Beyond Protocol Interview - Page Two

Posted Wed, Jun 25, 2008 by Cody Bye

The only "safe" area in BP is the tutorial.

Ten Ton Hammer: Do players compete for the same resources all over the universe? Or do players each have their own “safe” area that they can stay in without being attacked?

Diplomat: The only separation between players as the game as of now is the tutorial. In a tutorial account, it is only the player versus the NPC pirates, so the player can learn the game at their pace. Once out of the tutorial, the entire universe is a free for all. However, competing for resources is a different matter. While all resources are public and fought over, which resources are particularly important to an empire will vary. With 105 resources in the game, and an alloying system that allows the creation of extra unique resources, players can choose to use common or rare minerals in their designs. This choice is accompanied by trade offs like component size, number of minerals needed, production times and costs, and tank rush versus mother ship type tactics.

Ten Ton Hammer: Are there different races / cultures that a player can choose from? Can you describe these options for the Ten Ton Hammer readers?

Diplomat: Currently, there is only one template available. This starts the player off with a blank research slate and the typical available models to be used in unit design. However, because research is so customizable and there are many unit models to choose from, the look and function of individual player fleets is very different. Not only are the components and armor customizable in function, but in color as well. While this may not be a large difference, it does ensure that even the lower end computers can run a game which often pits 1000’s of units against each other in a single environment.

Ten Ton Hammer: In the game’s FAQ, you mention that there will be a “soft unit cap” in place. Is this how players are measured? With units rather than with levels? How does the soft unit cap function?

Diplomat: Unit count can be one unit of measure, but often the technology of the units is more important. I made an earlier statement about the choice between tank rush and mother ship tactics. What I meant there was the option does exist to utilize many cheap and expendable units or one very large very expensive unit, both of which can be very effective tactics, in which case unit count means nothing. The soft unit cap is another way of decreasing the demand that this game could possibly have on a player’s computer. However, in past games this is often done with a hard cap dictated by an overall value or a derived number based on buildings, research, or areas of control.

Unit count is not as important as technology.

In Beyond Protocol Special Technology determines the number, but that number does not by itself determine the number of possible units. When a player starts out, they are given 300 Command Points (CP), which as I said can later be increased. CP is the value of the soft cap. When newly produced each unit requires 10 CP whether it is a tiny tank or a huge mothership, so to begin with the soft cap begins at 30 units of any kind per environment. So, a player can have 30 units on their home world, 30 in space protecting that home world, 30 on an outpost planet, etc.

However, as a unit enters combat and gains experience, it can be promoted. Promotions reduce the necessary CP, at Elite, the highest level, the unit requires only 1 CP, brining the soft cap to 300 units per environment. Promotions are based on comparative complexity of the design, so it is much easier to promote a single fighter than it is to promote a battleship. Therefore, with experience a large mass of less powerful units is easier to achieve than a large force of extremely powerful capital ships.

The final variable to the soft cap is the limit’s penalties. At small deficits of actual CP to allowed CP, about 1.33 times, or 400 if we stick with the original assumption of 300 CP, the player receives a flashing warning at the top of the screen and a slight increase to the financial upkeep cost of that environment. Between 1.33 and 1.5 that slight increase becomes an exponential increase. At 1.5 or 450, the players units will become disoriented and begin firing at anything that moves, including each other, in addition the exponential increase in upkeep continues to rise. So, while this could be used as a tactic, it is not recommended in the long run.

When CP is once again normalized, either through the loss of units, or by docking them in something with hanger space, this frenzy ends. This soft limit also gives the player a reason to use carriers. It is possible to dock hundreds of smaller ships into one large ship which only costs 10 CP. Whether the intention is to bring these units to another theatre of war or to replace lost comrades as they fall, the concept remains the same.

Ten Ton Hammer: You also mention that players can choose to have several different goals that they can achieve in Beyond Protocol like being a trade or science based empire rather than conquering other players. How can these particular players defend themselves from those players that are simply interested in destroying other players?

Teamwork is crucial in Beyond Protocol.

Diplomat: Teamwork is crucial in Beyond Protocol. Being part of a group of players, of which part are warriors, is the best way to deal with this problem. However, individual players are also more than welcome to take the non combat paths of play, like, as you said, trade and purely technologic empires are, but this does not mean they will be immune to unprovoked attack. If and when this happens, it is in the non confrontational player’s best interest to call in some favors. A good trade or science based empire will probably have made contacts with which they deal or supply goods, that are more tailored to the war department.

One feature of the trade and technology systems in BP is that each design is unique; it cannot be substituted or perfectly reverse engineered. So, war based empires which rely on a supplier will have incentive to keep that supplier alive and well. Most players “simply interested in destroying other players” will most likely not have the patience to design their own technology, so the key for non combat focused empires is either supply and satiate the aggressor or have other aggressors already in their supply line. One aspect of this which has not been discussed is the espionage system. It does not take the traditional form of combat or destruction, but is rather a form of behind the scenes attack and manipulation. Everything from learning a player’s score, to slowing production, to stealing cargo, and even destroying a key building is possible with the agent system. So, this too can be used to thwart an enemy of superior military might.

Ten Ton Hammer: Is there anything else you’d like to tell the Ten Ton Hammer readers and Beyond Protocol fans?

Diplomat: I think I have said quite enough, I suppose the one thing I can leave you with is something one of my DSE coworkers has said which highlights the ambition of this project. Before reading it, know this, special research is what distinguishes each empire and the framework behind most of the game. “If it is science fiction related and you have read it in a book, seen it on a TV show, or contemplated it while watching a movie, chances are it is, or will be, a special research.”
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