Four - No -Three X TBS Slipways Deserves Its Own Thread

My best runs have had 1 lab producing 5 science very early. I actually think looking for an oppurtunity for a second lab is probably worth it, in order to get the high tier stuff with a few years left to really leverage it.

I wonder if there’s a game design reason not to have leaderboards, as opposed to just “the developer didn’t get around to it, because they were busy elsewhere”, which is the more likely reason.

Maybe having leaderboards gets rid of some of mystique, whereas having players rely on their own memory makes them master of their own domains in their heads and makes them feel like they’re better than they actually are?

Doesn’t the ranked play have them? Perhaps he felt that there was too much variety between seeds for it to have any real meaning outside that context? Apparently, there is no data collection outside ranked.

Also, from the dev, via the slipways Discord:

A stat screen is coming with the achievement update! It was the last feature I had to cut to make it in time for release, in fact. I’d like it to track your last few standard runs, as well as various scoring bests (by race combination, perk, etc.) and “mosts” (most energy produced, most structures built, etc.)

This answers everything on the matter, you two.

Why the game does actually have any scoring mechanic left is the mystery to me, more than the opposite, since the people developing it don’t seem to give a single fuck about scores, pardon my French.

I haven’t played it yet, but one of the reasons why I got in on the Slipways train here is that it sounds different enough from MOO2, that I won’t face the perpetual problem of playing 4X space strategy games, where I can’t help ask myself “shouldn’t I be playing MOO2 instead?” and then uninstall and proceed to do that instead. This one sounds different enough that it hopefully won’t trigger that impulse.

It’s really, really not a strategy game though. So approach with cautious expectations!
It’s awesome though, when it doesn’t suck… errm, what a great argument I’m developping here.

Wait, why do you say that? What sets it apart from other strategy games?

-Tom

There is no manual!

More seriously, I don’t feel there is as much thinking as just trial and error. It’s a twitchy game that makes you use more of your attention than say, Glass Masquerade, but it doesn’t even feature an AI that can’t play the game. Damn I can’t keep a straight face responding, nevermind!
I guess I am expecting a challenge in a strategy game? But then I play most strategy games in that “toying around” way, so I don’t really know.
No, I know what I like in my strategy games: a story framework. It is why Alpha Centauri was one of my fav, directive as it was, but more importantly to me why I enjoy the ones I like, like Crusader Kings or the first Master of Orion, or even the strange mess of Shadow Empire: a story emerges in my head. Heck even in something as light on the strategy element as Approaching Infinity. But no matter how many stations I connect here, I can’t connect elements in my head to get my imagination going.

To me it stands as a slightly more intelligent Picross, but a way dumber Desktop Dungeons. In that comfortable spot that the best Braingoodgames games stand for me as well. Yeah those are not strategy games to me either, bewahaha!

That’s fair enough. But I think the appeal – and this serves as plenty of narrative for me – is one of resource management and engine optimization within the context of a fascinating fictional economy. Robot vs human labor, raw materials like ore vs processed goods like electronics, feeding populations vs upgrading robots, developing research, the need for forgeworlds and remnant worlds as factories, and so on. And that’s before the racial perks and technologies introduce entirely new systems. Have you seen, for instance, how culture and energy work? There’s some pretty disruptive stuff going on if you slice deeply enough into the tech tree.

I should say, this is probably my favorite strategy game in a very long time. It reminds me a lot of Offworld Trading Company, but streamlined, in the same way that Space Tyrant was like a streamlined version of Master of Orion 2.

-Tom

This is pretty much how I feel, too. And another thing I love about it is that it reminds me of the best parts of Star Ruler 2, too. ;)

You did have me going for a minute. But you know one of my favorite things about solitaire boardgames and strategy games like where you fight back against a system instead of an AI player? There’s no far side of the Chick Parabola waiting in the distance!

-Tom

It’s interesting because, with my psychanalytical rambling earlier, I thought of OTC and wondered “then OTC isn’t a strategy game to you? better close that door, buddy”. I’ll just live with the contradiction for now!

Nevertheless, I never could get into the campaign games of OTC much, like you did if I recall, while it is simply the best game as a multiplayer experience to me. Even as a remote multiplayer experience, such as its daily challenge, with leaderboards and replay, now that’s amazing!
Maybe this is why I’m wishing so much for leaderboards. And oh yes, a sweet daily leaderboard run.

Damn genres and labels, messing with our minds.

Right? I mean, sheesh, it’s about time game designers started ripping off Star Ruler 2.

-Tom

This reminds me of AI War, which got a funny title in this context, since you’re fighting such a transparent system.
And AI War was one of my darling for rationalizing that behaviour into some grand epic. It’s my favourite souvenir of the game, somehow.

For solitaire boardgames though, I noticed I fill the occasional void of the lack of storyline by… okay this will be a bit embarassing… by playing with the game’s elements themselves. Like “pew pew” goes the lasers of the spaceship sheet. Boom goes that torpedo counter! I make so many sounds when playing those and I spend a good deal of time reenacting stuff like I most likely hadn’t bothered to since I was playing with legos or toy soldiers.

All this to say: leaderboards in slipways, now!!

I was thinking about this while I was without internet yesterday (and still playing Slipways, thank the maker that not all games require an internet connection) and while I wouldn’t necessarily kick this out of the “strategy games” category (which I think must be pretty broad, I mean anything could be “strategy”), I am hesitant to describe it as a “3X” or put it in the same category as other “traditional TBS” or whatever. I came up with two things that I think it is “missing” (disclaimer: “I wouldn’t say I’ve been missing it, Bob”) that I’d want to be able to put it in that category:

  1. I don’t get a sense of long-term planning. Generally in a Civ-type game I settle a city or choose a wonder or tech partially for immediate goals and partially to enact some medium-term goal, such as beelining a certain unit or setting up a culture factory or whatever. The only thing comparable here is setting up a lab because research will generally be useful throughout the game (it could be the same for money but I’m never short of money).

  2. There aren’t really any loosely-coupled systems going on here. For example, SMAC has city-building, which is coupled to tech research only through energy research production (out) and new buildings/improvements (in), and coupled to units only through production (out) and new cities (in), and units are coupled to research via new weapons (in). I feel like I have to take up a separate set of considerations when I move between systems. That is not the case in Slipways.

I don’t think this is a bad thing, at all–(1) is largely a result of the game being so short, and (2) is a result of it being so tightly focused on moving goods around, both of which are critical to making this the superb gem that it is.

(This wall of text brought to you by Verizon being down for 24 hours.)

I’ll just point out that there is actually long planning, but it’s mostly done before the game starts, when you set it up, by picking your races and perks. If you are going for some high score (you can very much play leisurely ignoring them), they are incredibly important.
The rest of the long planning is leaving planets around, knowing in what ressources they could be turned later on.
Of course, all this is is relative, since a game isn’t more than an hour long.

Speaking of races, thee seems to be some randomness, or factors of interactions between them ? I’ve noticed it like everyone for the perks, but some techs seem to not be available everytime?
Ah, where is the manual!

Money gets a lot tighter with higher difficulty levels. I scrapped a bunch of my early attempts at Challenging just because playing at Reasonable had not taught me anything about how to build an economy before your starting capital runs out.

In terms of long term planning, you need to decide pretty early on how you’re intending to make points in the endgame based on the available technologies. Are you planning on handling the Goods bottleneck for getting populated planets to prospereous via Enlightenment, Hyperdrive or Micro Forges? Each of those will require a different shape of the network, and different decisions on how each planet will be settled.

I tried Universal Culture as my level 4 tech on a lark yesterday, and it turned out to be amazing. If I’d been able to visualize from the text description how it would work, I would have played very differently and gotten even more benefit from it.

I don’t think that’s any kind of planning, since you’re making those decisions blind. (And I always pick random, but allow myself to switch one of the perk).

That’s precisely what choosing your races allow you to do ;p

No, that’s not at all what I’m talking about. Choosing the factions affects what techs you have available. But there is literally no planning there, because you know nothing about what the map will look like. It’s like saying that your plan in MOO is to pick the Meklars.

What I’m talking about are the decisions you make while playing. There will likely be multiple possible ways to do the endgame points rush. If you just play opportunistically until year 20 or something and only then make the decision on what tech to use, you’re leaving a lot of points on the floor. There will be a lot of places where you should have done a different decision, if you’d known just what tech you’d be going with.