Spaceward Ho! is one of the most-revised microcomputer game in history. It was conceived in the late 1970s, designed in the 80s, born on the Macintosh in 1990, and experienced 5 major (and many more minor) revisions since then. Name another commercial game on version 5. We dare you.
We've had time to evaluate more aspects of the space-conquest genre than anybody else. Everything in Spaceward Ho! has a reason. This chapter will explain many of those reasons, and answer many of the most frequently asked "Why" questions.
The scale of combat we're talking about doesn't lend itself that way. In Spaceward Ho!, when you take over a planet, you first pulverize it sufficiently to eliminate every living organism, then completely replace it with your own engineered ecosystem. This is best done from space. Whoever controls the space around a planet ends up controlling the planet within the ten year turn.
Our space travel metaphor does not include communication with fleets in hyperspace, nor dropping out of hyperspace anywhere except stars. Mostly this is to simplify the game -- in the endgame it makes little difference, since ship speed tends to be high enough that they get between stars in one turn, anyway.
We pretend it takes years to prepare for a hyperspace jump, and in that time the battle will be finished. Several game design features like this are to give the player who's losing a chance to make a surprise victory, and hence stage a comeback. Features that decrease the significance of an individual battle or fleet increase the advantage of the player who's winning.
Spaceward Ho! is designed for fast, parallel multiplayer play. Everybody does their turns at the same time, so you rarely have to wait on another player. One player controlling details of their battle would slow down the game for players who didn't have battles that turn.
This goes in the category of "unnecessary complication." Spaceward Ho! strives to be complex without being complicated. We've attempted to strip away any game element that doesn't substantially add to the fun and challenge of the game, in order to focus on the interesting parts. Just assume that the one planet the we do show is the conglomeration (average) of all the planets in the system.
We assume that a vanquished player destroys their own stockpiles rather than surrender them to their foe. Again, this would give a larger edge in general to players who are already winning. One thing we really enjoy about Spaceward Ho! is that it is possible to make a comeback -- to be substantially behind, but to be cunning and lucky and eliminate a superior opponent. Factors that take away from that are shunned.
This sort of thing is often requested, mostly because players want to extend the fun of a thrilling game. It's just silly, though. At least in our opinion.
Well, radicals give specific advances. Mostly we tried to design a system that scaled well and was well balanced. The focus on specific-advance games is too much on figuring out which ones are best, and how to get them quickest.
Yes, it's unrealistic to ignore the transportation of money and metal. However, we feel that the micromanagement necessary to play a game this way is tedious and makes the game dull. We pretend that in the decades between turns, your wise assistants arrange to get the materials where they will be needed.
In Spaceward Ho! combat, every ship gets to choose its target, and the fleet captains always pick colony ships and tankers over fighters and satellites. They tend to be lower tech (and thus easier to destroy) and more valuable to their owner, making them prime targets. In Ho! 5, you can set them to delay after your attack fleet, so at least they need not be destroyed in attacks you win.
The additional interest from a multi-dimensional galaxy is outweighed by the additional complication in the user interface.
Hidden information is hidden to protect losing players. If all information was known (or knowable), a player could more easily parlay a small lead into a simple victory -- and that's no fun.