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[Talking about CYOAs] Now with scripts to automate the boring bits

Mojo_JojoMojo_Jojo When life gives you lemons......eat your delicious lemonsRegistered User regular
edited August 5 in Critical Failures
Games
ElectricityLikesMe's: The Company[/url: Over
Dread Pirate Arbutnot's Vampire: The Masquerade: Nightlife: Over
Pony's Mass Effect: Dark Matter: Over
Pony's Mass Effect: Freelancer: Complete
My Second Game: Space Invaders: Over
Gandalf the Crazed's Mist: Over
The Ender's The Lawman's Pilgrimage: Over
The Ender's Kaiser Tanks: Over
TheRoadVirus's Avian Supremecy: Over
My Space Australia: Complete

I. What is this thread?

CF doesn’t do well with discussion threads, but I thought I’d give it a shot. This is a place to talk about CYOA games, those you’ve run, those you want to run and those you’ve just played in. What worked? What didn’t? And so forth. We’ve had a few on the forums (they were super popular in certain parts of the internet a few years back, but they’ve fallen out of fashion) and I feel that they make for a good alternative to trying to play a full RPG in a thread.

Hopefully, this thread can birth another game. And then maybe people will add their thoughts to this as they play it.

Some of this stuff will be specific to the Space Australia game, but I also want to talk about the type of game in a more general sense. It is a tad rambly. Just a tad.

II. What is a “CYOA”?

It stands for Choose Your Own Adventure. I previously defined it like this:
This is a Choose Your Own Adventure (CYOA) game. It’s sort of like a Play By Post but more freeform and with no defined player list. Every turn I’ll post an update, with a few options and then you lot get to decide what you would like to happen. With your choices determining the fate of our luckless colonists. Anybody can jump in and have their say on the direction taken by the colony in a given turn. I'll go for whatever gets a majority.

I also encourage you guys to post little side stories, or drawings or whatever. I’m just arbitrating. it’s your colony to run (as a valiant and terrible democracy). Also, it helps me to know what you guys want so I can swing my options to fit that better.

The name comes from a book series I used to read when I was a kid, they were mostly crude knock-offs of D&D modules where you’d have a short passage of text ending with “if you do [x] turn to page [a], if you choose to do [y] then turn to page [ b]”. Of the games I’ve seen, lots have nice art (some are mainly art), however, I’m cack-handed and never spent the time and effort necessary to become a passable artist. So I painted a picture with words! An ugly picture with poor chosen words.

Here are the specifics of the mechanics I used, bearing in mind that this was a 4X type game where I was heavily ripping off inspired by Alpha Centauri
Spoiler:

The players also got to pick a faction which changed around their initial supplies and gave them some ability or other. In Space Australia, they chose to play as the overcrowded prison pod (hence the name).

You can see how these evolved in the game itself (just compare the first and last posts for how things changed and the options expanded).

III. How about some backstory?
A few months back I decided, having played along with hoodie13’s CYOA game about sentient horny trees in SE++ (primarily driving them towards their own destruction at the hands of an evil magic orb), that I would do one of my own. Now, I’m sure you’d like to hear how I thought about it for a while and drew a map and a techtree and carefully designed factions.

In reality, I just started banging out words. Did an image search for an alien map (settling for one of Mars with a few added cancels), popped a hex grid on it and called it a day. Strike while the iron is hot and all that.

That was in October. 110 turns later (which is about 115 game posts by me, countless clarifications, lots of PMs and, most importantly, an absolute shit load of posts by the players which included art and fiction) we finished. People seem to have have had fun and I think there’s a semi-interesting narrative in there (despite the awful writing and endless typos).


IV. Things that were missed in Space Australia

I didn’t actually have a big mapped out tech tree. I just grew it organically as we went along and you guys said you wanted to do X (sometimes I already had a plan for X, that was fine, it was coming, other times, it meant shoving something in that later became more important than you’d expect, like the drugs).

That said, you did miss one or two things. I hinted there was a structure to compliment the Ministry of Industry, and indeed there was and the Erde had one. You were tantalizingly close to unlocking it for a long time, you just needed to actually train some militia (those ineffective, but super cheap, troops) after having actually taken part in an armed conflict. After that you’d have been able to research The Art of War, which would have let you construct the Ministry of War (I may have called it something else). This would have done two things. First, you would have been able to choose a new trait for your “advanced” infantry (one that gave a small bonus when defending, another that let them reroll ones when confronted by superior forces and the third let them earn resources when they won). These were your equivalent to Palin’s Voice. You’d be able to recruit bog standard infantry for free too (you’d roll a 1d6 each turn, and when you accumulated 10, you got a free size 1 unit)

The other thing was spy stuff. I wanted to open these tech options when you started trading with ReEarth, but you spent forever getting around to it. By the time you did, you’d already become quite good friends and figured out most of their secrets so it seemed irrelevant. That and nobody seemed to be inclined to mention it, and I preferred to let you guys drive. When the Erde rolled around, I realised that it was going to be hard to actually make them anything more than monolithic crazies without some insight. So I introduced Erde_Voice, the blog that (hopefully) let you see that they were happy, despite being fundamentalists sticking to a plan that didn’t really fit the situation.

I think you guys had all your lingering plot questions answered in the end, right?


V. What went wrong in that game?

I made a few mistakes with Space Australia and got into a number of sticky situations. I’ve erased most from my memories, instead choosing to bask in the glory of a mission accomplished, but here are the few that stuck with me.
Each post by me would end with a list of options for the players to vote on. Sometimes there would be more than one, so you’d choose a number and a letter. That wasn’t so bad. What was bad was when I was doing 4 or 5. So I’d have letters, numbers, and various symbols. Sometimes those votes would need to be applied to something (for example, A was usually the option to explore and needed a direction, so I might have a list like A[1], 2[5], £, @, %). Doing the vote tally wasn’t actually made any harder, but it made the game a lot less welcoming for a new player who wanted to stop in. And I didn’t like that. I’d have liked to set a hard limit of three things a round, but there were times when there was just pressing action that needed attention.

Time was another problem. For the first weeks, I could do updates once or twice a day no problem at all. It took maybe ten minutes. Little by little, the time to write a post crept up. There were all sorts of things to keep track of (And obviously, more things to vote on, means more stuff is going on). I’d say the average time per post was about 45 minutes. On occasion (particularly in combat, or when I noticed an accounting error) I’d be updating the game over the course of two hours.

Occasionally I found myself struggling with rules. Compared to the other games on these boards, Space Australia, was pretty rules heavy. This was entirely unintentional. I pulled the mechanics out of thin air and was just trying to cover all the bases. The problems were things like morale not having enough granularity (five states Riot/Unahppy/Fine/Happy/OverTheChuffingMoon that corresponded to a modifier that applied to most dice rolls), it always seemed overkill to move an entire notch in response to some situation.

The players also wanted trains, because trains are bitching, and I couldn’t think of a way to bring them. Or more, I had no idea what mechanical advantage they would confer. I regret not just saying “Woo trains” and including their existence in a post. It would have made perfect sense.

In thinking about trains, I made a cardinal error. I asked the players about a mechanical issue. I deeply regret this. Having them put that kind of input in meant they were peeking behind the curtain and generally proposing ideas that they just lacked sufficient information to fully flesh out. So I ended up dismissing their ideas. Nobody wants that.

A side issue, very specific to that game, was the problem of solar energy. Concentrated solar plants were meant to be limited to an equatorial band. Whoops.

That and I was constantly finding annoying errors as a regular of emergent complexity and not having a defined control sequence. So, if I rolled and a mine became “barren” (provides less income) did I apply it that round or did I wait for the next one? If I’m not breaking population into units smaller than 100, then what happens when it takes 0.1k population to make a size 4 iron man squad and they take size 1 casualties? Keeping the working population up to date was a surprising headache. I was tempted to offset some of the work to a spreadsheet at one point, but then I realised it would be easier to write a proper little program to hold the information and auto-updated it. I stepped back and realised I was attempting to make a crude computer game based on something I’d knocked up in an hour. I was looking down a pit of insanity.

Perhaps most important of my realisations was that I did combat wholly wrong. Here’s the mechanics I used in Space Australia.
Spoiler:

These are bad mechanics that nobody should ever use anywhere. I can see now a few more elegant solutions. And like all the best solutions they come from ripping off board games. I should have either lifted the mechanic from Risk or from TI3. I’m not sure which I prefer.

Risk has a dice pool, the attacker rolls dice equal to the number of attacking units (capped at three in that game). The defender rolls dice based on their units (capped two). You then put them in order and highest out of the pairs wins (defenders win ties). You keep doing it until the defender has nothing left or the attacker gives up. This is super simple, and you can have stronger units by letting units roll larger dice, reroll dice, win ties in an attack and so forth.

TI3 works on rolling a d8 (I’d most likely use something a bit bigger) for each unit in combat. Each specific unit has a target number that you need to beat (so crappy fighters have a score of 8, super cool megaships might have a 3). Every successful roll is a casualty. Some ships have multiple health. Again, super simple and lets you improve things easily enough (lower target numbers, have rerolls, certain ships can do more than 1HP of damage to a target, etc. etc.).

So, for the Space Australia example, lets say I’d use a d20. Infantry would have had a target of 18, Iron Men 15 and XXXXs would have had 10 (their vulnerability just comes from them only taking one hit here, possibly each unit could have had two attacks or somesuch). The upgrade to shard weapons would’ve just dropped those numbers by a fixed amount. Fighting behind a defensive perimeter would’ve given +1 on all rolls and so forth. Much cleaner..

VI. Do the numbers matter?

That might seem like a stupid question. A fair bit of drama and conflict arose from the numbers in Space Australia. Energy being slashed by ion storms, overpopulation and food reserves being depleted both happened a few times and caused emergency measures. If I’d been handwaving everything, then maybe these crises would have seemed irritating and arbitrary?

I think given that it was a 4x too, it benefited from tangible numbers associated with things. It fits the genre. That said, if we’d been running some kind of more character-based adventure, maybe it wouldn’t have mattered. And frankly, it would save the DM (or whatever the CYOA equivalent to a Dungeon Master is) a lot of bookwork.

Hoodie’s game didn’t really seem to use numbers either (resources were high/medium/low, although there were oddly specific numbers of tree-people in his society) and that seemed to work out well. The moral, is therefore to think carefully about whether it’s worth bothering with numbers.

VII. What should you be able to do in a turn

Again, this is specific to 4x games, but the way they are generally run is that research takes a “turn”, as does building a castle, scouting the unknown land to the north, training some dragons or firing a kinetic bombardment satellite into orbit. Now, the 4x games that we draw inspiration from obviously don’t equate these things. Each little outpost or town can build its own thing whether it’s a military unit or a new granary. Research happens passively in the background, for instance earning Research Points each turn towards a goal. You can design your civilisation to produce more RP and therefore advance more rapidly.

Now, I know that a few times people were a bit perturbed by exploring some new land taking the same “time” as researching some fundamental facet of science or building a new wind turbine. Obviously, unless your man power is super limited, then these things could easily occur concurrently. Pressing a “research button” also seemed to feel off for many.

I’ve thought about how to change this, and I’ve yet to come up with a good solution. Does each turn have a movement, building and research phase? Do I run these all at once or one at a time? The best solution I came up with was to have research initially behave as it did in Space Australia (i.e. taking an action), but once the labs were established shift to a passive accumulation (players vote on the new tech / tech field, having a vague idea of the goal and then earn RP each turn towards it. Spending a turn to focus on research gives them a give surge forwards, i.e. one big enough to outright complete the early techs). The downside to that is that if the players hold off buying the labs then they my end up being able to take researching that doesn’t do anything. It’s more book-keeping, but I think it’s for the best.

In Space Australia, I wanted exploration to be a challenge (I had a little table for what was encountered in each hex and would roll the usual 3d6+morale to see what bonuses they found. There was a chance that they could have various incidents from poor rolls.). This seemed at odds with allowing any kind of passive exploration. Despite this, it didn’t make sense that a colony would advance and yet still have these mysterious wilds. In the end, somebody suggested having members of the population venture out into the wild to stake a claim on the unknown wilds in the hope of being bought off later. It was a reasonable compromise. Looking back, I should have made an “explorer” trait/unit that would work passively to explore hexes (have it take 3 rounds or something, compared to the explore action that could uncover up to 2 hexes a round by the end of the game.

Ignoring the book-keeping and voting problems, the “best” solution would be to use command points. This is an extra resources related to the colony’s leadership/efficiency, it would start low at perhaps just one point meaning that any action needed their full attention, but slowly they would establish themselves and gain extra CP and therefore be able to do more on a turn (building multiple things, researching, exploring, etc.).

VIII. Should there be any options at all?

Presenting the players with a list of options to choose from at the bottom of each post isn’t essential in CYOA games. Some are more like adventure games where after a post, the players voice what they’d like to do without restriction “Pick up the crab!”, “Wear the crab as a hat”, “Eat the crab”, and so forth. The DM then just picks what he considers the best/most amusing/most popular response and carries on. While I can’t see it working for a 4X, it is absolutely the way to go with some games and it’s important to step back and make sure you’re not just putting yourself and your players in a straight jacket.

IX. That is some incoherent rambling

It really is. This made more sense when I was thinking about it. Less so now that I’ve written anything. Hopefully somebody else has something interesting to say.

X. Will there be a Space Australia follow up?

Maybe! I don't think I'll do one though, so somebody else can deal with the mysterious operation Grey Sky and the revenge of the Silent Colony. I'd like to do another game down the line, but I don't think I'd do a 4X. I think I'd do something more character driven. Maybe something clichéd and fantasy. Or a guy surviving an apocalypse.

XI. I'm lazy, can't a computer do the monkey work for me?
Thanks to ElectrictyLikesMe yes, yes it can. He's put together a couple of python scripts that should make things easier by sorting combat, tracking state and even counting votes. Here's a link:
https://www.dropbox.com/s/9cv4m87gh11dh29/thecompany-src.zip

Mojo_Jojo on
Homogeneous distribution of your varieties of amuse-gueule
«13

Posts

  • ElderlycrawfishElderlycrawfish Registered User regular
    Is it weird that I find the behind-the-scenes-of-the-game nearly as fascinating as the game itself?

    And wow, we gave you way too much work to make this thing happen, Mojo. I'm glad you were up to the challenge, and a good enough sport to put up with the silliness.

    And really, what was up with the trains?

    PSN/Steam - Elderlycrawfish
  • The EnderThe Ender Registered User regular
    I have to say, I think the CYOA format is much friendlier in a forum environment than a more traditional pen & paper format, because open-ended participation means:

    a) The game is never going to suddenly tank because one or two players stop posting / lose interest / drop out whatever.
    b) Everyone who wants to play can just jump in and play. No rules explanation, no commitment, no submitting an application and / or waiting in a player queue.


    I think I would run the voting differently, though. Random ballot selection would probably be both easier to manage and, in some respects, a little more engaging than just going with the majority vote.

    TOG Solid wrote:
    If that guy wasn't white he would have gotten popped by so many tasers simultaneously that Marvel could use that as the new origin for Electro.
  • electricitylikesmeelectricitylikesme Registered User regular
    It's cool to see that you thought of/started doing most of the things I idly speculated about when playing it.

    Personally if I was ever going to do a game with options though, I think I'd first bang out a Python script to count the votes for me automatically since that'd be the part I'd worry most about making mistakes on.

    Re: actions
    It was a little surprising when you mentioned you'd hoped to have it wrapped up by turn 100. With the way the actions system worked I thought that seemed a bit optimistic, if only because the planet-map was huge relative to the speed with which we could explore/build.

    Especially once we got all war-ey, I was really hoping we'd find a way to do unit production AND something else as the same time. Personally I think there would've been value in letting us roll 5 actions each turn: Infrastructure Production, Unit Production, Research, Explore and Attack each turn. There were enough constraints via power, food and population to keep things in check.

  • Mojo_JojoMojo_Jojo When life gives you lemons... ...eat your delicious lemonsRegistered User regular
    I agree with entirely about CYOA being super-suited to forum games. A few of you played from start to finish, others popped in every now and again, others played for 20 turns and then lost interest. And that is great. All you need is a couple of people to vote every day and you're golden. I was amazed at how we were getting at least twenty votes consistently.

    Selecting a random vote would be a bit chaotic, I think. At several key junctures in Space Australia we had people voting suicidally, selecting one of them would have led to a cheap game over (such as provoking the Erde to nuke you). Hoodie went with the first option to get 3 votes, that makes sense although I didn't like it.

    Honestly, counting the votes was never a huge deal. I just did a tally on a scrap of paper (my flat is now covered in these). That said, some of the players did seem to just change their vote to whatever was the majority, that struck me as odd behaviour.

    Somebody also mentioned wishing that another of the factions/pods had been selected. I was pretty surprised when Pod 6 won, lots of people is kind of a liability. Then again it gave rise to the death mines and the like (and you only had to deal with too small a population on two occasions, although with the homesteading you were rapidly consuming them). Something I found strange was your constant references to ReEarth as hippies or agrarians. It never seemed to fit the facts of a cold group of biotechnologists. It's a shame I didn't get all the factions together earlier, it would have been nice to see some more interplay between them and let me build stronger personalities for them.

    My goal with this thread is to point out that there's no real planning involved in these games, so if somebody looks at Space Australia and thinks they could do better, then that is brilliant and you should do it. Now.

    Homogeneous distribution of your varieties of amuse-gueule
  • ElderlycrawfishElderlycrawfish Registered User regular
    I think we started calling them hippies before we actually met them, but by then the label had already stuck. Actually, it might have been a mistake in some regard, as I want to say that we were referring to the other pod (the happiness one that had formed one half of Erde) as the hippies at first, but somehow that label migrated on to ReEarth. And probably because anyone who wasn't born with a shiv in their hand was obviously a filthy hippy.

    Honestly, I think the fact that you were pretty fluid and with no heavy planning, and willing to adapt to the often curious choices your players made is what gave this so much staying power. You mentioned hoodie's Treepeople CYOA, which took a similar track but ultimately didn't go the distance (hoodie did a great job on that nonetheless, as did freakish light when he took over). But you take a look at the trainwreck of the CYOA that took place before that, the Fishpeople one, and you can see how easily the game could unravel if the person running it couldn't cope with the choices the participants made.

    PSN/Steam - Elderlycrawfish
  • wiltingwilting Registered User regular
    edited February 2012
    Perhaps a solution to the actions per turn more broadly would be along the lines of labs/ministry of war. Once you build a structure associated with the action, then it happens automatically.

    Survey Outpost - Sends out explorers every turn
    Iron Men Barracks - Builds strength 1 Iron Men every turn
    Air Ship Hanger - Builds XXXX every four turns

    etc

    One thing I would like to know Mojo is how you determined the actions of the other colonies? Was it entirely random? Did you make them more likely to do certain things? Were you keeping track of all their numbers/events all along, or did it only become relevant when we made contact?

    And regardless of mechanics Mojo it was your fiction that was the highlight of the updates.

    wilting on
  • Mojo_JojoMojo_Jojo When life gives you lemons... ...eat your delicious lemonsRegistered User regular
    edited February 2012
    It's cool to see that you thought of/started doing most of the things I idly speculated about when playing it.
    Sometimes it was you guessing where things were going, other times I was merrily using the ideas you guys spoke about. It was nice to see some people realise what was going on much earlier than the others. Then again, there were times when lots of you all jumped to weird conclusions, but that was also interesting.
    Especially once we got all war-ey, I was really hoping we'd find a way to do unit production AND something else as the same time. Personally I think there would've been value in letting us roll 5 actions each turn: Infrastructure Production, Unit Production, Research, Explore and Attack each turn. There were enough constraints via power, food and population to keep things in check.

    That would have easily added an hour to each post. I couldn't have done that. 5 actions a turn also would have been difficult to have you vote on, the interplay between the choices would have been nightmarish.

    Mojo_Jojo on
    Homogeneous distribution of your varieties of amuse-gueule
  • Mojo_JojoMojo_Jojo When life gives you lemons... ...eat your delicious lemonsRegistered User regular
    edited February 2012
    wilting wrote:
    Perhaps a solution to the actions per turn more broadly would be along the lines of labs/ministry of war. Once you build a structure associated with the action, then it happens automatically.

    Survey Outpost - Sends out explorers every turn
    Iron Men Barracks - Builds strength 1 Iron Men every turn
    Air Ship Hanger - Builds XXXX every four turns

    etc
    Yeah, I don't like that, obviously it's just a personal preference thing though. As I said in the OP, I had a structure in mind to give you a steady flow of militia and the auto-explore structure, but granting you your top-line units for free (time-wise, the complications of resource/population payments would have been a bit of an issue) seems a bit worthless. It would have just increased the numbers in each battle for each side, effectively changing nothing.
    One thing I would like to know Mojo is how you determined the actions of the other colonies? Was it entirely random? Did you make them more likely to do certain things? Were you keeping track of all their numbers/events all along, or did it only become relevant when we made contact?
    Running all of the different colonies/aliens each turn would have been time spent for no real reward, so I only worried about turn by turn actions when you were in direct competition (for instance, the Erde war, I was tracking their military output / research turn by turn) but otherwise I just generalised and had them grow every so often based on their outlook.

    An exception was with the space stuff, where I started that once you got near the tech and kept track of how long they'd need for each launch and so on. You missed quite a lot by being pretty slow off the mark (and then by turning off the space centre almost as soon as you built it), which was a shame, but it did mean that you could have actually beaten the silent colony onto the President Palin and I'd have come up with another ending.

    And regardless of mechanics Mojo it was your fiction that was the highlight of the updates.
    Is that a veiled insult? Thanks you for the various bits of input you had along the way. It was good to have players super keen on avoiding this becoming a car crash.

    Mojo_Jojo on
    Homogeneous distribution of your varieties of amuse-gueule
  • wiltingwilting Registered User regular
    I suppose running too many things on automatic would make the vote each turn feel less important.

    It seemed like there was good balance between quiet periods and crisis periods, I put a lot of that down to design by you by maybe it was just happenstance, and it was the fiction that created the sense of tension/relief. I'm thinking of things like the storm ending at the same time as we defeated NATOthulu.
    Mojo_Jojo wrote: »
    Is that a veiled insult? Thanks you for the various bits of input you had along the way. It was good to have players super keen on avoiding this coming a car crash.

    Haha it wasn't intended to be, feel free to take offence if you like. Like I said in the other thread, I thought your mechanic choices broadly made sense in terms of simplicity for you, and I don't think that is necessarily a bad thing, limitations sparking creativity and all that. I agree about the combat though.

    Its nice to know I wasn't too annoying.

    So you don't have a tech tree document or anything for us?

  • Mojo_JojoMojo_Jojo When life gives you lemons... ...eat your delicious lemonsRegistered User regular
    The tech tree was never committed to paper in whole. You can mostly likely reconstruct it from the game (if you look here, a friend who was too lazy to sign up for an account here has produced an abridged version of the game that makes finding the bits and pieces easier).

    An impossible dream would be to run a similar game with only human factions (say, one per forum). That would need a proper level playing field though, and would be too time consuming for me to manage.

    Homogeneous distribution of your varieties of amuse-gueule
  • wiltingwilting Registered User regular
    Thanks.

    Yeah I was wondering about a human only game myself. Even if you automated a lot of the mechanics, you would either have to write a lot of the fiction in advance or, more likely, have a different GM for every faction.

  • HaroquenHaroquen Registered User
    I'm still thrilled with how it all went and glad I wasn't too mired in exams and papers to miss the final voting and the complete conclusion.

    That said, did you have any idea what each colony would be before hand or just grow them out in the dark and fill in their personalities later?

    For instance, the Erde facist duo-colony came as a bit of a suprise twist. The Corporate megastate however was a more comfortably predictable note, while the Science colony seemed to have an even foot on things from the get go. The ReEarther's were always by-the-posters hippies because of their agri-forming ways and non-violent approach to things, but managed despite our best rhetoric to remain what you envisioned them (assuming one reads clinicly from the text).

    Also, we never really diversified militaristicly. SA was all about the Iron men. Did we miss out on anything besides the delicious Ministry of War that you had planned? For example, I'm sure the Scientists built scads of fast-attack to be able to troll around like they did, so could we have been the mighty mobile roadwarriors if we'd followed a similar path?

    Also, I feel like we missed a plothook with the She-Hulks. Any comment?

  • Mojo_JojoMojo_Jojo When life gives you lemons... ...eat your delicious lemonsRegistered User regular
    edited February 2012
    Oh, you guys just seemed to really love the Iron Men so I didn't want to give you a unit that was "better". They were just a convict-flavoured version of what would have been tanks (again, it really stemmed from you being able to throw men at a problem). If you had built lots of combat rovers then I'd have come up with something to compliment them.

    I was tempted to have some kind of big honking mecha (Pod 7 originally contained something more like an Eva rather than Necrons) but I decided it wasn't in-keeping with the setting.

    The She-hulks weren't actually explained, you're right. What happened was that some of the women infected with planet-sickness mutated. It was actually your decision to throw the med supplies from the Pod at them that caused the change. One of the batches of antivirals was in fact riddled with experimental mutagens from Earth. The idea was that the convict pod would be better labourers (if you'd not picked them then I was going to have them become some kind of hilarious sci-fi megaprison with their burly slaves). If you'd quarantined them, built some labs, and researched them then you could have started producing biotech abominations of your own (again, at a cost of harming any relationships with other colonies, especially ReEarth).

    As an alternate ending, I had the She-hulks siding with the HRH Nexus as some kind of emergent faction (there were a few pieces related to this, like the increasing power of the HRH Nexus and using it to decode those datacores that you could have done more slowly but manually. Pod 8 was intended to be able to shut down the other pods remotely during its efforts to take over the planet, but given the EM background it wasn't so simple, either way, the HRH Nexus was keeping an ace up its sleeve, just in case)

    I kind of knew the personalities I was planning for the various factions. They got tweaked a bit, so they didn't end up being too close to what you ended up as.

    Mojo_Jojo on
    Homogeneous distribution of your varieties of amuse-gueule
  • HaroquenHaroquen Registered User
    Knowing us, we'd have bred a super-soldier army and hid it in LAVA until the time was right. Then died in a Class 5 storm caused by recklessly broadcasting our world-domination proclamation.

    That said, a pair of idle comments dawned on me at breakfast. An all-human-factions game would probably go well in a binary Good v. Evil high fantasy CYOA with one forum playing such a side and the other the other. After all, we bold inhabitants of Space Australia didn't really come to the conclusion that we were so much the bad guys as "blisteringly misunderstood" until about the time we were trying to build a Zombie Army and flying Airships.

    The other is, just how many endings/end game scenarios did you have in mind? Personally, I feel like while the game could have easily gone on for another maybe, thirty? or so turns, this was infact a good place to hang up. Nothing says "Victory Condition" like stopping the end of the world. (Or rather, "Loss Condition" if you view the Silent Colony escaping at the same time to be our big failure. It's a grey area.)

    Also, two cents, I feel like the way the actions were paced fit well for the RP styled narrative of a CYOA. Sure, it'd be nice to explore/build/research all at once, but then it's more like playing Civ:Table Top, not "Dear jesus, keep NATOthulu away at night and the HRH nexus complacent." Mechanics to facilitate that as it drags on are fine, but the single vote-single action mechanic, with regular modular subvotes was just the right set of pacing in my opinion.

  • wiltingwilting Registered User regular
    edited February 2012
    @Mojo_Jojo

    I've assembled a list of all the tech of Space Australia, roughly in the order it happened. It doesn't include other colony tech. Headings are research/building/events and underneath are things they unlock. Some player generated stuff I've listed as events or simultaneously generated tech as unlockers where that makes sense. I didn't include any diplomacy stuff.

    Some stuff I wasn't sure about. Did we unlock Ion Storm research simply by being exposed to multiple storms/observing the relationship with Comm Tower use, for example?

    Some of the unlocks seemed a bit tenuously linked but I guess you had to keep us going!

    I'll rearrange it into trees, including speculation on other Colony tech and the like at some point in the future. May I ask what the last Fundamental Science, revealed when we researched fusion power, that we didn't unlock before the end was, and how to unlock it?

    EDIT: Ugh ok my list didn't translate well from Notepad to the forums, but you get the idea.
    Spoiler:

    EDIT: Ok coming up with a tech tree is hard. Take Planetology. It starts out fairly straightforward with xenobotanics and fungus (radiation clean up is randomly in there but ok), but then has all these other independent elements with geology, ion storms, volcanoes, NATOthulu and canals. I'm guessing unified theory required all of those except maybe volcanoes.

    wilting on
  • TipharethTiphareth Registered User regular
    heh, I guess I was the most vocal about ignoring ERDEs nuke. My reasoning was that it seemed like a lie they would try to pull as they noticed they were getting absolutely trashed.

    I really liked the world you cooked up, I'm a real sucker for those kinds of alien worlds. Also regarding mechanics, it did what it had to do. Only having one action per turn might not be realistic, but it makes each choice have that much more of an impact. In a way it helped foister discussion and forcing us to convince eachother what was the best option at any given time. If we had been given 5 production choices, I think we'd have a lot less interaction between players.

    Your thought on having basic infantry being automated was a nice idea. It is a shame we never did unlock that. Oh, well.

  • TelnaiorTelnaior Registered User
    Incidentally, what exactly did you think was so bad about the combat system? Thinking about it, it seems like a rather good implementation? XD

  • Mojo_JojoMojo_Jojo When life gives you lemons... ...eat your delicious lemonsRegistered User regular
    edited February 2012
    Wow, I didn't think you'd actually do it Wilting. Some of the links were tenuous (as it was more of a case of me forgetting to include an option on one turna dn then just sneaking it in down the line).
    Telnaior wrote:
    Incidentally, what exactly did you think was so bad about the combat system? Thinking about it, it seems like a rather good implementation? XD
    It was lots of rolling dice (one per size) but without any chance for an especially dramatic outcome. That was bad in two ways, one, given the number of dice results always approached the average and two it didn't give me anything to work with for the narrative.

    There's a lesson there, and it's not to start a game without considering how you'll resolve combat until the players are trying to fight things.


    And more importantly, The Ender has started his own game, with random vote selection. Hurray!

    Mojo_Jojo on
    Homogeneous distribution of your varieties of amuse-gueule
  • wiltingwilting Registered User regular
    edited February 2012
    @Mojo_Jojo

    Planetology.png

    EDIT: LoL at typos: "XenobotanTics"

    wilting on
  • Mojo_JojoMojo_Jojo When life gives you lemons... ...eat your delicious lemonsRegistered User regular
    That is super cool.

    It does highlight the madness of the tech tree though. I remember quite often being stuck between which category to place a technology under. Looking back aside from a bonus for the first one you got to level 10, they didn't mean anything. If it did it all again, I'd change that somehow. Also, I think the radiation cleanup was just triggered by finding some radiation that needed cleaning though?

    Homogeneous distribution of your varieties of amuse-gueule
  • wiltingwilting Registered User regular
    edited February 2012
    I thought it wasn't going to work at all at first and there would be crossing lines everywhere. I forget if Ion Storm Harvesting was planetology or industry, I just left it out.

    EDIT: Bugger it was Planetology

    Yeah but Radiation Clean Up seemed to unlock Xenofungus so I had to make it part of the tree. Maybe you just didn't put in Xenofungus until later. Radiation Clean Up should probably be independent and Xenofungus should follow from Anti-Fungal systems.

    The tree is meant is represent how things appeared to go in the game, as opposed to an ideal-type.

    EDIT: Fixed

    Planetology2.png

    wilting on
  • Lawful EvilLawful Evil Registered User regular
    Wow. I guess making a real tech tree is hard when random things are requested by the players sometimes. I'm sure the fertility control wouldn't have been produced if we weren't overpopulated at one point. Good job at making the game flow really well, Mojo.

    Also, I'd have to agree with wilting that one of the hooks of Space Australia was the writing. It gave life to the game and made it a lot more exciting to read the updates.

    Do not believe that the impossible exists. That is why you fail.
  • wiltingwilting Registered User regular
    edited February 2012
    @Mojo_Jojo

    Any idea what comes after fusion power?

    fundamentalsci.png

    EDIT: Whoops 'satellite launch' shouldn't be there.

    wilting on
  • CanadianWolverineCanadianWolverine Registered User regular
    I just finished reading the game and now this thread - thank you.

    Now, if I may, what if a game similar to this where to have automation and focus. It seemed like your game almost had it happen but the lucky rolls just weren't there with places like LAVA getting free tech (oh man, when those scientists realized their lives were done and started kissing, I burst out laughing, that was pure gold) or the growth of the grass which seemed to never naturally fan out but then later on automation worked with the expansion.

    Yeah, I really think those frontiersmen staking claims that could then be bought, I think that highlights that automation can work and still have to make hard decisions between the different needs and wants of the colony.

    My take on that would be to mean, in a future game where a system has areas of status automate always but players choose a focus for a boost to a particular area that turn would result in easy calculation on the part of the GM and possibly an easier way of voting as well.

    Perhaps it would look something like this

    Choose an category to focus on from our available resources:
    A +1
    B +1
    C +1

    Your choice gets +1
    - Behind the scenes, you could have a threshold number in mind for the desired goal based on how difficult you think it should be.

    You could even introduce nuanced scarcity by making the choice more extreme by saying you could choose one and take its + and add it to another, so it looks like:
    Choose a category's resources to use for another, you choose to give A -> C
    A +0
    B +1
    C +2

    Then you could have secret thresholds or reveal a threshold with percentages complete or events.

    You could also determine difficulty, thresholds for advancement could be something like:
    Basic 1, Simple 2, General 3, Advanced 5, Great 7, Unique 11, Rare 13 ... or whatever seems appropriate.

    This could potentially make your game shorter as well, at least tech wise, if you desired as well.

    Oh well, its late, and if these mechanics don't make sense, I blame it on ... me being dumb in all likelihood. It came to me in haze when you were discussing the different ways combat mechanics could have been better resolved behind the scenes. I mean, I'm sure some one might be able to help me point out how dice could be introduced into it as well, perhaps instead of "Your choice gets +x" it could be "Your choice gets D6" or something but then that doesn't seem like it would match well with costs of resources, whatever form those may be in, to have it be random may come across as unfair exchange, maybe some combo could be struck to show proficiency and efficiency.

    steam_sig.png
  • wiltingwilting Registered User regular
    edited February 2012
    Brainwave/alteration of my earlier suggestion; what if certain unique ministry structures let you perform an action in that group independent from normal actions.

    - Survey Outpost: Lets you explore once a turn without using an action
    - Ministry of War: Lets you build Military Units/Research Military tech once a turn without using an action
    - Ministry of Industry: Lets you build mines/Research Industural tech once a turn without using an action
    - Ministry of Planetology: Lets you build farms/Research Planetology once a turn without using an action
    - Ministry of Fundamental Science: Lets you build power plants/Research Fundamental Science once a turn without using an action.

    That pretty much covers all actions though. The spare original action would be open as normal but I'd be inclined to move the extranormal things that dont normally count as actions into actions; launching an attack or launching rockets would use up your military action (but you could still research military or build a unit using your regular action), researching Natothulu/She-Hulks would use up a Planetology action, hooking up scientists to HRH nexus would use up a Fundamental Science action, choosing safe/death mining would be an Industry action etc.

    The number of actions available to players expand, but they still have to make choices, and it will be a slow expansion dependent on researching and building the relevant structure. The early game would be slowed down, and building a ministry of particular type would be a significant choice/advantage/specialisation, the abilities of the colony grow as it expands.

    This expands the ability of the colony in a selective way rather than broadly by using command points, and if you restrict it so you can only build like 2 or 3 of the above buildings, then it would add an element of choice/colony specialisation. (Or maybe place some finite fairly rare requirement on the building of one of them, like number of colony pods controlled or number of major population centres (colony pods/biodomes.)

    I'd be inclined to introduce some new things for players to do to take up the choices though, so they dont just build a mine every turn for example. [Train track/Road/Border construction spring to mind]

    Yeah, I like this idea a lot.

    Hmm maybe diplomacy/trade should count as an action as well. Maybe the 'Survey Outpost' could be a Ministry of Colony/Trade that allows exploration/diplomacy/trade once per turn without using an action. Good to keep an element of choice.

    wilting on
  • Mojo_JojoMojo_Jojo When life gives you lemons... ...eat your delicious lemonsRegistered User regular
    @Wilting after fusion power I was going to head towards nanotech, but I was waiting/hoping for some terraforming research first so I could set up some baseline tech. That said, you'd kind of hit the end of some of the tech trees (or at least I was having to think a great deal more about it in those final days)

    Structures to do things without using an action is an interesting idea, but you'd still need to poll the players for exactly what want wanted. And each of those structures is at least two more vote options. Doing it via a majority vote would be hard, but switching to The Ender's random ballot would work fine I suppose, although it would raise the barrier to entry as each player needs to ensure that they don't try and spend more than they can in a single round.

    @CanadianWolverine Is that just for tech? Or everything? So, to use the 4X example, everything is always expanding? That gives the game more of a feel of being a governor. I like that, you don't have total control over the people and you just try to nudge them towards your goals. It might be incredibly frustrating in practise though.


    Something else that occurred to me was when Tech Trading came up. I ended up just ruling out the idea because the various potential solutions either resulted in uncontrolled tech booms or lots of annoying tracking of events. Essentially, the issue was that once Space Australia and ReEarth (two factions) became very friendly, why did they they start exchanging ideas? ReEarth had the lead in biotech/terraforming where Space Australia had the lead in actually building things. In most 4X computer games, the issue with tech trading is that once you give a tech to a friend, he'll sell it to the enemy because the AI is stupid. Or, he'll turn on you in the late game because the AI sees you are about to "win". Both are solutions that don't really fit the bill here.

    In the case of Tech based on Research Points, you can just have a trade agreement which gives both sides boosted RP incomes without any direct X for Y trading. This is a decent solution. Sadly, I wasn't using RP.

    This left us with a few ideas. The best one that came up was that trading a tech wouldn't take an action, but would block the labs for a turn or two and incur a few costs as scientists from the factions chat and physically travel between colonies. I wasn't exactly happy with this, but it seemed reasonable. There was a side issue that I kept quiet about, I wasn't strictly adhering to identical tech trees for the various factions (to give them diversity based on how they would approach the same problems based on their mind sets), and more importantly, I wasn't actually tracking where everybody was on the research tree (that only existed in my head).

    Looking back, I suppose I should've done this like Dr. Easton's random special projects (like bioweapons and zombie soldiers) with them just being little sub actions to take on foreign expertise for a small bonus in some area.

    Homogeneous distribution of your varieties of amuse-gueule
  • wiltingwilting Registered User regular
    edited February 2012
    Yeah I kind of assumed the tech trees didn't go much further, that you were coming up with things as you needed them with a general plan, I just asked about post-fusion because the unknown tech popped up.

    With regard to the structures, let say you have two of them. You have:
    Spoiler:

    If the irregular non-action choices would be rolled into actions, I don't think it would actually impact the number of different choices too much, we regularly had two to three things to vote on. [Interesting to consider using the Ministry of War to attack multiple hexes in a turn].

    That's interesting about different tech trees for different factions. When I asked before if you determined the actions of the other colonies every turn, I was thinking of a system to determine their actions, starting at a base of having an equal chance to do any available action each turn, with a significantly increased chance for circumstantial things (building farms when low on food, military when at war, whatever), and a significantly increased chance for things 'tagged' as being the particular interest of the colony (research for the science colony, for example).

    Yeah I understand how the tech trading was problematic for you. I was trying to come up with ways to improve our benefits from our relationship with ReEarth. When I suggested asking them about the genetic virus thingy, I did it because my ultimate aim was for complete union of the two colonies, and I figured it was necessary to allow the populations to mix in order to achieve that. At that stage the mindset amongst the players was very much one of making sure we were the biggest faction on the map to stomp the Erde. The silent colony's activities were a curiosity that didn't seem that important relative to the cold war.

    wilting on
  • The EnderThe Ender Registered User regular
    So, my CYOA game (linked in the OP) has come to a halt, having become too complex for me to manage manually.

    What awful place did this game come from?

    I've been writing a PDF for a tabletop-esque strategy game that's designed for play on a forum. The two biggest issues that I've been hung-up on were:

    1) How do you make the game accessible to as many participants as possible?
    2) Is there a way to circumvent the fact that players tend to drop-out of forum games, for a variety of reason, causing them to fail?

    When I saw Mojo's 4X game, I suddenly wasn't hung-up on either question anymore. :D

    I was eager to test things out, so I threw together the game.


    So, how'd you think it went?

    Very clunky. I'm glad I ran this to try out some ideas.

    The parts I thought worked well most players seemed to agree with: the implementation of a goodie hut economy system, where each location visited could be popped for different results, worked as well as I hoped. The pacing seemed about right after I eliminated the 'Ticks' time tracking mechanic.

    The biggest problem on my end was the scaling of the game. There were too many resources going in too many directions to keep track of, there were too many agents running missions, too many vehicles being manufactured to keep track of, and just too much going-on overall. A game like this, if you expect to run it manually, really needs to limit itself to small numbers.

    Visual aids are also a must-have thing. I can't imagine what it was like trying to dissect all of the information each turn for the players who weren't just copy-pasting other people's orders, and there was a lot of confusion as a result of the 'interface' being a clusterfuck.



    If anyone had specific questions about the game, I'd be happy to answer them.

    TOG Solid wrote:
    If that guy wasn't white he would have gotten popped by so many tasers simultaneously that Marvel could use that as the new origin for Electro.
  • see317see317 Registered User regular
    I enjoyed following your game Ender, but it got too complicated for my tastes pretty early on.
    On the other hand, I withdraw any objection I may have had to the randomized leader system you used. Trying to track all of that and make decisions democratically would have been insane.

    So, as a question, any chance of you running a second Epoch of the KaTs using what you've learned and trying to keep the game a little more managable (maybe, instead of tracking stuff down to individual crew you just track the KaT and the Titans, leaving smaller tanks/infantry to be included as part of the KaT for purposes of combat)? I know there'd be some loss of flavor in not tracking 3 dozen individual units, but I'm sure the whole "not going crazy typing combat up" part would balance things out a bit.

    Ringo wrote: »
    Well except what see317 said. That guy's always wrong.
  • The EnderThe Ender Registered User regular
    So, as a question, any chance of you running a second Epoch of the KaTs using what you've learned and trying to keep the game a little more managable (maybe, instead of tracking stuff down to individual crew you just track the KaT and the Titans, leaving smaller tanks/infantry to be included as part of the KaT for purposes of combat)? I know there'd be some loss of flavor in not tracking 3 dozen individual units, but I'm sure the whole "not going crazy typing combat up" part would balance things out a bit.

    Yes; I've got some fundamentals already laid-out for trial run #2. It'll hopefully also be more accessible for players who thought the first one looked too intimidating. :D

    TOG Solid wrote:
    If that guy wasn't white he would have gotten popped by so many tasers simultaneously that Marvel could use that as the new origin for Electro.
  • Salvation122Salvation122 Registered User regular
    What kind of stuff could asset tokens have been used for?

    Were we as completely fucked as it seemed?

    sig.png
  • electricitylikesmeelectricitylikesme Registered User regular
    The Ender wrote: »
    So, as a question, any chance of you running a second Epoch of the KaTs using what you've learned and trying to keep the game a little more managable (maybe, instead of tracking stuff down to individual crew you just track the KaT and the Titans, leaving smaller tanks/infantry to be included as part of the KaT for purposes of combat)? I know there'd be some loss of flavor in not tracking 3 dozen individual units, but I'm sure the whole "not going crazy typing combat up" part would balance things out a bit.

    Yes; I've got some fundamentals already laid-out for trial run #2. It'll hopefully also be more accessible for players who thought the first one looked too intimidating. :D

    The Ender I've been wondering if you shouldn't have a look at the Google Docs survey function? When you have lots of things to vote on, it might make it easier to tally and manage if you just supply a link and have people select the things they want.

    One other thought: I think you need to change the voting system. We were sort of moving towards a democracy anyway, and I think some way of formalizing that would've been better.

  • Mojo_JojoMojo_Jojo When life gives you lemons... ...eat your delicious lemonsRegistered User regular
    see317 wrote: »
    On the other hand, I withdraw any objection I may have had to the randomized leader system you used. Trying to track all of that and make decisions democratically would have been insane.

    I agree so much so with this. It made absolute sense for the game. It also made the KaT more alien with its bizarre inscrutable goals.

    That said, I think it might have played a part in why I kind of stopped posting and just lurked. I think ELM actually said this in the game at one point, but by the time you've read an update and seen how many options you need to choose from it seems less enticing to actually figure out what you want to do when you have a 1 in n chance to have any impact.

    The way you handled the setting was also bang on. Giving away just the little bits and pieces to imply what was going on was great.

    Homogeneous distribution of your varieties of amuse-gueule
  • TipharethTiphareth Registered User regular
    I actually loved having all these CHOICES and micromanagement. Also coming up with a template for people to copy/paste was fun too. But I had to go over Enders posts a couple times to make sure I didn't miss anything (And I did miss stuff every now and then), the problem was that the game was just too BIG to handle. I'm really looking forward to Enders next one.
    I've also started writing my own.

    Are you planning on running another one Mojo? Your storytelling was amazing. I totally agree with you on the KitKat seeming very alien due to the sparse information presented.

  • rockrngerrockrnger Registered User regular
    So my big question to ender is how did we do? Did we make any really bad decisions?

  • Mojo_JojoMojo_Jojo When life gives you lemons... ...eat your delicious lemonsRegistered User regular
    Tiphareth wrote: »
    I've also started writing my own.
    Pfff, writing. Start it!
    Are you planning on running another one Mojo? Your storytelling was amazing. I totally agree with you on the KitKat seeming very alien due to the sparse information presented.
    I have an idea for one, but my time as a gentleman of leisure is at an end, so it may be hard to find the time.

    The premise is a cyclic dungeon crawl thing. You get as far as you can, die, then there's a metagame bit where you can vote on how to change things for the next time (sort of like the Dark Assembly from the NI games I suppose). The setting is a city where everybody has been turned to stone, and then gradually, one by one, some are turning back and trying to figure out what happened.

    I'm wondering if there's a way I could make something satisfying that only updates weekly. So far, I can't think of a way to do it though.

    Homogeneous distribution of your varieties of amuse-gueule
  • TipharethTiphareth Registered User regular
    Just throwing out ideas, but how about running a game with a co-host where one of you do major updates during the weekend while the other one does smaller events during the week to keep momentum going. Or by yourself, update during weekends and then portion out our options during the week. Say monday/tuesday we vote on building stuff. Wednesday/thursday is military. Friday is research. At weekend you do your thing and post update.

  • The EnderThe Ender Registered User regular
    What kind of stuff could asset tokens have been used for?

    Were we as completely fucked as it seemed?

    Orbital bombardment, instant unit reinforcement, brokering alliances with KaTs, engaging in my elaborate diplomatic model which you guys never made any use of because you never visited other KaTs. :P
    So my big question to ender is how did we do? Did we make any really bad decisions?

    You didn't form a convoy with other KaTs, which is something you were supposed to do before triggering the war. I think the American fleet was going to smash your shit in, to be honest: You didn't have the air force or AAA you were supposed to have.

    TOG Solid wrote:
    If that guy wasn't white he would have gotten popped by so many tasers simultaneously that Marvel could use that as the new origin for Electro.
  • Mojo_JojoMojo_Jojo When life gives you lemons... ...eat your delicious lemonsRegistered User regular
    I think that's a standard lesson from all forum games: The players will utterly resist making contact with other factions even if it would be massively advantageous for them.

    Homogeneous distribution of your varieties of amuse-gueule
  • Lawful EvilLawful Evil Registered User regular
    While I didn't participate in the game, I lurked a good lot for it. It was too complicated for me; it seemed the options were just that, options, and I had no idea how or what my actions would result in. Perhaps the mechanics were just a bit too alien for me, compared to the usual 4X CYOAs we had previously. Still, it was a pretty interesting game, especially once the "building" stage was over.

    Do not believe that the impossible exists. That is why you fail.
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