Alright, I've finished running around the park at night with a light up frisbee, time for me to take a crack at this.
Beric01, it seemed like a good idea at the time to split the threads between name brainstorming and actual functionality. Maybe that's a bit overkill, but oh well .
If there's one thing this subcategory system reminds me of, it's the undirected research of Alpha Centauri. This was interesting, but I don't remember how it felt to play undirected research. I do remember turning on directed research for most of my games, but I'm a horrible power-gamer .
I've got silly name titles for the subsections, but I basically read down the thread and tried to digest each person's ideas and answer questions as best as I could brainstorm myself.
What's in a Color (Kantok):
Right now, color rarity means a very specific thing: the chance a technology is available when you breakthrough. Keep in mind that currently red techs hold something like a rarity of between 20 - 30, which means that if you breakthrough 10 times after you've satisfied prereqs, you are guaranteed to have the tech. Most of the reds right now do not break the game wide open right now, and honestly I don't think they should. I do think that they should be valuable and useful, and perhaps characteristic.
Valuable: The technology opens up new inventions which are more potent than similar inventions available in that subcategory.
Useful: The technology is not terribly situational for its category. For instance, I wouldn't make Beekeeping a red technology with this understanding of color. An alternative reading of this sentiment: that the technology will be usable for most people who are given the opportunity to discover it.
Characteristic: Defining. We know the Japanese for their swordsmiths, the English for their ships, the French for their universities etc. - this is what I mean by characteristic.
I think you have Control Issues (Kantok):
The easiest way to take the sting out of the control issues is to make sure the player is most always pleasantly surprised when they breakthrough and get their technology - or at least, that their minions are researching in a competent manner to their wishes.
I think this will require some under the hood checks, eg. not to give out farming unless the player has control of grains, not to give orchards unless they have fruit, etc.
We Can Rebuild Him, Faster, Stronger, Better than Before (Kantok):
XML is incredibly flexible, and when combined with python scripting you can do some pretty crazy things. For instance, I have an in-house CIV IV mod right now that adds nand & nor prerequisites, hides technologies you can't currently research, and colors the background of a technology based on its cost. I'm not a super coder or anything like that, but with some careful thinking, changes like this aren't that big of a deal.
Basically, give us your best ideas, and worry about implementation later!
Note: The Nand & Nor Prerequisites Mod required some .DLL modifications (C++), mostly to add additional XML Tags.
You're Just One Unlucky B*stard, Aren't You (Kantok):
Here is my first truly radical idea: we've bounced around the concept on these forums about gray technologies, techs which you have so far surpassed that you automatically discover them with your breakthroughs. I've started thinking, perhaps we're thinking of this wrong. Instead of a tech becoming gray after a period of time, why not have different classes of breakthroughs! You would pop-up with a message to the player saying: "Congratulations, your scholars have finished their research in [subcategory name] and have achieved [type of breakthrough] rediscovering the following technologies:", yeah, you read that right, technologie(S).
Dramatic Success: 1 Red Technology and 1 Green/Yellow Technology
Success: 1 Yellow/Green Technology and 1 Green Technology
Moderate Success: 2 Green Technologies
This is pretty huge, and if we went with it, we would definitely need to start breaking some of the technologies apart and deciding what really is green versus yellow, versus red. I imagine that I would structure the percentage chances in favor of moderate success in a 60:30:10 ratio. However, this also means we can have things effect your breakthrough types, like sovereign traits and inventors!
Game Over Dude (Iswallie):
The late game is where the system has a hard time coping, though I think a system which uses typed breakthroughs would handle better. Another way to deal with the late game setup (where you really only want significant technologies, since you've covered the basics which you want already) is to use the gray technology idea which has been bouncing around for a while.
One, Two, Three? Or Two, One, Three? (sjwt):
This works in a similar way to the pulse system I tried to explain in the Technology System Tweak thread, you should read the paper, and not just because I wrote it! . Out of order technology acquisition is always a little strange: after all, if we've discovered lighter swords, why should my researchers ever waste time with lesser technologies. I solved this in the pulse system by isolating groups of technologies (Pulses) and only having out of order discovery occur in each pulse.
Now, here's a fun question: How many subcategories is too many? The degenerate case is to have a subcategory for each technology, but how many subcategories should we be comfortable with. I think no more than five, to have a parallelism with the technology categories themselves.
Unlocking categories with technology sounds interesting, but then we run into our tree problems again...