Dominus Galaxia: 4X Space Strategy
eXplore, eXpand, eXploit, eXterminate! Check out our fully featured free build: https://starchart-interactive.itch.io/dominus-galaxia
Dominus Galaxia: 4X Space Strategy
eXplore, eXpand, eXploit, eXterminate! Check out our fully featured free build: https://starchart-interactive.itch.io/dominus-galaxia
This project will only be funded if it reaches its goal by Sun, October 27 2019 6:59 AM UTC +00:00.
Dominus Galaxia is a 4X space strategy game, heavily inspired by Master of Orion 1.
In comparison with other great MoO 1-inspired projects (1oom, Remnants of the Precursors) it’s not a recreation, but an attempt (and a very playable attempt if I may say so) to evolve the mechanics and to add flexibility and variability while staying true to Master of Orion 1's spirit.
You don’t have to take my word for it (though it would be nice if you’ll read what I want to say).
I’m releasing a freeware, non-constrained, non-demo build of the game you can download and play. It’s beta-stage, fully functional and fully representative of where I am this far.
As I continue developing the game, this build will be updated over the course of the campaign. If the campaign is successful (I hope so), this version will be updated until I’m able to send out all beta keys to backers.
I'm excited to show you my game. I want to persuade you that even while it’s really fun now, it will be so much better in the future. And, of course, I want to hear your feedback.
Download the game, play it, see if it's something you want to help me to create.
Without further ado, here are the features of the game in bullet point, back-of-the-box format:
- Streamlined, slider-based colony management and fleet movement. No build queues to micromanage.
- Turn-based, hex-based tactical combat, Including turn costs, powerful special devices, and various terrain types.
- Various types of strategic terrain including impassable nebula, slow nebula, sensor blocking nebula, (optional) star-lanes, wormholes, and (optional) transient wormholes.
- Great gameplay customizability including different expansion modes (build colony ships, build starports or just send colonists directly), optional star-lanes, research modes, etc. that alter the feel of the game and add replayability.
- Choice between static and adaptive AIs, where AI production bonuses can be set independently of skill level. (you can play against smart AIs that have less production than you, dumb ones that have more, and anything in-between).
- Hotseat multiplayer, with networked multiplayer tentatively planned by version 1.0 (but could slip later).
- Deathmatch and Team Deathmatch game modes — for those who prefer a pure war-game over one with diplomacy.
- An infinite, semi-random tech tree divided into six fields which can be researched concurrently.
- In-depth ship design, including an (optional) Diablo-esque crafting component.
- Tactical combat supporting more than two belligerents (though I must admit, 3+ sided battles don’t happen too often).
- Background combat events use the same logic as player involved battles, not an imprecise approximation.
- Battles can be auto-resolved at any time. It's possible to manually begin a battle, and after a number of turns instantly resolve the remainder.
- Planetary bombardment and invasion.
- Interesting diplomacy, including a tech trading system that has been designed to be less exploitable, and a unique relationship system wherein high relationship helps to maximise trade revenue, while low relationship makes spying more difficult.
- An intelligence system, allowing you to close-in on how powerful your opponents are across various categories through exploration and spying.
- Strong modding capabilities. Even many of the game mechanics can be adjusted from text files!
Of course, any game is much more than the sum of its bullet-point features. But if any of that caught your interest, you’re very welcome to read about the inspiration, design philosophy, and future plans for the game.
It can be said there are two types of audiences to explain your game to: the one that does know what you’re talking about and the one that wants to know what you’re talking about.
For the genre regulars, I propose a what-if experiment.
What if Master of Orion 2 was a successor to Master of Orion 1, as the name implies, and not a radical re-imagining? Dominus Galaxia tries to answer that.
For those who want to try the genre, imagine there was once a game that set the gold standard for a then-new genre. And then came a sequel that overturned everything, from strategic planning to combat, from research to construction, diplo… no, diplomacy stayed largely the same. And this new sequel became an all-time classic of the genre. It’s still a yardstick to measure turn-based 4x games even now, more than twenty years since it’s release.
Well, so Dominus Galaxia is about former, not latter.
It’s not like I believe MoO 1 is somehow forgotten (far from it) or a better game than MoO 2 (in a lot of ways the sequel is undoubtedly superior).
They are too different to compare directly.
However, with the limelight on MoO 2, Civilization and games inspired by them, the philosophy behind the MoO 1 design hasn’t been really explored.
The only game that, I think, followed in the footsteps of MoO 1 is widely loved, cult classic Sword of the Stars.
On the highest level, I believe MoO 2 won the mind-share battle because of the sheer awesomeness of its presentation. It draws your imagination; it’s still enthralling despite the decades gone.
But if you strip away the Civilization influences, when you get down to the core of the design… I’ll say MoO 1 is more elegant, more streamlined and just plain better mechanically.
So, it’s a challenge and honor to explore and improve this design.
With Dominus Galaxia, I want to explore, expand and then exploit (but not exterminate) the philosophy of maximising the ratio of strategic choice making to non-strategic busy work.
I’m not an absolutist though. Maximising strategic depth at any cost will, I apologise for the tautology, come with a price. For starters, the game won’t be 4X.
Chess, Go, Poker... they all have significantly more strategic depth than, let’s say, Civilization. That doesn’t make them better or worse, they’re just a different genre.
Grand strategy games and 4X games are enthralling fantasy experiences. They immerse us in an emergent world, shaped by our actions and inactions.
We form our own narratives, we play-pretend being a galactic emperor or a ruler of a great nation and strategic depth is the tool we use to feel our victory is legitimate and earned honestly.
But what does “maximisation” mean then? Aren’t we playing strategy in strategy games all the time?
Well, not quite all the time.
Remember how you won an important battle, but before doing something with the conquered planet, you needed to go through a laundry list of chores?
How you colonize a new planet late-game and see the daunting list of buildings you may... no—need to construct? That pang of guilt when you give up and let the incompetent auto-governor do its job poorly?
Small, menial, rote tasks to perform every turn to eek a little bit of advantage and to reap the spoils only a hundred turns after?
That’s not really strategic, but that’s the lowest-hanging fruit.
With the menial tasks out of the way, strategic depth is regularly sacrificed by the mechanics of the game themselves in favour of something else.
I’ll go on a bit of a tangent to explain it...
One of the concepts I pursue in Dominus Galaxia is what I like to call “AI liberation”. This means that I steadfastly hold to the principle that AIs play by the same rules as real human players do, with no artificial constraints.
If a game system, when properly used by the AI, is aggravating, then I’m not limiting the AI as a blunt way to keep it in the game. Instead I'll remove that system or, more often, try to touch it up and implement it better.
Such an approach is a great magnification lens on design issues.
The best specific example I can think of is diplomacy.
Diplomacy is made for a human player to interact with AIs in a non-violent way and it’s pretty much a one way street. While the AI cares about your diplomatic modifiers, you as a player usually couldn’t care less.
But why do 4X designers all seem to do it this way?
Well, if you force the player to submit to the AI’s diplomatic modifiers, it plays awfully. And having gifted diplomats or being absolutely hapless on the diplomatic stage is narratively interesting.
Of course, it’s detrimental to strategic depth, but it plays to our fantasy and makes the game richer. And there’s no sense in playing a game if it doesn’t evoke emotions. It quite literally isn’t fun.
From this perspective it looks like a necessary trade-off. You can’t have your cake and eat it too.
But what if you could?
I firmly believe that it’s often, if not usually, possible to resolve the tension between narrative richness and strategic depth without sacrificing one on the altar of the other.
If you look close enough and mercilessly iterate the design, there very well may be some free lunch waiting to be eaten.
In this particular case, instead of having diplomacy modifiers as blunt instrument, a designer could make them drive various outside variables that organically encourage players, and AIs, to act certain ways.
For example, a high diplomacy modifier could make trade treaties mutually more beneficial. Or when you attack an empire that your citizens really like, their morale suffers.
Both players and AIs can react to the diplomacy modifier in the way that feels “right”. It doesn’t go against the flow of the narrative. And we've avoided placing a schism between players and AIs.
And thus, we have a strategically deeper and more interesting dynamic than existed before.
It's my hope to capture as many of these free lunch design elements as possible in Dominus Galaxia.
My second most important goal for Dominus Galaxia is to provide a customizable, flexible, and moddable foundation for 4X enthusiasts.
I think I can say without false modesty that I’ve travelled very far down this path already.
But with your help I’ll be able to go much further.
Dominus Galaxia is quite customizable already, and a number of major and core gameplay choices are presented as options.
Do you prefer star-lanes or would you rather play without them? No, don’t answer me, they might be listening. Holy wars have been fought over less.
You can set Dominus Galaxia to play in that single right way and no one will know. Or you may even want to experiment with different features to keep things fresh. In addition to the in-game options, there are a host of settings in the data files that you can play around with to radically alter your experience.
How do you colonize new worlds? Do you want the pace of science to march, relentlessly or you would you like to stay with the older techs for awhile?
Of course, the downside to having this degree of flexibility is that I risk not being able to advance a unified, coherent design. That's why Dominus Galaxia has a default ruleset, which represents my vision as designer.
There are other presets as well that showcase complementary features. For example, I strongly recommend starting out with the "streamlined" preset if you're new to the 4X genre.
Which isn't to say that any other combination of features isn't equally valid. You do you. The defaults are my main focus for balance, but my aspiration is to have the AI able to largely adapt to feature and balance changes on the fly.
This is all possible because Dominus Galaxia is very flexible code-wise. Most likely I spent significantly more time than is reasonable refactoring and perfecting the code base.
But thanks to that effort, now I’m sure that I can do a lot of interesting things with the game moving forward—without experiencing too much pain for the effort.
You can already add new technologies, devices, weapons, ships, races, map templates and more into the Kickstarter build. Most of the time all you’ll need is a text editor.
That’s what I have, now what I want to do with enough funding…
Well, finish the game first. That’s the main goal.
But after that…
- I want to improve mod encapsulation for easy handling of mods, like export, load, toggle, and so on.
- I want to include even more core system customizability. This could even go as far as an alternative combat system and an alternative colony management system.
- And I want to try for an optional real-time mode. Yes, really, I think the code base is flexible enough for it.
I want to do so much more, but I can’t guarantee these features.
I’m finishing the game as it is presented in the Kickstarter build first and foremost.
Stretch goals are a bit of a misnomer since development targets are inherently speculative, and specific dollar thresholds are more or less arbitrary (educated guesses).
I mean, it’s not like I am going to skip a feature if I am $150 short of its target.
At best, stretch goals may show my priorities in terms of price/performance ratio.
Now, I intend to put every single dollar into the game. Somewhat counter-intuitively, this means that the more I raise, the later the release of the game is likely to happen.
Release means that all features and mechanics have to be finished and wrapped up (I’m that old-fashioned).
But the longer that I can support myself, the more enterprising in terms of features I can afford to be. I'd argue this is a good thing.
Backers should receive what they backed, though.
If the game slips past the estimated release date, backers below the beta-testing tier will gain beta access at that point. But most likely, I'll give them access a while before that point.
And for those who pledge on a tier with beta access there is no waiting period, the beta is already in play.
Stretch goals don’t make much sense rationally, but they really pay off narratively.
Essentially they are a shared fantasy between the developers and the backers.
It’s a map of a Wonderland and we can both dream how awesome it will be if we’ll reach this creek or that village or even get to the volcano.
So, there is no reason not to draw the map with nice round numbers (don’t worry, I accounted for the taxes and fees).
$20,000: Base Funding Level
At this point I’ll be able to finish all the major features I intend for version 1.0, brush up the existing systems, and improve the AI a bit while maintaining approximately the same level of visual polish as the beta build.
However, I think Dominus Galaxia deserves a higher level of visual polish than that, so there's a higher chance I’m going to look for additional funding and/or enter Early Access a bit earlier than I would otherwise wish to.
$30,000: Multiple Planets Per Star Mode
At this level, I am fairly confident that I’ll be able to implement the (optional) multiple planets per star system game mode (in the vein of Master of Orion 2 and others).
Traditionally, this feature helps to increase narrative depth, but comes at the cost of a much clunkier experience. A significant strength of SoTS, MoO 1, and Dominus Galaxia is that you can manage all of your colonies from the main strategic view, without needing to slog through several layers of UI.
To the extent that I can keep this mode streamlined via UI innovations, it may or may not make its way into the default rule-set.
$40,000: Internal Client-Server Architecture
At this point, I hope to rework the AI and portions of turn processing to make it look like AI makes its turns instantaneously.
This can be achieved by rethinking the game in a client-server fashion, even when it’s single player, as well as maintaining a tightly defined order of operations. The empires (clients) issue their orders in the same time and when everyone is ready, it’s processed by the game.
This also means that I can devote more processing power to the AI without making the player wait and wait and wait between turns.
Note: This is not the same as what some 4X games call "simultaneous turns" where another empire's units can move on your screen even while you're taking your own turn. I think that "feature" should be avoided whenever possible. Neither does it mean that you'll need to connect to a server to play single player. The single player component will always be DRM-free, playable offline.
$50,000: Networked Multiplayer
Dominus Galaxia already supports hotseat multiplayer.
And combining that existing work with the client-server architecture from the previous goal makes implementing true networked multiplayer relatively trivial.
Not completely trivial. Not remotely trivial. But relatively very much so.
$60,000: Alternative Colony Management Mode
At this level we’re veering into the experimental modes.
Dominus Galaxia uses a more abstract, streamlined colony management mode. I think it's the lesser evil from a strategic depth standpoint. It scales better, while an involved colony management is interesting initially, but inevitably turns into a chore.
There may be free lunch in here too.
With this money I’ll be able to test my ideas on how to do colony management in a fundamentally better way.
No promises, and nothing I'm ready to share just yet, but I’ve got a hunch.
$75,000: Real-Time Mode (Strategic Map)
This funding level enables me to perform another experiment.
To add to the customizability of the game, I want and probably can add the option to play Dominus Galaxia as a real-time game (strategic layer only at this point).
It’s possible by adding a parameter to turns so that they're able to vary in time. And then in the real-time mode, “turns” are just incredibly short (this is also called “ticks” in multiplayer games).
This will also create an interesting lever for the turn-based mode as well, allowing for experimentation in turn length.
$100,000: Alternative Real-Time Tactical Combat Mode
Now I personally have always wanted to do a real-time combat option for Dominus Galaxia, but my MoO 1-centric focus group convinced me to stick with turn-based.
They’re probably right, but that doesn’t change the fact that I have a number of concepts for real-time combat I'd like to pursue.
The most appealing is sort of like a 6DOF version of Starfleet Command, but, as I stated previously, I will mercilessly iterate the design.
While previous stretch goals sort of built on each other, this is the one I’ll probably need a lot of time on, which explains the funding gap.
$200,000: AAA Production Values
This is the funding level on which we can hope to achieve rough parity for the visuals with Civilization and Endless Space and other major players.
Obviously, it’s a lower bound. It would be hard to achieve it, but, with the unanimous agreement of the team (it’s only me who doesn't have another job) to keep the living expenses as low as possible and with savvy contracting, it may be done.
I’ve been committed to this game for years and I want to stay committed to it years after release.
The question, of course, is how I am I going to pay for that.
It’s a hard question, given that:
- I, as a customer, am not a fan of heaps of DLCs.
- While early adopters statistically are perfectly willing to pay more, I firmly believe that I need to reward the faith you’ve put in me.
- And while networked multiplayer will likely have some checks to prevent cheating, I strictly oppose the idea of DRM on the single-player component of Dominus Galaxia; I’ve made a game for it to be played. I'd even go as far as to say that I'd much rather a person pirate the game than never play it.
My best shot is to make a long-seller.
A game like Distant Worlds or Minecraft that keeps on being recommended and sold and sold over the years.
More realistically, I’ll have to produce DLCs.
I’m toying with the idea of reducing the price of each DLC by some percentage every month, until it falls to zero, if the platform will allow.
This way, the players can decide if they want to pay for the DLC or just wait for a while and get it for free.
Many higher tiers give access to all future DLC. But in the (admittedly unlikely) event that I don't need to lean on DLC to be commercially successful, of course I'll think of something different and special to reward those backers with.
Lastly, if DG can sustain me financially there won’t be a DG2, at least not for a very long time, like there is no Dwarf Fortress 2 or Stellaris 2 yet.
But if DG can’t sustain me and I need to produce a sequel to stay afloat, I’ll do my best to give you guys a very good deal on whatever comes next.
And even if I do move onto something new, I still want to come back to DG a few times every year to fix any issues that crop up and pluck at some low hanging fruit.
In such a scenario, I would also try to look for new custodians to keep the torch burning.
Long story short: I am very committed to this game and the people who play it.
I plan on releasing Dominus Galaxia on as many platforms as possible. Presently, I can promise a choice of Steam and Itch.io.
Right now, the beta build is Windows only, but there do not appear to be many roadblocks to creating builds for OSX and Linux, so I'll attempt to distribute the beta on those platforms at some point during campaign.
The final game will officially support Windows, OSX, and Ubuntu LTS. In the event I ever bring the game to mobile, backers will be able to redeem the game on their choice of IOS or Android in addition to receiving their desktop keys.
High Tier Rewards
Many of the higher tiers include rewards that let you get in on development of the game, whether it's creating an event, playable faction, or even new optional gameplay features. Of course, it should go without saying that we'll need to collaborate to make sure these additions are appropriate and realistic. In general though, I want to give higher tiers more latitude. For example, if you've backed at the [EMPEROR] tier (and thank you from the bottom of me hear if you have!) then I'd like to give you as much creative freedom as possible.
About Beyond Beyaan
Dominus Galaxia originally came about as a merger between Beyond Beyaan, made by Brent Patterson, and an untitled 4X that I was working on at the time.
All Beyond Beyaan backers have been grandfathered into DG, and there is no need for them to back this campaign (although they still can if they want to!).
For anyone who backed or purchased Beyond Beyaan back in the day who hasn't received a game key or has questions about transitioning rewards into Dominus Galaxia, please contact Brent in Discord (Bartrack#3376) or through Kickstarter messaging.
As I mentioned in the pitch video, I'm only "mostly" solo at this time. I'd like to take this opportunity to give a shout out to others that have made the game possible:
- Brent Patterson, because without him none of this would have been possible.
- Ivan Kravarščan, who helped transform the game into a data-driven state, and contributed his data parsing system.
- Alexander "AIL" Stumpp, for huge contributions to DG's AI.
- Arpad Kelemen, for testing the s*** out of the game and contributing to its design.
- lazar Kacarevic, for his amazing illustrations.
- Jeff Quinn, for his work on the game's music.
- Sergey Popov, for helping with a whole host of intangibles, and most importantly helping me to hone the Kickstarter campaign to its present state.
This isn't an exhaustive list, so apologies if I missed you!
Risks and challenges
The main and unavoidable risk of the project that it has (and will likely remain at) a bus factor of one.
If the implausibly big number of “ifs” align, I may afford to hire another person, but let’s not delude ourselves.
The crowdfunding craze is long over (and I still “wait” for some campaigns to produce something, anything) and 4X games are a niche product.
Most probably the project will hinge on me for a very long time, though I have hopes if something happens to me, my collaborators won’t let the game slip quietly into the ether.
The second big risk is that I may have chosen a wrong monetization and support model.
In that case after a certain time I will be forced to put the game into the maintenance mode.
It doesn’t affect the release, but it affects my statements above about committance.
Stretch goals marked as “experiments” (if we come to them) are experiments. While I’m quite confident about them, they still may turn out unplayable or having highly selective appeal.
Other than that, and it may sound like famous last words on Kickstarter, I don’t see any other risks.
I have no technical debt, I have no core design risks, and the game is already in a very advanced, playable state.
But don't just take my word for it -- check it out for yourself!Learn about accountability on Kickstarter