Arcen Games

Games => AI War II => Topic started by: x4000 on July 25, 2018, 10:15:24 PM

Title: AIW2 v0.756 Released! "Retrieval of the Lost Arks" Plus an Essay, Apparently.
Post by: x4000 on July 25, 2018, 10:15:24 PM
Release notes here.

Okay, this one has some huge marquee features, and I have some other things on my mind, too.  Let's get to it!

First off, it's pretty obvious that there are absolutely copious numbers of bugfixes in here.  Also, if you downloaded this build within the last couple of hours, then you'll want to restart Steam to trigger a re-download, because we fixed yet more bugs (and added a couple of other bits).  I say "we," but I really mean "Badger did."

My favorite bug that was fixed recently was the one where ships would visually explode when going through wormholes. :)  I knew there would be some fallout from the overhaul I did of the ship rendering code, but I didn't expect one that funny.

Now, onto the big-deal stuff.

Arks Return!

We've been talking about Arks returning since we laid out the pivot document a few months back, and the idea was always to make them basically like Champions from the first game.  The lobby doesn't handle these super gracefully yet, but basically if you select an Ark then you get a nifty unit that is powerful and can fly around and attack stuff.  Their stats DO vary, so it's not just cosmetic.

What's different about these from all other ships, however, is that after a certain amount of killing-of-enemies on the same planet the Ark (either by the Ark or by other ships of yours), you're able to spend some science to unlock a higher-level version of the Ark.  Do you do it?  That's up to you.  The higher-mark ones have new abilities, like a shield, zombifying gun, etc, etc.  They basically become like Golems.

If Arks die, they go to remains and you have to go repair them with engineers.  WARNING!  If they die in enemy territory, you'll have to capture that planet before you can repair them to working status.  Ouch.  So do be careful with them.

Unlike the pre-pivot versions of AI War 2, these are not required to be part of your game, and nor are they the "king unit."  Your home command station is your king, as was the case in AIWC.  It can't leave the planet it started on.  That just feels a lot better.  All the various other things from Arks in pre-pivot AIW2 are also gone, like the Arks aggro'ing enemies majorly when present there, or being required for hacking, or being the source of warhead deployment.  All that's gone.  Hackers will do hacking, missile silos will spawn warheads -- as with AIWC.

Arks are a bit of a funny beast.  They definitely change up the game and give you a major edge, too.  So what's the AI going to get in order to counterbalance this?  Well... nothing. :)  My goal is going to be for Arks to be optional, but for the game to essentially be balanced around assuming you have them there.  So if you play without them, you're just playing at a handicap, and there's nothing wrong with that at all.  But Arks themselves should be things you don't fear to use, and that don't come with a lot of negative consequences -- they should feel powerful and fun.  Playing without them should feel exciting and dangerous, like playing down a rook from the start of a Chess match.  Both should be a lot more positive experience-wise compared to if we started applying a stick to people who use Arks.

Arks will continue to evolve prior to Early Access and into it, I'm sure.  We also have a bunch of other Arks that we're going to add, that we already have graphics done for.  I think it's 6 or 8 more, I can't even recall.  Blue did fantastic work on them months ago, and I just haven't had time to integrate them yet.  For the moment, there are 5 arks to choose from.

I'll need to adjust the story some regarding the nature of the arks, but the canonical story will be assuming an ark is present, as now.  I suppose rather than the last bastion of humanity, it's now more like the Starship Enterprise or somesuch.  Sorta.

AIs Re-Taking Planets Again!

This was a really Big Deal feature that people always wanted in AIWC, and that we had in pre-pivot versions of AIW2.  As part of the pivot, they were stripped away.  Now they're back, but in a new form.  They come as waves, give you notification, and have to be turned on in the lobby as an option.  This is a really exciting thing to have back in a new form, because this is one of those marquee features, so far as I'm concerned.

Waves Against Other Factions

This is a fun one.  For factions that go about capturing planets, the AI now gets pissed and sends waves at them, too.  So now you're not the only one singled out for that.  Should make for even more organic chaos going on that you can take advantage of (or hide from).

Destruction Points For Certain Techs

Remember how I said the Arks have to have a certain amount of destruction happen around them before you can unlock their techs?  Well, we have a version of that which is for "whatever else," too.  In this case it only counts AI ships that are immobile.  So it's offensive destruction done by you personally (not allies).  You can't farm waves, etc.

The purpose of this is to gate certain techs until later in the game.  We won't be using this a ton, but it's a useful mechanic to have.  It accomplishes a couple of things:

Now, before the inevitable complaint here: there's plenty going on at the start of the game, and nobody should be feeling like we're intending to dumb down the early game in some sort of forced tutorial.  This isn't a tutorial mode.

Right now the only item that uses this is the Auxiliary Space Dock, which is something that is potentially exploitable if someone is willing to waste clock time in the early game to just rack up salvage, etc.  The auxiliaries (AIWC-style mercenaries) are meant to be an outlet for excess metal in the later game, not a crutch in the early game.  It's worth noting, however, that even seasoned AIWC players were a bit surprised and confused by the presence of mark IV auxiliary ships on their planets early in the game.  Making these have a moderate destruction point cost, and a very mild science cost, solves both problems at once.

One other unit I've been thinking of putting behind this is the mobile builder, although I'll be honest I don't have a super good justification for that.  It just feels right, somehow.  I'll be curious if anyone has any thoughts on that.

Beyond that, I see this as being for the first bullet point -- a territory-agnostic way of revealing late-game stuff that is new -- rather than something that gates off things you're already used to.  So please breathe a sigh of relief. ;)

More Factions Can Be Selected!

We made some hacky changes to the existing lobby -- which is still slated for ripping-out, and which we'll be sharing some designs for to get feedback on soon -- so that there's now room for you to select more factions at once.  So now you can actually test more than just two at a time, which is very nice.

That GUI...

I've done a fair bit of technical work on that for this release, a lot of which isn't really that exciting for you if you're just looking at it.

But the text is more crisp now, which is a win, and part of that is because of my switch to the perspective camera (orthographic cameras can't be used in deferred rendering mode, which we're now using only for the gui camera, specifically to get that crisper text).

It's also now possible for us to do things like rotate and tilt the GUI, or to mix 3D objects in with the GUI with that having proper perspective.  That was something I was planning to make more use of, but after testing that out it didn't really look all that good, so for now that's shelved.  The capabilities being there is still a win, though, and this was still required work in order to get the clearer text rendering.

The big thing that has been bugging me lately with the GUI is the theming of it, and what that should be.  I've had people say that they don't like how colorful it is, and I get that to a certain extent.  Badger has also noted that he wishes it looked more like a military display, like the first game felt, and I definitely agree with that.  I think that a military display can have attractive colored sections on it like I've been doing thus far, but the theming just isn't correct yet.

The problem is that I'm trying to avoid anything too glitzy and crazy when it comes to how the GUI looks, but at the same time theme it so that it feels... cool.  Like something you want to be looking at, but subtle enough not to feel cluttered and like it's dazzling your eyes.  That's a tough order.  I'm trying to tackle a lot of that myself, because I'll be honest I don't really have funds to pay for Blue to go through iterations on it right now.  I'm not quite sure what I'd even ask her to do, just yet, anyhow, so it's moot at the moment.  There are some pre-designed GUI skins that I've been thinking of adapting and building in from graphic river, but there are none that are fully what I want, and I'm in a money-shy position where I'm not just jumping on a bunch of them at once.

Anyhow, so it's something I'm thinking about.  One thing I spent a goodly amount of time on today was coming up with a way to put blue and red pixels into a single image, for glows, and to then colorize the result based on that.  Aka, having the main color get applied where it's white and red, with red being darker sections, and having the border color go where it's blue.  It was a clever bit of shader code, and it works well.  I can also push the colors into the HDR range by doing this, which would be intersting for bloom.  But the actual result wasn't any better than what is there now, so I shelved that for now and just hung onto the code.  It's there in the ModdingAndGUI project folder, if you want to look at that.  A test image and material, too.  I may wind up returning to this in the future as a way of having more compact dictionaries and less overdraw, and thus saving some work on the GPU, but for now I have bigger priorities.

Speaking of bloom, that sort of glowy GUI is something I keep experimenting with.  We did that sort of thing in The Last Federation, for example.  But when you do that sort of GUI, it can be pretty hard on the eyes after a while.  And that was a much more sparse GUI than what we have here with SO many icons.  And I can't really get a good result, by hand or with bloom post-processing shaders, that doesn't just wind up looking smudgy.  I was hoping more for a computer screen look, but I just am not feeling it thus far with that.  That's part of why I'm not yet sure exactly what I want the GUI theming to look like; the nature of the icons that go on them, and in particular the ship icons that are a big part of it, has to fit with what's behind it or it just feels very disjointed.  I'll figure it out, but it's been a frustrating saga so far.

Coming Up Soon: Stats Revamp... and Procedural Stats???

Right, so I buried this one pretty low in this long, long post (thanks if you read this far).  I wasn't trying to hide it, I swear. ;)

First of all, right now the way we have stats set up in the game is really confusing, coming partly from a spreadsheet dumped out of AIWC, and partly out of a lot of very-indirect xml.  I'm going to normalize all that data, and then dump it back into the XML in an easier-to-adjust-and-mod fashion.  It will be harder to make mass edits, but it will be easier to mod specific units (and their descendants, mark-level-wise). So that's coming up, and then I expect folks will start tuning some things along with us a bit more.

Anyway, the spreadsheet was intended to get us to having "exactly AIWC" as the balance for the first part of the pivot, which was a big goal of the pivot.  However, despite that, we're just frankly not having "exactly AIWC."  The squads throw things off, and the way that the AI behaves and is seeded is too different.  There's more to making it exactly AIWC than just the stats.  I will say that we're a lot closer to AIWC, and it feels like a proper sequel now rather than some other game, so I'm calling it good on that.

Prior to "calling it good," we were supposed to hit a point where we verify "this game is fun."  Are we there yet?  I'm honestly not sure, but I think so.  I think a lot of that comes from the work Badger has been doing with all the new-style content, though.  Moving back to having core AIWC-style mechanics has made it so that what the player does is more familiar, and that's a big part of making it fun again, too -- but the big thing is having new and interesting things to explore.

One of the continual themes of the content Badger has been adding has been "more chaos," though, I think it's worth noting.  Basically more factions out there, doing what they do, and it makes it that much harder for you to predict what the heck is going to happen in the game.  That was, in a sense, my original goal with AIWC all along.  You can go back to my posts from 2009 where I was talking about how I didn't want every campaign to play out the same, even from the very first few minutes of a campaign, and how I wanted people to be forced to find themselves in unexpected situations and then adapt.

Well... with all these factions running around, the amount of simulation complexity (in a good sense, not a CPU-draining sense thanks to multithreading) is WAY up.  It's a lot more like The Last Federation, or Galactic Civilizations or Star Control or something.  It's NOT any of those games, and doesn't go to the depth of any of them.  This isn't a 4X in the sense of having politics or any of that stuff.  But that sense of having Others out there doing things that often don't involve you is... cool.  Being able to stumble across opportunities that are genuinely unique to a given campaign just because of the luck of timing and the specific things that were seeded in this galaxy that were not in the last galaxy you played.

And THAT brings me to the topic of balance, and randomness, and my original intent with the plethora of units in AIWC.  Here are a few observations:

So what that brings me to is thinking about having randomized stats and modifiers on all ships that you and the AI control.  At least on the fleetships, starships, and turrets, anyway.  The idea here is that you'd be trying to tease out what is most useful in your CURRENT campaign, and not relying on an external wiki or overly-generalized advice like "always pick parasites," or whatever.  The ships would still be based around an ability or a general theme that would stay constant, but what they are strong against, how strong and fast they are, how much health they have... those things would vary, and would be part of the name.  So you'd have things like Vicious Sluggish Fighter in one game, and Generalist Hardened Fighter in another, potentially.

With a change like that, the fact that we don't have the manpower to balance things goes out the window, and frankly it feels like a marquee feature to me.  I'm curious what others think, but to me it's very much inline with the idea of "discovering unique situations and dealing with them using whatever you have."  Some games you'll have a flamethrower, other games a box of hammers, and you need to figure out how to deal with things either way.  Obviously the idea would be to make it so that you have a realistic number of good choices in all cases, but we've certainly been around the block on that front many times in the past.  It's a much more tractable problem than trying to individually balance hundreds of ships, and lets myself and modders and players focus on more interesting problems.  And it creates genuinely interesting new gameplay... right?  Am I missing something?  Why didn't I think of this before??

ALSO as part of this, something that I'd be able to do is cut down on the number of crazy bonuses and immunities and such that all the ships have.  The tooltips are a mess just like in AIWC right now, and there's no good way to solve that.  Eric has been tearing his hair out.  That's a huge barrier to new players, and it's a pain even to experience players trying to read all that junk.  I want to have ships have just one type of hull they get a bonus against, and have that be picked from one of a few possibilities in a given campaign.  So if you need to kill something with neutron armor, you can quickly look at your ships that hit neutron armor hard, but other than that it's a matter of intuition and how you use your ships.  The damage bonus needs to be huge against that given type in order to be worthwhile, and there may be certain types that you just have to take on without any bonuses.  And vice-versa when the enemy is attacking you.

I want to then focus more on bringing a few crazy new ship abilities into the game that hopefully rely more on the background threads (where we have room on the CPU, still) versus just relying on "yet more ships and shots on the screen."  I still have more conceptual work to do there, but my hope is that drags things yet further into the "what the heck is this new situation" territory.  Ultimately that's what this game is about, for me: coming up with a goal you know you have, and then having to study the problem and attack it a few different ways before you crack it.  It shouldn't be about repetitive maneuvers hoovering around with your fleetball (unless you crank the difficulty down).

I know it seems like the 11th hour in terms of this stuff, but we are not getting enough people testing anyway, and this will only take me a day or three to implement (the procedural stats), so it seems worth a go.  If people hate it, we haven't lost that much time.

Curious on your thoughts, though, to be sure.  This has been ultra-long.  3700 words!  That's like 15 freaking pages.  Sorry about that, and thanks for reading. :)

The Usual Reminders

Quick reminder of our new Steam Developer Page.  If you follow us there, you'll be notified about any game releases we do.

Also: Would you mind leaving a Steam review for some/any of our games?  It doesn't have to be much more detailed than a thumbs up, but if you like a game we made and want more people to find it, that's how you make it happen.  Reviews make a material difference, and like most indies, we could really use the support.

Enjoy!

Chris
Title: Re: AIW2 v0.756 Released! "Retrieval of the Lost Arks" Plus an Essay, Apparently.
Post by: BadgerBadger on July 25, 2018, 10:27:43 PM
I was skeptical about Procedural stats when you first mentioned them, but I've totally talked myself into them being awesome now. That said, I think you need to start with a basic set of boring, consistent units that can hit most of the niches. Or at least, make sure the starting ships include a ship with reasonable range and a ship good against structures/shields. I'd hate to start a game and realize none of my ships did anything to Shield Generators, for example.

Also starting with relatively boring makes it harder for someone to just reroll a game until they get some OP ships, and makes people appreciate the later ships more.

As a side note, playing with Reconquest Waves disabled is a giant nerf to the AI right now; most AI Types spend 10% of their budget toward Reconquest, and without Reconquest enabled that has just been wasted so far. Reconquista in particular is just going to be boring without reconquest waves.
Title: Re: AIW2 v0.756 Released! "Retrieval of the Lost Arks" Plus an Essay, Apparently.
Post by: TheVampire100 on July 26, 2018, 12:17:43 AM
I like how factions get shaped out in AIW2. This makes the game a better sequel/successor to the first game, where factions were just "these guys that might appear and annoy you or the AI".

Factions have now a much bigger impact on the game and the player has a lot more control how to handle these and can even influence most of them. The game evolves more to a busy galaxy simulation with this, like other 4X games. I like that. I makes the game feel alive  with its own rythm withouzt forcing the player to play with the factions he does not like.

Question about the new wave system. Does that mean whenever I get a wave, factions might get one as well? Or does that mean that they could get a wave that was intended for me?
Title: Re: AIW2 v0.756 Released! "Retrieval of the Lost Arks" Plus an Essay, Apparently.
Post by: Ovalcircle1 on July 26, 2018, 12:53:11 AM
I'm pretty sure it means, Factions get waves independent of your waves.
Title: Re: AIW2 v0.756 Released! "Retrieval of the Lost Arks" Plus an Essay, Apparently.
Post by: Bill Whitmore on July 26, 2018, 05:34:37 AM
I really like the idea of procedural ships. I think it opens up other options down the line for upgrading your existing ships.

You might be able to hack or research a new upgrade and turn a "Vicious Sluggish Fighter" into a "Shielded Vicious Sluggish Fighter" or the like.
Title: Re: AIW2 v0.756 Released! "Retrieval of the Lost Arks" Plus an Essay, Apparently.
Post by: BadgerBadger on July 26, 2018, 08:46:50 AM
Anti-minor-faction-waves are bonus waves on top of the normal waves. Each minor faction tracks how much it has done to annoy the AI and gets waves sized accordingly. So if you are playing low-AIP and the Nanocaust is expansionist, the AI will send much larger waves at the Nanocaust than it will against you.

I believe it is also possible for them to get waves that were intended for you.
Title: Re: AIW2 v0.756 Released! "Retrieval of the Lost Arks" Plus an Essay, Apparently.
Post by: Nargasse on July 26, 2018, 09:15:34 AM
Too bad i'm in a travel, this post made me want to play the game right now.
Anyway, i'm wondering if you could implant some "luck control system", making it so that if you find a very good modifier on a ship, the others would'nt be so bad, and vice versa. I get that pseudo-rng allready control luck to a point, but i'm dreaming aboyt a system where each modifier as a value depending on where it's applied. If you get a "Legendary Botnet" in a universe, the modifier on your fleets sheeps would more likely be something like sluggish, because most budget is allready spent.
Well, it sounded like a good idea in my head, but i'm not sure i'm stuck playing with good golems and bad fleet ships. Anyway, just an idea. I know some budget system allready exist for what the ennemy get, and i'm not sure putting one for what YOU get is a bad idea or not.
Title: Re: AIW2 v0.756 Released! "Retrieval of the Lost Arks" Plus an Essay, Apparently.
Post by: zeusalmighty on July 26, 2018, 12:17:04 PM
I was skeptical about Procedural stats when you first mentioned them, but I've totally talked myself into them being awesome now. That said, I think you need to start with a basic set of boring, consistent units that can hit most of the niches. Or at least, make sure the starting ships include a ship with reasonable range and a ship good against structures/shields. I'd hate to start a game and realize none of my ships did anything to Shield Generators, for example.

Also starting with relatively boring makes it harder for someone to just reroll a game until they get some OP ships, and makes people appreciate the later ships more.

I think this is spot on. There should be a balanced baseline that is true for every game. But from there, procedurally generated "mutations" sounds great in terms of unique strategies and replayability.

Currently, Advanced research stations serve the purpose of adding new ships--a function I don't want to see changed. But perhaps a structure akin to this for mutations (with the possibility of hacking to choose one of three) would be a straighforward way of adding this functionality.
Title: Re: AIW2 v0.756 Released! "Retrieval of the Lost Arks" Plus an Essay, Apparently.
Post by: x4000 on July 26, 2018, 12:18:44 PM
Cheers guys. :)

In response to a question from Badger in an email about how I was thinking of handling the stats, and to Nargasse's point, here's what I wrote:

Badger:

I've talked myself into procedurally generated stats, though I think some things like Golems should probably keep the same stats. I think some other minor factions (Nanocaust in particular) probably needs to use the same ships each time. And maybe Dire Guardians should stay consistent between games?

HRF, Marauders and Dyson Sphere ships currently steal from the existing ship pool, so something will need to be done there.

I'm curious to see how you'll do the generation. I am guessing there will be some sort of power budget for each ship, and a given ship will have a set of available features it can purchase? Incidentally, one of those features should be "Spawns drones", and the drone spawning code seems to be broken.

Me:

The procedurally generated stats would be customizable for each unit, so no unit would use them unless it was specified.

Basically the idea is that we'd specify ranges on each unit that would deviate off a central norm, and those ranges could be zero.  So technically it's all about the xml, and if none of the xml was set up to have random ranges, they'd be non-procedural.  Same deal with systems, the idea would be to make it so that they'd have a certain chance of appearing.

My personal preference is to just go completely random with the stats so that sometimes you get a limp noodle and other times you get a powerhouse, but I understand that's not going to always be palatable, heh.  So a couple of different schemes have occurred to me, such as deciding "we want x number of units that are 80% normal strength, x number that are 95-105% strength, x that are 140% strength, and a few that are 200%."  Or whatever the case is.  Then within each of those, we look at the available stats that can be randomized, order them randomly, roll within the full random range for the first in the list, and then gradually clamp each further stat to a range that makes them adhere to the overall strength goal.

Aka, if ship X is assigned to be a 95%-105% range of aggregate stats, then I'd randomly order the list of attack, speed, and hp, potentially, let's say.  If each of those have total possible variances of 0.6 to 3, just for the sake of argument, and I pull speed as the first stat to get a random roll, then I'd roll that one as rand( 0.6, 3).  Whatever that comes out to will further clamp down on attack and hp so that the average of the three stats lies somewhere within the 95%-105% range.  So even if it was in the "boring range," it might still average out to be really unusual in terms of having lots of speed but not much health, or whatever else.

For something that is supposed to be 140% strength, I might adjust that so that the minimum roll for any stat is 0.9, just so that we get something that is not very bad in any stat, and thus not TOO incredible in any other stat.

If we later need to get even fancier with this, then we can put weights on each stat in terms of "what does it mean to be 105% strong on average."  Perhaps attack is more valuable toward that than strength.

Or we just go with random soup, true roguelike fashion. ;)
Title: Re: AIW2 v0.756 Released! "Retrieval of the Lost Arks" Plus an Essay, Apparently.
Post by: x4000 on July 26, 2018, 12:26:11 PM
I was skeptical about Procedural stats when you first mentioned them, but I've totally talked myself into them being awesome now. That said, I think you need to start with a basic set of boring, consistent units that can hit most of the niches. Or at least, make sure the starting ships include a ship with reasonable range and a ship good against structures/shields. I'd hate to start a game and realize none of my ships did anything to Shield Generators, for example.

Also starting with relatively boring makes it harder for someone to just reroll a game until they get some OP ships, and makes people appreciate the later ships more.

I think this is spot on. There should be a balanced baseline that is true for every game. But from there, procedurally generated "mutations" sounds great in terms of unique strategies and replayability.

Yep, I agree that folks need a balanced basic set of tools.

Currently, Advanced research stations serve the purpose of adding new ships--a function I don't want to see changed. But perhaps a structure akin to this for mutations (with the possibility of hacking to choose one of three) would be a straighforward way of adding this functionality.

This actually is something I've been mulling this morning, so it's funny you bring it up.  Basically in the first game there were a lot of things that evolved over the span of 5ish years, and wound up being extra complicated in the later years because they had been suboptimal to start with.  ARSes are one of those things.  Originally it was just "here's a random new ship for you, you get no choice, you want something and you'll work with what you get, thank you."  Then later it changed to having them be hackable and you can choose options from them, and things get complicated.  This makes me love ARSes a lot less.

I kinda prefer a system where I there are more options scattered about the galaxy, and I can choose from those things more directly.  I dunno.  I have to think about it more, but there were a few things that were being done in a crutch-y sort of fashion that I feel like can be better done in the future.  Without reinventing the game, just some of the loot structure, essentially.
Title: Re: AIW2 v0.756 Released! "Retrieval of the Lost Arks" Plus an Essay, Apparently.
Post by: Draco18s on July 26, 2018, 12:30:34 PM
Procedural unit stats.
This is interesting.
*dig dig*
Fak, this isn't online any more...uh...DROPBOX, HELP ME.
https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/s/dmzlun7nljx7g11/findTriangle4.swf?dl=0

I did this back in...2011? Looks right.  Give it a minute or two to run.

Loosely based off of the kinds of stats that AIWC had, not 100% balanced, but it was just a proof of concept.

Worked on a point buy system. I think 1 armor was worth the same as 10 hp, 2 Armor Piercing was the same as 1 damage, rate of fire was calculated to give an approximate equal total DPS (AP was not included in this). And some really dumb AI logic.
Title: Re: AIW2 v0.756 Released! "Retrieval of the Lost Arks" Plus an Essay, Apparently.
Post by: x4000 on July 26, 2018, 12:40:31 PM
Clever!  That reminds me of the auto testing code I had in AIWC for determining the balance of units.  It wasn't setting procedural stats, though, but calculating which units would win in which scenarios by fighting them against one another.
Title: Re: AIW2 v0.756 Released! "Retrieval of the Lost Arks" Plus an Essay, Apparently.
Post by: Draco18s on July 26, 2018, 01:25:56 PM
Clever!  That reminds me of the auto testing code I had in AIWC for determining the balance of units.  It wasn't setting procedural stats, though, but calculating which units would win in which scenarios by fighting them against one another.

Yep, I think that's where I got the idea. Or part of it.
I'm kind of surprised I never shared that here before.
Title: Re: AIW2 v0.756 Released! "Retrieval of the Lost Arks" Plus an Essay, Apparently.
Post by: etheric42 on July 26, 2018, 02:34:49 PM
1) From a replayability standpoint and an anti-net-decking standpoint, I love the idea.

2) From a legibility standpoint it scares me.

In borderlands I'm juggling 4 guns with a few stats that I can see instantly applied to the target in front of me.  I also get hundreds to thousands of choices that I get to filter for the top 4.

In AIW I have a half-dozen to a dozen (or more) ship types, with a handful of stats each, interacting all over the screen against a mass of different enemy types.  If I roll 148 damage versus 149 damage on my lightning bombers, I hopefully will see it's not a big deal, but I may not know I really need 200+ on my lightning bombers to be effective against their intended targets (which may also have random defensive stats?) when the 50 point difference is magnified by mk4 ships (of course this is complicated again if they also have randomized firing rates).  I also don't get nearly as many chances to find a good loadout.

Have you considered an affix system?  Lightning bombers of lightning a la diablo?  Obviously don't show it as such, because it's a sci-fi and not fantasy, but:

Lightning bomber Mk1
Stat block

Developmental variances
Light frame: -10% hp, +20% speed
Nukular: explodes on death, dealing 0 damage to other nukular ships, and (damage block) to other ships in (radius)
Big gun: +20% damage
Title: Re: AIW2 v0.756 Released! "Retrieval of the Lost Arks" Plus an Essay, Apparently.
Post by: x4000 on July 26, 2018, 03:03:38 PM
Yep, that's similar to what I'm thinking of.  I may need to just make it outright that and no explicit numbers that are randomized.

One of the things that I think with the legibility here is that:

1. These are going to be simpler-to-comprehend options than what you see in AIW2 or AIWC currently.

2. You don't just choose from some options, you use all of them and choose where to deploy them.

3. You're running a really long campaign (4-13 hours) with the same set of units, gradually increasing them, so you'll get used to them by trial and error at worst.

Not that I'm completely blind to the issue, but I do see this as being mitigated by the above.  I do think that an affix system would be easier in a lot of ways than what I was going to do, which was reverse-map to affixes after rolling a random for the stat, and put an affix for a given range of stat multiplier.
Title: Re: AIW2 v0.756 Released! "Retrieval of the Lost Arks" Plus an Essay, Apparently.
Post by: TheVampire100 on July 26, 2018, 03:08:28 PM
I noticed that there are no tooltips in science and production tab. Is this a bug or was this removed when the UI changed?
Title: Re: AIW2 v0.756 Released! "Retrieval of the Lost Arks" Plus an Essay, Apparently.
Post by: Ovalcircle1 on July 26, 2018, 03:14:14 PM
I noticed that there are no tooltips in science and production tab. Is this a bug or was this removed when the UI changed?

It was a bug. A hotfix just got released to put them back in.
Title: Re: AIW2 v0.756 Released! "Retrieval of the Lost Arks" Plus an Essay, Apparently.
Post by: BadgerBadger on July 26, 2018, 03:22:38 PM
Note that an affix system is also a great way to get flavour in.
Title: Re: AIW2 v0.756 Released! "Retrieval of the Lost Arks" Plus an Essay, Apparently.
Post by: etheric42 on July 26, 2018, 03:37:54 PM
Okay, thanks.  I think with an affix or a "descriptive affix" system like you were saying it will help.

I will put out a minor counter to a couple of your points:

2. You don't just choose from some options, you use all of them and choose where to deploy them.

3. You're running a really long campaign (4-13 hours) with the same set of units, gradually increasing them, so you'll get used to them by trial and error at worst.

You do choose where your science goes, so if you leave a ship at Mk1 while another is at Mk4 you have effectively chosen not to use the first ship except in a minor way.  And since you can dump a lot of science into a single ship line fast (say double-bumping it to Mk3 early on) you may not have had the time to understand the ship (especially with all the chaos that happens in fights) to know that was a bad dump of science.

You had mentioned in the blog post that in PvE per-unit balance wasn't as important compared to fun factor.  I agree with the compared to fun factor bit, but I'm a fan of the last generation of D&D designer's philosophy: in a PvP environment like Magic, it is okay to have "trash cards" because part of the PvP experience is grading card power levels.  In a PvE experience, it is not fun to get saddled with an underperforming pick.  (of course another facet of that is choice and commitment, you have hundreds of choices in Magic and can change loadout easily between game nights, whereas respeccing in D&D is pretty limited, and you're usually only choosing an option from a list of 10 or less.)

Because of the way research works in AIW, it's possible to have trap picks for players that they can't respec out of, only hope to grow to get more research for a good pick (and hope AIP increases don't eliminate any gain they made from it).  I'm less concerned about the 4-hour games than the 13-hour-or-longer-for-people-who-pause-and-think-a-lot games.  In total war I can scrap a building chain and get my money refunded if the units I get from it aren't any good.  What can I do about research sunk into a bad ship line?

Anyway, don't get bogged down by this comment of mine.  I think random stats in some ways are very good (even traditional cRPGs like Divinity Original Sin randomized loot in chests to increase replayability and combat walkthroughing).  Just... keep it in mind.

(Oh, and the triangle ships and starter ship probably shouldn't have any randomization to combat players rerolling starts.)
Title: Re: AIW2 v0.756 Released! "Retrieval of the Lost Arks" Plus an Essay, Apparently.
Post by: x4000 on July 26, 2018, 04:18:04 PM
Points well taken.  I suppose one way to combat that would be to allow for a form of science refunding, although I'm sure that would be game-able in some fashion.  Though if it destroys all the ships relying on that tech, surely it can't be THAT bad...
Title: Re: AIW2 v0.756 Released! "Retrieval of the Lost Arks" Plus an Essay, Apparently.
Post by: BadgerBadger on July 26, 2018, 04:33:14 PM
To my mind, Science is like "Level up points" in an RPG. If I sink all my level up points carelessly then yeah, my game is going to suck. If you take a Wizard and max out his Strength and Dex, well, I'm not going to be a great spellcaster. And careless use of Science will hurt badly even without procedural stats; you could still hose yourself in AIWC.

That said, many RPGs do have a "respec" ability later in game. What if we seed a single "Respec" alien artifact on the map that you can use once to change your science allocations for some Price? Some sort of Devil's Bargain with a time-travelling alien species? That might make a fun thing for post 1.0.
Title: Re: AIW2 v0.756 Released! "Retrieval of the Lost Arks" Plus an Essay, Apparently.
Post by: TheVampire100 on July 26, 2018, 08:05:17 PM
To my mind, Science is like "Level up points" in an RPG. If I sink all my level up points carelessly then yeah, my game is going to suck. If you take a Wizard and max out his Strength and Dex, well, I'm not going to be a great spellcaster. And careless use of Science will hurt badly even without procedural stats; you could still hose yourself in AIWC.

That said, many RPGs do have a "respec" ability later in game. What if we seed a single "Respec" alien artifact on the map that you can use once to change your science allocations for some Price? Some sort of Devil's Bargain with a time-travelling alien species? That might make a fun thing for post 1.0.
Problem is, what happens to all the unlocked ships and other stuff? Do they just go poof?
Title: Re: AIW2 v0.756 Released! "Retrieval of the Lost Arks" Plus an Essay, Apparently.
Post by: BadgerBadger on July 26, 2018, 08:36:59 PM
I imagine if you lose the science then all those ships explode impressively
Title: Re: AIW2 v0.756 Released! "Retrieval of the Lost Arks" Plus an Essay, Apparently.
Post by: x4000 on July 27, 2018, 10:11:30 AM
I like the idea of being able to find a respec thing.  Possibly some sort of "incinerator" structure, which lets you choose a ship line of yours to trash and get mega science back out of it.  That sounds like an idea for during Early Access.  I'll put that up on mantis. :)

edit: https://bugtracker.arcengames.com/view.php?id=19875
Title: Re: AIW2 v0.756 Released! "Retrieval of the Lost Arks" Plus an Essay, Apparently.
Post by: x4000 on July 27, 2018, 04:35:45 PM
Something I had not paid proper attention to were the nature of the levers required to balance units so far in the game.  It's extremely hard to understand, and I can't just use it directly in much of any fashion because it's being translated at runtime into one end product that is based on either AI War Classic data from a spreadsheet, or the data from AI War 2 balance xml files.

The complexity of this has led to a variety of funky things, like certain things costing nothing, or having movement speeds so high that they wrap back around into the negative numbers, or things of that nature.

Right now there are also a ton of things that look like they're trying to auto-balance themselves, mainly because systems were created separately and then linked to ships.  I'm now having the system entries be separate still, but defined as children directly on the ship, meaning that there's less need to look between files and you can better understand what you're looking at directly in one file.

With that in mind, I'm also having battles with myself on which things to put into a lookup (for ease of knowing whether a number is high, low, or indifferent -- what the scale is, essentially), or to have it just be a raw number (for ease of understanding one ship versus another).  I'm handling that on a case by case basis.

What's telling, though, is that I'm having to massage and condense the data already, so even after I do this conversion the data isn't going to be the same as it was before.  Not that the game was well balanced before, so it's no great loss, but it's worth noting.

I'm also thinking ahead to my additions for the randomization, and so trying to make things not depend on so much else in order to calculate themselves.  And thus letting myself calculate strength dynamically, I think, before too long; that will be important with the changes to having things be random and thus the strength values needing to reflect that.

Overall the biggest challenge is just making it so that I can look at an xml entry and know pretty much what it means.  I already thought I could do that, but in the current version there are literally dozens of multipliers on most things, so my understanding of it was almost always flawed.

I know exactly why it was set up this way initially, but as the system has grown it has made it so that you pretty much need to understand most of the system in order to make even small changes.  I'm trying to basically decouple things so that's no longer true.

It's coming along, but I still have a long way to go.  Hopefully by the end of Monday on the non-randomized part of this.  It should fix bugs in a ton of ships, along with being more moddable, although it will probably introduce some new balance issues as well.
Title: Re: AIW2 v0.756 Released! "Retrieval of the Lost Arks" Plus an Essay, Apparently.
Post by: zeusalmighty on July 30, 2018, 12:46:39 PM
I played good 10 hours this week (true test; no cheats) and have to say this update has made a huge leap forward in terms of getting ready for early access

Basically, it's fun. The factions interacting with each other is not only enjoyable to watch but it has great implications on how to play your given campaign. The bonus waves against the factions is particularly a significant step towards making the galaxy feel "busy in just the way I was hoping for  :)

Balance is still an issue of course and some of the units need special attention (artillery golem has a tiny range for instance)

I turned off the exo-waves from the hard golems because the player doesn't have access to anything that can effectively neutralize 30K of bombers bee-lining towards your command center. Also, these are very difficult to spot because they all clump up and look like one bomber until they get to your home planet and then holy cow, so many bombers  :o

Nanocaust can't capture their home planet if there's tractor turrets. I rescued them and they really took over (at 10 intensity)

Anyway, things are really looking up!
Title: Re: AIW2 v0.756 Released! "Retrieval of the Lost Arks" Plus an Essay, Apparently.
Post by: x4000 on July 30, 2018, 12:48:51 PM
I have to say, that is by far the best news I've heard in a LONG time. :D

Man this has been a journey, and knowing that this is paying off is a huge relief.
Title: Re: AIW2 v0.756 Released! "Retrieval of the Lost Arks" Plus an Essay, Apparently.
Post by: BadgerBadger on July 30, 2018, 01:21:12 PM
Poor Nanocaust. Tractors really are its weakness.
Title: Re: AIW2 v0.756 Released! "Retrieval of the Lost Arks" Plus an Essay, Apparently.
Post by: dfinlay on August 03, 2018, 02:03:02 PM
So, I haven't had the chance to play in a while so my thoughts may be somewhat out of whack with the current state of the game, but I do have a few thoughts about procedural stats. On the one hand, I'm excited as procedural content is awesome for the reasons you described, but I have a couple of fairly big reservations.

1) As already mentioned, legibility is going to be a huge problem. I realize you've streamlined the tooltips from last game, but this was already a huge problem in AIWC and the purely random stat approach is going to be much worse here. If you have to check every ship in the game and try to figure out how each one is going to perform based on a slew of numbers and then remember them for the rest of the game, that's just going to be too much. The affixes will help a bit, but only really if they always do the same thing. If a ship gets "destructive" when its damage is in the +10% to +25% range and every stat is randomized, it might help a bit to contextualize, but I still have to assess and memorize a ton of numbers. On the other hand, if it gets a "Destructive (+10% damage) affix and that's one of only one or two tweaks it gets this game, that's something I can handle. As such, I pretty strongly recommend a system where one or two (not a bunch) of random affixes get added to ships, which then change their stats.

2) Balance is still important for a few reasons. Sure, in a Roguelike, you don't immediately feel "well, this game is unbalanced" when you have a really strong or really weak run, but it's still not going to be fun to steamroll the AI because you have some ships which rolled high on every stat or to just feel ineffective because a bunch of your ships rolled stats that don't really let them do their jobs. Basically, it makes picking a difficulty setting that will generate the right challenge level that much harder on the players. The best roguelikes (in my opinion) are the ones that make sure that every run feels in the same ballpark for how strong it is, just in different ways (Brogue is really good at this). This problem is even worse in something like AI War. In a lot of games, if you have a good/bad run, it'll likely only last a couple hours anyway and then you try again. In AI War, games are a lot longer (at least for some playstyles) and so you are stuck with it for a much longer time. To that end, I recommend a fairly controlled system for how many bonuses and penalties a ship can have - something like "every ship gets one major positive affix or two minor ones" or "every ship gets one neutral affix or one positive and one negative". If you're going for the free floating stats model, then you might want to do something like how XCOM does random soldiers - they get their base stats and then a fixed amount of stat points spread around all the stats with some caps and some different conversion rates depending on how important the stats are.
Title: Re: AIW2 v0.756 Released! "Retrieval of the Lost Arks" Plus an Essay, Apparently.
Post by: x4000 on August 03, 2018, 02:45:15 PM
Definitely keeping it small, and also I agree on making it so that things stay within a certain realm of usefulness.

The main problem I want to avoid is having something that is ahead in DPS in certain situations in every game.  And things like the tachyon microfighters don't need to be their own unit, for example.

I want to get away from it being purely a numbers game on this as much as I can, though, I do have to say.  I have a fair bit of work to do, and we're already looking huge on the release notes: https://wiki.arcengames.com/index.php?title=AI_War_2:_The_Era_of_Discovery
Title: Re: AIW2 v0.756 Released! "Retrieval of the Lost Arks" Plus an Essay, Apparently.
Post by: eRe4s3r on August 09, 2018, 09:32:19 PM
I'd absolutely love procedural ships with various elements of them being completely random (meaning all stats, effects, etc.) but how viable is that in the current game form? Imo this would be only possible if you basically removed all the "crust" and just had a very barebones conquest system in place (big thing here, cloaking would imo need to go), with AI getting unique (but procedural) ships that YOU then can get.

But oh boy, this would not be AI War at all ;p This would be risk in space. A very fun modification to the game, but maybe not a good path for AI War 2 vanilla
Title: Re: AIW2 v0.756 Released! "Retrieval of the Lost Arks" Plus an Essay, Apparently.
Post by: x4000 on August 10, 2018, 09:24:20 AM
One thing to bear in mind is that we're not talking about ALL ships, just the main combat ships -- and not even 100% all of them. :)
Title: Re: AIW2 v0.756 Released! "Retrieval of the Lost Arks" Plus an Essay, Apparently.
Post by: chemical_art on August 12, 2018, 04:32:21 PM
Interesting, but why re invent the wheel? Rather then go into a HUGE mess of trying to tweak various things and leave it confusing for players, keep it simple and follow common standard.

Do the classic dungeon crawler color color coded rarity for these unit types. Grey, White, Green, Blue, Purple, Orange. As the game progresses have a formula or ratio of how units show up for the player side. Give a % bonus to stats based on rarity. That is the most basic form.

Of course you can expand upon this as you wish. AI Motherships and the Dyson Sphere are Orange. Golems can always be purple. The AI can unlock different rarities, too, all select able as options on the lobby.

You can further drill down, the skyis the limit. Ships can draw from a "pool" of attributes, with rarer types getting access to more total and rarer pools. Units that now have armor as a bonus can be called armored X.  Ships that have extra HP are Tanky X. Your imagination again is the limit.

Keep it simple on the player end, and always ensure that it is presented as a bonus, not a requirement. Make it clear White ships are all that is necessary by having default AI behavior be white (naturally you can have an AI type that does not, all greens? All blues?)
Title: Re: AIW2 v0.756 Released! "Retrieval of the Lost Arks" Plus an Essay, Apparently.
Post by: x4000 on August 13, 2018, 08:07:33 PM
That's not quite the route I'm taking, but I think you'll like it and it is simple on the player end.  Here's a detailed discussion on the topic: https://forums.arcengames.com/private-alpha-discussion/questions-about-and-feedback-on-game-going-forward-(era-of-discovery)/msg219240/#msg219240
Title: Re: AIW2 v0.756 Released! "Retrieval of the Lost Arks" Plus an Essay, Apparently.
Post by: tadrinth on August 14, 2018, 12:42:52 PM
Has anyone suggested having ship type mutations as capturables?  EG a capturable which makes all your fighters bulletproof, or grants them all tachyon and mine-immunity. 
Title: Re: AIW2 v0.756 Released! "Retrieval of the Lost Arks" Plus an Essay, Apparently.
Post by: x4000 on August 14, 2018, 12:49:28 PM
Nobody has suggested it yet... I don't think.  But it's something we theoretically could do at some point.