Anacreon 3.0 Questions

General discussion for the game Anacreon
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George,

I'm really excited about the prospect of an Anacreon 3.0. I've enjoyed both Transcendence and the PC version of Anacreon; moving the game to a browser-based format is a logical progression. I do have a few questions about how you are envisioning the game playing out:

You mention that you envision the game taking place in real time, with universes containing up to thousands of players, with concurrent actions, but at a slow enough pace that people might only have to log in every few days or so. This really reminds me of the browser-based game Imperial Conflict, which I hadn't thought about in over a decade but which is apparently still going (and which I believe is heavily derivative of Anacreon, mechanics-wise, unless both games share some earlier common ancestor.)

Obviously Imperial Conflict is (by modern standards) extremely crude at least in terms of presentation. However it does have some features specific to a multiplayer browser-based game that improve on Anacreon, particularly the way that the game handles diplomacy and time progression. Specifically (if I recall correctly), players are grouped together randomly into families which start in a common area of space. This means that weak players have a set of automatic allies in strong ones, and ensures that players entering an ongoing game partway through are not instantly ganked by much stronger opponents. Planets are colonized rather than captured, at least at first; some planets are colonizable from the beginning of the game but others only become colonizable later on, which allows players entering the game midway through a chance to expand a little bit before having to go to war. There is also a galaxy-wide resource auction that allows you to buy and sell resources; families cooperate to build constructions, form alliances, or declare war.

I would love to hear a little more on how you plan to adapt the Anacrenon concept to fit the online massive multiplayer format. Specifically:

- How long do you envision each game cycle taking, from beginning to declaration of a victor? Days? Weeks? Years?

- How will you handle diplomacy? Will it be a proto-Darwinian struggle of all against all; will alliances arise according to certain game mechanics? Will they be galactic or regional in scope? Will players start among a friendly circle of other players who can support them?

- Will everyone have to be present at the beginning of a game or will people be able to join one that's already in progress? How will you be able to make the game compelling for people who miss the initial scramble for territory? How will you handle player attrition (e.g. players who abandon the game midway through?)

- How will the game be won? In a game with thousands of players in it, total domination is obviously not realistic.

I would also love to hear a little bit more about the philosophy of Anacreon. The game's manual discusses the idea of a struggle against entropy, where regional order is increased at the expense of the system as a whole; with short-term gains being bought at the cost of permanent losses. To me, this really only seemed to get expressed in the fact that certain resources, like Trillum, were finite; given an unlimited number of turns and a finite universe, it would become impossible for your empire to continue to move fleets around. How will you build on this? Do you envision games that span millions of (virtual) years that eventually enter a "degenerate era", where stars burn out and free energy is so scarce as to preclude any further action? Will player spheres of influence resemble expandiing shells, constantly conquering worlds at their fringes but with centers filled with stripped, lifeless planets and stars that have been sucked dry?
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Couple pointers, AFAIK, we have yet to know that its actually going to be called Anacreon 3.0, and you wouldn't get a degenerate era for hundreds of billions of years.
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Wolfy wrote:Couple pointers, AFAIK, we have yet to know that its actually going to be called Anacreon 3.0, and you wouldn't get a degenerate era for hundreds of billions of years.
Well what's this then?

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Well it seems george did give us our answer then. He had never publically stated it, even when talking about it on IRC day. :lol:
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I think the MMO model WTVDN suggests is a terrible choice for Anacreon.

I've seen a game like that, and space gets saturated by the first players, leaving later players at an extreme disadvantage. The first players get to play France and Spain and Britain and the later players get stuck playing Monaco. It's no fun to play Monaco.

Strategy games about controlling territory and massive multiplayer just don't mix.

The concept also lacks the possibility of concentrated play, which is generally a lot more fun. If you take a turn every day you can never remember what you're doing, but if you take a turn as frequently as the other players finish theirs in a small game you can get through scores of turns in an hour at the beginning. Faster play also facilitates playtesting, especially when you want to do AI.

There's also no victory. You can win Civ. You can win Anacreon 2.x. You can't win an MMO. If you somehow did you'd have degenerate gameplay where the empire swatted any new players as soon as they appeared.

What I'd envisioned was the Civ model. A game instance has as few as 2 people, and probably not more than 16, they're all sitting at their computers at once, and they take turns simultaneously, probably with a chess timer. It could be MMO-like in that it would be a client server architecture, but heavily instanced with each instance moving quickly and ending when someone achieved victory.
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Atarlost, some of the most profitable and popular browser-based games out there right now are things like Farmville and Trabian that do not require the kind of concentrated gameplay that you're describing. We can quibble about the relative despicableness of their business models and all that, but it really sounds like that's what George is aiming for when he describes a slow-paced game with thousands of players.

One way to avoid newbie ganking while still preserving the slow pace George described in the Kronosaurus blog is to have short-ish game cycles rather than a persistent world. Another is to have forced alliances between groups of newer and older players, with incentives for the more mature empires to support their up-and-coming allies. In keeping with the entropy theme, another way might be to have diminishing returns as empires expand or some sort of decadence mechanic that older empires have to deal with, stacking the deck against them in confrontations with smaller, weaker, but younger and more vital societies.

Alternatively, there could be Spore-like tiers of gameplay (yeah, okay, that's another bad game, but bear with me)- where players ascend to a different scope of play as they increase in power, leaving room for newer and weaker players to fill their niche. A dragonfly larva terrorizes the bottom of the pond for a few weeks, but once it gets big enough it turns into a dragonfly and suddenly it isn't a direct threat to the little minnows anymore, even though it's still part of the same ecosystem. Thus, there could always be room at the bottom as bigger players 'ascend'.
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Are any of you familiar with Neptune's Pride? Go and discover it, play it, and then we'll all have a proper discussion.
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Those browser games aren't conflict and territory based. Not the popular ones anyways. They're not zero sum. Anacreon is zero sum. Once the unalaigned stars are grabbed up you can't get stronger without someone else getting weaker. At the same time the pacing of the game is slow. If construction is fast economics completely dominates combat. If construction is slow it takes far too many game turns to accomplish anything for frequent refreshes to allow the game to develop.

Forced alliances just leave all the newbies playing Monaco at best, many would be playing Lesotho. Playing Lesotho sucks. Lesotho has no foreign policy because it's surrounded on all sides by South Africa. It cannot expand because it's surrounded on all sides by South Africa. It is difficult to imagine a gaming experience less fun than playing Lesotho in a strategy game.
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I don't think George is going for popularity, but a game that is economically sustainable for his target audience. I'm pretty sure that Anacreon 3 will probably be akin to something like Risk, set in space, and with entropy attached. New players are always an issue with MMO's and George will probably have something worked out before he releases Anacreon 3. Definitely entropy will come into play, as there is a limit to technology and newer empires would probably more efficient in their home territory and wreak havoc on outdated, battered fleets travelling several lightyears.
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Wow, Neptune's Pride looks pretty cool.
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Would it be possible to have new systems generate in the outskirts of the map, and given to new players? That would mean that each player is relatively close in power to all their neighbors, but the strength rises gradually towards the center of the map.
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When you have two equal empires on one side, one weaker one on one side, and a stronger one on the last side, you're probably going to expand outwards into the weaker one, away from the stronger one. To compound the issue, the older, interior states are likely to have better drive tech, and can outpace the rate of expansion that their younger neighbors are moving at.
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Yeah, but if it is a gentle enough gradient, then the surrounding empires will be close enough to your power level to at least hinder expansion.
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Drako Slyith wrote:Yeah, but if it is a gentle enough gradient, then the surrounding empires will be close enough to your power level to at least hinder expansion.
If the elder powers only route of expansion is through you they're going to expand through you. The goal is not to have a stable political situation, it's to have a fun game. They're pretty much antithetical for strategy games.
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Tribalwars.net is a good example of how the timings can be worked out, rather than set turns each player can have their own time limits on constructions and things. with different servers "worlds?" having different timings to allow players who play either more or less.

I also picked this particular game as it has all the basic mechanics needed such as placing new players ect
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