What's this? An LP thread?
That's right. Inspired by the Something Awful LP archive
, boredom, and a desire to see an LP that doesn't die at conception, yours truly has decided to introduce you to this little game called Space Empires IV
OK, time out. What's LP mean in the first place?
To quote the semi-official motto: "Let's Play - we play these games so you don't have to." The idea is for the LP author to go through the game and provide a record of his progress, usually in the form of a video (often with commentary) or screenshots (always with commentary). Typically the author takes his time with the playthrough, explaining various aspects of the game as he goes along, showing secrets, revealing easter eggs, etc. Whenever possible (as with this thread) audience participation is encouraged, with the author asking other forumites what they'd like to see him do next, which conversation option to choose, who to attack, etc. In the end fun is had by all.
A more exhaustive explanation of what an LP is can be found here
. Or just read through a few in the SA archive and you'll get the idea.
Hmm... alright, so what's this game of yours again?
Developed by Malfador Machinations and published by Strategy First in 2000, Star Empires IV
is a 4X game of galactic conquest. Its main characteristics are dated graphics, a somewhat unwieldy interface, and a less than stellar AI.
Er... so why are you playing this again?
Because it's still fun enough to sink a few (dozen) hours into it every now and again. And because of a feature that makes it excellent material for an LP.
And that would be...?
Enough questions! Just keep reading, and all shall be made clear.
1. I'm playing this vanilla - no mods.
2. Because the distributors in this country refuse to sell us anything but sub-par localizations, all I have is a Polish version of the game. So if you see strange, unreadable gibberish pop up in the screenshots, do not be afraid. I will translate if it becomes necessary. Disclaimer: some of my translation will differ from the original version.
3. Updates will happen whenever I can. I'm aiming for at least one every couple of days.
4. Voting - there's going to be a lot of it in the beginning, and none at all once we get the ball rolling. However, there will still be audience participation - read on if you want to know the details.
And so it begins.
...in a galaxy far away...
Though first we need to decide where our epic tale of conquest shall begin.
Above is the quadrant generation screen. Our options are:
Quadrant Type (Top table) - top to bottom
Moderately Old - probably contains the highest percentage of habitable systems and the lowest of weird space phenomena.
Cluster - systems are arranged into small groups with only a few connections to the "outside." In theory makes it easier to establish defense points for a fledgling empire.
Galaxy's Edge - Negative Space Wedgie
country. Otherwise similar to Moderately Old, except with a more uniform distribution of systems on the map.
Spiral - except that it looks nothing like one. True, the systems are more tightly packed towards the center, with distances increasing as you move towards the edge. But as travel through warp tunnels is instantaneous regardless of distance, this only matters if you're planning on using warp tunnel generators tactically.
Grid - very
uniform distribution. Every system equidistant from and connected to four others, forming a square pattern. Also, boring.
Ancient - probably the hardest to play on, as there's a high percentage of "dead" systems, not to mention navigational hazards such as black holes, unstable stars, and other weird phenomena. Definitely makes for an interesting game though.
Quadrant Size (middle table)
We'll be setting it to Large.
General Settings (bottom table)
All Systems Connected - the original translation reads "All Warp Points Connected" but once you think about it, that doesn't make much sense.
Setting this to "off" makes for more interesting warp tunnel distribution throughout the systems (tactical challenges, yay) but leaves a chance that some systems will form miniclusters with no connection to the rest of the quadrant.
Without Warp Tunnels - what it says. I'll go ahead and suggest we don't vote for this one to be turned on, since it makes for a damned boring game until we research a means to open our own.
Warp Tunnels Scattered Across The Systems - the default "off" setting places warp tunnels on the edges of a system. On "on" they may pop up anywhere - even right next to your homeworld.
All Systems Visible - i.e. whole map explored. It stays "off." Let's preserve the joy of exploration, hmm?
Full System Display - i.e. no fog of war. Ditto.
Limited Resources - resource extraction facilities will slowly deplete a planet's natural resources until they hit zero. Ordinarily, the aim is to maximize your resource production so that you can pay for the upkeep of more ships as well as maintaining a large income surplus for emergencies. With this set to "on" there's the additional challenge of balancing your income against your stockpiles and your fleets, as well as forcing you to expand far more aggressively. Asteroid belts have limited resources regardless of the setting. I'd suggest we go with "off" on this one too - it'll help both me and you.
All Player's Planets Have The Same Size - irrelevant, since for this LP we'll be starting with only one planet anyway.
So, to recap, we vote on:
- Quadrant type
- General settings - either "on" or "off" for each one.
...where interesting things took place...
We also have the option of deciding the scale and frequency of random events taking place during a game (I am SO going to regret this).
None - oh how I wish...
Low - the default. From empirical observation, this makes something happen about once every 100-200 turns.
Average - Once every 50-100 turns.
Frequent - as often as every 20-50 turns.
Low - a ship's engine blowing up for no apparent reason.
Average - a ship falls into a Negatice Space Wedgie and ends up in a system halfway across the quadrant. Planetwide epidemics.
Severe - Planetary core instability detected. Boom.
Catastrophe - Star core instability detected. Boom.
So let me tell you a story about the time I decided to, for kicks, play with Frequency and Degree set to maximum. It's a very short story, since within 100 turns all my colonies became involved in a star going nova. Yeah, that's it, really. So if you don't
want to read a long and throughout LP...
...and there came a people...
Since Star Empires IV
lets you create your own race using lots and lots of statistics and variables, we're going to do just that. Since it does use lots and lots statistics and variables and we'd be bickering about them for weeks, I'm going to simplify the process somewhat.
For those who really want to explore new frontiers in flying barrels.
Ship design is pretty ok, I guess.
Umm... ok. Very... spiky.
Not only do our chosen people consist of a pair of eyestalks, their ship design is basically that, only varying in size.
I'm not touching that one, and you shouldn't either.
This race's default name is the Eee. Just about sums up my reaction too.
The angry eyes don't go well with the bland ship design.
Hands down the best ship design from those available, even if it does look a shade Trekkish.
For some reason reminds me of Battlestar Galactica
. The ships, I mean. The face reminds me of dirty laundry.
Must... resists... blockhead... joke.
Face full of bees.
I kinda like their ships, actually. And their appearance isn't that
bad compared to some of the others.
Case in point.
So what happened to the utalitarian and compact design that is the staple of human technology in most sci-fi?
Muppets in pyramids. MUPPETS. In. PYRAMIDS.
At this point, I don't even care any longer.
Ok, ok, not too shabby, I could live with this.
The prerequisite bug species. So, feel like joining the hivemind, drone?
Our race is defined by a set of stats that all nominally start at average, or 100%. They're things like birthrates, attack and defense in space combat or ground assault, research, trade, happiness, production efficiency, etc. etc. etc. But let's make this simple. You'll be voting on what our culture leans most strongly towards:
Warriors - while our ships may lack refinement or efficient design, our crews and armies our the best trained in the universe. Time and time again we prove that a strong will and a drive to excel bring us victory against every foe.
Technicians - We may not be the strongest race out there, and we may not be chasing off after something new and shiny in the lab, but by jove, we make do with what we have. Our mines and refineries churn out resources day and night, and our ships are paragons of efficiency. Where others would build you a fleet, we'll build you ten.
Researchers - Combat prowess? Superior numbers? Bah. They may have mattered when our ancestors still bashed each other on the head with rocks. In this day and age, the only edge that matters is the technological one. What use are your shields, if our cannons can pierce right through them? What use is your mighty fleet if they can't catch up to ours? Technology is the future, and those who embrace it are the olny ones with
any future to speak of.
Colonists - That's a big ol' universe and there's plenty of room for everyone in it. We don't want trouble - just a place to settle. But if you do bring out your guns and your ships... well, there's a lot of us out there, and we won't go down quietly.
So, um, let's not start anything anyone's going to regret, okay?
I'll be assigning 3000 points for race generation. It's possible to spend some of them on one of the traits listed below. Or you can vote for "None" and leave me more points to play with for stat increases.
Talented mechanics 1000pt. - base upkeep costs for ships (not bases) reduced by 25% (a.k.a. larger fleets)
Mechanoids 1000pt. - planets immune to epidemics. (easily countered with some research and a single building)
Lucky 1000pt. - 50% reduction in chance for a negative random event taking place. (The wording seems to imply there's a possibility of positive random events. I have yet to encounter one).
Born traders 1000pt. - Don't need to build spaceports (you ordinarily need one per every colonized system in order to receive resource income from the planets there. Basically, this would let us expand just a little bit faster).
Engine experts 1000pt. - All ships receive one extra point of base movement (If I was going to take anything, that would be it. In SE4 mobility is a HUGE factor in a fight).
Ancient race 1000pt. - The entire quadrant map starts explored (I'm banning that one for reasons previously mentioned).
Skilled stockpilers 1000pt. - 120% base stockpile and storage capabilities of planets (larger resource stockpiles and more room for things like ground troops, fighters, ground batteries, etc.)
Industrialists 1000pt. - 125% base shipyard production speed (becomes especially valuable as we get towards the more advanced ships which can take even up to 20 turns to produce).
Psychics 1500pt. - opens access to the Parapsychology research tree. (Either use mind control on your population to make them happier, or on enemies to demoralize/convert them. A bit meh in my opinion).
Deep Believers 1500pt. - opens access to the Belief research tree. (Brainwash the masses and endow your ship crews with fanatical zeal.)
Time Travelers 1500pt. - opens access to the Temporal research tree (you gain access to alternative versions certain utility techs sooner than would otherwise be possible and get Temporal guns which rapidly age bits and pieces of enemy ships, which is a very fancy way of saying "they do damage").
Crystal Manipulators 1500pt. - opens access to the Crystalline research tree. (Weapons with fancy names and average damage)
Bioengineers 1500pt. - opens access to the Bioengineering research tree. (Worth it if only because you get missles with a better rate of fire. Also, regenerative armor plating which sounds cool until you realize most of it will end up outright destroyed by your average salvo anyway).
Stoics 3000pt. - The populace feels no emotion. (Which makes any sort of brainwashing ineffective against them. They'll never rebel either. On the other hand, you won't be getting any production bonuses due to happiness either. Either way, I'm banning it since I want something
left over to make our people truly ours.
Planets in SE4 are defined (among other things) by their type and atmosphere. Our choices are:
- None - very rare and restricted exclusively to Rock planets. Yes, we could
start on a Gas planet without an atmosphere. No, don't expect we'll find another one. Far as I can tell you never get a Giant planet without an atmosphere either.
- Carbon Dioxide
- Gas - seem to have the largest percentage of Giant planets, but also the largest diversity of atmospheres, making finding the right one a crapshoot.
We can colonize any planet as long as we research the colonization module for the appropriate type - we begin with research in the one we've chosen. We can colonize a planet with any atmosphere, but only ones appropriate for our people will reach their full potential - we can cram only so many people, facilities and complexes into atmospheric domes.
How we'll approach any alien races we might encounter while exploring the galaxy.
- Cohabitation - We're all friends here. Why waste lives and resources on sensless warfare when we can learn so much from one another? (I consider this largely useless. You could be the closest of allies with half the quadrant, but at some arbitrary point - far as I can tell it has something to do with reaching a certain level of technological development - everyone will declare war on you. Everyone. And if they just happen to have their own colonies and fleets in your territory at that point...)
- Subjugation - Conquer them, but let them keep their ships and their rulers - as long as they keep paying us tribute (declare war, beat up a few colonies, then choose then make them either a client or a slave state. They're still a separate faction, but they're crippled by having to give us a significant portion of their income. Strong possibility of eventual rebellion).
- Assimilation - Conquer them, eliminate their government and make them part of our empire (Necessitates maintaining ground troops on planets and building pacification centers, cause the ungrateful bastards have this tendency to rebel against our benelovent rule).
- Extermination - Planetary bombardment, full stop. (Also, the easiest option. Alternately, I like to force them to give up as per Assimilation then load the whole population into freighters and... jettison them into orbit.)
...and they were called...
Finally, suggest a name and I'll pick the one I like best.
I will count each category separately when tallying votes. For all of them it's first item to reach three votes wins. If voting goes on for too long in a category (no verdict reached after 10+ votes) I'm going to make a judgement call based on which option is in the lead at the time. Below is a quick breakdown of categories for reference:
- Cluster 4 votes
- Moderately Old
- Galaxy's Edge
- Spiral 1 vote
- All systems connected 2 yes/2 no
- Warp tunnels scattered across the system 3 yes
- Limited resources 2 yes/3 no
- Low 2 votes
- Average 1 vote
- Frequent 1 vote
- Low 1 vote
- Catastrophe 3 votes
2 - 2 votes
3 - 1 vote
6 - 2 Votes
11 - 1 vote
16 - 1 vote
19 - 2 votes
Special: vote for THREE categories, listing them from most to least important. The winner gets a big boost, second place a smaller one. Third place is left at nominal, and the one to come in dead last receives a penalty.
- Warriors - 9pts. - 3rd place
- Technicians - 10pts. - 2nd place
- Researchers - 11pts. - 1st place
- Colonists - 5pts. - 4th place
- Talented Mechanics
- Born traders
- Engine experts
- Skilled stockpilers - 1 vote
- Industrialists - 1 vote
- Deep believers - 1 vote
- Time travelers - 1 vote
- Crystal manipulators
- Methane - 2 votes
- Oxygen - 1 vote
- Hydrogen - 2 votes
- Carbon dioxide
- Rock - 3 votes
- Ice - 1 vote
- Gas - 2 votes
- Subjugation - 2 votes
- Assimilation - 2 votes
- Extermination - 2 votes
Those who stand on that wall
And finally, we get to the meat of this LP - how you're going to contribute past the voting shenanigans outlined above. It goes like this - everyone who wishes to participate, submits their request in the following format:
- How you wish to be identified in the LP
- How you wish your fleet to be called
- how your wish to name you command ship
- What kind of warfare your fleet will specialize in
That is correct. You get to be admirals in charge of gaining new systems for and protecting our yet unnamed empire. While I'll (obviously) still handle the actual fighting, you'll get to decide what tactics I will use and what ships will make up the bulk of your fleet. I will maintain an up-to-date roster of available ship designs and, as technology advances, possibly allow you to introduce individual tweaks to existing ones.
A word of explanation is in order: SE4 allows very flexible ship design. Essentially, if there's room for it on the chassis, you can put it in. The trick often lies in finding balance between speed, shielding, and firepower - get it right and even outgunned and outnumbered you can win with minimal losses.
Now for the bad news: I am initially going to restrict the fleet roster to 10 admirals - first come, first served. This will still be the largest force I ever played with (usually I limit myself to four
highly specialized fleets). And even those who make the cut may have to wait some time until they're brought into play, as a starting empire can't support more than a handful of ships.
But don't despair, those who won't end up admirals can still be captains - simply submit your desired name and the name/class of the ship you wish to command, and I will do my best to bring you into the game as well.
A few final explanations:
- the best tactics are the simple ones, and in your case this means unleashing a full broadside at your enemy as his salvos dance uselessly across your shields. Energy and mass drivers are your weapons of choice, and the only weapons that truly count.
- He who controls the range of engagement, controls its course as well. Some scoff at how lightly you shiled your ships, but you know that shields aren't necessary - not as long as your missles turn the enemy into radioactive dust long before his guns can even begin tracking you.
- the bulk of your fleet will be composed of carriers loaded to the brim with interceptors and bombers. Your strategy will rely on overwhelming enemy sensors with too many contacts to keep track of. Losses will be unavoidable, but better to have a handfull of pilots die than to lose a ship crewed by hundreds.
Note: Research into fighters is fairly expensive and even though it's possible to start it immediately, there's a lot of "priority" technologies that we're going to need beforehand, so it's possible that Swarm doctrine admirals will be making a late entry.
- a merger of the three doctrines above, with the fleet designed to adapt and deploy according to the situation. For obvious reasons, this doctrine will be appearing dead last.
(more may be added as time goes on)
- Heavily shielded and armed primarily with mass and energy drivers. Favorites of Sledgehammer admirals.
- poorly shielded but fast and fitted with missle launchers, almost always staying out of enemy range.
- Delivery platform for fighter craft. Usually poorly armed, but makes an excellent flagship due to heavy fighter cover. Admirals tend to outfit them with specialized sensors and EW equipment.
- small, lightly shielded ships, armed mostly with point defense guns for taking down fighters and missles.
- diverse, often experimental platforms for unusual weapons and equipment. Expect these to show up fairly late.
- a catchall category for noncombat craft which nevertheless find themselves deployed alongside regular fleet vessels. These include repair ships, dropships for ground troops, and resupply freighters carrying additional fighter craft.
And that's it for now.
( Gods, I hope this doesn't bomb.)