Every once in awhile I just add a feature on a whim. I probably need to stop doing that. Starlanes were one of those, since I figured it would be easy enough, and would radically alter the feeling of the game in a cool way.
I was right on one of those counts :P
Internally all that star lanes do is increase the travel distance between points that aren’t connected via a lanes. Kind of like passing through slow nebula. Internally though, this is basically invisible to the AI and the rest of the game logic. It doesn’t have a concept of “this is a starlane,” it only thinks “these edges are pretty large, and these are pretty short.” And the behaviour can even be edited in a config file. So, the default is 4x slower outside the star lane network. But you could put any value there, or even put in a value <1 so that star lanes become the slower option. There’s a ton of cool stuff that is exposed in that kind of manner.
While initial support was easy to add, it ended up exposing a bunch of edge case issues that weren’t often visible without such weird geometry, and it’s that which took a decent chunk of time to fix. Counter-intuitive, but at least it let me kill two birds with one stone.
From a practical standpoint, playing with star lanes helps give each map a more unique and personal feel. Maps feel like they have geometry. Exploration definitely feels better. But the overall pace does suffer a bit. It’s not really any better or worse. I think if we didn’t let fleets travel outside the star lane network at a slower speed it wouldn’t work nearly as well though. I like playing with the lanes just a bit more, so they’re enabled by default.
Besides star lanes, DG has a number of strategic terrain features. Slow nebula, as is tradition, and also blocking (can’t be traversed at all) nebula, stealth nebula (which also impacts sensor LOS. Eg. if you have stealth nebula between a fleet and a colony, that colony won’t see the fleet), and wormholes that (optionally) have specific up and down times.
It’s somewhat related, but you can also drop your own bitmap files into the maps directory to load your own map shapes. The galaxy generator will make sure everything just works and is reachable. One of my favourite shapes is just having a number of separated islands. The generator knows to connect them with wormholes.
(I could talk about the galaxy generator for days. For example, it can see if certain stars are difficult to reach and, if so, increases the chance of making them special in some way. Unlike MoO 1 which would regenerate the map if it didn’t meet certain criteria, DG’s map generator will tweak the map after the fact until it does, and you can change the behaviour of starting positions in the data files.)
To be honest, while the terrain does add to the game and makes it better, in hindsight I think there are much better things that I could have spent my time on. I’ve probably spent 20% of my time on terrain features in one way or another, and I don’t think that adds up to a 20% improvement. Everyone says that lack of terrain in space is one of the biggest weaknesses in space 4Xes, and at the time I thought so as well. But now I think that pales in comparison to the disadvantages of using a tiled strategic map as most terrestrial games need to… but that’s a tangent for another time.
You know, I keep hearing about SR 2 but I haven’t actually played it yet. I very much need to, because there’s one person who seems to, unfailingly, point out to me that “SR 2 already did that.” Whenever I think I come up with an idea I think is unique.
So, for example, relationship values in DG aren’t really meant as an indicator of how an AI feels about you, because otherwise, that kind of breaks when you have multiple human players and AIs in the same instance. At the same time, diplomacy modifiers are interesting from a narrative standpoint, and help to create those, you know, emergent plot points. So in DG, relationship is the overall standing between two empires driven by outside events and a bit of randomness. A good relationship makes trade and research treaties yield higher but also makes both sides more vulnerable to one another’s spies – and vice versa. The AI is still kind of blunt about how it takes relationship into account to be honest, and I’m not even sure to what extent it would be a good idea to make it less blunt from an immersion standpoint (eg. less role-playing, more playing-to-win). But I’m leaning towards having a toggle or a slider control the extent to which AIs role-play versus attempt to play like humans.
Anyway, this is just a long way of saying (I’m truly terrible at going on tangents) that the entire “good relationship = mutual benefit + mutual vulnerability” is supposedly something SR 2 already did. If even half the stuff I’ve heard about that game are true, it’s a shame it sold as poorly as it did.
Yeah, I’m sure it’s been done a few times. I’m less sure about a build that’s this substantial and/or non-restricted. I wouldn’t be surprised if someone else has tried it though.