It's about time for a progress report, so here we go!
The previous map was a bit too random in unit placement; an entire stack of elite tanks here, a half-and-half stack of green infantry and artillery there, etc. Now, the map has a lot more unit mixture. There are full stacks, partial stacks of various sizes, and even single units here and there.
Green, expert, and elite troops are mixed together semi-randomly. While one stack might be made up of green reinforcements, another will have a mix of experienced and green units, while yet another might be an elite palace guard with a few less experienced units beefing up their numbers.
There are fewer high-tech units at the start of the game than before, but they are still around. Most troops on the map are relatively basic: standard infantry, scout and medium tanks, the lower tech aircraft, sea units, and garrison guns.
Mid-tech units are somewhat common (depending on planet), which includes powered armor legions, assault legions, battle and assault tanks, hovercraft, assault guns, and rocket artillery.
High-tech units exist, but are rare (some planets have several, some have none). These include Marauders, Rangers, Shock Legions, mega tanks, and second gen aircraft.
Space ships are actually common at start, but mainly destroyers and below.
Before you scoff at the idea of advanced units at start, there are some things to keep in mind.
First, you will lose many of these units in the defense of your territory. Rebels are very common on most planets, and they will happily destroy you if you give them the chance. These rebels represent barbarians, lesser houses, hostile portions of the major houses (there are a couple civil wars on some worlds), and assorted riff raff. I would have liked to have different factions for all of these, but due to game mechanics they are lumped together as rebels.
These miscreants have many of the same toys you have. If you try to hoard your greatest units in hope of using them against future enemies, you will find the rebels quickly obliterating the lesser troops you throw at them. Consider yourself warned!
Second, these advanced units represent valued equipment preserved after the fall of the Second Republic. Just because the high-tech empire fell doesn't mean that all of its creations suddenly vanished.
Third, most of these units cannot be replaced until you get the chance to research them, which will be a long, long time in some cases.
Fourth and finally, all these advanced units add up to an incredible maintenance fee in both firebirds and food. You will have to use them against the rebels (which will always lead to losses) or disband some of them if you want to have any firebirds in your treasury.
The planets themselves are seeing changes as well. While the map is still based on the historical map, almost every planet is seeing some sort of change. This could be the removal or addition of resources and cities, or serious alterations of entire continents. However, the serious changes are usually to bring a planet in line with the planet maps of Fading Suns lore, though sometimes a change is specifically done to improve gameplay against the AI (like a narrow land bridge added between continents so they can attack your cities).
There is often a story of some sort unfolding on a planet (or several). This ranges from a rogue inquisitor and his band of fanatics holding the local cathedral, to a full-scale war against Kurgans or Vuldrok across several worlds (Hazat and Hawkwood worlds, respectively). I did this not only to reflect Fading Suns events, but also to add additional interest to the planets.
Houses control many more worlds than they do in vanilla EFS, though all the worlds they do have are theirs in Fading Suns lore. For example, House Hawkwood has Delphi, Gwynneth, Leminkainen, and Ravenna, while the Hazat have Aragon, Sutek, and Vera Cruz. Most house worlds will have to deal with the rebel hordes if they want to stay in control.
The houses also have land on worlds they do not control, and many worlds have multiple houses in residence (or all houses, in a few cases). This is to both reflect their holdings in Fading Suns lore and to increase interaction between houses for gameplay purposes. A few worlds are still unclaimed (by the houses), though.
Everything else is currently taking a back seat while I work on the map. Eventually I plan to do an overhaul of the units (types, stats) and technology. I'll also have to update the Manowitz files eventually, but probably not anytime soon. I also need to find a name for the mod at some point!
The primary goal of this mod is to provide an entertaining experience against the AI. While it is not meant for muliplay, there is no reason it couldn't be used for that as well; it might be a lot of fun with other players.
Lesser goals include modification of the units and the tech tree. This means minor adjustments, major adjustments, and a few new units. I'd like the tech tree to take longer to conquer, but the AI has trouble with certain changes. I also need to clean up the tech tree, as it is currently a bit messy from my somewhat random changes.
Buildings and what they are used for hasn't changed much (except for unit production), and probably never will. The exception to this is the University. While I may end up not using it, I'd like to implement it as an Academy, a place to train better versions of units. I'd really prefer this as fully trained (elite) units, but that doesn't seem to be possible. Instead, it will be a few regular units with higher stats.
One likely candidate is the standard Infantry legion (or possibly Heavy Infantry). It will take longer to build than the regular unit (and possibly require more resources), but will be more effective in battle than its mundane counterpart.
The fun part is that the Academy cannot be built; you must capture it if you want the improved units. They are also rare, so you will not find it on every world, and a house might find that it has none at all. One place that does have an Academy is Aragon: it represents the famous Aragon Military Academy.
In the (distant) future I might make additional maps, both modified copies of this map and new, random maps. Modified maps would include one for each house; you merely pick the corresponding map for the house you want to play (specifically for single play). The house you pick would have a much weaker start than the other houses, meant to give the AI an advantage.
Other modified maps might be different scenarios: A massive Symbiot incursion, a huge push against the Known Worlds by a united barbarian front, a crusade against the barbarian worlds, a game starting after the Third Republic is declared, etc. Lots of possibilities.
To wrap up, there will not be a release any time soon. I want to finish this map and at least do some minor unit adjustments. When I do make a release, I intend to make a new thread with all the necessary info, and hopefully have an actual name for the mod.
Comments? Suggestions? Post 'em here.