Date: 1989-03-08
From: John
Subject: A Conquest of Our Own

Archipelago, Volume 5, John Card Number 7


No, you have not scared me away, but I must admit your list is rather formidible. And I fear it will continue to grow.

I suggest that we hash out the design over the next year or so and then try to implement it using SuperCard (if possible). As you have already observed, the challenge is to significantly enhance the current game without sacrificing its basic simplicity. If we ever come up with a working program, we could even try to market it!

As I see it, the task breaks down into several vast and challenging sub-tasks. The first of these is to create a world generator. It would be nice to employ fractal coastlines. I would also like to see true inland seas and river systems. How big should it be do you think? If we make it adjustable, what should the range be as compared to the current size? Should we have edges or should we wrap the screen into a cylinder or torus?

A special challenge in this case is creating a world that the computer can understand. It has to have the same kind of gestalt grasp of continents and spatial relationships that we do when we look at a screen. Another subtask of this project, after all, is creating a worthy opponent, one less dimwitted than the current program, perhaps an opponent who actually learns and adapts. Thus we will necessarily stray near the edges of artificial intelligence!

More questions/ideas:

  • Do you think we should allow for more than two players?
  • How about each player customizing the production schedule before the game begins? Thus a player could reduce the time required to build fighters in exchange for slower submarine schedules. Or perhaps he could choose a subset of eight possible weapons out of a "pallette" of 20 weapon types.
  • You suggested the ability to specify enemy strategy; in what ways? Agressive vs. Defensive? Air emphasis vs. naval emphasis?
  • Another reporting option I'd like to see is some kind of path tracking, so you could display a map with the path taken by destroyers in the last 10 days, or tank movement on a given continent.
  • Maybe ships should be given names, or even colorful commanders. Also it might be nice to name the continents and oceans for easy reference.
  • Perhaps a textual record of the battle could be generated in addition to an animated set of maps. The computer could automatically generate a journal of a few terse sentences from day to day. You could then add to this journal as you saw fit.
Oh, I have another question for you. You mentioned that one of the Conquest players on your network made a reference to a public domain game which was the inspiration for SC+. Is this true? Could you find out more? The reason I ask is that I want our design to avoid infringing on any copyrights. We want our game to be LIKE SC+, but not too much alike. Maybe you could also ask for more ideas from other people on your network.

As soon as my programming schedule clears a bit, I will try dabbling with some world generation. If you think of any ingenious algorithms let me know. Let's keep a chain of voice cards going on this subject!