I envision using Elemental to create a new, true 4X space strategy game, in the mold of Master of Orion, Imperium Galactica, Galactic Civilizations, or any other past giant of the genre. I'd like to use this thread to discuss the feasibility of using Elemental to create this kind of mod.
I've been very excited about Elemental, and excited about the possibilities for mods. With a few notable exceptions, most of the mod ideas I have seen have focused on various Fantasy themes, which makes sense considering that Elemental itself is a fantasy game. However, I have seen little talk of non-fantasy mods. Since Elemental is in some ways inspired by Master of Magic...why not a mod inspired by Master of Orion and other space strategy games?
It has been years since we had a new, high-quality space strategy game, 4x or otherwise. This is a real shame, since it used to be a much larger genre. Stardock's own Galactic Civilizations has become the new flagbearer of the genre...Gal Civ III is probably years away. There are still a few other titles out there, but not much that can really match the great games of the past. Instead, we have been seeing light / action strategy games such as Sins of a Solar Empire and Sword of the Stars, fine games in their own right, but not 4X games by any stretch of the imagination.
Explore: The mod should give the Player a sense of exploration, with the galaxy full of mystery and wonder, with interesting things to see and do. Research should be interesting with room for discovery, not just a linear "Lasers 1 advanced to Lasers II.' The galaxy's backstory should leave room for discovery and exploration.
Expand: Players must be able to build new colonies, space stations, etc.
Exploit: Players must be able to discover and exploit resources on planets, asteroids, and deep space.
Exterminate: Space and Planetary combat must be very detailed and reward both strategic planning (research, design, etc) and tactical / operational execution (battlefield control).
Experience: The 5th 'EX' brought in by MOO3, the great failure of the genre. This was a fairly poorly defined feature relating to empire management and other areas. I can see various ways it could be repurposed, perhaps to include the 'experience' of a 'living galaxy.'
I believe that Elemental could handle eveything needed for a quality 4X/5X space strategy game. It has most of the essential elements built into the game already, and my reading on mods leads me to believe that a talented team could do quite a bit to modify the game to fit the needs of a space strategy game. The main areas that I think would need special work are as follows.
1. Multiple Views: A Space Strategy game should include several layers, starting with a Universe / Galactic view that covers the 'game world' whether that be a local cluster of stars, a spiral arm of the Milky Way, an entire galaxy, or whatever. This would be view that players would likely spend the most time in, managing their empire as a whole. After this, there would be a System view where players could look at individual solar systems and see the various planets and other stellar bodies. Finally, there would be a planetary view for looking at individual planets / asteroids / colonies / etc. This concept could be expanded to break a Galactic view down into Sectors, and then to Systems within those Sectors, and a Planetary view could be broken down into regions, or other different views...but I see Galactic, System, and Planet views as the minimum. Alternatively, the game could be played with one primary view as in Gal Civ II, with planets and asteroids visible on the Galactic map. Creating 'space' on the map would be similar to water in an Elemental Map, with 'land' as various planets and other locations. This would be the area that would potentially require the most work, but would be most essential to turn Elemental from a land and water based game to a space and planet based game.
2. Space Units / Ground Units and Combat: This shouldn't be very difficult since it will be similar to Water / Land units in stock Elemental. We will need to create space ships / fleets that behave as needed. Faster than light travel will be needed...how will this be handled? One universal tech for everyone (FTL engines for ships? Wormholes?) or multiple tech paths (ability to create various ship drives, warp gates, whatever). Fleets will need to fight fleets, and fleets will need to be able to transport armies to planets for invasions. I picture tactical or auto resolve fleet combat, and tactical or auto resolve ground combat.
3. Expanded Civilization Options: One area of Elemental that I think is going to be lacking is the area of civilization traits / civics / whatever. I think Alpha Centauri was one of the first games to bring this in, and it did wonders for the game. I'd like the mod to allow for this area as well, with the ability for decisions to be made that change the way governments, societies, military, etc. operate. I see this being setup similar to the Civ IV civics screen, with various penalties and bonuses for any given option. As an alternative, this could be expanded in the Empire / Race design section to become a basic, unchanging characteristic of an Empire / Species. I don't like this though because I prefer options for changing things during a game.
4. Multiple Species: This has been one of the most hotly debated areas of Elemental. I'm not sure if the Elemental system is at a 100% no kidding final solution yet. I've always preferred more detail, especially in fantasy and sci-fi games where the existence of multiple intelligent species is one of the hallmarks of the gameworld and gameplay. Regardless of where Elemental ends up sitting, I would like the mod to reflect the differences between various species, and to allow for the development of a multi-species, multi-cultural galactic community. I want different species to migrate around and form colonies, with some colonies eventually becoming multi-species either due to conquest, peaceful integration, or because the location is a 'neutral ground' such as a trading hub. Related to this, I'd love to see some kind of galactic community as a possible creation, such as a multi-empire / multi-species alliance (Space Empires V had the bare bones start of this, and it showed real promise) or something like the Citadel Council in Mass Effect. Something like the UN in Civ games. The more that the different empires and species are brought together, the more interesting the conflicts and interactions will be. Creating situations where wildly different species interact is one of the hallmarks of sci-fi.
I have tons of other ideas for using Elemental, but this thread has gotten long, so I will stop for now...this is of course a very basic, bare-bones concept at the moment, because I want to focus on ideas for using Elemental before getting into the details. Let me know what you think!