I've got good news and good news for you: First off, we have been busy working on Galactic Armory 2.0 and added a few small things here and there. Compared to the grand scope these are baby steps, but remember kids, rome wasn't built in a day - it took at least two!
Secondly, Azalrion wrote a great and in-depth explanation about our general concept of exploration and what our planned changes will ultimately mean for the gameplay of the mod. So with that out of the way, I'll let him have the floor!
So I've been hinting at this for a while, what is exploration in Galactic Armory 2.0 and how do we do it? I must say first off that this is still in flux even in the process of writing this blog I've come across things that were missing and concepts that needed some revision. Now with all that over let's crack on.
What's being changed?
As most of you will be aware in previous versions of GA and vanilla Star Ruler exploration is the simple act of building a lot of tiny scouts and pressing "X" or giving them an explore command and as soon as they reach a new system you know everything about that system and what's inside it. This we are aiming to change. There are certain limitations in what we can achieve and due to this our concept of exploration is directly related to planets and the gaining of information on their conditions and attributes. This has led there to being two stages of exploration:
1. Scouting of a system.
2. Exploration of a planet.
Scouting will be very much like the current implementation in which a ship has to be sent to the system to be able to see what objects that system holds as in the original method but limited information will be provided when hovering your mouse over the planet and in the System Window (most likely its Classification and Number of Moons).
Exploration of a planet will be the new mechanic and will be a process that takes time that when fully completed will reveal all the information relating to the planet it is performed on when hovering your mouse over that planet and in the System Window.
How it works
Many suggestions in the thread discussing this were for modules based in orbit that gradually explored a planet however I wanted to try and avoid this, I didn't want to force the need to keep a ship in orbital at all times especially with planets moving and the occasional problems that can cause with keeping that ship in position and so I took a different route.
Exploration as with all endeavors starts with a few good men and women, being introduced is a new resource known as Troops that will be generated on any planet with a specific structure and will provide the core of your exploration efforts. A ship can be equipped with Troop Quarters and a Survey Shuttle (working name) and be used the same way as any tool via Orders or Context Menu to start a new Exploration Mission on the target un-owned planet.
There is one last thing that should be mentioned before we go into the details of the Exploration Missions and that is the state of your Empire's exploration attempt on a planet will impact your ability to colonize that planet successfully. I'll explain this in more detail later on.
An Exploration Mission starts when a Survey Shuttle is used on an un-owned planet. Troops are taken from the original ship (the amount depends on the size of the shuttle, the number of troops available and the max number of troops allowed on an Exploration Mission) then deployed to the planet. The exploration process then begins.
The exploration process is that each planet will have a set number of successful expeditions that need to be completed by the survey party before that planet can be counted as explored and this will range between 90 and 120 with an expedition happening no more than once a second meaning that the quickest a planet can be explored is a minute and a half to two minutes which would require no failed expeditions at all.
An expedition is an attempt by the survey party to gain information about the planet and its success chance is based on a number of factors; Tech Levels, Planet Type, Planet Conditions and Expedition Type, all these aspects will affect the chance of success.
- Tech Levels affects it in a fairly simple way in that in our new technology tree there are Techs which relate to Troops and Surveying and the higher the level the greater the success chance will be giving you a direct way to help affect and speed up the exploration process.
- Planet Type is again fairly simple in that the more dangerous the planet (Lava, Ice, etc) the more dangerous it will be for your survey party.
- Planet Conditions will again affect the chance but not always in a negative direction, depending on the condition that the Expedition encounters it may help or impede their chances again depending on whether it is a dangerous, benign or neutral condition.
- Expedition Type is the tricky one and the most likely one to be dropped from the concept. The idea is that not all expeditions will be the same and a certain one might be easier or harder and have different consequences if failed. This is very much still a work in process.
If a mission is successful, then the planet's exploration percentage is increased moving towards the state of being fully explored. However if a mission is failed there is a chance that some of the survey party may be lost reducing the amount of Troops available on the planet and if all Troops are lost then the Exploration Mission ends and the planet is fixed at the percentage explored until a new mission is launched or the planet is colonized (not necessarily by you).
To help counter this gradual loss of troops if a Survey Shuttle is used on a planet with an active Exploration Mission from your Empire then instead of a new Exploration Mission beginning the Troops are added to the existing one up to the Exploration Mission cap for Troops.
It should be mentioned that unlike how Boarding Parties currently work Troops will not be generated on the ship and will need to be collected from a planet if more are required and so the original ship can only support the mission as long as it has Troops available and will need to return to a planet for more if required.
I mentioned earlier the exploration percentage and the number of expeditions to achieve 100% exploration and because it may take a long time to reach that (might not even be possible for certain planets without extremely good Tech) it was decided that instead of revealing everything at 100% it would be a gradual process with certain information being reveal at certain percentages and this percentage complete will directly affect the colonization interactions.
So how exactly does this percentage affect colonization? Well at the moment your chance of succeeding in a colonization attempt is affected by the percentage of the planet explored, the lower that percentage the more likely your attempt is to fail or lose so many colonists that it will take a lot of support or an extreme amount of time to evolve into a beneficial planet (there are aspects of our reworked economic and planet gameplay which affect this more than it would seem like from previous releases). You can of course attempt a brute force approach to colonization but this will be extremely risky to the health and ability of your Empire (again due to economic changes I will explain soon).
This means that it's going to be easier to colonize more suitable planets than hazardous ones first making the expansion phase slower and more tactical than before.
An Enemy Is Here We Need Orders
What happens then if an Empire you're at war with attempts an Exploration Mission or to colonize the planet your survey party is on? Well they are troops so we decided that their standing orders would be to sabotage and stop them at all costs.
For Exploration Missions once a second while both Empires have Troops available a skirmish will happen in which Troops from both sides are lost at a random percentage of the available troops affected by your Troop Tech Levels. This of course is again supportable by reinforcing your Troops, making control of the system in space extremely important to the survival of your Exploration Mission.
For colonization it is a bit trickier as we need to consider the number of civilians, what they might be able to arm themselves with, how well they could defend themselves, whether any Troops were deployed with the colonization mission. It is in flux at the moment but the basic mechanic is that unless there is sufficient strength in the colonization attempt it might fail outright or be captured by the Troops of the Exploration Mission for their Empire.
Any Life Signs Captain?
With hostile Exploration Missions having this affect there needs to be a way to tell if one is present on the planet, this is done simply by having a ship with an Analyzer present in the system and for human players this will then be visible when hovering your mouse over the planet or in the System Window.
100% Reached What Then?
Your Troops have performed beyond expectation and you have reached 100% explored on a planet, so what happens then? Well one major thing is that expeditions stop but your Troops remain on the planet deployed as an outpost.
Several things can happen in this state, they will still fight hostile colonization and Exploration Mission attempts until they are victorious or all lost (they can still be reinforced), they can be retrieved by a ship with Troop Quarters (as many as there is space for on the ship) until all Troops are removed from the planet or the planet may be colonized. If colonized by you they join the colony's Troops, if a neutral empire they are returned to your nearest planet and if an enemy they are either defend against the attempt or are lost as mentioned previously.
That's it for today, everyone! Stay tuned for more!