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[ leiavoia.net ]
v0.2 "Switchboard"

v0.3 "Zombie"
[due ~September 2004]


Project Overview

AXIS is a turn based strategy game. It is based on a randomly generated tile map. The theme is a kind of abstract geometric mix. Many TBS games on the market carry sci-fi, fantasy, or war themes. AXIS is far removed from these and tries to disassociate itself from them. Instead it uses shapes, colors and textures to convey information. The game is won by capturing another sides flag or annihilating all the playing pieces of that player. Possibly other victory conditions can be incorporated as well.


The base unit of play in AXIS is the shape. Shapes come in many fun flavors including Tetrahedrons, Tori, Cubes, Spheres, etc. Each shape has a variety of Final Fantasy style combat statistics which may include force (offensive power), resistence (defense), opacity (evade), speed, and many others. In addition, different kinds of shapes carry different strangths and weaknesses. Most shapes carry special skills which can come in handy in and out of combat.

The next level up from a shape is the pod. A pod is simply a group of shapes (think "task force"). Pods are what you see on the overall map. Once shapes are assembled into pods, they can move about on the map tiles. When conflict occurs, it happens between two pods and the shapes that make up the pods do battle in some graphically abstract fashion.

The final level of grouping is the axis from which this game gets its name. The axis is the "empire" you control. There can be many axis' on the map. The current idea is to have 2-8 axis' on the map, depending on startup configurations. Possibly even more than that could be added.

The Map

The map is tile based. Currently, the idea is to have a square tile map. While a hex map would be more fun, it presents more challenges as far as coding and AI go. Something that will surely increase fun and replay value is a randomly generated map. There are many options to configure the map on a game's startup. Map features include impenetrable obstacles, open land, basic resources, specials, and possibly elevation and a variety of other obstacles (water, hill, pit, etc.). There should be options for editing and importing custom maps as well. Random map making algorithms should be plentiful and lots of fun to design. The first test version is called "BlotchMaker" and has made some very interesting maps already, albeit in a very primitive way. The map also has an initial fog of war which must be explored before you romp through conquering.

Movement, Missions, & Game Play

Each axis (player) starts off with a handful of shapes in a reserve. These shapes can then assembled into pods based on what function or mission the player wishes that pod to accomplish. For instance: an attack pod should be high in average shape attack statistics. A reconessence pod should have high overall visability and shapes with recon specials. Certain shapes lend thenselves to certain tasks, but pod design is up to the player to experiment with what works and what does not.

Once assembled, pods are placed into the axis' home base. This is also where the axis' flag is kept. Once placed, the pod is then given a player defined objective which can be one of many or queued so that once a pod finishes one objective it can start on the next automatically. Pod missions are given by the player, however, the way the pod accomplishes this mission is left up to the pod itself. This is what makes AXIS somewhat unique: the heavy AI emphasis on several levels. Pod missions may be direct like "Move to square [*point*]" or vague like "Patrol Area". But after having received orders from you, the pod then decides how best to achieve its mission. If you say "Move to tile [x,y]" it decides how it should get there on its own. If you say "Patrol Area" it scouts its own territory and decides who and how to attack if needed. A short list of pod missions includes but is not limited to: Move, Attack, Follow, Scout, Capture Flag, Defend, Halt, Retreat, Patrol, Return, and Harvest.

Movement takes place in turns. Once all pods needing orders from all axis' have been instructed and the Turn button has been pressed, each pod moves a space on the map. Pods with higher average initiative values go first. Each pod can move several squares depending on several pod and shape statistics and probably some randomness thrown in for fun. It is yet to be determined if each pod moves its first square in order of initiative, then back through the list agin to move the second square for each pod, etc, or if each pod moves all of it's alloted number of tiles before the next fastest pod in the list moves.


Combat takes place in close-up, seperate from the game map. However, the actual method for combat has not been determined. There are three systems on the drawing board though:

  • Spacial:
    This is where the combat has it's own field or mini map. Pieces would move through the map gaining or losing tactical positions. This is obviously the most complex form of combat AXIS could have
  • Positional:
    A kind of "iconified" version of the Spacial Combat. Each shape in a pod would take an abstract position such "front", "rear", "flank", or "center". These positions can be played off of to achieve more variety in combat without as complex a system as Spatial Combat would require. It also eliminates the need to "move" anywhere on a map, since the positioning of shapes is absolute, not relative.
  • "Card Game":
    The simplest combat model. Each shape would be lined up such as in a card game. Any piece can attack any other piece. There is no concept of "position" in the Card Game style of combat.
Each shape has a variety of stats for just this purpose of combat. These can include but again are not limited to: offense, defense, speed, evade, accuracy, intelligence, bravery, force type (type of attack), material (type of defense), and depending on the combat structure, combat missions and goals.

Again, there are several ways to go about controlling combat:

  • Hands-On
    With a hands-on model, the player specifically gives actions for each shape. "Use this attack against this enemy." Each movement would require player attention and manipulation.
  • AI-Control:
    Instead of manual control, there could instead be a system somewhat like that of assigning missions to pods. Each shape could have it's own combat mission objectives (protect others, attack weakest, attack strongest, etc.) combined with the mission assigned to a pod as a group. In this model, the player sets the battle plan at the outset, and then watches the outcome but has no actual control over combat after it starts (favoring strategy over tactics). This model is preferred at this point since both human and CPU controlled axis can utilize the AI shape-to-shape combat mechanics and thought process. It also would allow a player to "skip" battles they don't want to watch, simply want the outcome determined for and move on.

Another twist to make combats and pod composition more interesting is the combo system. Similar shapes can buddy up to do special functions in combat, perhaps a special defensive or offensive move that is more powerful than a single shape's own power would allow. Disimilar shapes cannot combo together.


Victory is currently achieved in 3 ways:

  • Capture The Flag - Sole Survivor:
    In SS mode, the object is simply to grab the other player's flag and return it back to your own home base. This automatically eliminates the losing axis. Since AXIS can have more than just two sides, it does not win the game for you. When you are the last axis left standing, you win.
  • Capture The Flag - First Down:
    In FD mode, you only need to capture one axis' flag to win. The first axis to successfully claim an enemy flag wins. This is the "speed" version of play.
  • Annihilation:
    In annihilation, the goal is to destroy all other enemy pods. Capturing a flag still eliminates that axis' shape units.

Game Phases

You begin the game with a small allotment of energy. From the energy you create shapes, with each shape type having a relative energy value required to "build" that shape and put it into play. The player begins by creating a small handful of shapes from the initial amount of energy given at the game's start. When a shape is "bought" with the available energy, a shape of the chosen type with randomly generated statisitcs and special abilities is made and placed into a common reserve. Shapes can then be deployed on the map starting from the home base.

The first phase of gameplay, after the setup and initial deployment, is the exploration phase. The map has a fog of war which prevents you from seeing that which has not been explored. Also, enemy units can not be detected unless they are actively being scouted. Again, certain shapes have better abilities that they contribute to the whole of the pod when it comes to visibility and scouting. While the map may be explored once and known, the location of enemies and their movements are not known unless they are currently within visibal range of one of your own pods.

There are special resources called energy tabs on the map which may be gathered by pods. Energy tabs contribute to your overall energy reserve from which you create new shapes. By collecting energy tabs, you grow your axis in power. Energy tabs come in several flavors which give relative amounts of energy in return. Furthermore, there are regenerating energy resources ("wells"), which will create more energy as the game goes on. These resources can fuel your axis and create "something to fight over" in a strategic sense. Axis' that can correctly control these resources will grow and dominate.

As your axis grows, eventually you will want to defend your own home base and devise a strategy for taking out your opponants. Meanwhile, your opponants are doing the same. Part of the tension in AXIS is picking who to go after, who to defend against, and what balance between offense and defense you wish to achieve. You could send all your shapes against the enemy, but then you would have nothing to defend your own flag with. You could defend it with everything you've got, but then you would have nothing to conquer with.

Decisions & "The Return Of IFPs"

A feature that failed in MOO3, but which finds a very appropriate home in AXIS is the concept of decisions ("Imperial Focus Points"). While AXIS hopes to be a much simpler game than your average 4X TBS, micromanaging can still be a burden. To add another level of strategy, you may be forced to limit your micromanagement and decide which pieces you wish to give new orders and which you wish to leave on their current orders and do according to their own AI. While this may limit the player, it would also limit the AI axis'. Now you must choose which decisions are the most important to be made, which pods in play are the most tactically important, etc. The goal is to make decisions a switchable feature for those who wish to play with or without them.

Quick Project History

[ as told by leiavoia ]

The idea for this game goes back about 5 years or so. It started out as a primitive cards+dice game. After putting together a decent looking mockup, i realized that even though i had good intentions and designed a reasonably balanced game, this game was booooring. The constant drudgery of writing and scoring and keeping track of several dozen little paper punchout bits and hoping nobody sneezes was too much. There were too many calculations and minor details. This game was no good in its current form.

I shelved the game for a year or two. It sat in my closet for all that time with the little pieces and boards and cards packed nicely away. About this time, i started getting more involved with programming and computers and also started following the development process of Master of Orion III. I was very interested in certain design aspects of the game as well as learning about artificial intelligence and game design with a programmer's viewpoint. I was inspired to take the ol' cards+dice game i made once upon a time and do something new with it: turn it into a PC game with a heavy AI slant

I quickly learned that programming did not come naturally to me. But i still found the design and the artificial intelligence to be fascinating. So now, i have this wonderful idea for a game and some programming experience, but mostly in scripting languages like Perl and PHP and just enough object orientation to be slightly dangerous, or at least know what i'm talking about.

So now i am opening the project up to a wider audience. There are some very good concepts here, but we need the help, both in programming and in design. I want this project to be open for discussion and also open sourced, mainly because i am starting the project for fun and not for profit. That and i'm also a Linux / open-source fan and i don't want another game that only runs in Windows!

Design Goals

The goal is to create a strategy game that is simple but deep. Easier said than done. By watching Master of Orion III's example, which tried to accomplish that same thing, i have learned that bigger is not always better. There must be ways to add more fun and strategic depth without making a game that is overly complex. Therefore, the strategy in AXIS should come from carefully placed game elements and a push and pull between opposing ideas (offense verses defense, for example), not from a plethora of details and statistics.

Another design goal is to create a game in which you are the strategist not the tactician. You should not have to make every little move. It would be more interesting to give each unit or group a mind of it's own and a set of behaviors to work with, then try to work with them in a more hands off fashion. This concept is interesting but is difficult to implememnt effectively. However, dealing with the unit's intelligence is part of the strategy of winning.

Designing an AI intensive game not only adds a very different approach to the Turn Based Strategy game genre, but it also allows the computer to be able to play against you. Many open-source games in development have only a multiplayer feature because there is no AI to play against. If each unit and group in AXIS is programmed with its own little brain and makes its own decisions, we are already closer to having a game that works as well in single player as it does in multiplayer.

Another problem that can take down a good strategy game is time. Some games take an eternity to play. The goal for AXIS is to have a game that is relatively engaging timewise but that does not take a week to finish. However, AXIS games should be scalable; those who want a fire-fight kind of game can play in a crowded playing field and a small map, those who want a lengthy campaign can have it their way as well with a very large map. Startup options should therefore be plentiful. This adds replay value. However, we want to avoid feature creep and bomb the player with too many options. The design philosophy here is: lots of startup options, but only where they make a difference. Lots of little options are interesting, but may have no percievable effect on gameplay and waste a lot of time and attention in the meantime.


These ideas didn't come out of nowhere. The original concept (in the cards+dice version) was meant to be a modified and more complex form of the board game Stratego. The AI-control ideas come from several places, but most notably the program-and-watch play of Maxis' RoboSport and some macromanagement concepts in the original Master of Orion III design.

From Times Long Ago

Here's a few shots of the cards+dice version from long ago (a few years actually).

The Map
Here you can see the 4 interlocking hex map boards with all the pods and barriers in placement. The two gold-sided pieces are the axis flags.
The Map (Close Up)
A more detailed shot of the above. Here you can clearly see the barrier and water tiles.
Fun With Hex Boards
You can put the map boards together in many different ways. Hopefully, the new AXIS can also break the boring square map idea and "think outside the box" for real.
Combat Lineup
Here's some combat in play with status effects in the circles above and below the cards.
Some cards with stats
Card Close Up
Here you can see all the stats used in the previous mockup version.
Total Cards
All together, there were about ~70 unique cards in the mockup version.