This proposal presents a concrete description of an extension to the building space of PHALANX bases.
The reason why bases need more building space is that there are too many facilities that need to be placed by default. The point to the base building part of the game is to allow the player to build customized bases that suit his needs and playing style. Hovever, because there are relatively many "overhead" buildings (buildings that must be placed in order to support end functionality of the base), there is very, very little space for custom building in practice.
To illustrate, consider a new PHALANX base with the maximum amount of invalid tiles (4) that is going to be geared for heavy construction of weapons and craft. To even get the base operational, it needs the following:
- An entrance
- A power plant
- A radar facility (the radar facility is so standard that it can safely be considered a base necessity)
- A living quarters housing a few soldiers (if the soldiers weren't there the base would instantly succumb to an alien attack)
- A storage facility
- An antimatter storage facility (antimatter is a basic necessity for many things in the game, and certainly for production)
- A command centre
The above list comes down to 7 tiles. With the blocked tiles, that means 11 tiles are already taken. And remember, this base doesn't even do anything yet! It's not even particularly geared up for any specific role. All bases will typically have these buildings. Now we go about adding the production lines:
- A large hangar, to allow construction of all PHALANX craft
- At least three workshops (less than three would be laughably few for a base that is supposed to be dedicated to production)
- An extra living quarters to house enough workers
- An extra storage facility to handle the item throughput
Now the base has 23 out of 25 tiles filled up. A whopping 2 are still available (even with the minimum amount of blocked tiles this would only be 5, which is still not much). And what can this base do? Produce items at a fairly high rate. It can NOT do such things as disassemble UFOs or send out craft on missions or interceptions. All its resources have to be imported. And I'm not even mentioning facilities like base defences and soldier support.
I think this example makes it clear the 5x5 grid is too small, even for specialized bases.
An obvious solution to the space problem is to increase the base grid from 5x5 to something larger, like 6x6. However, this is not practical. The most important reason is that the larger the grid, the more brushes are going to be displayed on the same level at the same time. Because of hardware limitations (more precisely, limitations of the hardware we want to support) as well as limitations in the Quake 2 engine, this is unacceptable.
Another solution is to cut on base facilities. If less facilites are needed for the same base functionality, the grid space restriction will be felt much less strongly. Obviously, this solution is very unattractive. It would mean removing things from the game that we already have, such as graphics, map tiles and UFOpaedia texts.
A third solution, and this is the solution I propose in this article, is to add another level of buildings to the bases. The random map assembly code allows for this, and because brushes can be optimized away on different view levels the engine restrictions are avoided.
Grid sizes and building placement
I propose the base grid to be arranged as follows. The "top" level of the base will have a 3x4 grid. Two tiles are already taken by the entrance, so the amount of free space is 10 tiles. The entrance takes up 2 tiles because it not only connects the surface with the top level, it also connects the top level with the bottom level. The bottom level will be the 5x5 grid we have now, but again 2 tiles will be taken up by the entrance, making for a total of 19-22 free tiles. The bottom level is the only level where blocked tiles can occur, for simplicity.
Buildings that require surface level access can only be placed on the top level. These buildings are hangars and base defence facilities. No hangars or base defence facilities may be placed on the bottom level. All other facilities may be placed on both levels.
In all, the two-level base will have 29-32 free tiles, which is a real improvement over the current 20-23 (for reference, a 6x6 grid would offer 31-34 free tiles). If the entrance on the bottom level is made to be only one tile, then we get 30-33 free tiles.