Author Topic: Pollinators and the Stellar Ecosystem: an idea  (Read 3605 times)

boehrb

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Pollinators and the Stellar Ecosystem: an idea
« on: March 31, 2009, 02:18:47 PM »
What a fantastic game!

I want to address the issue of how the unlimited production of seedlings seems to lead to a strategic "dead-end" for the player, or, as Rudolf put it, "Alex and myself are keenly aware of the fact that in the end every level can be beaten by exploting the fact that seedlings are an endless resource." I think I have a very unique idea that may become a solution to this problem.

Firstly, I want to make it clear that I don't want to see any part of this game changed. If the creators do eventually decide to add different units or more kinds of trees to address the strategy problem, I think they would only be reducing the game's core uniqueness and limiting its ultimate potential by making it more like other RTSs.

Although the seedlings are said to be "semi-autonomous self-replicating mining machines" they certainly feel organic in terms of their behaviour and growth. But every known biological system thrives only as a part of a much larger ecosystem - and since these "Dyson machines" appear to have a very "lifelike" AI, it is conceivable that their creators designed them to fit into a larger "stellar niche." So here's my idea:

Add a completely neutral, alien "pollinator" species to the game.

I'm imagining something like butterflies. These aliens, like Earth's pollinating insects, are unintelligent animals with their own niche to fill - namely, feeding on nectar and incidentally spreading pollen across the asteroid belt. They will seek out Dyson trees to feed on (any Dyson trees) and they will share the trees' location with others of their kind, much like ants do by releasing pheromones. The pollinators could originate from within the visible asteroid field, or from locations far out of the player's reach.

But, like many Earth plants, Dyson trees don't need to be "pollinated" before they can produce seedlings. However, because of the constant radiation and natural wear and tear on life in space, seedling production will slow down over time if the trees are not cross pollinated with others. Like genes, perhaps the Dyson trees' code gets corrupted over time if it is not revitalized by the introduction of new code used to replace damaged code. In the absence of pollination, each new generation of seedlings will be weaker than the last and will take longer to reach maturity.

Now players would need to figure out strategies to keep pollinators returning to their trees, while taking care to redirect other pollinators away from their enemies' trees. This could potentially be done by creating a breadcrumb-like chain of small trees leading pollinators directly to one's most important asteroids; or by decimating all pollinators in the enemy's part of space; or by creating a sparse and vast net of Dyson trees in hopes of "catching" wandering pollinators. Surely players would come up with many other strategies.

The player would have to plan their strategies from within the confines of the Dyson tree niche, rather than by simply dominating everything they see like one does in typical RTSs. Here, there would be little need for specialized resource-gathering units or population caps, and an increased need for more long-term planning.

The idea of genetic exchange and a larger "stellar ecosystem" carries with it many other possibilities and potential features for the game, but my pollinator concept is the idea I most want to present to the forum and game designers. What do you guys think? Could this feature "solve" the strategy problem by adding another level of depth and immersion?

wogan

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Re: Pollinators and the Stellar Ecosystem: an idea
« Reply #1 on: March 31, 2009, 05:28:15 PM »
Although the seedlings are said to be "semi-autonomous self-replicating mining machines" they certainly feel organic in terms of their behaviour and growth.

You're referring to the text in the sidebar on the site? That was apparently written long before Dyson became what it did, so consider it out of date :)

I have to admit, I love the cross-pollination idea. If seedlings get stronger as their designs are remixed and reinforced, it would certainly make a huge change in the way the game is played.

But this would only really apply to vast territories, wouldn't it?. Given the average size of a Dyson map, your pollinators wouldn't last very long, or do a lot of cross-pollination before they ran out of trees and space. This would only really apply if your territory stretches across several asteroid fields (and hence, design mutations), and that would imply a sort of "empire" function within Dyson - something that's at least several versions off.

They are looking to introduce a few limitations, as far as I know. So much has changed in concept from the 1.10 release - we'll have to wait until the new version before we can start making more suggestions ;)

boehrb

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Re: Pollinators and the Stellar Ecosystem: an idea
« Reply #2 on: April 01, 2009, 06:44:23 AM »
Thanks for your feedbck, Wogan.

Quote
But this would only really apply to vast territories, wouldn't it?. Given the average size of a Dyson map, your pollinators wouldn't last very long, or do a lot of cross-pollination before they ran out of trees and space.

As far as running out of trees and space goes, I envision the pollinators returning to the same trees after a certain amount of time, so that the trees have time to replenish their supply of "nectar." I am imagining pollinators fluttering around the whole map completely uncontrolled by the player, tending to congregate in areas with a lot of pheromone. Pheromones are released by all pollinators when they encounter fertile Dyson tree areas - especially unvisited tree areas and unique asteroids.

And as for the pollinators not lasting long - of course they wouldn't last long. They would certainly die quite frequently. However, they would also procreate somehow, which could contribute to the "stellar ecosystem" aspect. Additionally, a few wandering pollinators may drift into your space from off the map every so often which would eliminate the possibility of their complete extinction.

And... maybe I'm getting carried away here, but I would love to see one other species - a carnivorous species that feeds on pollinators but does not interfere with seedlings or Dyson trees. When they show up the pollinators scatter, spreading across the entire asteroid belt. Perhaps the player can attack these predators (or perhaps not), and maybe the player can lure them away from their own trees and into their enemies' territory.

I eagerly await the next release. I imagine the designers will have already implemented some compelling solutions to the strategy problem, and perhaps my pollinator idea will be of no use to them. But here's hoping! I love the idea of niche gameplay, where players are simply unable to dominate everything on the map.