Tech Tree Discussion: FO vs. MoO2

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Bigjoe5
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Tech Tree Discussion: FO vs. MoO2

#1 Post by Bigjoe5 » Sat Nov 28, 2009 6:56 pm

MoO2’s tech tree is better than ours. I don’t mean in terms of content - I mean fundamentally better in terms of format and overall design. There are some aspects of the MoO2 tech tree which brought a lot of interest to researching, and these aspects simply cannot be replicated with the tree in its current form.


One key feature of MoO2’s tree was mutual exclusivity of techs. Once you had researched a tech, you couldn’t go back and research it’s sibling techs. When I found out that this wasn’t the case in FO, I was pleased that I would be able to get all the techs in a category without recourse to trade or the expensive Creative pick. But I was thinking as a player then, not as a designer. I now realize that a lot of the enjoyment in MoO2’s tech tree came from making those difficult strategic decisions. Do I research Tritanium Armour, so I withstand the next wave of Bulrathi battleships? Or do I research Deuterium Fuel Cells, so I can launch a powerful counter-attack without wasting valuable ship space with extended fuel tanks? What about when I get to subspace fields? Inertial Nullifier, Displacement Device or Subspace Teleporter? Do I want to research optronic/positronic/cybertronic computer, at the cost of giving up research lab/supercomputer/autolab? Hydroponic Farms or Biospheres? Soil Enrichment or Cloning Center? It al depends on whether or not I’m going to have an abundance of food as it is, or if my population is already too high for my food production to support reliably.

Then, there’s the diplomacy aspect. Trading technology is a lot more interesting when you’ve completely lost the ability to research a tech. Would I ever trade Terraforming for Heavy Armour or Missile Base if I could just go back and research them later at the same cost for which I researched Automated Factories? It adds a whole new level of interest to diplomacy when you have a tech that you’re opponent will never have the chance to research again. Closely related to this is spying. This makes it strategically valid to try to steal technology from less advanced races. In both the cases of diplomacy and espionage, this could give rise to a situation where a stronger empire is protecting a weaker one for the sake of getting all of its technology. This leads to interesting political dynamics and a chance for a crafty, but unlucky empire to get back in the game.

I haven’t seen any really good reason why mutual exclusivity should not be an integral part of FO’s tech tree. In fact, I don’t feel that one exists, but feel free to prove me wrong if you can. I think that ignoring this aspect which made technology in MoO2 so interesting is greatly to the detriment of this project.

Another significant way that FO has digressed from MoO2’s example in terms of technology is that the tech categories are defined by function rather than by conceptually related fields of research. One could argue that this makes it easier for the player to find techs that he wants for a particular type of bonus. One probably did, in fact, since the tech tree is organized that way. However - and this is a big “however” - that’s not a factor. I’ve played MoO2 for a long time, and I’ve practically memorized the tech tree, but long before I really became a master of orion, I was sufficiently familiar with the tech tree to know where to go for specific bonuses and techs. Also - and this is important too - the idea that categories should be defined based on the type of bonuses the techs give is fundamentally flawed in that it presumes that the defining features of a category will be the type of meter that most of the techs affect (with the exception of ships, which is rather new, and conceived of in a similarly, though not identically fallacious manner). This is silly in a few ways, but by far the most important one is that most techs aren’t going to affect a meter. Look once again at MoO2’s techs. Each industry improving tech was special because there were so few of them. Each ship part was special because they were each unique. There were so many techs that weren’t related to industry in their Construction category that it simply would have been ludicrous to call it the Production category. Instead, that category contained industry-enhancing techs, planetary defense systems, and new ship classes, not to mention the odd ship part and population enhancing tech. But the most important thing wasn’t that they were all related in terms of gameplay effects, but that they all fit conceptually into that category and there was always a strategically interesting decision to make at each level. How can we introduce interesting mutual exclusivity if its just a choice between one production related tech and another? Magic? Yeah, maybe when I get a class-change to Black Wizard...

There are a couple of significant advantages to MoO2’s way of organizing the categories. First of all, each tree can be made a lot more interesting. Take what I consider to be FO’s most interesting category at the moment: my revised Growth category (It's kind of a toss-up between this and the Learning category, really). It includes terraforming, techs that allow colonization of poor and hostile worlds, farming techs, health techs and bioterror. This is about as interesting as any FO category is likely to get. From this standpoint alone, it can just about rival or even surpass MoO2’s Biology category in terms of the interesting things that are in there. Sure, MoO2 has Evolutionary Mutation, but FO has techs to allow colonization of new worlds, and has potential for something like Evolutionary Mutation once races are implemented. However, when you look at actually researching through the category, you will find it a lot more interesting to go through MoO2’s Biology category. This is primarily due to mutual exclusivity because in terms of content, we’re comparing FO’s most interesting category with one of MoO2’s least interesting. If you compare any category in FO to any other category in MoO2 (with the exception of Sociology), you will find that not only is the overall content far more varied in MoO2, but that mutual exclusivity is enhanced by this variety, for example research related buildings vs. ships computers, or planetary defenses vs. industry related buildings. I don’t think that having categories defined by the function of the techs would adequately allow diverse, interesting strategic decisions throughout.

Not only is each individual category enhanced by this fact, but it allows a player to focus mainly on a single category if he wishes, and still get what he needs to develop his empire. Geoff, you wanted several specific paths that can be taken through the tech tree? Well, here you go. Individual categories can serve this purpose, perhaps to a greater extent than they did in MoO2. This also helps out the idea of diplomacy and trading techs. If the player is specializing primarily in a single category, with only small dalliances into other categories for whatever reason, it’s a lot easier to steal or trade for higher-level techs in other categories that he needs, which makes stealing and trading technology more significant if there are a few techs in other categories which would enhance the strategies enabled by techs of a single category. Organizing the tree in this way also eliminates the need for cross-category dependencies, which I find quite annoying. The fact that I find them annoying is not insignificant, since I suspect a lot of players will feel the same way. Removing cross-category dependencies makes it much easier to specialize within the tech tree and makes it significantly easier to understand the structure of the tech tree, which IMO, would remain a problem for players for much longer than it would take them to figure out what kind of techs are where in a MoO2 style tree.

Now, this isn’t a “MoO2’s tech tree is better, we should do things exactly the same way” post. On the contrary, there are a few things that we can introduce from our system which have potential to be improvements over the MoO2 tree. In MoO2, every tech you researched was, in a sense, a Theory, an Application and a Refinement. It unlocked the next set of techs, unlocked a new building or enabled an effect and improved the ship parts previously unlocked in that category. Separating these out into Application-Refinement could add strategy in terms of deciding whether to go for a small gain in a short period of time, or go for a large gain which will take longer. However, with mutual exclusivity, having theories be researchable separately becomes redundant. This doesn’t mean that there is no place for theories however. For example, we could still have non-linear categories with one set of apps unlocking two or more discreet sets of applications, which would not be mutually exclusive (the apps within the sets would still be mutually exclusive, though). This is analogous to a theory unlocking two or more other theories. However, these theories are instead implicitly researched when researching an app, much as Gravitonics was implicitly researched in MoO2 when researching Tractor Beam, Graviton Beam or planetary Gravity Generator. This very idea of branching categories is another aspect of our current tree which could be used. For instance this permits decision making within a category which does not permanently leave behind the other option (you can research one theory without locking the other theories of the same level in the same category, but you can’t research an app without locking the other apps of the same theory). On the other hand, it might be determined that having distinct categories provides enough of that kind of decision making, which means that categories might be better off linear after all. I wouldn’t immediately exclude it as an option, though.

MoO2’s production system was flawed in that it resulted in single planet micromanagement, so ours incorporates a global production queue. MoO2’s espionage and diplomacy systems were limiting, so ours will be more intricate. MoO2’s research system however, was beautiful, and research was always fun and strategic. By adding some features to their system, and creating better balance between techs through extensive playtesting which is only possible in an open source project, we can make an even better tech tree than MoO2’s, but we will not be able to accomplish this with the tech tree in its current form, and I really can’t understand why our tree is so drastically different from the tried and true style of MoO2’s tech tree, which could always be depended upon to provide the strategic interest and enjoyment that we all associate with that game.
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Re: Tech Tree Discussion: FO vs. MoO2

#2 Post by pd » Sat Nov 28, 2009 7:40 pm

Bigjoe5 wrote: Then, there’s the diplomacy aspect. Trading technology is a lot more interesting when you’ve completely lost the ability to research a tech.
I'm a bit in a hurry and haven't read through the entire post, just want to mention the following. Once races are introduced, certain techs we be available(via research) only to certain races. So there's still the possibility to trade techs you can't research on your own.

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Re: Tech Tree Discussion: FO vs. MoO2

#3 Post by Bigjoe5 » Sat Nov 28, 2009 7:49 pm

That's certainly true too of course, but it seems to me that the more simple ways there are to add complex inter-empire dynamics the better. Also, these different techs should be determined by racial picks, so two empires, or sometimes even all the empires in the galaxy won't necessarily have different available techs.

In terms of different techs, I would expect that to be like MoO2's advanced governments. No change in the shape of the tree, merely substitutions based on racial picks. Also, in MoO2, you couldn't get another player's advanced governments. I expect there will be some techs like that in FO, and some techs which are race-pick specific, but also trade-able.
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Re: Tech Tree Discussion: FO vs. MoO2

#4 Post by mZhura » Sat Nov 28, 2009 10:49 pm

Bigjoe5 wrote:One key feature of MoO2’s tree was mutual exclusivity of techs
and how this "mutual exclusivity" can be explained in terms of logic?

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Re: Tech Tree Discussion: FO vs. MoO2

#5 Post by Bigjoe5 » Sat Nov 28, 2009 11:10 pm

mZhura wrote:and how this "mutual exclusivity" can be explained in terms of logic?
Assuming that tech A and tech B are in the same category under the same "theory", so to speak, researching tech A precludes the possibility of researching tech B. Therefore, tech A and tech B are mutually exclusive. That is how it works in the game, in terms of logic. If you're asking how it can be explained as a realistic and logical representation of the real world, I would simply point out how completely irrelevant that is.
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Re: Tech Tree Discussion: FO vs. MoO2

#6 Post by Geoff the Medio » Sat Nov 28, 2009 11:32 pm

I haven't read everything carefully in the first post because it's way to long. Also, it's hard to tell what you're arguing is the case or should be the case... However:

* I don't think there's any established rule that a tech category has to be defined by what sort of meter bonuses the techs in it give. Indeed, that should not be the case. In the past / existing content, it tends to work out that way because there wasn't anything else possible to make techs do. In future, the categories should probably be what they let you do in the game. Sometimes being able to do things in-game means having bonuses to some meters, but not always.

* Comparing a finished game like MOO2 with FO, which lacks several key game systems and is nowhere near complete, is not really a convincing argument that FO won't be able to end up with an interesting and diverse tech tree when those system are added. (Of course MOO2's tech categories are more interested... We haven't written much interesting content for FO yet.)

* Game content mutually exclusivity doesn't have to be done with (just) techs. Strategic resources required to build things unlocked with techs serve a similar purpose. Buildings that can only be built once, that are required to unlock certain types of content, or that are mutually exclusive with another similar building could be added.

* Mutual exclusivity doesn't need to be strictly enforced by the game
mechanics. It can be made strategically beneficial to pick one thing rather than try to do a mix of everything.

* Mutual exclusivity between two or three options isn't the only way to set things up. Rather than pick one of two or three, the choice of path through the game content could be: pick two or three of five or six options. Both methods can be used at different "levels" of content organization. Perhaps the player is expected to pick two or three main groups of content, but within a few groups there are cases where only one option of three can practically be used for each empire.

* Having cross-path (whether or not path = category) content dependencies can interact well with having two or three of five or six chosen optional pathes through game content. There could be various techs or buildings or whatever that are only available if an empire has chosen to work on two particular pathes, and would be a unique advantage to that combination of pathes.

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Re: Tech Tree Discussion: FO vs. MoO2

#7 Post by Bigjoe5 » Sun Nov 29, 2009 1:59 am

Geoff the Medio wrote:I haven't read everything carefully in the first post because it's way to long. Also, it's hard to tell what you're arguing is the case or should be the case...
Essentially, the purpose of my post was to point out that there is a really good example of a tech tree which could and should be used as a starting point for creating FO's tech tree. The fact that ours is so drastically different from it does not, IMO, seem promising for the finished tech tree. Specifically, elements of mutual exclusivity and intra-category variety should be introduced to a greater extent.
* I don't think there's any established rule that a tech category has to be defined by what sort of meter bonuses the techs in it give. Indeed, that should not be the case. In the past / existing content, it tends to work out that way because there wasn't anything else possible to make techs do. In future, the categories should probably be what they let you do in the game. Sometimes being able to do things in-game means having bonuses to some meters, but not always.
I believe that there should be the possibility of having significantly different types of content within a category, in terms of what they let you do, since IMO, this makes decision making on that level more interesting. Techs that support a specific strategy should go in a specific category, and be conceptually related, but within this scope, there is room for a lot more diversity than the currently named categories imply.
* Comparing a finished game like MOO2 with FO, which lacks several key game systems and is nowhere near complete, is not really a convincing argument that FO won't be able to end up with an interesting and diverse tech tree when those system are added. (Of course MOO2's tech categories are more interested... We haven't written much interesting content for FO yet.)
It is not my intention to say there won't be diversity of content in FO, merely to say that organizing tech into categories strictly based on what they let you do in-game reduces the potential for diversity of content within a single category.
* Game content mutually exclusivity doesn't have to be done with (just) techs. Strategic resources required to build things unlocked with techs serve a similar purpose. Buildings that can only be built once, that are required to unlock certain types of content, or that are mutually exclusive with another similar building could be added.

* Mutual exclusivity doesn't need to be strictly enforced by the game
mechanics. It can be made strategically beneficial to pick one thing rather than try to do a mix of everything.
There are indeed other ways of doing things which should also be introduced, but this fact by no means indicates that direct, game-enforced mutual exclusivity should not be included. I believe that this kind of immediate here-and-now game-enforced mutual exclusivity can add a great deal of enjoyment to the game, the absence of which cannot quite be made up for with other less direct implementations of mutual exclusivity.
* Having cross-path (whether or not path = category) content dependencies can interact well with having two or three of five or six chosen optional pathes through game content. There could be various techs or buildings or whatever that are only available if an empire has chosen to work on two particular pathes, and would be a unique advantage to that combination of pathes.
Of course, this can also be done by having two or more techs in different categories that work in a complementary way. Troop Pods, Neutron Blaster and Transporters for example, all came from different categories in MoO2, but worked together nicely. This is more than just a different way of doing things; I find cross-category dependencies downright annoying. I'm not against trying to find a useful, non-intrusive way of implementing them, though, if it is felt that such dependencies can really improve gameplay.
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Re: Tech Tree Discussion: FO vs. MoO2

#8 Post by mZhura » Sun Nov 29, 2009 8:59 am

Geoff the Medio wrote:* Mutual exclusivity doesn't need to be strictly enforced by the game
mechanics. It can be made strategically beneficial to pick one thing rather than try to do a mix of everything.
agreed.
Bigjoe5 wrote:If you're asking how it can be explained as a realistic and logical representation of the real world, I would simply point out how completely irrelevant that is.
then i would simply point how completely irrelevant any "mutual tech exclusivity" is. so, instead of using words like "irrelevant" could you be more specific about why i possibly can't research one type of ship hull while having researched the other? all this "moo2 are better than FO" stuff itself seems not any convincing at all. IMO any restrictions in game mechanics deliver just lack of strategic options and no fun at all

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Re: Tech Tree Discussion: FO vs. MoO2

#9 Post by Geoff the Medio » Sun Nov 29, 2009 10:45 am

mZhura wrote:instead of using words like "irrelevant" could you be more specific about why i possibly can't research one type of ship hull while having researched the other?
I think his point is that realism isn't a relevant argument for a game design discussion. If having sets of techs were you can only research one of the three makes the game more interesting or fun, then it would be worth considering having. As well, since this is a future sci fi game setting, we can come up with a variety of rationalization for why the game mechanics work as they do, such as your empire's population not being "creative" enough to come up with more than one tech from a set, even if you as a player know they could exist.
IMO any restrictions in game mechanics deliver just lack of strategic options and no fun at all
The idea is that by forcing the player to choose, the available techs *become* strategic options, rather than it being assumed you'll just get all of them, with the only difference being the order in which they're researched.

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Re: Tech Tree Discussion: FO vs. MoO2

#10 Post by Geoff the Medio » Sun Nov 29, 2009 11:43 am

Bigjoe5 wrote:Specifically, elements of mutual exclusivity and intra-category variety should be introduced to a greater extent.
This is my motivation for want to add Civ3/4-like strategic resources, or a similar game mechanic, which would add some of what you propose.
In future, the categories should probably be what they let you do in the game. Sometimes being able to do things in-game means having bonuses to some meters, but not always.
I believe that there should be the possibility of having significantly different types of content within a category, in terms of what they let you do, since IMO, this makes decision making on that level more interesting. Techs that support a specific strategy should go in a specific category, and be conceptually related, but within this scope, there is room for a lot more diversity than the currently named categories imply.
We probably need to make a distinction between "what you can do" and "how you can do it". There can be choice within a branch / category of game content about what way something is accomplished, while that branch is still collectively about doing that something. If instead, multiple strategy / category branches have duplicate ways of doing the same thing, it would seem to mean a lot of duplication and loss of distinction between the available choices. Hence it's beneficial to have a player's strategy consist of picking several branches from the available options, with some variation within the branch still available.

Regardless, if techs are grouped together in a categories, what would those categories be called, if not something about what the techs let you do?
It is not my intention to say there won't be diversity of content in FO, merely to say that organizing tech into categories strictly based on what they let you do in-game reduces the potential for diversity of content within a single category.
Reduces diversity in terms of what the cateogy lets you do? (Yes, that's the point) Or reduces diversity in by not having multiple ways to do the same thing in the category? (I don't think so)
There are indeed other ways of doing things which should also be introduced, but this fact by no means indicates that direct, game-enforced mutual exclusivity should not be included. I believe that this kind of immediate here-and-now game-enforced mutual exclusivity can add a great deal of enjoyment to the game, the absence of which cannot quite be made up for with other less direct implementations of mutual exclusivity.
Could you explain or repeat why you believe this?
This is more than just a different way of doing things; I find cross-category dependencies downright annoying. I'm not against trying to find a useful, non-intrusive way of implementing them, though, if it is felt that such dependencies can really improve gameplay.
What is particularly intrusive about them, and how are you adding them? Likely any cross-category tech dependencies should be necessary for core theories or the majority of important or useful applications, but you seem to object to any such linking...

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Re: Tech Tree Discussion: FO vs. MoO2

#11 Post by Yeeha » Sun Nov 29, 2009 12:52 pm

mZhura wrote:
Bigjoe5 wrote:If you're asking how it can be explained as a realistic and logical representation of the real world, I would simply point out how completely irrelevant that is.
then i would simply point how completely irrelevant any "mutual tech exclusivity" is. so, instead of using words like "irrelevant" could you be more specific about why i possibly can't research one type of ship hull while having researched the other? all this "moo2 are better than FO" stuff itself seems not any convincing at all. IMO any restrictions in game mechanics deliver just lack of strategic options and no fun at all
Well you saying that means you havent played moo2. Try it, theres no game like that out there :). Although economic tehnologyes, goverments were far too powerful in that imho (to be not picked). If automated factoryes would have changed places with tank technology and research lab with scoutlab and robominers and supercomputer 1lvl down game would be much better imho.

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Re: Tech Tree Discussion: FO vs. MoO2

#12 Post by eleazar » Sun Nov 29, 2009 3:02 pm

Bigjoe5 wrote:MoO2’s tech tree is better than ours. I don’t mean in terms of content - I mean fundamentally better in terms of format and overall design. There are some aspects of the MoO2 tech tree which brought a lot of interest to researching, and these aspects simply cannot be replicated with the tree in its current form.

My 4X background is much stronger in SMAC and Civ than MoO, so perhaps it is natural that i feel more comfortable with a Civ-like tree.

But there is a fundamental distinction that i don't think is fully being realized here. This distinction between MoO tech on one side and Civ/FO tech trees on the other is foundational, and leads to a lot of other differences.

MoO2 did not have a tree.

MoO1&2 had 6 tech pillars or columns. There were no branches on that tree. The fact that there were randomly appearing gaps in the 6 tech categories is clever, and it made what would have otherwise been a monotonous progression of techs interesting. These gaps never interrupted your forward progress.

Civ (and FO) have actual trees, where each tech may require one or more prerequisites, and lead to multiple later techs. The interest is in deciding how to navigate the intertwining branches of the tree. Especially in Civ IV where you have more freedom to navigate the tree in different ways, you have interesting strategic decisions to make, though of a different kind than in MoO.

Random gaps are interesting in a MoO non-branching system, but they don't lend themselves to an actual tree. Randomly making an important branching tech inaccessible could easily cripple the unfortunate empire. There may be ways of adding exclusivity in an actual branching tree, but it won't work and feel just like MoO without getting rid of the entire concept of branches. Otherwise we may very well end up with the worst of both worlds instead of the best.

Personally i think our research system pushes toward over-complexity already. Adding on more "features" from other games-- no mater how good they are in their original context-- will tend to hurt FO research overall.

Bigjoe5 wrote:Essentially, the purpose of my post was to point out that there is a really good example of a tech tree which could and should be used as a starting point for creating FO's tech tree. The fact that ours is so drastically different from it does not, IMO, seem promising for the finished tech tree.
FO is apparently, if not slavishly, following a different example of a really good tech tree, that of Civ and/or other games with a similar tree.

EDIT: actually it looks like FO was more strongly influenced by Hearts of Iron in this area. See this Post

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Re: Tech Tree Discussion: FO vs. MoO2

#13 Post by Bigjoe5 » Mon Nov 30, 2009 3:16 pm

Geoff the Medio wrote:We probably need to make a distinction between "what you can do" and "how you can do it". There can be choice within a branch / category of game content about what way something is accomplished, while that branch is still collectively about doing that something. If instead, multiple strategy / category branches have duplicate ways of doing the same thing, it would seem to mean a lot of duplication and loss of distinction between the available choices. Hence it's beneficial to have a player's strategy consist of picking several branches from the available options, with some variation within the branch still available.
Speaking for a moment in terms of "paths" rather than "categories", I think that regardless of which path a player takes through the tech tree, he will still want to be able to do some basic things: He will want to be able to defend his planets, he will want to be able to build ships, he will want to be able to improve production of various resources. Different paths through the tech tree will let him do some of these things better than others, but will be balanced overall and include a bit of everything. If this is the case, a path could comprise a choice of two or three categories out of several categories. Some of these categories could be about how you can do things, and others could be about what you can do. For example, there could be a category that focuses on buildings and one that focuses on ship parts. These would have high interdependency with other areas of the tech tree which focus more on resource production or space tactics or diplomacy, but nonetheless, if a player didn't go into the production category very much, there would still be techs in the ship parts or buildings category to unlock something to increase production, just not to a level comparable with a player who had also focused on the production tree (should such a seemingly limited category exist). Perhaps going through the buildings category would give some very powerful defensive buildings when combined with the space tactics category, and the ship parts category would give powerful offensive weaponry... but there would still be some defensive buildings and offensive ship parts in the space tactics tree regardless.
Regardless, if techs are grouped together in a categories, what would those categories be called, if not something about what the techs let you do?
They could be named after how they let you do something, or they could be named more abstractly, like MoO2's Constuction, Physics, Biology, Power, etc.
Reduces diversity in terms of what the cateogy lets you do? (Yes, that's the point) Or reduces diversity in by not having multiple ways to do the same thing in the category? (I don't think so)
If there are multiple ways to do the same thing, they should be in different categories, or at least different "paths".
There are indeed other ways of doing things which should also be introduced, but this fact by no means indicates that direct, game-enforced mutual exclusivity should not be included. I believe that this kind of immediate here-and-now game-enforced mutual exclusivity can add a great deal of enjoyment to the game, the absence of which cannot quite be made up for with other less direct implementations of mutual exclusivity.
Could you explain or repeat why you believe this?
It can be a difficult, heart-wrenching decision to (not) research a specific tech if you know that you'll never be able to have access to a tech again. Similarly, it adds a new feeling to diplomacy, when you're trying to get a tech that you need, but can't possibly get for yourself anymore. (Since mutually exclusive techs are under the same theory/theories, this applies even when trading with a player who is following a very similar tech path).
What is particularly intrusive about them, and how are you adding them? Likely any cross-category tech dependencies should be necessary for core theories or the majority of important or useful applications, but you seem to object to any such linking...
If core theories are dependent on theories of other categories, it reduces the ability to specialize on a single category. It should, IMO, be possible to get to a high-level theory in one category without having to research any other categories. On the other hand, it might be interesting and less intrusive if this cross category dependency applied only to applications, a mutually exclusive set of which might all be unlocked by the same two theories of different categories, for example.

Edit:
eleazar wrote:MoO1&2 had 6 tech pillars or columns. There were no branches on that tree. The fact that there were randomly appearing gaps in the 6 tech categories is clever, and it made what would have otherwise been a monotonous progression of techs interesting. These gaps never interrupted your forward progress.
That's a pretty accurate description of MoO1's tree, but MoO2's tree had no random gaps. Instead, each level of a category had a certain number of techs from which you could choose, and once you chose to research one of them, you could never go back and research the others. This is the mutual exclusivity to which I'm referring. And IMO, it is better than the MoO1 approach of random gaps.
Civ (and FO) have actual trees, where each tech may require one or more prerequisites, and lead to multiple later techs. The interest is in deciding how to navigate the intertwining branches of the tree. Especially in Civ IV where you have more freedom to navigate the tree in different ways, you have interesting strategic decisions to make, though of a different kind than in MoO.

Random gaps are interesting in a MoO non-branching system, but they don't lend themselves to an actual tree. Randomly making an important branching tech inaccessible could easily cripple the unfortunate empire. There may be ways of adding exclusivity in an actual branching tree, but it won't work and feel just like MoO without getting rid of the entire concept of branches. Otherwise we may very well end up with the worst of both worlds instead of the best.
My hope is to have a system of mutual exclusivity, rather than random gaps, which as you point out, can end up crippling a player. How can you create a long term strategy if you don't even know what techs will be available? My intention is not to create a tree that works and feels exactly like the MoO2 tree, but to create one that utilizes the best of the available examples. People usually associate a system they like with its best aspects most readily. By combining aspects of MoO2 with aspects of Civ/HoI, it is possible to create a tree that fans of MoO2 will find feels like the MoO2 tree with some interesting elements of branching and interconnectivity between categories, and fans of Civ/HoI will recognize as feeling like a Civ/HoI tree with the interesting element of mutual exclusivity added in.
Personally i think our research system pushes toward over-complexity already. Adding on more "features" from other games-- no mater how good they are in their original context-- will tend to hurt FO research overall.
I feel that our current research system is sufficiently simple as to be able to profit from the inclusion of another feature.

/edit
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Bigjoe5
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Re: Tech Tree Discussion: FO vs. MoO2

#14 Post by Bigjoe5 » Tue Aug 23, 2011 6:26 pm

Well, this took way, way too long, but here's an example of what I'm talking about:
techs.txt.zip
(6.38 KiB) Downloaded 174 times
preunlocked_items.txt.zip
(931 Bytes) Downloaded 129 times
eng_stringtable.txt.zip
(77.88 KiB) Downloaded 140 times
The idea of this tech tree is that instead of researching a theory, the player researches one - and only one - of the applications associated with that theory, at which point the next theory/theories become accessible, and the other unresearched techs associated with that theory become permanently unresearchable. This is basically a demonstration of how this can be done in a very simple format while integrating aspects of branching and cross-category dependencies. It also serves the secondary purpose of exploring future aspects of the game such as espionage, ground combat, etc, all of which I welcome discussion about, especially things like the perhaps unnecessary ECM vs. Computing Power system for LR weapons.

And aside from that short introduction, everything else I have to say is in the tech description and can be accessed in-game.
Last edited by Bigjoe5 on Tue May 15, 2012 1:06 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Tech Tree Discussion: FO vs. MoO2

#15 Post by eleazar » Tue Aug 23, 2011 8:28 pm

You still have do-nothing theories in there. Is that because you want them, or they were necessary with the current engine to organize your applications?

Sometimes you have things like Biology V, and Biology V-B. Are those intended to be mutually exclusive?

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