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A Reinterpretation of Research

#1
It's nearly past 4 AM and my brain is functioning on about 4-5 hours of sleep right now, but I can't allow myself to fall asleep because reading some of Flatfinger's game design articles is the most excitement I've had in months. That's only partly hyperbole.

Specifically, I was reading through Flatfinger's Starship Operations in a Star Trek MMORPG. And I knew that if I read it, I'd wake up tomorrow with a gajillion ideas in my head for Limit Theory. But even in my extremely lethargic state, there's one I need to get out of my system right now, because I can't contain it.

From the article:
The key to letting players make new devices is for the developers to create basic components, to build the standard set of supplied devices (including starships) out of these components, and to give players a way to take devices apart and put them back together again in new ways and with new components for modified or new functionality.

Suppose you've just finished trading with a representative of the Kylari homeworld, and one of the things you picked up is a subspace phase modulator assembly. Your existing phase modulator is pretty good, but it looks like your subspace scans might be a little more accurate if you could figure out how to integrate this new device into your sensor system. At this point in a TV episode, your ship would get a distress call from somewhere in subspace -- wouldn't it be cool if you could save the day by analyzing the inputs and outputs of the old and new devices and work out how to replace the old one with the new one so that you can find the vessel lost in a subspace inversion?

Or maybe you pick up an improved phase capacitor lattice on an away mission. If devices are built from components, you might be able to field-strip your phaser to use the new capacitor lattice for (say) improved collimation (i.e., more thermal damage but at a significantly higher power drain). By being able to break down devices into components and using different components of the appropriate type to rebuild devices, players could use their ingenuity to solve technological problems just like characters in Star Trek.
What I'm considering is that Josh creates a set of component technologies that are seeded throughout the universe as it's being generated. These components would be integrated into the ships of NPC's, they could be left in floating wreckage, they might be found on planets, they could be issued as rewards for completing contracts, they may be looted from the cargo of merchant vessels, etc.

Right now, I'm imagining research in Limit Theory to be along the lines of "research Enhanced Sensors and get an automatic +20% bonus to sensor range". I don't think it should be like that. Instead, I think that researching in Limit Theory should be more theoretical, where you research things like Quantum Mechanics, Nanoscale Construction, Genetic Engineering and these research areas allow the player to utilise certain types of the aforementioned component technologies. Since Josh has now got the NPC's able to do research themselves, it will only be natural for them to be interested in these components as well.

For instance, after destroying a ship, a player may scavenge a strange artifact from it. If the player hasn't yet conducted the appropriate research, this artifact may be of little value to him at that moment. However, as the player progresses through the research tree along the appropriate research paths, he may stumble upon the research that grants him knowledge about the artifact, allowing the player to practically apply it as a component in some way.

So if researching Enhanced Sensors no longer confers a direct benefit to my sensors, how do I upgrade them?
As you explore the universe, you'll find more and more of these artifacts/components in the game world. As you progress in the research tree, you'll develop the knowledge to practically apply an increasing number of these. Say the artifact you scavenged from the ship was some kind of artifact that detailed analysis revealed to be a component of an advanced scanner system. You don't know enough to practically utilise that artifact yet, but you know that it's involved in scanning, so you progress along that path in the research tree. One of these research items may be Subspace Imaging. You research that, and all of a sudden you can identify the artifact as a Subspace Probe. You can then try combining (read: crafting) this artifact with other artifacts that you've discovered (and can practically apply) to try and create different types of sensors.

Applying different artifacts in different ways will yield different kinds of sensors. Some might be flat out failures, some might be worse than what you already had, some might be equally as good but have different strengths and weaknesses, and some may be objectively better. Think of the way you can try to combine herbs in Skyrim to make potions - it will be like that, but more in depth since it won't be simply a binary "success" or "failure" event but a unique item that could have a huge variety of possible characteristics, and there could be multiple different ways of applying the same artifacts to generate different outcomes. These different methodologies of combining artifacts might also be dependent upon unlocking research within the research tree.

As you advance further along the research tree, you may even be able to start combining components/artifacts into more complex components/artifacts.

All of this is derived from inspiration that reading Flatfinger's post gave me. If I'm not articulating my idea well (due to tiredness or whatever), Flatfingers should be able to explain the idea better than me.

I've seen others mention about how the procedural nature of item generation will lend itself to making the player venture far and wide in the universe in hopes of finding constantly better weapons, shields, reactors, etc. This reinterpretation of research will lend itself to making the player venture far and wide to find different components to personally craft better weapons, shield and other items.

Referring to exploration in the sense that it's used in Bartle types, this offers immense "exploration value" along two different spectrums: exploration of the galaxy to find better and more varied components, and exploration of the "state space" of the crafting system as the player tries out different combinations of different components in different ways. This should have great appeal not only to Explorers but also to Achievers, who will be able to use this system to create better and better systems and ships and "win" more at the game.

Research will become theoretical and "fixed", but innovation will become procedural and lead to almost infinite variations of weapons, shields, drives, reactors, vessels, etc. that the player can craft after he has acquired the requisite knowledge in the research tree.
Post

Re: A Reinterpretation of Research

#2
First, thanks for the very nice words, Thymine. I know you'll understand when I say how much fun I had developing those concept pieces. :) I'm glad you're enjoying them.

Second, I think I may have done a Bad Thing turning you on to them; I don't want to be the guy who made you lose even more sleep! Pace yourself. ;)

Now, to the actual idea you're suggesting.

1. The "crafting" concept in my "Starship Operations in a Star Trek MMORPG" piece was carefully constructed to mutually solve two very specific game design challenges: IMO, Star Trek Online needed some kind of crafting, and to faithfully represent a key aspect of the TV show, it needed a way to let Engineers be heroes.

The solution I came up with was to allow players to specialize as Engineers, and to let them break down and rebuild systems to give them different or new functions, where those functions would be a valid way to solve a gameplay problem. More specifically, in my two follow-up pieces, Engineering Crafting Modes in a Star Trek MMORPG and Engineering Crafting Modes in a Star Trek MMORPG 2, I suggested that Engineering gameplay should allow four (FORE!) kinds of activities:
  • Fabrication: create a device with standard capabilities using standard components
  • Optimization: modify the internal connections between components to improve the numeric performance of a device's or system's current capabilities
  • Repair: fix or replace damaged or destroyed components to restore basic functionality of a device or system
  • Enhancement: replace standard components with exotics or add optional components to give a device or system non-standard capabilities
The point I want to emphasize here is that Limit Theory doesn't have the same requirement to allow "heroic engineering" that a Star Trek MMORPG needs IMO. Desirable (for some of us), certainly, but is it really necessary? Even if only the Enhancement gameplay were considered for LT, there still needs to be a good reason why Limit Theory specifically needs that gameplay. You did try to suggest some -- I'll come back to that in a moment.

2. Josh has commented on the idea of theoretical research in the Suggestions for Fixed Research Nodes thread, where he said:
Josh Parnell wrote:One important note that I would like to make about how tech works (that also influences the way the tech tree will be designed) is: all applied technology corresponds directly to a type of game object. This is both a conceptual as well as an implementation simplification.

So, for example, "concepts" as leaf nodes won't work - "networking" and "parallelism," for example. However we can trivially convert those to "network processors" or "parallel processors," for example. But since they're distinct technologies, the implication is that the objects are distinct as well, so it means we would need to carefully define what makes a network processor different from a parallel processor, again just for example.
3. Josh's comment suggests that he's already thinking of the products of research as physical objects that can be installed -- presumably, some as shipboard systems and some as ground-based production facilities. Where he doesn't appear to be going is thinking of core systems, such as Ship Engine or Sensor Package, as decomposable entities, which I think is what you're suggesting.

I agree 100% with you that this kind of decomposing/recomposing gameplay, combining quest-for-epic-loot-items with a mildly creative element of crafting, seems like it would be good fun for Explorers and Achievers. (And your point about exploration being properly understood as not just physical, see-the-universe exploration, but the mapping of previously unknown systems-relationships as well, is one that I've been advocating for years -- well said!)

The thing I don't know is how well that gameplay would fit into the design of research and ship/facility control that Josh has imagined for Limit Theory. Finding usable advanced/alien objects seems like a pretty good fit for LT as described to us so far. But as much as I'd love to see it in some game, I just don't know that the crafting-objects-from-subsystems gameplay contributes to the "feel" Josh wants us to have when we play Limit Theory.

Maybe I'm wrong, though, and I'll understand better once Josh can release more information about how research works as long-term gameplay in LT. For now, thanks for this proposal -- I don't know about anyone else, but I like it!
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Re: A Reinterpretation of Research

#3
I'm not really a fan of this proposal.

Currently, research in LT seems well balanced. Increasing your scanning efficiency with 20% would make it use 30% more power. I like this, because I like ships with a clear advantage and disadvantage.

It does worry me about the current plans for research, that this entire screen could end up as a huge list of +x/-y values.
Perhaps I rather see research being a mix of materials. Researching armour: 1 % Iron + 99% carbon; 2% Iron + 98% carbon; ...
Each material could influence other materials. You could either put this research on auto, or put together some materials yourself and research the result. If these materials are then also needed in the construction, then we have unification. Material names and properties could change according to the seed. On universe generation it would even be possible to cluster certain resources together, so that certain technologies are reserved to locations where this material is common.
The properties to work with these materials could also be a factor. A newbie without much research done wouldn't be able to research iron+Xmatter because he lacks the research on how to handle Xmatter. Or, perhaps xmatter vaporizes at the point where iron isn't even melting yet. So you'd need advanced researching and construction methods to use this combo.

Everybody should be oblivious to the properties of a material until they encounter it and research it. Being able to buy a material doesn't mean you can work with it. Factions could sell basic research data for materials found within its borders.
I do like the idea of being able to scan a ship/wreckage and pick up any unknown alloys/technologies, if you know all used materials you could determine the properties of the technology, otherwise you'd have to wait until you encounter these materials. I'm not really a fan of this scavenged technology being converted into an item.
Beware of he who would deny you access to information, for in his heart he dreams himself your master.
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Re: A Reinterpretation of Research

#4
Woo! I slept at the reasonable time of 4:30 AM and got a good night's sleep. I may even go for a walk in Hyde park later. :)
Katorone wrote:I'm not really a fan of this proposal.

Currently, research in LT seems well balanced. Increasing your scanning efficiency with 20% would make it use 30% more power. I like this, because I like ships with a clear advantage and disadvantage.
But my proposal can maintain that same balance:
  • Most of the time, you'll combine artifacts that produce complete failures / inferior designs to what you already have. But that's fine, because you'll be constantly finding new components and exploring new ways to combine them.
  • Sometimes, you'll craft components in a way that produces items of roughly equal quality, but has different strengths and weaknesses. A scanner that has 20% more scanning power but 30% greater power consumption. This corresponds to what Flatfingers was writing in his post about improving phasers: "Or maybe you pick up an improved phase capacitor lattice on an away mission. If devices are built from components, you might be able to field-strip your phaser to use the new capacitor lattice for (say) improved collimation (i.e., more thermal damage but at a significantly higher power drain)."
  • Rarely, you'll combine components in a way that produces objectively better modules/systems. This can be balanced so that it occurs at about the same rate that you discover "objectively better" nodes in the research tree as it works right now.
It should still be just as clear to you what the advantages and disadvantages of your vessel are, because you will build them out of systems and those systems will list their own bonuses. Through the process of innovation, you could invent a scanner that has +20% scanning power but also +30% power drain relative to some standard, and it will be listed as such.
Katorone wrote:Perhaps I rather see research being a mix of materials. Researching armour: 1 % Iron + 99% carbon; 2% Iron + 98% carbon; ...
Each material could influence other materials. You could either put this research on auto, or put together some materials yourself and research the result. If these materials are then also needed in the construction, then we have unification. Material names and properties could change according to the seed. On universe generation it would even be possible to cluster certain resources together, so that certain technologies are reserved to locations where this material is common.
The properties to work with these materials could also be a factor. A newbie without much research done wouldn't be able to research iron+Xmatter because he lacks the research on how to handle Xmatter. Or, perhaps xmatter vaporizes at the point where iron isn't even melting yet. So you'd need advanced researching and construction methods to use this combo.
Yeah, this is a direct extension of the original idea and could certainly be made to work. Materials, after all, are just tier-0 components. I could see the player conducting research in Advanced Metallurgy in order to start practically applying a new kind of metal or two into innovation.

And it would be really cool to see how the distribution of initial resources affects the technological development of NPC's and factions in different parts of the universe!
Katorone wrote:Everybody should be oblivious to the properties of a material until they encounter it and research it. Being able to buy a material doesn't mean you can work with it. Factions could sell basic research data for materials found within its borders.
I do like the idea of being able to scan a ship/wreckage and pick up any unknown alloys/technologies, if you know all used materials you could determine the properties of the technology, otherwise you'd have to wait until you encounter these materials. I'm not really a fan of this scavenged technology being converted into an item.
These are some pretty awesome extensions to the original idea.

How about this modification: scavenged technologies cannot be combined directly into an item - they're only useful for giving you an idea of how to fabricate your own versions of the technology that you can use to construct different varieties of items?

Using the original examples of the Subspace Probe, once you've salvaged this item from the wreckage of a ship and analysed its composition and understand how it works through the appropriate research, you can attempt to recreate it. Therefore, you use artifacts and components you find to base your own versions off of, and since they're your own versions, they can be combined together in a modular fashion to try to create new items and systems.
Post

Re: A Reinterpretation of Research

#5
ThymineC wrote: How about this modification: scavenged technologies cannot be combined directly into an item - they're only useful for giving you an idea of how to fabricate your own versions of the technology that you can use to construct different varieties of items?

Using the original examples of the Subspace Probe, once you've salvaged this item from the wreckage of a ship and analysed its composition and understand how it works through the appropriate research, you can attempt to recreate it. Therefore, you use artifacts and components you find to base your own versions off of, and since they're your own versions, they can be combined together in a modular fashion to try to create new items and systems.
Because of the lack of a big fluffy heart in the smilies list, I'm going to go with: :squirrel: :squirrel: :squirrel: :squirrel:
To be clear: I'd like this a lot. :)


EDIT: typo.
Beware of he who would deny you access to information, for in his heart he dreams himself your master.
Post

Re: A Reinterpretation of Research

#6
Flatfingers wrote:First, thanks for the very nice words, Thymine. I know you'll understand when I say how much fun I had developing those concept pieces. :) I'm glad you're enjoying them.
Yeah this is brilliant fun. I love analysing systems. INTJ and all I guess. You build 'em up, I break 'em down. :P
Flatfingers wrote:The solution I came up with was to allow players to specialize as Engineers, and to let them break down and rebuild systems to give them different or new functions, where those functions would be a valid way to solve a gameplay problem. More specifically, in my two follow-up pieces, Engineering Crafting Modes in a Star Trek MMORPG and Engineering Crafting Modes in a Star Trek MMORPG 2
Man, a handful of paragraphs in and it's already giving me more ideas that I need to chuck out here. :( I'll never get through them at this rate.
3. Every device would be "complex," not in the sense of being hard to understand, but rather in that it's composed of multiple elemental components.

4. The types of elemental components used would determine the precise nature of the device's primary effect. Changing one kind of component for another component of the same kind but a different type -- with a different effect -- would be "enhancement crafting."
So if all of your ship systems are composed of simpler elements, what happens if they get damaged?

For instance, let's say I'm in a dogfight with an NPC, and he scores an effective hit against one of my turrets. Instead of just an arbitrary "integrity" measure associated with the turret, where it continues to work perfectly until it hits 0 HP and then explodes or what have you, why not model the damage as applying to one of its internal components instead? That could have really interesting effects. For instance, if I'm using a laser, perhaps the enemy hits it with a slug that damages its refraction crystal, making it emit light in the infra-red spectrum rather than gamma spectrum. It does considerably less damage, but also consumes a little less power.

And what about repair? Is repairing a system just an arbitrary "keep applying repair on it until its integrity reaches 100%"? I would much rather prefer to:
  • Perform some kind of analysis on the system to identify the damaged components.
  • Fabricate (or retrieve pre-fabricated) components to replace the damaged ones.
  • Install these components back into the system and reboot it.
And if I fabricate different kinds of components, maybe it will give the system different properties?
Flatfingers wrote: The point I want to emphasize here is that Limit Theory doesn't have the same requirement to allow "heroic engineering" that a Star Trek MMORPG needs IMO. Desirable (for some of us), certainly, but is it really necessary? Even if only the Enhancement gameplay were considered for LT, there still needs to be a good reason why Limit Theory specifically needs that gameplay. You did try to suggest some -- I'll come back to that in a moment.

[...]

But as much as I'd love to see it in some game, I just don't know that the crafting-objects-from-subsystems gameplay contributes to the "feel" Josh wants us to have when we play Limit Theory.
Point taken. Limit Theory won't have any kind of "heroic engineering" à la Star Trek, but I still argue that this proposal fits the "feel" of Limit Theory in one very important respect: proceduralism. Josh is the High Priest of Proceduralism and Limit Theory is designed to be all about that. This proposal would almost certainly constitute the most procedurally-driven crafting system of any game ever.

Having procedurally-generated items with different statistics, abilities, etc. is really fun. Borderlands and Borderlands 2 were largely successful for that reason. Finding new guns that operated in different ways was very satisfying. But imagine how much better it would have been still if you could craft guns in those games from simpler components and these guns would have properties based upon those components you used. :)
FlatFingers wrote:2. Josh has commented on the idea of theoretical research in the Suggestions for Fixed Research Nodes thread, where he said:
Josh Parnell wrote:One important note that I would like to make about how tech works (that also influences the way the tech tree will be designed) is: all applied technology corresponds directly to a type of game object. This is both a conceptual as well as an implementation simplification.

So, for example, "concepts" as leaf nodes won't work - "networking" and "parallelism," for example. However we can trivially convert those to "network processors" or "parallel processors," for example. But since they're distinct technologies, the implication is that the objects are distinct as well, so it means we would need to carefully define what makes a network processor different from a parallel processor, again just for example.
That's true, and this is why this is reintepretation of research in Limit Theory. Under this proposal, research in Limit Theory wouldn't work as Josh has it now - you would have "conceptual" research nodes, and the system as a whole would be less procedural than it is right now; but this is more than made up for by the proceduralism of the innovation/crafting system.
FlatFingers wrote:The thing I don't know is how well that gameplay would fit into the design of research and ship/facility control that Josh has imagined for Limit Theory. Finding usable advanced/alien objects seems like a pretty good fit for LT as described to us so far. But as much as I'd love to see it in some game, I just don't know that the crafting-objects-from-subsystems gameplay contributes to the "feel" Josh wants us to have when we play Limit Theory.

Maybe I'm wrong, though, and I'll understand better once Josh can release more information about how research works as long-term gameplay in LT. For now, thanks for this proposal -- I don't know about anyone else, but I like it!
Thanks. :ghost:
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Re: A Reinterpretation of Research

#7
AnotherKatorone wrote:
ThymineC wrote: How about this modification: scavenged technologies cannot be combined directly into an item - they're only useful for giving you an idea of how to fabricate your own versions of the technology that you can use to construct different varieties of items?

Using the original examples of the Subspace Probe, once you've salvaged this item from the wreckage of a ship and analysed its composition and understand how it works through the appropriate research, you can attempt to recreate it. Therefore, you use artifacts and components you find to base your own versions off of, and since they're your own versions, they can be combined together in a modular fashion to try to create new items and systems.
Because of the lack of a big fluffy heart in the smilies list, I'm going to go with: :squirrel: :squirrel: :squirrel: :squirrel:
To be clear: I'd like this a lot. :)


EDIT: typo.
Thank you! :squirrel:

Edit:
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Re: A Reinterpretation of Research

#8
ThymineC wrote:How about this modification: scavenged technologies cannot be combined directly into an item - they're only useful for giving you an idea of how to fabricate your own versions of the technology that you can use to construct different varieties of items?

Using the original examples of the Subspace Probe, once you've salvaged this item from the wreckage of a ship and analysed its composition and understand how it works through the appropriate research, you can attempt to recreate it. Therefore, you use artifacts and components you find to base your own versions off of, and since they're your own versions, they can be combined together in a modular fashion to try to create new items and systems.
Sounds like you've essentially re-created the item->reverse engineering->blueprint system that has already been talked to death elsewhere on the forums, you've just changed the triggering item from any piece of gear to an "artifact".
How about simplifying the idea a touch?

Instead of finding artifacts you can break down into item blueprints, how about artifacts you can "use" that add a node to the research tree?

The idea has a few benefits:
  • - As the main benefit, it simplifies the mechanic of breaking down items to improve your tech level, using the already-implemented tech tree instead.
    - You retain the benefits of your idea to have an item that is discoverable by explorer-types or salvageable from wrecks, etc.
    - It provides the opportunity for discovering tech in the wild, for those players who aren't inclined to set up research stations.
    - It provides an extra type of loot, which is always nice.


The artifacts could be classified by type: "shielding technology artifact" could add a node under shield tech; "bomber hull technology artifact" could add a new type of bomber; etc.

The artifacts could be rare, and you could further balance the benefits of the research boost by giving the artifacts a % chance of working at all - failure could be a simple "the technology was too damaged to properly analyse".

...

Now, as for the system where items are constructed of different components that you've suggested, I really like it. I don't see why you've connected it so tightly to your "artifact" idea, though. They seem like they'd be better served as two separate concepts.

You could simply introduce a procedurally-generated sub-item called a "component". Give each component a type corresponding to the kind of item it is a part of, and then set up crafting as just combining three or four components of the same type to get an item which has properties based on the properties of the components that were used to create it.

If you also allow breaking down weapons and other technologies into components, you then have a simple system for creating an infinite number of specialised items by breaking down your gear and recombining their components into new and exciting configurations. You can obtain new components in all the same way as you do items.

...

However, that being said, this is considerably different to the way we've seen weapons work in the past.

Just in case Josh doesn't feel like completely ripping apart his present weapon system, there's another (maybe easier) way I see to get something like this. Instead of changing the way weapons are made, just introduce a new item type called "tech mods".

Now, the way I see it working is; hardpoints all have a sub-slot for the installation of a tech mod. Tech mods don't actually do anything by themselves, but modify the stats of the item that is installed in the hardpoint. You can make sure the tech mods are balanced by always having both positive and negative effects on a tech mod.

For example, a weapon tech mod could have the stats "increases damage by 5% and increases cooldown time by 10%".

This would let you get a number of the benefits of the component system, without needing too many extra mechanics or major changes to the way we've seen items working in the past.

...

Anyway, this post rambled on a little longer than I expected. :roll: Just a couple of ideas for your consideration.

Cheers, :wave:
- The Snark Knight

"Look upward, and share the wonders I've seen."
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Re: A Reinterpretation of Research

#9
Just_Ice_au wrote: Sounds like you've essentially re-created the item->reverse engineering->blueprint system that has already been talked to death elsewhere on the forums, you've just changed the triggering item from any piece of gear to an "artifact".
Why not call it "sensor data" that needs to be analysed by your research department? I really wouldn't like to have to deal with a physical item. I agree that a physical item that needs to be delivered to the research station adds another form of complexity and opportunity though. Eg camping outside some faction's research station and boarding all ships that approach. :)
Beware of he who would deny you access to information, for in his heart he dreams himself your master.
Post

Re: A Reinterpretation of Research

#10
Just_Ice_au wrote:
ThymineC wrote:How about this modification: scavenged technologies cannot be combined directly into an item - they're only useful for giving you an idea of how to fabricate your own versions of the technology that you can use to construct different varieties of items?

Using the original examples of the Subspace Probe, once you've salvaged this item from the wreckage of a ship and analysed its composition and understand how it works through the appropriate research, you can attempt to recreate it. Therefore, you use artifacts and components you find to base your own versions off of, and since they're your own versions, they can be combined together in a modular fashion to try to create new items and systems.
Sounds like you've essentially re-created the item->reverse engineering->blueprint system that has already been talked to death elsewhere on the forums, you've just changed the triggering item from any piece of gear to an "artifact".
I've spent time reading through those threads, and my idea seems to share a lot of similarities with some of the topics discussed but not others. They were all pretty helpful and interesting to read, though. :)

For instance, my proposal has nothing to do with reverse engineering. You're not trying to extract technology from an artifact, you're trying to apply an artifact using technology you've already discovered. That's pretty much the reverse of reverse engineering. I guess that's just engineering. :P

You'll need to carry out the necessary research first before artifacts are of value to you.

My original suggestion had nothing to do with blueprints either, but reading through Josh Parnell's June 24th 2013 dev log makes me want to incorporate them. He writes:
JoshParnell wrote:So. Sorry for being stupid. But we need blueprints :oops: However...I still think technology should be part of the equation! I was never really planning to go this deep with the crafting scheme in LT, but...why not :) Let's have technology be the source of blueprints, and blueprints be the source of objects. You can make a living off of either one. You could scour the galaxy for blueprints, acquiring the know-how to make any object that anyone desires (note: you do NOT need technology to create an item, only the blueprint. I.e., if you follow the instructions carefully enough, you do not really need to know that much about the underlying principles in order to build something :) ). Or, you could be a galactic think-tank, using technology to research blueprints and producing these instructions for the less intellectual lifeforms to construct.
I'd like to modify my proposal so that you're not combining components to generate an item directly, but to design a blueprint from which the item can then be generated. This way, it opens up additional avenues for gameplay like Josh describes in this dev log, where some players, NPC's or factions may focus more on innovation where they try to combine components in different ways to yield different blueprints, and other players, NPC's or factions may focus on construction where they take blueprints and produce items from them. I understand Josh is no longer keen on the idea of technology->blueprints->items as of the October dev log, but I still prefer the original way he had in mind.

Josh also raises another interesting idea in that dev log, which I've seen before:
JoshParnell wrote:A few thoughts on research. Again, something I was never planning for LT. But it is too enticing. I'm thinking we have "research modules," which are an abstraction for scientific labs and a crew (remember that all crew is abstracted in LT since there is no concept of crew). You can use research modules for a few purposes: first, directed research. Put in a few technologies, then allow the module to simply churn ideas and try to produce a blueprint related to the technologies. This would essentially be "crafting" of new items! I think this is a super cool concept. You could actually guide your research AI to new items. If you like hadron-based rail guns, then you should use "Hadron Engineering" and "Heavy Rail-Gun Construction" as inputs to your research module. Presumably, you will be able to "lead" it to a new blueprint that incorporates these new technologies!
I'm imagining the player being able to own and operate an industrial/research ship which features engineering modules and research modules. The idea here is that you tell the engineering modules to synthesise components of particular types using resources stored upon your vessel (e.g. minerals, metals, electrical components, etc.) that are put back into storage or given to the research modules. You give the research modules an area of research to focus on, and they will try to combine these components to produce blueprints. These blueprints then go into storage or are handed back to the engineering modules to synthesise. I like the clear distinction between engineering and research here, and XCOM: Enemy Unknown had a distinction like this as well.
Just_Ice_au wrote: How about simplifying the idea a touch?

Instead of finding artifacts you can break down into item blueprints, how about artifacts you can "use" that add a node to the research tree?

The idea has a few benefits:
  • - As the main benefit, it simplifies the mechanic of breaking down items to improve your tech level, using the already-implemented tech tree instead.
    - You retain the benefits of your idea to have an item that is discoverable by explorer-types or salvageable from wrecks, etc.
    - It provides the opportunity for discovering tech in the wild, for those players who aren't inclined to set up research stations.
    - It provides an extra type of loot, which is always nice.
I quite like the idea of having artifacts being deconstructed into item blueprints that can be added to the research tree, as it fits well with an amendment I made to my original suggestion that Katorone seemed to like:
AnotherKatorone wrote:
ThymineC wrote: How about this modification: scavenged technologies cannot be combined directly into an item - they're only useful for giving you an idea of how to fabricate your own versions of the technology that you can use to construct different varieties of items?

Using the original examples of the Subspace Probe, once you've salvaged this item from the wreckage of a ship and analysed its composition and understand how it works through the appropriate research, you can attempt to recreate it. Therefore, you use artifacts and components you find to base your own versions off of, and since they're your own versions, they can be combined together in a modular fashion to try to create new items and systems.
Because of the lack of a big fluffy heart in the smilies list, I'm going to go with: :squirrel: :squirrel: :squirrel: :squirrel:
To be clear: I'd like this a lot. :)
  • When you discover an artifact, you will not be able to do anything with it until you've conducted the appropriate theoretical research (e.g. Subspace Imaging for an artifact that turns out to be a Subspace Probe).
  • If you've researched the appropriate science, you can analyse the artifact to produce an artifact blueprint. This process of analysing the artifact is destructive, and the artifact will be lost afterwards. The blueprint can then be used to add a component node to the research tree under the appropriate tech area (e.g. Sensor tech) that's based on the artifact. It will be different from theoretical research nodes. The whole idea of analysing an artifact to yield a blueprint is that you take a strange, foreign piece of technology and you adapt the principles of its operation and nature to work with your own technology.
  • You can use any component nodes in your research tree to synthesise the corresponding components.
  • Components can be combined in different ways to produce items, such as sensors, weapons, etc.
Just_Ice_au wrote:Now, as for the system where items are constructed of different components that you've suggested, I really like it. I don't see why you've connected it so tightly to your "artifact" idea, though. They seem like they'd be better served as two separate concepts.

You could simply introduce a procedurally-generated sub-item called a "component". Give each component a type corresponding to the kind of item it is a part of, and then set up crafting as just combining three or four components of the same type to get an item which has properties based on the properties of the components that were used to create it.

If you also allow breaking down weapons and other technologies into components, you then have a simple system for creating an infinite number of specialised items by breaking down your gear and recombining their components into new and exciting configurations. You can obtain new components in all the same way as you do items.
Yeah, this part of building up complex systems out of components relates well to one of the threads you linked: Cornflakes' suggestion on weapon design. My idea would be a generalisation of that to other kinds of systems, but it would also be different you wouldn't really know the outcome of combining components synthesised from artifacts that you've just discovered, at least not initially. You'd have to play around with the technology first before patterns started to emerge.

The player may start out familiar with some components, but to increase his repertoire of components to play with, he'd need to find artifacts and produce new kinds of components from these. That's why I view the component system and artifact discovery system as linked in this matter.
Just_Ice_Au wrote: However, that being said, this is considerably different to the way we've seen weapons work in the past.

Just in case Josh doesn't feel like completely ripping apart his present weapon system, there's another (maybe easier) way I see to get something like this. Instead of changing the way weapons are made, just introduce a new item type called "tech mods".

Now, the way I see it working is; hardpoints all have a sub-slot for the installation of a tech mod. Tech mods don't actually do anything by themselves, but modify the stats of the item that is installed in the hardpoint. You can make sure the tech mods are balanced by always having both positive and negative effects on a tech mod.

For example, a weapon tech mod could have the stats "increases damage by 5% and increases cooldown time by 10%".

This would let you get a number of the benefits of the component system, without needing too many extra mechanics or major changes to the way we've seen items working in the past.
This would be quite cool to see in game. It's a lot more simplistic and offers less variety to the player, but it would also be a lot easier for Josh to implement, I'd imagine. Additionally, perhaps the items themselves can have tech mod slots as well as hardpoints, like in games where weapons and armour have "gem slots".
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Re: A Reinterpretation of Research

#11
Additional point:

"Artifacts" are just components or systems that are foreign and alien to the agent that finds them. A player might discover a wreck belonging to an NPC that had advanced extremely far along, say, the Power Generation path of its research tree and developed a reactor for its vessel made of very sophisticated components. If the player has not advanced very far along his own Power Generation research path, he will salvage components from this NPC's wreck that he will regard as "artifacts", only because he presently lacks the scientific knowledge to identify and utilise them. When he does possess the relevant knowledge, he will be able to assimilate the technology (We are Borg) and then create his own components off of it.

Similarly, the player may be the one who's very advanced in some area, and other NPC's will regard components on his vessel as artifacts. Since the game makes no distinction between the player and NPC's in these kind of game mechanics, the exact same process may occur in this case, except with the NPC doing the researching and assimilation.

Additional point 2:

From one of Flatfinger's game design articles:
One of the goals of this design is to support both the reliable crafting of specific objects as well as "creative" crafting.

Reliability depends on the same inputs, connected in the same ways, always producing the same output -- that is, devices that always have the same functional characteristics. Since there's nothing random about this model of Engineering crafting, reliability is guaranteed. The internal rules by which specific inputs lead to specific outputs may be quite complex, but they would be invariant.

At the same time, the complexity -- or "depth" -- of those internal transformation rules would, in combination with having a very wide range of input components and component characteristics, allow for the possibility of surprise. Trying a new component or a new way of connecting components should produce new results (that is, new functional capabilities or new levels of performance of specific capabilities). These things should be comprehensible. Certain types of components should usually lead to certain recognizable kinds of capabilities in the devices constructed from those components, and connecting certain types of components together should generally lead to roughly consistent optimization results.
This is how I envisage crafting to be. When you're dealing with familiar components, crafting new items is a fairly reliable, predictable thing. The idea of exploration lies in utilising new artifacts that you discover throughout the world to try and create new designs for items and systems. This is where it's much more theory and guesswork.

This also avoids one of the limitations that I saw Gazz bring up about Cornflakes' suggestion in Weapon Statistics / Types.
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Re: A Reinterpretation of Research

#12
Just_Ice_au wrote:Now, the way I see it working is; hardpoints all have a sub-slot for the installation of a tech mod. Tech mods don't actually do anything by themselves, but modify the stats of the item that is installed in the hardpoint. You can make sure the tech mods are balanced by always having both positive and negative effects on a tech mod.

For example, a weapon tech mod could have the stats "increases damage by 5% and increases cooldown time by 10%".
The thought just occurred to me that crew could be handled in a similar way. You have "crew slots" associated with different hardpoints on the vessel, such as for the reactor, the drives, weapon systems, etc. Then you can "crew" your ship by adding crew tokens into these slots. Crew tokens might represent one crew member, 10, or 100. Likely, it would depend on the size of the vessel. The difference between crew tokens and tech mods is that the benefits attributed by crew tokens increase over time (as the crew become more experienced), that they may need to consume resources (such as food), and that damage to the vessel may reduce the benefit applied by these crew tokens (crew members are injured or killed).
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Re: A Reinterpretation of Research

#14
Josh's devlog for Dec. 2, 2014, brought up the idea that it might be more fun (or, at least, more frequent fun) if objects can be modified or upgraded rather than only being replaced.

This would give object a longer lifespan, provide more gameplay, add more content to the world, and would generally flatten out progress a bit instead of only having spikes when you can afford a cool new piece of hardware.

That idea sounded familiar to me. :)

If you take a look at the comments in this thread, starting with ThymineC's post, I think maybe there are some ideas here that could be helpful to what Josh described today.

If nothing else, we may already have a starting point for more conversation about modifiable/upgradeable objects in LT.

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