Pandora & Sci-Fi/Fantasy Games - From Historicon

4X strategy game from Proxy Studios

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Pandora & Sci-Fi/Fantasy Games - From Historicon

Post by IainMcNeil »

Hi guys,

please find below notes from my presentation of Pandora - First Contact at Historicon.


Hi guys

and welcome to another day of great games. Today I’m going to focus on an increasingly important part of our line up which we have been consciously expanding. In the past the vast majority of our games were historical wargames covering all periods from the Ancient world to Napoleonic, the ever popular WW2 and up to modern. We have our very popular sci-fi brand Distant Worlds, but it was an area we wanted to expand. Today I’m going to talk to you about our range of Sci-Fi and fantasy themed games.

• Distant Worlds Series. Distant Worlds gets better and better with each new release and is seen by many as the definite 4X space exploration game. It’s living world really capture the feel of running a mighty space empire.

• Warhammer 40,000: Armageddon. I may have already mentioned that yesterday in teh Space Program Manager presentation but Space Marines are so cool they deserve to be mentioned twice.

• Drums of War – is a new announcement and part of our support for indie developers program and is a turn based strategy RPG inspired by games like Battle for Wesnoth in development at Crasleen Games. Find out more.


• Fantasy Kommander - Eukarion Wars is also a fantasy strategy game from Age of Games and is so new that the ink still wet at the time of writing! Find out more.


• Sovereignty - Crown of Kings, another fantasy game but a strategic level one in development at the Lordz Games Studio and Gothic Labs. Find out more.


• 2 unannounced multiplatform games (1 sci-fi, 1 fantasy) for 2014 and a number of additional games in advanced negotiations.

Pandora - First Contact

However, today my main focus is on our upcoming release Pandora First Contact, which is due out on PC, Mac and Linux in September 2013.

Pandora is an epic empire building game in development at Proxy Studios, a talented young team from Germany. This will be their first major release and the influence on the designers of games such as Civilization and Sid Meir’s classic Alpha Centauri is clear. In the future, mankind has discovered a new, earth-like planet, capable of supporting life, which has been named “Pandora”. A number of earth factions dispatch their representatives to Pandora and the race is on to colonize and exploit this new planet and its rich resources.

Let’s take a look at this world and it’s in habitants.

Watch Alien Life Video on YouTube

While abundant with resources, Pandora is far from a peaceful place. Dangerous alien wildlife roams the many ecologically diverse regions of the planet. There are ice caps, lush tropical jungles, mountains, swamps and vast deserts. All of these are roamed by deadly swarms of xeno life on land and in the sea. There are currently 9 alien species in the game, equipped with a variety of menacing biological weapons. These include the Xenomorph Drones and Queens, giant Galeths flying Devourers, and Leviathans of the deep. The planet has blooms of a dangerous fungus that cover vast swathes of the surface. The alien life roams freely through it but you must develop new technologies to navigate these toxic areas, and in the latter stages of the game can even farm the fungus as a rich resource.

Some areas of the planet are more abundant than others and there are special resources such as Mexallon deposits that are rich in minerals, or Xenite flowers which boost production. Though there are vast wildernesses, the planet is not devoid of signs of intelligent life. Scattered around are ancient ruins and strange structures that can contain bonuses or fantastic alien technology. It is clear some civilization developed on Pandora but what happened to them is not clear.

One noticeable absence is rivers which are being added as I speak and will be in for launch.

As with any good 4X game technology plays a huge part and Pandora is no different.

Watch Tech Tree Video on YouTube

Pandora has 122 technologies spread across 3 ages. It is a vast technology tree. While this in itself is impressive we’ve added some really cool features to the technology system and there are multiple ways to play the game. The first is with a preset technology tree where you can see the entire tree and it is always the same. Purists who like to establish a routine and optimize their research strategy and know what to do next will like this option. The second is with a randomized technology tree which is different every game, but where you can see the entire tech tree from the beginning. The third and my preferred option is the randomized tech tree with limited knowledge. By this we mean that you cannot see the full tech tree. You can see full information about technology that is 1 step in advance of where you are, and limited information about techs 2 steps ahead of where you are but the rest of the tree is completely blank. You will really have to adapt your tactics each game to get the best from technology and this offers huge replay value.

These technologies unlock 22 advances, 36 buildings, 18 unit chassis, 10 unit devices, 24 weapon types and 9 armour levels. Advances give large and varied benefits and can effect anything from the indigenous life’s aggression levels towards the player through better understanding of the ecosystem to defence grids. Buildings offer a variety of economic and military benefits. In the workshop unit upgrades are bolted together with weapon mounts, armour and devices to produce unique units. So that gives you an overview of the tech system.

What 4X game would be complete without other friendly factions to compete against?

Watch the Factions Video on YouTube

When setting up a new game there are a variety of settings to adjust such as world shape, world size, difficulty, planet temperature, alien aggression and research tiers. You can also select up to 5 AI opponents. There are 6 factions to choose from each with their own strengths and weaknesses. For example the Terra Salvum are an Ecologogical faction, led by Advocate Gardinier. Their gentle approach makes the indigenous life more tolerant and lowers alien attacks and they are able to harness more resources from the native forest. However their troops are less aggressive and weaker when attacking. The Togra University are a Scientific faction, governed by Professor Shcreiber. They research technologies faster and receive a free recon unit but have lower morale due to the independent nature of their people.

And if you have other factions you need ways to negotiate with them – you need a Diplomacy system.

Watch the Diplomacy Video on YouTube

The diplomacy system offers a range of options to deal with the opposing factions. You can set up trade and research pacts. These pacts generate a benefit proportional to the other faction’s economy or research effort so care must be taken as trading with small nation’s benefits them much more than you. You can also have peace treaties, alliances, threaten leaders and offer them tributes.

The multiplayer mode works exactly as single player and was included from day 1 as a key part of the design. In multiplayer any of the 6 factions can be human or AI controlled. This allows up to 6 players or a mix of AI and human players to battle it out. You can also play in Co-Op mode with a friend and unite to fight against the AI nations or even play team games. Finding opponents is done via the Slitherine lobby using the Slitherine account but you can also use the direct IP connection option or run over a LAN. Optional time limits allow you to keep the pace of the game high but as players can all perform actions simultaneously there is no waiting around for your opponent to play their turn - the action is always on! In multiplayer the careful use of Operations becomes increasingly important and adds real depth to the gameplay.

Now let’s take a look at what happens when you start a new game.

Watch the First City Video on YouTube

When the game starts you have just deployed from your drop pod on the planet surface. You start with a colonizer and some troopers. The colonizer is used to found new cities and troopers are for defence and exploration. The world map is initially shrouded and you must explore. Every time a new type of terrain or object is discovered you are notified with drop down icons on the main view. Clicking them gives full information about each new discovery. Ruins can be explored and can contain a number of bonuses and goodies so searching for them is well worth while. As you advance new terrain types and specials are explained such as the native fungus.

When you found a city you are taken to the city management screen. Here you can rename or raze the city and allocate workers to a variety of tasks. Cities are measured in various ways.
• Growth is how fast the city is growing and determined by morale and food supply.
• Food, minerals and credits are global resources shared by all cities. Each city produces food and if you run out the growth rate will go negative.
• Minerals are consumed when creating production points.
• Production points are used to build everything from units & buildings to operations.
• Research points are used to discover new technologies
• Pollution increases as the cities output increases and determines how many polluted tiles become unworkable in the city area.
• Credits are used to maintain armies and buildings or rush orders.
• Morale modifies all production in the city so keep an eye on it.

The city has a number of population units. Each can be allocated to specific tasks such as farming, mining, workers and research. Farmers and miners work the land and will automatically pick the best tile to work in the city area. One worker per resource type can work a tile so you can have 1 farmer and one miner per tile. The farmer harvest the food and the miner the minerals. Workers convert minerals to production points and scientist produce research. Your population can switch roles and output will change accordingly.

Buildings in the city are listed with their effects. A list of available build options is shown top right with costs, time to build and benefits. You can also convert production to growth or credits. Credits can be used to hurry production in emergencies. As the city grows it will claim more workable land and you can determine which hex to claim next.

In the latter stages of the game there are many more build options and the world will not look as pristine. Let’s have a look at how the world develops.

Watch the Terraforming Video on YouTube

You will fundamentally change the landscape through terraforming. Over time mines, farms, roads and forts will start to dot the landscape and eventually little wildlife can be seen. In just a few turns you already see the landscape starting to change. Later technologies allow further improvements and faster terraforming and the removal of forest and fungus or even farming them. The effects of this development soon become clear and pollution becomes rampant and technologies are needed to bring this back under control.

As you develop your economy and acquires new technologies you’ll also be able to design new units. Let’s look at the workshop.

Watch the Workshop Video on YouTube

The workshop is where you design your units and is one of the coolest parts of the game. As discussed above you research different chassis, weapons, devices and armour and the workshop is where you bolt them together to design unique units. Every unit has strengths and weaknesses so knowing what role you want the unit to perform is crucial when designing it. There are over 25,000 possible unit designs! Here you see just a few of them.

Once you have designed your units you will want to test them in combat.

Watch the Combat Video on YouTube

Here we see a more advanced game, about two thirds of the way through the technology tree. The combat system takes in to account a lot of factors including the base chassis, the weapon, the armour, devices, advances, building bonuses, terrain and experience level. There are a lot of factors feeding in which might sound overwhelming but all of the info is shown in a preview window before combat clearly stating the power value of both attacker and defender, the expected outcome and likely losses. This detailed feedback means that you will naturally and quickly learn what works and what doesn’t without complex tutorials.

Although units can stack combat is always 1v1. The defender is at an advantage because when defending the best unit in the stack retaliates. Designing your stack is very strategic as the defender benefits from specialised units. However the attacker is better off with general purpose units without weaknesses a defender can exploit. But its not that simple as the attacker also needs some specialised unit to defend if their stack in turn comes under attack. Add in air and naval units, artillery bombardments that do splash damage and you get a detailed and interesting combat system with a lot of subtlety and depth.

While your combat units are powerful they will not always win alone and sometimes an Operation can be need to unlock a particularly strong defensive position.

Watch the Operations Video on YouTube

Operations come in many forms.
• Field Operations level up all units in the target hex.
• Satellite Scans reveal portions of the map. This can be used in combination with Drop pods to launch surprise attacks behind enemy lines.
• The EMP beam can be used to blackout entire cities, reducing their production to 0 for a period of time.
• Nuclear missiles devastate the target hex and can destroy cities and units alike, prompting reaction from other factions on the planet.
• Black hole generators are the most powerful operation and devastate entire areas. These mega weapons take 20 turns to charge and all factions are warned when one is built.
There are defensive buildings that can mitigate the effects of Operations but they are a very powerful tool.


We’ve only covered the basics but unfortunately that is all we have time for so that brings me to the end of today’s presentation and I’d like to open the floor for questions.
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Re: Pandora & Sci-Fi/Fantasy Games - From Historicon

Post by MajVonRyan »

Thanks, Iain. I think all of us wish we could attend Historicon.

Pandora is on my list of games to purchase, so is War in the West and Gary's new steel panthers style game, any timeframe for release?
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Re: Pandora & Sci-Fi/Fantasy Games - From Historicon

Post by gfurst »

Very nice presentation, very complete and well written.
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