Terra Invicta Dev Diary #10: R&D

For updates and discussion of Terra Invicta, a grand-strategy alien invasion simulator
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johnnylump
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Terra Invicta Dev Diary #10: R&D

Post by johnnylump » Tue Oct 06, 2020 4:40 pm

ProjectComplete_Materials.jpg
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The usual formula for research advancement in 4X games is individual players and AIs chasing a single tech at a time. That’s well enough, but we wanted to do something that offers a richer decision set and also:

• Simulates concurrent research in different disciplines in the modern world.
• Distinguishes between science and engineering.
• Reflects how a lot of modern science is actually done in the open, with new discoveries being explored in research journals and academic conferences, while specific products capitalizing on those understandings are developed in secret.
• Creates opportunities for cooperation between factions as well as for prisoner’s dilemma and free-rider problems.

It does take more math under the hood to make work. In games like Civ, if you could divide up your research, there would no incentive to do so, as it’s always better to get one tech under your belt rather than take twice as long to get two techs at once. It’s a simple, clean mechanic that feels a little off when simulating science in a complex, globalized world.

While Terra Invicta keeps research to a single income value that’s spent immediately, we incentivize you to spread it out among multiple targets.
research screen.jpg
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The seven human factions collectively research three new scientific principles, or techs, at once (the three on the top part of the above UI). The factions can also research up to three private engineering projects simultaneously. The choice is how much to invest in each of the techs and projects at any given point of the game.

Techs are broad understandings of how things like physics, or chemistry, or people, work. Only rarely do they directly lead to some specific change in how events unfold in the game. Instead, their main function is to unlock engineering projects for individual factions.

These projects will typically either trigger an effect or unlock a new component for your ship and habs. A tech might be “Directed Energy Weapons Doctrine,” and it’s one prerequisite for the “60 cm infrared laser battery” project, which in turn unlocks the ship weapon system of the same name for your ships.

Techs and projects are divided into eight categories:
• Energy: Propulsion, power generation, and directed energy
• Materials: Covers inorganic chemistry, construction, armor, radiators
• Space Science: Exploration and colonization
• Information Science: Computers, data and knowledge, telecommunications
• Life Science: Biology and space survival
• Social Science: Political science, economics, media, sociology
• Military Science: Doctrine, weaponry, tactics, logistics
• Xenology: Study of the aliens. These are only projects.

Research income (the little beaker) comes from the following sources:
• Nations. Nations generate research based on their education level, GDP, democracy score, and cohesion value. Unrest reduces it. You get a share of it based on the number of control points you have there.
• Councilors. Some councilors generate research points directly, and they may also acquire orgs that generate research. Councilors and orgs will also often offer bonuses in specific research categories.
• Habs. Many hab modules generate research points and offer bonuses in specific research categories.
Research may also come from narrative events. A ship module can offer a bonus in space science as well.

Mechanically, you distribute your research spending by designating weights on the three public techs and your one to three private projects, similar to how you designate weights for the national priorities. So you can go all-in on a single effort if necessary. Once enough research is put into a particular tech or project, it is completed and its benefits begin to unlock.

So why not leave the public techs alone and just focus on projects that directly benefit your faction? Three reasons:
• It slows the overall progress of humanity, making harder for all the factions to achieve their objectives.
• The more you contribute to a public tech, the more likely you’ll have access to a project it unlocks, and the faster it will become available for you to research (see below for details on this mechanic).
• Whichever faction contributes the most research to a given tech gets to choose the next tech the world pursues.

The last is critical. Left unchecked, factions like the Servants or the Initiative may steers the world’s efforts toward developing methods of social control, rather than propulsion or weapon systems.

A second resource is vital for your engineering efforts: Projects (the gears icon). The number you have determines how many simultaneous projects you can pursue and how fast you complete them. It works like this:
• You get one project slot for free.
• You can get a second project slot (to work on two projects simultaneously) if you have an org with a project income value.
• You get a third project slot if you have a hab module with a project income value.
• If you have multiple orgs or hab modules with project income values, they apply bonuses to all projects you are working on.

The tech category and project bonuses are significant. The idea is that by spreading out your research spending, you are maximizing efficiency by utilizing these bonuses.

(It’s also under consideration to offer additional bonuses for spreading out your research points to further incentivize doing so.)

The tech tree and the various project prereqs are fixed in config. Some projects may have multiple paths to unlock them.

But not every faction will get access to every project. Each project has a trigger percentage for each faction. For critical projects, it’s 100% -- so RNG won’t block your path to win -- but for others, only a few factions may have access to it, and it’s possible some interesting but non-vital techs may not appear in a particular campaign at all. An example is the Nuclear Salt Water Reactor project, which is necessary to power the powerful Neutron Flux Drive. Once the tech prerequisites of Advanced Fission Systems and Ultracapacitors are met, each faction has a 15% of unlocking the project in a given campaign, plus any bonuses they receive from contributing to its parent techs.

This is in part to simulate that it’s unclear whether some real-world ideas will actually work, and also to keep campaigns a bit different from one another.

Projects won’t always become available immediately after you hit the prereqs for them. While public techs are locked in until completion, you can change a project you are pursuing at any time and bank the completed research. Some projects are also repeatable, but cost more for each time you complete it.

Finally, your councilors can steal projects from other factions. Doing so doesn’t get you access to a completed project, but allows you to pursue it yourself.

A number of projects are tied to completing objectives that move you closer to understanding the purpose of the alien invasion, or otherwise moving your faction toward its victory conditions.

Here are a few example projects:
• Aerospikes. This project is unlocked by the Next Generation Aerospace tech. It increases the effectiveness of your investments into growing a nation’s Boost resource.
• End of America. This project is unlocked by the Independence Movements tech. It grants claims to several new nations over the regions of the United States.
• Publicize Alien Threat. The project a significant, one-time propaganda event for every nation. It is unlocked by “We Are Not Alone,” an early social science tech, and another project that’s part of the game’s objective chain. Only the Resistance, Humanity First, and Project Exodus can complete this project.

… From a design perspective, one of the nice things about this system is that it’s pretty open-ended and moddable. We think we have most or all of the public techs in place (at least until we start adding more for new scenarios), but adding projects will be something we work on as development continues, and we expect to have many hundreds in the game.

Paladin80
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Re: Terra Invicta Dev Diary #10: R&D

Post by Paladin80 » Wed Oct 07, 2020 4:39 am

Hello, I think here would be nice to have a non-linear research effect function. Like, if you want to have a baby, you can not use 9 women to speedup this process to 1 month.

The same applies to the fundamental science (but not for the engineering). Your scientist horde will just stuck in endless meetings and each scientist will be less productive when more of them are working on the same project.

carlo_t
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Re: Terra Invicta Dev Diary #10: R&D

Post by carlo_t » Thu Oct 08, 2020 2:23 pm

Very interesting! However, I have a doubt/question. Based on the dev diary, the ability to choose a global tech seems quite powerful (you can further your aims and hinder your enemies). However, "whichever faction contributes the most research to a given tech gets to choose the next tech the world pursues".

Wouldn't this create a strong incentive to focus on only one of the three shared techs, disregarding the other two? As there are 7 factions, you most likely will be unable to be the top contributor in two techs out of three, so the optimal choice seems to be focusing all your available research on one single tech, so that you can maximise the chances of controlling at least one of the three shared research slots.

I wonder, why did you decide to allow the top contributor to choose the new research, instead of having a "weighted odds" system, which might incentivise you to invest in multiple techs at once? (basically, your odd of being selected for choosing the next tech would be X/T, where X is the amount of research you invested and T is the total research invested on a certain tech).

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Re: Terra Invicta Dev Diary #10: R&D

Post by johnnylump » Thu Oct 08, 2020 2:56 pm

That's a legit mechanic you are proposing. The main goal of "you win, you pick" is to reward not just working on your private projects, and involving RNG makes that less valuable. But you're certainly correct it would incentivize spreading out more. We'll see what happens in testing.

delphinous
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Re: Terra Invicta Dev Diary #10: R&D

Post by delphinous » Fri Oct 09, 2020 9:39 pm

maybe have diminishing returns? like the first time or two you are the highest contributor is guaranteed picking, but then you start accumulating penalties that fall off as others pick a tech? so that you cannot completely dominate but you can exert a lot of control

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