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("Indigene" is the noun form of "indigenous", it sounds more appropriate than "native")
A galaxy consisting of empty planets and with only a handful of distant player species feels unnecessarily barren - especially in the opening stages of the game. To mitigate the dull vacantness of the galaxy, i propose adding two or three times the number Indigene species as empire-building player species (including AIs). Each indigenous species if left alone would never make it to another star. Basically they are minor characters in the game rather than players of the game. Though they won't a star-faring civilization on their own, joined with a player species they can make a big difference.
- Indigenes have fewer positive pics than the player species, (which provides the great benefit that they don't have to be balanced against the player species, or even each other.)
- The advancement of indigenous culture and technology varies, which effects how great a force (for good or ill) they can be within your empire.
- Indigene species may need to have a simpler Ethos, i.e. one with fewer elements to properly fit in a multi-species empire.
- Indigenes might have the option of being randomly created. This would provide a lot of variety, and add some zest to exploring, but naturally some of the resulting species would be rather odd. Worse, some might be nearly useless, but you don't have to add them to your empire.
NOTE: This whole section has been re-shaped to make things simpler. In my mind "Uplift" has been abandoned, or at least postponed until after 1.0.
Indigenes are simply species with fewer total pics, which don't have the tech to leave their planet.
When an empire encounters an Indigene planet, it can open communications, or invade.
If the player communicates a simplified diplomacy screen is opened. The topic of negotiations is getting the planet to willingly join your empire. The Indigene's initial opinion of your empire is based on the compatibility of your empire's actions with their ethoi. Planets whose local strength is closer to yours may drive harder bargains.
The empire may offer better status as inducements. The empire may also bribe or threaten.
If the indigene planet ultimately accepts, it is added to the empire, and any status, and/or bribe promised is automatically given. If the planet doesn't accept, the empire may attack, or simply come back later. Status may be lowered later, that will naturally annoy them, but not end the deal.
In a slightly more involved version of the "Simple Version", each indigene has a permanent Tech level.
More Interesting Version
With Indigene planets you have up to 3 special options, Study, Communicate, and Educate, in addition to the normal military options. All these options may require a special type of ship to be present.
An item is added to the science queue. Once a modest number of RP have been spent, you'll learn the Indigene's language and pics (stats). Communicate is now unlocked. Study may be helpful even if you wanted to exterminate or exploit, because you'll learn how they might be exploited, or how well they could fight.
A simplified diplomacy screen is opened. The topic of negotiations is getting the planet to willingly join your empire. The Indigene's initial opinion of your empire is based on the compatibility of your empire's actions with their ethoi. Planets with more advanced tech and whose local strength is closer to yours will drive harder bargains. The empire may offer better status and/or Tech Level advancement as inducements. The empire may also bribe or threaten.
If the indigene planet ultimately accepts, it is added to the empire, and any status, education, and/or bribe promised is automatically given. If the planet doesn't accept, the empire may attack, or simply come back later. Status may be lowered later, that will naturally annoy them, but not end the deal.
Invasions generally spark a ground war. The Indigenes get a fighting bonus from being on their homeworld(?), and while technologically inferior, may be able to hold out a long time. Some mid-game bio-warfare techs may allow you to exterminate them without a fight.
This is available only after a planet has been added to your empire, assuming the planet is not already high-tech. Education advances the tech-level which allows more population, allows the planet to be more productive, but also makes it easier to effectively rebel, should they become unhappy with you.
Educating a species takes some time.
- If a species has been spread to multiple planets, are they educated en mass or one planet at a time?
- Within the time-frame of the game will indigenes advance their tech-level on their own?
- Or should education only be available at first contact, to peg a total species at one tech-level?
To break down the info in another way, a species may fit in one of 4 technological stages. This determines which resources they can produce. Species in the lower stages are easier to control, but less productive.
- TL1 ) Primitive: Haven't invented more than basic tools.
- TL2 ) Tribal: (need better name) Approximately Medieval tech level.
- TL3 ) Civilized: Approximately 19-21 century tech level.
- TL4 ) High-Tech: Similar to a starting player.
These are the types of production that can be produced at each tech level. This is not meant to imply that (for instance) only TL4 planets engage in any kind of industry, but that only the industry of a TL4 planet is useful for your interstellar empire.
- TL1 ) Food, Minerals
- TL2 ) Food, Minerals, Trade
- TL3 ) Food, Minerals, Trade, Science
- TL4 ) Food, Minerals, Trade, Science, Industry (all)
Indigenes get the "homeworld" special for their starting planet. However, at lower tech levels they can support less population, something like:
- TL1 ) 20%
- TL2 ) 40%
- TL3 ) 70%
- TL4 ) 100%
I don't know how ground combat will work so the following is rather sketchy.
Though everybody gets a bonus to defend their homeworld, lower tech-level Indigenes should be less effective fighters, however the decentralize nature of their society may make them more resistant to bombing and other such attacks. TL3 and 4 might also have planetary defenses.
I think it would be a lot of fun to make some or all of the indigenes randomly created. This would add interest to exploring the galaxy if you never know what exactly you might find. A plus to replay-ability, and it shouldn't be too hard to set up.
- There should be a lot of extra graphic for the player to use for a custom species. These also could be used for random indigenes, though naturally human players get first pick.
- Indigenes don't really need to be balanced, against each other or against the main player species. They just need to have fewer positive pics that the main player species. It doesn't matter if one random indigene is generally more useful than another, in fact that's a bonus.
- Sure they won't be as nice in some ways as purposefully designed species, but the variety should make up for that. However, especially in campaigns, designed indigenes should also be possible.
- 1) Random Name: Add in a random name generator, or simply include a really long list to randomly pick from.
- 2) Random number of Pics (with a maximum below that of the main species)
- 3) Randomly assigned Pics: some of these might clash, we may want to make some combinations impossible, but crazy is good.
- 4) Random EP: possibly weighted to the EPs less common in this galaxie's species
- 5) Random Graphic: taken from the same pile that custom player species use.
- 6) Random Ethos
- 7) Semi-Random Description: It shouldn't be too hard to take the information above, combine it with some descriptive adjectives or phrases randomly chosen from lists, and come up with a legible unique description.