Day: December 11, 2013

“Butterfly Effect” Sources In The Last Federation

The Last Federation is a really unique game in that it is a strategy/tactics game set inside a simulation game.  Check out our first sneak preview about it, or our preview discussing simulations in the game.  Also our recent podcast with Space Game Junkie with lots of other details, the description of your role as an independent agent in the solar system, and details on the alien races.  Oh, and the forums for the game are filled with lots of other detailed tidbits, too.

Three posts in one day!  Okay, I wasn’t planning on doing this, but madcow asked a really good question, and this also really is the answer to a question that Cyborg asked a week or two ago, anyway.

madcow:

The different political factions and the like sound intriguing, I’m kind of curious if there are coded differences between them. For instance one faction/governor/whatever in insert race always tends to behave one way versus another. Or if the factions are essentially the same but with different random roles/circumstances .

Cyborg:

(Paraphrasing, as I can’t find the quote) In what ways is the game randomized each time.  In other words, how does the “butterfly effect” come into play from the simulation?

My response to madcow:

The factions are extremely different in code.  Specifically:

1. They each have various modifiers that make them react to circumstances differently.  Aka, Burlusts always do better on hot planets, and poorly on cold.

2. They each have a variety of specialized race actions that no other race can take (e.g. the Evucks unleashing a virus as a weapon, versus a virus just unfortunately happening).

3. The system of government is entirely different between each race, and has its own completely unique data structures.

4. The political deals between most governments are very much the same about 80-90% of the time, but the circumstances of when and how you can use them is different.  And there are key additions or omissions from certain races.  So you can use the Skylaxians to backdoor in another race into the federation, but for the most part you cannot do that otherwise.

5. There are certain inherent attitude-adjusters that various races have.  For instance, if too many of the “evil” races get into the federation with no other races there to balance them out, the “good” races start having negative sentiment toward the federation and toward you.  And vice-versa.

6. There are various alliance types that can spring up outside of the federation that are race-specific, like the Solar Axis Pact.

7. There are some other special things that can happen, like the federation actually betraying you and becoming a different hostile alliance if you leave it with just the Thoraxians, Burlusts, AND Acutians alone in it as a trifecta for too long.

8. There are various behavioral modifiers on each race, such that only the Andors and Skylaxians have the Honorable flag that makes them go to help other folks, whereas the Boarines and Burlusts are completely anti-trade.  And so on.

9. Bribes have different effectivenesses on various races depending on the type of bribe, and blackmail only works on burlusts.

10. Only some races can have leaders assassinated, and the consequences vary.  Also various other things politically vary in terms of how you navigate each race.

11. There are certain normal racial actions that some races will NEVER take, such as Andors will never capture a planet or turn to piracy, privateering, or raiding.

12. The attitudes of each race toward each other race is randomized at the start, but the range of randomizations and how many they are positive/negative/neutral towards varies by race type.

And… yeah.  On and on.  I know I’m forgetting a bunch of things.  There are also things that are randomized per planet, which have an effect on the circumstances of the race (but the ranges of randomization on the planets make sense for which of the 11 planet types it is).  And there are also various racial things that are randomized per game, such as the starting attitudes already mentioned, and so forth. 

Which race is first spacefaring you get to choose at game start, but how close each other race is to becoming spacefaring depends on how close in distance their planet is to the planet of the starting race you chose, and that’s random.  Oh, and what sort of action the races will take when they hit equilibrium population is random per game, but weighted based on race type.  As is there percentage of ships that they try to keep on guard, picket, and raiding duties.

Gosh the list goes on and on.  Basically the model is incredibly detailed, we literally have around 200 pages of internal documentation on all this.  But there are also so many DIFFERENT models:

  • aliens model
  • planets model
  • trade model
  • randomized ship design model
  • fleet tech model
  • planetary tech model
  • construction model
  • economy/order/medical/environment model at planets (our “RCI” bars)
  • birth/death rate model (which is per race, but also affected by planet type)
  • the spread of racial minorities
  • the bouncing around of how attitude adjustments over time go
  • pirates
  • semi-randomized “events” that happen to planets and space installations (weighted based on the situation at each place)
  • semi-randomized racial actions that races take, again based on circumstances but with some randomization thrown in.

And lastly, of course, things change based on your influence as a player.  How you choose to influence the complex situation you are thrown into, and what ramifications that feeds back in to all of the many subsystems mentioned above (and some others I’ve forgotten about, I’m sure.

How You Go About Dealing With All This
Basically, the above sounds like it could get prohibitively complex, right?  I mean, this is definitely our largest and most complex game ever at this point, design-wise.

Where you as the player come in is that you look at the situation, and you decide what you want to change, and then you see what happens when you do.  Here’s how an early game might play out:

1. Okay, so the Evucks stink this game, and the Burlusts are awesome.  The Burlusts are close to being spacefaring, but are not yet.  You can smuggle them that tech and they will like you a lot, but the Evucks (which, let’s say, was the first spacefaring race) will like you a lot less.  So you smuggle the Burlusts their tech early, and suddenly they like you a lot more.  The Evucks like you even less — in fact, they hate you more than anyone else in the solar system does, but that’s okay because it is still early going.

2. All right, now let’s ignore the other races because they are not yet spacefaring.  Let’s instead run some contracts for the Burlusts, killing some pirates and helping them improve infrastructure, etc.  We’ll bribe and blackmail away until we get a warlord that really likes us, and we’ll use that to get favorable political deals out of them.  Such as preventing them from going on a war of conquest with the Evucks, which would be really dangerous.  We don’t want our Burlusts being sent Plumping Tubers or something.

3. Now the Burlusts are doing really swell, and our own little mercenary fleet is getting pretty sizeable and strong under their umbrella.  We are peas in a pod, and thanks to my influence they aren’t murdering anyone yet.

4. Now the Peltians become spacefaring, purely by the chance that they were on a really good planet for them, and were third-closest to the Evucks from the start.  Okay, they really stink right now, but I want to get this federation up and going sooner than later, I’ve decided for this game.  I could play long ball and let things go, but I don’t want the Burlusts to get any more hostile and I don’t want to have to keep spending BP to pacify them, either.

5. All righty, so time to go visit the Peltians and run a bunch of contracts for them.  Voting proxies in hand, I’m able to really help their economy and get them constructing a ton of buildings and techs, and now they are doing pretty decent.  I can’t set up trade with them and the Burlusts, because the Burlusts aren’t willing to trade.  But I can set up trade between the Peltians and the Evucks, and that makes them like each other better, even though the Evucks hate me.  Having the a race that is friendly to me also be friendly with the Evucks might be useful, so let’s do it.

6. Okay, so now it’s time for me to start bargaining personally for hull tech and fleet tech off the Burlusts, and I then start gifting that to the Evucks.  Suddenly they are just as powerful as the Burlusts militarily (in space, anyway), although their fleet is smaller.  They are loving me for all these big goodies that I’m giving them.  Meanwhile the Skylaxians become spacefaring.  I’ll deal with them later, right now they mistrust me but won’t bother me.  Let’s see what they can do on their own, and just make sure war doesn’t break out.

7. All right, I finally have enough goodwill with both the Burlusts and the Peltians that I can convince them to form the federation.  They sign the papers, and then boom — alliance!  The federation has formed.  I’m off to a roaring start; this is the zerg rush of federation formation, heh.

8. Now, however, I start having to deal with Anti-Federation Alliance sentiment.  That’s building rapidly on the Evucks homeworld, and in a very minor way with the Skylaxians.  The Thoraxians just became spacefaring, and are looking hungrily at the rest of us.  But they have some teching up to do before they are a true threat.

Now what?  The game goes on from here, we’re just getting started even though we did get the federation up and going quickly.  That may or may not turn out to be a good thing in the end.  It did get the Burlusts on our side (and, well, the Peltians for what that is worth), but it’s putting us in a worse and worse state with the Evucks.

From here I might:

– Try to get the federation, or even non-federation races, to quickly kill the evucks and take their planet before they blow it up or infect us with some horrible disease or whatever.  That’s going to piss off the Skylaxians and the Andors, though.

– Make nice with the Skylaxians, and broker good deals behind the scenes with them and the Evucks.  Then try to get the Skylaxians into the Federation, and then use them to backdoor in the Evucks.  Doesn’t matter how much the Evucks hate me.  But if I take the time to do this, the Thoraxians are likely going to sweep a few other planets and suddenly be really a big threat.  Whether or not they’ll have time to get up a Protectorate or Fear Empire remains to be seen, but we might wind up with a divided solar system that then has to be repaired.

And so forth.  There are a lot of other options, too, from a grand-strategic perspective.  And how to achieve the grand strategic goals involves a lot of more subtle smaller choices, such as which political deals to take and which contracts to take.  And then inside that, there are tactical decisions in each battle, and the personal fleet composition choices, which play both into what kinds of contracts I can expect to survive, and so forth.

Meanwhile, there are all sorts of other factors banging around in the simulation, as noted above, and the situation very possibly is going to change drastically before I finish getting through with either of the two options above.  At that point, I have to kind of sit back and think of what to do to deal with whatever fresh situations have come up.

That’s a portrait of how things would play out in one hypothetical starting scenario!

What I Love About Each Race In The Last Federation

The Last Federation is a really unique game in that it is a strategy/tactics game set inside a simulation game.  Check out our first sneak preview about it, or our preview discussing simulations in the game.  Also our recent podcast with Space Game Junkie with lots of other details, and the description of your role as an independent agent in the solar system.  Oh, and the forums for the game are filled with lots of other detailed tidbits, too.

Two posts in one day!  This is basically a much better version of the older guide to aliens in the game.  All of this post is speaking for me personally, but as noted in my prior post today, I have a soft spot for all of the races.  The boarines and the andors least of all I guess, but all the others in particular.  Here’s what I think is so cool about each one:

The Acutians – These dirty industrial robots are very capitalistic and just generally kind of jerks.  Instead of a traditional political leadership, they just have a collection of 3 CEOs at each planet that you have to negotiate.  These CEOs will only do things that help the industries that they own companies in (out of 17 industries).  You can sabotage or help industries so that at the next industry quorum some of the unlikeable CEOs get voted out.  You can also bribe the CEOs to get somewhat better deals on things.

These guys are willing to do things to other races that many of the other races are not, depending on which industries the CEOs of the local planet represent.  They’ll work to undermine rival economies, or dump toxic waste on other planets for the right price, etc.  I guess the reason I love these guys so much is that they are basically self-interested sociopaths that always act in their own best interest.  To me, this race makes #3 on the list of villain races in the solar system.

The Andors – Okay, yeah, these guys are the most boring race to me, but they do serve an important role.  These are basically the ultimate “goody two shoes.”  They’re a utoptian robotic society, so kind of the polar opposites of the acutians.  They’re a race of non-derpy C3P0s.

Why do these guys matter?  Well, they can be counted on to come to the aid of the downtrodden, for one.  They are also a race you can safely piss off without worrying about them doing anything too bad to you; so they provide an opportunity for you to make friends with their enemies without consequences being too dire. 

In essence: these guys provide an important element of asymmetry, so often their role in the galaxy is important, but it’s subtle.  And if they aren’t dead, then they are a place you can run to for assistance; but as a last-resort sort of ally, they are only so helpful.

The Boarines – So this is my other least-favorite race, personally, but I have a feeling these will be the favorite of some other folks.  These guys are basically territorial, isolationist ice beasts. 

They aren’t particularly inclined to start wars and go out fighting (unless they find themselves really overcrowded on their planet), but when they do go to war, watch out!  They aren’t remotely as powerful as some of the other races in ground combat, but they have a special attribute that none of the other races do: Rage Momentum.  The longer these guys are at war, the more enraged they get, and the more powerful they get at both ground and space combat.  If a war with these fellas goes on too long, they’ll eventually devastate the opponent. 

Also fun: the more enraged they are, the easier it is to convince them to go to war with yet other races; but the more enraged they are, the harder it is to convince them to stop being at war.  The risk, of course, is that if they piss off too many enemies, that the enemies will take them down and wipe them out despite their rage.

One of the more interesting things about this race is also how they can be chief brokers of solar unity under just the right circumstances.  Each planetary regent of the boarines has a current priority that is based on criteria of what is happening at his/her planet at the time.  If everything is just going super well (which is hard to have come about), then actually their defensive nature starts working in your favor: solar unity becomes their priority, since they view that as suddenly being in their best interests of defense. 

Most times you won’t be able to use them for these purposes, because it’s rare to get them in that great of a situation even with your help, but it’s an interesting backdoor way to help further the federation if the circumstances are right.  I love stuff like that, where there’s an unusual/infrequent tool that you can whip out and wield if your recognize that the circumstances can be tweaked to be just right.  This game is filled with that sort of thing.

The Burlusts – For me, these guys come in at #2 on the list of villainous races in the solar system.  They’re incredibly warlike as a race, and fighting is all they know.  They’re physically the second-strongest race in the solar system, only behind the terrifying thoraxians.

Interestingly, these guys are not susceptible to the normal Bargaining Power (BP) that is your usual political currency in the game.  That is one of (many) things that makes the burlusts particularly difficult to deal with politically.  Instead of using the BP system, these guys work entirely on bribes and blackmail.

At each planet there is a prime warlord, and then two secondary ones that are vying for power.  You can blackmail any of them, depending on what sort of information you are able to buy either on the black market or from evuck spies.  The blackmail can lead to internal fighting and some of the warlords getting knocked off and replaced by whoever rises to the top.  Bribing them gives you an ability to request limited favors from them, but the bribes they are interested in can typically only be found by raiding pirate bases in the asteroid belt.  Not so simple.

I find these guys really interesting as a villain race, but also because if the circumstances are not right (their planet is too cold, for instance), they can be really weak and thus can be turned into strange sorts of allies.  Or if you get them into the federation early, you can wield them kind of like a crazy self-swinging axe… that you have to work hard to keep from chopping the wrong thing… repeatedly.  “With friends like these,” right?

The Evucks – Paranoid and fairly amoral is I guess the best way to describe these fellas.  You can bribe individual council members, or assassinate them, or whatever (as with a lot of the races).  But dealing with them politically is always pretty difficult, because they get annoyed with you for interfering with their internal affairs even when you do them a good turn.

Every time you do a deal with them, they wind up resenting you for a while, and further deals cost more for a while.  “Oh you just helped us save our economy?  Well get out of here buddy, we don’t need your kind around here!” …right.

What I particularly love about these guys is that they fall into the “just insane enough to do that” category, partly due to their paranoia.  If they really hate another race, they’re prone to formulating a really horrible disease to unleash on the other race.  If it looks like they might lose a war on a gas giant they live on, well, they’ll try to ignite that gas giant and “glass” half the solar system.  Etc.

They’re also a good place to get blackmail on the burlusts from, since they’re constantly spying on everyone else.  They even use that spy power to steal tons of technology from other races, making them one of the most technologically advanced by virtue of this alone.  And yet, unlike some of the other races, they’re completely unwilling to ever share their technologies.

This is one of those races that I personally am not typically going to be rushing to help immediately or whatever… but you can bet I’ll always have my eye on these guys because they are freaking nuts! ;)

The Peltians – Communist agrarian… barn owls with snouts, I guess.  These guys are terrible at ground combat.  I mean, just abysmal.  If they get invaded by some other race, they’re going to just get absolutely rolled.

Fortunately for them, in space combat they have ships just as good as anyone else.  Unfortunately for everyone else, the peltians are quite aware of just how stink they are at ground combat… and so the peltians compensate for that by bombing the heck out of their enemies when they are on offense.  Not only do their ships bomb enemy planets from orbit, but their “ground troops” load into suicide pods that explode on contact with enemy planets, dealing damage to not just enemy citizens but also infrastructure.

Politically, these guys are very different to deal with than the other races.  In some ways they are the simplest race to deal with politically, as they are very straightforward with their desires; but on the other hand, you have to kind of baby them, at some opportunity cost to dealing with the other races.  Like the burlusts, the peltians do not use the common Bargaining Power (BP) mechanic that all the other races do.  Instead, as you do contracts for them, you gain voting proxies in their collective.  It doesn’t take many proxies at all to pass deals with them, but it means that if you want a lot of deals with them, you have to do contracts with them specifically.  Hence the opportunity cost.

What I love so much about these guys is how squishy and weak they are in some ways, but how they can be the terror of the solar system in other ways.  They are definitely compensating for something, and I just love that duality.

The Thoraxians – It is always hard to pick an absolute favorite race, but I think that mine would have to be these guys.  They are definitely the #1 villainous scourge of the solar system, no question.  If left unchecked, they are prone to taking over half the solar system and establishing a Fear Empire or a Thoraxian Protectorate.

They don’t take prisoners, and their ground troops are super good at murdering everybody they meet.  Like the burlusts, all of their citizens count as both ground troops and civilians, which can be pretty deadly.  Since they are a hive mind, they don’t have to worry about crime on their planets.  They are pretty standoff-ish about the political deals that they are willing to make, too.

Better yet?  The hive queens are moody.  Each planet has a single queen, and her mood shifts every so often.  Her mood is a bit random, but is heavily weighted by what is going on with her situation at the time.  These moods have a nontrivial impact on what deals she will do with you, and how much they cost in BP, etc.

As with a number of the other races, you can assassinate hive queens.  This reduces how much overall influence you can ever have with their race, and reduces your current influence with them even more.  However, killing a queen will throw her planet into absolute turmoil, and prevent the births of new workers until a new queen rises to take her place in a few months.  This can be an interesting way to temporarily suppress their race… but at substantial long-term risk.  Better have something good in the pipeline to make this worth it.

I particularly love the “villain” races in the game because they actually can be “good” under certain circumstances, and you can get them to be productive members of the federation.  But it’s harder, and oftentimes you’ll instead wind up on the other side of bloody conflicts with them.  Getting all eight races into the federation with none of them being wiped out is a fun challenge, made particularly hard by the thoraxians.

The Skylaxians – This is a very honorable, very scientific race.  They are a bit above-average at combat, and in general are a very well-rounded race.  They’ll like you less if you do underhanded things, and the same is true of other alien races as well.  They’ll often step in when one race is bullying another too hard.

They are really interesting in part because they can be used to backdoor their friends into the federation even if that friend really hates you.  So let’s say that the skylaxians and the acutians really become absolutely best friends.  You can piss off the acutians to no end, then, and use that to further some ends with other races (say, dealing with the thoraxians).  And then, just when the acutians are about to murder you, you use your influence with the skylaxians to get them to use their influence with the acutians to bring the acutians into the federation.

That’s really interesting to me, because the skylaxians can really be used as a key part of some very long-term advanced strategies.  Particularly strategies of brinkmanship.  When directly interacting with them, they are kind of vanilla; but as a strategic pawn (ahem, I mean political partner), they open up some of my favorite kinds of strategies in the game.

B&W Portraits Of The Remaining Four Races

The Last Federation is a really unique game in that it is a strategy/tactics game set inside a simulation game.  Check out our first sneak preview about it, or our preview discussing simulations in the game.  Also our recent podcast with Space Game Junkie with lots of other details, the guide to aliens in the game, the description of your role as an independent agent in the solar system, and portraits of the first four alien races.  Oh, and the forums for the game are filled with lots of other detailed tidbits, too.

Hey folks, so the last of the alien portrait black-and-whites are now complete, and I wanted to share those with you.  Last time I shared the first four (Acutian, Andor, Boarine, Burlust), and this time we have the rest.  Honestly I love every single race in this game for various reasons, but this current batch of four are some of my favorites.

As a reminder, these are the screens that you see when you are dealing with the races politically:

The Evuck council of elders.  These 7 preside over any and all evuck planets in the solar system.
The Peltian collective at a planet.  These guys are basically communist farmer ewoks.
The Thoraxian hive queen of a planet, and some of her workers.  These guys are monsters.
The Skylaxian senate.  A central body of 40 members all individually vote their conscience.