Last week I released another update to the internal version of Echoes of Earth. The biggest change was the new pregame loadout choices. Colonists, Spacecraft and Cargo are all new. Cargo has been re-imagined to be what information Old Earth is sending to the colonists through the Signal rather than what the Seedships have in their cargo bays. You can see a picture of all the new options below.
In Civilization one of the things that changes each game you play is the map. In contrast, things like the Tech Web and Virtues are the same every time. If the map is a core part of a player’s decision making process, forcing them to explore, identify good city locations and adapt to the resources around them, it will make each game play differently from the last. If static elements are more important (say always going Prosperity for the free Colonist unit) then it can lead to each game feeling homogeneous.
One of my design principles is to encourage variance in play by make the map more important. The more dynamic elements outweigh static elements in the decision making process the less likely the game will play out in a stale and predictable fashion every time. While players have multiple choices when picking loadouts they can’t make those choices in response to the map because they haven’t seen the map yet. By delaying the benefit provided by the Signal transmissions (aka Cargo) until after the player has landed players will be able to allocate the yields based on their needs. For example, a player with Bootstrap Manufacturing (production in the capital on turns 10, 20, 30) may land and find themselves surrounded by Aliens. They may choose to use that production to get a few Rangers out and defend themselves. In another game they may have the same loadout choice but find themselves with large tracts of land ripe for settling. In the second game they may choose to use the production to rush Colonists units. The same loadout choice leads to different in-game experiences and factors into the player’s decision making at more points than just the pre-start stage of the game.
Free Starting Technology
Another change in this version that plays into this design is everyone getting a free technology on planetfall. Once landing players can evaluate the immediate terrain and pick a technology based on their needs. If the player didn’t get a river for Farms they can grab Biology and use a Growlab instead. If the player took Tectonic Scanner (See Geothermal) and sees lots of Geothermal nearby they may choose Physics as their free tech so they can improve the Geothermal right away.
The final part of this update is new starting Agreements for every faction. There are 12 starting Agreements but instead of each Agreement being unique to a single faction three factions have each Agreement. I didn’t want any faction to be considered weak because it could not access its own Agreements. If only two factions had each Agreement than it was too common for you to be unable to access your own faction’s Agreements because the lone other faction that had it may not be in the game. When everyone had four Agreements it took meeting only three or four neighbors before almost all the starting Agreements were accessible. This ease of access made the opening stage homogeneous between games as you could always grab the Agreements you wanted.
As for the actual effects of the Agreements, while most Diplomatic Traits provide bonuses that are useful throughout the whole game Agreements provide effects that are only useful during certain phases of the game. For example, many of the starting Agreements make it easier or faster to develop Outposts or fight off Aliens. Once you’re done expanding or fighting you can cancel the Agreement and focus your Diplomatic Capital elsewhere.
Becoming a play tester
If you’re interested in trying our Echoes of Earth for yourself you can post in this CivFanatics thread. I would be happy to bring more people aboard.