The Grid of Power and Happiness

One thing I’ve always thought should be a goal of any strategy game is to obscure the internal mathematics and algorithms of the game as  much as possible. This makes it harder for players to “game” the system and allows them to focus more on simply playing the game for what it is.

For example, take the various AI notifications that I’ve been placing in the game. Each one adheres to a matrix that I like to call the “Grid of Power and Happiness”.  It’s basically a 3×3 grid of messages where one axis is how much the other race likes you, and the other is how much more or less powerful they are than you.

Happiness axis:  1. Really like you, 2. Neutral, 3. Really dislike you

Power axis: 1. Much stronger than you, 2. About the same, 3. Much weaker than you

This means that, for every message type, there will be a minimum of 9 variations. Reading the text of the message will reveal unsubtle clues about where you are at on this axis — without you needing a calculator.

For example, below is an example of the AI complaining about a recent skirmish between his ships and the players. In this case, their relationship is Neutral and the AI is much weaker than the player.


All of these messages will be overhauled and rewritten once I get a writer on board, but it’s not too hard for me to come up with some temporary placeholders until then.

2 thoughts on “The Grid of Power and Happiness”

    1. The mechanic for determining when the AI speaks to the player in MOO1 is not described anywhere that I know of.

      The way I do it in Java MOO is for the AI to check each turn for new incidents. If the accumulated severity of these exceeds some threshold, then the AI will send you a warning about the most severe incident. A countdown timer is then set to prevent him from spamming you with notifications every turn (like when you are at war).

      The willingness and frequency of the AI to talk to the player is probably something that will be balanced out as part of the beta test.

      Whether the AI sends you a warning, breaks a treaty or declares war depends on the power/diplomacy dynamic between you and him. Stronger races are more willing to take action against you, and weaker races are less so.

      The important thing is that the AI react properly to incidents, yet not overreact, and then make it clear to the player what he is reacting over.


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