I decided to try my hand at devising a concept for a technology development system for Thrive. The results are as follows.
In many games that involve technological advancement, research is often represented in relatively simple systems such as “cards” (Where a small number of technologies are randomly selected to be placed in a pool for the player to choose from) “Tech trees” (Where technologies are listed in branching paths." and sometimes something in between. The technologies in these systems are often represented as buttons or nodes that once selected are either researched for a time and unlocked, or unlocked immediately with sufficient funds. While these methods certainly work fine, I would personally like to try something moderately new and gradual that better represents the process of research and development, while still being engaging and rewarding.
To put things simply, my proposed system will will be presented as meters that are slowly filled, rather than nodes that are “unlocked”. These meters represent your species’ understanding and knowledge of a subject, with more research leading to a stronger and more refined understanding of the tech.
As these meters are filled, technologies unlocked by the meter will be granted incremental boosts in effect, such as increased health for buildings, increased productivity, decreased costs, etc. Alongside these constant increases in effectiveness, there can also be “breakthroughs” within the meter, which represent new gameplay elements instead of mere stat increases unlocked by having such a strong understanding of the subject. (For example, researching a generator would give you a moderate sized generator. But later you hit a breakthrough that unlocks a much smaller generator that could allow for more compact engineering.)
This is only part of the concept of course, as the next important part of research, is the process of research itself. Many games have either a time based unlocking that scales depending on research points, or immediate unlocking that costs some form of currency. And many times you can only focus on one or a few technologies at once. Once again, I wish to try something bold and new in an effort to make research engaging and hopefully a bigger part of strategy. Rather than have a fixed amount of technologies you can focus on. What if the player was instead given a fixed amount of points that they can then invest into any tech with no limits other than the amount of points they have? The amount of points available would depend on the player’s investment into the sciences, as well as available scientists and cultural climate. Investing these points into a tech would as you might guess begin advancing the progress gradually while scaling with the points invested. This would allow the player to research as many technologies as they so desire as long as they respect their available resources, as spreading investment too far between technologies would slow down progress immensely which can be dangerous in the face of rival civilizations.
As in many other games, technologies in Thrive may potentially be gated behind others within the tech tree. However as suggested by Icedjuro, a system where technologies are simply much more slower to research when the requirements haven’t been met instead of a hard cap, may be a preferable way to go about it with Thrive.
This is a concept of two potential ways we could present the technology nodes. The left one would probably fit better in a list orientation, while the round one might look nicer in a full blown tech tree like what has been discussed here.
The green bars represent when breakthrough milestones will be reached, and new features unlocked. The red bars represent the point where further progress will be slowed down by a lack of per-requisite technologies. The red bar’s existence is questionable of course, depending on if we want techs to be fully locked behind others, or only partly.
I would like to see what everyone thinks of this idea, so don’t hesitate to let me know!
Tld;r: Tech could be gradually unlocked with increasing benefits rather than immediate reward, alongside dynamic costs.