Author Topic: Dev Discussion: Equivalent of a Cultural or Science Victory...?  (Read 807 times)

Offline x4000

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Dev Discussion: Equivalent of a Cultural or Science Victory...?
« on: October 11, 2018, 10:03:56 AM »
So I was on a podcast last night for a couple of hours (it will be live on Friday I think, although it was recorded live at the time), and amongst the many things we discussed, one of the items was how AI War 2 makes things easier for players to get into compared to the first game.  The host was noting that he still was having trouble after a certain point in particular.  My thought was that this is based around how the game is designed in general, such that basically you HAVE to expand in some fashion, but you have to make your own middle-term goals.

This sandboxy nature is something I really love, personally, but I understand why it's intimidating.  The sudden realization I had while on the cast, however, was that basically AI War 2 is lacking some "easy outs" that a lot of other 4X games have when it comes to late-game victories.  I had never thought of scientific and cultural victories in those terms before, but basically in Civ games if you had to win by some sort of military strategy, those games would be a lot longer and more challenging.  It's a really big boon when you are able to hit a certain point and go "f it, this is as far as I can carry my military outward, time to focus inwards and race for a cultural or scientific or UN victory."

Basically... for a lot of people who are not too intensely military-minded, hitting the middle-game can be daunting and kind of a roadblock.  Even for those who are, I remember that with AIWC there was a really prolific player/tester named RCIX who confessed he never completed a game despite two years of playing.  He'd hit the midgame and just stall out.  He had a great time anyway, but ultimately it really limited his ability to fully enjoy the game.

One way to approach this is user education, of course: if people know to go into the game as a "find a fun story of defeat" situation and thus are a bit less afraid of choosing the wrong option, then that's the ideal case.  But it did get me thinking... what if there were alternative victory conditions that allowed the turtles among us to do what they do?

Probably these would need to be explicit lobby options that are turned on, and then baked into certain quick start scenarios as well.  But basically, I don't see any harm in making this an option where someone can stall out and then basically "double down on what they have already" in some fashion in order to win.  Stop expanding, start reinforcing what they have, and start... doing something internal while withstanding the howling winds around them.

We don't have any such mechanics at the moment, but that's not to say that we couldn't add something like that.  Not pre-EA, but during EA it's something I'd be interested in potentially exploring.  Maybe it's material for an expansion, I dunno.  But I wanted to toss it out here and see what folks thought.  Possibly someone will mod this in before I even get to it, in some fashion. ;)
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Offline RocketAssistedPuffin

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Re: Dev Discussion: Equivalent of a Cultural or Science Victory...?
« Reply #1 on: October 11, 2018, 10:22:36 AM »
Funnily enough, I had a similar problem in Classic. I did finish games but a lot were abandoned when it was just an annoying crawl at the Homeworlds, especially with Core Raid Engines and the Exo-Waves. At that point it felt like it was won, I only had 70AIP and everything good captured, so I usually just deleted the save.

I have wanted for a while to put in the "Astrid" from Ground Control, an ancient battleship that has an alien "Singularity Drive", allowing it to break the ingame barrier between galaxies. It's used to evacuate most of the one planet they have remaining to somewhere the Imperials can never reach. This'd...be a defensive victory, though I don't think you can call "running away from the giant problem you made" a victory!

Not that I have knowledge of how to do that! If I could I'd definitely try that and the Virons - oh how I'd love that meld mechanic. Sadly my coding knowledge is really old BASIC (which I've been told is very redundant) and...XML.

I do really like this idea, though it is a lot of work. As for the expansion part...I wonder about that sometimes. I could go nuts and add in all the mercenaries and AI types and all that, but I worry that there might not be much left after if I did it.

Offline BadgerBadger

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Re: Dev Discussion: Equivalent of a Cultural or Science Victory...?
« Reply #2 on: October 11, 2018, 10:31:12 AM »
I feel like there's some "Win by levelling up the Ark" motif that we could use. Maybe with certain options a Mark VII Ark is Exodian-blade level powerful (but you have to pay a ton of science)?

What if we had a minor faction that was an Alien Outpost in the galaxy; you could pay them <some hug amount of science> and get "Unbreakable Shield Technology", then by constructing 4 shield generators on somewhat separated Worlds and holding off a giant Showdown-Device style attack, you win?

Offline HeartHunter

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Re: Dev Discussion: Equivalent of a Cultural or Science Victory...?
« Reply #3 on: October 11, 2018, 12:06:29 PM »
I dont like cultural and science victory, its for simcity players : D, i see feature, it will ez win.
Better increase game difficult.

Offline Valtiel

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Re: Dev Discussion: Equivalent of a Cultural or Science Victory...?
« Reply #4 on: October 11, 2018, 12:25:15 PM »
Isn't this what the Showdown Devices and to a lesser extent the Fallen Spire campaign were meant to be? A victory relying on building up a powerful defense against escalating assaults, rather than taking out the AI Home Command Centers?

Part of the reason that Cultural and Science victories make sense in other 4X games is that the computer-controlled factions can go for them as well. If you look at Endless Legend, for example, enabling scientific victory means that you can lose the game if your opponent hits that final research first. So it's not just "turtle up and research stuff", it's finding a balance between investing so much effort into research that you leave yourself vulnerable to military conquest, or going too slow with the research and having to attack outwards to prevent the AI pipping you to the post.

There's no equivalent of that in AI War. The AI's attacks on you depend almost entirely on AI Progress, and I don't think an "AI beats you to scientific victory" outcome is very much fun.

Online zeusalmighty

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Re: Dev Discussion: Equivalent of a Cultural or Science Victory...?
« Reply #5 on: October 11, 2018, 12:28:48 PM »
I'm definitely a fan of multiple types of victory conditions. In this thread I proposed a Hacking-based win condition that I still think has merits:
https://forums.arcengames.com/ai-war-ii-modding/special-faction-ai-firewall'hacking-the-ai-to-victory/

The idea behind a hacking victory is the goal of uniting the AI and humans. To me it represents the "best ending" because the AI and humanity become allies.

Other endings are really cool though. Wiping out the AI completely is certainly cool. Helping other minor factions with their victory-conditions is pretty cool too (e.g. dark spire or nanocaust)

Down the road there might be more variety, such as something akin to a cultural victory. The Age of Empires had the Wonder victory, and something in that vein might be pretty cool here.

Something else that came to mind is the importance of the warp grid. I don't have anything off the top of my head, but I suspect that there could be an interesting win condition based on exploiting the warp grid to the human's benefit

« Last Edit: October 11, 2018, 12:38:02 PM by zeusalmighty »

Offline x4000

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Re: Dev Discussion: Equivalent of a Cultural or Science Victory...?
« Reply #6 on: October 11, 2018, 12:42:33 PM »
To me, the existing science mechanics aren't really suited to this sort of thing because they still require expansion and taking new territory. My thought is that basically whatever we do for this style of alternative win condition needs to be "okay, I'm barricading myself in the house and going to stay in here until I win or die," while aggro then starts increasing over time. Doing that too early in the game would be silly because you'd be too poor to do it fast, and too weak to hold off the hordes. So it's something you'd choose to do after getting a certain amount into the game and going "I don't feel like being outside anymore, I'm staying home from now on."

Obviously other victory types are also great, and I think variety is wonderful. But in this thread I'm trying to get at a very specific type of victory condition which is basically for "stumped turtles who don't know what else to do in the midgame."
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Offline BadgerBadger

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Re: Dev Discussion: Equivalent of a Cultural or Science Victory...?
« Reply #7 on: October 11, 2018, 12:44:40 PM »
Technically there already is one alt win condition, of "Hack the Nanocaust to ally it with you".

I could give an alt-Dark Spire win condition, where after doing a fancy hack to each Vengeance Generator, the Dark Spire will become allied to you and go kill the AI. Note that since the Dark Spire are also pretty evil, once the AI dies they would probably turn against you (but their Vengeance Generators would no longer be unkillable), so you'd have to finish them off too.

Neither of those are for pure turtles, but they would allow you to win w/o killing the AI.

Offline x4000

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Re: Dev Discussion: Equivalent of a Cultural or Science Victory...?
« Reply #8 on: October 11, 2018, 01:49:27 PM »
I like those things, although agreed that they don't really get at the core of this particular thread.  But both of those would be fantastic additions.
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Offline BadgerBadger

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Re: Dev Discussion: Equivalent of a Cultural or Science Victory...?
« Reply #9 on: October 11, 2018, 02:34:45 PM »
I'm having trouble coming up with a "turtle win" idea that doesn't consist of "Go interact with something in the galaxy. After this, the AI will launch a series of brutal attacks; survive them and you win". Which is basically the principle of Showdown devices, but if you are struggling in the middlegame then you will just lose to that.

If you can win with a pure turtle strategy then I think it's going to be strictly Easier than killing the AI.

That said, having Allied Marauders/Nanocaust at a reasonable intensity should probably allow even a weaker player to win. So that might bandaid things adequately.

Offline TheVampire100

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Re: Dev Discussion: Equivalent of a Cultural or Science Victory...?
« Reply #10 on: October 11, 2018, 02:55:00 PM »
Let me take Civilization as example.
Civs Science Victory is basically "wait to win". You run against the time and research one thing after another until you have won. There isn't much to do about it but that makes it also an easy to achieve victory if you are ahead in research.
Cultural victory is a little more complex because you have to consider wonders, buildings, personalities and other stuff. Its basically expanding your influence without military force.

So the three big scenarios are either, take control with force, take control through influence or win by finish a big project by yourself.
The first two scenarios are interactions with other players, the last one (science) can be done by yourself.

If we want to apply something similiar on AIW2 we have to think a little abstract and look how the itneractions between player and AI behave compared to Civ.

Since AIW2 is asymmetric it is hard to consider what is similiar to Civ. The closest thing in similiarity is that you win if you take "the capital city".
Both games have science but in Civ you accumulate science indefinitely and the accumulated science is pooled into the next project which gets researched once you hit the mark.
In AIW2 instead you have science caps locked to the amount of planets you have captured (and with this to the total amount of planets in the game). Instead of pouring science intot he next project, it is gathered until you decide what to spend it on.
Civ has a fixed tech tree that tells you "research this if you want this" and everything is connected in some way, because of this the research tree is rather straightforward. It also means you HAVE to research everything for the final research result to achieve the victory. In AIW2 this is more complicated because of the unlock system. You start with the most basic researches but you have to unlock more by conquering other planets that belong to the AI. Either by hacking into backup servers or by conquering the planet they belong to you unlock more of the research projects. And because of this system we cannot have a complex science tree, instead we have more of a science chart, with each project being connected to its next upgrade (the different marks on the same ship).
So obviously there can never exist a "last" research project for the player to achieve. Which would be further hindered by the capped science points anyway.

But i wouldn't throw the idea of a classic science victory out of the window yet.
A big difference between Civ and AIW2 is how expansion works. In Civ you simply expand by increasing your borders through buildings, units and popilation. The key difference is however that in Civ everything is free at the start and you can expand freely until you reach another civilization while in AiWar2 everything belongs to the AI.
There will be never a victory condition that does not involve fighting with the AI, so we have to discuss how much the player should conquer until he can say "okay, I have what I need for science victory".

The showdown devices from AIWC were soemthing similiar to this.

An idea I have is that there are several "secret project" servers in the galaxy. Before mankind lost the war against the Ai they worked on a virus to shut the AI down. However, the research data for the virus was scattered when humanity lost the war and had to retreat in the last corner of the galaxy. The player has to find those servers and get them back online until the research is complete and the virus unleashed. Works like Showdown Device, people are familiar with it and I don't see a reason to not have it again.
Maybe as a somehwta variation, instead of holding all the servers at once, the player just has to conquer the server and defend it until the data got sended to the home command station (several minutes). Once he has the data of all 4 server he can research the virus in the science tab as the last project and win the game. This would mean he don't has to defend all 4 points at once but it also means he has to invest more time into it (accumulated time of the 4 servers).


Cultural victory is more difficult. There is no culture in AI War, the Ai does not care for anything like that because it controls everything.
Culture would be more of a "impress other races enough so they help you against the AI".
Or maybe that you can imrpress the AI that you are worthy enough to rule the galaxy? "Hey, that's some pretty dank memes you have there, I think I will let you live".
Anyway, cultural would mean of a more peaceful interaction either with the Ai or other minor factions. Which would mean you have to activate minor factions for a cultural victory to achieve.
The problem is, there aren't many non-military structures and units in the game.

An idea I had is that we could add a new structure, whatever it is, that basically is the equivalent of Civs wonders. It doesn't do anything for military purposes and is just there to awe humans and aliens a like. Maybe if we build a specific numbers of these buildings at different points into the galaxy, the AI will acknowledge that humans are not willing to be a threat anymore and just want to live peacefully in coexistance with the AI and because of this the AI ceases its attacks. Name of the structure can be debated, it should be something that shows that humans don't want to fight anymore. Obviously you have to defend those structures until the AI notices that you just want to end the war and don't want to harm them.
« Last Edit: October 11, 2018, 02:57:20 PM by TheVampire100 »

Offline tombik

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Re: Dev Discussion: Equivalent of a Cultural or Science Victory...?
« Reply #11 on: October 11, 2018, 04:38:43 PM »
I think rather than having a separate win condition, for the ones that lose their interest for attacking the homeworld, you can simply divide the victory into smaller pieces.

I am not an expert in AI war, but what I am suggesting is something along the lines of a full victory, and a partial victory with objectives spread into different levels of galactic domination. You may win against an AI with full stars with destroying both capital worlds, or if you happen to have a sustainable production etc with enough spreading around, you get 1 star out of 5 etc. That way, for the ones who want to be done with their games sooner than a full fledged victory, there are nearer objectives to achieve. This gets near to the underlying problem you are trying to solve, rather than replicating the mechanics of an almost completely different genre.

Online zeusalmighty

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Re: Dev Discussion: Equivalent of a Cultural or Science Victory...?
« Reply #12 on: October 12, 2018, 01:13:01 AM »
I feel like there's some "Win by levelling up the Ark" motif that we could use. Maybe with certain options a Mark VII Ark is Exodian-blade level powerful (but you have to pay a ton of science)?

Here's an Ark-Themed proposal. Insofar as the Ark obviously alludes to Noah and the flood, perhaps a victory condition in this spirt that is obtained by outfitting the Ark WITH the Home Command Center, and getting "off the (warp) grid," departing to a distant galaxy in search of a new home beyond the reach of the A.I.

Something like this should have multiple objectives, but I think this is essentially a turtle style victory condition, plus it provides a lore-friendly victory condition based on the Arks. The premise seems sound to me, just a matter of figuring out interesting but simple objectives

 

Offline Valtiel

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Re: Dev Discussion: Equivalent of a Cultural or Science Victory...?
« Reply #13 on: October 12, 2018, 06:38:27 AM »
It bears saying that part of the reason a lot of people stall out in the endgame is that attacking the AI Homeworlds is a very different style of game from everything up to that point. I've been thinking about it and I have a few custom victory conditions in mind, based on getting around that roadblock and with AI War's gameplay in mind, rather than trying to emulate another game's "cultural victory" or whatever.

Defensive victory

This is the equivalent of the Showdown Devices with a hint of the Fallen Spire campaign*. It basically involves claiming (or hacking, or something) a series of specific worlds - the spire signal worlds, or the showdown device worlds, or whatever - and then building something, or a series of somethings. Yes, that's awfully vague, but the basic blueprint is this:
  • Attack a small number of specific target worlds to gain the ability to activate the Game Ending Countdown
  • Stop expanding and focus on building up an impregnable wall of steel
  • Trigger the Game Ending Countdown and survive while it completes

Once you get to that point, the AI begins a series of gradually-escalating attacks, ending with a challenge that is approximately as difficult - and as interesting - as attacking the AI Homeworlds, but played as a tower defense-in-depth rather than the series of hit-and-run (or hit-die-and-rebuild) attacks that people used to crack the Homeworlds. The important thing is to keep the attacks varied. I like the thought of the AI using Warhead-like weapons that you can see coming and that you really want to intercept before they hit your worlds, and other tactics that force you to do more than just sit, wait, and rebuild losses. Rather than just being one whopper of an attack, it should be spread out over time, to give the player chances to take hits and recover from casualties. Managing power brown-outs could be an important skill, and I like the idea of being able to conduct hacks to weaken, deflect, or delay these attacks.

I strongly recommend that the difficulty of this defense should not change depending on which super weapons (golems etc) the player has available. That was, in my opinion, a major mis-step on the original Showdown Devices. The AI home command centers don't get any tougher if you have golems, so why should the alternate victory condition get harder? As for whether AIP affects the difficulty of the defense, I think it should. AIP reducers are interesting; I don't want them to be left out of this mode.

I love the thought that the final wave is literally everything the AI has in the galaxy, that it just dumps the strategic reserve, warden fleet, hunter fleet, every single guard pack, and mobile Overlords into one big fleet and comes at you like a drunk Glaswegian with a broken bottle. But that might be a bit too much.

There are many possible variations on this - maybe you need to hold the target worlds until the Game Ending Building is complete, but you can abandon them as soon as it's finished and the final countdown starts. Maybe you only need to hack them once each, or maybe you need to hold all of them right up until the end of the countdown, or maybe you need to start out holding all of them but only hold one up until the end. Maybe the Game Ender is a constant drain on resources, or maybe it actually provides you with power and metal to help deal with the waves. I know how I'd do it, personally, but there are plenty of options.

This is the victory condition for people who really enjoy the defensive side of the game and would rather win with a big defense mission rather than a big attack - it's the "turtle victory", but it's certainly not easier than attacking the AI Homeworlds. But in the early and mid-game, it plays quite a lot like the normal victory. Aside from needing to claim/hack the showdown-device-equivalent worlds and not needing to get within deep-strike range of the AI Homeworlds, your strategy is pretty similar. It's the kind of thing where you can play normally, scout the Homeworld defences, and decide you don't want anything to do with that and that you'd rather have the AI come to you.

It is not the victory condition for someone who let the AIP get too high and realizes they can't win by the usual means. That's the next one.

* Although not exactly - an important part of the Fallen Spire campaign is that the Spire Cities allow you to at least temporarily outpace the AI, giving you more power from each claimed world than the AI gets in AIP. Defensive Victory wouldn't do that.

Expansion victory

A kind of hybrid aggressive and defensive victory, but played very differently from the Homeworld assault. Getting AIP too high can result in a game that is both unwinnable and unloseable, where you'll never be able to crack the core defenses but, unless you do something stupid, the AI waves will never break you either. Here's an alternative to that, for when you realize you've pushed AIP too high for a proper win, but don't want to just call the game a loss either.

With a large enough science investment, you can research an "Exogalactic Conduit", a way to evacuate the surviving human population to somewhere the AI won't be able to reach. This will not result in the doomsday attack of the defensive victory, because the AI doesn't actually feel threatened. However, your challenge is that the surviving human population is distributed between dozens of AI controlled worlds. You need to claim as many of them as possible, build a few "city ships" at each to transport the people, and bring them all to wherever you're building the conduit. There's no "true victory" here - rescuing 100% of the humans would require claiming the entire galaxy except for the core and AI homeworlds. You are going to leave some people behind. But once you've got as many people as you think you can save, you can activate the exogalactic conduit, withstand one last AI attack (nothing like the defensive victory final waves; this is just the AI being displeased rather than facing an existential threat), and then flee through the newly created wormhole and close it behind you.

The victory screen here isn't "you win!", it's "Human population saved: X billion. Human population left under AI control: Y billion. Human population killed: Z billion." (where the "killed" number refers to worlds nuked, human settlements lost, and city ships destroyed in transit).

There are various ways you could tweak this. If there are only a few worlds that can support an Exogalactic Conduit, that's very different from if it can be built anywhere. The human population could be evenly distributed across the galaxy, or some worlds could have up to ten times as many humans as others and therefore be more valuable.

Regardless, this is the victory condition for people who have fun conquering the galaxy and want to see how far they can get before the AIP gets too high and they have to nope out of there. It's also the "cutting your losses" victory condition, for when you realize you're never going to be able to beat the homeworlds but you don't want to just delete your save.

Diplomatic victory

This is kind of a catch-all for victory conditions that involve allying with the minor factions. They're not actually true victory conditions in and of themselves, since they all end the same way as the default victory - a big pile of ships rolls into the AI Homeworlds and eats the Overlords (or you can go for a defensive victory with your minor faction allies to help you defend). Different minor factions have different requirements for getting them on your side, provide different levels of support, and behave differently as allies. Since I don't have a copy of the game and can't really see how the minor factions behave, I can't really offer much guidance, but as I understand the lore of the game, the Nanocaust and the Dyson Sphere are meant to be the only ones which could actually pose a real threat to the AI on their own - the others are just a supplement to your own forces rather than completely replacing them. With this in mind, the Nanocaust and Dyson Sphere diplomacy conditions should be longer, more difficult, and more involved than any of the others, on par with the AI Homeworld assaults or the defensive victory, because they can win you the game outright.

I've got a few ideas though.
  • Winning with the Dark Spire as allies probably involves them immediately turning on you, because they're assholes. I don't like the thought of "hacking" them; they're not AIs with code that you could reasonably hack.
  • The Human Marauders should behave like humans in terms of what they want. It should ideally feel a little bit like having a second human player in the galaxy. Tithing them metal and energy seems like the obvious way to keep them happy, as does supporting their attacks and defenses.
  • I believe the current way to get the Nanocaust on your side is to hack them? If so, I'm cool with that, but I'd want this to be the only "hack to get minor faction on side", to make it feel a bit different. You could even think of this as a "hacking victory".
  • It might not even be possible to get the Dyson Sphere committed to destroying the AI; it's ancient and unknowable and the affairs of the galaxy are utterly beneath its vast, alien consciousness. The only way I could think to do it would be to trick the AI into trying to destroy the Dyson Sphere - once it recognizes an existential threat, the Sphere's retaliation should destroy the AI but could also destroy the humans. Maybe the Golems can communicate with it, though?
  • I don't even know what the Macrophage and the Devourer Golem want. I don't think an alliance with the Devourer makes much sense, but perhaps you can find a way to lure it to a particular planet?

« Last Edit: October 12, 2018, 08:57:27 AM by Valtiel »

Offline BadgerBadger

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Re: Dev Discussion: Equivalent of a Cultural or Science Victory...?
« Reply #14 on: October 12, 2018, 09:17:45 AM »
Re: dark spire hacking. I think it should still use the "Hacking" mechanic, but we could give it a different flavour text/description to make it clear that you aren't "Hacking" them, but are instead communicating in some fashion. And the AI could attack you instead of the Dark Spire, perhaps, on the "Negotiation Hack"