This week Lord of Rigel Features Series will focus on the diplomacy system in Lord of Rigel. Diplomacy is obviously a major system in an 4x game. It is the mechanic that allows the player to interact with the Artificial Intelligence (AI) in a variety of ways. When designing Lord of Rigel we had a few goals in mind: the AI would have a personality, the diplomacy system should move beyond the basics, players should understand what factors the AI is using when making its decisions.
As discussed earlier this week about the AI in tactical combat, we aren't focused on making really smart AIs that make the game all about out smarting the AI. Instead we want the AI to have a personality like nations and people do in real life. We have gone with a state based AI using modifiers to control personality. Each species will act differently with the player: some being highly aggressive and others wanting to forge lasting alliances. While players may say to themselves "oh well I can exploit the AI" that is certainly true to an extent: players can certainly know how to work the AI to their advantage. However, players can also base their long term strategies on knowing who is around them and how they want to navigate the waters of diplomacy as well as using the information provided in the user interface that will indicate to players what actions that player has taken that the AI is using to help make their decisions.
Many games, including the Master of Orion series, used an AI system based on number generation and modifier profiles. The point of this was to allow the AI to appear human and random. However one big problem that this caused was that an AI could turn against a player for no apparent reason after a long period of peace or an alliance. This randomness just made the AI seem psychotic rather than intelligent.
Lastly, Lord of Rigel will throw players into an intergalactic community. Most 4x games simply have the player among a group of competing factions that are equals. Lord of Rigel will have elder species that will build political spheres of influence. The player will have to choose which side they wish to join, or whether try to go it alone or build their own political sphere of influence to counter the Elder species.
The combination of a state based AI, an intuitive interface and relevant diplomatic information, and a complex galactic political system will provide players with a diplomacy system that should allow the player to create strategies that work to their advantage and a level of replay ability in diplomacy previously unseen in other 4x games.