Announcement: Your chance to affect the future of Pandora

4X strategy game from Proxy Studios

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Xilmi
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Announcement: Your chance to affect the future of Pandora

Post by Xilmi » Tue Dec 23, 2014 11:21 am

I have an important announcement to make regarding the future of Pandora and how you can affect it.

First let's answer the question how I, an ordinary member of this games' community, can feel permitted to make an announcement like this.

I was very tempted to announce it earlier but I didn't want to do so before it was 100% in the bags.

So here's the thing:

I've been in negotiations with Proxy-Studios about being allowed to continue work on Pandora, once they decide to move on to future projects.
From the idea to the realization it took quite a few steps:
There was legal stuff to be clearified, an NDA to be worked out and signed by both sides and the hardest part of all, at least for me: A development environment to be set up on my home-computer.

Yesterday, with a lot of help from the very patient Sephirok via Skype I managed to finally enable my PC to compile the source-code into a runable game.

Which means I now am actually ready to get started!

That's where you come into play.

While I, of course, have a lot of my very own ideas of what I want to accomplish, I want to make sure it goes along with the wishes of the community.
My primary interest goes into improving the AI. I had made this thread in the past: viewtopic.php?f=173&t=51438
This thread compiled a lot of ideas for AI-improvements. Of course after looking at the code, I internally repriorized certain things listed there by how easy or hard I imagine them to be accomplished.

So feel free to give your input of what improvements you'd like to see and how you would prioritize these.

Of course there are limitations to what you can expect:

I'm not yet very familiar with the code. So I have no chance of telling if something is doable and how long it would take.
The whole project is nothing but a hobby. I'm a volunteer, not an employee. So our contract neither involves any money nor am I obliged to deliver anything. This means I will not let myself get pressured and not take responsibility for anything that I might have agreed here to do.
I have no clue about anything involving graphics. Let alone in 3D. So content in the form of new units, aliens, etc. is pretty much out of question. Algorithms are my thing.

So what would I do first if noone suggests anything better:

As you might be aware I had made a Mod for this game in the past. It affects what the AI researches and builds in their cities. But it also has some limitiations.
So what I'd like to do first is to alter research- and build-project-picking in a way that negates the necessity of my Mod and improves on it's weak spot: flexibility.
I want to broaden the way AI picks it's research so it does not miss out on important core-techs, while at the same time preventing them from getting too many redundant techs.
I want to have cities take into account how good their infrastructure is before having them make units but still allow them to switch to unit production if it seems necessary.
Players usually build all their units in one city because this makes a lot of sense in terms of efficiency given how the economic-model works. I will try to emulate that behaviour.

So, if you got any questions or suggestions please let me know.

Megas
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Re: Announcement: Your chance to affect the future of Pandor

Post by Megas » Thu Dec 25, 2014 10:57 pm

Put a hard cap on money/research stolen by spies.

Make it something like [value] x turn number x [game speed mod]

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Re: Announcement: Your chance to affect the future of Pandor

Post by blackarchon » Wed Dec 31, 2014 3:20 pm

I see two main points in improving Pandora:

* UI enhancements (mainly the size)
* introducing random events

UI enhancements:
Is there a way to change the size of the game's UI (button size, dialog box size and font size (the last one is already editable from the XML files, but this only of limited use if most of the boxes aren't also growing))? More and more laptops come with a 13" or 14" display and a resolution of 1920x1080 or higher. 4K displays are also getting more and more familiar. I suggest implementing two new UI modes, the first one with a 2x2 scale and the second one with a 4x4 scale. This should be enough for people with fine displays or people like me who don't have the best eyes. :)

Random events:
This would really improve the long-term attractiveness of a game. As soon as there is a possibility to define such events, I would start with creating new ones.
My thoughts on events:
* they should be defined via XML file
* I can define a custom spawn chance per turn
* I can define prerequisites for an event: a certain technology is needed; a certain number of turns has passed; another event has already triggered; the player has a certain faction
* I want to be able to give/kill units, to add/subtract global ressources (credits, minerals, food, research points), to change diplomatic relations to another faction, to grant a technology; nice to have: to change ressources of a base (like granting a base a 10% bost in production points for some turns), to create/destroy special ressources (like Mexallon)
* the player should be able to react to events via several multiple choices

As a nice side effect for Proxy Studios, both of these changes aren't Pandora-related and could be used for future games based on Pandora's game engine.

Xilmi
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Re: Announcement: Your chance to affect the future of Pandor

Post by Xilmi » Fri Jan 02, 2015 3:10 pm

About that spying-thing: The original devs had considered reworking it. However, even I don't know any details.
If they don't change anything about how spying works, I'll eventually get to it. But it's not very high on my priority-list.

Interesting point about the GUI-scaling. I didn't have any issues since I play on 1650x1080, where it looks perfectly fine so I wasn't even aware that it might look bad on huge monitors.
I'll keep it in mind for later.

Random-events with multiple-choice sound interesting but they also sound like a lot of work. I would prioritize that really low for now.

My main focus will be improving the AI so if your suggestions go into that direction, it is much more likely that I'll consider it for the nearer future.

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Re: Announcement: Your chance to affect the future of Pandor

Post by Belanos » Sat Jan 03, 2015 5:33 pm

If you could fix the issue with stack movement, where units within one will decide to head off in different directions, I might be inclined to play this game again. Otherwise it will just take up space on my hard drive and it will be the first game to be removed if I need the room.

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Re: Announcement: Your chance to affect the future of Pandor

Post by Xilmi » Mon Jan 05, 2015 11:48 am

I've put some thought into that and can say that this would at least be quite tricky with the current design.
The game internally doesn't know about stacks. Each unit executes the order individually and reacts to obstacles according to their characteristics.

I think the easiest way would be to try and use another units pathfinding instead of your own if you are sent at the same time.

However, I've hardly seen anyone complain about that.
What I do is simpy to send colonizers and their escorts for only short distances turn by turn. They might split up during the move but meet again on their intermediate-target.
Usually it's no more than 1 or maybe 2 colonizers sent during the time of high alien-activity.
Otherwise it doesn't even bother me if troops split up on their way to an enemy.

So I think that other things are more important.

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Re: Announcement: Your chance to affect the future of Pandor

Post by Sawelios » Mon Jan 05, 2015 12:08 pm

Xilmi wrote:I've been in negotiations with Proxy-Studios about being allowed to continue work on Pandora, once they decide to move on to future projects.
How fast it happens in our days, and how often... It's now no problem to throw the game away and "move on to future projects".

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Re: Announcement: Your chance to affect the future of Pandor

Post by Xilmi » Mon Jan 05, 2015 3:03 pm

Sawelios wrote:How fast it happens in our days, and how often... It's now no problem to throw the game away and "move on to future projects".
Yes it's a pity! Especially when the games in question happen to be raw-diamonds like Pandora.

It's prettymuch what capitalism dictates developers to do. Unless you get really lucky or have a brilliant business-model, you are kinda forced to "churn out" games in order to make a living.

Games are developed to a state where they are "just good enough". I would even propose they intentionally are left in a state where they are just not as good as they could be. That seems especially true for when it comes to "AAA"-games, that are parts of an ongoing series. Like every Civ-Part after Civ 1.
They all had similar live-cycles: They came out in a bad state, where they were barely enjoyable, then they got improved to a decent state by addons and just when you where thinking: A few more patches and the game is really good, they announce the next part and never touch the predecessor again.

So I was asking myself as a gamer: What can you I about it? For me, when it comes to games, it is about quality, not quantity! But that contradicts how our capitalistic society works. There it is all about finding the ideal junction of quality and quantity to maximise profit.

So developer are kinda cought and cannot really breach these boundaries on their own.

So there was only one conclusion for me: I have to get into a position where I can do it myself!

I tried. But I didn't get far. I made a game that had some really neat mechanics. It was kind of a turn-based hack&slay/roguelike-game. Every ability and every item was procedurally generated. The opponents in the game used a specialized AI to adapt to their procedurally generated abilities to maximise their effects.
But the downside was: It was entirely text-based. No graphics at all and thus no way to share it as noone else would want to play a game without graphics.
Eventually I couldn't motivate myself to get into it enough to make it a "real" game.

When I bought Pandora I didn't expect much. Little Indy-Civ-Like-Game with a wierd, unatmospherical setting on a foreign planet.
But I eventually fell in love with its game mechanics. They added something refreshing and new. They weren't as simple as I got used to by the likes of Civ5 or Endless Space, which I played before. The game actually showed to have a huge skill-curve with plenty to learn.
Always Important to me in a game like this: The AI.
Pandora-AI always was good for a rush. But in the long term it wasn't very good. I got into modding to see if one could do something about it. And it sure was possible. But still, there were quite a lot of things where I thought: "Maybe do this and that and it would be like really good!"

Then I got the chance to play together with one of the Devs in an Eclipse of Nashira-Live-Event.
I talked a lot to him about what I think could be improved in the AI but it was also made clear, that this much work couldn't be put in the almost-one-year-old-game anymore.

This was when I decided, that if noone else can do it, I have to do it myself! The Devs might initially have thought I didn't actually mean it, when I proposed my suggestion to continue development of Pandora for free. But with constant reminders about how I'm still interested, we eventually worked a way out to enable me to do just that.

I'm now 2 weeks into it and I'm having a blast! Seeing how my ideas become reality step by step is a great feeling! Beating an AI as a player is a fun thing to do... But sitting on the opposite side of the table and supporting the AI in it's struggle to beat players is even more fun!

My goal is set: "Easy"-Difficulty-Non-cheating-AI shall be a challenge and depending on starting-location even a threat to decent players. And since I'm operating outside of the usual paradigm of game-development, I feel really relieved since there is no more pressure than what I put on myself.

My first draft is nearing it's completion. It's only 1 1/2 of the 4 main things I wanted to look at left.

Right now I'm still working on tile-improvement-selection. Then there's Technology picking and maybe a revisit of the weighting of Advancements vs. Units vs. Buildings (I did a lot for Buildings vs. Units but Advancements were treated a little shabby as their huge variety of effects makes it really hard to come up with evaluation-mechanisms).

I'm really hoping that when I eventually get my deeds into an official patch, that some players will come to the forums here or on steam and complain about how tough the game has gotten! ^^

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Re: Announcement: Your chance to affect the future of Pandor

Post by Sawelios » Mon Jan 05, 2015 3:37 pm

Well, so it is true - this game is abandoned by developers... It's a real pity. I was one step away from purchase... Mainly, I like it visually. Very "atmospheric" graphical style. And the reviews were quite positive.
And now I'm in doubt. I planned to wait a while, maybe an other expansion/DLC, and then buying "gold edition" of sort (like Distant Worlds are).
How could it be? I clearly see some SOUL put into this game. It looks like it HAS soul. It's quite a rare thing in modern PC-gaming industry. And now - it's abandoned. And if I finally decide to buy it anyway - this will mean I give money to people who betrayed their own "child" and left it to cry alone ...

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Re: Announcement: Your chance to affect the future of Pandor

Post by Xilmi » Mon Jan 05, 2015 4:33 pm

That's quite a negative way to put it!

First of all:

There still is at least one major normal-patch in queue.
It will at least bring some GUI-Improvements and very likely a rework of the espionage-system.

Also, while I'm not an official part of the Dev-Team, it looks like you don't seem to see the potential that this unique kind of cooperation offers!

Yes, it is true that according to our contract I'm not obliged to actually deliver anything.
But that doesn't mean that I won't! I'm making good progress and I'm extremely eager to share it once I feel it is good enough.
I'm very motivated to further go this way and spend a lot of my free-time in order to continue polishing this gem.

Or to put it with your epitome: Their child was not left alone like the ones of many other parents. It got a scholarship for a special college, where it can learn for as long as it wants and at its own pace.

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Re: Announcement: Your chance to affect the future of Pandor

Post by Belanos » Mon Jan 05, 2015 7:20 pm

Xilmi wrote: So I think that other things are more important.
Well if no one is going to bother working on this issue then I may as well remove the game from my hard drive. I'm not about to micromanage unit movement one tile at a time. I find the pathfinding in the game to be horrid in general and just don't want to deal with it.

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Re: Announcement: Your chance to affect the future of Pandor

Post by JetJaguar » Tue Jan 06, 2015 12:26 am

Xilmi wrote:
Sawelios wrote:How fast it happens in our days, and how often... It's now no problem to throw the game away and "move on to future projects".
Yes it's a pity! Especially when the games in question happen to be raw-diamonds like Pandora.

It's prettymuch what capitalism dictates developers to do. Unless you get really lucky or have a brilliant business-model, you are kinda forced to "churn out" games in order to make a living.

Games are developed to a state where they are "just good enough". I would even propose they intentionally are left in a state where they are just not as good as they could be. That seems especially true for when it comes to "AAA"-games, that are parts of an ongoing series. Like every Civ-Part after Civ 1.
They all had similar live-cycles: They came out in a bad state, where they were barely enjoyable, then they got improved to a decent state by addons and just when you where thinking: A few more patches and the game is really good, they announce the next part and never touch the predecessor again.

So I was asking myself as a gamer: What can you I about it? For me, when it comes to games, it is about quality, not quantity! But that contradicts how our capitalistic society works. There it is all about finding the ideal junction of quality and quantity to maximise profit.

So developer are kinda cought and cannot really breach these boundaries on their own.

So there was only one conclusion for me: I have to get into a position where I can do it myself!

I tried. But I didn't get far. I made a game that had some really neat mechanics. It was kind of a turn-based hack&slay/roguelike-game. Every ability and every item was procedurally generated. The opponents in the game used a specialized AI to adapt to their procedurally generated abilities to maximise their effects.
But the downside was: It was entirely text-based. No graphics at all and thus no way to share it as noone else would want to play a game without graphics.
Eventually I couldn't motivate myself to get into it enough to make it a "real" game.

When I bought Pandora I didn't expect much. Little Indy-Civ-Like-Game with a wierd, unatmospherical setting on a foreign planet.
But I eventually fell in love with its game mechanics. They added something refreshing and new. They weren't as simple as I got used to by the likes of Civ5 or Endless Space, which I played before. The game actually showed to have a huge skill-curve with plenty to learn.
Always Important to me in a game like this: The AI.
Pandora-AI always was good for a rush. But in the long term it wasn't very good. I got into modding to see if one could do something about it. And it sure was possible. But still, there were quite a lot of things where I thought: "Maybe do this and that and it would be like really good!"

Then I got the chance to play together with one of the Devs in an Eclipse of Nashira-Live-Event.
I talked a lot to him about what I think could be improved in the AI but it was also made clear, that this much work couldn't be put in the almost-one-year-old-game anymore.

This was when I decided, that if noone else can do it, I have to do it myself! The Devs might initially have thought I didn't actually mean it, when I proposed my suggestion to continue development of Pandora for free. But with constant reminders about how I'm still interested, we eventually worked a way out to enable me to do just that.

I'm now 2 weeks into it and I'm having a blast! Seeing how my ideas become reality step by step is a great feeling! Beating an AI as a player is a fun thing to do... But sitting on the opposite side of the table and supporting the AI in it's struggle to beat players is even more fun!

My goal is set: "Easy"-Difficulty-Non-cheating-AI shall be a challenge and depending on starting-location even a threat to decent players. And since I'm operating outside of the usual paradigm of game-development, I feel really relieved since there is no more pressure than what I put on myself.

My first draft is nearing it's completion. It's only 1 1/2 of the 4 main things I wanted to look at left.

Right now I'm still working on tile-improvement-selection. Then there's Technology picking and maybe a revisit of the weighting of Advancements vs. Units vs. Buildings (I did a lot for Buildings vs. Units but Advancements were treated a little shabby as their huge variety of effects makes it really hard to come up with evaluation-mechanisms).

I'm really hoping that when I eventually get my deeds into an official patch, that some players will come to the forums here or on steam and complain about how tough the game has gotten! ^^
Ail, I salute you! I'm really happy to hear that you're having a blast. Thanks to you, I'll be enjoying this game for far longer than I would have otherwise. I'll also enjoy playing more presently, knowing that things will improve.

I'm beginning to believe that this kind of thing (developers giving the tools to enthusiast to perfect their games) may be the way of the future.

As far as 'developers having to move on to new products because of the nature of capitalism' goes... this is why I'm willing to pay fairly high prices for expansions: to support and encourage developers to add depth to existing games before moving on to new projects. I'm in full agreement that one brilliant game is infinitely better for players than two very good games.

In closing, all I can say is thanks for breathing life into this game that I've just recently discovered. Although new to the game, I can already see that it's a gem!

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Re: Announcement: Your chance to affect the future of Pandor

Post by Xilmi » Tue Jan 06, 2015 9:28 am

Thank you very much for your kind words JetJaguar!

Those were very encouraging!

Also: Always nice to see someone you recognize from somewhere else! (And who recognizes me despite me having a different Nickname!) ^^

I think I'll be make a bloglike-threat here to keep everyone, who want's to know it, informed about what I'm working on. I know it would be interesting for me, if someone else was in my position. ^^

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Re: Announcement: Your chance to affect the future of Pandor

Post by Sawelios » Tue Jan 06, 2015 11:11 am

Man, your enthusiasm (as you know, ἐνθουσιασμός is from ἔνθεος - literally "full of god, godlike") is making miracles... 8) Pandora with Nashira are now in my Matrix account. I'm on board :wink: "To affect the future" - what can be more inspiring?

Thanks for your devotion. People like you won't let PC-gaming die. Maybe they even make this planet keep go round. And another planets as well... :D

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Re: Announcement: Your chance to affect the future of Pandor

Post by Flash Jack » Thu Jan 08, 2015 3:16 am

Hi,

You've mentioned that the developers are planning on releasing another patch (including improving spying which would be a plus).

Is any work that you do on the game going to be compatible with a future, official, patch?

Cheers,
Flash Jack

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Re: Announcement: Your chance to affect the future of Pandor

Post by Xilmi » Thu Jan 08, 2015 9:17 am

@Sawelios:
Thank you! This is very encouraging once again! :)
Flash Jack wrote:Hi,

You've mentioned that the developers are planning on releasing another patch (including improving spying which would be a plus).

Is any work that you do on the game going to be compatible with a future, official, patch?

Cheers,
Flash Jack
I very much think so.
First of all, I don't think there will be much overlapping in what I do vs. what they do.
And even if they touch source-files that I also touched, there's tools to merge the changes. So that shouldn't be much of a problem.

Do note, that the work I do also is supposed to eventually become part of an official patch. I mean it's not like I'm doing it without official Dev-Support.

My estimation of how it's going to work out is like this:
Once I check something in and tell them about it, they will first take a close look at it, then tell me what they don't like about my programming style, have me fix it, then look at it again and then hopefully include it into the beta-test-branch.
After some testing, depending on what errors occur or not it should eventually be integrated into the non-beta-main-branch aswell.

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Re: Announcement: Your chance to affect the future of Pandor

Post by Seroc » Sun Jan 11, 2015 12:52 am

I have been thoroughly enjoying this game since I bought it. I have been playing 4x strategies for 23 years (Civ 1 I think was the first), every type I can get my hands on, and probably have 4 thousand hours at least of playing Alpha Centauri; I still have it installed and give it a go from time to time. I have seen it said on these forums and I will say it again; this is the true successor to Alpha Centauri.

A few things I would like to see:

A difficulty setting specifically for the Messari invasion turn time and strength, and perhaps a second Messari invasion triggerable by the tech tree or some other event, to add more flavor to extreme late game balance.

A second or multiple eclipses through out the game. This is a WONDERFUL immersion in my opinion, I love how the world darkens and lights up again. So freakin cool.

Alien extinction makes me super sad. They should spawn from fungus randomly, and patches of fungus should pop up to harass the player(s) and serve as a spawn point for aliens. Maybe stick a hive in there... If it is at all possible, make player with higher pollution at greater risk for this encroachment. I have NO clue how hard it would be to code to that depth, but that is an element of Alpha Centauri that kept a thorn in the side of over developed and/or leading factions. Along the lines of alien coding... Have the larger units heal with each turn?

More random events! This game already has some good ones but that is one thing I love that is unique to this futuristic immersive world. Many of them you can borrow from Alpha Centauri itself without violating copyright laws... Right? They might not even need modelling, just a pop up window that informs you of the event.

-Solar Flares that knock out communication and satellites. Severe ones might destroy building types.

-Hail storms or meteorites that knock out energy parks

-Rain storms that increase food production; droughts that may reduce it

-Typhoons and other weather effects that destroy improved water tiles. Would be neat to see this affect high pollution players more, would give pause to the snowball/avalanche effect for Solar Dynasty and the religious chick I never play.

-Lab accidents that destroy science buildings and cause fallout or infestation.

-Black hole generators malfunction chance... Because those things are super OP x.x

Again I am NOT a coder and have no clue if any of this is feasible, but all I'd need as a player is a popup window. Yay I'm tech leader and there's NO HOPE of anyone else winning this game and we have 100 turns to go at least? Oh what's this... All of my Quantum labs are blown up?!?!.... Well now I at least feel like there's somewhat of struggle to continue in this game without taking too much away from it.

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Re: Announcement: Your chance to affect the future of Pandor

Post by JetJaguar » Sun Jan 11, 2015 1:14 am

Seroc wrote:I have been thoroughly enjoying this game since I bought it. I have been playing 4x strategies for 23 years (Civ 1 I think was the first), every type I can get my hands on, and probably have 4 thousand hours at least of playing Alpha Centauri; I still have it installed and give it a go from time to time. I have seen it said on these forums and I will say it again; this is the true successor to Alpha Centauri.

A few things I would like to see:

A difficulty setting specifically for the Messari invasion turn time and strength, and perhaps a second Messari invasion triggerable by the tech tree or some other event, to add more flavor to extreme late game balance.

A second or multiple eclipses through out the game. This is a WONDERFUL immersion in my opinion, I love how the world darkens and lights up again. So freakin cool.

Alien extinction makes me super sad. They should spawn from fungus randomly, and patches of fungus should pop up to harass the player(s) and serve as a spawn point for aliens. Maybe stick a hive in there... If it is at all possible, make player with higher pollution at greater risk for this encroachment. I have NO clue how hard it would be to code to that depth, but that is an element of Alpha Centauri that kept a thorn in the side of over developed and/or leading factions. Along the lines of alien coding... Have the larger units heal with each turn?

More random events! This game already has some good ones but that is one thing I love that is unique to this futuristic immersive world. Many of them you can borrow from Alpha Centauri itself without violating copyright laws... Right? They might not even need modelling, just a pop up window that informs you of the event.

-Solar Flares that knock out communication and satellites. Severe ones might destroy building types.

-Hail storms or meteorites that knock out energy parks

-Rain storms that increase food production; droughts that may reduce it

-Typhoons and other weather effects that destroy improved water tiles. Would be neat to see this affect high pollution players more, would give pause to the snowball/avalanche effect for Solar Dynasty and the religious chick I never play.

-Lab accidents that destroy science buildings and cause fallout or infestation.

-Black hole generators malfunction chance... Because those things are super OP x.x

Again I am NOT a coder and have no clue if any of this is feasible, but all I'd need as a player is a popup window. Yay I'm tech leader and there's NO HOPE of anyone else winning this game and we have 100 turns to go at least? Oh what's this... All of my Quantum labs are blown up?!?!.... Well now I at least feel like there's somewhat of struggle to continue in this game without taking too much away from it.
Agree with every suggestion here.

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Re: Announcement: Your chance to affect the future of Pandor

Post by Sawelios » Sun Jan 11, 2015 6:05 am

Yes, completely agree. "Planet versus Intelligent Monkeys" mode is implemented in Pandora even better that "Monkeys Kill Each Other" mode. Due to rather "second-hand" factions this former mode can become a main distinctive feature of the game, that in turn can have some kind of promotional effect: "Until now there was no game where you could literally feel that planet you landed is ALIVE indeed".

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Re: Announcement: Your chance to affect the future of Pandor

Post by Seroc » Sun Jan 11, 2015 5:05 pm

Sawelios wrote:Yes, completely agree. "Planet versus Intelligent Monkeys" mode is implemented in Pandora even better that "Monkeys Kill Each Other" mode. Due to rather "second-hand" factions this former mode can become a main distinctive feature of the game, that in turn can have some kind of promotional effect: "Until now there was no game where you could literally feel that planet you landed is ALIVE indeed".
Yes, well put, the planet IS ALIVE. Makes me think of Avatar. Pandora is already half way there...

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