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Zones

#1
So... today Josh talked about breaking up space into areas called "zones":
Josh Parnell wrote:A 'zone' is just a point of interest, but it is useful to think of zones as objects. A system might have an asteroid field zone, perhaps a planet zone, etc. Zones can be dynamically-created. Creating a big space station in the middle of what was previously just empty space (e.g. unzoned space) creates a zone.

Zoning is more than just a naming convention, though. It's a conceptually-clear way to think about space. Zones can have names, zones can have intrinsic value, zones can have security ratings, and zones can have...owners! Yes. Now we're getting interesting. How do you own space? Well, by force. Zones are considered to be 'owned' by whoever has the strongest presence there.
This immediately reminds me of strategy board games, many of which expressly include rules for "zones of control."

Strategy games commonly make the space of the game discrete, rather than continuous, to make it easier for human players to know how to apply the game rules that affect movement around controlled areas. Breaking up space into hexes (for example) means it can be clear who controls that space, as well as immediately supporting the concept of movement rates as a logistical element of play. It's pretty easy to see how the same consequences of making space discrete might also support a strategic game in Limit Theory.

Still... there are questions that could be asked about the idea of breaking up space in LT in zones -- not to blindly criticize, but to start getting a feel for the gameplay implications. In no special order:

1. Does the zone idea mean that system space in LT is essentially planar? Or is a "zone" in LT a three-dimensional volume?

2. How will players know when they are moving from one zone (and territorial owner, if any) into a different zone?

3. 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?

4. 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)?

5. 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?

6. Do all zones have clearly-demarcated boundaries? Or is any amount of overlap possible?

7. Is there any way that "neutral zones" might form in between two adjacent zones controlled by relatively powerful owners?

8. 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)?

9. Can I call the territory I control the Danger Zone?
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Re: Zones

#2
From what i think is that you misunderstand zones a bit:
From what i read are zones not all over the system but only small "spheres of interest" around objects separated by large swathes of un-zoned space.
unlike hexgrids like in civilisation v but more like gravity wells from sins of a solar empire, but dynamic.
So there are no directly adjacient zones but bubbles floating around in interplanetar space, encompassing planets, stations and asteroid fields
Post

Re: Zones

#3
Well,
thats very cool, Zone Theory :thumbup:

Or in other words, only bite what you can chew :)

From my experience in tactics it will be much better to control a few sectors with hundreds of zones each, then alot of sectors with only a few zones each.........
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Re: Zones

#4
Lots of good questions. Stuff I know from IRC:
Flatfingers wrote: 6. Do all zones have clearly-demarcated boundaries? Or is any amount of overlap possible?
Apparently it's important that the game know specifically whether you are in or out of a zone. Strict boundaries are in. Overlaps and partial zones are out.
8. 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)?
Zones will enable laws and permissions to be set by the owner, which will probably include the granting of licenses as well. I imagine (I hope) enforcing these laws will also come down to the owner.
9. Can I call the territory I control the Danger Zone?
If you don't do this at least once, space ferrets will eat you.
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Re: Zones

#5
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.
Post

Re: Zones

#6
ThymineC wrote:[stuff]
Is this talking about cubic zones your suggestion or something that josh confirmed?

Because from what i read out of the devlog are zones neither cubical nor evenly spread.

From what i read out of the devlog:
Space without any content has no zone, because there is no point of interest.
Zone shapes are not defined (but i'd guess spherical)

Once space has content a zone gets created, the space around it is still no zone.
So when you build a spacestation gets built a zone with your spacestation at the center gets created (and maybe named by some means).

asteroid fields become one big zone encompassing the whole asteroid field.
(Maybe project a sphere around every asteroid and merge all the spheres to an big zone?)

zones can be claimed by some not specified "superiority" mechanism, which is maybe based around military superiority.

so claiming an asteroid field requires you to station some ships, or building a station in the zone.
[No game-y ticking counters required]

My own thoughts:
Maybe similar objects can be "grouped" into a single zone when close to each other, so when multiple stations are built to each other no zones "station 1""station 2" etc get created but a single, bigger zone "station group".
Or a zone for the line of acceleration gates leading from one zone to another.

Zone control simply goes by having more "superiority" in the zone, no "culture spread" aka sins of a solar empire is required.
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Re: Zones

#7
Cornflakes_91 wrote:
ThymineC wrote:[stuff]
Is this talking about cubic zones your suggestion or something that josh confirmed?

Because from what i read out of the devlog are zones neither cubical nor evenly spread.
Just my own thoughts.
Cornflakes wrote:Once space has content a zone gets created, the space around it is still no zone.
So when you build a spacestation gets built a zone with your spacestation at the center gets created (and maybe named by some means).
The issue with this is that it can be hard to determine where one zone ends and another zone begins, if say I were to build a space station close to you.
Cornflakes wrote:asteroid fields become one big zone encompassing the whole asteroid field.
(Maybe project a sphere around every asteroid and merge all the spheres to an big zone?)
It would be nice if asteroid fields could be broken up into several zones, particularly the larger ones and especially so the system-wide ones.
Cornflakes wrote:Zone control simply goes by having more "superiority" in the zone, no "culture spread" aka sins of a solar empire is required.
Maybe. I do like the culture spread mechanics from Sins, though I admit they are a bit gamey.

On the other hand, you need some way to operationalise or quantify "superiority" in a zone, and the mechanics I proposed above could allow for that. You can make it less gamey by hiding all of this underlying spread-related information, or by presenting the information in a diegetic way. I like your idea that military superiority can help stake ownership in a zone, so why not have military vessels in a zone also contribute ownership spread?
Post

Re: Zones

#8
ThymineC wrote:
Cornflakes wrote:Once space has content a zone gets created, the space around it is still no zone.
So when you build a spacestation gets built a zone with your spacestation at the center gets created (and maybe named by some means).
The issue with this is that it can be hard to determine where one zone ends and another zone begins, if say I were to build a space station close to you.
Simple, the zones get merged if their spherical zones start to overlap.
Like distance fields, once they intersect each other they get merged into one zone.

Because the distance between the points of interesr gets so small that it makes no practical difference if you travel to the one or the other.
ThymineC wrote:
Cornflakes wrote:asteroid fields become one big zone encompassing the whole asteroid field.
(Maybe project a sphere around every asteroid and merge all the spheres to an big zone?)
It would be nice if asteroid fields could be broken up into several zones, particularly the larger ones and especially so the system-wide ones.
Maybe some kind of "sub-zones" can be introduced.
That you'd get "asteroid field 1"->"mining station 1" and "asteroid field 1" -> "mining station 2".

Or if the stations are close to each other, that their zones merge: "asteroid field 1" -> "mining station group 1" -> "mining station 1"

We could even generalise this to systems and stellar clusters (etc...)
Last edited by Cornflakes_91 on Tue Mar 18, 2014 11:38 am, edited 1 time in total.
Post

Re: Zones

#9
Cornflakes_91 wrote:
ThymineC wrote:
Cornflakes wrote:Once space has content a zone gets created, the space around it is still no zone.
So when you build a spacestation gets built a zone with your spacestation at the center gets created (and maybe named by some means).
The issue with this is that it can be hard to determine where one zone ends and another zone begins, if say I were to build a space station close to you.
Simple, the zones get merged if their spherical zones start to overlap.
Like distance fields, once they intersect each other they get merged into one zone.

Because the distance between the points of interesr gets so small that it makes no practical difference if you travel to the one or the other.
Well I mean, I'm talking about if we're opposing agents. Our territories don't merge just because they're near to each other; it'd be a bit off if that happened between the United Federation of Planets and the Romulan Star Empire.
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Re: Zones

#10
ThymineC wrote: Well I mean, I'm talking about if we're opposing agents. Our territories don't merge just because they're near to each other; it'd be a bit off if that happened between the United Federation of Planets and the Romulan Star Empire.
hmmm... we could go from the point of merging with the usual superiority mechanic, as one should also be able to claim an already claimed asteroid field by building more stations or stationing more military there

Edit: the end result would be the same as with your tickling "culture" spread, you have force nearby and if you have more force than the other one you own the space. Except that in my scenario the ownership change is instant.

Maybe let it have some "contested" status if the opposing parties are within some % force difference between each other
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Re: Zones

#11
I feel there is something "wrong" with zones...

Isn't it to restrictive or constraigning? Shouldn't zone be an emerging feature?
If I understand right, every point of interest belongs to someone if there is a "force" on it. No unruled world? No "omega station à la Mass Effect" ?
Moreover, couldn't we imagine opposing force on one point of interest? The very recent history showed us a land can be occupied massively without being "owned" by the occupant.
We could have overlapping force on one point of interest : a religious faction and a military one. Don't NPC belong to many factions?

In fact, what does "own" mean? Without getting to much into political subjects, is a point of interest owned (ruled...) by the man who commands the troops, or is it owned by the man who traded (... ruled!) every objects inside this POI?
Are you trying to scan my signature ?
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Re: Zones

#12
Wow. S*** is going down quickly these days! Major topic just casually thrown out there by Josh.

I'm going to throw out some other questions/ideas just for the purposes of discussion.

Regarding how zones are determined, I might be tempted to follow real-life (for once!). I'd make a distinction between system ownership and zone ownership. The concept I'm imagining is this:
  • The player travels into an "open" system, i.e. one that currently no-one owns
  • The player establishes a base of operations, and a spherical zone of influence is immediately projected into the strategic map.
  • The size of the zone should could simply be a reflection of the "presence" of the player/faction
  • The zone can grow by adding more infrastructure, colonising planets, ship patrols and the like
  • Once the zone reaches a certain size the player/faction is granted system "ownership"
  • At that point the space in the system is converted into an 3D grid of blocks that the player/faction can license other NPCs factions to utilise for whatever they wish.
  • System ownership also means that the player can start charging people for entering the system.
This basically aligns with the emergence of nations, and then the subdivision of their territory for commercial purposes. It also means that we can incorporate many different ideas around licensing etc.

The concept of system ownership makes all sorts of interesting questions pop up. Can you sell systems? :shock: What about groups of contiguous systems owned by the same faction... empires? Coo!
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Re: Zones

#14
I'm writing this by request of mcsven, who I've been collaborating with on this topic.

From my discussion with Cornflakes, I'm scrapping the idea of ownership "buffers", as they seem unncessary; the time and capital investment to create stations or produce/relocate military assets to reinforce your claim to ownership of a particular region already seems to fulfil the same functional goals as this would, and in any case it's quite gamey.

What I'm more interested in discussing is how space is partitioned with regards to ownership and territorial management. Cornflakes is adamant that we use a metaball-approach, and many others support him in this. I'm quite adamant that we partition space into discrete equally-sized cubic volumes, each of which are called "sectors". Quite like this, but at a much smaller scale. Ownership would be generated by certain kinds of structures, military presence, etc. and spread (in an attenuating fashion) to adjacent sectors, producing what is effectively a voxel-like metaball territorial region.

mcsven has a degree in some field that relates to oil and gas, and he was telling me about a similar system to this in real life. In the real world, the government divides up the offshore area between the UK and other countries into a quadrilateral grid-like formation - very much like my sectors idea but projected onto the 2D surface of the globe. Different corporations can then bid for what are known in England as "licenses to operate" in a given quad, and if granted these rights, they can engage in exploration and production in it, all of which is regulated by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC). Refer to this map for a clearer idea of what I mean.

Though I do like the pure-metaball idea, I'm strongly in favour of a sector-based approach not only because it's analogous to what happens in real-life, but because a tesselating approach ensures no space is wasted and allows for a standardised volume of space for legal purposes, which feels more elegant to me. More importantly, it ties in with a number of other ideas that I and others have had that would necessitate or at least benefit from the development of a blocky grid-space engine, such as McDuff's ideas for Shipping Containers and Freight Lines and stations/bases built within asteroids, as well as my own thoughts on ship/station design, internal system modelling, procedural internal system damage calculations, vessel resource pipelines, Motherload-style mining mechanics, boarding, enemy subsystem targetting, etc. I've discussed some of these ideas with Josh and some of the things he's proposed in the latest dev logs are based on them, so it's possible that he could be moving in that direction. If that is the case, it makes sense to try to unify game mechanics, which is not only usually an elegant thing to do but will also help alleviate implementation difficulty, since it would mean he can base more game mechanics on the same underlying engine, just as we've been seeing with his node engine.

So, in the proposal that mcsven and I have been developing, an agent or corporation would construct a station or other ownership-staking structure in space close to a point of interest or something else of value. Let's take the example of an asteroid field - if we partition space into sectors, then a large asteroid field should occupy quite a number of sectors. If I build a station somewhere in the asteroid field, I will claim ownership in a voxel-like spherical/metaball-shaped region around that station, where each sector can be thought of as a "voxel". Each of these sectors is equally-sized, and I can lease off "licenses to operate" within each sector to corporations that bid over them. The corporations that win the bids on these sectors then earn the right to prospect or mine asteroids within that sector. My corporation will probably need a military/security wing to prevent abuse of the system.

Why don't I just mine out the field myself when I find it? Perhaps the field is full of valuable but hard to extract ore, and my corporation lacks the requisite equipment to profitably mine it. In that case, it would make sense to me to claim ownership of parts of the field instead and then license out operation rights for them to mining corporations that can mine this ore profitably and are likely going to pay a high price to get at it.

What happens if a powerful corporation comes along and refuses to play by the rules? Then they'll probably displace me and assume ownership of the asteroid field themselves. Life is unfair. This also depends on the security of the system and how much government-like security forces choose to intervene and maintain order (I understand that there won't be any actual governments).
Last edited by ThymineC on Tue Mar 18, 2014 6:14 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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