I know right? Stop the press, some random internet plebe wants to voice their opinion!
So, I recently made a thread about how the AI is giving me grief. I think I've gotten to the point where that is no longer a problem and after playing for a bit I have some suggestions for the game that I think could make it a more thorough experience. These just opinions, remember, not an objective fact, so make of them what you will.
It's pretty long (I just realised this after typing it), but i say it all from a place of love. I like this game. I want it to succeed. These are some of the ways I think it could be improved:
1) More diplomatic options
At the moment I feel like the demands we can make of others is limited. In my most recent game I was busy giving the Yor Collective the collective curbstomp they deserve in one half of the galaxy, while in the other half (where the seat of my empire resides), I was nervously watching as ships from two of my allies were clogging up my influence and parking near my planets and starbases.
Now, if I put my ships in their influence I pretty quickly get a message politely telling me to go away.
But do I have the same option to tell them that?
Not as far as I can tell.
As far as I can tell I can only grin and bear it as dozens of potentially-enemy war vessels just start arranging themselves in my territory, and I can't do anything about it. I don't have an option to tell the faction to pull their ships out of my influence.
If I did have that option then that would be fine - they might listen to me or not depending on how close they are to me and/or the differences in our respective military powers. That's good. That adds depth. It could also be used as a method of intimidation - a potential enemy parking their superior fleet in your territory and then making demands of you and vice versa.
Furthermore when I become a big empire with huge numbers of highly advanced warships and my zone of influence swallows up minor, independent races, I can't bully them. I can't threaten to bring down the military might of the Pwnzor Empire on their heads and bombard their planet back to the stone age (see below) unless they agree to pay me 200 bc a week. I can't extort them or anything, I can't use my military power in ways other than fighting wars, which brings me to....
2) "Diplomatic Incidents", not Instant War
I hate. Hate. Hate. Hate. Hate. Hate the mechanic that if you attack a ship you have immediately declared war on the entire faction to whom that ship belongs. I hate it in Civilisation games I hate it in this game.
I understand the motivation behind it, but instead of it being used as a narrative or tactical tool, it's just an over simplified mechanic.
In the above scenario I outlined how the AI just parks their ships across my territory and I can't do anything about it, even if I don't have an Open Boarders treaty with them. If I had the ability to tell them to bugger off, only for them to say No, then I could attack their ships. As they're in my territory AND I've asked them to leave, attacking them doesn't immediately start a war - it creates a diplomatic incident. The faction becomes incensed that I'd shoot at them, but will get the point and pull their ships out of my territory (in essence I called their bluff). Or they'll escalate it and declare war on me, incurring a diplomatic penalty with all other factions in the game because they look like bullies (or bonus with the Drenign/Yor etc).
This could be used as a really valuable tool and it could make technologies much more valuable.
So far I've never used the Signal Jammer (or whatever its called) technology. Never seen the need for it when I can just brute-force my way over enemies (which is quite satisfying, I might add).
Buuuut, if my fleet has a Signal Jammer in it and I order that fleet to attack another factions ship in neutral territory, then the Signal Jammer stops that ship from alerting the faction as to who killed them. Therefore the faction loses the ship, questions you about it, but has nothing else to go on. But if you're the only faction that uses Kinetic weapons and they investigate the site of their ships destruction and find it was destroyed by Kinetic weapons, well you gain a diplomatic penalty with them as they think you're attacking their ships but they don't have enough evidence to out-right declare war against you.
Maybe an enemy of yours is the only faction to use Missile Weapons. You really want to drag your ally into your war with them, so you build some ships with Signal Jammers and missile weapons (taking the time to research them), and you attack your allies ship. They don't know who did it at first so you go blameless, then they investigate and find out it was destroyed by missile weapons - they declare war on your enemy and join the war on your side. You then receive Malevolent points for being such a manipulative bastard.
But maybe if they've got Spies/Operatives in your territory, they learn it was you all along!
Do you see? Do you see where I'm going with this?
You could go one step further and have an option for your ships to "deliberately miss" when going into battle. Maybe another faction is clogging up your territory, so you send a Huge battleship in, tell them to deliberately miss, and get them to take pot-shots at a smaller group of ships. You then use diplomacy to tell the other faction to clear off, otherwise next time your gunners will be more accurate. Intimidated by your military score, the other faction relents and pulls their ships out. You then get Pragmatic points.
Or maybe you encounter a rival factions ships out in neutral territory, so you order your ships to "hurt them but don't destroy them", which (depending on different in military score) might serve to intimidate the other faction.
See what I mean? This could be used as a real tactical and diplomatic tool depending on how you use it and what type of empire you're going for.
Even as a simple brute bully. I bring along my Invictus-class warships, heavy battlecruisers with drones, death rays, massive shielding, super fast, the works, and threaten the minor race of ET rip offs to hand over Xeno Entertainment or I'll bomb their planet and dance on the ashes...nope, sorry, I can only declare war and then proceed to stare at their planet until I get transports up there to invade it.
Which brings me to my third point...
3) Don't make it all or nothing with space battles.
My ships can't retreat from battle.
Yup. Maybe I'm missing something, but so far I have no option to retreat from battle. I once had one of my super-fast spy-ships (movement 50) got attacked by an enemy fleet of fatasses with 5 move. They destroyed it, of course, because I couldn't retreat. I couldn't put that 50 move to use and have the ship speed off - it was in a battle, therefore it was dead.
Expand this to other encounters, and space battles always, always, always result with the complete destruction of one fleet. All of them die. There is no retreat. There is no surrender. There is no escape. Just death.
Maybe if something like a "hyperdrive suppressor" technology was available where you could equip ships with a gravity well that'd stop enemy ships from running away I'd believe it. But at the moment that none of your ships can ever retreat from a battle or emerge damaged and bruised but not dead (if their side lost) is very strange. That all ships fight to the death is very weird to me.
That you can't take a chance to try and run away when an enemy forces a fight onto you is also weird. I don't want my scouts dying but they always wander into unknown territory and get set upon by assholes/pirates, who, because I don't have the option to flee, always blow the shit out of them.
Once again this limits tactical options.
Maybe I have ships that are very fast, very heavy with firepower but are rather fragile. So I have the idea to have a few of them run up to an enemy fleet, engage it for a bit and destroy a couple of ships but then run away. My strategy involves slowly whittling the enemy down until finishing them off. But god help me if they bring along a you-can't-retreat-technology jammer, because then I'm really screwed in a stand up fight.
But that option isn't available. Space Battles are the Thunderdome - two fleets enter, one fleet leaves.
Even the narrative value is lost. Does anyone remember watching Deep Space Nine during the Dominion War? When whole fleets of allied Klingon/Federation ships would get the snot kicked out of them, resulting in images of their damaged, bruised and smoking ships limping back into port after the thrashing they received. It's visually very powerful. I know completely wiping out a fleet is pretty heavy stuff, but the value of that as a narrative and mechanical tool for the game is lost when that's the norm.
4) Shrinking Influence and Conquered Planets
So in my most recent game myself and the Yor Collective were the two superpowers of the galaxy engaged in a Cold War that eventually spilled over into an Open War. Because I'm a human and possess a few brain cells, I designed and built ships to directly counter the Yors favored armor and weapon type.
Needless to say I wiped the floor with them.
Oh it was glorious. Fleet after fleet after fleet of those robotic dumbasses went up in smoke as I carved a swathe through their territory. It was so much fun - the exact kind of meglomaniacal power fantasy I always wanted. The casualties for the Yor were astronomical, while I only lost a handful of ships.
Then I brought in my transport ships to start conquering their planets. This I also did quite well, conquering 5 planets within the space of a few turns.
And then I lost them all in 1 turn.
How? They flipped.
Oh and I lost the 50 billion soldiers I had on that planet. That's the way it works, isn't it? I reduced their population to 0 (a.k.a I genocided their ass), moved in 50 billion of my troops yet somehow they all went to sleep because the planet "flipped" all my transports in orbit died and all 50 billion of my troops died...wtf?
They were still within the zone of Influence that the Yor had. Despite taking 1/4 of their empire from them, the planets I conquered were still surrounded by influence and, because they were recently conquered, their Happiness was abysmally low, they flipped easier than a burger.
So...how the heck am I supposed to conquer their whole empire if I want to?
By this method I'd have to kill all of their ships and build up a HUGE force of transports to stand by near all of their planets, ready to attack and conquer them. Otherwise the zone of influence will still be around and they'll just flip their planets back.
The zone of influence should shrink, damnit, when nearby planets are conquered. It should not continuously grow and remain so until ALL of the factions planets are gone. Furthermore if you reduce an enemies planet population to 0 that should should mean you reduced it to 0 - a.k.a you killed every last one of them. The planet can't flip because now the only breathing things on it are your people - why the hell would they be influenced and join the culture of an enemy whose planets they just invaded and conquered? Recently conquered planets should be immune to flipping.
Speaking of invading planets...
5) Planetary Bombardment
So I can only use Tidal Bombardment/Mass Drivers when I'm sending ground troops to invade a planet.
I've got massive, huge capital ships in orbit armed with death rays - why can't they bomb the shit out of the planet and turn its surface to glass, killing everyone? Then I send in the ground troops to cossack dance their way over our enemies graves.
Again, this is potentially a huge tactical tool that's being over-looked. You can only tidal bombard a planet or something when you're invading it with group troops.
Imagine you have a neutral faction that you want to force into an alliance or to give you money or technology or something. You bring your ships over, park them near their planets, your huge, massive ships bristling with weapons, and you threaten the other faction that if you don't get what you want you'll reduce their planet to slag. The planet itself will be intact, but it'll lose tiles and big chunks of the population each bombardment.
This makes ships scarier as I've been in games before where I've had faction ships that I'm at war with waltzing through my territory and I didn't care. I didn't have any starbases/shipyards for them to blow up so they couldn't do anything to me. All that this huge fleet of warships armed with devastating weaponry could do was stare at my planet and shake their fists at it.
But I'd be a lot more scared of them if they came along and did a planetary bombardment - destroying buildings, wiping tiles off the map and killing billions of people.
Oh yes, I'd be scared of them then. They pose a massive threat if they get inside my territory rather than just a minor inconvenience until my own ships arrive to give them a sound trashing.
Maybe this isn't even an enemy. Maybe I had a planet that rebelled against me (I don't know why they would as I'm such a kind, generous leader...) so I send a few ships along to turn the surface to glass, killing everyone and getting a Morale boost because I made an example of them to the rest of my empire (and huge malevolent points to boot) as everyone decides to get in line. And maybe other civilisations hear of this and unless they're malevolent ideology they're aghast and/or intimidated at what I did to my own people and I now get diplomatic penalties/bonuses with them depending on different in military power.
Again, another tactical element is lost. You could build fast, heavy hitting ships designed specifically to dart into enemy territories and planetary bombard their production-based planets, crippling their production base unless they protect it and forcing them to re-direct ships to their planets for defense. It also makes the "have ships in orbit defending" more valuable than the laughably easy speed-bumbs they are now when your space ship gang of ass-pounders comes along looking for rectums to wreck.
6) Have casualties in War actually mean something.
So, to use my Yor collective war example (or, as I called them, the Yor Wars which sounds like a crappy hipster douchebag band), I decimated their military. I took their power down by 2 to 3 thousand all at the loss of only a handful of my ships in the process.
My population should LOVE that. Here we are, at war with these ghastly machines that want to exterminate us, and our boys and girls in the fleet have absolutely handed their metal asses to them. People should love hearing about our victories on the front lines, while our propaganda arm should be minimalising/erasing news of any defeats we have.
Likewise, for the enemy, it should be super disheartening to watch your huge fleet get humbled by an enemy. Losing millions and billions of your soldiers, hundreds of your ships, should really knock around the morale of your empire.
That is, of course, unless you research technologies or take on Malevolent/Benevolent/Pragmatic points creating propaganda arms that brainwash people.
But to use another example, I was in a game where the Krynn were the monsters of the galaxy. I had 500 power, they had 5000. But I designed my ships to counter theirs. And so in the corner of my empire where the Krynn were invading through, I was locked in perpetual war with them. They had the massive production base and lots of ships, while I had the better quality ships that killed lots of theirs before succumbing to the sheer numbers.
It was perpetual war.
Did anyone care?
My people didn't care (when morale should be boosted that we're standing up to and holding out against the bully and massive power of the galaxy). And the Krynn's didn't care despite their invasion not getting anywhere, their resources getting drained on building more ships to replace the ones they were constantly losing, and their people not giving a fig that millions of them had died for no results.
In short, my only chance to force the Krynn into a peace accord would be to make it too costly for them to continue the war. Now this is certainly what was happening (I was watching their power go down while mine was going up, slowly but surely). But because the AI is an emotionless machine that see's no problem sending wave after wave after wave of their own people at me to die, "peace accord" was met with "You must be joking".
To add to this, big battles should result in big changes. Or have a chance.
If you can pull off a victory against an enemy in which one of their largest fleets get crushed, they should be much more willing to broker a peace...particularly if now their planets aren't as protected against yours coming along and turning them to slag via planetary bombardment (see above) - something you can threaten the with unless they agree to a peace treaty (see above for expanded diplomatic options).
Maybe you pull off that awesome big victory. You tell the enemy faction to give you Peace otherwise you'll bomb their planets. They refuse. So you turn on of their planets to slag, killing everyone on it. You tell them again to give you Peace, they refuse. So you do it again. You tell them to give you Peace, and this time they relent.
See what I mean? There's a lot of potential tactical use here that I don't think is being exploited. Or maybe it is but it hasn't manifested in the game yet because it's still being worked on.
Edit: So I thought of another thing to add to this list. It's only small though:
7) Patrol command
There should be a command that you can give to your ships that tells them to move back and forth between two designated hexes. Essentially they are patrolling. This would be so incredibly useful to have fast, high sensor range ships constantly patroling the boarders of your empire on alert for any intruders.