I have been thinking about this quite a bit, and I have come to a specific conclusion that I think will need to be addressed.
Technology tree, as you know its really fast to get through everything, you can blast through the tree in 30-40 days depending on the resources you are willing to spend on labs. Even with the current change in population, this is still very very possible.
So, we know that the tech tree is going to need to be much larger, and that is something that a lot of people have been saying over and over again. Its a common theme that people want a really robust system in place for long term research, however there is a single problem that will need to be addressed.
Disparity in technological levels:
This is the big issue, and the way the research is currently setup, at least the ratios of time, it doesn’t favor anyone coming into the game after 30 days. Even if there was four times the research, it would only stretch that number out to 45 days by my estimation. Meaning that anyone in the KNOW will not enter a server after 45 days, because its just not playable, they will be so far behind that its going to be very hard to catch up.
What we need are plateaus within the tech tree.
Creating Technological Plateaus:
I would say that it should take on average 2 to 3 weeks to get through everything that is considered Tech level 1, so all the small/regular stuff, advanced power plants, labs, T1 ships, Free Warp 2 Engines, basic small/medium weapons, etc.
We then need a plateau here, where there are tech levels that enhance T1 techs, without openly T2 techs, and that are pre-reqs for T2. This should last 1.5x longer than it takes to actually get through T1, so 3-4 weeks.
Then once T2 opens up fully, it should take roughly 3 times as long, so we are looking at 6 to 9 weeks to make it through all of the basic T2 research, then another plateau, with enhances taking another 2x longer than it takes to get through T2, putting that at 12-18 weeks.
Finally, we meet T3, T3 should take 5 times as long, sitting at 30 to 45 weeks to finish all the base T3 technology. with it takes 2.5x longer to finish out all the specialty endgame tech and enhancements at 45 to 60 weeks.
So, this means -
T1 takes roughly 5 to 7 weeks to finish everything
T2 takes roughly 18 to 27 weeks to finish everything
T3 takes roughly 75 to 105 weeks to finish everything
Now, this is predicated on having at least 250-300 techs to research, minimum, as well as techs being tossed in here for new ways to play the game, new mechanics, new features etc.
People can still specialize heavily and reduce times to certain tech levels.
T1 ships vs T2, you are going to lose, but its much more manageable than T1 vs T3 off the bat. If I came into the game after 2 months, people would just be getting into T2 stuff, and I wouldn’t feel behind. IF I came in after 4 months, I know that people are playing T2, and I can catch up to T2, before they start pumping out T3 stuff. If I come in at 6 Months, I know that only the most hardcore players that specialize are at T3 (and maybe just a couple techs), and that before they can do much more, I can make it to T2.
This way of setting up the tech levels will increase the viability of larger servers and healthier servers for around 6 months, before you might start seeing a large player decline. This also extends long term servers play out for a couple years, which I think a lot of people are looking for.
Making it work:
To make this work, like I stated above, we are going to need a lot more technology, at least 4 times what we currently have. To make this work people have to feel like they are able to get a lot of technology fast, and slowly acclimate them to a slow down in how fast they gain new technology.
As it stands, if this server had started off with these things in mind, we would be right in the middle of Tier 2, and we would be having a lot more activity on the server.
Considering current population growth levels, economy, and how fast it takes to get to deep mines:
- We need to dial back the prices of T1 ships by 25-50% of their current costs.
- We need to make density matter for deep mines, keep deep mines how they currently work, but just on planets with a density for them, and then make it take longer to get to those mines than currently on the board.
- We need to increase prices of current T2 ships to that of 1.5x the cost of T3 ships.
- We need to increase the prices of T3 ships to that of about 5-7x their current prices.
- We need to create a dodge, defense, and retreat mechanics to make battles last longer, and every battle doesn’t end in the entire suicide of one side.
- We need an ability to mine asteroids, as well as planets from orbit.
- The current Orbital Defense systems for homeworlds will need to be scaled down (maybe what the current medium version is, and having a 10%, 20%, and 40% versions implemented as tech).
These changes will allow specialist races/playstyles to really come into their own, it allows for an explosion of expansion during the early game, consolidation during the mid game, and heavily focused economy based late game (Since everything dramatically increases in price, after the initial load of resources saved from mid game are expended, things take a turn, and those that focused on farming to this point will really shine).
To combat 2 problems that the game does suffer from, I recommend putting in tech that limits fleets and planets. This will help regulate game play towards the average time it takes to get to each plateau, it will help with too much expansion, it will help with people being able to play the game without pushing the servers/their computers past their limits, and it helps with coalition/alliance mechanics, as well as individuals getting too powerful (unless they are willing to specialize in expansion based technologies, then they won’t be as technologically advanced as others, but can have larger fleets and planets, potentially outnumbering someone, and having a better economy).
I would offer that everyone can expand to 10 systems without tech, as well as maintain 20 fleets. This will push people to make better decisions with how they want to expand, as well as fleet management. However to make this work too, a few changes will need to be met:
- Scouts and Clippers don’t count towards the Fleet Total, they get a separate limit that is 1/4 that of the Fleet Total.
- Minesweeper Module also confers a flagship level, allowing a Clipper to have have access to a small fleet. This helps with mine warfare, making it more interesting, and so that you can have multiple clippers in a single fleet sweeping mines faster, or able to transport smaller fleets through mines without dealing with damage (this also allows for smuggler like play styles).
I would offer 5 techs each:
15 systems, 20 systems, 30 systems, 50 systems, 100 systems
25 fleets, 40 fleets, 80 fleets, 128 fleets, 256 fleets
Limiting fleets doesn’t mean limiting ships being built, it means limiting ships deployed. You can have built 100 Valks sitting back at one of your planets, and can deploy them once you have had some ships destroyed. You are just limited to how many ships you can deploy on your screen at any given time.
With more technology, these limits in place, it means for a faster/fun early game (ships are super cheap, and you can mine astroids/fight pirates/missions), a longer mid game (ships are much more expensive, off setting the costs of tons of deepmines, you are limited by expansion, and fleets, and there is so much technology you have to slowly move through it all, or specialize within a coalition/alliance), and finally a robust end game (your economy is established, you have access to many more fleets/systems to expand to, you can be extremely specialized to the point that you are a major asset for a coalition/alliance, or well balanced).