I'd prefer if space were discretised into tesselating cubic zones of control - this is because it seems most natural (it closely ties in with the way I've seen space divided up elsewhere, such as in Star Trek
), it allows for 3D territory maps, but mainly because it's a natural extension of another conglomeration of ideas I've been developing that would necessitate the creation of a block-space engine, and unified gameplay mechanics are both elegant and help cut down dev time.
So, to answer your questions:
Flatfingers wrote:Does the zone idea mean that system space in LT is essentially planar? Or is a "zone" in LT a three-dimensional volume?
Three-dimensional volume, as in Star Trek.
Flatfingers wrote:How will players know when they are moving from one zone (and territorial owner, if any) into a different zone?
The system map should have a toggle-able option to display zones. Your ship computer will also alert you as you approach and enter zones controlled by different entities.
Flatfingers wrote:Given that dynamically-created zones, unlike the equal-size hexes of a strategy board game, will have different sizes, does this mean that if the controlling power expands the strength of the object that creates a zone, the zone's size will expand? How far can that process go? What happens if a zone tries to expand but it's in contact with a zone controlled by someone else -- do all adjacent zones shrink automatically? Or is there some process for resolving zone expansion?
All zones are equally-sized and cubic - they do not change in size. The "territory" of an agent expands by spreading influence into adjacent zones, not by any kind of expansion of the zone they are currently in. The means of determining how zones change ownership can be handled similiarly to the "culture spread" mechanic in Sins of a Solar Empire, in which the players have objects and technologies that spread culture down the starlanes at a certain rate, and if two opposing spreads of culture come into contact, the "faster" spread starts to win over the "slower" thread. In terms of zones of control in Limit Theory, you would have different structures in your territory that could produce "ownership spread" at a certain rate - this spread, well, spreads to adjacent zones but diminishes on each zone it travels through. If other nearby agents have their own ownership-producing structures, these can generate spread that could clash with yours, and the higher-rate spread within a given zone will determine which territory it forms a part of in the long-run.
Each zone will have a certain-sized buffer that is filled with ownership spread as it continues to be the dominant spread in the zone. For a neutral zone, this will consist of 100% neutral spread (covered in a moment). When the spread from a territory reaches it - assuming that the spread rate is high enough - the zone's ownership buffer will start to fill up with that agent's ownership spread. When this crosses a certain threshold - 25%, 50%, etc. - the zone will become part of that agent's territory. Say the sole criterion for ownership was to have >=25% of the zone's buffer filled with your own spread, with no other kind of spread occupying the buffer >= 25% except possibly for neutral spread. In that case, as soon as the first agent in the region comes along, he will only need to fill the zone buffer 25% to claim the zone. However, if another agent later comes along and sets up his territory nearby, such that their ownership spreads clash over that zone, then the second agent will need to make his own share of the zone >= 25% and the first agent's share < 25% in order to overtake it. If all of the neutral share of the zone has been eliminated, this will mean that the second agent would need to claim at least 75% of the zone. During the time that these conditions aren't satisfied, the zone will be classified as "contested", which means neither party has full ownership of the zone. This may or may not need to be treated as a distinct state apart from a "neutral" zone.
In addition, there will be such a thing as "neutral spread" that pervades every zone - this neutral spread acts against the spread generated by agent-owned territories, and places constraints against their rate of expansion. You can balance how much a territory is able to expand on its own by adjusting the global rate of neutral spread - ownership spread attenuates as it spreads through each zone, and if this spread is less than the neutral spread of the zone, the zone will remain neutral.
As a worked example, let's say that Alice and Bob are two agents who want to establish territories, but unfortunately end up establishing them close to each other. Assume a spread attenuation coefficient of 0.5 i.e. ownership spread rate halves as it crosses each adjacent zone. Assume a neutral spread rate of 1.
Amy sets up a station in one zone that produces 8 AmySpread/s. This quickly starts to replace the neutral spread of the zone at a rate of 7 spread/second, and once 25% of the buffer is filled with AmySpread, the zone becomes Amy's territory. While this is happening, spread has been spreading into neighbouring zones as well; a cube in tesselating grid-space has 26 neighbours if you include those along diagonals. AmySpread will spread into these 26 neighbouring zones at a rate of 4 spread/second. It will take longer, but eventually these zones will become part of Amy's territory as well, as will all zones that are a distance of 2 away from Amy's station. At a distance of 3 away, Amy's influence stops spreading, as the ownership spread here is 1, which is exactly balanced by neutral spread.
Bob then sets up his own station two zones away from Amy's station, in what is actually part of Amy's territory. His station produces 4 ownership/s. This will start to replace ownership in this zone at a rate of 1 ownership/s (4 - 2 AmySpread - 1 NeutralSpread). He'll eventually overtake it, left unchecked, and his territory will be able to expand laterally and backwards by one additional zone each way w.r.t Amy's station.
Flatfingers wrote:Is control of a zone equal-strength everywhere, from its center to the edges as defined by the power of the controlling object? Or does power attenuate to zero at the edges of the dynamically-created zone (unless that zone connects to another zone owned by the same entity)?
Zones are equal-strength throughout, but a territory can be made of many zones, and these can have different strengths (as represented by ownership spread from that zone, and ownership share of that zone).
Flatfingers wrote:How small can a zone be? Is there a minimum level of power (however that's calculated) that causes a zone to be created, but prior to which has no territorial-control effect?
All zones are equally sized. Territories are at least made up of one zone. A zone becomes part of an agent's territory when his ownership spread within the zone constitutes an uncontested 25% of the zone's buffer.
Flatfingers wrote:Do all zones have clearly-demarcated boundaries? Or is any amount of overlap possible?
As McDuff has already said, no overlap is possible. This was confirmed by Josh last night.
Flatfingers wrote:Is there any way that "neutral zones" might form in between two adjacent zones controlled by relatively powerful owners?
No, but under my proposal "contested zones" may form which may or may not be functionally similar/identical to neutral zones.
Flatfingers wrote:What are the practical gameplay consequences of some entity "owning" a zone? Visa requirements? Border control agents? Perimeter mines or buoys (not cheap if territory is a 3D volume)?
I haven't thought about this in great deal yet.
Flatfingers wrote:Can I call the territory I control the Danger Zone?
Possibly - I don't know if agents should be able to rename zones.