaxy in view, there is no zooming into the map or panning around. Consequently the strategic screen feels rigid and lacks character – and at times I’d like to be able to zoom in and see fleet positions more clearly. Should this remain the case at launch, it will almost certainly be a point of criticism.

On the positive side, I’ve been quite impressed with the AI behavior. The AI is very opportunistic in attacking the player if they leave systems undefended. In one instance, the AI sent a small fleet of ships towards my undefended homeworld, forcing me to pull back ships to defend. With my frontline exposed, the AI sent another fleet that stole a number of my outposts and colonies. Pretty impressive for an AI that the devs claim is only running at 30% capacity, especially with the developers noting that the AI doesn’t “cheat” with unlimited vision of the map. Needless to say, it’s caught me with my proverbial pants down in this manner on more than one occasion! Most impressive.

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A mysterious event unravels…

Final Thoughts

Unexpectedly, I’ve had more fun playing IS:G, even its pre-alpha state, than many other recent 4X games. Part of it may be that the overall pacing and game design is more aligned with what I’m looking for in a space 4X. IS:G leans towards being a strategic-decision heavy game that is played in a more compressed timeframe compared to other 4X games. Instead of a game lasting 15-20 (or more) hours, games of IS:G can be finished in 2-3 evenings quite easily.

Of course, the overall size and scope of the galaxy is smaller, with players managing fewer total planets and ships as a result. While some may lament this more focused approach, for me it’s fantastic. I want the decisions I’m faced with to be impactful and interesting, so I hope the design continues in that direction. That said, I continue to keep an eye on the pacing of the game. While I like the streamlined and faster paced play, there are also a fair number of “dead turns” – especially in the early game where you are waiting for a project or research task to finish before you can advance. But by the mid-game, there is no shortage of things to keep you engaged.

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On course for galactic domination.

I’ve also been impressed with the developers’ openness and candidness in discussing IS:G. I mentioned up front that it appears the developers have done their homework – and this is reflected by the thoughtfulness put into the design itself as well as in discussions with the pre-alpha community.

You might be wondering whether you should buy it now or wait. As a pre-alpha, it goes without saying that there is still much work to do. I suggest not diving into the game at this point unless you are really interested in providing constructive feedback to the developer. While the game is completely playable, there are major mechanics and oodles of content still to be implemented. IS:G will be launching on steam early access at some point when it is further along. The Praxis website lists a tentative release date of Q4 2018 – which is still a good way off.

There are a bunch of other space 4X games circling around the spectre of MoO. Dominus Galaxia, Lord of Rigel, and Remnants of the Precursors all build on the MoO lineage, with the latter being a near-identical recreation of MoO1 mechanics. There is also Stars in Shadow (already released), which strikes a similar chord as a MoO-ish reimplementation. It will be interesting to watch how all of these titles manage to differentiate themselves over the coming year. As for IS:G, all in all, I’m optimistic about the title and hope that maybe, just maybe, this will be my perfect fare. One can dream, right?

51 replies »

  1. great article, thanks Mezmorki.

    i’m not so big with moo-clones any more as i like many of the new gameplay styles and i have some requirements in the visual quality. also many so called moo-clones just failed to be interesting enough.

    as for IS:G much might still be in the works, but alone the exploration feature got me interested.
    if anything else may be like other games such stand out features can make the difference (at least for me).

    wish em best of luck in their development….and maybe during development a new name will come up :)

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    • with “…mane of the new gameplay styles…” i meant the new stuff of more modern games….Endless series or stellaris …
      just to clear it out :)

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    • I don’t think another name change is going to happen – the team has spent a lot of time discussing it and at this point it’s sufficiently “out there” that they don’t want to rock the boat. I agree the name is a mouthful. Perhaps they just need to own it and flaunt it as a source of pride :)

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  2. “Where is the post-apocalyptic 4X game? Or a steampunk 4X game? Or a zombie survival 4X game? (okay maybe not that one).”

    Sorry Oliver, I didn’t read the whole article yet. So I have actually no right to comment, but this one comes from the heart. (I will read the article later today for sure).

    But what about an Ancient 4 x game? A medieval 4 x game, A Victoria 4 x game, a Naval 4 x game (With the Dutch and Batavia), an Axis and Allies 4 x game? A world war I/II 4 x game…I can name another 50 genres in what I like to see a fresh 4 x game (dedicated to one specific genre) instead of Steampunk and Zombies (well, actually the Steampunk isn’t that bad idea).

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    • Sure – I’m all for lots of different themes for 4X games, no question there.

      Many of the themes you listed (historical in nature) are often covered as grand strategy games (i.e. Paradox titles) or as wargames. It would be neat to see some creative takes on history done as a 4X instead (much like Civilization does by abstracting history).

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    • Most fantasy games are medieval. And like Oliver said, Civ games can give you the Victorian and WW2 feel if you want them.

      But where can you go for a Shadowrun style 4X or a good Steam Punk 4X? I can’t really think of any. Though I’ve heard something about a game called Empires in Ruins that’s sorta SteamPunk maybe? Perhaps e4X will cover it.

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  3. I’m so confused as to why all these 4x developers want to recreate a game that exists (multiple times)? Why are they not innovating and doing things to push the genre? I am so sick and honestly tired of MOO2 being the template for every space 4x.

    Whenever anyone says they are doing a spiritual successor of MOO2 My eyes roll so far back in my head they do a 360. This is exactly part of the reason for the stagnation of space 4x games. No one can bring themselves to look forward, only back at a nostalgia-laden, rose-colored time in their lives that they can never recreate.

    I too, fondly remember my first time playing PACMAN, Defender and Space Invaders on my cousin’s Atari 2600 and I had a blast. I do not want to spend the rest of my life trying to recapture that or playing variants of those games. It is time to shed the shackles of MOO. It was great for what it was and it should be fondly remembered, not made again and again and again.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I completely understand the frustration. But we might as well ask why we have 6 civilization games (why not just stick with civ 1/2?) or four Eurpoa Universalis games, or three Age of Wonders games, etc.

      I totally agree that there needs to be more innovation and new fundamental ideas in the genre. But I also think there will continue to be interest in and an audience for games that iterate on a given formula.

      That said, despite all of the many many MoO 1/2 derivatives, none of them have really stuck (especially with me). I think prior attempts at making spiritual successors have deviated from the formula in the wrong areas (i.e. real-time combat, starlanes) while bringing little new to the table. ISG I feel like is sticking to the formula in the right areas, and adding innovation and new features in areas where MoO 1/2 never really ventured (leader advancement, strategic resources, etc.).

      At the end of the day, I’m still looking for a good space 4X game that has a strong, polished set of mechanics with no obvious deficiencies and offers a deep challenging, competitive gameplay experience, a lot of replayability, and fits the traditional 4X structure. That said, I feel like ISG will be sufficiently it’s own thing in the scheme of space 4X games. We’ll see how it evolves.

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      • Civ, EU, and AoW are completely different situation though. Those companies are just developing their own IP, which it totally natural. What’s different about MOO, is that we have 10 companies that are trying to develop SOMEONE ELSE’S IP. That’s where my frustration is. There’s no originality in it, just emulation. Meh. Who needs so many retreads?

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      • I’m in between of agreeing with your statement or rejecting it. It’s subjective what exactly is recreating a game that exists, or doing something totally new. I had a blast playing Great battles of Alexander because the time period (Ancient), hexes, tactical, operational, turn based, 900 x 900 hexes (up to a million for one map in the old HPS games).

        Now we have Rome Total War (not turnbased, no hexes), Civilization (4x not specific ancient times) and everything besides that is old, realtime and not the same gameplay, complexity and depth in history as the old games.

        I’m cannot agree by saying in 1998, more then a decade ago, some company who is bankrupt now made an Ancient hex war game, so we don’t need a new one.
        I want to play the same type/style/historic game again in a modern engine, millions of hexes and armies in 3d in Unity, historical accurate and specified in detail.

        I don’t want another game that give me an Ancient feeling, I want a turn based Total War game.
        Simply as that. Yes it’s done before, but I want one recreated.

        I’m even more dedicated to state the exact opposite of what you state.

        We don’t have good recreations anymore. What is recreated is dumbed down, downgraded, streamlined, casual (see the bulk of Hexwar company games about ancient war on Steam) and what is add is what we all dislike. Loads of DLC’s, microtransactions, subscription services etc. etc.

        I’m more confused that they don’t recreate something good. (Where is the follow up from the best and first strategy turnbased tactical game with 4 x elements? Warlords III Darklords Rising?).
        Without saying that I don’t want to see new concepts at the same time. Of course that I want to see as well.

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      • Actually, Cablenexus, I feel all the recent MOO clones don’t dumb things down, they just pile on more micromanagement. I guess they feel that was the best part of MoO2 or something. I don’t know. Whatever the case, we’re all filled up on Space4X kthanks!

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    • Ahh, the memories, MOO2 was so awesome. No responsibilities. No waistline. Future so full of possibilities. With modern space 4Xs, I don’t fit into any of my old jeans. Come on developers, give me a proper MOO2 experience like I remember, not this ‘dumbed down’ rubbish where I have to change a nappy or some such chore after only 20 mins playing.

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  4. I think IS:G can actually go a long way. A lot further than other reiterations of MoO2 at least.

    Despite the fact that I’ve never been very fond of the constant need to recreate MoO2.
    In parts because of the limited amount of stars. Though with manual space battles I could see the need for that. I also like starlanes which is verboten in these reinventions.

    They have managed to assuage a lot of worries and their take on new injections to give a more modern approach to a stale game style seem to have no direct flaws while also fit in without being incongruous.

    It also helps to stroke my ego seeing my own very small contribution in there. ^^
    Especially in the official screenshots of a reviewer.

    AND NOW FOR SOMETHING COMPLETELY DIFFERENT:

    I hope to look forward to an Explorminate review of the upcoming Stellaris Cherryh Update.
    I still think Stellaris is somewhat flawed but their updates certainly changes things around (mostly for the good).

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  5. I think I agree with Amber Twilla. Those old games (we so often forget) were products of their time. They were complete experiences within the framework of what was possible on the hardware back then and had to adapt their scope to run on those machines.

    Taking that complete formula and adding in your own ingredients leads to over complexity and micro-management hell more often than not.

    This overly complex, strategy-glutted approach to modern 4x games leads very often to dumb AI and unsatisfying experiences for everyone. The AI can’t play the game it was made to play. When this is the case, I don’t care how close to MOO2 your formula is, my interest starts to wane sharply.

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    • So far – the AI seems to be playing a pretty effective game, all without cheating and with only being “30% complete” according to the devs (and without cheating). That’s rather remarkable right there.

      To the broader question – so far I feel that ISG does a great job not buying the player in micromanagement hell. The overall scope of the game is smaller and colony development is based more around less frequent but bigger more impactful decisions – so that really helps.

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  6. I made a promise to myself, having been burnt by the early access craze, not to get hyped for any game till it’s close to release.

    Your write up on IS:G has stirred up some excitement in me, even in a pre alpha state.

    Well done Oliver.

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  7. Is combat stack-based as in MoO or single ship? Because if you are limited to six design slots, single ships don’t make sense. (The only real good reason to go away from MoO’s ship stacks has been an ability to feed every new tech immediately into a new ship design – however, if there are only six design slots anyway, then that reason is nullified.)
    IF combat is stack-based, then this sounds interesting. Single ship design and combat (instead of ship CLASSES and mass production) has been my biggest gripe with MoO2 and most others, because it’s first and foremost immensely counter-immersive; if I have a galactic empire, spanning a dozen star systems, I’ll have virtually thousands of ships, and something like “ah, but one ship represents a hole fleet” or something cannot really bring that. (Ultimately, that is, what I dislike with EL as well.)

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    • The combat system is single ship based, not stacks, and the absolute numbers of ships, from what I’ve experienced so far, is relatively small. More than 10 ships on a side is getting to be a biggish fleet.

      FWIW, I agree with you on the immersive bit about having galaxy spanning empires with billions of population yet only a few dozen ships flying around. Very few games (maybe only MoO1?) abstracted fleet combat via stacking to convey this sense of scale. StarDrive 2 you could get some big fleets late game (50+ ships per side) – but still no where near the 1000’s you’d get in MoO via stacking.

      That said, the combat system works well. I found the system to give a lot more information and sense of what was going on compared to Stars in Shadow, which I find confusing. Still a lot more work to do there, but it’s promising.

      I don’t know how I feel about the limited ship slots at the moment. I think other mechanics need to come on line for scrapping and/or retrofitting ships before I can make much of a determination on that.

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      • That’s a pity because in that case the game is a stillbirth for me.
        In MoO, with only 6 design slots available, you can’t just slip in a new design for every new tech you research. Instead, you have to really think about when a new design is advanced enough to justify the substitution of an existing design, because that comes with scrapping all ships of that obsolete design class. This comes with relatively cheap shipbuilding costs, which means, you can build a lot of ships fast (but will scrap a lot, too, when substituting a design). This works well.

        The single ship approach has advantages and disadvantages. You MUST make ships more expensive, because otherwise you may have battles with dozens and hundreds of single ships quite soon – the advantage is, that you can actually make use of every single new ship tech as soon as you have researched it, with is a different kind of fun, although, in the end, the fun is dimished because of the relatively long time it takes to build a single ship (with your new tech toy).

        Now, if you have only six different designs, then you cannot simply create a new ship design for each new toy you get. On the other hand you must still have ships quite expensive in order to limit the battles to a managable number of participants. Which sounds pretty lame, actually.

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      • I don’t like limited design slots, but limited fleet sizes can actually more immersive for me. Most space opera focuses mostly on a lone ship (Star trek, Andromeda, etc) for a reason. It is hard to feel attached to a huge fleet. Interstellar capable ships could be imagined very difficult to build and maintain, so being few in number could be justified lore wise that way, if needed.

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  8. Thanks for the review Oliver! Definitely shows some promise.

    Speaking of non-space 4X, anyone remember Cavewars? Subterranean fantasy 4X with two research branches (magic and tech, natch!) – I wouldn’t mind seeing a modernized version of that. :)

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  9. Adam Solo here, one of the devs of ISG.

    Thanks for the preview Oliver.

    You did a great job in capturing the essence of the game and on conveying what we’re aiming for, which is to make a worthy spiritual successor to Master of Orion 2, and the best and most refreshing space 4X game we can make. I believe that with the help of the community we’ll be able to do something special here.

    Regarding the ship design slots issue you mention, of 5-6 slots being perceived as too few or too limiting, that’s still something we’ll be re-iterating on. People have been reporting having issues with a six design slot cap, in principle, and we definitely don’t want to hamper people’s creativity, but the contrary.

    The idea is that the designs the player makes should matter, and that when it’s time to create a new design that should be an interesting decision. I admit that allowing for a maximum of 5 to 6 active design slots is probably not the answer to this by itself. It’s a fact that nobody seems to be complaining much about it either, I mean from a practical sense of playing and reporting back (at least the VIPs haven’t been complaining about it as of lately).

    That said, we will be re-evaluating this and try to come up with a better solution. Most of the ship modules (system specials) are not in yet (we are currently adding them) So, increasing the number of available slots may be one answer. Another possibility will be to create constraints and trade offs as I think that creates a good tension for when it would be a good time to upgrade your ship designs or not. Please feel free to let us know your thoughts on this matter, of what your likes and wants are. If you wish, come up to our forums and we can discuss this with the rest of the community.

    Regarding the pan & zoom issue, or their lack of in the game, that’s something we’ll be adding in shortly. We think we have come up with a good compromise design-wise between a more focused starmap, where you’re not required to be zooming-in and out all the time, and one that still allows for a few zoom steps. Likewise, we’ll also allow the player to pan the map, to move around from area to area.

    Thanks again for the preview, and we’re really looking forward for your feedback, here in the eXplorminate community or on our forums (https://www.interstellarspacegame.com/forums/index.php), to discuss these and other topics about ISG, so that in the end we may have a space 4X game that we’ll all be proud of. A game that is built for the hardcore 4X gamer first, but that will also be approachable enough to be played by any strategy fan.

    Adam

    Liked by 3 people

    • Hey, Adam.
      I explained my reasoning above, answering Oliver’s answer. I think, it would be preferable to go for ships stacks and limited slots, the way it was in MoO. The advantage is that battles are always limited in size – a stack is a stack, and with 6 design slots, you can keep the tension that comes from having to decide when a design is obsolete and when you have researched enough to create a SIGNIFICANTLY better design that justifies the scrapping of ships.
      The second advantage is that ships can become a lot cheaper, so that you can build much more ships – I LOVED the fleets in MoO with the 32k and 64k stacks of small Alkari ships and the hundreds of big ships of the Meklars. It’s also more immersive for what you are actually doing there.

      With stack-based combat, I’d immediately buy the game at first opportunity. ;)

      Liked by 1 person

      • Hey Christian,

        the MoO approach is certainy one way to go. As you say, stacks, limited designs, no refit, lots of ships, though choice when it’s time to create a new design. One perfectly valid solution. And, certainly one I enjoyed a lot when playing MoO, which is one of my favorite games of all time.

        However, we went the other way. We went the “less ships with more personality is more fun” approach. This is a design decision and driver to the whole game that we made a long time ago. Many things in the game depend and reinforce the idea that creating a ship, especially the bigger ones, is a big event. With a pompous ceremony and all (ceremony not in the game yet :)). Individual ships have XP, level up (still not in), can be named, can be manned by a leader. and will probably also have a log of their own, So, building, staffing and maintaining a capital ship is a large endeavor in our game, requiring lots of resources and qualified personnel.

        I understand the scale issues, where having fewer ships may not be what some people prefer. However, there’s also the characterization angle to consider, and the more controlable experience of having a better grasp of the effects in combat since it’s single ships you’re controlling. So, that’s why we choosed the single-ship to a stack approach. As I said, we be iterating the design slots issue so that you may also have the tension of when to upgrade the design in a single-ship case, as well. We’ll see.

        Although you say you’d prefer this aspect to be different, there are other aspects to consider, and much more to look for, so I hope that you’ll still consider giving the game a chance. If not, then there are other space 4X games around, and other colleagues that are trying to make a living out of making games, that will offer just that.

        And that’s the beauty of having many 4X games, as you’ll have more choices to play and have fun :)

        Adam

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    • I think that there is an important reason you have not mentioned for limiting how often a player can create a new design: in multiplayer it is often too much timeconsuming for the game to progress smoothly.

      Perhaps you could choose a different way of making the ship design process more meaningful for a player, eg. an idea of issuing design projects to a design bureau that creates prototypes for a player to modify in due time.

      If a player has to pay something to issue it then he may be willing to consider more carefully when it is time to make a new design. If additionally he could choose a design bureau based on his general needs, eg. balanced, defensive, offensive approach (perhaps speed, as well) then even at the prototype stage there is a meaningful choice for a player (alternatively, he could choose from different prototypes). Having a prototype it would be possible for a player to modify it in a limited way (creating variants) using military experience points earned during the game (eg. from training, battles, military tech breakthroughs etc). Prototypes could be just designs that AI empires with such inclinations (balanced, defensive, offensive) use having similar techs and opponents.

      Such a system can have an interesting effect as an additional bonus: not being actively at war it is more difficult to have a design that a player would like to have.

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      • Thanks a lot for your suggestion. That’s an interesting idea, which could add some depth to the ship design process. Our plan is to use the AI to design ships for you, if you want, to alleviate on the ship design micro, if you’re not particularly interested in that part of the game.

        Regarding the limited design slots issue, we ended up resolving to allow a big number of (or even unlimited) ship design slots and to create interesting decisions to when to create or not a new design, and when or not to upgrade your ships, by other means.

        So, players will be able to design the number of ships they want. We’ll have a ship refit system that will allow you to upgrade your ships within the same hull size. Upgrading will take a while and require the use of planetary production queues. You’ll also have to pull your ships from the front line and upgrade on colonies. Starbases will probably also be required for that. Ships will be in “dry-dock” for a while also where they will be unavailable. Doing one-shot upgrades with more equipment will be much cheaper than doing incremental upgrades all the time as soon as a new equipment is available.

        Therefore, upgrading or not a ship should be a tough/interesting decision regarding when to make and deploy a new ship design or when to upgrade older ships to a new design, regardless of the amount of ship design slots that are available to you. Designing and building a new ship will take longer. Upgrading will be cheaper and faster, but your ships will be unavailable for as while. Upgrading will also consume production, so you cannot just upgrade them instantly.

        With this, we think we’ll have a more balanced ship design and building process that is more interesting to play.

        And, this was a great example of how a preview, written by Oliver, sparked the discussion about an issue of the design. We listened to your feedback here on eXplorminate, and in our forums. And, the game benefited a lot in the end, we think.

        Thanks a lot to all who criticized and gave suggestions. If you want to discuss this or other issues feel free to do so in our forums or here at eXplorminate. We’ll be watching and reading what you have to say, so that we can improve the design and make the best game we can.

        Adam

        Liked by 1 person

    • Because it’s actually really hard to do a 4X that is as much a hex-based, unit-heavy wargame (on EVERY planet!) as it is a space empire game, and which has a complicated political system / goal on top of all that. Case in point, the original game’s AI was almost braindead, while the cheap units were very OP and the “advanced” units were way too fragile.

      Gotta give the developers points, though. I’ve never seen a strategy game quite like that before… or since.

      So yeah, I’d love to see a game like Emperor Of The Fading Suns which combines feudal space empire building, hex-based planet warfare, and complex politics – and gets it all just right.

      But who’s got the budget and the ambition?

      Liked by 1 person

      • I’m actually playing through EFS right now :) Got it running rather nicely on my MS surface pro. First time I’ve played the game. Super impressed by the ambition! I think this game could totally use a remake with modern UI features. It’d be awesome.

        Like

      • EFS was never a big success and honestly, it did not play well. Swoop in with your fleet, snatch the sceptre/scepter/sceptor and move along. Battle on the planets was almost not necessary, conquering a planet tedious and with space superiority you could just choose where to strike. Let’s say 90% of the planet maps were just “flavour”. I like the setting (I own the game and a couple of the source books), I enjoyed it once but would not play it again.

        Liked by 1 person

  10. No one will ever recreate the feelings you had playing MOO2 back in the day. It is impossible. It would be like recreating the first time you fell in love. You can never fall in love for the first time again.
    I think it’s important to distinguish between the gameplay and mechanics of MOO2 and the effects it had on your significantly younger gaming mind and feelings back in the day.
    Recreating the gameplay and mechanics in current technology will not necessarily, and I would argue cannot, recreate the feelings you now remember having through the rose tinted goggles of nostalgia.
    Nothing can equal nostalgia.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. As to this game I think it looks promising and Oliver did a great job on this preview
    I liked Adam and his site and I wish him and his team success with this project
    Thanks

    Like

  12. Hi all, I’m one of the pre-alpha testers for ISG and a member of the VIPs. I wanted to give you all some more insight on ships and the six design slot thingy.

    The six slots are more of a nuisance right now then anything else, allow me to explain. I field large fleets, (for ISG) and have a mix of hull types, from lowly Frigates to Battleships and Titans. My first design gets created on turn one as the starting forces are not all that powerful. At this point I’m working with Frigates. As soon as I research a few military techs I design a second class of Frigate. This doesn’t mean I scrap my earlier designs because in ISG your ships become obsolete far slower than MoO2. There have been sessions where I had four distinct classes of Frigates running around before I began scraping my earliest designs. That is the nuisance part. In essence I am not limited to six slots as I can manually create a design such as a heavy laser Frigate, start a production run, on a colony, create a second class of Frigate (missile) and overwrite the first.
    Here is the big fail for me then. It is that I can create as many designs as my heart desires but the system for doing so is not efficient. While I can’t speak for Adam, I am fairly certain this will be addressed to a level where we can all be happy.

    The other thing I want to say about ships addresses the few ships versus thousands and is related to real life experience building ships for the USN. You know those super-carriers fielded by the U.S. ? They have a crew in the thousands and cost about 6 billion to construct. The space shuttle on the other hand had a crew of 7 maximum with a cost of close to 2 billion. Maybe it is the experience that influences me but I don’t believe that it is a given that a space borne empire would or could field thousands of spaceships designed for war.

    Game wise it works great. When I first tested the manual combat, I didn’t care for it at all but I have to admit that after a few tweaks from the devs, I enjoy the hell out of it. It’s IGO UGO but get this… going first doesn’t “guarantee” an advantage as in MoO2.

    I’m a pretty picky guy with decades of experience playing games, I like ISG enough that it is the first time I have ever actively participated in a forum. Right now would be the second time.

    P.S.
    Well written and balanced preview Mr.Kiley, my compliments sir.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hello Konstantine!

      Yes, i’ve said as much before about the ship slot limit. As it stands, the 6-slot limit has no bearing at all on how many different actual ship designs you can have flying around the empire (since changing a design doesn’t require you to scrap existing ships like in MoO1). So it’s a completely pointless restriction right now that serves zero purpose since it’s trivial to design around the limit. I can’t remember off hand what the dev’s plan were to address this part of the design moving forward.

      Having played a lot of tactical miniature games over the years, the IGO UGO system is pretty boring to me. I’d much rather see something like initiative added, at a minimum, to create some more varied turn order and another dimension to combat (do you make fast, high initiative units or slow ponderous ones – or a mixture of both?)

      Reference: https://www.interstellarspacegame.com/forums/index.php?threads/dev-diary-2-ship-design.60/page-4#post-2967

      Like

      • Thank you for the welcome Oliver, I’ve been a “lurker” here for a while now.

        There were several spirited discussions about the six slot limit already and some solutions were offered. One that would not disrupt the coding too much would be to unlock “variants” as an early tech. This would act in a way to allow the player to have 3-5 variants of each hull type rather than one. It would still be a limit in a sense but practically would be more than enough to deal with the issue. As of yet though, I do not know in which manner the devs will address this but do know there are options on the table.

        I agree with your sentiments on IGO UGO and ISG does takes initiative into consideration, leaders really help here if they have high initiative stats. I would love to see someone attempt a WEGO turn based system for combat one day, I think it would be far more realistic as I’ve never heard of a battle where the enemy waited for you to finish your “turn” before responding.

        Liked by 1 person

  13. well well well what can i say !!! AWESOME JUST AND AWESOME GAME like the old days a great 4X game that fulfil the great desert i had in the 4X games !! and the best is ISG is getting better and better that keeps all it promises !!! and i am really proud to be part of this marvellous project !!!

    Like

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