Core issues of 4X MMO

So it does not get lost in another thread, my list of core issues in 4X MMO games.

  • no classic research tree that is linear but something thats horizontal so there is no gap between new and old players

  • ability to fight a big empire as a smaller one! the keyword here is fight not destroy. think of rebels vs imperium in star wars, they are not able to destroy the imperium but are able to strike at key locations

  • the ability to relocate your forces to an active place in the galaxy while not enabling rapid deployment as a tactic in a local war

  • player interaction other than destruction while balancing the multi account problem

  • remove total annihilation completly from the game. it should not be possible to destroy another player completly! it must be something like bajor vs cardassia, occupation instead of annihilation

  • no classic species selection as in 4X singleplayer games, different factions but the ability to tailor your empire while ingame, like factions in eve

  • an economy that does not start to spill over after some time, the income and expenditures need to be balanced in a way that the resources are a limiting factor at all times

  • losing has to be fun, probably 90% of the playerbase will be on the losing side of a conflict at one point therefor it is crucial that the experience of getting destroyed is good if not better than on the winning side

**I will update this list whenever i think of another crucial point


the classic research tree is easiest for new players to understand from the start. i have come up with 2 alternatives and seemed to get no traction with the players on the forums. do you have an alternative?

I cant disagree more here. conquest is why i play games like this and avoid others where a single player can be a true thorn in your side because you can’t finish him off. imagine a player manages to end up in the middle of your empire and can produce a mine layer and a mine sweeper every day. I personally can’t be bothered enough to login just to check his activities and make sure to sweep his mines in the off chance he actually produced any.


A classic tech tree does not work in a persistant universe. It needs horizontal progression instead of vertical and linear. Change instead of improvement. “different not better.”

It should be possible to defeat someone instead of destroy. Thats a big difference. It should not be possible to remove a player from the game or the playerbase will decline.


I tend to agree.

Right now I have seen ( and indeed done myself) plenty of times of folks maxing out the tech tree as it was and then dismantling all their Labs for more mines etc on those planets…

That’s plainly ridiculous!

Instead as has been suggested in many ways by many folks repeatable techs where you get a small buff in some area when you repeat them AND (this is Most important!!) some kind of rational to prevent Lab recycling when the tree is maxed or as maxed out as the player thinks they need.

I flavor an ongoing Tech Maintenance cost where to “Maintain” T3 Techs a certain amount of Sci points are “Lost” each cycle representing server maintenance lab safety standards, repair of such bleeding edge Tech etc etc Ideally a sliding scale is needed of say 1% of the individual techs original cost being is “Maintenance” value perhaps.

If something like this was properly balanced if could achieve a point where folks had to balance the pro’s and con’s of an all maxed out Tech tree OR maintaining their core Techs (as they saw them) effectively making the Tech tree immortal


I realy like the Ultima Online approach. “What you do is who you are.”

So using Bows all day will increase your Archery skill.
Add to that, that it will also reduce something aswell, like a smart wizard that has no muscles and you have a system that gives you great horizontal progression.

Imagine an empire that wrecks havoc on all its neighbours, using the largest ships possible, best plasma available. No other empire in the region is able to stop the unrelenting enemy. However that empire does have no regards for small vessels, such inferior constructs do not fit the empires war doctrine of imposing might with strengh. But all those other empires that are being attacked choose to use small hit and run vessels. They can not take on that empire in a big fight but they are able to strike fast where it hurts the most.

How can such a scenario be created?

Hearts of Iron 3 has a research system that seperates the tech cost between theory and practice. In order to research Battleships the fastest you had to actually build lower level ships to improve your practical knowledge. The theoretical and practical knowledge would naturally decline over time, so you realy had to focus on some areas in order to get the most out of it.

blue is practical and green is theory

Such a system could be expanded to production cost and time, hence building lots of battleships will streamline the production process while increasing the cost and time of other classes

Imagine the Klingon Empire that is able to builds lots and lots of Bird of Preys which are excellent combat ships even though the Klingon Empire seriously lacks in the science department, compared to the Federation which is in theory able to field insanely powerful ships like the Defiant, but it does take a lot of time to construct them and they are not very reliable and the numbers are few, as the Federation certainly does not have much practical knowledge of mass producing warships.

Your example is similar to one I have already proposed. My idea was every weapon would have its own research tree of sorts and each race would have its own specialty. Mankind, for example, prefers fast inexpensive everything and so while all races would start off with identical weapons, they will quickly bloom into not only what their race prefers, but also what the player prefers. So right off the bat, increasing the weapon damage by 1 would be 1 science point, reducing the weapon’s cost would be .75, and reducing the time it takes to build that weapon would be .8 . after acquiring so many levels into the small weapon, the medium weapon would be unlocked with a similar research structure and a catch. Every time you research anything into anything increases both the cost and time it takes to produce it as well as the requirement to research the next tier (obviously researching to reduce these would overcome the increases and the increased research requirement only increases for that specific upgrade path. ie researching more damage does not increase the time it takes to reduce the cost it).

Imo, the whole game should follow this structure and while this means that mankind could build the most powerful weapons (only ever researching damage) and syntis could build only the cheapest, they would find themselves at a disadvantage vs a player who spread out their research.

As someone who views planets as a means to produce ships, and ships as a means to go to war, this supposed economic imbalance is a non issue. There are many players who sit on their haunches in the lategame because there’s “no reason to go to war”. So they’re not using the existing resource sinks of replacing ships, planets, and pop.

Maybe some aspects of it could use some fine tuning, but I’m not gonna trust the numbers coming from largely pacifist players in what’s supposed to be a wargame.

1 Like

These discussions tend to get bogged down in a discussion about research trees pretty rapidly. The key there is some sort of infinite repeat, whether by exponential costs or maintenance or otherwise, which paired with trade provides plenty of incentive to co-operate.

But lets not just focus on the tech tree topic here, that has been debated to death, and at this point, I’m fairly confident the devs have had every variation presented to them, and the ball is in their court on that issue.

The more interesting aspects of this post is the challenges you get when you MMO 4X. Uneven start dates makes it unfair by default. A suggestion I’ve given in the past on that issue is to make higher development coupled to some strategic resource that’s not as abundant. I.E. the resource for tech 2 is only found on 1/2^1 (=.5) of the planets, for tech three on 1/2^2 (=.25), for tech four on 1/2^3 (=.125), etc. (edit: it needs not even be tied to tech per se, something giving increasing bonusses might also do the trick)

Thus, as players become stronger, they need/want increasingly specific planets, which are more spread out (and therefor harder to defend), leaving all the worlds in between for weaker players to fight over. Such weaker players can then trade with the stronger player, making both stronger.

I agree except for this one, or at least, I’m not sure what gameplay you invision for a “Bajor” type situation or how that differs in any practical way from simply being destroyed.

I state that total annihilation has to be removed not in regards to gameplay but in order to secure the longevity of such a community. The destruction of players has the effect that people will stop playing the game, not because they suddenly dont like the game anymore but because their progress has been destroyed. Just imagine every player in EVE Online has to restart the game with 0 skill points and 0 money in their accounts once they die in combat. Its like playing Path of Exile Hardcore Mode with the chance of random players joining your session and killing you without any possibility of defence.

There need to be consequences for defeat, but total annihilation will not help to establish a healthy community. It is very tough to tackle this point but its crucial.

But you can connect this point with the idea that losing has to be fun. The guy that is the evil overlord does not need some better gameplay as the social aspect of dominationg other players in a computer game does suffice. However the players on the losing end need to have gameplay that help them enjoy that troublesome time.
Games that tried to focus on the losing is fun idea are Total War Attila and Imperator Rome, its all about how to stop the shittrain once it started.

On the other hand, what would happen to Counterstrike if you never died? Or what about games like Rimworld or “Rogue-types” where death is part of the natural cycle of gameplay and restarting is meant to be part of the fun?

And really, as a 4X type, people should want to try starting over to try new civilizations and playstyles. The problem isn’t that restarting is inherently bad – it’s that there’s nothing fun about it in this game, mainly due to the vertical nature of advancement.

An established empire with several back up planets rimwards is beyond annihilation in any practical sense anyway?

You have to differentiate between the average player and people that know every mechanic inside out. I dont think that its possible to destroy me, at all. I dont even think that its possible to take more than just a handful of my worlds due to various gameplay mechanics, however during the course of my campain in the main server, i destroyed about 5 other active players in the first 7-14 days alone and many others after that.
The current mechanics dont allow a defeated empire to stay relevant as the current mechanics give you no option of interaction beyond the personal threat and blackmail for resources. And i dont think the current gameplay is very enjoyable as a tributary. That aspect has to be changed. Power differences due to various factors will always be there so players will end up losing a war, but it needs to be fun what comes after that.

The current state is much like:

while we need more like:

Trade Alliance blocakde of Naboo




A Counterstrike Session takes about 2-3min, losing a round does not have any weight. But losing the progress of 500h is certainly some heavy weight.

You are right that 4X is quite often about trying new species, new strategies BUT such sessions usually only take a few hours.

In order to try a new species in Outscape you have to destroy all your progress of the current one, hence increasing the gap between you and the players that focus on just one species. I therefor state that the good old species and civilisation editing has to be done ingame. Maybe like bioengineering, cybernetics and such aswell as civilisational changes. Such changes might take time but in a persistent universe, everything has to be done ingame.

Or more likely the stronger players will hoard it for themselves and their friends.

It sounds like what we really need are for defenses to have some longevity.

Personally I dont agree with the " no total destruction" of a player. That option is about the only thing that gives us any pvp satisfaction. Also the player destroyed can always restart somewhere else. Further, it also gives us a chance to eradicate inactive ppl completely. :slight_smile:

To focus on the perplexity that is infinite growth in measureless volumes.

This question has plagued sapiens civilisations and 4X games since time immemorial. Depressingly it would seem that the only solution proffered in real life to date is the total annulment of that civilisation.

The adoption of a ‘corruption’ index is a similar more successful attempt at control of the number of colonies and consequential micromanagement.

AFAIK IRL the only partial solutions available are some form of re-distributive procedure such as rebellion or taxation.

If the above is so then must game plays be devised to model such … events. If so, how.

Perhaps … regarding taxation … is some attempt to implement a meta, a supra player construct, a governance, an explorable conceptual thread.

Regarding rebellion … perhaps players in the lobby could choose to be the ‘leader’ of any one of the available rebellions ? Perhaps this mechanic could be extended with other roles, such as governance of a satrapy, being devised.

Just an fyi as people have overlooked something again. It’s not being marketed as a war game and the devs always planned on players not losing everything. The game is just incomplete in these and other areas.

As for taxation, credit generation is broken. The fix is not to inflate the cost of everything. The fix is to nerf/cap/reduce late game credit generation. New players run out of credits now what would higher costs do other then force a credit generation meta just to build something.


“hey this is a sportscar, doesnt look like it yet but its planned!”

1 Like

" … the ability to tailor your empire while ingame … ". Sounds like a good clean fun tech.