Re: Olympia, death of a hero?

russell wallace (
Thu, 2 Jul 1992 18:41:50 GMT

In <> (Rich Skrenta) writes:

>I really don't understand Russell's objections to the new economy. What
>other game lets you simply race to build more and more cash, with no
>limits? Is Galaxy among the games where you take over a planet and have
>it start making stuff for you? What if you and all your enemies could
>sit on the same planet, producing gobs of stuff without interfering with
>each other? There wouldn't be much cause for conflict, and it wouldn't
>be very interesting.

True, in Galaxy there is a limit to how much one planet can produce,
thereby giving players reason to fight each other. However, Galaxy and
Olympia are two different games, and what is appropriate for one may not
be appropriate for the other.

First, in Olympia there is no way to defend territory. There is no way
to exclude others from entering an area you occupy. Also you cannot
attack them until the start of the next turn, because you do not know
they are there. This means that if you try to control a large area in
order to get supply for your army, an enemy can do the following:

Get an army say twice the strength of the ones you have in each region
(not hard, he only needs a fraction of your total strength for this).

Move into one of your regions, kill your army there, move into another
of your regions, kill your army there, in one turn.

Repeat next turn etc. as there is no real way to track someone down in
Olympia - since you don't know if you're going to pass them by during
the turn, and since everyone is invulnerable except for the brief time
during which they are within a province.

Of course, you will be similarly trying to attack any standing army he
may be trying to use to defend territory, and the whole thing becomes
totally chaotic.

Second, Galaxy is not an open-ended game. Therefore there is no problem
of, what happens when a newbie comes along and finds that all the
existing territory is occupied and nobody will let him support forces on
their land.

The original design philosophy of Olympia was that region populations
were very large in comparison to the number of player-controlled
characters, and hence nothing one did had any effect on the region as a
whole - you could not change market prices, raise or lower the
population, collect taxes, etc. This original version was
well-integrated and actually worked fine.

Now you are trying to change the game piecemeal to a completely different
game. This is a bit like trying to change a helicopter piecemeal into an
aeroplane. You're going to find that the bits just don't work together.

If you insist on making Olympia a game where the players have a strong
effect on the local region, here are my suggestions for what you also
need to do:

Have an infinite map (i.e. the computer generates more continents as
people explore) so that newbies can always find unoccupied territory.

Have ways to defend territory, e.g. you can't enter a province where the
local forces have declared you unfriendly, without fighting them first.

Have an ENEMY (i.e. kill on sight) attitude.

Drop the invulnerability of units en route.

Consider dropping the many actions per month, and only allow zero or
more zero-time actions (which should include combat) at the start of a
turn, exactly one one-month action, and perhaps zero or more zero-time
actions at the end of the turn (though I'd be inclined to disallow the

Consider ways of changing the relationship between warlord and province
to one of protector and serf instead of customer and market - for
example, taxing the peasants, and raising units of conscript troops
(IMPRESS is no good for this since they just desert).

The reason I originally suggested leaving things the way they were
rather than doing the things on this list, was that Olympia worked well
the way it was, and changing piecemeal a game that works well into a
completely different game, particularly when there seems to be little
agreement among the participants as to exactly what sort of game they
want to end up with, is a route to disaster. (Actually I'm kind of
thinking about writing a game myself, which will probably be a
market-oriented game with some of the stuff I outlined above, but if I
do, I'll start off with that design in mind from the beginning).

To summarize: I think that Olympia worked well the way it was
originally, it is now getting to the stage where it no longer works well
and instead is degenerating towards a kludge of incompatible design
ideas, and while it is possible that it will be finally converted into a
different game that also works well (say, by implementing my suggestions
above), this is a route fraught with peril, and I am not at all sure
that it will ever work.

"To summarize the summary of the summary: people are a problem"
Russell Wallace, Trinity College, Dublin