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Distant Star 2nd Take

December 30, 2011

Despite lambasting Distant Star for the lack of documentation (and other issues) I’ve been playing it a bit on the iPad.  I just like space 4X games and honestly, with a little bit more stuff Distant Star will be a pretty good one.

So I’ve been fooling around with it and thinking of ways I’d change the game aside from the obvious improvements (larger tech tree, more races, planetary governors, etc).  I’ll assume that Trevor (who sent me a nice note I hadn’t respond to…so I’ll say something nice in this blog post instead…like I’m enjoying the game 🙂 ) is busily working on.

More on the lines of actual game design changes that affect game play.  There are two aspects of classic 4X space games that annoy me.  First is the usual management of a huge empire and many many fleets.  This can be somewhat minimized with better game features to help the player out.  Build lists, planetary governors, fleet rally points, etc. but it’s still a massive pain.

The second is somewhat related…the lack of terrain.  Pretty much by the late game you have the technology to fly directly anywhere.  Which also means that if you’re winning and trying to stomp out the last few colonies you need to picket or colonize every system so new colonies don’t popup on systems that you’ve already stomped.  On huge boards this is a pain in the rear.

The other aspect of lack of terrain is the lack of choke points and the nebulous nature of where your empire’s borders really are.  The enemy can always fly past your “frontier” systems and hit your “core” systems.  There are no critical systems, they’re pretty much all equally critical in the end game since most will have all the planetary improvements and generate the same general amount of ships and money.

So what would I do different?  I think I would play with the concept of ship maintenance to limit fleet sizes.  Then I’d move to a “warp lines” based game map.  I might also consider using the concept of critical materials (warp crystals or whatever) so that some systems have great value either from geography (choke point) or material wealth that conveys significant strategic advantage.   I’d probably make every homeworld have this material by default.

Then I’d playtest the hell out of it to see if these were positive or negative changes to gameplay.

Dang, I wonder if he’d license me the engine.

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Categories: games, iOS Apps
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