Author Topic: Pumpkin is raving mad (again)  (Read 1182 times)

Offline Pumpkin

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Pumpkin is raving mad (again)
« on: November 18, 2015, 02:32:09 AM »
This is me making drafts for AIW2 "mods". I was originally going to post it on the Modz subforum with the [AIW2] tag, but while these ideas are very rough and raw, I preferred posting them here as draft rather than among the modz.
Haters gonna hate, so please don't rage. However, I will happily listen to constructive criticism. I'm more than willing to improve my ideas.

Just as a little context (that you may skip, it's just me telling my life), I was chatting about WormHole Guard Posts and the topic drifted a little bit toward old mechanisms (here). It lead me to think about why I dislike the Astro Train plot (because it has only pain and no fun (IMO)) and why I like self-balanced Minor Factions like Neinzul Roaming Enclaves. And while I was thinking twice about it, I felt that there is improvement to be done on the Neinzul MFactions. All the Neinzul MF, by the way.

Neinzul Rocketry Corp

Let's begin with this one, just to take it out of the way. Because I won't be able to think strait before sorting this out. It's not even important; you can already skip it. TL;DR: MAKE IT A PLOT!!! AI-held nukes have nothing to do with Neinzul. Why? Because nowhere else we're told Neinzul are rocket-happy folks. Why does it matter? Because everything else in AIW is gorgeous and coherent with its own lore! You want an example? The Zenith are greedy and selfish. How can we tell? The Zenith Traders trade with both humans and AI and give them weapons to fight each other; they don't care while they get paid. The Zenith Miners eat planets for lunch and don't if that hurts people. The Devourer Golem do just the same, but with armies instead of planets. The broken golems are... meh, just dead. (While I'm thinking about it... wait, no, I'll make another draft for the Broken Golems and the Exowaves latter.) And look at the Zenith MF proposal I posted on the modz forum: it's coherent with both the selfish and the mining themes of the Zenith.

So what do I suggest? Make non-player rockets a plot and pretend the AI has built them. And it's already feasible: just enable the MF and pretend it's a plot once the game is launched. The only thing I ask for... no, I beg for, is to acknowledge that rockets has nothing to thematically do with Neinzul and move them in the AI MF (aka the plots).

I told you. This first point isn't even important. But I won't be able to think strait if it's in my way. So, now, onward for the interesting things.

Neinzul Preservation Wardens

First: the theme of this MF isn't reinforced by its mechanism. The Neinzul are upset about human mining activities? Okay, let's assume the AI isn't mining in this galaxy but in the other one and the Neinzul aren't bothered by all the Guard Posts littering the place. Okay. Assumed. Now what? What do they do against human mining? Nothing. I mean: nothing specifically. They attack humans, no matter how many planets or how many metal harvesters they have. They're totally indistinguishable from the hostile roaming enclaves.

Second: they aren't self-balanced. And that's fine. Totally. There is plenty of "all pain" MF and plots around the place. But they are either self-balanced with built-in bonus or fun to wrestle against. (But the Astro Trains. These just suck. ;P ) Look at the cookie monster (the Devourer Golem): this folk is fun to keep track of and avoid, and it's self-balanced because it harms AI ships too. And it's thematic! Remember? Zenith-are-selfish theme? But the Preservation Wardens are neither self-balanced nor thematically supported by the mechanism. Nothing in their rules embodies this green/anti-miners theme. And this makes a very poor MF.

I got some ideas to make them more thematically reinforced by mechanisms, but they're rather lame because they mostly interact with other MF. Anyway, let's see.
-> Preservation Wardens also attack the Miner Golems if their plot is enabled. They may suicide on them and annoy human players trying to actually kill the golems, but it would be just plain fun to see space-ecologists rushing on giant mining cyberpunk-like megacorpos. Don't you think?
-> Preservation Wardens defend the asteroids against mining if the Spirecraft plot is enabled. I'm thinking about neinzul-nest-like structures that would explode on death and release tons of angry younglings. And of course a player can't mine the asteroids before busting the nests, because they're built on top of them.
-> Same idea for the regular metal deposits: humans can't build on them while the nests aren't destroyed. And roaming preservation enclaves may destroy metal harvesters and replace them with nests on human planets. I always found the auto-metal-takeover on a planet capture was ruining some fun: I feel that making the action of building metal harvesters "by hand" would be some sort of reward after capturing the planet (just like building a science vessel on a freshly captured planet). But I know, more micro is bad. And I'm glad there is a "auto-build energy collector" in the CTRL panel, specially when I lose and rebuild a planet for the tenth time in a row. So, having to clean metal deposit before auto-claiming them would maybe enhance the feeling of reward for these new metal deposit. Maybe.

Neinzul Roaming Enclaves

This is the core of the Neinzul Minor Factions. Of all of them. And I love this MF. However... Well, let's see.

1) They are self-balanced.
I mean, they have a part that helps players, and a part that works against players. This is fine. Many MF do that, and they do it nicely. Some are neutral and so intrinsically both good and bad (the cookie monster attacking everyone, the traders trading with everyone, the dark spire being... dark, etc); some have an artificial counter forces, like Exowaves for the golems and spirecraft, etc. Some are good if you handle them in the right way and bad if you don't: spire civilian leaders, human rebellion, dyson sphere, etc. (For reference, the MF that are plain pain are fun because they present an interesting way to deal with'em: miner golems do that; ATrains try to do that.)

2) They are poorly thematically reinforced by mechanism.
They are not entirely void of thematic mechanism: roaming enclaves come in three flavors (neutral, friendly and hostile) and that makes us understand they are divided maybe because of an internal affair or maybe they're just opportunistic. However, they don't interact with each other, and they feel like three distinct minor factions, like Human Marauders and Human Resistance Fighters. I very often put the marauders and RFighters at the same intensity and pretend they are one self-balanced MF. So I'm ok with Roaming Enclaves being one self-balanced MF.

But! MF management is very incoherent. If MF are supposed to be fair by themselves, why some are just pain and other just bonus? In this case, Roaming Enclaves is fair (mostly) because self-balanced, but Preservation Wardens aren't. And PWardens become coherent like Marauders/RFighters when MF are considered as player-enforced balance (or imbalance): one can play with RFighters and PWardens and pretend there is a Human VS Neinzul war in this galaxy. But then artificially balanced MF should be split in two parts: one being just a bonus, and the other being just a malus. For instance, Broken Golems should have their Exowave removed (yeah, I know, they can be set as "easy" for that, but bear with me) and a new malus MF should be created as being just an exowave. (And it should be a plot. Exowave is not a faction, it's an AI plot.) So then, players can balance their MF by themselves. And there will still be "neutral" MF that are at the same time good and bad (devourer, trader, etc). If this solution is taken, then the Roaming Enclave must be good only, and the player would be able to get the old "good and bad" Neinzul MF by enabling Friendly Roaming Enclaves and Preservation Wardens at the same intensity, just like Marauders / RFighters.

However, I came up with an idea to make the Roaming Enclaves both thematically reinforced by mechanism and self-balanced. And that would be fine be cause, for instance, the spire campaign (Fallen Spire MF) has its self-balanced mechanism (exowaves) closely tied to its story. And it would be nonsense to play Fallen Spire without the exowaves! (I wish the lobby would be more coherent with itself. Only self-balanced MF, or separated and player-mixable MF on top of neutral, self-balanced MF.)

Now, the actual Roaming Enclave proposal. It will stay self-balanced, but I intend to fix the "bad" part of the balance by making it less artificial and more thematic.

Thematically

Neinzul are having an internal war in this part of the galaxy. Some enclaves are attacking other ones for unknown reasons. There seems to be two factions among the enclaves, one attacking the other more. That's what humans (aka players) know (and don't know) at the beginning of the game. Passive enclaves are fleeing in direction of human territory; the xeno-team advise the human commander (journal entry) that they can be rescued, or let alone if they don't want to meddle in Neinzul affairs (morale choice that have a mechanical impact). Humans/players are able to save the passive enclaves from the aggressive ones (see mechanisms below). When they rescue their first enclave and allow it to make it to their homeworld, the xeno-team prove able to communicate with the enclave and report (new journal) that they are grateful for the rescue and will help against the AI. They also explain some of the details of the internal war of the Neinzul (need to be developed).

More events of this kind will happen: hostile enclaves chasing passive ones in their route to human territory. If there is no enclave allied to humans and if the hostile enclave killed the one it was chasing, the hostile enclave will go back into deep space (and despawn). However, if there is already an enclave allied to human or if the one it was chasing made it to human territory, the hostile enclave will ally with the AI (because AI is the enemy of the ally of its enemies, right?). However, it won't enter human territory but roam the frontier in a threatfleet-like pattern. Hostile enclaves will eventually pile up; they will attack humans in AI territory, and if friendly enclaves are allowed to attack outside of human territory, hostile enclaves will target them first. If all human-friendly enclaves are killed, all hostile enclaves will go back into deep space (and despawn), because their "mission" is accomplished and they have no more reason to attack humans.

These behaviors are meant to support the story being told: the Neinzul have an internal war; some refugee are asking humans for protection; if humans accept, hostile Neinzul will attack them to try to destroy the refugee.

Mechanically

A spawn event occurs sometimes within AI systems that are between 2 and 3 hops away from human territory. There is two enclaves spawned in each of these events (maybe more at the same time on higher intensity): one passive that doesn't create younglings, and one aggressive that create younglings that attack only the fleeing enclave. The AI won't attack them. Enclave's speed and health, younglings's firepower and spawn distance need to be tweaked to match the intended behavior: without human intervention, the passive enclave must be destroyed before reaching human territory.

If the passive enclave is destroyed, the aggressive one check for existence of enclaves allied to humans. If any, it turns hostile; else, it flies out of the gravity well and despawn.

If the passive enclave made it to human space, it turns friendly and adopt the current behavior of allied enclaves. If the aggressive enclave survived (it's possible if saving humans focused the younglings instead of the aggressive enclave itself), it turns hostile. Hostile enclaves roam the frontier threatfleet-like without ever entering human space; they attack humans and human-friendly enclaves outside of their territory but focus on enclaves.

Every time in a while, hostile enclaves, if any, check for existence of human-friendly enclaves. If there is no more, they fly out of the gravity well and despawn.

Conclusion

I agree this behaviors may sound a little complex to code, but I hope Arcen will implement a fine modding interface in their future AI War 2 that will allow us to tell compelling stories.
I'm interested in what you think of all this. Please let me know. Do you think it deserve a [Mod] tag and a post in the mods' subforum? Maybe after some polish?
Please excuse my english: I'm not a native speaker. Don't hesitate to correct me.

Offline ewokonfire

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Re: Pumpkin is raving mad (again)
« Reply #1 on: November 18, 2015, 05:49:41 AM »
Interesting proposals.  Something that I think you forgot about but should certainly be added to your plan for the Preservation Wardens is a response to use of warheads.  Maybe detonating a smaller missile causes a few wardens to come in from the edge of the wormhole, (probably not too many for mechanical reasons, as you'd usually be detonating those in desperation), and any nuked planet will have them periodically spawning for the rest of the game.

Offline Pumpkin

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Re: Pumpkin is raving mad (again)
« Reply #2 on: November 18, 2015, 06:49:41 AM »
Interesting proposals.  Something that I think you forgot about but should certainly be added to your plan for the Preservation Wardens is a response to use of warheads.  Maybe detonating a smaller missile causes a few wardens to come in from the edge of the wormhole, (probably not too many for mechanical reasons, as you'd usually be detonating those in desperation), and any nuked planet will have them periodically spawning for the rest of the game.
Oh! I wasn't aware of that! Thanks a lot for letting me know.
So Neinzul Rocketry Corp is even more counter-thematic with the Neinzul's lore! Make it a plot! Make it an AI plot!!!
Please excuse my english: I'm not a native speaker. Don't hesitate to correct me.

Offline ewokonfire

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Re: Pumpkin is raving mad (again)
« Reply #3 on: November 18, 2015, 08:07:27 AM »
Well, I was just going off the part in the Wardens' description where it mentions 'appalled by rapid resource extraction and use of nuclear weapons' or something like that.  I feel like detonating a nuke should cause a serious response from them.  Maybe they could even target nuke trains?